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The Liverpool Packet is Captured

For the week of Monday June 10, 2013

On June 11, 1813, during the War of 1812, the most dreaded Canadian privateering vessel, the Liverpool Packet, was seized by the American privateer schooner Thomas. The Liverpool Packet was owned in part by Enos Collins, a wealthy seaman and entrepreneur from Liverpool, Nova Scotia. The Packet was one of the first Canadian privateering schooners to participate in the War of 1812 and the most successful to have sailed out of a Canadian port. It helped capture more than 50 American ships during the war!

Painting of the schooner Liverpool, believed to be the Liverpool Packet
© Parks Canada
A privateer is an armed vessel that is privately owned and crewed, and commissioned for use in times of war. Privateersmen seize and loot enemy vessels, selling them and their cargo for profit. Privateers were common on both sides during the War of 1812 and Liverpool privateers played a part in the British coastal blockade of the United States. Privateering was controversial. In some cases it was regarded as no better than “legalized piracy,” while in others, it was an acceptable business pursuit. The latter was certainly the case for Collins, perhaps the most successful privateersman who purchased the vessel in Halifax and named it for his home port of Liverpool.

Enos Collins, circa 1870
© Parks Canada
Due to the proximity of the seaports of Nova Scotia to the New England coast, Liverpool quickly became known as the Privateer Capital of the Atlantic provinces, with 12 privateer vessels based there during the war. Business boomed for Collins and his associates, earning Collins a fortune. However, as of June 11, 1813, the Liverpool Packet spent four months under the control of American privateersmen. The schooner was even re-named the Portsmouth Packet, until it was regained by the HMS Fantome and the HMS Epervier after a 13-hour chase, in October 1813. The Liverpool Packet went on to capture more prizes, proving invaluable to the British Royal Navy until the end of the war.

The involvement of the Liverpool Packet signals an important Atlantic Canadian contribution to the War of 1812, and the Liverpool Privateers were recognized as a significant National Historical Event in 1933. Enos Collins was designated a person of national historic significance in 1984 for his contributions to the physical, commercial, and social development of Halifax in the early 19th century.

This year is the second of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. For more stories about the war, please read HMS Shannon Defeats and Captures USS Chesapeake and Sinking of the USS Hamilton and Scourge in the This Week in History archives. Commemorative events will take place at the York Redoubt, Halifax CitadelGeorges Island, and all across Canada! For more information on the War of 1812, visit Commemorating the War of 1812 on the Parks Canada website.

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