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Convict Ship America 1829


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Convict Ship America 1829

Embarked 176 men
Voyage 132 days
Deaths 8
Surgeon's Journal - Yes
Previous vessel: Sovereign arrived 3 August 1829
Next vessel: Norfolk arrived 27 August 1829
Master Robert S. Donal/Dowell
Surgeon Superintendent Alexander Stewart
Prisoners and passengers of the America identified in the Hunter Valley region

Prisoners transported on the America came from counties throughout England, Scotland and Wales. - Gloucestershire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Bristol, Liverpool, Suffolk, Edinburgh and Glasgow etc., Their crimes were mostly various forms of stealing and robbery. Others were convicted of forgery, bigamy, desertion, cutting and maiming and passing bad notes.

Departure from England

The men were transferred from prison hulks to the America late in March 1829. Thomas Dauncey from Gloucester was transferred from the Justitia Hulk on 27th March along with Joseph Saunders, James Millar, John Murphy, William Stone, John Taylor and James Roberts and others. The last of the 176 prisoners were received on board the America on 30 March 1829.

The voyage began from Woolwich on 8 April 1829.

Conditions on Convict Ships

Military Guard

The guard consisted of a detachment of 63rd Regiment under the command of Adjutant Montgomery. Passengers included Mrs. Montgomery and 2 children.

Surgeon Alexander Stewart

Alexander Stewart kept a Medical Journal from 4 March to 31 August 1829. His Journal reveals that he was kept busy from the very beginning of the voyage. The Guard which had been stationed at Chatham brought on board with them measles which had been prevalent there. The prisoners had been transferred from the hulk Justitia where dysentery was prevalent and Dr. Stewart thought a predisposition existed among the prisoners on their embarking which was brought into action by the change of diet and exacerbated by the bad weather in June and July.

On several occasions he was too busy to perform an autopsy on deceased persons.

The abstract reveals some of his cases - Hepatitis, 1; Rheumatismus, 1; Rubeola 2; of which one was sent to the hospital; Phthisis 1, who died on board; Dysenteria 15, of which 8 died on board; Syphilis 2.

The eight men who died were George Arneil, John Brown, William Bamford, William Cherry, John Humphries, Thomas Moss, Thomas Scott and Thomas Wright.

Others mentioned in the surgeon's journal include:
George Reeks, aged 27, Convict;
William Grey [George Grey], aged 28, Convict;
Jonathan Stockings, aged 25, Convict;
Jonathan Brown, aged 43, Convict;
James McGarvie, aged 38, Convict;
James Robertson, aged 20, Convict;
Laurence Gathens, aged 29, Private, 63rd Regiment; Died, 6 July 1829.
James Browning, aged 19, Convict;
Alexander Prise, aged 24, Convict;

Alexander Stewart was also employed as surgeon on the convict ships Southworth 1830 (to VDL) and Aurora in 1833

Arrival in Port Jackson

The America arrived in Port Jackson on 18 August 1829 with 168 male prisoners. The vessel was at first kept under rigid quarantine.

The Monitor reported: Mr. Watson the pilot was detained on board. One of the guard died on 23rd August and his body was towed outside of the Heads by the Customs boat and there left to the mercy of the finny tribe.

Consternation regarding outbreak of diseases was understandable. Fifteen months previously the convict ship Morley brought whooping cough to the colony causing many deaths. A Medical Board of Inspection boarded the America to determine the exact extent of disease on 19th August 1829.

Convict Muster

A Muster of the convicts was held on board by Colonial Secretary Alexander McLeay on 24th August 1829. The convict indents include the name, age, education, religion, marital status, family, native place, trade, offence, date and place of trial, sentence, prior convictions, physical description and where and to whom each prisoner was assigned on arrival. There is also occasional information regarding pardons, tickets of leave, deaths and relatives in the colony.

The youngest prisoners were
John Angew (16),
William Bell (14),
William Casey (15),
William Fletcher (16),
John Fisher 1(16),
William McLauchlan (16) and
John Rae (16).

The prisoners were landed on 31st August 1829 and were reported to be a fine healthy set of young men. They were assigned privately to various settlers or to public works, the surveyor's department, the Australian Agricultural Company or the dockyards.

Thomas Godfrey was deemed 'not assignable', both legs having been amputated.

The younger prisoners were sent to the Carter's Barracks on landing. An average of 80 boys were kept in the Carter's Barracks in the year 1829 [1]

Carter's BarracksLocation of Carter's Barracks


On arrival the following prisoners were assigned to settlers in the Hunter Region:

Charles Browne, John Bishop, Joseph Bradley, Richard Grafton were all assigned to Edward G. Cory at Paterson.
William Boydell was assigned to Benjamin Morris at Patterson Plains
Thomas Jones 56, b. London; James Jones 21, b. Dublin; and Thomas Jones age 17 b. Liverpool were all assigned to James Black at Hunter River
Henry Lee assigned to Peter Stukely at Hunter River
James Robinson assigned to John Prentice at Wallis Plains
John Thompson, Henry Wise and John Webb assigned to Emanuel Hungerford at Hunter River
Thomas Young to John Bingle at Puen Buen


In the years to come many of the men of the America were subjected to punishment such as Calvin Sampson endured in 1833.........

