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Mayflower, Day by Day - Thursday, 23 December 1621

23 Dec 2021 2:45 AM | Soule (Administrator)

The misfortune of the Fortune

The Fortune departed Plymouth for England today, but fortune was not with the ship of that name on the return. Apparently due to a major navigation error, the ship sailed hundreds of miles off course from England, south-east into the Bay of Biscay off the coast of Vendee, north of La Rochelle. About five weeks into her voyage, on 19 January 1622 and not far from the fortified Ile d’Yeu, a French warship (or, according to other accounts, French pirates) overtook the Fortune which was off-course about 350 sea miles southeast of where they should be – Land's End and the English Channel. It seems the Fortune’s master mistook the long peninsula of Brittany in western France for the Lizard Peninsula on the southwestern end of England and then strayed off down the French Atlantic coast to be taken by the French. Although the Fortune was not considered an enemy ship, France at this time was undergoing Huguenot rebel activities and any English vessel coming close to their shore was suspected of aiding the rebels and was liable for search and seizure. The French stopped and boarded the Fortune, which was then seized. Although the Fortune was not carrying contraband, the French governor seized her guns, cargo and rigging. The governor locked the ship's master in a dungeon and kept Cushman and the crew on board under guard. After thirteen days they were freed, but without its cargo of valuable beaver skins, otter pelts, and wood. The Fortune finally arrived back into the Thames on 17 February 1621/22.

The loss of the Fortune's valuable cargo dealt a severe financial loss to the Merchant Adventurers who by this time had little hope of recouping their investment in either the Fortune or the Mayflower. Due to this, the Merchant Adventurers were reorganized in 1626 in conjunction with Plymouth Colony leaders, in an effort to restructure financial agreements and for Plymouth Colony eventually to pay its creditors.  The colonists didn’t have the money but agreed to pay £200 instalments for nine years -- this might have been the first debt management program in American history.  Like just about everything else in this tale, it didn’t go quite as planned. The Pilgrims ended up taking 23 years to pay off their debt.

* * * * *

This marks the 518th post on the Mayflower, Day-by-Day, starting on 24 July 1620, the day before the Mayflower departed London to rendezvous with the Speedwell in Southampton, and ending on 23 December 1621, the day the Fortune departed Plymouth to return to England.  I actually started with the post for 6 September 1620, so the posts from 24 July 1620 through 6 September 1620 are “double posts” on those days alongside the posts for 1621.    If you count only the actual, individual posts (and don’t separate the double posts, where I wrote about 1621 and 1620 on the same day), this is post number 474.

This is the last post (cue the bugle): I have to stop somewhere, and the return of the Fortune is as good a place as any.  I am astonished that I have lasted this long, and managed to post every single day, mostly between 6:00 AM and 7:00 AM, for well over a year.  Thank you all for your kind wishes and comments, and, as I have said several times, if you have any suggestions on how this can be “packaged” and made available in another way -- since trying to use Facebook, with so many other posts and the way the algorithm rearranges even the posts I made, can be difficult -- please do let me know.

Comments

  • 23 Dec 2021 7:41 AM | Roger Walton
    Thank you for the daily posts and information. It was very interesting and I appreciate all your hard work.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 23 Dec 2021 7:50 PM | Elizabeth Peerenboom
    Many thanks!! I have learned SO MUCH and really appreciate your time and effort! Gratefully yours....bp
    Link  •  Reply

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