"The Yankee's Visit
I recently took up a number of the London United Service Journal, in which I found the article below, "The Yankee's Visit to Sir Joseph Banks.' It bears internal evidence of truth, and I therefore send it to you for insertion. At what period the visit took place I cannot tell, but it must have been as much as five and twenty years ago. Mr Shackford, the Yankee, is, I believe now living in the western country, and used to possess all the marks of eccentricity ascribed to him in the interview. His son now commands a ship from this port. [Note: I do not believe that Josiah had any children, JSP] Previous to the visit to Sir Joseph, he built or purchased a small vessel, in which he embarked alone for, and navigated to Great Britain, and the manner in which he describes the voyage is the same which I heard from this townsman. When he arrived in port he was supposed to be a pirate; that he had murdered the crew of the vessel; and he was arrested. He produced his shipping papers, which contained one name only, and other documents to prove his character, and it was not until some persons in England were found who knew him in this country; that he was set at liberty. He made his return voyage to America in safety, and is supposed to be the only person who ever crossed the ocean without a companion.
THE YANKEE'S VISIT TO SIR JOSEPH BANKS
Sir Joseph Banks, hearing that there was a man in London who had crossed the Atlantic in a boat alone, was desirous of seeing him, and got some American to go to the hotel and contrive a way to bring him to his house. This was easily effected. Shackford in company with Capt Follansbee paid Sir Joseph a visit.
They were asked into a room devoted to Natural History. Shackford looked around and was pleased to see so many things that were curiousities, preserved so well. At last he saw a crocodile in a tub of water, and took notice of him, as he appeared, now above, now below the surface. Sir Joseph soon made his appearance. 'Is this the Mr Shackford, who crossed the Atlantic in an open boat!' inquired Sir Joseph. 'Yes sir,' was the reply, 'I have done that, sir'
'What were your sensations in the middle of the ocean, alone!' was the next inquirey. 'Why, sir, I suppose you ask me how I felt on my voyage. I was sometimes dry and I drank; I was sometimes hungry and I ate, I was sleepy, and I dozed a little, that was easy, for I had a nice cubby, and I fixed a tiller there, and slept with my helm in my hand and there was no difficulty in that.'
'What mathematical instruments had you?' was the next inquiry. 'Why a compass and an axe, a pair of pistols, and a sword that Gen Pulaski gave me.' 'How was you sure you was right in your course?' 'I was not sure, but guessed I was right, as I steered east when I got pretty well up to the north, and that I knew would take me to England, or somewhere thereabouts, and that was right enough for one whose time was in his own, and who owned the craft he was in, and plenty of provisions on board.'
'You have, sir' said Shackford, 'a fine omnium gatherun here; what are you going to do with the crocodile you have here?' 'I am about preparing a paper to read before the society, upon his habits and nature which I shall read tomorrow. Do you know anything about the animal, Mr Shackford?' 'I lived three years in the West Indies, where they are as thick as grasshoppers.' 'Have you ever heard their moans to entice and allure travelers to come to them (as writers on natural history have mentioned) that they may secure them as their prey?' inquired the philosopher. 'No, they never did such a thing; for a good reason, they have no tongue to make a clear sound with, and they can't make a noise, except one of bringing their jaws together. They move their upper jaw, and somehow bring it down with a great force, and a singular sound proceeds from this; but how can such a thing moan without a tongue! Look into it's mouth, and you will find he has no more tongue than the great elephant I saw the other day in this city.' 'You don't mean', said Sir Joseph, that an elephant has no tongue?' 'Yes I do.' replied Shackford, 'mean to say that an elephant has no tongue; and what does he want one for, as he has such a thing at the end of his nose, by which he can feel a thing as nicely as a lady's finger could, and then use it as a sledgehammer to knock one's brains out with.' 'How do you know that to be a fact,' inquired Sir Joseph, 'that it has no tongue?' 'Why the best way in the world; I looked into one until I was satisfied of the fact; and then it stood to reason in my mind, that he did not want one, with so fine a tool as he has for the purpose of hands, tongue, and sword.' 'Well,' said Sir Joseph, not a bit mortified, 'the crocodiles are very ferocious and dangerous.' 'Why.' said Shackford, 'they have a good large mouth of their own, and an ugly set of teeth, but they very seldom attack a man; a very slight splash in the water generally frightened them off. Once in a while they reach a young negro.' All of his argument of that wonderful moaning and fierceness, at last had opposers. To end the conversation, he went off to the Tower, or Exeter Exchange to see the elephant, was evidently Sir Joseph's wish; but Shackford seemed in no hurry to go. Sir Joseph, in trying to hide his impatience, made several hasty inquiries.
