Capt George Woodbine

Capt George Woodbine

Savanna-La-Mar, Westmoreland, Jamaica
Death 26 Jul 1833 (aged 46)
Cartagena de Indias, Municipio de Cartagena de Indias, Bolívar, Colombia
Burial Non-Cemetery Burial, Specifically: The Colonel, a British Subject, was buried with his wife and son at the Convent of San Juan de Dios, near Cartagena de Indias.
Memorial ID 111731982 · View Source
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"Colonel" George Woodbine ("the Younger"), a late "Brevet Captain" of the British Royal and Colonial Marines during the War of 1812, was born in Jamaica.

He later served in the first of MacGregor's two privately raised regiments of the Bolivarian British Legions during the April 1819 campaign against the Spanish in Portobello (now Panama.)

Until recently, little was known about this person so remarkable in North American and British newspapers and dispatches between 1814 and 1819.

George and his older sister Catherine (1785-1809), who later became Mrs. John Dobson, were baptised in the Anglican Church at Savannah La Mar on February 24, 1792.

They were the surviving children of Major George Woodbine ("the Elder") who died in 1810, and the former Miss Catherine Duthie (or "Dickie").

George Woodbine (the elder) and "Catherine, his wife," had been united in marriage in Savannah La Mar in 1780. Jamaican archives indicate the contextual probability that the parents were ("white") free-holders.

Suggestions that the future Colonel was of mixed racial heritage, or that his mother had been freed from slavery, seem to be unfounded or at least improbable if one recalls certain limitations imposed on travel, property, and public office for the emancipated.

Usually North American sources of abolitionist or anti-British sentiment are quoted to suggest the alleged "mixed raciality" of Woodbine. George Woodbine's "swarthy" physical appearance (see further below) may have supported the idea but Jamaican archives tend to contradict such speculation.

The Woodbines and Duthies were merchants, British colonial militiamen, property owners, administrators and mariners in these volatile times of wars, social and economic upheaval, slave revolts, and blockades.

The Dickies, of Scottish origin (like the Duthies) were another local "West Indian," or British Creole family well represented in 18th century Jamaica.

It should be understood that in 18th and early 19th century Jamaica, the term "Creole" was applied to both white and black persons who were born in the West Indies, as opposed to those born in Europe or Africa. Young George Woodbine "Esquire", like his future brother-in-law, Attorney John Dobson, were thus examples of the free Jamaican Creole gentry.

The elder George Woodbine (the future Captain George Woodbine's father) was mentioned as a lumber merchant of Savannah La Mar (Jamaica) in the published journals of Thomas Thistlewood (1721-1786), a British-born Westmoreland Parish neighbor and chronicler. It is possible that the elder Woodbine was then dealing in hardwood from the "Mosquito Coast" (present day Nicaragua), for British colonial lumbermen were active there until at least 1787.

At a later date, the elder Woodbine (George Woodbine's father), who was a slave-owner like Thistlewood, may also have been involved with the slave trade, for in 1804 a certain "George Woodbine", born "in Africa" about 1776, was sold to the British West Indian regiment of foot then stationed in Jamaica. The African-born "George Woodbine" became free by an act of parliament (in 1807) which emancipated all serving British military personnel throughout the British Empire.

The African-born George Woodbine of the British Army's West Indian Regiment of Foot was honorably discharged in Jamaica as a private soldier in 1839 to accept a pension. His discharge was signed by his commanding officer, LtCol William Burke Nicolls (1780-1844), who was a younger brother of the British Royal Marines Colonel (later General) Edward Nicolls (see below).

Woodbine was an unusual family name in England in the 18th century. Most people of that name seemed to be concentrated in the working class county of Norfolk (East Anglia) where a certain 35 year-old weaver named George Woodbine was hanged in 1767 for the crime of having accepted stolen articles for the support of his wife and six children.

Another George Woodbine, born in Norfolk County in 1756, married in 1777 and was the industrious working father of at least one daughter there by 1787, when our George Woodbine was born, and his father (George Woodbine the elder) was already established in Savanna-La-Mar (Jamaica) as a merchant.

