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Black Joke, 1828 late slave ship "Henriquetta"
Type: Former slaver purchased into the service ; Armament
Disposal date or year : a day or so prior to 9 May 1832 when her then mother ship departed Sierra Leone for England.
Disposal Details : Deliberately burnt from orders on high.
See near bottom of the page for a summary of the brief life of the Black JokeOriginally taken by Sir Francis Collier in the Sybille. It should perhaps be noted that the officers and men serving on board the Black Joke would usually have been a part of the crew of the Sybille, and maybe other ships serving on the West coast of Africa, such as the Medina.
Life and Adventures of the Black Joke, lately Deceased At Sierra-Leone.
From authentic sources.
His Majesty's brig Black Joke, when captured by his Majesty's ship Sybille, Commodore Sir F. A. Collier, C.B., on the 6th of September, 1827, was called the "Henriquetta," then the property of a notorious slave dealer residing at Bahia; in whose service she had performed six successful voyages to the coast of Africa, in which she carried into Brazil three thousand and forty Africans as slaves, and had cleared her owner about £80,000 in the years of 1825, 26, and 27. When captured, she was performing her third voyage in the last-named year, and had on board five hundred and sixty-nine negroes.
On the 26th of September, 1827, the "Henriquetta" was taken into the British service under the name of the "Black Joke," and attached as a tender to the Sybille ; Lieutenant W. Turner, of that ship, being appointed to command her, by the Commodore. She was armed at this time with one pivot long eighteen-pounder, having a crew, including officers, of fifty-five men. Sailing on the 5th of January, 1828, in company with his Majesty's ships Sybille and Esk, she commenced her career by capturing, on the 12th, the Spanish schooner "Gertrudes," with one hundred and fifty-five slaves on board, having run the men-of-war out of sight during the chase.
Early on the morning of the 2d of April, the same year, and near the island of St. Thomas, she fell in with a heavily armed brig, apparently a cruiser or slaver, which vessel, on being chased, appeared anxious to avoid a rencontre until daylight, by standing away ; but at that time she tacked towards the Black Joke; both vessels having closed and hove to, Lieutenant Turner sent his senior Mate (Mr. Hervey) on board to examine the stranger, two officers coming from her at the same time, to examine the Black Joke, which was not permitted, but the officers were detained to ensure the return of Mr. Hervey and his boat ; the stranger's boat, however, returned, stating the circumstance, when she immediately cut both boats adrift, (detaining Mr. Hervey,) and opening her fire, from all arms, upon the Black Joke, which was most effectually returned by the latter vessel. The action continued for two hours ; when the stranger, having severely suffered under her opponent's steady fire, she hoisted a flag of truce, at the same time sending Mr. Hervey and his men to their own brig. On an explanation, it appeared that the stranger was the Spanish brig "Providencia," mounting fourteen guns, with a crew of eighty men; whose Captain had been told but a few days previously, that a Columbian privateer, exactly answering the description of the Black Joke, was in that neighbourhood; and fully believing his opponent to be the privateer, as well as confident in his superiority of guns, he entered an action which terminated in his submission and punishment, having suffered severely in killed, wounded, and injury to his vessel; but as the affair originated in error, Lieutenant Turner permitted him to proceed on his voyage. In this very spirited contest, the Black Joke sustained only injury about her rigging, the Providencia firing high. On the 16th of May following, Lieutenant Turner captured the Brazilian brig "Vengador*," mounting eight guns, with a crew of fortv-five men, and having six hundred and forty-five negroes on board, the largest number ever captured in one vessel. The Vengador did not feel it prudent to offer resistance.
* Formerly the "Prince of Guinea," and same vessel which Lieutenant W. Tucker, when commanding a tender of his Majesty's ship Maidstone, so gallantly fought and captured, for which he was promoted.
