For the past 376 years, ever since the Ark and the Dove sailed from England to the New World (1633-34) bringing the first Catholics and others to settle the Mary Land colony of Lord Baltimore, there has been confusion in the historical accounts on the timing of the departure, the number of passengers, and how did Catholics on board manage to leave England when they were being persecuted?
The Ark and the Dove were two ships owned by Lord George Calvert, whose son Cecil inherited his property, ships and grant from the King of England to the Mary Land colony in America. On the voyage to America the Ark, a merchantman, was under the command of Richard Lowe while the Dove was under the command of Captain Winter.
A full-rigged ship, the Ark of London was about 350 tons with a crew of forty. It was to carry the first settlers and supplies to the new colony. (Tons refers to tons burden, a measure of space available for cargo unless said to be weight). The Ark was a merchantman armed to repel pirates or enemy ships and "Kingbuilt" to serve as a warship if commandeered by the navy. For her first and second voyages from London to Maryland in 1633-35 the Ark had fifteen large carriage-mounted cast-iron cannon and other guns, probably some combination of demiculverins, cutts, sakars, and perhaps minions or falcons.
To repel boarders she would have had small swivel mounted antipersonnel guns called "murderers." In August 1635 before her third voyage she added eight sakars and two cutts. Guns of the seventeenth century were not standardized. Demiculverins might weigh 3,000 to 3,500 pounds, be nine to ten feet long, have a 4 to 4 ¾ inch bore and throw an 8 to 9 1/2-pound ball more than a mile. Sakers commonly weighed 2,000 to 2,500 pounds, were seven to nine feet long, had a 3.5 to 4 inch bore and a 5 to 6 pound shot. Cutts were demiculverins, with the barrel shortened by about six feet with little loss in range. They might throw a 9-pound ball about a mile but had extremely violent recoil and, as was the case with the sakers, were not accurate enough to have an effective range of more than about 500 yards. Minions could weigh 1,000 to 1,200 pounds, be 6 feet long and throw a 4 to 5 pound ball. Falcons weighed 600 to 800 pounds and used a 4 to 5 pound ball.
The armament of the Ark was important. Spain considered it her right to seize or sink any English ship found south of the "tropike" (of Cancer) and west of the "Grave Meridian" (probably considered by the Spanish to be by 18 degrees west longitude). The Ark was headed for the West Indies and would be in that area for weeks. Another danger was piracy. In 1631, the most dreaded of all pirates, those of Sallee, a port on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, held as slaves some 2,000 captives from English ships and the coasts of England and Ireland. In 1634-35 pirates captured some 2,000 people from English ships and towns.
Richard Lowe, the Ark's master, had reason to be wary of pirates. In March 1628, he was captured at sea by "Frenchmen" while master of the 130-ton Anne of London. In November 1630 he was master of the 160-ton Charity of London when she fought two Dunkirk pirate ships in the Narrow Seas for "two hours but quitted herself with some hurte."
The Dove was a small vessel, "of the burthen of fortie tons." On the first voyage to Maryland, it accompanied the Ark as its pinnace, a tender and scout, and carried some baggage and supplies. No precise information about the rig, dimensions, or layout of the Dove is known. Some representations show her with three masts, some with two. She is variously reported to be of forty to fifty tons burden. For the voyage with the Ark she had a crew of seven.
Over the past four centuries historians have estimated the number of passengers at between 123 to over 300 with the number of Catholics being most difficult to determine. It was not a surprise as Catholics were being persecuted in England at the time and it was only because George Calvert had faithfully served the King of England, James I, that an avowed Catholic like Calvert could get a land grant in the first place. He had previously invested in the East India Trading Company, the settlement of Avalon in Newfoundland, and the Jamestown settlement.
Maryland was to be the first English colony in America guaranteeing religious freedom by virtue of the failure to mention in the Maryland Charter loyalty to the Church of England. It was the only way Lord Calvert and his spiritual advisor Father Andrew White could devise to get around the English laws persecuting the Catholics, Puritans and other denominations not part of the Church of England.
As the journey to America neared preparations intensified and in mid-October 1633 after fitting out at Blackwall, England the Ark and the Dove dropped down the Thames to anchor off Gravesend where they were to take on stores and passengers. Gravesend was the main harbor for sailing to foreign lands as it sat just down the Thames River from London and was protected from the open seas. It was also where Pocahontas, the Indian princess, died a few years earlier as she was about to return to America. Pocahontas had a role in the colonization of America by saving John Smith, Governor of Jamestown, two times. It was Smith's exploration of the Potomac River that convinced George Calvert to land at St. Clements and settle along the river rather than the Chesapeake Bay.
