It’s now three years since I began the Ganges Families History Project and, continuing in the spirit of the “annual holiday letter”, here’s what’s transpired in the past 12 months.
As “luck” would have it, the pandemic has put a big dent in my ability to conduct new research, since every archive or library I have been using for in-person research has been closed. Nonetheless, I have continued with limited online research as circumstances permit.
Fortunately, though, I had a backlog of previous research that hadn’t made it to the web site, and that is where much most of this year’s effort has gone:
- A full account of the voyage of the USS Ganges that included the capture of the slave vessels Prudent and Phoebe in July, 1800 and their direction to Philadelphia. The Ganges stayed on station off Cuba, taking more prizes but also suffering an outbreak of yellow fever aboard that forced her to cut her mission short and return to Philadelphia in September, suffering the loss of 26 men. It’s no wonder the citizens of Philadelphia dreaded this disease and went to extraordinary lengths to keep it away.
- A significant rewrite of the section describing the arrival of the Phoebe and Prudent in Philadelphia; the public’s reaction; the quarantine of the vessels and their passengers and the rules that were in effect at the time; the care provided the Ganges Africans at the Old Lazaretto including clothing, provisions and medical care, drawing on records of the Board of Health at the Philadelphia City Archives.
- A major new find pertaining to the Ganges medical care after their arrival, namely: that after leaving the Old Lazaretto, about 10 of the Ganges received additional care at Pennsylvania Hospital, their expenses being paid by the District Court. Many thanks to Terry Buckalew, who manages the remarkable web site devoted to the Bethel Burying Ground and to Stacey Peebles, archivist at the Pennsylvania Hospital Archives, for their assistance in identifying and extracting these records.
- Finally, while my research has been limited to online resources, there is one big win to celebrate this year, the story of Lahy Ganges. Lahy was initially indentured to Enos Eldridge of Darby Township, but moved to Philadelphia city later in life and took the name “Levi.” He died at the Alms House in 1846 and is buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Remarkably, and with no small measure of irony as well, Levi played a small part in the Amistad incident in 1839. A record of his role is found among the “American Missionary Archives” available online from the Tulane University Library. There, we find evidence of Lahy’s name change to Levi and, to my great surprise and delight, the name of Lahy’s African father, Mulcauba, as well as his region of origin/ethnicity, Susu. This is the first case , and hopefully not the last, where we can document the life of a Ganges African from beginning to end. Details and source citations can be found in Lahy’s profile, linked above.
I continue to make progress on the web site, but it still has a way to go. I am looking forward to being able to visit archives and libraries in the coming year – I have missed them terribly. But whether I’m at home or in the research room, my enthusiasm for the Ganges remains and I intend to carry on. Watch this space and, if you are so inclined, write me.