Jamaican parish registers reveal no "George Woodbine" born prior to 1787 but the East Anglia connection is interesting because of the Puritan non-conformists from that part of South East England who were the early settlers of the Massachusetts colony and Isla de Provedencia ("Old Providence" Island ) together with Isla de San Andrès (Saint Andrew's Island) in the 17th century. The two islands (now part of Colombia) are situated southwest of Jamaica and near Nicaragua's "Mosquito Coast" in the western Caribbean Sea.

George Woodbine ("the younger", who is the subject of this memorial) was born in 1787 but not baptised in Jamaica until 1792 (along with his sister born in 1785).
One is tempted to speculate on the Caribbean origins of George Woodbine's parents.

Young George Woodbine's uncle, Major Archibald Duthie (who died in 1813 and was a brother or brother-in-law of Woodbine's mother), was a native of Scotland whose European-bound Jamaican ship and cargo were seized by the Massachusetts Navy early in the War of the American Revolution.

Taking passage home (late in 1775), Captain Duthie led a mutiny and seized an American ship as a prize of war to compensate his loss.

George Woodbine appears to have been among the students tutored by Savannah-La Mar's Anglican Parish Rector and to have attended the parish's "Manning Free School" where his father, George Woodbine "the Elder", was a trustee for several years. Mathematics, Latin, French, and Spanish were among the essential subjects of young West Indian gentlemen at that time.

In 1805 when George Woodbine joined the Jamaican colonial militia in accordance with law, his father and uncle (George Woodbine "the Elder" and Archibald Duthie) were both listed as Majors of the "Westmoreland (Parish) Regiment of Foot" (British Colonial Militia), the regiment to which Young Woodbine was assigned.

By the time of George Woodbine's enrollment, his own (future) brother-in-law, John Dobson (1768-?), was already a Captain in the regiment.

George Woodbine advanced to the rank of Ensign in the regiment in 1807 and to that of Lieutenant in 1808.
In 1815 John Dobson, then custodian of the Woodbine slaves and property, was promoted to be Lieutenant Colonel of the Westmoreland Parish Regiment of foot (infantry).

By 1807 George Woodbine (the "Younger") was a reputable Westmoreland (Jamaica) merchant in his own right, being referred to as "George Woodbine yr (the younger), gentleman", in a contemporary document.

In the wake of the abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade by the British in 1808, however, there was much resistance and resentment (to the British Act of Parliament) by Jamaican planters and merchants. Attempts were made to circumvent the law.

Young George Woodbine, already noted as an overseer of talent, and having already voyaged to Cartagena de Indias, and other West Indian ports as a negociant, soon became involved in the newly illegal slave trade.

In October 1809, Woodbine sailed as a "supercargo" from the Blackwall Docks in East London aboard the "Queen Charlotte," a ship purchased (in 1808 ?) by her British owners in Cartegena de Indias (in the Spanish Vice-Royalty of New Grenada), from whence her arrival at Blackwall.

Once at sea, the Spanish flag was hoisted and the "Queen Charlotte" became the "Galicia," bound for a slave cargo on the West African Coast.

When the "Galicia" (Queen Charlotte) was boarded and seized off Teneriffe on September 22, 1810, by HMS Amelia (Post-Captain Frederick Paul Irby RN Commanding), the ship's master, "Don Jorge Madresilva," presented himself as a Spanish Subject - outside British jurisdiction. "Jorge Madresilva" was in reality Lieutenant George Woodbine of the Westmoreland militia, and his youthful subterfuge was quickly unmasked.

During 1810-1813 the ship and cargo were condemned and confiscated by the High Courts of the British Admiralty. The ship's British owners made no effort to defend their property and the two ships, "Galicia and Palafox" were sold in London on April 1, 1813. Prize money from the sale was awarded to the officers and crew of HMS Amelia.

In Sierra Leone, convicted slave traders, as felons, were being given sentences that included imprisonment and deportation or enrollment in the British Royal Navy or Royal Marines.

In the summer of 1812 George Woodbine was indicted for "willful and corrupt perjury" by the grand jury seated at Exeter Castle (Devon.)

By September, 1812, a reward of £200 (British pounds) was being offered by Britain's anti-slavery African Institution for information leading to George Woodbine's arrest and eventual conviction.

