Seizure and Release of the SS Ozama by Haitian Authorities


Seizure of the SS Ozama

Capture & Release

This entry dates from July 2, 1889. Captain Rockwell, of the ship Ozama, has returns to New York. He tells the story of the capture of his vessel by Haitian warships and its subsequent release upon the arrival of Captain Kellogg. The latter was very brief and emphatic in his demands. (Note: Contemporary spellings have been maintained.)

How a Valiant Yankee Captain Made Him Release the Ozama.
When No Relief for the Captured Vessel Was in Sight
One American Naval Officer
Who Would Not Stand Any Foolishness.

“New York, July 1. — Captain Rockwell, the commander of the steamer Ozama, was interviewed this evening concerning the seizure of his ship by the Haytian authorities. His story is as follows:

The Ozama left this city on June 2, bound for Gonaives, Hayti. She carried a. cargo of provisions, but no arms or ammunition of any kind. On the morning of June 9, when the Ozama was about 32 miles from Gonaives, three Haytian gunboats were discovered rapidly approaching. Captain Rockwell, not wishing to be delayed by any of the whims to which the Haytian war vessels are constantly subjecting American vessels, piled on steam and forged ahead as fast as be could. The gunboats he soon made out to be some of Legitime’s ships. They were the Defense, the Marseilles and the Toussaini l’Ouverture.

The Ozama had not gone far when suddenly from the long gun on the bow of the Defense came a flash, and a cannon ball whizzed across the bow of the Ozama. That settled matters, and Captain Rockwell hove to. The Defense was now alongside and a boat was lowered. It was pulled alongside of the Ozama and the first officer clambered up the side and said: “The Captain of the Defense wants you to come aboard his vessel.”


“Tell your Captain,” answered Captain Rockwell. “That if he wants to see me he can find me on board my ship.” The officer saluted, returned to the Defense with Captain Rockwell’s answer, and soon returned with an official known as the Secretary of the Defense. This individual asked to see the Ozama’s papers. They were shown him.

“Gonaives is blockaded,” he told Captain Rockwell, “and you cannot go there. You will have to go with us either to Port-au-Prince, Jacmel. Jeremie or Aux Cayes. You can go nowhere else.”

In vain, Captain Rockwell protested against his being detained, but he finally had to give in and said be would go to Port-au-Prince. He knew he would be more likely to meet an American man-of-war there than anywhere else. Under the escort of three gunboats, the Ozama arrived in the outer harbor of Port-au-Prince at midnight that night.

Early next morning the Ozama was taken into the inner harbor and anchored under the guns of the fort. Captain Rockwell immediately went ashore and sought out Minister Thompson, who represents this country in Hayti. The American Minister asked the Haytian Government why the Ozama was detained, and demanded her release. Not the slightest attention was paid to the letter, and no answer was received that day.”


“Next morning-the American man-of-war Ossipee steamed into the harbor with Captain Kellogg on board. As soon as she anchored Captain Rockwell pulled out to her and met Captain Kellogg coming in. Both gigs stopped and Captain Rockwell told how he had been captured, and that the Haytian Government would not let him go out. Captain Kellogg said he could take her out.

Both commanders then went ashore and proceeded to the American Minister’s house. The entrance of the Ossipee into the harbor had evidently stirred up the Haytian dignitaries, for they were at the American Minister’s house in full force. There were three or four officials, Captain Rockwell says, but no didn’t remember who they were. After being introduced the Haytians were ready to argue the matter.

“We are very sorry that this happened,” they said, all smiles and very polite, “but, of course, it couldn’t be prevented. The port of Gonaives is blockaded and the vessel cannot proceed in,”

“There is no use of all this palavering.” said the Captain of the United States man-of-war. The ship has got to be released at once. You have no right to detain her, and I want you to distinctly understand that as long as I am here you cannot interfere with American ships.”

There was more arguing on the part of the Haytians, but their smiles had disappeared. Captain Kellogg then said: “I will give you until 3 o’clock, and if the ship is not released by that time I will come and take her by force.” It was then 10 o’clock A.M. The doughty Captain by this time had his dander up, and his anger was increased when one of the officials said:

USS Ossipee at anchor.

