The Final Journey of the Babb Brig “Brothers”

Thanks to one of our eagle-eyed members, we now know more about the final journey of the ship aptly named “Brothers”. This is a continuation of my recent post Thomas Babb: Feoffee of St. Mary’s of Wolborough, Devon (1754-1810) – Babb Unabridged where we saw two brothers (Samuel & John Babb) that were lost along with the crew of the “Brothers”.

The ship foundered in the Gulf of Genoa 14 nautical miles (16miles/26km) off Livorno (Italian for Leghorn), Grand Duchy of Tuscany, with the loss of all hands. She was on a voyage from Livorno to Liverpool, Lancashire, England. The entry is actually dated March 2nd, 1817, so it seems the plaque is off by 4 days. But fact checking was much harder back then than it is today.

The cover picture for this article is of an 1855 Painting by John Scott where he shows the same ship from two different angles. It is NOT the “Brothers”, but it is an excellent example of a Brig class of ship, which were used in peacetime as Merchant Ships and during times of war as a vessel of war.

An Inflection Point of History

The ships presence in Livorno (Leghorn) demonstrates its participation in an inflection point of history. Let me set the stage for you:

Napoleon Bonaparte

The Congress of Vienna (FrenchCongrès de VienneGermanWiener Kongress) of 1814–1815 was an international diplomatic conference to reconstitute the European political order after the downfall of the French Emperor Napoleon I

The immediate background was Napoleonic France’s defeat and surrender in May 1814, which brought an end to 23 years of nearly continuous war. Negotiations continued despite the outbreak of fighting triggered by Napoleon’s dramatic return from exile and resumption of power in France during the Hundred Days of March to July 1815. The Congress’s “final act” was signed nine days before his final defeat at Waterloo on 18 June 1815.

Prior to the Napoleonic Wars the more successful of the European powers established trading houses in the region, especially the British. In turn, the trading networks grew, and with it, Britain’s cultural contact with Tuscany. An increasing number of British writers, artists, philosophers, and travelers visited the area and developed the unique historical ties between the two communities. The British referred to the city as “Leghorn”. Through the centuries, the city’s trade fortunes fell and rose according to the success or failure of the Great Powers. The British and their Protestant allies were important to its trade.

During the Italian campaigns of the French Revolutionary Wars of the late eighteenth century, Napoleon’s troops occupied Livorno with the rest of Tuscany. Under the Continental System, the French prohibited trade with Britain, and the economy of Livorno suffered greatly. The French had altogether taken over Tuscany in 1808, incorporating it into the Napoleonic empire.

By Alexander Altenhof

After the Congress of Vienna, Austrian rule replaced the French and trade routes were re-established. The Brig “Brothers” appears to be a great example of this restoration of Trade. We already know that one of the brothers was a merchant and the other a ships Lieutenant.

Summary

So, it would seem that one of them did the sailing and the other was the businessman. The fact that they were setting sail heading back to Lancashire, means that they weren’t heading home just yet. They likely had a belly full of coal or some similar cargo to bring back to England. The fact that they only made it 14 Nautical Miles into their journey may signify that they were overloaded. We can’t know with certainty, but I find it very intriguing.

Furthermore, it would seem that the loss was financially devastating as well. His widow Sarah submitted papers to the Charity for the relief of Officer’s Widows.

In 2007, almost 33 million tons of cargo passed through the Port of Livorno, including 20.3 million tons of imports and 12.6 million tons of exports, making it one of Italy’s busiest ports. 


Cover Image: By John Scott – https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/the-collier-brig-mary-34807, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=97408234

Sources: Livorno – Wikipedia, Brig – Wikipedia, List of shipwrecks in 1817 – Wikipedia, WPS – Port of Livorno port commerce (worldportsource.com)

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