Contemporary Accounts Wreck of the Diamante


Contemporary Accounts of the Shipwreck

Wreck of the Diamante/Diamond as per Newspapers

More Seamen Saved: Just as we were putting our paper to press, the schooner Ann, Capt. White, from Georgetown, S.C. arrived with twelve seamen more of the crew of the schr. Diamond, lost on Cape Romain. Capt. W. took them off of the wreck – They state that the Doctor who intended to remain with them, was washed overboard, and was drowned – they speak certainly of twenty-five having perished; among them the Captain. Captain Gardner, with 15 or 16, drifted off on a raft, which they had hastily constructed, and it is not known what has been their fate. These poor fellows exhibit a melancholy picture.” [1]

[1] Times (Charleston, SC), Vol. 33, #5030, Saturday, August 31, 1816, p. 3, c. 1


From this mornings Courier: Shipwreck  — Several vessels arrived here yesterday, gave us information of a vessel being on shore at Cape Romain; but we could gain no certain information on who she was, until last evening, when the schooner Polly, Capt. Danenport, came in from Edenton, having on board a Spaniard, whom he had picked up at sea about 10 o’clock yesterday morning 6 or 8 miles to the Eastward of Bull’s Island, floating upon one of the hatches of a vessel – From this Spaniard, whose name is Goze Vincente we have obtained the following particulars through the polite assistance of a gentleman speaking the Spanish language, who kindly acted as interpreter – The seaman not speaking a word of English.

It appears from his statement, that the vessel wrecked is called the Diamond, commanded by Capt. Cristobat Soler; that she was fitted out at Havana for a voyage to the Coast of Africa and left that port about the 28th of July, in company with another vessel, having the same destination. — The Diamond had on board 40 men before the mast, besides officers, &c. in all about 50. Soon after sailing parted company with her consort, and about 15 days since encountered a gale of wind, in which she was dismasted. Having erected jury masts they made for the American coast, and at 8 o’clock on Thursday morning between Georgetown and Cape Romain, they brought too the schr. Hornet, from Philadelphia, for Charleston, the Spanish Captain insisted that the commander of the schooner should send on board a person to take charge of the Diamond, and Captain Edward C. Gardner, of Philadelphia, who was a passenger on board reluctantly agreed to do so. — In the course of the day, the Diamond was brought to anchor some where near Cape Romain Shoals, where she remained until about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when the Captain and other Officers insisted upon getting the vessel under way, contrary to the advice and opinion of the person they had forced on board as Pilot. At 6 o’clock, she struck upon the Shoals, when her guns and many other things were thrown overboard, her jury mizenmast cut away, and every expedient resorted to lighten her – she then drifted in somewhat nearer to the land — (now supposed to be some 5 miles distant) — when she bilged, and was filing fast with water. As the only means remaining to preserve their lives, a raft was hastily constructed, and all the crew embarked upon it, in the hope of reaching land; but they had not drifted far before the raft settled so low in the water, that the sea beat over it, and many were washed off; our informant sustained himself upon it as long as possible, but was at last obliged to swim for his life, when fortunately getting hold of a part of the hatches of the schooner, he got upon it, and was thus providentially preserved from immediate death. He can form no correct opinion, as to what may have been the fate of the remainder of the crew — many were still clinging to the raft when he was washed off and the presumption is but too strong that a large portion of them must have perished. So completely was Vincente overcome with fatigue, that he fell asleep upon the hatch towards morning, and did not awake until after sunrise, when nothing was to be seen of the wreck or of his wretched fellow sufferers. — Fortunately for him, the wind blew in a parallel direction with the land, to which circumstance he may probably ascribe his escape from a watery grave, as it kept him in the track of vessels running down the coast, and made Captain Davenport the happy instrument of saving the life of a fellow creature.

Further Particulars Since writing the above, we have conversed with Mr. Juan Achondo, mate of the schooner Diamond, who, with 5 Spanish seamen, arrived here last evening in the schooner Hornet, from Philadelphia. — He states, that after the Diamond‘s situation was considered hazardous, he was sent with a boat’s crew on board the Hornet, with a view of throwing over a part of her cargo, to make room for goods on board the Spanish schooner — but it coming on to blow, they found it impossible to get along side her; and after making a number of ineffectual attempts, in which the Hornet lost her cables and anchors, they were compelled to give it up; and, while the ill fated Diamond was stranded and dashed to pieces upon the breakers, the small remainder of her crew, who were on board the Hornet, by great exertion only avoided her fate.

