Report by Silas Duncan Commander U.S.S. Lexington sent to Navy Secretary Levi Woodbury

Report to Secretary of the Navy  (1832) 
by Silas Duncan

Report by Silas Duncan
Commander U.S.S. Lexington
sent to Navy Secretary Levi Woodbury
on 4 April 1832

U.S.S. Lexington
Off Monte Video
River Plate
Feb 3rd 1832


I arrived here yesterday from the Falklands Islands and have now the honor to enclose duplicates of my communication to the Department of the 2nd Dec. 1831 - in Relation to the Capture of some of our fishing Vessels at and about those Islands.-

In conformity to my intentions I proceeded to Berkeley Sounds, East Falklands, in order to ascertain the facts in connexion with these proceedings and for the purpose of affording the proper protection to our Citizens and Commerce, and particularly to protect the American Fisheries in the Southern Ocean.-

Upon my arrival in Berkeley Sound East Falkland, - I investigated the matters in question and finding them to be of the most inquisitous and illegal character, - I determined to break up and disperse this band of pirates, many of whom had been sent from the prisons of Buenos Ayres and Monte Video, and were thus let lose to prey upon a peaceable and industrious part of our community under the direction of Louis Vernet and Mathew Brisbane.-

I have confined the individuals engaged in these transactions, who could be identified, and have besides brought off the whole of the population consisting of about forty persons, with the exception of some Gou chors or Horsemen who were encamped in the interior, and are employed killing cattle.-

But in taking this step I have consulted their own wishes, and they have embarked on board the Lexington by general consent; they say they have been deceived by Vernet and others, who have kept many of them upon the Island contrary to their inclinations and appeared greatly Rejoiced at the opportunity thus presented of Removing with their families from a desolate Region where the climate is always cold and cheerless and the soil extremely unproductive.-

These individuals some of whom have families, come from Buenos Ayres and Monte Video, also, and are principally Germans; they appear to be industrious and well disposed persons.-

I have landed a part of them at Monte Video and intend sending the remainder to Buenos Ayres by the first Conveyance.-

I have now on board as prisoners seven individuals who are charged with illegally capturing and plundering the Schooner Harriet, as will appear by the affidavits of Captain G.R. Davison late master of the Harriet - Marked No.3. - These men will be detained on board the Lexington until some orders shall have been given with Respect to them from the Navy Department or the Senior officer of the Brazil Station.-

I found a Schooner lying in Berkeley Sound (East Falklands) intended there is no doubt to have been fitted out to suppress our fisheries in the Southern Ocean. - She had been sent from the U. States for Sale but the purchase not having been completed. I put on board of her Gilbert R. Davison late Master of the Schooner Harriet and two additional Seamen and directed her (with concurrence of the Master) to proceed to the Island of Staten land for the relief of Seven American Seamen who had been left there without the means of subsistance, in consequence of the Captain of their vessel, the Schooner Superior, by Vernet.-

I found some guns lying near to the beach which I suppose were intended to have been put on board the Schooner as these men have declared it to be their intention to fit out a vessel for the purpose of putting a stop to the American Whale and Sealing Fisheries in these Seas. The guns have been rendered useless - for any hostile purposes.-

I also found a small Schooner on the coast of East Falkland, navigated by a part of the Crew of the American Schooner Belville, wreck'd on the coast of Patagonia. - These men had built this Small Vessel or Shallop of 20 or 30 Tons after the loss of their vessel and were seized and made prisoners by Vernet and his associates and compelled to enter into their Service. - I supplied them with Such Articles as they were in want of, and after repairing and fitting out their vessel, directed them to relieve their companions who had been left fishing about the rocks and small Islands and then proceed to the Coast of Brazil or the U. States as they would not be allowed to navigate the high Seas without the necessary documents from some Competent Authority. - See No.5.-

I have communicated directly with the Department for the reason that I have been separated from the Senior Officer of the Brazil Squadron, and have deem'd it proper to give the Department the earliest information on these proceedings.-

The documents herewith enclosed and marked and numbered as follows.-

No. 1 - Duplicate copies of the dispatches dated Dec. 2nd 1831 - No. 2 - Circular issued at the Falkland Islands to the inhabitants and others. - No. 3 - Copies of the affidavits made by Gilbert H. Davison late master of the American Schooner Harriet No. 4 - Copy of an instrument in writing purporting to be an agreement between Louis Vernet and the Crew of the Schooner Belville wreck'd on the coast of Patagonia.-

No. 5 - Copy of a Sea letter given to a Small Schooner built by the Crew of the American Schooner Belville, wreck'd on the Coast of Patagonia, which Crew had been compelled by Vernet and others to enter into their employ.

No. 6 - Copy of a Certificate given by some of the inhabitants at the Falkland Islands.-

No. 7 - A list of Articles taken from the Schooner Harriet by Louis Vernet and Mathew Brisbane and others.-

No. 8 - Copy of a letter to Geo W. Slacum, U.S. Consul Buenos Ayres dated Feb 2nd 1832.-

I intend leaving this place for Rio de Janeiro in about a week.

Answered 3d April.
I have the Honor
to be with great respect
Yr Ob. Servt
Hon: Levi Woodbury Ansd 4 April 1832
Secretary of the Navy S. Duncan
Washington Commng U.S.S. Lexington

This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.