History in Pictures: American Slave Ships Captured

Two of the last ships to be captured at sea before American slaves were freed in 1863 were the slave ship William with about 550 slaves on board and the slave ship Wildfire with 507 slaves on board.  Both were captured in 1860 and put into port in Key West, Florida where a man by the name of Fernando J. Moreno was marshal.  Moreno wrote to President Buchanan voicing his concerns over having more than 1,000 inhabitants added to an island which was already low on water, supplies and housing.  Key West was also rife with Yellow Fever, and President Buchanan calls it one of the worst spots for an African depot which could be found on the coast of the United States.

Nevertheless, when Marshal Moreno asked that he be allowed to use Ft. Taylor to house the temporary residents, President Buchanan denied his request even though the fort and its adjacent building were unoccupied at the time.  Moreno then wrote the following:  "I would respectfully suggest to the department (if it is the design of the government to make Key West the depot for recaptured Africans) that authority be given me to build such quarters, storehouses, cisterns, &c., as may be deemed necessary for the accommodation of the same; also that a full supply of stores and clothing be sent me at the earliest moment."

Jana Meyer

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