Mr. A. thinks the whole crew of the Diamond, with the exception of the man miraculously preserved as above detailed, must have perished; as they ran close in with the beach yesterday morning, without being able to discover a single survivor. Nothing was to be seen but floating fragments of the wreck.

It will be observed that the two Spaniards differ in their statements, as to the view with which Capt. Gardner, who is called by them the Pilot, went on board the Diamond. But Capt. Hollman of the Hornet, states that he did not go on board as a pilot, but merely to give them such assistance as it might be in his power to render.

We hope that this dreadful Shipwreck, in which so many lives have probably been lost, added to the great number which have before happened from the same cause, will induce the government, either to have the Wind Mill on Cape Romain removed altogether, or else so marked, as that, it may be more easily distinguished from our Light House.”[2] [3]

[2] The Charleston Courier (Charleston, South Carolina, USA), #5190, August 31, 1816, p. 2, c. 3

[3] The Times (Charleston, South Carolina, USA), Vol. 33, #5030, Saturday, August 31, 1816, p. 3, c. 2

SHIP NEWS: Schooner Hornet, Hollman, Philadelphia, 7 days. Flour, Crackers, Butter, Onions, &c – to the master. On Thursday morning last, to the northward of Cape Romain, fell in with the Spanish schooner Diamond, from Havana bound to the coast of Africa, in distress: and Capt. Edward C. Gardner, of Philadelphia, went on board her to assist in navigating her to Charleston – but she afterwards got ashore on Cape Romain shoals, and was lost. After remaining near the wreck until no hope of saving any part of the crew remained, proceeded on to her port of destination, with 6 of the Spanish crew, who had come on board the Hornet in their boat.”[4] [5]

[4] The Charleston Courier (Charleston, South Carolina, USA), #5190, August 31, 1816, p. 3, c. 1)

[5] The Times (Charleston, South Carolina, USA), Vol. 33, #5030, Saturday, August 31, 1816, p. 3, c. 3


NOTE: The following advertisement is included because a news account, which appeared on page 3, column 2 of the August 31, 1816, issue of the Charleston Times, stated that it had been the intent of the crew of the Diamond to jettison cargo from the Hornet in an effort to save the (presumably more valuable) cargo aboard the Diamond.

“Notice, THIS DAY, the Cargo of the schooner Hornet, just arrived from Philadelphia, will be retailed out in lots to suit purchasers, consisting of the following ARTICLES, viz: 20 barrels superfine Philadelphia Flour; 50 half barrel superfine Flour; 10 barrels best Rye Flour; 10 kegs of butter Biscuits; 15 kegs first quality Butter; 12 boxes best Crab-Cider; 1 barrel first quality Loaf Sugar; 50 kegs Crackers; 6 half bbls. Crackers; 200 ropes of Onions. For sale, The fast sailing, pilot boat, Schooner HORNET, If immediate application is made. For terms, apply to the Captain on board- lying at Vanderhorst’s wharf. September 2”[6]

[6] The Times (Charleston, South Carolina, USA), Vol. 33, #5031, Monday, September 2, 1816, p. 3, c. 4 (advertisement)


“THE SHIPWRECK: Since our last, we have collected the following additional particulars of the late Shipwreck on Cape Romain. On Saturday, the coasting schooner Ann arrived here from Georgetown, bringing 12 of the unfortunate seamen, which she took from the fore-mast of the wreck, to which they had been hanging from 9 o’clock on Thursday evening to 2 o’clock on Friday afternoon. And, last evening, the pilot-boat Hampton, with Mr. Wellsman and Mr. Phinney, branch-pilots, on board, came in from the Cape, where they had proceeded immediately on hearing of the disaster; and they have brought in with them Capt. Gardner, of Philadelphia, and one black seaman; who it is to be feared, are the last remaining of that ill-fated crew. – Capt. G. who is very much bruised and exhausted, from 42 hours exposure upon a small raft, most of the time up to his middle in water, informs us, that he was most providentially picked up by the wrecking schooner PollyGallup, Mr. Griffen master, about 3 or 4 o’clock on Saturday afternoon; every soul besides himself having previously been washed off and perished, or cut away some portion of the raft, and in attempting to gain the shore upon it, met a similar fate. Capt. Gardner was afterwards put on board the Hampton, from the wrecker. The black seaman was found by Messrs. Wellsman and Phinney, stretched upon the sand on the beach at Cape Romain — he was almost gone when they found him, lying flat upon his face. He stated to them, that two others attempted to gain the shore upon the same spar with himself, but both were washed off and drowned. The Spanish Captain, second Mate, and Doctor, were seen to perish by the side of Capt. Gardner; and as the whole beach has now been examined, there can be but faint hopes entertained of any more of the crew being saved. 21 have now been rescued and brought to this city; 51 was the whole number on board, consequently 30 have been, most probably, lost. The hull of the vessel has not gone to pieces, but lays sunk in about three fathoms water; her quarter railing is above water at low tide.”[7]

