Echoes of Oregon History Learning Guide
Shark Broadside, 1846
Transcript of original document:
The following named men have deserted during the past week from the U.S, schooner Shark, viz: John Tice, aged about 25, 5 feet 8 or 9 inches high, dark hair and eyes, pretends to be a blacksmith, but is a bungler at that or any other business he undertakes. Alexander Stevens, aged 22 or thereabouts, 5 feet 10 inches high, of sallow complexion, light eyes and dry colored sandy hair, a simple smile generally on his face. John P. Inglehart, about 26 or 28 years old, 5 feet 7 inches high, roundly built, with black hair inclining to curl, erect in his carriage, and writes a good hand. George Ratbun, about 6 feet 1 or 2 inches high, of light curly hair; compexion and eyes also light; slight stoop in the shoulders; a good expression of countenance, and about 30 or 32 years of age. John Whitesell, 36 or 38 years old, spare figure, 5 feet 11 inches high; a serious worn expression of face, and by trade a carpenter. Andrew Tilton, about 5 feet 9 inches high, slight figure, 25 or 26 years old, hair light brown; this chap carried off with him a small sum of money, and a few dozen pieces of clothing belonging to the officers. A REWARD of 30 dollars will be given for the apprehension and delivery on board the Shark of either of the above described men, and all reasonable expenses paid. They have all voluntarily and unsolicited pledged themselves to the U. States' service, and the good citizens of Oregon, it is hoped, will aid in bringing them back to fulfil their contract.
U.S. Schooner Shark,
Columbia River, August 11, 1846.
The promise of free land and high wages caused many sailors to desert their ships in Oregon ports. In 1844 and again in 1857, Oregon passed laws which made it a crime to help deserting seamen. Despite this, few were returned to their ships. In 1846, the Shark, a ship of the U.S. Navy, lost ten men when it was docked in Fort Vancouver. A reward was offered, but only two men were turned in. This document describes six of the deserters.
For Further Discussion
1. Would you recognize the deserters from these descriptions?
2. Which of these men would be most likely to succeed in Oregon?
3. Why would someone desert their ship in 1846 Oregon?