Liverpool Packet

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Painting of the schooner Liverpool, believed by some to be the schooner Liverpool Packet.[Note 1]
Nova Scotia
Name: Liverpool Packet
Owner: Enos Collins, John Allision, Joseph Barss
Port of registry: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Commissioned: 20 August 1812
Homeport: Liverpool, Nova Scotia
Honours and
50 captures
Fate: Sold to Jamaican owners 1815
General characteristics
Type: Privateer schooner
Tonnage: 67
Sail plan: Topsail schooner
Crew: 40
  • 2 x 4-pounder cannons
  • 2 x 12-pounder carronades
  • 1 x 6-pounder gun

Liverpool Packet was a privateer schooner from Liverpool, Nova Scotia, that captured 50 American vessels in the War of 1812. During the war American privateers briefly captured Liverpool Packet, the British soon recaptured her and returned her to raiding American commerce. Liverpool Packet was the most successful privateer vessel ever to sail out of a Canadian port.[2]

Canadian privateer[edit]

Liverpool Packet was originally the American slave ship Severn, built at Baltimore and rigged as a Baltimore Clipper style schooner. HMS Tartarus captured the schooner in August 1811. The Halifax Vice Admiralty Court, under Chief Justice Alexander Croke, condemned Severn as an illegal slave ship as both Britain and the United States had recently outlawed the Transatlantic Slave Trade.[3] The court then ordered her sold at auction and Enos Collins and other investors purchased her in October 1811. They renamed her Liverpool Packet, although she sometimes bore the nickname The Black Joke, a name of several infamous slave ships. At first her owners used the small and fast schooner as a packet ship carrying mail and passengers between Halifax and Liverpool, Nova Scotia.[Note 2]

War of 1812[edit]

Upon the outbreak of the War of 1812, the owners of Liverpool Packet quickly converted her to a privateer. Under the command of Joseph Barss Jnr, she captured at least 33 American vessels during the first year of the war. His strategy was to lie in wait off Cape Cod, snapping up American ships headed to Boston or New York.


She was a menace to New England shipping until the Americans captured her in 1813. On 10 June the privateer schooner Thomas of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Captain Shaw, master, mounting twelve guns and manned with a crew of one hundred men, encountered Packet. Thomas chased her for about five hours but light winds prevented Liverpool Packet from escaping.

Liverpool Packet struck her colours but then as the Americans came alongside the two vessels ran into each other. As the British ran up to push the vessels apart, the Americans, fearing they were going to be boarded, boarded Liverpool Packet. Firing broke out that killed three Americans.[5] American anger over their earlier losses to the Packet resulted in poor treatment of Barss, who languished in jail for months on a diet of bread and water until he was exchanged for American prisoners held in Halifax.

In American hands she was briefly renamed Young Teaser's Ghost, after the recently destroyed American privateer Young Teazer. Failing to take any British prizes, she was renamed again as Portsmouth Packet. Under this name and under the command of Captain John Perkins, she had a short, unsuccessful career failing to capture a single prize for the Americans.


HMS Fantome and HMS Epervier recaptured Liverpool Packet, then sailing under the name Portsmouth Packet,[6] off Mount Desert Island, Maine, after a chase of thirteen hours. At the time, the privateer schooner was armed with five guns, carried a crew of 45, and had sailed from Portsmouth the previous day.

The recaptured schooner was brought into Halifax where her original owners repurchased her and restored the name of Liverpool Packet. Under a new captain named Caleb Seeley, she captured fourteen prizes before the year ended. In 1814, she captured additional prizes in May and June. Then in August, she took two prizes while acting in concert with HMS Shannon while they were sailing off of Bridgeport and New York. Liverpool Packet continued to work often with British naval vessels right to the war's end.


After the war, her owners sold her in Kingston, Jamaica; her subsequent fate is not known. A vessel with the identical name, with the master given as Steven Singleton, is mentioned carrying emigrants to the United States from England in 1817 in the Memorials of the Clarke Family.[citation needed] However, as the privateer schooner Liverpool Packet was too small for emigrant trade, this reference is likely one of several packet ships operating out of Liverpool, England which also bore the name Liverpool Packet.

The War of 1812 was the last time the British allowed privateering. The practice was coming to be seen as politically inexpedient and of diminishing value in maintaining Britain's naval supremacy.

Post script[edit]

In all, Liverpool Packet had taken 50 prizes in her brief but successful career. Her captures helped launch the great fortune of Enos Collins. Two steamships from her old homeport of Liverpool, Nova Scotia, were named in her honour in the 20th century.



  1. ^ The schooner on this 19th-century painting is lettered Liverpool and is likely the schooner Liverpool built in Nova Scotia in 1848 (long after the War of 1812).[1]
  2. ^ The privateer schooner Liverpool Packet should not be confused with several larger ships described as or named the Liverpool Packet that operated out of Liverpool, England, carrying mail and passengers on the route.[4]


  1. ^ "Schooner Liverpool", Ship Information Database, Parks Canada
  2. ^ Leefe (1978), p. 9.
  3. ^ Conlin (1999), pp.202-12.
  4. ^ Lloyds Register 1810
  5. ^ Acadian Recorder 26 June 1813 p. 2.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 16992. p. 459. 11 March 1815.


  • Conlin, Dan (1999) "A Slave Ship Made Captive: The Schooner Severn", Journal of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, Vol. 2, pp. 203–212.
  • Kert, Faye. Prize and Prejudice.
  • Leefe, John. (1978) The Atlantic Privateers: their story – 1749-1815. (Petheric Press; Nimbus Publishing).
  • Snider, C.F.J. (1928) Under the Red Jack:Privateers of the Maritime Provinces of Canada in the War of 1812. (London:Martin Hopkinson & Co.)

External links[edit]