The Black Joke, still commanded by Lieutenant Turner, we find, on the 27th of August, ably manoeuvring to separate three well-armed vessels, which had weighed from Whydah on her approach, and had partially engaged her. In the most gallant manner, Lieutenant Turner ran his brig within speaking distance of a large schooner heavily armed, which appeared to be directing the movements of the other two vessels, (a brig and schooner,) and on hailing her, received her broadside for an answer, which was instantly returned; but the other vessels coming to the assistance of their consort, it required great coolness and skill to extricate the Black Joke from so unequal a conflict; which, however, was effected, and she stood off under easy sail, the fire ceasing; the schooner with which she had been engaged, following cautiously. At half-past eleven at night, this schooner was again discovered on the weather-quarter of the Black Joke, but without her companions. Lieutenant Turner immediately tacked, and crossing her bows, brought her to close action; the schooner carefully avoiding the endeavours of the Black Joke to run on board. The action continued with great spirit for more than an hour, when the schooner suddenly bore up under all possible sail, in the hope to escape, which threw the Black Joke astern; but recovering her position about four A. M. on the 28th, Lieutenant Turner, after a general fire of round, grape, and musketry, succeeded in running his opponent on board (both vessels then going at least seven knots), when, after a struggle upon her decks, he possessed himself of the piratical schooner " Presidenté †," mounting six broadside guns, with one heavy pivot, and a crew of ninety-five men, thirty of whom were, with her Captain, killed or wounded; the Black Joke having but one man killed - the pirate firing high to disable her in the masts or sails.
† The crew of this vessel were tried as pirates, but acquitted for want of evidence; all doubt of her actually being a pirate is removed, by the fact of her having captured the " Hosse," the Portuguese vessel re-captured by the Black Joke; there existing no war with Portugal at that time. Further, the "Hosse" was taken by the " Presidenté," when the privateer's commission of the latter had expired.
Lieutenant Turner, having also possessed himself of the book of signals arranged between the pirate and his associates, and seeing a brig at daylight upon the weather-quarter, directed the signal "to close" to be hoisted, which being answered and as readily obeyed, he re-captured the Portuguese vessel called the "Hosse," which had been captured and plundered by the Presidenté ; the latter vessel was lost near Sierra-Leone, on her passage to that place ; but salvage was awarded for the "Hosse."
On the 14th of September, Lieutenant Turner assisted in the capture of the "Zephorina," by his Majesty's ship Primrose, having on board two hundred and eighteen negroes. And on the 14th of the November following, the above-named officer, having received his promotion to the rank of Commander for his services in the Black Joke, resigned the command into the hands of Lieutenant Henry Downes, of his Majesty's ship Sybille *.
* Negroes liberated by Commander Turner, 909.
On the 19th of January, 1829, Lieutenant Downes had examined in Lagos roads, the Spanish brig "Almiranté" then nearly ready for sailing, which circumstance induced him narrowly to watch the above-named anchorage ; and on the 31st, a vessel was seen of such appearance as to leave no doubt of her character. After sweeping from nine A.M. until about six P.M., the chase having apparently made every preparation for a determined defence, both brigs were exchanging shot at a long range, which fire, however, yielded on both sides as the night drew in, to the endeavours of the Almiranté to separate, and of the Black Joke to close. The 1st of February was selected for that vessel to execute her chef-d'oeuvre. This day opened with light airs, which entirely ceased as it advanced ; about two P.M. a breeze sprang up, and the English brig was fairly in action with her opponent at forty minutes after two P.M., - when having crossed her bows, and edging away to close, she sustained a heavy fire from the Almiranté's broadside ; to avoid a repetition of which, and at the same time avail himself of his pivot gun, Lieutenant Downes placed his vessel under the stern, within half-pistol shot, of the Almirante', maintaining that position against every attempt to dislodge him, keeping up, at the same time, so admirable and continued a fire from his two guns and musketry, that, at four P.M., the surviving officer of the Spanish brig Almiranté (who had bravely sustained this fire for nearly an hour) hailed, to say that he surrendered.
