Smuggling Guns to Haiti on the SS Ozama


SS Ozama, Gunrunning

The "Smuggler Wreck"

The shipwreck of the SS Ozama was nicknamed the “Smuggler Wreck” by Dr. E. Lee Spence and his crew to differentiate it from the other shipwrecks Spence had discovered in the area covered by his 2012 Admiralty case. The name was based on the steamer’s history of gun-running and carrying large amounts of money, and Spence’s belief that it was carrying gold on its final voyage. The Ozama (sometimes spelled Osama) is a river with its outflow at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on the island of Hispaniola.

Rumors of war materials

This entry dates from December 29, 1888, and tells of rumors concerning the SS Ozama. (Note: Contemporary spellings have been used.)


“A rumor was started downtown yesterday afternoon that upon an investigation of the manifests of the Clyde steamer Ozama, which disclosed that she had on board war materials, Collector Magone had decided to withhold the vessel’s clearance. The Collector and Mr. Clyde both decided that no steps had been taken to prevent the vessel from sailing, nor was it at all likely that there would be any taken. The Ozama will sail for Monte Cristo and other ports in Santo Domingo today, and will carry as freight, nine Gatling guns, fifty cases of rifles, several hundred thousand cartridges, and soldiers’ uniforms, (in crates) marked ‘Cape Hayti.’

The officials at the Haytian Consulate are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the steamers Prinz Mauritz, from Port-au-Prince, and the George W. Clyde, from Santo Domingo, especially the former, which will bring the most direct news.

Malcolm Graham, of the firm of Schuyer, Hartley & Graham, of Nos. 17 and 19 Maiden Lane, from whom the rifles and Gatling guns were purchased, refused again to give any information regarding the sale. ‘That,’ he said, ‘Is a private matter, and I do not feel at liberty to talk about it.”[1]

SS Ozama called Floating Arsenal

This entry dates from December 29, 1888, and calls the SS Ozama “a Floating Arsenal.”

The Clyde Steamship Ozama is a Floating Arsenal
Many Cases of Rifles, Three Gatling Guns, and
One of the Best Made and Latest Improved Dynamite Shooters on the Way

“New York, Dec. 28 — The dock of the Clyde Steamship company at Pier 15, East river, is fast assuming the appearance of an arsenal during war times. At the pier is the steamship Ozama, which sails in a few hours for ports in Hayti and San Domingo. The greater part of her hold, it appears, will be used for storing place for arms and gunpowder for the alleged Haytian rebel, Hyppolyte.

When the Clyde People endeavored to ship arms through the insurgents secretly, the Haytian consul in this city endeavored to stop the ship. But now that the company is shipping warlike material openly no word is said in opposition to its plans.

A reporter made an investigation of the arms on the Clyde docks. Some 500 rifles, in cases of ten each, were piled up on top of each other at the entrance of the dock. The cases were marked in large stenciled letters, ‘Rifles,’ and addressed to ‘S. Cape Haytien.’

The cases of rifles were piled up all around three larger cases. One case was about 10 by 12 by 15 feet. This case and two other smaller ones of about 6 by 4 by 10, also marked “S. Cape Haytien,” bore in heavy stenciled black letters the words ‘Gatling Gun.’

But the most deadly of all these warlike appliances was discovered when a wooden box about fifteen feet long, one foot square and with both ends carefully sealed with zinc, was examined.

The attendant on the dock said that the mysterious box contains a dynamite gun of the best make and latest improvements. It was also marked ‘S. Cape Haytien.’

Fifty cases of cartridges are also on the dock addressed to the same party. The cases each contain 1,000 cartridges.

No one has yet stepped forward to have the arms retained.

Secretary Whitney denies the report that $2,500,000 will be demanded from Hayti for the seizure of the Haytian Republic. He says the amount will be determined hereafter.”[2]


Sims Dudley 4-Inch Dynamite Gun on Field Mount

Sims Dudley 4-Inch Dynamite Gun on Field Mount

Note: A dynamite gun is any of a class of artillery pieces distinguished by their specialized operating mechanism and purpose: they use compressed air to propel a projectile with a high explosive. Dynamite guns were in use for a brief period from the 1880s to the beginning of the twentieth century. A small model for field use by land forces employed a powder charge to drive a piston down a cylinder, compressing air that was then fed into the gun barrel. This field model was made famous by Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough riders during the Spanish-American War, but had actually been used previously by Cuban insurgents against Spanish forces.[3]

Gatling Guns for Generals

This entry dates from December 30, 1888, and tells of the SS Ozama being used in the smuggling of arms to Haiti.

“The Clyde steamer Ozama sailed with her Gatling guns, rifles, and cartridges for Cape Haytien. She had as a passenger O.B. Carvalho, General Hippolyte’s nephew, who came here (New York) on the Saginaw to buy arms, it was reported. It is said on pretty good authority that Minister Preston notified Legitime by the Alvo of the sailing, advising that the shipment be kept out by force. The goods are marked Cape Hayti, but are cleared for Monte Christi, in San Domingo. It is said that the steamer will land the goods at Cape Haytien anyway, and run down any small boat that tries to prevent her.”[4]

1876 Gatling gun

1876 Gatling gun on display by NPS at Fort Laramie, Wyoming
© 2004 by Matthew Trump

Note: The Gatling gun is one of the best-known early rapid-fire weapons and a forerunner of the modern machine gun. Invented by Richard Gatling, it is known for its use by the Union forces during the American Civil War in the 1860s, which was the first time it was employed in combat. Later it was used in the assault on San Juan Hill during the Spanish American War.[5]


[1] New York Tribune, (New York, New York, USA), Volume 48, #15385, December 29, 1888, p. 1, c. 2
Brideport Morning News, (Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA), Volume 19, #155, December 29, 1888, p. 1, c. 3
[3] Wikipedia entry for “Dynamite Gun,”
[4] The Sun, (New York, New York, USA), Volume 56, #121, December 30, 1888, p. 1, c. 5
[5] Wikipedia entry for “Gatling Gun,” gun

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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