The USS Ossipee threatened to bombard Port-au-Prince if the SS Ozama wasn’t released immediately.

“Well, we will release her, but she cannot go to Gonaives.”

“By — she will go to Gonaives, and she will go tonight, and I am going to take her, too.”

This settled matters and the Haytians withdrew. Captains Kellogg and Rockwell went to their respective vessels.

About noon a formal release was sent by Legitime to Minister Thompson and the latter sent it to Captain Rockwell. The latter immediately weighed anchor, hoisted the American flag, and with his whistle screaming defiance, sailed out from under the guns of the port and anchored alongside of the Ossipee. Three hearty American cheers were given by tne crew of the warship, and they were returned with a vengeance. At sunset on the same day the Ossipee and the Ozama proceeded to Gonaives without farther molestation. Captain Rock well went on board of the Ossipee after they arrived and thanked Captain Kellogg.

The report that $5,000 in gold bad been demanded and paid to Captain Kellogg as an indemnity by the Haytian Government is not true, and nothing whatever was said about an indemnity. Captain Kellogg, however, gave the Haytian officials to know that the release of the Ozama did not relieve them from a demand being made for an indemnity.[1]

U.S. Rights Defended


The following is from the New York Times of July 2, 1889:

Indignant Yankee Tars

“The seizure of the Ozama by Légitime’s entire available naval force, consisting of three small gunboats, as already stated in THE TIMES of last Thursday, is confirmed by Capt. Rockwell. On the arrival of the Ozama and her captors at Port-au-Prince, he at once made known the particulars of his case to Minister Thompson, the United States representative there, but all efforts on the part of that official failed to elicit any response from Légitime.

When the United States man-of-war Ossipee arrived in port the situation became radically changed, however, in a wonderfully short space of time. The right of the Ozama to sail to Gonaives, which had been questioned in so forcible a way by Légitime’s supporters, was declared by Capt. Kellogg of the Ossipee literally at the muzzle of his guns, and the Ozama was liberated in short order and went on her way. It is said that the crew of the Ossipee were in no trifling mood when they understood the condition of the affairs on their entry into the harbor of Port-au-Prince. Many of them had served on the Yantic under Commander Rockwell, who is the father of Capt. Rockwell of the Ozama. They were very anxious, therefore, to show their regard for their old commander by shaking up the Haytian Navy. Cheers were interchanged when the Ozama left the harbor, but there was no occasion for the Ossipee’s tars to exert themselves in any other way.

The Ozama brings little additional information as to the condition of things in Port-au-Prince. it is probable that the city may be in the hands of a mob of southern supporters of Hippolyte at no distant date and the triumph of the northern cause is assured.

At the Haytian Consulate here nothing new was heard yesterday, though it was conceded that the ranks of Légitime’s partisans had been greatly depleted by an unconquerable desire on the part of a great many people to see the World’s Fair in Paris this year.”

Reparations for Capture & Detention

This entry dates from August 10, 1889, and tells of compensation paid by Haiti for the Ozama’s illegal capture and detention.

Money From Légitime’s Government

Washington, Aug. 9. — The following letter was received at the Navy Department today from Admiral Gherardi.

North Atlantic Station,}

United States Flagship Kearsarge}

Port-au-Prince, July 25, 1889}

Honorable Secretary of the Navy Department of Washington:

Sir— The Legitime government has delivered to the United States minister $7,500 as a compensation for the seizure and detention of the steamer Osama. This money is now aboard this vessel with a view to its safe keeping and at the request of the minister, subject to orders of the state department. Very respectfully,

Bancroft Gherardi,

Rear Admiral, U.S.N.[2]

U.S. threats to bombard Haitian port

The Haytian gunboats captured the steamer Ozama, but Captain Kellogg of the United States steamer Ossipee secured her release and $5,000 indemnity, by threatening to bombard the city.[3]