The Almiranté was found to mount fourteen broadside guns, ten Gover's eighteen-pounders, and four long nine-pounders, with a crew of eighty men, and four hundred and sixty-seven negroes on board; and had lost in the action fifteen killed, including in that number her captain and four officers, with thirteen others wounded. The Black Joke had two officers and five seamen wounded; one of the latter mortally.
The Almiranté was purchased at Sierra Leone, and, subsequently, returned to her former occupation.
On the 6th of March following, Lieutenant Downes captured the Brazilian brigantine Carolina, with four hundred and twenty slaves on board ; and, very shortly afterwards, having suffered severely from the climate, he returned to England, where he found himself promoted to the rank of Commander for his action with the Almiranté. †
† Negroes released by Commander Downes, 875.
The Black Joke now fell under a rapid succession of commanding officers, and captured, between the period of Commander Downes' retiring and the March of 1831, four slavers, as shown in the accompanying abstract.
Having sailed to cruise in the bight of Biafra, under the command of Lieutenant Ramsay (of his Majesty's ship Dryad, Commodore Hayes, C.B., who had assumed the control of the African squadron), that officer proceeded directly to Fernando Po, with a view of gaining any information he could respecting slavers in the Cameroons, Old Calebar, or Bonney rivers. In the second named he was informed, that a Spanish brig, to carry five hundred negroes, heavily armed and well disciplined, was upon the eve of sailing ; upon which Lieutenant Ramsay left Fernando Po, and, on the 23d, anchored off the bar of the Old Calebar, remaining in that position during the night, and standing off during the day. The Black Joke, as usual, was not destined to wait long for her prey, for, on the 25th, at eleven a.m., a brig was discovered in the north-east quarter, which vessel, on being chased, made all sail away to the south-east, with a fresh breeze at south-west. At about nine p.m., the Black Joke had arrived within long range of her object, when a perfect calm ensued, and on her firing two shot the stranger opened her fire from her starboard broadside, directly towards which the head of the Black Joke was pointed. Lieutenant Ramsay directed the sweeps to be manned, but fearing to destroy the unoffending negroes, returned the fire of the enemy only by throwing an occasional shot, for the purpose of distracting his aim. Advancing steadily in this determined manner, Lieutenant Ramsay found himself, at about one A.m., on the 26th of April, 1831, under the fire of his opponent, trebly increased, by being now within range of grape and musketry, the shot fortunately taking effect chiefly about the sails and rigging. At two A.m., the vessels were so close, that the Black Joke, having sufficient way to carry her alongside the enemy, laid in her sweeps, and the order, "Prepare to board!" sounded along her deck; her two guns were loaded with round, grape, and musket balls, ready to fire when the vessels all but touched. Excepting the fire from the enemy nothing was heard; but in an instant that was mingled with the loud discharge from the Black Joke, the crash of the meeting vessels, and three cheers of the boarding crew, announced by another from the defending, when the clashing of the cutlass, with a few straggling pistol shots, succeeded. The Black Joke having very fresh way, sheered off on striking the enemy, but Lieutenant Ramsay, Mr. Bosanquet, (senior mate,) and thirteen men, availed themselves of the moment of touching, to leap upon his decks, where, in a most gallant manner, they sustained their ground, and actually drove back the united strength opposed to them, until the Black Joke had been replaced alongside, when the remaining part of her officers and crew rushing on board, this severe struggle terminated.
This vessel proved to be that of which Lieutenant Ramsay had received information, and was called the "Marinerito," Spanish brig, mounting four broadside and one pivot gun, all eighteen-pounders, with a crew of seventy-eight men, having on board four hundred and seventy-six negroes. She lost in the action from twenty to thirty killed and wounded ; the Black Joke losing one killed and four wounded, including Lieutenant Ramsay.
An anecdote, very worthy of notice for its spirit and loyalty, occurred in this affair: a fine sailor (Isaac Foil), being mortally wounded by a grape-shot from the enemy, and lying below, under the consoling attention of Mr. Douglas (assistant-surgeon), heard the rush and cheer at the moment of boarding: in the excitation caused by it, this splendid fellow waved his hand, joined faintly in the cheer, exclaimed, " God bless King William," and - died!
