The Flying Cloud
American and British sailors both sang this forebitter. Slavery was abolished in Jamaica and aboard British ships in 1807. Although slaving with American ships was prohibited by several acts of Congress between 1807 and 1823, shipmasters were convicted for this crime as late as 1861. Colcord believes this song most likely dates from somewhere between 1819 and 1825, when joint naval powers finally cleared the West Indies of pirates.
Captain Moore and Baltimore don't seem well-preserved in records, and the California clipper ship Flying Cloud was not built until 1851. Whall nevertheless feels this is the fast ship immortalized in song.
As far ships as official, properly authenticated records go, this was one of the fastest ships that ever floated. She was built by Donald M'Kay, of East Boston, U.S., in 1851. Her dimensions as then given were :—
Length of keel, 208 feet
Length of deck, 225 feet
Length over all from knight heads to taffrail, 235 feet
Extreme breadth of beam, 41 feet
Depth of hold, 21.5 feet
Tonnage per register, 1750 feet
The Flying Cloud only beats by a very narrow margin the equally celebrated Sovereign of the Seas from the same yard. Her day's run of 374 knots from noon to noon, taken from her log by Lieutenant Maury, and carefully corrected for longitude, is her best record. Maury gives the equivalent in land miles as 433.2 statute miles, and correcting this for her day (which was 24 hours, 19 minutes, 4 seconds), estimates it as equal to 427.5 statute miles for 24 hours. The Flying Cloud is credited with many remarkable passages ; for example, New York to San Francisco in 84 days.
Frank Shay and other authors have tried to clear her name: the Flying Cloud had no Captain Moore, was never engaged in the slave trade or piratical practices, and there are no records of another ship with the name. Stan Hugill's position was that because the slave-trading Flying Cloud and her captain had not been identified, both were probably fictitious.
My name is Edward Hollander, as you may understand,
I was born in the city of Waterford in Erin's lovely land,
When I was young and in my prime, and beauty on me shone,
My parents doted on me, I being their only son.
My father bound me to a trade in Waterford's fair town,
He bound me to & cooper there, by the name of William Brown.
I served my master faithfully for eighteen months or more,
Till I shipped on board of the Ocean Queen, belonging to Tramore.
When we came unto Bermuda's isle, there I met with Captain Moore,
The commander of the Flying Cloud, hailing from Baltimore,
He asked me if I'd ship with him, on a slaving voyage to go,
To the burning shores of Africa, where the sugar cane does grow.
It was after some weeks' sailing we arrived off Africa's shore,
And five hundred of these poor slaves, my boys, from their native land we bore.
We made them walk in on a plank, and we stowed them down below;
Scarce eighteen inches to a man was all they had to go.
The plague and fever came on board, swept half of them away;
We dragged their bodies up on deck and hove them in the sea.
It was better for the rest of them if they had died before,
Than to work under brutes of planters in Cuba for ever more.
It was after stormy weather we arrived off Cuba's shore,
And we sold them to the planters there, to be slaves for ever more.
For the rice and the coffee seed to sow beneath the broiling sun,
There to lead a wretched, lonely life till their career was run.
It's now our money is all spent, we must go to sea again,
When Captain Moore he came on deck and said unto us men,
"There is gold and silver to be had if with me you'll remain,
And we'll hoist the pirate flag aloft, and we'll scour the Spanish Main."
We all agreed but three young men who told us them to land,
And two of them was Boston boys, the other from Newfoundland.
I wish to God I'd joined those men and went with them on shore,
Than to lead a wild and reckless life, serving under Captain Moore.
The Flying Cloud was a Yankee ship of five hundred tons or more;
She could outsail any clipper ship hailing out of Baltimore.
With her canvas white as the driven snow, and on it there's no specks,
And forty men and fourteen guns she carried on her decks.
It's oft I've seen that gallant ship, with the wind abaft her beam,
With her royals and her stunsails set, a sight for to be seen,
With the curling wave from her clipper bow, a sailor's joy to feel,
And the canvas taut in the whistling breeze, logging fourteen off the reel.
We sank and plundered many a ship down on the Spanish Main,
Caused many a wife and orphan in sorrow to remain;
To them we gave no quarter, but gave them watery graves,
For the saying of our captain was, that dead men tell no tales.
Pursued we were by many a ship, by frigates and liners too,
Till at last a British man-oʻ-war, the Dungeness (?), hove in view.
She fired a shot across our bow, as we sailed before the wind,
Then a chainshot cut our mainmast down, and we fell far behind.
Our crew they beat to quarters as she ranged up alongside,
And soon across our quarter-deck there ran a crimson tide.
We fought till Captain Moore was killed and twenty of our men,
Till a bombshell set our ship on fire, we had to surrender then.
It's next to Newgate we were brought, bound down in iron chains,
For the sinking and the plundering of ships on the Spanish Main.
The judge he found us guilty, we were condemned to die;
Young men, a warning by me take, and shun all piracy.
Then fare you well, old Waterford, and the girl that I adore;
I'll never kiss your cheek again, or squeeze your hand no more.
For whiskey and bad company first made a wretch of me;
Young men, a warning by me take, and shun all piracy.