[7] Charleston Courier (Charleston, South Carolina, USA), #5191, September 2, 1816, p. 3, c. 2


“We announced on Saturday the preservation and arrival of twelve more of the unfortunate crew of the Spanish schooner Diamond, wrecked on Cape Romain Shoals; since which the pilot-boat Hampton (on board of which were Messrs. Wellsman and Phinney, branch pilots) has arrived with Capt. Gardner, and a black seaman of said crew. Captain Gardner was taken from a piece of the wreck by the schooner Polly Gallup, Greffin, master, and put on board the Hampton. He was nearly exhausted, and is much bruised. The conduct of Messrs. Wellsman and Phinney, on this melancholy occasion, is deserving of commendation — As soon as they were apprised of the loss of the Diamond, they proceeded to Cape Romain to ‘seek and to save’ any that might still be clinging to the fragments of the wreck; they found on the beach one poor black, whose account of the event, leaves but little hope that any of those not brought in are in the land of the living! Still we may trust, after the miraculous preservation of some that have been brought in, that, outward-bound vessels may have picked up a few others. The crew consisted in the first instance; of fifty-one souls, of whom twenty-one have arrived at this place; of the remaining 30, a great many are known to be drowned, and all are considered so.”[8]

[8] The Times (Charleston, South Carolina, USA), Vol. 33, #5031, Monday, September 2, 1816, p. 3, c. 1


“Notice, To all persons who may save any part of the Cargo of the Spanish schooner Diamante, sunk off Cape Romain, with a valuable Cargo, bound to Africa, that they are requested to deliver the same, without delay, at the Custom-House Stores, and give an account thereof to the subscriber, and they shall receive, for their exertions, such salvage as may be legally awarded, and all who neglect this notice will be prosecuted with the utmost rigor of the law. (Signed) Charles Mulvey, His Catholic Majesty’s Consul, September 2.”[9]

[9] The Times (Charleston, South Carolina, USA), Vol. 33, #5031, Monday, September 2, 1816, p. 3, c. 3 (legal notice)


“WRECK OF THE DIAMOND: We have the pleasure of stating to-day the safety of Capt. Soler, of the Spanish schooner Diamond and several others of his crew. Capt. James Hill, arrived here on Saturday, in his wrecking boat, from Cape Romain, and has brought up with him Capt. Soler, and one of the seamen of the Diamond. He informs us, that on Saturday the 31st ult. as he was standing down the coast for the shipwreck, he discovered something at a considerable distance outside him floating upon the water, which at first he supposed to be part of a broken spar; but going to the masthead of his boat, he thought he could discover a person moving upon it, and immediately hauled his wind and stood out for it. After tacking two or three times, he came up with and found it to be a man apparently at his last gasp, floating upon two or three oars lashed together. They took him into their boat, and after administering to him such nourishment as they had, he so far recovered as to inform them that he was the commander of the Diamond, wrecked on Cape Romain, and that he had then been four nights and three days in the water. He also stated, that he had secured a considerable sum of money in his pantaloons, and with them had tied the oars, upon which he was floating, together; in consequence of this information, Capt. H. returned to his little raft, but just as they had got hold of the oars, to save the money for him, the pantaloons sunk to the bottom with the weight of the money, and it was lost. On Sunday morning, 1st inst. while at anchor made Raccoon Keys, Capt. Hill discovered another man wading through the marsh towards him: and on taking him on board, found that he was also one of the crew, who had drifted on shore about 9 o’clock the preceding evening, upon a single oar. He stated that he was upon a raft with six or seven others, that they were attacked by a number of sharks, who cut off several of his companions, when he took to an oar, and fortunately made his way to the shore.

