Ship Journey: 1657 - Prince Maurice (du Prins Maurits) - wrecked on Long Island

Image Credits

The painting above is a placeholder,  Ships in Distress off a Rocky Coast by Ludolf Backhuysen, 1667.  

Ship Name
Prince Maurice
Departure Location
Departure Date
1656-12-21
Arrival Location
Arrival Date
1657-03-08
Ship Journey Information

 

The Prince Maurice, a City of Amsterdam vessel,  sailed from Amsterdam December 21, 1656, left Texel December 25, 1656. It was a very difficult journey, as the Prince Maurice was separated from the other ships in this by a storm, and eventually wrecked on the coast of Long Island on the  bitter cold night  of March 8, 1657.   Aboard were  or 129 souls, many of them colonists bound for the South River, New Amstel, along with soldiers and sailors.   Throughout the long night the ship hammered against the rocks, and in the morning, the crew began using small boats to move the passengers and goods onto the shore.  

The Prince Maurice was a dutch fluyt, these were ships with 2 or 3 masts, approximately 80 feet in length, similar to the Mayflower. 

The Skipper was Dirck Cornelisz Honingh and Supercargo was Gerrit van Sweieringen.  The ships 16 crewmembers included Dirk Cornelisz Haen, mate; Jan Barentsz, chief boatswain; Peter Cornelisz Mol, carpenter.  

Jacob Alrichs leading a group of settlers bound for New Amstel on the South River, was the appointed Director of that settlement.   

December 12, 1956 -The Directors in Amsterdam write to Petrus Stuyvessant and ask that the Prince Maurice should not be delayed for inspections of cargo, but rather sent immediately from Manhattan island to the Delaware River to establish the colony.   They also note that the ship is to be loaded with tobacco when it is ready to return to the Netherlands.    https://encyclopedia.nahc-mapping.org/document/letter-directors-director-general-and-council

December 25, 1656 - The Prince Maurice departs from Texel and sails out to begin the long voyage to New Amsterdam.  The ships de Beer , de Bever, and Gelderse Blom plan to sail with them, in part because as Jacob Alrichs stated in his letter to the Amsterdam council, "neither the skipper, pilot, nor any superior office belonging to the ship had ever been in New Netherland or frequented its coast."

December 28, 1956 -  The 4 ships encounter a storm and are separated from one another.  One of the large beams on the Prince Maurice is badly cracked, so they choose the 'sourthern course'.

February 17, 1656 - They reach 22d degree North Latitude, and change course again to  'expedite' the voyage, now near the land 'descried a little south of Cape Romaine", in modern day South Carolina. 

March 8th, 1657, would have been towards the end of a historically cold winter, as part of the 'Little Ice Age'.  Freezing temperatures at night, cold rain or snow during the day, and the typical winds of early March would have made the wreck, transfer of people and goods, and survival while awaiting rescue particularly miserable. 

Jacob Alrichs, appointed by the City of Amsterdam and the DWIC to become the director of the New Amstel settlement, on the South River, was aboard the Prince Maurice.    He noted that it had been  very difficult journey, as the Prince Maurice was separated from the other ships in their group by a storm,  and blown off course, wrecked near Long Island while the other ships made it to Manhattan.   Jacob wrote to Petrus Stuyvesant on March 12, requesting immediate assistance for those settlers who had already arrived in Manhattan, and that he send a ship to collect his group as soon as possible.

The night of March 8th, 1657 would have been quite dark, if the moon was visible at all, as the moon phase was waning crescent with only 35% illumination, and moonset for that evening was approximately 10PM.  The sun set at approximately 5:45PM, so they were navigating mostly in the dark, probably with a good understanding of latitude, but perhaps not longitude.   In the coming days, the moon would offer even less help to the settlers, as the New Moon and deep darkness fell on March 14th.

Jacob Alrichs notes "about 11 o'clock on the night of the 8th of March,....the men unexpectedly called out eight and nine fathoms.  Wishing thereupon, to tack, and the ship refusing, she immediately struck, and so shoved, which she afterwards continued to do harder and harder, so that we were not a moment sure whether we should leave there alive or perish.  After passing through most of the darkness of that night in the greatest anxiety and fear, we found ourselves, at day-break, about a gunshot from the shore, but being between the shoals and the strand in such a bad position, and ignorant whether this place was south or north of the Manhattes, it was unanimously resolved, first to save our lives, and then to exert every nerve to save as much as we possibly could.  Accordingly on the 9th of March, in severe, bitter and freezing weather, with drifting ice, after great trouble, through dangerous breakers in a very leaky boat, with considerable water in it, we succeeded in reaching the  shore  on a broken spit ....on which neither bush nor grass grew, nor was any tree or fire-wood to be found."  (O'Callahan's translation.)  

March 9, 1657 -  The dutch people and cargo are on the beach, with no fire, and no available firewood.  Very likely everything is wet.  There is ice on the beach.  The cargo of the ship was probably used to create a basic shelter, perhaps one of the sails might have been used to cover the top and keep rain out.  There is no drinking water other than what was on board the ship, and without fire, only hard tack and other dried foods might have been offered.    We have imagined that the cargo might have been stacked to create shelter(s), and a now useless sail would have served as a roof to keep out rain.

