Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior Relating to the Suppression of the African Slave Trade and Negro Colonization, 1854 – 1872

National Archives Microfilm Publication M160 Roll 6
“Communications Received Relating to T. J. Moreno, United States Marshal for the Southern District of Florida May 4, 1860 – April 3, 1862”

Telegraph Dispatches in relation to capture and landing of Africans in Bark Wildfire

Dated Key West 6th May, 1860
Rec’d Washington, 14, 1860, 11 o’clock a.m.

To Hon. J. Thompson
Secty. of Interior

Bark Wildfire with five hundred & eight Africans has arrived in this port, was captured on coast Cuba by U. S. Steamer Mohawk Lieut. Commanding Craven. Africans been landed & now in my custody have erected temporary quarters for them on Whitehead Point near Fort Taylor Military guard has been furnished by Capt. Brannon U. S. A.

Dated Key West 10th May, 1860
Rec’d Washington 14th, 18–, 1 o’clock a.m.
To Hon. J. Thompson
Secty. of Interior

The U. S. Steamer Mohawk has captured Bark Wildfire on coast of Cuba with five hundred seven Africans on board. They have arrived in this port and landed quarters have been provided for them on Whitehead Point. Sanitary conditions good—dispatches sent by mail this day—forwarded by Mordecai & Co. T. J. Moreno.

U. S. Marshals Office
So. District of Florida
Key West May 10, 1860


I have the honor to inform the Department of the arrival in this port on the 30th inst. of the U. S. Steamer Mohawk, Lieut. Commanding T. Augustus Craven, U. S. Navy, having in tow the ?inpposed American Bark Wildfire of New York, Stanhope, Master, with a cargo of over 500 Africans on board. The Wildfire was captured on the 26th inst. on the coast of Cuba, near the port of Anevitas.

Immediately upon the arrival of the “Mohawk” here, Capt. Craven informed me of the nature of her cargo, and desired that I should take possession of the captured Africans as early as possible. Having no means at that time at my command to secure them, I determined at once to erect temporary quarters on the lands of the United States adjacent to Fort Taylor. I commenced work on the 1st inst. with all the available force that could be obtained on the island and I am pleased to say that by the 4th inst. in the morning about three acres of land had been enclosed with a fence six feet high, and a building 140 feet long, and a kitchen erected, and were in readiness to receive them. The landing of the Africans commenced about 12 o’clock noon on the 4th inst. and by 4 o’clock P. M. of that day 458 occupied the quarters hastily put up for them. There had been landed previously on the 1st inst. forty nine sick for whom I had obtained the use of the carpenter’s shop near Fort Taylor, as a temporary Hospital.

The total number including men, women and children received by me, and for which I have given a receipt to Lieutenant Commanding Craven, is five hundred and seven (507). I regret to say that of this number fifteen have died since they were landed. There are at present under treatment in the Hospital about thirty-five sick, principally cases of diarrhea. I have employed two of the most experienced physicians on the island to attend on the sick, and have also secured the services of competent nurses to wait upon them. It is a matter of great pride to me that out of such a large number of human beings closely confined on board of a vessel, there should be so few sick. Those landed in good health are improving daily. I have furnished clothing to all of them, as they were in a nude state on board of the vessel. In addition to the quarters already built, I am having a building “seventy five feet’ long erected for a hospital and will be detached from the other. It will also be necessary to put up a small house for quarters for the guard employed within the enclosure, as it is hazardous for them to quarter in the same building with the Africans, owing to the prevalence of contagious diseases among the latter.

I am pleased to inform the Department that I am under great obligations to Mr. James C. Clapp, Civil Engineer, and the agent in charge of Fort Taylor, for the valuable assistance rendered and by his advice on the erection of Quarters, and for the use of materials and workmen furnished and from the Fort for that purpose, all of which were promptly granted to me upon application, and without which much delay would have been occasioned in finding shelter for the Africans. I am also under obligations to Capt. Jno. M. Brannon, U. S. Army, commanding the Port at his place for the Military guard and two small field pieces which he has kindly furnished me upon my application. This guard consists of six men and a Sergeant. The men are relieved every twenty four hours, and have their quarters outside of the Enclosure. Capt. Brannon has also tendered me the use of his whole command in case of emergency.

Within the enclosure I have a guard of eleven civilians, who perform duty day and night, and are absolutely necessary to direct and keep the Africans in good discipline. I have also in service a Spaniard who was on board of the Bark Wildfire and claims to have been a passenger on board that vessel. His services are invaluable to me in controlling these people. I have found no difficulty in providing food for the Africans and trust to have none during the time they may remain here. The supply of water on the island at present is larger than usual at this season of the year, and I hope to experience no difficulty in supplying them with all they may require.

In making arrangements for the safekeeping of these Africans, I will use all the economy within my power, and trust that the course which I have pursued thus far, will meet with the approval of the President.

I am pleased to inform the Department that the health of the island is good, at present, but as the time is approaching when the yellow fever may be expected to make its appearance in our midst, I trust that the removal of the Africans from here will take place at an early day.

Enclosed I have the honor to hand you estimate of the probable amount required to repay the necessary expenses of the captured Africans for the month of May. The Dept. will be pleased to direct all communications for me to be sent to Charleston to come on the Steamer Isabel on the 4th & 19th of each month instead of the Fernandina ?Jonte, which at this time is very irregular.

I am Sir Very Respectfully
Your Obt. Svt.
Fernando T. Moreno
U. S. Marshall
So. Dt. Of Florida

Hon. J. Thompson
Secretary of the Interior
Washington D. C.