Skip to content

Convict Voyages: Rebellion

Note: This post is part of a series on Convict Transportation to the American colonies.

Knowing the volatile nature of their cargo, captains of convict ships were careful not to allow convicts much freedom during their voyage to America for fear they could take over the ship. Still, insurrection did occur. In 1751, The Virginia Gazette reported that “some of the most wicked Wretches that have been sent abroad” tried to escape several times from their confinement on board their ship, but the Keeper was able to foil their attempts. Some ships, however, were not so successful in subduing their criminal passengers.

Mrs. Andrew Buckler of Dublin

In 1736, some northern newspapers gave an account of a woman by the name of Mrs. Andrew Buckler of Dublin, who was traveling with her husband to Annapolis, Maryland. The ship they were traveling on had a tough, long voyage, and they were forced to land in Nova Scotia for water. The only water they could find, however, was snow, so they put as much as they could in barrels and brought it back to the ship to melt.

The passengers then sent a maid and a “Negro Boy” on shore to wash clothes, but the two never returned. In the belief that the two servants were taken by Indians, the passengers and crew remained on board the ship in fear, and they all started to die slowly of thirst. When Mrs. Buckler was the only one left standing, a group of Indians then boarded the ship and stole gold, silver, watches, and jewelry and “carried her ashore to their Wigwams.”

Mrs. Buckler was eventually found by Mr. Mitchel, a deputy surveyor of the woods, at a “French House, very far Eastward of Boston.” He took her to Col. Armstrong, the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, who wined and dined her before sending her off to Boston where she boarded a ship heading back to London.

A Full Investigation

The government continued to investigate Mrs. Buckler’s affair with the Native Americans and soon discovered that the “whole of her Story now proves to be false, and she to be an abominable Impostor, if not one of the vilest piratical Murderers.”

Before traveling to America, Andrew Buckler had earlier traveled to Dublin, Ireland with a ship full of rum from Barbados, where he and his wife lived. After unloading the rum, Buckler agreed to transport 40 felons and several indentured servants to Annapolis, MD. Since Buckler’s wife did not accompany him on the trip, authorities believed that the woman who claimed to be Mrs. Andrew Buckler was one of the convicts, a Miss Matthews, “who had received Sentence of Death for Theft, and was reputed to be a common Strumpet in Dublin, and always of ill Repute.” They speculated that she impersonated Buckler’s wife in order to take possession of the abandoned ship and its possessions.

Apparently, as the ship neared American land, the convicts murdered the captain and the rest of the crew, and then landed the ship in a remote area in order to plunder it. During the investigation, the maid and servant boy were found dead on shore, with the boy’s throat cut from ear to ear. Even though the pretend Mrs. Buckler claimed to have buried her “husband,” his body was never found, but a lot of dried blood was discovered between the decks of the ship. The rest of the convicts were thought to have dispersed among the French and Indians, and Miss Matthews presumably made it back to London unscathed, the information coming too late to do anything about her return.

Resources for this article:

  • The Virginia Gazette (Parks), Friday, September 24, 1736, p. 3.
  • The Virginia Gazette (Hunter), December 5, 1751, p. 2.

Learn More About Convict Transportation

Learn more about convict transportation to colonial America by reading my book, Bound with an Iron Chain: The Untold Story of How the British Transported 50,000 Convicts to Colonial America. Paperback ($16.99) and Kindle ($4.99).

Smashwords: All e-book formats ($4.99).

Most people know that England shipped thousands of convicts to Australia, but few are aware that colonial America was the original destination for Britain’s unwanted criminals. In the 18th century, thousands of British convicts were separated from their families, chained together in the hold of a ship, and carried off to America, sometimes for the theft of a mere handkerchief.

What happened to these convicts once they arrived in America? Did they prosper in an environment of unlimited opportunity, or were they ostracized by the other colonists? Anthony Vaver tells the stories of the petty thieves and professional criminals who were punished by being sent across the ocean to work on plantations. In bringing to life this forgotten chapter in American history, he challenges the way we think about immigration to early America.

The book also includes an appendix with helpful tips for researching individual convicts who were transported to America.

Visit Pickpocket Publishing for more details.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *