On Thursday, June 29, 1820, at 3:00 P.M., 283 African slaves (two Africans were dead and 281 were in chains) were aboard a slave vessel named, “The Antelope,” when they were recaptured by the United States Treasury cutter “Dallas,” under the command of John Jackson. The seizure occurred between Amelia Island and the Florida Coast. After about 2,576 days of captivity and legal battle in the United States, 120 Africans died, 2 were missing, 39 were enslaved in the United States (the 39 included 36 men, one woman, and two boys), and 120 Africans of the Antelope, (there were 22 additional recaptured Africans that were sent with this group, bringing the number to 142), were released from custody by the United States Supreme Court, and sent to Liberia on July 18, 1827.
The sequence of events which led to this ordeal began on Sunday, December 19, 1819, when a 200 ton slave vessel called “Columbia,” with a Venezuelan registry, sailed from Baltimore, Maryland, with a crew of 30 to 40 men, mostly Americans, and headed for the West Coast of Africa.The vessel was armed with six guns and one eighteen-pound canon.
While at sea, the Columbia changed its name to “Arraganta,” and began a piratical attack on several vessels, but found nothing of value to be stolen. When the Arraganta reached the West Coast of Africa, the vessel and its crew were arrested by British men-of-war, and taken to Freetown, Sierra Leone, where the crew and the vessel spent three weeks under house arrest. After their release, the crew were admonished to stay away from Africa, south of the equator. Those orders were given because it was from this region from Liberia to Mozambique that slave trading was most active. Those orders were ignored.
As the Arraganta proceeded down the coast to the Congo region, it attacked the Brigantine Exchange, a slave vessel, and took 25 African slaves from that vessel. On March 20, 1820, around Cabinda, it attacked the Spanish slave vessel “Antelope,” and seized 120 African slaves from that vessel. After purchasing other African slaves, the Arraganta sailed across the Atlantic with the Antelope, to Brazil, where the slavers expected to sell their human cargo in the cities of Pernambuco, Bahia, and Rio de Janeiro.
In Brazil, the Arraganta ran aground, and several of its crew members, including the captain and some Africans, either drowned or were taken prisoners. An American named John Smith then took command of the Antelope, which had been renamed “General Rameriz,” and proceeded to the United States along the Florida coast, where the crew and the African slaves were apprehended by Captain John Jackson.
Now these men are set to undergo another court case. Many people ask why? If they were freed the first time then why must they be going under trial again. They must, because this time they were taken off a boat and not from Africa. Therefore they are no longer illegally taken. Abolitionists want these men released immediately, but it looks like another long trial.