George Woodbine was then described as being six feet tall and about 25 years old with dark hair, complexion , and gentlemanly manners, being a person who easily passed himself off as a "Spaniard".

In the 7th (annual) Report of the Directors of London's abolitionist "African Institution" (1813), it was noted that George Woodbine had not yet been apprehended in spite of the reward still being offered for his arrest.

At best, a "petty offender", in danger of becoming an outlaw in the eyes of the British courts, young Woodbine could easily have been caught in the net of impressment or the wartime quota system for enrollment in the British Royal Navy or Marines.

To his advantage were his West Indian social and commercial ties as well as his intimate knowledge of the Caribbean and Mexican Gulf waters.

The actual date of George Woodbine's engagement in the Royal Navy or the Royal Marines, however, is not yet known.

Recomended to Admiral Cochrane by Governor Cameron of the Bahamas, young Woodbine was named an "Acting Lieutenant (Sergeant ?) of Royal Marines" aboard the 36-gun frigate HMS Orpheus, Post-Captain (later Admiral Sir) Hugh Pigot RN commanding, when the HMS Orpheus left New Providence in the Bahamas with HMS Shelbourne, Lieutenant (later Post-Captain) David Hope RN commanding, in April 1814.

The little squadron had been ordered by admirals Cochrane and Cockburn to proceed to the Spanish Floridas and make contact with the disaffected Creek, Choctaw, and Seminole Indians who had earlier appealed to Governor Charles Cameron (1766-1828) of the Bahamas in 1813.

Cameron, a former banker with years in the West Indies, appears to have been acquainted with Woodbine's qualities and to have personally vouched for him as an "intelligent young man" (interpreter, pilot, and commercial agent familiar with the region).

The Orpheus and the Shelbourne were distracted during the voyage by an encounter with the US Navy, overtaking the USS Frolic off Matanzas, Cuba, on April 20, 1814. The Orpheus and Shelbourne then took their prize and prisoners back to the Bahamas before resuming their mission to Florida.

The Orpheus and Shelbourne again left the Bahamas on April 25, and anchored in Appalachicola Bay, Spanish Florida on May 11, 1814.

There Captain Pigot landed arms, supplies and a small force of Royal Marines led by Pigot's Acting Lieutenant of Royal Marines, George Woodbine. Lieutenant Woodbine assumed the "Brevet" (local rank) of Captain of Royal Marines once ashore - as well as the provisional appointment as "British Agent" to the Southern Indians.

Quickly establishing contact and arranging for the recruitment and training of refugee Creek Indians, Choctaws, Seminoles, Maroons, and former British loyalists who had chosen to remain in the Spanish Colonies after 1783, Captain Woodbine moved inland to establish "British Post" (later "Negro Fort" and finally "Fort Gadsen") at the site of the Forbes company store on the Appalachicola River.

Woodbine was appointed on June 30, 1814, as an auxiliary Captain of the (British) Corps of (Royal and) Colonial Marines.

On behalf of the Creeks at British Post, Captain Woodbine went to Pensacola in July, 1814, to address the Spanish governor there on mutual intentions and Britain's intervention.

The British under Brevet Major (acting Lieutenant Colonel by local rank) Edward Nicolls (1779-1865) occupied Spanish fortifications at Pensacola on August 23, 1814, while Captain Woodbine pursued recruiting and drilling in Pensacola.

Inspired by the independent "Maroons" of Jamaica, Captain Woodbine raised and led as many as three companies of free Blacks, former slaves from the Spanish or American settlements and " Black Seminole (Los Morenos)" allies of the pro-British Creeks and Choctaws who allied themselves with Nicolls and formed part of the latter's "provisional 3rd battallion of Royal and Colonial Marines."

Both the Spanish and the American slave owners later complained that George Woodbine had "lured" slaves into British service. These enlistments, under terms of both the British proclamation of 1814 and the British Parliament's "Mutiny Act" of 1807, made the new recruits British military personnel, who, together with their dependents, thus became free persons of color elligible for settlement in the British colonies.

The British "Battalion of Royal and Colonial Marines" launched an abortive sea-borne assault on Fort Bowyer, outside of Mobile (in American-occupied Spanish West Florida). Captain George Woodbine was among the officers embarked at Pensacola (aboard HMS Childers) on September 10, 1814, for "secret service."

