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McCart, Joseph, Captain (1832-1878) | Maine Maritime Museum Manuscript Collection Online Catalog

Name: McCart, Joseph, Captain (1832-1878)

Historical Note:

Captain Joseph McCart was born on September 26, 1832 in Economy, Nova Scotia, Canada and came to the United States April 27, 1850. He was naturalized August 6, 1855. He married Sophia Lincoln Corbett (b. 19 July 1840 / d. 30 March 1910) daughter of John Corbett and Sarah Ecles of Eastport, Maine on February 7, 1858. They had four children, Winfield Scott (b. 18 April 1863 / d?), John Douglas (b. 30 Dec 1868 / d. 11 Feb 1878), Josephine (b. 6 Jan 1872 / d?), and Edward C. [Corbett] (b. 20 April 1877 / d. 8 Aug 1940). Genealogy records mention a second Edward McCart but it is unclear if this truly is a fifth child.13

Captain McCart voyaged on several vessels after leaving Economy, Nova Scotia on April 27, 1850.  From his personal diary while aboard the Sparkling Wave (Ship), Capt. McCart lists the vessels he joined in his early seafaring career:

“I left home first April 27th, 1850. Joined the Ashland June 7th. Left her in December 1851. Joined the Four Sons January 1852. She sank with us June 13th 1853. Joined the Maine Law July 26. Lost her in August 1856. Joined the Andrew Ring Dec. 1856 left her in 1857 (Apr.). Attended to the Florence 1857 in the fall, joined the Favorita about the latter part of March or the first of April 1858. Left her sometime in June or July.” 1

In an attempt to recreate Capt. McCart’s early seafaring days on the vessels he listed in his diary, I found references only to a few that he was registered as shipmaster. The 1857 New York Marine Register shows us that Joseph McCart, erroneously listed as McCort, was shipmaster for the brig Andrew Ring.  The 1859 American Lloyd’s Register lists Joseph McCart, erroneously spelled McCarty, as shipmaster of the bark Maine Law. Although it is not known what position he held aboard the other vessels listed above, the only Ashland listed in the ship registers that McCart may have been on was the ship Ashland built in 1847. All other vessels by the same name were built after 1850.  The Four Sons that Joseph McCart refers to in his diary “She sank with us June 13th 1853”1 may have been the brig Four Sons built in 1822 in the Winterport/Frankfurt district.12 The only other Four Sons I was able to locate was the brig Four Sons built in 1851 and listed in the 1858 New York Marine Register.  As for the Florence he “attended to” in 1857, it may have been one of two barks built in 1852 and 1857. Capt. McCart went back home to Economy, N.S. in 1857.1 Could the 1852 bark Florence built in Windsor, Nova Scotia be same vessel he was on? The Favorita that Joseph McCart refers to in his diary may have been the brig Favorita, built in 1854. All other vessels by the same name were built after 1857 except for the ship Favorita from Barcelona built in 1852, which is less likely.

This brings us to the ship Sparkling Wave that he joined on August 12, 1858 as shipmaster. His first voyage on the ship Sparkling Wave was from New York to San Francisco and back voyaging around Cape Horn.  The vessel was damaged in a storm in the South Atlantic and made port in Rio de Janeiro on May 14, 1859.  The ship Sparkling Wave left Rio on August 28 after three months of repairs.2 The ship first made Cape Horn on September 26, 1859.  Although no mention is made in his journals of the event, an attempted mutiny by his First Mate Mr. Connor on November 2, 1859 resulted in Captain McCart shooting the Mate in the back.  Mr. Connor did survive his wounds but was left in Valparaiso per the decision of the U.S. Vice Consul there.2

The ship Sparkling Wave arrived in San Francisco on February 6, 1860.  The return voyage to New York was plagued with head winds and Capt. McCart writes in his journal on November 14, 1860:

One hundred days from Valparaiso today and not yet quite up to Hatteras – half the crew sick with scurvy and the rest scarce able to move around decks. Shall we ever get in? That is the question now.” 1

Capt. McCart was master of the Ship Sparkling Wave until 1860 or ’61.  It is unknown where he went between 1861 and 1862.

