Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    [Revolutionary War]. Louisa Susannah Wells' Journal of a Voyage from Charleston, South Carolina, to London, 1778. More than 75 pages of a journal measuring 9.5" x 15", with only one page blank, that recounts a journey by sea of a young woman from a Loyalist family that was forced to leave South Carolina for England during the American Revolution. The voyage took place in 1778, but the journal was written by Wells from memory in 1799. Louisa Susannah Wells (1755-1831) was the daughter of a prominent American Loyalist during the American Revolution. On June 14, 1782, Wells married Mr. Alexander Aikman of Jamaica, West Indies, where he served as printer to the House of Assembly and Kings Printer.

    At the end of June 1778, Wells joined other Loyalists on board the Providence bound for England. Wells and her companions were among many Loyalists who were either banished or left South Carolina voluntarily in the face of unremitting persecution by those supporting the American cause. Wells began her interesting account of the journey on May 3, 1779: "On the 27th of June [1798], my Uncle Robert Rowand, his son Charles Elliott, Miss Frances Thorney, my maid Bella, and I, went on the ship Providence, formerly L'Esperance....We soon dropped down to the Roads, where we lay wind bound for several days." Once out to sea, Wells records her resentment of the ill treatment that forced the exile of Tories such as herself. "Every Person on board...were banished except Captain Stevens. Never did any of us experience joy, so truly, as when we found ourselves in the wide Ocean, out of the dominion of Congress. You know the many difficulties the poor Tories had to encounter in procuring ships, getting men & etc."

    Flying an American flag, the Providence was in danger of capture by ships of the British navy. This is exactly what occurred. At first not knowing if the ship they were fleeing was an American or French vessel, Wells describes the chase and the capture.

    "Poor Stevens had just thrown himself into his cot...when the Watch cried out, 'A Sail, a Sail! wear or we shall be on board of her; but she does not see us.' Guess our alarm. 'All hands upon deck", but we dreaded more our American Friends and our new Allies the French at that time, than a Man of War belonging to Lord Howe's Squadron....In wearing the Ship, and carrying so much more sail, our little moveables in the cabin and State rooms began both to walk and talk. The first thing which awakened me was my work basket and a parcel of books tumbling off a shelf upon my head. I got up, asked for a light, but this was denied me, as we were running from an Enemy, who was then in chase of us....The gentlemen went upon the deck, and we were within hail of the other ship, when a Gun was fired to bring to, it flashed, a second was fired, and the ball went through our rigging. They then hailed us 'Whence from, where bound & etc.' to which we answered without hesitation. They then hoisted out their boat, which was well manned to take us, as a prize. This passed under our stern, and as I was then sitting on one of the Lockers at the Cabin window I heard a voice cry out 'Get ropes ready'; at this moment a Volley of Musketry was poured on the deck from the Ship. The Shot whistled over the Passengers' heads....The man at the Pump was shot through the hat, upon which every sailor quitted the Deck and went under the hatches, none but poor Stevens being left to combat a twenty gun ship."

    The Providence was captured by a British ship and taken to British-occupied New York as a prize. As the vessel was carrying passengers who were Loyalists returning to Great Britain, the legality of the capture was to be heard in the local Court of Admiralty. In the meantime, Wells and the other passengers spent time in New York. While still on board, the passengers were visited by fellow Tories who updated them on the latest news.

    As Wells recounted: "What we wanted most they gave us first viz:--News. That the proposals offered by Great Britain, through the Commissioners, were rejected by Congress; that, by the evacuation of Philadelphia, nearly thirty thousand people were added to York and Long-Islands, and, that provisions were so excessively dear we should scarcely be able to live, without assistance from Government. As to Lodgings none were to be had."

    In her journal, Wells describes her first impressions of New York City, which she found wanting in comparison to Charleston, South Carolina, and surrounding environs: "The Town of Brooklyn, York Island and the adjacent country forms a delightful landscape. New York, I must confess makes no figure from the water: nothing to equal the order and regularity of the once beautiful Bay Street of Charleston! Every house, for a mile, three stories high! You see there are few travelers who are not attached to their native place and are ever making comparisons with it. Poor little Governors-Island is now a perfect waste and ruin. The Rebels had made it an entire Fortification, which the British have so completely demolished, as scarcely to leave 'a wreck behind'. You must recollect, however, that American Forts are not built of stone. Staten-Island produces nothing now, having Encampments constantly on it; the Inhabitants have almost all deserted it."

