Joseph Barss


Joseph Barss

Joseph Barss (21 February 1776 in Liverpool, Nova Scotia – August 3, 1824 near Kentville, Nova Scotia) was a sea captain of the schooner "Liverpool Packet", and was one of the most successful privateers on the North American Atlantic coast in the War of 1812.

The son of sea captain Joseph Barss Sr. and Elizabeth Crowell, Barss' parents had married in 1773. They were one of the first families to settle in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. In 1798 the Barss family built one of the largest homes in Liverpool. The house still stands today and is part of the Lane's Privateer Inn.

Barss gained experience in privateering against the French in the 1790s, serving as an officer in several privateer vessels and commanding the schooner "Lord Spencer". The schooner sank after striking a reef in the West Indies but Barss and his entire crew survived to be rescued by other Nova Scotian privateer vessels. Barss briefly served as commanded of the brig "Rover", a noted privateer vessel from of Liverpool, Nova Scotia famous for its voyages commanded by Alexander Godfrey, another colonial Nova Scotian privateer.

In 1804, he married Olivia DeWolf, the daughter of judge Elisha DeWolf.

In 1812, Barss took command of the "Liverpool Packet", a captured slave ship originally named the "Severn" and sometimes nicknamed "the Black Joke". Within a year, he had captured at least 33 American vessels. He was known for his excellent use of intelligence on American shipping movement, due in large part to his brother, John Barss. He was also known for his fair treatment of prisoners.

In 1813, following pursuit by the schooner "Thomas" of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which ended in a short battle, Barss surrendered the "Packet". This defeat brought no embarrassment upon Barss, as the "Thomas" was over twice the size of the "Packet", not only in gross tonnage (143 tons v.s. 67 tons) - but in firepower (12 guns v.s. 5) and crew (80 v.s. 45)as well. After several months of harsh imprisonment Barss was set free, paroled so long as he did not command a privateer vessel. He was briefly captured a second time during the war in command of a merchant vessel. After the war, Barss settled near Kentville, Nova Scotia. He raised a large family and lived there the rest of his life. Barss is buried in the Oak Grove cemetery at Kentville.

The Stan Rogers' song, "Barrett's Privateers" may have taken some inspiration from the exploits of Barss, although the ship described in the popular song bore little resemblance to the sleek, fast lines of the "Liverpool Packet" and the inept Captain Barrett has no resemblance to the skilled and successful Joseph Barss.

See also

* "Sir John Sherbrooke"

References

"Under the Red Jack", C.H.J. Snider, 1926"Prize and Prejudice', Faye Kert, 2000"A Private War in the Caribbean: Nova Scotia Privateers 1793-1805", Dan Conlin, MA Thesis, Saint Mary's University, Halifax

External links

* [http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=2748 Biography at the "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]
* [http://www.lanesprivateerinn.com/offer.sub.php?id=19 Lane's Privateer Inn - History]


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