Return of Corporal Punishments in Hyde Park Barrack, inflicted by Sentence of the Sydney Police Bench, from the 4th to the 30th September 1833, in the presence of E. A. Slade, J. P. Superintendent, Hyde Park Barrack. (Parliamentary Papers) -

Calvin Sampson, America, stealing a pair of shoes, 50 lashes. Blood flowed at the fourth; the convict cried out at the 18th, and continued crying for a few succeeding iashes; his skin was considerably torn, and blood flowed during the whole of the punishment. This man groaned much, and prayed while suffering his sentence, and afterwards declared seriously that he 'would never come again.' I am of opinion that he was sufficiently punished at the 25th lash; and I felt convinced that he suffered so severely as to become, henceforth, more careful in subjecting himself to the infliction of punishment in Hyde Park barrack, under my superintendence. This convict says he was flogged once on the passage out, but never before in the colony.

Notes and Links

1). Medical and surgical journal of His Majesty's convict ship America for 4 March to 31 August 1829 by Alexander Stewart, Surgeon, during which time the said ship was employed in a passage to New South Wales. - UK National Archives

2). Select here to find out more about bushranger Henry Beard who arrived on the America

3). George Smith a baker from London arrived on the America. He escaped from the colony in the whaler Venus in March 1832 and was later re-transported on the Marquis of Huntley in 1835 under the name Thomas Sheffield. He died in Sydney Hospital in 1838.

4). Thirty-five men who arrived on the America in 1829 have so far been identified residing in the Hunter region in the following years.

5). Adjutant Montgomery was mentioned in the Last of the Tasmanians: or the Black war of Van Diemen's Land published by James Bonwick. In 1834 the Hobart Town Courier reported that among the officers of the 63d who remain as settlers in Van Diemen's Land, we may enumerate the following, viz. Capt. Vicary, Capt. Nielly, Lieutenant Grove, Lieutenant Aubin, Lieutenant Barrow, Adjutant Montgomery and Ensign Darling.

6). Return of Convicts of the America assigned between 1st January 1832 and 31st March 1832 (Sydney Gazette 14 June 1832; 28 June 1832; 5 July 1832).....

William Anderson - Under butler assigned to Mr. Nicholson, Assistant Surveyor at Parramatta
John Barrett - Blacksmith assigned to George Barber at Argyle
William Brough - Silk Weaver assigned to John Betts at Parramatta
James Browning - Brick maker assigned to Samuel North at Windsor
Robert Jones - Bricklayer assigned to Henry Marr at Sydney
Thomas Jones - Painter's boy assigned to William Hall at Maitland
Thomas Linacre - Plumber and glazier assigned to J.H Edwards at Brisbane Water
William Mackenzie - Nailor assigned to the A.A. Company at Port Stephens
James McGarvey - Ploughman assigned to William Caswell at Port Stephens
William Pythian - Cabinet maker assigned to Robert Cox at Brisbane Water

7). Ships bringing detachments of the 63rd regiment -

Albion departed Sheerness 1 June 1828 - Lieutenant M. Vickery
Eliza departed London 29 June 1828 - Major Sholto Douglas
Marquis of Hastings departed 30 June 1828 - Ensign Stulbmer
Royal George departed Spithead 26 August 1828 - Captain J. Briggs
Vittora departed Devonport1 September 1828 - Lieutenant Aubyn
Governor Ready departed Cork 21 September 1828 - Lieutenant J. Gibbons Lane
Ferguson departed Dublin 16 November 1828 - Captain D'Arcy Wentworth
Mellish departed Falmouth 2 January 1829 - Captain Baylee
Lord Melville departed London 5 January 1829 - Lieut-Col. Burke
Waterloo departed London 14 March 1829 - Lieutenant T. Grove
America departed Woolwich 8 April 1829 - Adjutant T. Montgomery
Norfolk departed Spithead 22 May 1829 - Ensign W.J. Darling
Guildford departed Dublin 12 July 1829 - Lieut McLean 89th
Larkins departed Cork 16 August 1829 - Captain Mahon
Claudine departed London 24 August 1829 - Captain Paterson
Sarah departed London 29 August 1829 - Lieutenant Croly
Dunvegan Castle departed 30 September 1829 - Lieutenant John Gray
Katherine Stewart Forbes departed Spithead 14 October 1829 - Major Fairtclough


[1] Historical Records of Australia Vol. XV, p. 386

[2] National Archives - Reference: ADM 101/2/3 Description: Medical and surgical journal of His Majesty's convict ship America for 4 March to 31 August 1829 by Alexander Stewart, Surgeon, during which time the said ship was employed in a passage to New South Wales.

[3] UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857. Medical Journal of Alexander Stewart on the voyage of the America in 1829. The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.

[4] Bateson, Charles Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.348-349, 386

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