In the 14 September attack on Fort Bowyer, which the Americans repulsed, Lieutenant Colonel Nicolls, who was seriously ill, was badly wounded, and the American garrison commander, Major William Lawrence (a Marylander who died 1841) of the US 2nd Infantry regiment, earned a brevet Lieutenant-Colonelcy.

Pensacola then became open to the advancing American forces and the British were obliged to retreat into stronger positions from outside the city as the Spanish governor's fears for Spanish sovereignity and the property of Spanish subjects grew. An American invasion had become inevitable.

In November, 1814, following the British destruction of Fort San Carlos, Captain Woodbine and Lieutenant Robert Chrystie Armbrister (embarked aboard HMS Sea Horse) were among the British and Spanish officers and troops evacuated by sea from Rosa Point and Fort Barrancas to the British post on the Appalachicola and East Florida. Most of the Spanish troops who were evacuated with the British did not return to Pensacola before 1815.

In late December, 1814, Woodbine was in Saint Augustine, (East) Florida, reassuring the Spanish governor there of Britain's neutral intentions toward Spain while pursuing operations against the Georgians.

Captain Woodbine was not present with Nicolls at New Orleans in January or at the capture of Fort Bowyer by retreating British forces on February 12, 1815.

In that second "Battle of Fort Bowyer" Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence of the U.S. Army was wounded and carried off to British confinement with his American garrison of regulars as prisoners of war waiting to be exchanged.

In February, 1815 at the "British Fort" on the Appalachicola, Woodbine and Nicolls were the object of a Royal Navy investigation over (Spanish) complaints about their having aided the "slaves" of "British" or Spanish subjects to enlist, thus winning their freedom under British law, as specified by the British Parliament's "Mutiny Act" of 1807.

The British and Spanish military investigators, Captain Pintado and Post Captain Robert Spencer, were ill received and failed to convince the Colonial Marines to volontarily return to their former slave-masters in Pensacola.

On March 10, 1815, Nicolls, Woodbine, the Florida-born Forbes Company interpreter 1stLt William Hambly (1781- ?), now of the (British) Corps of Colonial Marines, and 30 American Indian Chiefs drafted a Treaty of mutual defense with Great Britain that anulled the so-called "Treaty of Fort Jackson" and invalidated the Forbes grants in Spanish Florida.

A heated exchange of correspondence followed between the American Indian Agent Hawkins and Nicolls, while American disregard for Article 9 of the Treaty of Ghent raised the question of a resumption of hostilities.

On April 2, 1815, Nicolls, Woodbine, and Hambly were witnesses to the formal cessation of hostilities with the United States by the Southern Indians on condition of U.S. respect for Article 9 of the Treaty of Ghent.

Unaware of the extent of American expansionnist aims, Admiral Cochrane ordered Nicolls and Woodbine to evacuate British fort. Captain Woodbine left the Florida born interpreter, 1stLt William Hambly, who was both a Forbes Company employee and an officer of the British Corps of Colonial Marines in command of "British Fort" on the Appalachicola in late May, 1815, to accompany Nicolls to Saint Augustine and then Nassau in June 1815.

Nicolls addressed a memorandum to Lord Bathurst in 1815 recommending that both Captain Woodbine and 1stLt Hambly should be granted pensions amounting to British army half pay for their respective wartime ranks on the British Army List.

Discharged unceremoniously by the British Admiralty in the Bahamas, George Woodbine was again arrested in New Providence, in October 1815, and briefly imprisoned on civil and criminal charges made by Spanish subjects (Forbes and the Innerarity brothers) along with American commissioners for plaintiffs (from Georgia).

While Edward Nicolls proceeded to Britain with a group of Indian leaders, the separate treaty, and territorial revendications of compliance with Article 9 of the Treaty of Ghent, Woodbine found himself fighting in the civil courts of the Bahamas.

Woodbine's superiors, including Lieutenant Colonel Edward Nicolls, and Admiral Cochrane, recognized the disloyalty (to both Great Britain and Spain) and the pro-American espionnage of Forbes, the Innerarity brothers, Lieutenant William Hambly, and military storekeeper Edmund Doyle.