'Did you ever see a collection like this before?' 'No' said Shackford, 'the nearest like it is my barber shop, the other side of the water.'
'Mr Shackford, what books do you carry with you on your voyage and travels?' 'The Bible, sir, Watt's Psalms and Hymns, and Robinson Crusoe. Not many others - I looked around and read the book of nature, and generally picked up something worth remembering,' was the reply.
'I should think,' said Sir Joseph, 'that you would find many things that would puzzle you in your researches.' 'I do,' said Shackford, 'and so does every man I ever saw. No Sir Joseph, let me make plain what I mean. Can you tell me what animal that is of the Nile which is born with a tail, without legs and dies, if he comes to his growth, with four legs and without a tail?' Sir Joseph pondered. 'Why,' said Shackford, 'it is a frog. When a polywog, he has a tail' but when a frog he has four legs without a tail. I placed his birth on the Nile, which deceived you, learned, Sir, but you know that the frog is found in every mud puddle in creation, as well as in the Nile. 'Now' said Shackford 'I have a great love for learned men, but they don't know everything. '
Sir Joseph was glad to get rid of the maniac, who had crossed the Atlantic alone in a boat - something more than Cook had done, when the navigator and philosopher had quarreled." (Sunbury American and Shamokin Journal., (Sunbury, Northumberland, Co, Pa) December 18, 1841, Image 1)
FACT OR FICTION?
The Sunbury American and Shamokin Journal may have copied this story from other sources without giving them credit. The same story appeared eight years earlier in "The Sailor's Magazine and Naval Journal, Vol 5, 1832 and New York evening tales; or Uncle John's true stories about natural history… (Google eBook), M Day, printer, 1833. I also found a copy of the same article in the Long Island Farmer & Queens Country Advertiser, Jamaica NY, Tuesday, Dec 1, 1841, p. 1 But multiple publications of the same tale does not make it true and in the genealogy family history world, it is important to have proof before stating a specific event occurred.
The key individuals mentioned in this article are real people who lived at the same time and could have met.
The SHACKFORD mentioned in the article is most likely Capt Josiah Shackford (1747-1829) son of William and Susanna (Downing) Shackford, great grandson of William Shackford, William (3), Samuel (2), William (1). He was a well known shipmaster who was commissioned as a Lieutenant in 1776. He served as the
commanding officer of the Diana in 1780-1781, served on the Raleigh, and signed the bond for and was the commander of the Brigantine Flying Fish in 1782. There are multiple stories published of a possible solo trip he took across the Atlantic.
Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820) was a famous British naturalist and botanist who traveled with Capt Cook on his first voyage across the Pacific. His papers are stored at the State Library of New South Wales and information about a Lincolnshire society focusing on stimulating interest in his life and achievements can be found at http://www.joseph-banks.org.uk/. The only way to possibly know if a meeting between Sir Joseph Banks and Capt Josiah Shackford actually took place would be to read Sir Joseph Banks' journals. There are 10,000 pages of his journals stored at State Library of New South Wales. It's fun to dream about traveling to that part of the world to read these!
General Casimir Pulaski (1745-1779) was a soldier of fortune from Poland who arrived in the United States in July 1777 to help fight against the British. He became known as "The Father of Calvary" and was mortally wounded in 1779 at the age of 32 while in Georgia fighting to retake Savannah. He was taken aboard the brig Wasp while wounded but it is unclear if he was buried at sea or in Charleston. Documentation of his travels while in the US can be found but so far, nothing definitively has him meeting Josiah Shackford.
