Cadiz, Spain to Petersburg, Virginia: 1813. Envelope or Cover.
This stampless letter, measuring 15½” x 9¾” unfolded, was sent from Captain Josiah Cowper in “Care of Capt Farley” to William & H. [Harry] Haxall in Petersburg. It is datelined “Cadiz 30th April 1813”. It bears a “SHIP” handstamp, a manuscript 27 rate mark, and a Boston postmark indicating that the letter was forwarded from there to Petersburg via another ship. It was docketed “Josiah Cowper / 30 April 1813” upon receipt. In nice shape. A transcript will be provided.The letter, which is signed anonymously with an “X”, reads in part:
“I have made a joint purchase with a friend in Germain foods, to the Amot of about £4000 by which will be ordered for Wilmington N Carolina. . .. Incase the vessel is not permitted to enter that port, she will have directions to go to Rhoad Island, a the most Northern part, not Blockaded. . .. In case she gets to Wilmington the Capt. will be directed to call on Messrs Hanson / Lilly & Co. for your orders, . . . & if to New York, to Campbell & Laurenel, there for write all those persons on the subject, but do not mention my name. . .. They will be shipped as Spanish, but may be under a Danish Sweedish, or Portuguese Flag. . .. The Vessell is to be Dispatched as soon as possible with a Cargo of Tobc. . ..”. Item #010064
On June 18, 1812, the United States declared war upon Great Britain for maritime aggressions including the impressment of American sailors. In return, the Britain ordered the blockade of American ports. In February 1813, Chesapeake and Delaware Bays were blockaded; in May 1813, New York Harbor, Long Island Sound, and New London. In September 1813, it was the Carolinas and Georgia. However, they remained open until April 1814 and explains why this letter was delivered to Boston for forwarding.
The Haxall brothers were important Virginia merchants. William arrived in Petersburg from England and by 1795 had established a trading company. He was soon joined soon by brothers Harry and Phillip. They opened the Petersburg [Flour] Mills and purchased the Ross Mill in Richmond. By 1830, the Haxall Mills were among the country’s largest, using 30 enslaved workers to produce up to 45,000 barrels of flour annually, and making the family one of the wealthiest in the South. Josiah Cowper was a member of the Norfolk-based maritime family firm Cowper & Company, who, as one of its ship captains, sailed between Virginia, Europe, and the Caribbean.
(For more information see Walske’s “Annals of the War of 1812: An Arduous Trip” in The Chronicle of the U. S. Philatelic Classics Society Vol 69 No 4, “Old Letters of the Revolution” in The William and Mary Quarterly Vol 12 No 1, Berry’s “The Rise of Flour Milling in Richmond” in The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography Vol 78 No 4, and Warrington v. United States, 37 Ct. Cl. 303.)
Quite scarce. War of 1812 blockade run mail appears only infrequently in philatelic auctions, and of those letters do, few, like this example, sent anonymously and providing plans for evading the Royal Navy. None are currently for sale in the trade. The largest collection of approximately 65 War of 1812 blockade run letters was assembled by Steven Walske and sold at a Seigel auction in 2017..