Both Nicolls and Cochrane, on the other hand, praised the services of Captain Woodbine.

In Florida, Hambly and Doyle were deposed and banished from "Negro Fort" (the former "British Fort")in late 1815 by elected officers whom Woodbine had trained, including the new commander, a former slave-carpenter from West Florida known as "Garson or Garcia" ( the"French-slave carpenter Garçon" [born 1785] whose ownership was claimed by Antonio Montero of Pensacola but earned his freedom through his British military service).

On July 27, 1816, the fort was destroyed by pro-American forces with heavy casualties among the Maroon defenders. Commandant Garson (Garçon) and a Choctaw officer who had survived were summarily executed by the Creek volunteers in the ranks of the attacking American invaders.

Both George Woodbine and Edward Nicolls were attacked and belittled, first in the contemporary pro-slavery American press, and later by the American historical apologists of "The Monroe Doctrine" and "Manifest Destiny."

During 1816-1817 George Woodbine travelled to Jamaica and to Havanna, notably on behalf of African-American and Amerindian refugees in the Spanish Floridas who were seeking relief or refuge from American incursions and expansionism.

In 1816 Woodbine visited the Tampa area at least once and reportedly accompanied Alexander Arbuthnot to the Suwanee and then to West Florida.

Refugees from the "Negro Fort" on the Appalachicola (destroyed by the Americans and Creek allies in 1816) sought to re-establish free settlements farther south in what is now the Tampa Bay area, and Woodbine may have gone so far as to approach anti-slavery American Quakers on the subject of education and trade. Jackson, Adams, and Calhoun of South Carolina appear to have suspected Woodbine and Nicolls of seeking the cession of the Spanish Floridas to Great Britain.

Woodbine encountered the Scottish-born Bolivarian General, Gregor MacGregor, and allegedly proposed the idea of recruiting vétérans of Britain's West Indian Régiments for the British Légions being organized.

In 1817, in the Bahamas, Woodbine met with "Brevet Colonel" (Local Forces) Hillis Hadjo (aka "Josiah Francis"), a refugee Creek "Prophet Chief," who was returning to Spanish Florida from Great Britain.

In 1817 Woodbine sailed to Amelia Island, in Spanish West Florida, to evacuate the British aventurer, Gregor MacGregor (1786-1845), to the Bahamas.

A former Colonel and Brigadier General under Bolivar in Venezuela and Gran Colombia, Mac Gregor's claims to have served as a British officer in the Peninsular Campaign were false. Dubious as well was his "authority" to grant military commissions or letters of mark to privateers.

When MacGregor left East Florida with Woodbine in 1817, the Bolivarian privateer Louis Michel Aury raised the Mexican flag at Amelia Island. In the bad graces of Bolivar, and dislodged from Campeche by the Lafitte brothers of New Orleans, the French-born Aury led a better disciplined naval and military force which included many African American Haitian soldiers and sailors.

Although Woodbine, now a Colonel in MacGregor's "Private" (Bolivarian) Army, did not follow the latter to the UK late in 1817, he soon found himself unwelcome both in the Bahamas and in Jamaica, where his actions were viewed as a growing danger to British neutrality and as unpopular among the slave-owning planter classes.

In Florida, during 1817-1818 Hambly and Doyle were arrested and detained by the exasperated Indians following border clashes with US forces operating on the pretext that the Spanish authorities were unable or unwilling to maintain order and protect Georgian squatters and cattle rustlers in their predations.

Following US Navy operations against Saint Augustine, and the release of Hambly and Doyle, Jackson's forces launched a full scale invasion and moved on Saint Marks in West Florida.

On April 6, 1818, the Redstick Chiefs, Hillis Hadjo (AKA Josiah Francis, the prophet and honorary British Army Colonel,) and Neamathlo Micco of Fowltown fame, were tricked aboard a US naval vessel flying the Union Jack and both were summarily hanged.

On 29 April 1818 Woodbine's former subordinate, Lieutenant Robert Chrystie Armbrister (1797-1818) of the British Corps of Royal and Colonial Marines, having admitted association with Woodbine and MacGregor, was ordered shot, while his fellow Bahamian-based British Subject, Alexander Arbuthnot was hanged.

