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Susannah Buckler and the Brigantine Baltimore

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Brigantine
John Robinson, George Francis Dow, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In December 1735, a ship with blood-splattered decks sailed into Chebogue, in present-day Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, and anchored. It was the brigantine Baltimore, and what happened on board is still a mystery to this day.

Susannah Buckler, also known as Mrs. Matthews, was an Irish convicted thief and prostitute. who took part in a bloody convict mutiny aboard the brigantine Baltimore on its way to Annapolis, Maryland. She is well-known for eluding capture by authorities in Nova Scotia following the mutiny.

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Susannah Buckler arrived in Annapolis Royal on May 9, 1736, accompanied by two men: Mr. Charles D’Entremont (a Pubnico man who found her) and Mr. George Mitchell (a Crown surveyor). She was taken to Lt. Gov. Lawrence Armstrong and told her story. On the brigantine Baltimore, she was the wife of shipowner and merchant Andrew Buckler. On October 7, 1735, Baltimore sailed from Dublin, Ireland to Annapolis, Maryland. Mrs. Buckler claims that on December 15, 1735, they were blown off course by bad weather and washed up in Tibogue Harbour, near Cape Sable off the coast of Nova Scotia. Except for Mrs. Buckler and two sailors, the crew perished due to a lack of fresh water. She had abandoned the sailors when she was robbed (along with the ship’s £12,000 sterling cargo) and kidnapped by the Mi’kmaq on April 4, 1736. Mr. D’Entremont later discovered her and brought her to Annapolis Royal.

Armstrong believed her story and dispatched Ensn. Charles Vane to find the sunken ship. Meanwhile, Armstrong dispatched Mrs. Buckler to Boston, accompanied by money and letters of introduction to Boston Governor J. Belcher. Armstrong received a letter from Barbados a few weeks after sending Mrs. Buckler to Boston inquiring about the fate of her husband, Andrew Buckler, of the ship Baltimore. The letter was from the real Susannah Buckler, and it set Armstrong on a frantic search for the woman who had duped him.

It was later discovered that Baltimore was actually transporting 60-70 convicts from Ireland to Maryland. The convicts allegedly rose up against and slaughtered the owner, Andrew Buckler, the captain, Richard White, and the crew. Without navigation skills and fear of being discovered in larger ports, the mutinous convicts sought refuge in a quiet bay, where all but Susannah Buckler fled or died. Mrs. Matthews was later identified as a convicted thief and prostitute from Dublin who earned her name in a fight for an executed man, Mr. Matthews. It is unknown whether she was Mr. Matthews’ wife. Some of the Baltimore mutineers were apprehended and tried in Salem, Massachusetts, but Mrs. Matthews was never found. She is thought to have returned to Ireland.

The brigantine Baltimore remained unclaimed in Annapolis Royal’s harbour until 1743, when she was towed out to sea and burned.

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About Author

Kathy is the owner of Kirk Scuba Gear, a passionate Scuba Diver, Ocean Advocate and Managing Editor of The Scuba News Canada

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