Banquet given Commander Kellogg

The Ossipee Officers Banqueted by William P. Clyde

“Ft. Monroe, Virginia — September 8, 1889, — Commander A.G. Kellogg and the officers of the U.S.S. Ossipee, were given a handsome banquet at the Hygiea Hotel last night by William P. Clyde, of the Clyde Line steamers, for their gallant action in rescuing the steamer Ozama from the Legitime authorities at Port-au-Prince some six weeks ago. Mr. Clyde was represented by Captain James W. McCarrick, of Norfolk, general Southern agent of the line, who invited a number of prominent army officers and civilians to meet them.”[4]

Illinois Resolution honoring Commander Kellogg


Commander Kellogg

WHEREAS, On the 9th of June, 1890, Commander A.G. Kellogg, then in command of the American man-of-war Ossipee, gallantly rescued the Clyde steamer Ozama, in the harbor of Port-au-Prince, which had been illegally captured by three Haytian gun boats, on the pretext that the port of Gonaives to which she was bound, was blockaded, and Commander Kellogg took her out from under the guns of the fort notwithstanding the superior force in front of him, whereupon the Ozama proceded without further molestation to her original destination, and

WHEREAS, The said Commander, A.G. Kellogg, formerly a resident of Canton, in this State, entered the naval school at Annapolis from Illinois, and is still a citizen of Illinois; therefore.

Resolved by the Senate, the House of Representatives concurring herein, That the thanks of the General Assembly, and its hearty congratulations are extended to Commander Kellogg for the courage and decision of character shown by him in this transaction, and for the honor which he has conferred upon the people of this State and the United States.

Resolved, That in token of our appreciation of his manly qualities and conduct, the Secretary of State is hereby authorized and directed to have a copy of these resolutions properly engrossed and forwarded to Commander Kellogg and a like copy engrossed upon parchment and suitably framed, to be hung up in a suitable place in the State House.

Adopted by the Senate May 1, 1891.

Concurred in by the House May 6, 1891.[5] [6]


[1] Pittsburg Dispatch, (Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, USA), July 2, 1889, p. 6, c. 4
[2] Fort Worth Daily Gazette, (Fort Worth, Texas, USA), Volume 13, #303, August 10, 1899, p. 2, c.
[3] Utica Morning Herald and Daily Gazette, (Utica, New York, USA), Volume 44, #206, p. 1, c. 1
[4] The Pittsburgh Post, (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA), September 4, 1889, p. 8, c. 2
[5] Laws of the state of Illinois Passed by the Thirty-Seventh General Assembly, (Springfield, Illinois, 1891), p. 220 (See: image)
[6] Journal of the House of Representatives of the Thirty-Seventh General Assembly of the State of Illinois, (Springfield, Illinois, 1891), p. 921 (See: clipping)

More on the SS Ozama, Ex-Craigallion

Information on: Discovery of the Ozama
Information on: Construction & physical details
Information on: Steam engine and machinery
Information on: Towing history
Information on: Smuggling guns
Information on: Seizure & release
Information on: Miscellaneous Voyages
Information on: Wrecked in the Bahamas
Information on: Re-flagging as American steamship
Information on: Wrecked off Cape Romain, SC
Information on: The shipwreck as it is today
(private not currently available to general public)
Information on: Shipping money
(private not currently available to general public)

Image Files Relating to Shipwreck Ozama

Images: Sidescan images of Ozama wreck site
Images: Photos of artifacts found on the Ozama
(private not currently available to general public)
Images: Photos of people and work in progress
(private not currently available to general public)
Images: Maps & charts relating to Ozama’s history
(private not currently available to general public)
Images: Archaeological and technical drawings
(private not currently available to general public)

Ownership of Salvaged Gold & Artifacts

The above posts all deal with the steamer Ozama, which was shipwrecked off Cape Romain, South Carolina in 1894 and discovered and identified by underwater archaeologist Dr. E. Lee Spence in 1979 and 2013 respectively. He also discovered other abandoned wreckage in the same general vicinity. In 2012, the Federal District Court ruled that Spence was the “true and exclusive owner of the abandoned wreckage” (which includes the Ozama and all of the other 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 those wrecks. To learn more about shipwrecks in general, check out Spence’s page on Facebook.

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