In his defense before a mockery of a military court of inquiry, Alexander Arbuthnot (1745/1748-1818) accused Woodbine of dishonesty in his dealings with the Indian Chiefs, but that "concession" to American suspicions did not prevent his (Arbuthnot's) summary hanging by order of Major General Andrew Jackson at Saint Marks (San Marcos).

During 1817-1818 Governor General Cameron of the Bahamas and US Secretary of State John Adams had both required written assurances from the British Under-Secretary for War and the Colonies (Henry Goulburn 1784-1856, himself a wealthy fellow Jamaican slave owner,) that George Woodbine was no longer in the service of the British Admiralty, War, or Colonial Offices, either as a British officer, agent, or in any other capacity.

Early in 1819, "Colonel" George Woodbine joined MacGregor's expedition to liberate Portobello (now in Panama) for the Bolivarian cause of Latin American Independence.

Having been instrumental (since 1817) in allowing the volunteers to use Isla de San Andrès (Gran Colombia) as a base of operations, Colonel Woodbine distinguished himself in the assault and capture of Portobello in early April 1819.

His courage and military skill (as a coastal pilot and jungle pathfinder ashore were recorded by one of the expedition's officers, Surgeon W. Davidson Weatherhead (1788-?), who survived Spanish captivity and later published a memoir of his experiences.

Possibly because of differences (with another officer) involving seniority in rank and the aptitude for command, Colonel Woodbine was not present when the Spanish overran and retook Portobello, just weeks later.

Woodbine had been dispatched to Jamaica by MacGregor, shortly after the successful capture of Portobello, to assemble and take command of newly arriving recruits, and it was there that Colonel Woodbine learned of MacGregor's disaster at the end of the month of April in 1819.

Most of the surviving former British officers captured at Portobello were executed by the Spanish authorities in the course of the year 1819.

Colonel Woodbine was "conspicuously absent" from MacGregor's subsequent expedition against Rio de La Hache (1819). As in Florida and Porto Bello, MacGregor proved himself to be as cowardly as he was incompetant in military matters.

Woodbine distanced himself from M'Gregor thereafter, settling first on Isla de San Andrès, then on a plantation near Cartegena de Indias (Gran Colombia) prior to 1826. Colonel Woodbine remained a loyal British subject and maintained commercial and social relations with Jamaica until his death.

The United States acquired the Floridas from Spain during 1819-1823 while Great Britain maintained a neutral foreign policy in the Americas.

During 1819-21 Woodbine may have cooperated with the Franco-Colombian naval commander and adventurer, Louis-Michel (Luis Miguel) Aury (1788-1821) in operations against the Spanish in Honduras. What is certain is that from his base in Isla de San Andrès , Woodbine resumed commerce with the Mosquito Coast chiefs and the lumber industry there.

Arriving in England in 1821, Gregor MacGregor fraudulently claimed to have been granted (29 April1820) territory on the Mosquito Coast by "King George Frederick Augustus II (1797-1824) of the Moskito nation", a Jamaica-educated Moskito Indian chief and an honorary Major in the British Colonial Militia who travelled between residences in Jamaica and Belize.

Though a hero in Latin America (prior to 1817), the Scottish-born MacGregor was a con-man of the first order who used his fraudulent claims (and Woodbine's name) to hoodwink hundreds of British subjects out of their savings and on to death or financial ruin in the tropics.

In England MacGregor advertised himself as "Cacique of the Poyais (Black river country on the Nicaraguan coast)" and publicized Woodbine as the soon to arrive "Brigadier General, Vice-Cacique, etc., etc. of the Poyais" as of 13 April 1821. Woodbine ignored MacGregor who turned to a retired British Army LtCol named Hector Hall (1774-?) as a replacement for the uncooperative Woodbine.

Woodbine took no part in the colonization scheme , but having earned the respect of the Moskito chiefs through honest dealings, was summoned by them to investigate the murder of the Moskito King who had allegedly granted unsettled lands to MacGregor in Belize or Jamaica.

By late 1824 the ill fated survivors of MacGregor's colonization scheme were either settling in Belize (with Colonel Hall) or on their way home to England.

By 1826 Woodbine had left Isla de San Andrè for Cartagena de Indias (Gran Colombia).