On the 10th of September, the Black Joke, in company with the Fair Rosamond (another tender of the Dryad), chased, and subsequently captured, in the river Bonny, the Spanish brigs "Regulo," of eight guns, and fifty-seven men; and "Rapido," of five guns and fifty men. The Fair Rosamond, outsailing the Black Joke, fired upon the Regulo, and thereby prevented the re-landing of two hundred and seven slaves; but the Rapido could not be hindered from getting all hers out; but being seen by the Fair Rosamond putting some into canoes, and throwing others overboard, she was sent to Sierra Leone, and there condemned for having had slaves on board. A captain of a palm-oil ship, lying at the time in the Bonny, stated afterwards at Fernando Po, that shortly after the vessels had left, the banks of the creek, where the affair occurred, were strewed with more than one hundred bodies of drowned negroes! These brigs made no resistance, though they were thoroughly prepared for action, and had sailed with an expressed intention of destroying the Black Joke. In the December following, Lieutenant Ramsay being advanced to the rank of Commander, for the action with the "Marinerito," resigned the Black Joke to Lieutenant Huntley, of the Dryad, commanding the Fair Rosamond; who, on the 15th of February, 1832, captured the "Frasquita," Spanish schooner, with two hundred and ninety negroes on board, from the Bonny, and was off that river, in hourly expectation of meeting the Black Joke's old antagonist (the Almirante), under the name of the "Cherouka," when he received orders to proceed to Sierra Leone, and there dismantle; the Admiralty having directed the destruction of the severest scourge to the slave trade ever known. This order was executed by Commodore Hayes, C.B., at Sierra Leone, on the 3d of May, 1832.
|Name of the commander of Black Joke||Nationality||Class||Number and Names of Vessels||No. of Slaves on board at the time of capture||No. of Crew on board at the time of capture||No. of Guns on board at the time of capture||Date of Capture|
|Wm. Turner||Spanish||Schooner||1. Gertrudes||155||18||Guns thrown overboard||12 Jan 1828|
|Wm. Turner||Portuguese||Brig||2. Vengador||645||45||8||16 May 1828|
|Wm. Turner||Colombian||Privateer||3. Presidenté||2||95||7||28 Aug 1828|
|Wm. Turner||Brazilian||-||4. Hosse||Recaptured||7||2||28 Aug 1828|
|H. Downes||Spanish||Brig||5. El Almirante||467||80||14||1 Feb 1829|
|H. Downes||Brazilian||Brigantine||6. Carolina||420||25||2||6 Mar 1829|
|E.J. Parrey||Spanish||Schooner||7. Christina||348||24||3||11 Oct 1829|
|Wm. Coyd||Spanish||Brigantine||8. Manzanares||354||34||3||1 Apr 1830|
|Wm. Ramsay||Spanish||Brigantine||9. Dos Amigos||Slaves landed before capture||35||1||9 Nov 1830|
|W. L. Castle||Spanish||Schooner||10. Primera||311||23||2||22 Feb 1831|
|Wm. Ramsay||Spanish||Brig||11. Marinerito||475||60||5||26 Apr 1831|
|Wm. Ramsay||Spanish||Brig||12. *Regulo||207||53||8||10 Sep 1831|
|Wm. Ramsay||Spanish||Brig||13. *Rapido||Slaves except 2 landed before capture||51||5||10 Sep 1831|
|H.V. Huntley||Spanish||Schooner||14. Frasquita||290||31||2||15 Feb 1831|
* These brigs were chased and captured up the river Bonny, and actually struck their flags to the Fair Rosamond, a tender to the Dryad, by whose fire the Regulo was prevented from relanding her slaves. This is the first instance of the Black Joke having shown an inferiority of sailing; in which case, to the Fair Rosamond's sailing the capture of these brigs must be attributed.
Source: The United Service Journal 1832 - Volume 3 - Page 58