The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), May 31, 1838

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p.1 We anticipate the day of publication, in order to apprize our readers of a most abominable outrage committed by a pack of Yankee vagabonds, in capturing and burning the steamboat Sir Robert Peel, on her passage from Prescott to Kingston. We have taken an account of this transaction from the lips of an officer of the devoted vessel, and the public may depend upon its accuracy. In addition, we beg leave to state, that much valuable property was destroyed on this occasion, a Mr. Holditch, from Port Robinson, losing £1500 in Bank of England Notes. The passengers were used barbariously, and turned adrift on a desolate island in the dead of night. The family of Dr. Sampson was on board - may it animate him, not to barricade Kingston as was done last winter, but to take a speedy and severe retaliation! The passengers and crew were released from their perilous condition and brought to Kingston by the American steamboat Oneida yesterday morning early.

The town is in a dreadful state of excitement - two companies of Militia left in the steamer Kingston for below yesterday noon - what to do we know not - we hope it is to burn French Creek to the ground, but we fear the reverse - to shut the stable door when the steed is stolen.

The Statement of Mr. Maurice FitzGibbon, 2nd Mate of the Steam-boat Sir Robert Peel.

The steam boat Sir Robert Peel, Capt. A.B. Armstrong, on her voyage from Prescott to Toronto, arrived at Well's Island, seven miles below the village of French Creek, on her way to Kingston, about one o'clock on the morning of the 30th May. She stopped at this place, it being one of the usual places for taking in wood, and while all hands being busily employed in so doing, a band of men, armed with muskets and bayonets, and their faces blacked, rushed on board the vessel, and ordered every soul to go on shore immediately. These men might amount to sixty or eighty, but the night was dark, and the positive number cannot be well ascertained - they were under the command of a man who appeared to be an officer. The utmost confusion prevailed on board, and the passengers, ladies and gentlemen, being many, great alarm was created. Previous to obeying the command of the pirates, Captain Armstrong ordered the boat to be cut adrift, which order I attempted to execute, but was prevented by the pirates. The passengers then went on shore; the ladies were forced from their cabin, without shores or stockings on - many in their night clothes, and none fully clothed - the gentlemen were in like manner treated. The crew and firemen, together with the Captain and Engineers, were obliged to leave the vessel, their doing so being hastened by sundry cuffs received from the hands of the pirates. When the passengers were collected together on shore, they asked to be allowed to get their clothes, and this was permitted them for a short time; but they could not obtain the half of what they possessed.

The boat was then cast adrift, and permitted to go down the stream for about a furlong or so, when the anchors were let go, and in about a quarter of an hour, or more, the Sir Robert Peel was observed to be in flames, and continued burning until I left Well's' Island. The pirates were seen to leave the vessel in as many as five or six boats, when the vessel was fully on fire - they went off in the direction of the American shore. At the time of the capture the 1st mate, Mr. Roderick McSween, was in bed and asleep, and in the confusion was not awakened, and therefore he was carried into the stream where the vessel was set on fire. When the pirates left the blazing wreck, Mr. McSween's cries were heard on shore, and a boat was put off from the landing place to his assistance - in the mean while he had thrown himself overboard, and swam to a small island, where he was picked up.

The passengers and crew, amounting in the whole to about one hundred souls, thus left ashore, found refuge from the cold in a large shanty, and were kindly treated by the inmates thereof, where they remained until about six o'clock in the morning, when they were taken off by the American Steamboat Oneida, Capt. Smith, and the whole party brought to Kingston, whither the Oneida returned back. We were all treated well on board. I could not recognize one single person amongst those concerned in this outrage, the faces and persons were so much disguised.


2nd Mate, Sir Robt. Peel.

Kingston, May 30th, 1838.



May 26 - The steamer Margaret, Ballantyne, with seven barges in tow (consignees listed.)

May 30 - The steamer Cataraqui, Drummond, with seven barges in tow.

Departures for Bytown.

May 26 - The steamer Cataraqui, Drummond.

May 27 - The steamer Bytown, Hunter.

May 28 - The steamer Margaret, Ballantyne.

Departures for Montreal via the St. Lawrence.

May 26 - The barge Dolphin (consignees listed.)

May 28 - The barge Mary (consignees listed.)

May 28 - The batteau Oliver Paraut (consignees listed.)

May 28 - The barge Traveller (consignees listed.)

May 29 - The barge Sophia (consignees listed.)

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May 31, 1838
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Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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British Whig (Kingston, ON), May 31, 1838