DID CAPT JOSIAH SHACKFORD SAIL SOLO ACROSS THE ATLANTIC?
It sure would be neat to learn that a SHACKFORD transited the Atlantic solo but at this time I haven't found enough information to verify that a solo trip occurred. Brewster's book Sketches of Persons, Localities and Incidents of Two Centuries mentions a May 2, 1787 article in the "Essex Journal and New Hampshire Packet" related by a gentleman at New York "from such authority as puts the truth of it quite out of dispute' (It's unclear if that means the article is implying the trip occurred or didn't occur). There are many other articles that mention a possible solo journey. Some mention that he was stopped for his papers in the West Indies, others say this occurred in England. One says an entire crew abandoned him forcing him to travel solo, another say he was going to travel with one other who got off the ship at the last minute. There are also stories that describe the trip took place when he sailed from France and landed 35 days later in Surinam, South America while the above article describes his travel solo to England. I don't currently have access to documents or publications from the 1780s when this journey is said to have taken place but plan to continue looking for any source information about this possible journey.
Whether Josiah Shackford's solo trip or his meeting with Sir Joseph Banks ever actually occurred, I enjoyed reading this 1841 front page article and doing some more research to add to my research about "the eccentric Josiah Shackford". I wrote to with the author of a WEB site called www.awiatsea.com which collects information about the American War of Independence and the Sir Joseph Banks society. If I learn anything that could help document any specifics about this story, I'll post them in a future blog.
Josiah Shackford married Deborah Marshall in 1771 but must have abandoned her she petitioned the General Court and won a court case empowering her to lease his lands and collect his debts because he had been "absent in a disordered, deranged State of mind and that the resources left by him for her subsistence are exhausted and have failed". Around 1802 Josiah moved west to the town that is now known as Portsmouth Ohio. He was known there as a bachelor and died there in July 26, 1829. I don't believe he had any children as there are many articles mentioning that he had promised his nephews his inheritance if they would move to Ohio and live with him but none pursued this offer. I hope to find his will and other documents about his sailing adventures in future research.
Banno, Henry Towne , Scioto Sketches: An Account of Discovery and Settlement of Scioto County, Ohio, A. C. McClurg, 1920, p. 54
Brewster, Charles W., Sketches of Persons, Localities and Incidents of Two Centuries, Lewis W Brewster, Portsmouth, NH, 1869, . 269
http://continentalnavy.com/page/17/, reviewed Jan 7, 2013
http://continentalnavy.com/archives/2010/calkins-endnotes/, reviewed Jan 7, 2013
Lincoln, Charles Henry, Naval records of the American Revolution, 1775-1788, Government Printing Office, 1906, p. 268
New-Hampshire Gazette, Date: 1829-10-06; Vol: LXXIV; Iss: 47; Page: )
New Hampshire, Henry Harrison Metcalf, New Hampshire. Secretary of State Laws of New Hampshire: Second constitutional period, 1792-1801, John B. Clarke Company, 1917, p. 259
New York evening tales: or, Uncle John's true stories about natural history... (Google eBook), M Day, Printer, 1833, p. 9
The Portsmouth Times (Portsmouth, Ohio), November 29, 1873, page 2
Proctor Brothers, The fishermen's own book, Gloucester, 1882
A record of the services of the commissioned officers and enlisted men of Kittery and Eliot, Maine, p. 222
The Sailor's Magazine, and Naval Journal, Volume 5 (Google eBook), American Seamen's Friend Society, 1832, p. 111, 112.
The Sailor's Magazine, and Naval Journal, Volume 7 (Google eBook), American Seamen's Friend Society, 1835, p. 279
Foss, Gerald D., Three Centuries of Freemasonry in New Hampshire, Rt Wor. Grand Historian, Grand Lodge of New Hampshire
Sunbury American and Shamokin journal., (Sunbury, Northumberland, Co, Pa) December 18, 1841, Image 1)