1797 letter from American ship captain in Jamaica, to Philadelphia merchant

Historically interesting and dramatic sea adventure letter from Captain Christie of the ‘Snow Leopard’.  He is now docked in Kingston Jamaica and is reporting back to the cargo owner, the Philadelphia merchant George Sibbald.

Writes about making it through French blockade, survived a tremendous 48 hr long storm, with damage to the ship and cargo…”terrible havoc on our sails, blowing from the yard and ripping them…6 or 7 feet of water in the holds…dead corpses laying before our eyes…there were graves open to receive us…”. Having survived and unloaded cargo, he is now sending back news to Mr. Sibbald…a ship was captured, which ships have departed, price of goods in Jamaica. The last price noted is, based in my decoding, for slaves: $240 to $260 a head.

The text is phonetic, grammar challenged and sometimes hard to decode:

Mr. Sibbald,
Dear Sir, I am happy to Enform you of my safe arrival in this port (in 26 days) and Espeshly my happy escape from the French which takes everything they meet with.
But I must confess to you that I have gone there many sore  tryalls since I left the Continnat. I enformed you by the Cape letter of one of my seamen being taken dangerously ill, which died shortly affter of the small pox on the 9 of December affter a very Tremendous storm which lasted for 48 hours without intermission & was so voliant for 36 hours as have us dowen upon our --- , in which time the wind made terable havoche upon our sails blowing them from the yeards & spliting some of them to pecies. Judge Mr. Sibbald my --tivation and thoughts then when I found the Snow watter loged my sails blowing from the yeards the sea a making a breach over us tearing the boats from their lasshings & ---, and above all tearing the –bolts out of dake & braking others which stove a hole in the main dake & the --- upon her becomends the lower yeardarms was in the watter. Then was the time to tire mens souls. Have I not reason to be thankfull to Devine ///
Providence when I had the good fortune by hard destiny to get her before wind which shifted from S.S.E. to S.W. all of a sudent & every sea that came on board cleard the Dakes of everything that was upon it. I say Mr. Sibbald judge of my feelings then when I found between 6 & 7 fette of watter in the hold. (when before when she was laying too that the lee pomps was keep contstantly  su—ing) & both pomps a going for sixteen hours & a dead corpses laying before our eyes. How ungreatfull I am to the Father of Marces, even for the Morsall, we receive, much more for the Marces I dally experance from this Great Goodness to wards us, when the vere graves was open to Receive Us. He was Marcefull too us & we found help in time of need. Not withstanding all this expereance is the best schoolmaster to teach us to be Wisse in time, But no more of this Mr. Sibbald you must excouse me I would not wish to hurt your Feelings, but it is a tender sentement of mine not to be ungreatfull --- most ---
I am yours with respect & & Hum.. Sevt.
John W Christie (?)
Snow Cleopatro Kingston Januare the 5th 1797 ///
N.B. I arrived hear that Porttrayell on Fraida the 30 of Dec. 1796 that Kingston the 31. Were --- the Snow emediatly & Noted a protest that the same time. Since discharging which we began on the 3rd of Januare after the haladay was over I found there was a great many of the tarrces(?) of rise were much damaged.) but not by this opportunity Asartin the number of tarrces (in which you will please to aquaint Mr. Vaghan of the unhappy disaster & that I will forwd the proteast as soon as I can asertin the number Damaged the Hoops that was in the longe boat is saved which is 19 bushels
The Sogily is taking by the franch
Ships Commarce from Northfolk D
& Leverill Brigs  D New York D
Flower from £7 too 10£ P barrel
Pork £10 Beeff £7 to 8 & 9 accd to qualtity
Jamaco curancee
Rum one Dollr & half by Hog'd 
Sugar £5 to £6 P Hundd
Coffee vere –
 Negor  240 to 260 Dollars P --- or head
This opportunity is by the Schooner Industry Capt. Minoonis Charleston  ///
--- the slowness they go on --- discharging or receiving --- it will the 20th of this month before I can possibly saile for the Havana - Mr. Groves- & Pajojos send there best respects to you & is promised to assist one is Sajojos is newly Mared.

 

4 pages.

Folded to create an envelope. Couple of bits of paper missing.

9 ¾” x 8"

 

George Sibbald, clerk in the Register's Office of the United States in 1793, presents himself at No. 170 (Front St. Philadelphia) as a shipping merchant.


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