Everingham Family History Record Reprint... (c)2014

The OTHER Privateer ship named,
co-owned by John Everingham

The New York SUN, 1913
Article about privateers of 100 years ago,
with information about the Saucy Jack.

Legal Pirates in the WAR of 1812...

There was a very famous brig based out of New York, named General Armstrong and although this ship with the same name likely had it's own own exploits and adventures, it is overshadowed by it's more famous namesake. This General Armstrong was owned by John Sinclair and John Everingham. Everingham was also the owner of the celebrated privateer vessel "Saucy Jack." Sinclair was the son of Henry Sinclair of Gloucester, Virginia. John Everingham was a shipping merchant from Charleston and was likely a silent partner or owned a cut in the prizes won by the General Armstrong. His profits were few compared to other ships he owned.

The General Armstrong was 205 tons, had 16 guns and carried a crew of from 60 to 120 men. She was captained by John Sinclair. She set out to sea on Christmas Eve of 1812. The City Gazette and Commercial Daily Advertiser gave her this sendoff in a December issue; "After thundering the notes of preparation for several months, the privateer ship General Armstrong, captain Sinclair, has put to sea. If the length of her cruize equals that of her fitting out, she must be a fortunate sailor if not a swift one. We wish her much success and fewer rebuffs at sea than she has met on shore,.. May she return with rich prizes and lawful ones, and may her crew be enabled another year to enjoy a merry Christmas." Instead of doing her hunting in the British West Indies, her captain took her across the Atlantic to a French port. From this time on, she had much happen that could be categorized as "unlucky." She lost her stern-boat while being chased by a British frigate. Her only British prize was the brig Tartar with a hundred and sixty puncheons of rum. It's known that she later captured a brig called Stag, a Schooner named Menange, and won a fight against a sloop with 6 guns in a four hour battle. Sometimes known as The unlucky General Armstrong, this vessel accumulated many serious troubles involving court cases, Murder and Mutiny. The General Armstrong was likely the only active Charleston privateer not schooner rigged, being almost always spoken of as a ship.

According to a 1813 court case argued in the U.S. Circuit Courts, reference to the seizure of the ship named Matilda, The President's commission to the private armed ship called General Armstrong was in usual form the 23rd November, 1812. The ship was also stated to belong to John Everingham and John Sinclair; and authority was given to John Sinclair, captain, and David Pearce, lieutenant of said ship, and the officers and crew thereof to subdue and take any British vessel. John Sinclair was further authorized to detain, seize, and take all vessels and effects, to whomsoever belonging, which shall be liable according to the law of nations and the rights of the United States as a power at war. The Matilda was said to be en-route to England and was pirated by the General Armstrong, or by her mutinous crew. According to this case, Captain John Sinclair testified that on March 18th he was dispossessed of the command of the ship by William Livingston and other officers and crew. John Everingham is mentioned a couple of times in this court case but did not seem to be a part of the action.

MUTINY aboard the General Armstrong!
On March 18th, 1813, a letter was handed to Captain Sinclair on board the General Armstrong, it involved warning him that the crew was very upset as supplies were running low. "We trust you will shape our course towards the United States, or if you think we can get to France before our provisions be out, go thither; in so doing we are willing and at all times ready to obey your commands." ... it was signed by sixty-three persons... At some point, Captain Sinclair was shut-up in his cabin and William Livingston took charge of the ship. by mid April of 1813 the General Armstrong arrived in port at Wilmington, North Carolina with John Sinclair, Esquire reporting to local authorities of a Mutiny. - "I have divided the mutineers in number sixty one on-board." A captain's word was law aboard his vessel. Mutiny, and revolts against captains were rare because they were dealt with quickly and severely. But this was a unique situation that was not handled the usual way. Sailing master Thomas N. Gautier took the accused into custody and held them on-board gunboats.

The taking of the Matilda case appealed to the Circuit Court, and was presided over by Chief Justice John Marshall. He ordered that the Matilda be released to her owners and added; "Taking the case as it stands, it appears a little awkward for the United States to sanction an act that necessarily springs from another which they have said, by the legislature, shall be punished by death. The crew in a state of mutiny made the capture: mutiny is punished with death." He seemed to say that the prisoners should be put to death. However, the case was handled by the military.

In the case of the mutineers aboard the Genearal Armstrong, there were not enough commissioned naval officers available to hold a court-marshal, and before Secretary of the Navy Jones could get legal advice, a misunderstanding occurred which resulted in a shooting death which started another trial. One night on his way to shore Captain Oliver, who was for the time-being, caretaker of the General Armstrong, was hailed by a patroling guardboat. He refused to obey an order to come alongside and in the altercation, was shot and killed. The shooter and superior officer were charged with murder but were acquitted in a seperate trial. Jones ordered the prisoners from the Armstrong released. He based his decision on his not wanting to force the prisoners to suffer indefinite incarceration and a lack of naval jurisdiction over pirate offenses. So now the military was saying they didn't have jurisdiction and a civilian Judge had suggested the prisoner's should be put to death, and the prisoners were set free. Captain Sinclair was furious and sent a lengthy letter to the secretary of the Navy and President. He never received any response. In any case, a mutiny trial never happened which left this ship as one of the only known cases of a crew being arrested for mutiny, where they were all set free, with no trial. Some of the crew made it back to Charleston aboard a whale boat.

There is no record of the General Armstrong serving as a privateer again.

Research of
Kevin Everingham
April, 2014

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