Rainbow 1758

Rainbow, 1758
Date:   1758
Capt.: Joseph Harrison


The following letter, dated Barbadoes, February 28th, 1758, was written by Captain Joseph Harrison, commander of the slave ship Rainbow, to his owners, Messrs. Thomas Rumbold & Co., of Liverpool: --

“We arrived here on the 25th inst. In company with Capt. Perkins from Bonny, and Capt. Forde from Angola, whom we fell in with at St Thomas’s.  The packet arrived here from England the day after us.  I expect to sail from hence for South Carolina in five days, having on board 225 slaves, all in good health except eight.  On the 23rd of June last, I had the misfortune to fall in with a French brig privateer, of fourteen 6-pounders, to leeward of Popo.  We engaged him four hours, and were so near for above four glasses, that I expected every moment we should run on board him, as he had shot away all my running rigging and the fluke of my small bow anchor.  My standing rigging and sails were mostly cut to pieces, and the privateer was in a little better condition.  Fifteen of his shot went through and through my sides, we being scarce the length of the ship from one another.  I lost in the engagement, my boatswain—William Jackson—Robert Williams—and Henry Williams.  My first and second mates,   three landsmen, and one servant were wounded.  The privateer “being well satisfied sheered off.  We were three days in repairing our rigging, &c., and on the 28th got over the Bar of Benin and found only one vessel there, viz. a Portuguese sloop at Warree.  I purchased eight slaves on the windward coast, and 261 at Benin, besides 5400 weight of ivory.  Leaving the river, Nov. 9th, we arrived at St. Thomas’s Dec. 17th, from whence our three vessels sailed, Jan.  4th. I have buried all my officers, except my first and third mates and gunner. Having lost since left Liverpool, 25 white people and 44 negroes.  The negroes rose on us after we left St. Thomas’s; they killed my linguister whom I got at Benin, and we then secured them without farther loss.  We have an account of five privateers being to windward of Barbadoes, by a retaken vessel brought in here this day, so that we shall run a great risk when we leave Barbadoes.”

Sources: Elizabeth Donnan V.IV p. 370; Also, in Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail, W. Jeffrey Bolster.  Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts London, England, 1997.