The “La Armistad” started life out being constructed in America as a Sloop and named The “Friendship” in 1836. Serving as a cargo vessel, she was 120 feet long and about 35 feet high. She sat around 125 tons displace. Sold to Honduras (The Caribbean Protectorate of Guanaja), she took on the new role of Slaver. Renamed “La Armistad”, her mission was to pick up slaves from West Africa and transport them to various Caribbean Island holdings for Auction. It was in 1839, that “La Armistad” became famous. Enroute back to The Caribbean, some 53 Mende Tribesmen were able to escape and revolt against the crew. Killing all but two in bloody hand to hand combat, the new “crew” found they had no idea where they were (let along how to steer a ship). Eventually drifting into US Territory (off of Long Island, New York – The “La Armistad” was stopped and boarded by The US Revenue Cutter “Washington”. The slave were taken into custody back to New York. While there, a trial began which captured World attention. Being slaves (and in US Territory – particularly The North – where slavery was illegal), the slaves should be set free.
Unfortunately Spanish Representatives (on behalf of Honduras), laid claim to the slaves as their “property”. The resulting legal battle over the slaves and the ship lasted until 1841 (siding with The US and the fact that they were in US possession, the slaves were now free in The North). A percentage of survivors died in custody however – and in 1842, only 35 were sent back to Africa. The “La Armistad” (now again US Property and renamed The “Ion”), sat in dock under US Marshal control – until 1844. She was sold to France. Used as a Merchant ship, no records exist as to her fate while in French hands. In 1998 a non-exact replica of the now named “Freedom Schooner Amistad”, was constructed – to show what life on a 19th Century Slaver may have been like. She is currently berthed in Connecticut (US).