Maybe, Bahamians Samuel Kard and Simon Brown, were simply hapless ship workers, caught up in world events, finding themselves, albeit unwittingly, part of a planned insurrection that would become a noted event of the famous Ten Year’s War. Or maybe, they were hired mercenaries, paid to aid rebel Cubans in the overthrow of the Spanish government of Cuba. Whatever they were doing on the vessel Virginius, which was supposed to deliver weapons and rebels to Cuba, it didn’t matter in the end. In November 1873, the fates of Kard and Brown, were sealed, the moment the Spanish government of Cuba seized the ship Virginius after an intense race on the high seas. Kard, Brown and more than a hundred others, would be led, with their hands tied behind their backs and shot against a wall. Their bodies would be thrown into a mass grave and forgotten.
145 of those captured on the Virginius were executed in Santiago de Cuba. Only 18 out of 163 taken prisoners were spared. “From New York papers of the 15th instance, received did Havana, we learned that additional butcheries had been perpetrated in Cuba, 57 more of the prisoners captured in the Virginius having been shot at Santiago on the 10th instant, leaving 18 only out of the 163 on board to be spared.”
Friday 12, December 1873 – List of some of the executed forced to convert to Catholicism before they were shot. Samuel Kard was a Jew. He is listed as an infidel. Samuel Brown was actually Simon Brown, a white man and a Protestant.
Perhaps, these ill-fated men, under the threat of death, hastily converted to Catholicism, as a late bargaining act. Maybe, they hoped to receive a reprieve from imminent execution. Undoubtedly, they may have been made to witness the quick execution of the rebel Cubans. This, and probable torture, may have been a factor, in their hastily agreed conversion.
Nassau Guardian and Bahama Islands’ Advocate and Intelligencer reports names of Bahamian-British subjects executed in Cuba.
According to reports, Samuel Kard and Simon Brown and the other condemned, were given 8 hours to make up their minds to convert to Catholicism. After the forced conversion, they were promptly handed over to the us executioner. Ezekiel Durham, a coloured man from Turks and Caicos, which was part of the Bahama Islands in 1873, was counted as being from The Bahamas.
“The conversion, however, of the above unfortunates apparently did not put procure them a Christian or decent burial, inasmuch, as after they were “slaughtered” together with the remaining 17, the British Council at Santiago de Cuba says it took their executioners nearly 7 minutes to finish them. The unfortunates, or what remained of them, were thrown into a cart, without coffins or anything else, and all dumped into a ditch, which was covered with earth.”
SIGNED DECLARATIONS OF GUILT
Samuel Kard was a native of Nassau, a Jew, a coloured man, and illiterate. In 1873, he was 24 years old when he made his mark, putting an X to his death warrant. The warrant, a confession of complicity in an attempted insurrection against the Spanish government of Cuba, was written in Spanish. Even if Samuel Kard could read, he probably did not speak a syllable of Spanish.
Copies of the declarations given by Samuel Kard and Simon Brown courtesy of the doctoral thesis of D. Jose Manuel Sevilla Lopez – http://repositorio.ucam.edu/bitstream/handle/10952/3317/Tesis.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
TRANSLATED VERSION OF DECLARATION MADE BY SAMUEL KARD NOVEMBER 1873
Continuous act appeared before the Prosecutor, interpreter and present Scribe the individual expressed in the margin, the one who ASKED by his name, age, country and profession. SAID called as stated, aged 24 years, a native of Nassau, a palero profession. ASKED tell how much you know about yourself and about the steam “Virginius” from his embarkation on said vessel until his capture. SAID he embarked on said ship the day before its departure for the port of Limones, which entered Port-au-Prince to remedy a hull failure; that the ship followed making water; that around six o’clock in the afternoon he learned that a warship was hunting, not having gone up before because he was sleeping, that he heard a cannon shot and stopped his machine the “Virginius” and which was driven by the crew of the captor aboard the same to where he has been until now. ASKED if you know by name or personally any of the Cubans or foreigners who came on board. SAID that he does not know any person neither captain nor officers on board. ASKED if you know or can appreciate the distance they were from the coasts of Jamaica when they were captured. SAID he can’t calculate it because the mountains of Cuba and Jamaica were clearly visible. ASKED state what kind of cargo the ship was carrying and what they did to him before he was arrested. SAID he had no more cargo what food and coal. ASKED if you know that this ship was in the service of the Insurrection from Cuba and pursued by Spanish cruise ships as I embarked on said steamer. HE SAID ignored it. ASKED if you have anything to add or take away from how much you leave manifested. HE SAID that nothing has to be removed or added to how much he has been exposed to, being true what he has manifested and that, not knowing how to sign, he made the sign that he used to do and for the due record it was signed by the Prosecutor, Interpreter and present Notary Public attests.
Simon Brown was a native of Nassau, a Protestant, a white man, could read and write. He signed his name to his warrant, a confession of complicity in an attempted insurrection against the Spanish government of Cuba. When interrogated he gave his profession as a butler. In 1873, Simon Brown was 29.
TRANSLATED VERSION OF DECLARATION MADE BY SIMON BROWN NOVEMBER 1873
ASKED by name, age, country and profession. SAID his name was Simon Brown aged 29 years, a native of Nassau and a butler profession. ASKED tell how much you know about yourself and about the steam “Virginius” from his embarkation on said vessel until his capture. SAID he boarded aboard of the “Virginius” on October 22, and that the next day they left for the sea, that he does not know where he was destined but that he heard the sailors say that it was for Puerto Limones; that having jumped a waterway on board they arrived at a port of Santo Domingo, then heading to Port-au-Prince and finally to another small port, which also did not know that they went to sea without knowing where they were going, that while the declarant was ill, he did not know anything about hunting, until he heard the cannon shots; after which the ship stopped; and the declarant and most of the crew and passengers were taken to the captor, where and on another warship he remained a prisoner; not You can calculate how far you were from Jamaica when you were an apprentice, and if you only knows that you could see the mountains of that island. ASKED if you know by name or personally any of the Cubans or foreigners who came on board. SAID he doesn’t know any of the Passengers only Captain Fry, First and Second Pilots Raynard and Floody, the Chief Engineer Chamberlain and the other two Engineers Knight and Bay, and the cook Ignacio. ASKED state what kind of cargo was leading to the ship and the use that was made of him before the arrest. SAID he doesn’t know anything cargo. ASKED if he knew that the ship was in the service of the Insurrection from Cuba and pursued by Spanish cruisers, as he embarked on it. HE SAID that he knew absolutely nothing of what was being asked, otherwise would not have come. ASKED if you have anything to add or take away from how long you have been exposed to and if what he said is true. HE SAID that he has nothing to add or take away; what said is the truth; signing it for the record of the Prosecutor, Interpreter and present Notary public of what attests.
THE VIRGINIUS AFFAIR
“The Virginius Affair was a diplomatic dispute that occurred from October 1873 to February 1875 between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Spain (then in control of Cuba), during the Ten Year’s War. Virginius was a fast American ship hired by Cuban insurrectionists to land men and munitions in Cuba to attack the Spanish regime there. It was captured by the Spanish, who wanted to try the men onboard (many of whom were American and British citizens) as pirates and execute them.” ——- Courtesy of Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginius_Affair