There, in Gran Colombia, Colonel George Woodbine served the revolutionary government in various commercial and civil capacities, notably including public works.

A British resident and a British Subject of uncompromising allegiance, he reportedly stayed out of political involvement in the turbulent politics of the Gran Colombia which became the Republic of New Grenada in 1831.

The United States, which had joined Great Britain in outlawing the Atlantic Slave Trade in 1808, assimilated the traffic with piracy in 1820.

Although in theory that imposed a death penalty on convicted slave ship captains, owners, and crews, in the American courts, history would have to wait until 1862, when U.S. President Abraham Lincoln declined to "pardon" or otherwise prevent the execution, by hanging, of Captain Nathaniel Gordon Jr (1826-1862), a second generation recidivist from Portland, Maine, who was convicted of commanding a NYC-financed and Rhode Island-built slave ship on a voyage to West Africa (via Cuba). Gordon, an American, committed perjury by claiming British nationality in an attempt to escape the jurisdiction of American courts.
Previously, in 1834, the British Navy delivered the Spanish Slave Captain Pedro Gilbert (1796-1835) to U.S. authorities in Massachusetts. Although Gilbert and several members of his crew were subsequently hanged, the charges against them consisted of "piracy" rather than slave trading on the high seas.

Gran Colombia (soon the Republic of New Grenada) was by 1820 acting on a promise (made by Bolivar to Haiti's President Boyer in 1816) to abolish slavery altogether. A national policy of gradual abolition took place between 1821 and 1851.

Some of the later "American filibusterers," so greatly romanticized by North American historians, notably Narcisso Lopez (1797-1851) of Cuba, were wealthy slave-owners who first fled Bolivar, then sought sympathy and support in New Orleans for the U.S. acquisition of Cuba.

In the summer of 1833 the British Consul reported that Colonel Woodbine, together with his Colombian-born wife and 14 year-old son, had been murdered, allegedly by slaves or employees of the Woodbine plantation. The motives appeared to have been criminal (robbery) rather than political.

Still, the murder made headlines and shed light on British mineral interests in Latin America and a general fear of slave rebellion that would further hasten the abolition of slavery.

Effectively, three former slaves were tried, convicted, and executed by the courts of the Republic of New Grenada in the course of the year 1833. In their defense, they justified their violence by accusing the Colonel's wife of unbearable harshness and overbearing manners. An account of the above crime appeared in the "Gentleman's Magazine" of London in the fall of 1833.

Slavery was definitively abolished in Colombia and Panama in 1851. Slavery (abolished in Great Britain prior to Woodbine's birth), was definitively abolished in Jamaica and the British Colonies between 1834 and 1839. Slavery was abolished in the United States only by constitutional amendment in 1865, and full civil rights there would be blocked by obstacles for another century.

Woodbine appears to have been a sincere Christian of his times with a growing respect for humanity. He corresponded, at times with American abolitionists like Collins and Cuffe, and he retained the good graces of General Sir Edward Nicolls, KCB.

=== === === ===

Drawn from a work in progress by Brian Curdy.
Among the many sources contributing to this portrait it is important to underline a very special debt to the British Scholar, John Weiss, as well as the numerous published and unpublished primary and contemporary resource materials which he so generously shared or pointed out.

The Memoirs and accounts of Surgeon W. (William) Davidson Weatherhead (1788- ?); "Colonel" Michael Rafter (1792-1856); and "Colonel" Macerone, are valuable in tracing Woodbine's steps, as are the archives of Nile's Weekly Register, "Gentleman's Magazine" of London, records of the British Foreign Office (NRO), the Archives of Jamaica, The Church of England, etc., etc.; FamilySearch; and Find My Past Ltd, etc., etc.,


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  • Created by: Brian-Edouard Curdy
  • Added: 3 Jun 2013
  • Find A Grave Memorial 111731982
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Capt George Woodbine (3 Jun 1787–26 Jul 1833), Find A Grave Memorial no. 111731982, ; Maintained by Brian-Edouard Curdy (contributor 47216108) Non-Cemetery Burial, who reports a The Colonel, a British Subject, was buried with his wife and son at the Convent of San Juan de Dios, near Cartagena de Indias..