    While held over in New York during the summer of 1778, Wells barely escaped injury during a violent thunder storm and nearby explosion, which she recorded in her journal: "One day as we were reconciling ourselves to the bad weather, we saw two flashes of Lightning, and instantaneously, there was a sudden crash as if the Universe had been dissolved. Every person in the room with me was struck motionless. I was thrown from my chair to the floor, and my basket of work I had been doing over me. I soon recovered and looked at my friends to see if any of them were killed, or rather, if any were alive to speak to me. They were employed in the same manner; but those who were strongest had immediate occasion to give their assistance....I cast my eyes to the opposite side of the street, and saw Mrs. Winslow's House, apparently struck, as all the glass windows were shattered, and many of the frames thrown in on the floor....I flew through the rain to assist poor Miss Winslow (this family were Loyalists from Boston) when, turning to my left hand, I saw a column of Smoke ascending behind Walton's large house, which reached the clouds. I was almost suffocated and the cry of fire from all quarters spread terror and dismay around me...till a Gentleman coming from a Wharf, informed us that a Vessel called the 'Morning Star' containing 200 Barrels of Gunpowder had been struck by Lightning and had blown up....The explosion was so great as to unroof most of the houses in the Town [York Island], at least that side towards the East."

    The Court of Admiralty in New York judged on the side of the Providence and allowed Wells and her companions to continue their journey to England. Finally, on October 19, 1778, two days after Wells' birthday, they sailed out of New York, with Wells writing "I once more bid adieu to the hostile shores of America." Reflecting on her stay in New York, Wells mentioned "how many great Men" she saw on a daily basis while there: "Lord Carlisle, Governor Johnston, Mr Eden. Sir William Erskine, Lord Cornwallis, Sir Henry Clinton, Lord Cathcart, Lord Rawdon, Lord Balcarras, Lord Drummond, and Sir James Baird. The last mentioned walked through the Streets with his Bayonet hanging at his back, stained with the blood of Lady Washington's Life Guards, whom his party beset, and killed in a house in the Jersies."
    On November 25, 1778, Wells recorded that "we saw the lofty Coast of Cornwall, happy sight to us, poor fugitives and Exiles." Two days later, the vessel anchored near the town of Dover. From Dover the passengers made their way to London, with Wells describing the various towns as they passed through them.

    A limited edition publication of the journal is included: [Louisa Susannah Wells], The Journal of a Voyage from Charleston, S.C., to London undertaken during the American Revolution by a Daughter of an Eminent American the Year 1778 and Written from Memory Only in 1779 (New York: Printed for the New York Historical Society, 1906), 6.5" x 10.25", 121 pages. The binding is maroon cloth with the front cover bearing the gold stamp of the New York Historical Society. This copy is number 124 of 200 printed. The publication includes an Appendix, in which additional information relating to the manuscript journal appears. Pages 75 and the top of page 76 of the Appendix appear in preliminary leaves of the manuscript journal. Part of page 76, page 77, and part of page 78 of the Appendix are missing from the journal. Part of page 78, page 79, and part of page 80 appear as preliminary leaves in the journal. Parts of pages 80-81 in Appendix are not included in journal. Parts of page 81 and 82 of the Appendix appear at the end of the journal. Page 83 does not appear in the manuscript journal. Part of page 84 in the Appendix appears as the next-to-last page in the journal. Part of page 84 and pages 85-106 of the Appendix do not appear in the journal. Pages 107-108 in the Appendix appear as the last page in the journal. Part of page 108 and pages 109-113 of the Appendix do not appear in the journal. It is unclear if all of the Appendix material was included in the manuscript journal and is now missing or some of it was added only to the published version.

    Condition: Bound in leather, which is worn, scuffed, and chipped, and bearing what appears to be worm holes. The leather hinges are cracked and separating at top of front cover and at bottom of back cover. About a half-inch of the top and the bottom of the spine is missing. Internally, the front and back flyleaves and the first several pages and last several pages are chipped and bear worm holes, with loss of paper around the edges of the last page. The bottom of the last page of the journal is covered with tape. Besides the appearance of foxing and the condition of several pages at the beginning and end, the journal internally is in good condition. The journal has five unnumbered preliminary pages, with one blank, and numbered pages from 1 to 78, with pages 31-32 removed. The 1909 book is in very good condition.

    Shipping, Taxes, Terms and Bidding
    Calculate Standard Domestic Shipping

    Sales Tax information  |  Terms and Conditions

    Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments

    Glossary of Terms

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2016
    19th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 613

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $200,000 (minimum $19), plus 20% of any amount between $200,000 and $2,000,000, plus 12% of any amount over $2,000,000 per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2018 October 27 Musical Instruments - Dallas.

    Learn about consigning with us

    Heritage has gone above and beyond my expectations in handling all of my transactions in a thoroughly professional manner. I would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone worldwide for the exemplary auction and valuation services they provide.
    Richard H.,
    Corsicana, TX
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2018 May 11 Space Exploration Signature Auction - Dallas
    2018 May 11 Space Exploration Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED SO FAR $1,136,520