Capt. Hill remained for several days near the wreck, and when he left it, several other wreckers were around it, saving what they could of the cargo, &. – while there, he learnt that a vessel from this port bound to New-York, had fallen in with a raft, having upon it eight of the Spanish seamen; that she took them on board, and proceeded on her voyage; these, with the two brought to town by Capt. H. make the number of 30 who have been saved out of the 51 souls on board at the time of the shipwreck.”

“Capt. Soler has communicated the following statement of the loss of his vessel, for publication: — “Loss of the Spanish Schooner Diamond Having made, on the 28th August, Cape Romain, being in 11 fathoms water and a schooner in sight, which appeared to us to be a pilot-boat, stood for and spoke her, and enquired for a pilot; they answered, we must send a boat to them, which was immediately done. She returned on board the Diamond with Capt. Gardner, who told us that he was a pilot for all of the coast. That there might be no mistake, I asked him again if he was a pilot, to which he replied, yes, yes; if you give me the command, I will carry you into Charleston. The vessel was then put at his command, when he ordered her to be kept away; and continued so until 3 o’clock in the afternoon, at which time we saw something which appeared to be a steeple or tower, Capt. Gardner said he believed it was Charleston Light-House; but I said it could not be – he still insisted upon it. Shoaling our water, however, very fast, he ordered the vessel to be brought to an anchor. He then hoisted the colors and fired a gun. Finding himself locked in by the shoals, Captain Gardner sent his small schooner to sound for a passage out over the shoal; she returned and reported, that the tower they had seen was not Charleston Light House. At the same time, the sea began to break very heavy from E.S.E. He ordered the anchor to be weighed; but I told him he had better not get under weigh; to which he replied, that if we did not allow him to get the Diamond under way, he would leave her and go on board his own vessel. Finding my vessel in this disagreeable situation, and knowing that I could not extricate her myself, rather than be left to ourselves, in a place with which we were entirely unacquainted. He was allowed to proceed as he thought proper, he then got her under way, and directly after she struck on the outer bank, and sunk, as has already been stated. Capt. Gardner, on his arrival in Charleston, supposing that I had been drowned alongside the wreck, and probably believing that no one would step forward to contradict his statement has endeavored to exonerate himself from blame in the loss of the Diamond, and throw it all upon me – but after drifting at the mercy of the waves for three days and four nights, I was providentially picked up by Capt. James Hill, in his wrecking boat, on the 31st of August, when at the point of death; and I now declare upon my honor, that the statements heretofore given of the causes which led to the loss of my vessel, are not correct. (Signed) Christoval Soler, September 8, 1816.”[10]

[10] Charleston Courier (Charleston, South Carolina, USA), #5197, September 9, 1816, p. 2, c. 2


More on the Diamante or Diamond

Information on: Overview of the Diamond
Photos of Artifacts: From the Diamante?

Ownership of the Diamante's cargo

This page deals with the Spanish schooner Diamante, which was shipwrecked in 1816 while bound from Cuba to Africa with a “valuable cargo” and a “considerable sum of money.” In 2012, underwater archaeologist Dr. E. Lee Spence filed a claim in Federal District Court against a number of unidentified shipwrecks that he had previously discovered outside of the State three mile limit at Cape Romain, South Carolina. Although still officially unidentified, based on the historical descriptions of where she was lost, it is reasonable to believe that one of the wrecks (if not this one, then another one) that Dr. Spence has found will eventually prove to be that of the Diamante. Spence’s claim was made under the law of salvage and the law of finds and was against both the recovered wreckage and the wreckage in situ. The Court ruled that Spence was the “true and exclusive owner of the abandoned wreckage” (which includes all of the shipwrecks that he had found in the specific area designated in his court filing), which means he is already the legal owner of any and all shipwreck gold, silver, cannons, hulls, engines, rigging, and other artifacts on all of the those wrecks that he has found in his claim area, including all of the material which has yet to be salvaged. To learn more about shipwrecks in general, check out Spence’s page on Facebook. This contains speculation and forward thinking and is not and should not be considered part of any offering memorandum.