Archiver > MARINERS > 2010-04 > 1271681061

From: "Earl Chapman" <>
Subject: [MAR] Troop Transport Martello
Date: Mon, 19 Apr 2010 09:04:37 -0400


I'm that chap who is interested in tracking down the troop transport MARTELLO, circa 1759, for a book I am writing. While it appears that this search (to confirm the ship's identity) will soon come to an unsuccessful end, I thought it necessary to present the latest news on my quest. I did contact Lloyd's Register and they were kind enough to search through their early registers (1764). Unfortunatley, no sign of the MARTELLO, which, according to Lloyd's does not necessarily mean that the ship did not exist, but rather it was not surveyed. Also, the MARTELLO does not appear in the digitized editions of contemporary newspapers, but this is not surprising as the MARTELLO was simply a commercial cargo ship temporarily converted to a troop transport and placed under contract by the Royal Navy. Also, she does not show up in a list of 150 transports which took part in the siege of Louisbourg in 1758, so she presumably took on another cargo and was released by the Royal Navy (the list of transports at Louisbourg does not contain a ship's name even remotely similar to MARTELLO).

It would appear that my 18th century diarist, Sergeant James Thompson, late of His Majesty's 78th Regiment of Foot, simply got the name of his transport ship wrong. After all, he was telling his "war stories", or his "anecdotes of Wolfe's Army," in the latter years of a long life (he died in Quebec city in 1830, aged 97 years)! So a few simple lapses of memory can be expected. Just to recap my knowledge of the elusive MARTELLO: she left Cork, Ireland, in convoy on 1 July 1757, carrying the grenadier company of Fraser's Highlanders to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Here is an excerpt from Thompson's diary on this sailing:

Our Regiment rendezvou'd at Cork, there to embark for Service, somewhere or other in North America. We sail'd with seal'd orders, which were only to be open'd when we reach'd a certain latitude. The hir'd vessel I was embark'd in was call'd the "Martello," a beautiful new ship, and it was her first voyage. The Captain did not know her trim, and the first few days after our sailing she would run away from the Commodore in no time, in spite of our short'ning sail, and for this high offense, which he couldn't help, the Captain had frequently a shot fired at him, to make him keep under the wing of the Commodore, the shot however, did no further injury than subject the Captain to a fine of six and eight pence for every shot. One day we had a fine stiff breeze and our ship actually outsailed the whole of the Fleet altho' only under bare poles. When the Commodore saw this he was satisfied it wasn't the Captain's fault, and he made him pay no more six-and-eight pence per shot. The ship was so tight that she didn't require pumping the whole of the voyage, which was a lucky circumstance indeed.

At last, we discover'd the Commodore's Signal for the whole of the Fleet to heave-to, and when we had done this as cleverly as we could, the Signal was made for all Commanding Officers of Corps to go on board the Commodore's ship. This was to make known our Destination, and to receive their Orders accordingly. We soon after found out that our place of destination was Halifax. As good luck would have it, the Fleet was safe, and soon after we cast our Anchor, our Captain was anxious to try the tightness of his ship and gave his orders to have her pump'd. The men had difficulty in getting the pumps to draw, and when, at last, water came, it was as black as my Bonnet, and it produced such a stench, that it would soon have poison'd all the men on board. It turn'd out that instead of pumping out, 'afaith they were obliged to pump in, to prevent the Troops getting sick.

When we landed at Halifax, we found our Commander-in-Chief General Wolfe there, drilling away the men, and making fight sham-battles at a place round the Town called Deptford, where the ground is level. We were not long at Halifax when we received Orders to set sail for the River Saint Lawrence, and in a few days we came to anchor opposite the harbour of Louisbourg which we knew it was our business to try and take.

Thanks to those of you who forwarded some comments on the elusive MARTELLO.

Earl Chapman
Montreal, Canada

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