Account records show us that he was aboard the ship Queen Esther as Captain or at least First Mate between March 14 and May 4, 1863—16 days before enlisting in the Union Navy. Disbursement records during his time aboard the Queen Esther were quite minor with expenses toward labor and maintenance. Since crewmen do not have authority to disburse funds, this can only be done by a Captain or assigned to a First Mate by the Captain.

Capt. Joseph McCart joined the Volunteer Navy as Acting Ensign aboard the U.S.S. Ethan Allen (Bark) on May 20, 1863.4 On October 17, 1864, Acting Ensign Joseph McCart reported to Fleet Captain Joseph M. Bradford on the U.S.S. Philadelphia (Side-wheel steamer) for examination for promote to the grade of Acting Full Master.  Passing the examination, Joseph McCart was promotion to Acting Full Master on November 21, 1864.8  The U.S.S. Ethan Allen (Bark) was part of the South Atlantic Blocking Squadron [proposed by Union General-in-Chief Winfield Scott] and under the command of Admiral Dahlgren. This blockade stretched from Virginia along the eastern and gulf coasts and up the Mississippi River.3,9 On May 20, 1865, Capt. Joseph McCart was commanded by Rear Admiral J. A. Dahlgren, Commanding the South Atlantic Blockade Squadron to proceed to Portsmouth, New Hampshire Navy Yard for further orders.Capt. Joseph McCart was honorably discharged on September 30, 1865.7

After the war, Capt. Joseph McCart returned to merchant sailing on numerous vessels as indicated in both his Account Book (1863-73) and his Sea Journal Book (1867-74). In an attempt to follow Capt. McCart’s voyages, I am attaching a chronology of his travels based on his trip disbursements and daily logs in the form of a list of his verssels.

Sometime after Capt. Joseph McCart’s discharge from the Union Navy on November 21, 1864, he returned to Economy, Nova Scotia, Canada. On December 4, 1866, aboard the brig Isabella as shipmaster [identified as a brigantine in his account book]. Capt. McCart left Economy, Nova Scotia for St. John, New Brunswick arriving December 22 making minor repairs and loading up on provisions.  From St. John he sailed for Limerick, Ireland arriving sometime between January 26-28, 1867.4,10 It is unclear what cargo was brought over from St. John’s to Limerick, Ireland.  However, he left Limerick and arrived at Cardiff on April 10, 1867 in ballast. From Cardiff, Capt. McCart sailed to Havana, Cuba arriving June 25, 1867. He then sailed from Havana July 18 and arrived in New York July 28, 1867. He discharged 18,870 bushels of salt in New York.5

As noted in Capt. McCart’s Account Book and Sea Journal, he left the brig Isabella and came aboard the bark Martin W. Brett August 1867 discharging 20,332 bushels of salt and heading for Turks Island arriving there September 10. He left Turks Island on September 13 with 18,721 bushels of salt and arrived in New York September 28.5 Capt. McCart makes reference to a Lavinia (Bark) with cargo of 24,700 bushels of grain in his Sea Journal.5

On November 2, 1867 he came aboard the brig Emily Fisher leaving for New York on November 6 passing through Turks Island passage and arriving in Aspinwall [Colon, Panama] in December hauling into the wharf on the 3rd and commenced discharging coal on the 4th.  On the 17th, without any cargo to load, he took in ballast of 29 ½ tons of sand and left on the 18th for Cienfuegos arriving there on January 12, 1868. From there they left for Trinidad arriving the 14th and began to receive molasses on the 16th. With other cargo coming on board, Capt. McCart kept notes on how he would load his cargo efficiently:

“Friday 24th Got our hold full 287 hogsheads and 35 tierces 10 bbls. Could put 10 more hogsheads in hold, if properly stored. Never stow sugar or molasses bilge & cuntline. By doing so, while you save the room of one cask by them lying closer, you will lose the room of five by extra breakage.” ... “For stowing sugar put your casks as close together as you can in the ground tier and you can always screw in your upper tiers in some shape and if you should lose the room of a cask or two you will probably have [saved] it before.” 5

He left Trinidad January 18, 1868 and arrived in New York on the 21st paying off his crew and discharging the cargo by the 25th of January.  At the time, Capt. McCart found the brig Emily Fisher in need of serious repairs.

