Union was a very popular name for a ship and although the songs, which likely originated in the early to mid 19th century, specify that they are about “the Union from St. John’s,” there are still several vessels that they could be describing. It seems very likely however that the Union the songs are about is the one that was wrecked in 1833 for although there are several discrepancies in the details, the basic set of events is quite similar.
On March 17, 1833, the schooner Union, under Captain Stanton, departed St. John’s Newfoundland for Demerara, a British colony in South America (Demerara is now one of the three counties that make up modern-day Guyana). Around 8 p.m. on March 27, at latitude 39 ½, longitude 49 40 (about a thousand kilometers off the coast of Nova Scotia), a sudden gust of wind came upon the vessel and overturned it (The Times, and General Commercial Gazette May 1, 1833: 3).
The crew managed to get onto the hull of the vessel and waited, hoping that help would arrive soon (The Newfoundlander May 2, 1833: 2). During this time two of the crew died of fatigue and exhaustion, but after forty-eight hours the Hampton, a Barque heading from Jamaica to London, spotted the wreck and picked up the survivors, treating them with “great kindness and attention” (The Newfoundlander May 2, 1833: 2). The corpses remained upon the wreck (The Public Ledger, and Newfoundland General Advertiser, May 3, 1833: 2).
The Hampton soon encountered the schooner Argyle at latitude 45, longitude 26 14 (which is essentially the middle of the Atlantic Ocean between Newfoundland and the United Kingdom). The Argyle was bound from Cork to St. John’s, and Captain Stanton took passage upon it. The rest of the crew proceeded in the Hampton for London (The Times, and General Commercial Gazette May 1, 1833: 3). Captain Stanton arrived back in St. John’s at the end of April 1833 after about a month at sea.
[No Title]. 1833. The Newfoundlander. May 2, p. 2.
[No Title]. 1833. The Public Ledger, and Newfoundland General Advertiser. May 3, p. 2.
[No Title]. 1833. The Times, and General Commercial Gazette. May 1, p. 3.
Tags: The Union