Chief Harry Wallace of the Unkechaug in a 2023 interview notes, "Long dugout canoes called mishoonum were stationed  throughout Fire Island, and Native Americans were posted as look outs for whales there every day.  They probably used whale oil all over  their bodies as insulation in winter seas. The canoes would have been dugouts or mishoonum which would have withstood the heavy wave activity.  The people would have been at the height of their whaling skills so a rescue “within a gun shot” of the shire (200-300) yards would not have been too far to handle.    These people would have seen the stranded ship in the morning as it disgorged its load of passengers, sailors, armed soldiers, and cargo.  They probably sent messengers back to their village to discuss the situation with their council." 

March 10, 1657 - For the passengers of the Prince Maurice, another day and night without fire, on the beach, in wet clothing,  in seriously cold weather.

For the Native Americans, "The council may have decided to assist, but given the fact that 80 armed soldiers were part of the group, they may have sent word to surrounding villages asking for additional men to come to the village to ensure a sufficient display of force to avoid conflict. Those men would have arrived later that day or the next, and the village made ready to assist." Chief Harry Wallace, Interview 2023.

March 11, 1657 - This may have been the day that the Indians in Jacob Alrichs' letter of March 12th made contact, and began bringing the people and their goods to the village at the mouth of the river.

March 12, 1657Jacob's letter says that they are stranded at "Sicktawach," or "Sickawach" which could be either the Carmans River or the Connetguot River in Suffolk County, Long Island, which would place the shipwreck on Fire Island across the Great South Bay.    He describes "severe cold and frost", and by the time he was writing on March 12th, 129 people had suffered in the cold for 4 days and nights, three of these without fire.    

Sicktawach  or Sichawach can be interpreted as Place of Black Soil or Black Land, based on Chief Harry Wallace's research in 2023.  It is noted in Adrian van der Donck's map from 1656 as "Sikete Wacky" and covers the area that is currently described as the Ancestral Lands of the Unkechaug and Secataug Peoples.  

Further research is needed, but for the sake of this project we have placed the Unkechaug village near Squassux Landing on the Carman's River. This would have been Unkechaug Ancestral lands, and local Native American people must have assisted the shipwrecked group in order for them to arrive at Sicktawach.    Jacob's letter of March 12th to Petrus Stuyvesant was carried by 2 Native Americans travelling down to Manhattan. More research is needed to hopefully identify these men.   

March 11-March 12 - The entire cargo in the ship's hold, and all 128 passengers would have to have been transferred from Fire Island to 'Sicktawach', an Unkechaug village in the mouth of the Carman's river.  Since the Dutch fluyt would have had perhaps a single smaller rowboat, this massive effort would not have been possible without multiple additional vessels.    It is possible that the Native Americans, using sturdy dugout canoes helped to transport the people and cargo. Smaller mishoonum or muxul canoes carry 4-6  people, the very large canoes can carry 20-30 people or a great deal of cargo. 

March 19, 1657 - The ships de Beer  (Vergulde Beer) , de Bever (Vergulde Bever), and Gelderse Blom arrive at New Amsterdam  with passengers for New Amstel, and cargo, but their leader is still on Long Island at the Carman's River.

March 20, 1657 - Jacob Alrich sends an additional letter from the Carman's River, via ensign Pieter Smit, "who left here with the Company's yacht, d'Eendracht. "   It seems that he sent people and cargo down to Manhattan in the d'Eendracht , with goods to be stored in the Company warehouse, and is hoping the ships return as quickly as possible.  He notes that Petrus Stuyvessant 'returned from here' so he must have come up to Sicktawach from New Amsterdam some time between March 12, and March 20th.   (It is now 12 days since since the shipwreck, and  most of the people remain at the Carman's River in Unkechaug Ancestral Lands.)

March 22, 1657 - Jacob writes again to Petrus Stuyvessant https://encyclopedia.nahc-mapping.org/document/letter-jacob-alrichs-director-and-council-1    He notes that he has been able to send down another load of cargo in the d'Eendracht, but again asks for additional ships,  to help transport people and the rest of the cargo down to Manhattan.

March 12 - April  13 - What is the complete story of the lives of the Unkechaug people and the stranded passengers they took in during the time of greatest famine in the yearly growing cycle?  How did this small village manage to help shelter and feed more than 120 additional people?   How did they manage to keep peace between the Dutch soldiers and the Unkechaug braves?    How did all that cargo in the hold of the Prince Maurice make it to the Unkechaug village in 4 days?

April 13th, 1657 - Jacob writes from Fort Amsterdam to the Commissioners at Amsterdam with detailed requests to help establish the colony in South River and the account of the wreck.  This is his most detailed description of the situation to date.

https://archive.org/details/documentsrelativ02brod/page/4/mode/2up?q=jacob+alrichs

New York Colonial Manuscripts, Holland Documents XV. P 4

April 16th, 1657 - The colonists  finally departed for the South River colony from Manhattan (New Amsterdam)  on April 16th and did not arrive in their new home until April 25th, almost 9 weeks since their shipwreck.