'Friday 28th Went on screw dock to repair. Found vessel badly worned. Took out a good many pieces of plank. Unshipped rudder to repair casing.”5

Sometime after repairs were done—no clear date is given—Capt. Joseph McCart returned home to his wife and children in Eastport, Maine. He left Eastport on May 28, 1868 aboard the steamer New Brunswick for Portland, Maine. Using various modes of transportation, stopping at Malden and Boston (MA) Stonington (CT) and New York, he arrived at Baltimore on June 1, 1868 and joined the brig Ceres. Capt McCart was listed as shipmaster for the Ceres between 1870 and 1872 in American Lloyds ship register.

It appears that after leaving the brig Emily Fisher and joining the brig Ceres (identified also as a brigantine and a schooner in McCart’s Account Book), Capt. McCart left the Ceres for one chartered trip aboard the brig Brilliant November 18, 1868 as noted in his Sea Journal:

“Joined the Brilliant Nov. 18th 1868 - Left New York the 19th - Arrived in the mouth of Cape Fear River on the 23rd - Got up to town the 24th - Finished discharging ballast the 26th - Began to load the 27th.” 5

On January 8, 1869 the Brilliant left Wilmington and encountered extreme weather:

“Night of the 19 encountered a heavy gale. Stove best boat water casks and did a great deal of damage. Vessel sprung a leak. Night of 26th took a tremendous gale stove in forecastle blew away main topsail washed 2nd mate overboard lost foremast. On Jan. 28 were taken off by S. S. Europa  from Glasgow bound to New York.” 5

His records indicate he was on the Brilliant (Brig) between November 18, 1868 and February 1869 and then came back aboard the Brig Ceres as shipmaster June 1869 taking passage from Philadelphia to Cienfuegos to New York arriving August 20, 1869. Capt. Joseph McCart then continued aboard the Brig Ceres until June 7, 1871 visiting West Indies and Baltic ports as well as New York, Boston and Liverpool.

He came aboard the brig Clara M. Goodrich July 1871 for a voyage to Grand Turk and Salt Cay then to Portland and Boston in September and off to Havana arriving October 1871. They procured a freight of 2,235 boxes of sugar leaving Havana on November 8, 1871 for Maine. All wages were settled for September 12th through December 11, 1871.

From Clara M. Goodrich he joined the British brig Brothers June of 1872 in Boston and traveled up to Eastport, Maine where he paid his crew advance wages July 20. He left Eastport July 25 for Las Palmas Grand Canary, Spain with cargo of lumber arriving there September 2, 1872 and after unloading cargo voyaged to St. Martin’s arriving there October 5 and returning to New York October 29, 1872.

He traveled back to his family in Eastport, Maine and left again for Portland joining the bark A. C. Bean November 22, 1872. On December 24, the A. C. Bean left Portland bound for Buenos Aries “the first time with 214,854 feet of lumber and 40 rail road cars complete and 88 bunches of shingles”5 arriving February 13, 1873.  Capt. McCart makes observations of other vessels while discharging:

