By Barry L. Hatt
It is really interesting to look
into the lives of your ancestors. You may find many interesting people with
whom you can identify. I became interested in the realm of privateers and the
direct link that they played on the outcome of various wars. I continually came
across references to one of the most famous privateer ships, the
Liverpool Packet. She was the first privateer to put to sea for the
crown in the war of 1812, out of Liverpool Nova Scotia, and is listed as the
second ship to receive a letter of marque. Reference to the 4 captains of the
vessel gave me the name Caleb Seely. As my maternal grandmother was a Seely, I
mentioned it to my mother, and found out that, indeed, he is one of my
Caleb Seely was born in Saint John, New
Brunswick on 31 August, 1787, son of Ebenezer and Bethia (Gilbert) Seely,
Loyalists, who arrived in Saint John in 1783. Caleb obviously went to sea at an
early age as he is mentioned in The Seelys of New Brunswick as
being Captain of the privateer, Star out of Saint John, during the
War of 1812. He is reported to have captured 3 prizes for the crown with the
Star, after which he decided to move to the Privateer capital of
the Maritimes in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. Liverpool had 94 privateer vessels
registered during the war.
One of these was the
Liverpool Packet. At the outbreak of the war she was listed as a
Baltimore Clipper Schooner, length 53 feet, 18 foot hold, depth 6 ½
feet, 67 tons. The armament that she carried was 1 six pounder and 4 twelve
pounder guns, pistols, muskets, pikes, cutlasses, grappling irons, and nets.
Spruce oars were later added for rowing out of danger in calms. Captain Joseph
Barss Jr. was listed as her skipper. He had great success, as he captured 33
American vessels, until the morning of 11 June, 1812. The Liverpool
Packet was peacefully anchored off the Maine coast when the
Thomas out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire came bearing down on her.
The Thomas was a fast sailing, Baltimore built schooner and
although the Packet hauled anchor and quickly hoisted her sails and
led a merry, five-hour chase, she was greatly outgunned and, to save useless
loss of life, surrendered. After the two ships docked in Portsmouth, New
Hampshire, the captain and crew were manacled and led to jail. They spent many
months in jail and Captain Joseph Barss Jr. was set free only after he agreed
to terms that would not allow him to privateer again.
Liverpool Packet then set sail under American colours as the
Portsmouth Packet with John Perkins as captain. She was quickly
recaptured by HMS Fantome off Mount Desert Island, before she
captured even one ship, and returned to Halifax where she was bought by the
firm of Collins and Allison and renamed the Liverpool Packet.
The owners of the Liverpool Packet were Enos
Collins, John Allison, and James Barss. It has to be assumed that they were
again looking for a Captain with Joseph Barss Jr. involuntarily retiring. It is
interesting to note that Caleb Seely later married Phebe, the sister of Enos
Collins. Caleb, already being a captain, obviously knowing Enos, probably
seemed to be the obvious choice as captain of the recaptured Liverpool
Packet. The letter of Marque for Captain Caleb Seely, as skipper of the
Liverpool Packet, was issued on 13 October, 1812.
In a list of captured vessels reported to the admiralty
for the second half of 1812, it reports that from the 14 October, to19 October,
1812, the Liverpool Packet captured 5 American vessels. Talk about
somebody being good at his job! Before the year finished the Liverpool
Packet had captured 19 merchant ships.
point of view of privateering and especially the Liverpool Packet
is mentioned in an essay: Privateering and National Defense: Naval Warfare for
Private Profit, by Larry J. Seachrest; It should come as no surprise,
that, from an American perspective The privateers of New Brunswick and
Nova Scotia provided a major incentive for peace. By far the most renowned of
these was the Liverpool Packet, which hailed from Liverpool, Nova
Scotia. She became so feared that just the rumor of her presence along the
coast of the United States was enough to drive commercial vessels back into
their homeports. It was for this reason that, late in 1812, the American House
of Representatives debated the possibility of cutting a canal through Cape Cod
as a less costly alternative to losses through commercial raiding,
Another reference showing the fear that the
Liverpool Packet generated was in a paragraph from the:
Pictorial Field-Book of The War of 1812 by Benson J. Lossing. This was
written in 1814: I quote: At about this time Commodore Lewis made his
appearance in the Sound with 13 American gun-boats for the protection of the
coast-trade against the Liverpool Packet privateer, which was
cruising very mischievously all along the Connecticut shore. She fled eastward
at Lewiss approach, and when he reached Saybrook he found more than fifty
vessels there, afraid to weigh anchor for fear of this corsair.
It is reported that during the war that the
Packet captured between 100 to 200 vessels of which 50 are
described as prizes. In The Seelys of New Brunswick it
is noted that ships of lesser value were allowed to go free by Captain Seely.
Enos Collins and his co-owners became wealthy from the spoils of war, as
probably did Caleb Seely. Enos Collins invested his money and at his death was
reported to be the richest man in Canada.
the now famous Perkins house, in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, at the death of Simeon
Perkins, in 1812, and lived there until his death in 1869. The house is now the
Perkins House Museum and is listed as A Colonial treasure.
Caleb Seely and eight family members are buried in the
Seely Vault at Trinity Anglican Church and Cemetery in Liverpool, Nova Scotia.
The Church was built in the years 1821 and 1822 and the vault is the only one
of its kind in Liverpool, and probably the County.
go to Liverpool, Nova Scotia, be sure to visit these historical sites and as
you look out across the harbour it is not hard to imagine Captain Caleb Seely
telling his crew to weigh anchor and hoist the sails. Those were the days of
excitement and daring on the high seas, when privateers, on both sides, played
an important part in the early settlement of the war of 1812. Heres to
Captain Caleb Seely, privateer.
Barry Hatt lives in Dumfries. You may contact
him through his e-mail address which is firstname.lastname@example.org