The Supercargo, Gerrit van Sweringen, petitions to be released from his duty to the ship and the DWIC  https://encyclopedia.nahc-mapping.org/document/order-granting-request-gerrit-van-sweringen-be-discharged-companys-service

April 25th , 1657 - Arrival at 'South River' (Delaware River)" Settlement.

May 5, 1657 -  Members of the crew go to court to request that goods from the hold be released to them rather than attached to Jacob Aldrichs. https://encyclopedia.nahc-mapping.org/document/petition-some-crew-ship-prince-maurice-freight-belonging-them-may-be-free-attachment

May 8, 1657 - Jacob Alrich writes to Petrus Stuyvesant thanking him for the rescue, the help in New Amsterdam, and news of the new settlement.

May 1657 - Jacob Alrichs writes to Petrus Stuyvesant https://encyclopedia.nahc-mapping.org/document/letter-jacob-alrichs-director-stuyvesant-1 with details of New Amstel and the goods and people and is surprised to find that no letter has arrived for him with advice from Petrus.

 

The cargo hold of the Prince Maurice originally  contained duffel cloth; linen; stone; tiles; lime; coals; gunpowder; Spanish wine; and of course, whatever was left of the provisions for the crew and passengers after a long voyage.

Van den Hout, Julie. "Voyages of New Netherland." https://www.newnetherlandinstitute.org/history-and-heritage/digital-exhibitions/voyages-of-new-netherland

Source: NYHM, 2: 4–5; DRCHNY, II: 4–5; DRCHNY, XII: 163–164, 184; Gehring and Venema, Council Minutes, 1656–1658, 264, 267, 289; Delaware Papers, 98, 103; SHC-NNI, 206-06 or SAA NA, inv. 1329, f. 90v (December 14, 1656)

New Netherland 1621-1664
Immigrants to New Netherland

1656
In The Prince Maurice
Sailed from Amsterdam December 21, 1656
Left Texel December 25, 1656
Arrived at Long Island March 8, 1657; wrecked

Destination of Colonists: South River, New Amstel


    Jacob Alrichs, director

    Alexander D'Hinoyossa, Lieutenant

    Evert Pietersen, comforter of the sick
    [died before Oct 10, 1661  1.]

    Gerrit van Schweringen, Supercargo

    Jan Barents, (Barentsen), chief boatswain
    [died before Oct 10, 1658  2.]

    Jan Gerritsen, sailor
    [died before July 16, 1660  3.]

    Joost Theunissen, sailor
    [died before March 7, 1662  4.]

    Dirck Cornelissen Haen, mate

    Peter Cornelissen Mol, carpenter


    129 souls in all including colonists, free mechanics, soldiers and attendants.

J. Alrich reports:
"We proceeded with them on the proposed voyage, and after some storm and other obstacles, reached the vicinity of the Manhattans. ...through ignorance of the skipper and pilot who were never on this coast, having neared the shore in the evening, she immediately grounded, and so shoved, which continued afterwards harder and harder, that we were not for a moment, sure of our lives, and seeing no escape in the morning, we unanimously resolved to save ourselves on a broken coast, which we, some days alter, understood to be Long Island. An agreement was made with the skipper of the Beaver to charter the passengers to the Colony on the South River. The Beaver set sail from New Amsterdam on April 16 to the South River, arriving at New Amstel, April 25th, with about 125 persons for the Colonie from the ship Prince Maurice, including 50 persons who arrived on other ships.

Thirty-eight soldiers, with the [Captain Martin Kreiger of New Amsterdam]5 and Lieutenant, marched over land because there was no room in the Beaver to allow of their coming by water. The ship experiencing contrary wind, the soldiers, on that account, started somewhat later from the Manhattans, and therefore arrived at the fort six days later than me."

1Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York,
E. B. O'Callaghan, Albany Weed Parsons and Co., ©1858, Holland Documents II, p 181.
2ibid. p 54
3ibid. p 180
4ibid. p 181
5Commissioned December 5, 1656; History of the State of New York,
James Romeyn Brodhead, ©1853, Vol I, pg 631.

Compiled from:
Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, E. B. O'Callaghan, Albany Weed Parsons and Co., ©1858, Holland Documents II, p 8-10, 179-181.
Documents relating to the Dutch and Swedish Settlements on the Delaware River, B. Fernow, ©1877, p 184. 

 

For more information on the culture of New Netherland see:
Explorers, Fortunes and Love Letters (Mount Ida Press) (Hardcover)
by New Netherland Institute
http://www.amazon.com/Explorers-Fortunes-Letters-Mount-Press/dp/0962536857/ref=pd_sim_b_6
 

Resources on Moon phases:

https://theskylive.com/moon-info
https://www.moongiant.com/phase/3/8/1657
https://www.timeanddate.com/moon/usa/new-york?month=3&year=1657