“April 17thPhilena’ Sailed. April 25thElla’ Sailed.” 5

The bark A. C. Bean returned to New York laden with 463 bales, 16,076 hides and 52,180 horns on August 16, 1873.  Capt. McCart left New York August 28 and arrived in Eastport on the 30th. He left Eastport Sept. 5th and returned to New York on the 7th.  Capt. Joseph McCart was shipmaster of the A. C. Bean up until November 1873 voyaging to Lisbon, Spain. There are no more disbursement records in Capt. McCart’s Account Book after November 1873. However, in his Sea Journal, he notates that on March 24, 1874 he arrived in Portland from Eastport and went “on board” the brig Carrie Winslow. He voyaged to Buenos Aries on June 1874 discharging 32,947 feet of lumber to various Lighters at port. The Carrie Winslow then traveled to Rosario and arrived July 18th for a cargo of dry hides (bales of animals skins and hair). The Carrie Winslow left Rosario August 8 and arrived in Portland, Maine October 19, 1874.5

Although Capt. Joseph McCart was on the Brig Carrie Winslow starting 1874, he is not listed as shipmaster until 1876.  American Lloyd’s lists Capt. McCart as shipmaster for the brig Carrie Winslow until 1878. Sadly, while in New York Harbor on February 11, 1878 at 5 A.M the British American (Ship) collided with the brig Carrie Winslow causing the brig to sink. The crew was rescued except for the Steward who drowned during rescue attempts. Capt. Joseph McCart and First Mate William Grant clung to the masts waiting for the Terror (Steam tug) to return for their rescue.  William Grant survived but Captain McCart drowned.  An inquiry into the events found the British America (Ship) to have not been properly displaying their lights clearing Captain Joseph McCart of any fault. 2, 11

His wife, Sophia and their children remained in Eastport after Captain McCart’s death. Sophia McCart died in Eastport on March 30, 1910 at the age of 90.

Capt. Joseph McCart’s life at sea began at the age of 18 when he joined the ship [?] Ashland in 1850 and was 26 when he joined the ship Sparkling Wave in 1858. He was a young Naval officer during the Civil War as Acting Full Master of the U.S.S. Ethan Allen (Bark). After the war, he spent the rest of his life on numerous vessels going aboard one ship to another traveling various trade routes. We see the responsibilities he carried as Captain while aboard these vessels from maintaining accounts and disbursing funds, dealing with cargo and freight to engaging and paying his crew.  In the end, he became a casualty of the sea.


1. McCart, Capt. Joseph. Diary. 1858-61, p. 11. MS-337, Folder 4.

2. McCart, Stanley O. Transcription notations, Diary, Capt. Joseph McCart, 1858-61, pp. 1A, 20. MS-337, Folder 4.

3. McCart, Stanley O. Letter to the donor. 1 April 1971.

4. McCart, Capt. Joseph. Account Book. 1863-1873. MS337 Folder 11

5. McCart, Capt. Joseph. Sea Journal. 1867-74. MS-337 Folder 12

6. Dahlgren, J.A., Rear Admiral. Letter. 20 May 1865. MS-337 Folder 6

7. Officers of the Continental and U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, 1775-1900. http://www.history.navy.mil/books/callahan/reg-usn-m.htm

8. "Official Intelligence—Volunteer Navy." United States Service Magazine. III. (1865): 107. Web. 11 Jun. 2012. http://books.google.com/books?id=7SGhAAAAMAAJ&

References—Secondary Sources

9. Wolfe, Brendan. "Anaconda Plan." Encyclopedia Virginia. Ed. Brendan Wolfe. 7 June 2012. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. 9 May 2011 http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Anaconda_Plan

10. Ryan Brothers & Co. Letter. 26 Jan. 1867. MS-337 Folder 10

11. American Law, Federal Reporter, No. 4, Case No. 1878. The British America, District Court, E. D. New York. April Term, 1879. (http://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov//hein/0004.f.cas/0004.f.cas.0165.html#f1)

12. Fairburn, William Armstrong. Merchant Sail. Vol. V. Center Lovell, Maine: Fairburn Marine Educational Foundation, Inc., 1945-55. p. 3526.

13. Vital stats. Ancestry.com and Rootsweb.com

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