The two ships then set sail for America. Soon after that, John Coke, the English Secretary of State, sent an urgent dispatch to Admiral John Pennington: "The Ark of London, Richard Lowe, master, carrying men for Lord Baltimore to his new plantation sailed from Gravesend contrary to orders" and those aboard had "not taken the oath of allegiance to the Crown" as they were required to do by a warrant from Whitehall dated July 31.
The Ark was intercepted by Pennington's ships and taken back under guard to Tilbury Hope across from Gravesend harbor. The oath was administered by October 29 at Gravesend to 123 people listed on the ship manifest and the ships received permission to leave England on October 30, "Provided there be no other person or persons aboard the said shippe or pinnace but such as have or shall have taken the oath of allegiance as aforesaid."
From Gravesend the colonists had to sail along the English coast for several days before reaching the Isle of Wight where they docked at Cowes to secretly pick up passengers who avoided the customs house in Gravesend and to await favorable weather before setting out to sea.
It was at Cowes that the Catholics who refused to take the oath boarded the two vessels, including Father Andrew White. As they waited at Cowes for weather to clear rumors spread through the docks that Catholics were on board the ships and were attempting to sail from England without taking the required oath. There was a fear among the colonists that English ships would again be sent to stop them if they did not get on their way.
From this point let Father White tell the story from his acclaimed journal of the voyage to America.
"On the 22d of the month of November, 1633, on St. Cecilia's day, the east wind blowing gently, we weighed anchor from Cowes, situated in the isle of Wight. When we had first placed the principal parts of the ship under the protection of God, the most holy Mother, St. Ignatius, and all the other guardian angels of Maryland, being carried a short distance between the two headlands, for want of wind we came to anchor off the Castle of Yarmouth, which is a port on the west of the same island. Here we were saluted by the festal thunders of the cannon.
We were not free from fear, however; for the sailors began to murmur among themselves that they expected a messenger from London with letters, and so appeared to frame causes of delay. But God interrupted their wicked designs, for the same night a favorable, but strong wind blowing, a French barque, which had lain in the same port with us, being compelled to weigh anchor, nearly drove against our pinnace.
Therefore, to prevent being run down, one anchor being cut loose and lost, she hastened to make sail as quick as possible, and since it is dangerous to be tossed by the waves in that place, she put out to sea. Therefore, lest we should lose sight of our pinnace, we determined to follow; so that whatever designs the sailors contemplated against us, were frustrated.
This happened on the 23d of November, St. Clement's day, on which he, being bound to an anchor and cast into the sea, obtained a crown of martyrdom, and afforded to his people a way to land, as the miracles of God declare."
So the next day, at ten o'clock in the morning, being honored again by a salute from the Castle of Hurst, we were carried beyond the breakers at the extremity of the Isle of Wight, which from their form, they call the Needles. But these are a terror to sailors on account of the double tide of the sea; on this side hurrying and dashing the ships upon the rocks, and on the other side against the neighboring shore.
To say nothing of the other imminent danger which we escaped at the Castle of Yarmouth, here the wind and tide raging while we remained, the anchor not yet being weighed and secured, the ship was almost dashed on shore, unless on a sudden, by great exertion, having tacked, and shipping a sea, we escaped the danger, by a propitious God, who vouchsafed to us this pledge of his future protection, through the merits of St. Clements."
As for the number of people aboard the two ships after the passengers were boarded at Gravesend and Cowes, Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore, in a letter to Lord Wentworth, afterwards the Earl of Strafford, says :
" By the help of some of your Lordship's good friends and mine, I have sent a hopeful colony into Maryland, with a fair and favorable expectation of good success, without any danger of any great prejudice to myself, in respect that many others are joined with me in the adventure. There are two of my brothers with very near twenty other gentlemen of very good fashion, and three hundred laboring men."
In other words there were 2 Calverts, near 20 gentlemen and 300 laboring men, approximately 322 total colonists. Of these twelve died at sea, ten Protestants and 2 Catholics. Included among the passengers were two Jesuit priests and two Councillors of the Colony who were adherents of the Church of England. Approximately 310 passengers plus any additional people picked up in the Caribbean Islands and Virginia would have arrived at St. Clements Island.
Thus we have the answers to several historical puzzles regarding this most significant voyage to America including the background on the ships, the attempt to sail that was stopped by the English, the reason the passenger manifest was only a partial listing, the various ports involved in the first voyage, the reason everyone did not sign the oath of loyalty and other interesting facts.
Future postings of Histories Mysteries will investigate many other aspects of the colonizing of Maryland and the birth of religious freedom in America.