Entry for December 31, 1854, while off Pernambuco, Brazil: “At 3pm passed a bark steering about S by W afterwards. Exch[ange] colors. She proved to be a Buenos Ayrean. She look rather suspicious, had “windsails” fore and aft. Am inclined to think she was a “slaver.” 10am saw a vessel ahead standing same way, coming up with her fast.“
In searching our collection for logbooks of vessels visiting Africa in the years before the Civil War, I came upon the logbook for the ship CORINNE (MS11) commanded by John Knight Stickney in 1853. While it turned out his African destination was Cape Town, South Africa on a passage to India, in reading I found the logbook entry above. In noting the ships he encountered around Brazil during two journeys that year, I created an ArcGIS map to help position the entries geographically. Although only that one bark raised suspicion for Captain Stickney, the map shows the prevalence of ships around Brazil as the prevailing winds blew ships traveling around Cape Horn between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the Americas, as well as those headed for the Cape of Good Hope for ports in Asia along the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Without the tell tale windsails that brought fresh air to the enslaved Africans in the holds below, how many of the other ships sighted also carried passengers against their will? While that question may not ever be answered, I could answer other questions.
Who was Captain John Knight Stickney?
Captain John Knight Stickney (1817-1898) was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts and died in Watertown, Massachusetts. In addition to being a master mariner, he represented Watertown in the state legislature. As a teenaged seaman, he served aboard the Salem bark PRUDENT bound for Liverpool in 1831, the brig CAMBRIAN bound for Matanzas in 1832, the ship BLACK WARRIOR bound for Cape of Good Hope in 1835. In 1847, he was captain of the Salem brig THREE BROTHERS bound for Penang.
What was the history of the CORINNE?
The ship CORINNE was built in 1852 in Barneyville (now part of Swansea), Massachusetts by Mason Barney. Barney (1782-1868) started his shipyard in 1802, and the town named after him grew up around the successful business with its own store, tavern, foundry, post office, brickyard, and bank. The yard built about 150 ships and schooners for the merchant marine and fishing industries that sailed to every corner of the world. The yard ceased operations in 1860 under competition pressure from steamships and the impending Civil War. The Barney shipyard produced slave ships, coastal traders, whaling vessels, canal boats, government gunboats, and a clipper ship.
Barney built slave ships?
Mason Barney’s shipyard built the slave ship ERIE in 1850. Barney owned a share in the ship until about 1853, and lost track of her, according to testimony at the trial of ERIE’s captain Nathaniel Gordon of Portland, Maine. The ship was captured in 1860 off the Congo River transporting 900 enslaved African people. Gordon was the first and only slave captain to be executed for his crimes.
What was the history of slavery in Buenos Ayres?
Buenos Aires imported slaves for work inside Argentina, and served as a major entrepot to supply Chile and Peru. Argentinians believed enslaved labor was vital to the agricultural industry and serving in urban households. The Portuguese in Brazil from 1683-1777 brought thousands of slaves to the Colonia do Sacramento, across the River Plate from Buenos Ayres, and smuggled them into the Spanish colonies. When Spain captured Colonia do Sacramento, the merchants of Buenos Ayres revived the Spanish trade in enslaved Africans. In 1800, 30 percent of Buenos Ayres Black population were first-generation enslaved Africans.
Enslaved Afro-Argentinians assisted the Spanish-Argentinians in their War for Independence in 1810, and 40 years later in 1853 the first constitution of Argentina abolished slavery. In the intervening time, the slave trade was legally abolished in 1813, but continued on, even with another attempt by the Anglo-Argentine anti-slave-trade treaty of 1840. In 1853, the corsario LAVAELLEJA brought 100 Africans ashore in Patagonia.  Even Argentina’s slow abolition of slavery was eclipsed by Buenos Ayres, which did not join the Argentine Confederation until 1861. In the intervening period, Buenos Ayres continued to practice slavery. Its provisional constitution of 1854 banned the slave trade, but kept slavery in place until finally joining and abiding by the Argentine constitutional prohibitions on slavery.
Why were the ships headed for Bahia and Rio de Janeiro?
Rio de Janeiro was the largest point of transshipment of enslaved Africans to the River Plate. Eighty-five percent of Rio de Janeiro’s enslaved peoples came from Luanda and Benguela, Angola. Like Brazil, Angola was a Portuguese colony. In the time period between 1821 and 1867, Brazil brought 1,269,400 enslaved Africans to its shores.
Bahia, Brazil located northeast of Rio de Janeiro, brought enslaved Benin and Angolan peoples to its shore. Between the mid-1500s and 1888, Bahia sugar, tobacco, and cassava planters brought 1,300,000 Africans to forcibly work. It was second to only Rio de Janeiro in the Americas in the number of enslaved Africans imported.
What was the state of the slave trade in South Africa at the time?
The CORINNE spent 20 days in Cape Town before heading to India. At the time, the economy of the Cape Colony in South Africa was mostly based on wine and wool. The log gives no record of why the ship stopped and if it took on any cargo. By 1850, the slave trade had ended in Cape Town. Interestingly, both Cape Town and Bahia, Brazil were the landing place for Africans captured on slave ships for resettlement as freedmen. Cape Town was one of the largest sites for resettlement from 1839-1852.
Take a look at the ArcGIS map here. It includes scans of entries from the logbook in which ships were sighted along the way. Let us know if you find anything related in your collections or research: firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Andrews, George Reid. The Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires, 1800-1900. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1980. 57. http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/21145/1/31735066979950_optimized.pdf
 Ribeiro, Alexandre. (2008). The Transatlantic Slave Trade to Bahia, 1582-1851. 10.12987/yale/9780300134360.003.0004.
 Richards, Jake Christopher. Anti-Slave-Trade Law, ‘Liberated Africans’ and the State in the South Atlantic World, C.1839–1852, Past & Present, Volume 241, Issue 1, November 2018, Pages 179–219, https://doi.org/10.1093/pastj/gty020