In the year 1646 there was built in Rhode Island, for some of the richer men of New Haven, a new ship, of which one Lamberton was appointed master. On her arrival at New Haven, though of good and commodious dimensions, she was found to be so faultily built, that her captain often said she would prove the grave of those who might embark on board of her.
Nevertheless this did not prevent many from determining to sail in her, and lading her with goods for trade. In January, 1647, cutting their way through the ice of the harbor, they set sail. On board were many of the most notable of the New Haven worthies,—Gregson, Turner, and the “goodly Mrs. Gregson,” being among the number. A strange presentiment appeared to possess all minds as they bade their friends adieu. Mr. Davenport prayed, with tearful eyes, “Lord, if it be thy pleasure to bury these, our friends, in the bottom of the sea, they are thine.” Thus, amid prayers and fears, they departed over the sea.
But they returned not again. Bleak winter blossomed into spring, yet the pleasant waters of the bay, from which the ship had faded in the midst of ice and snow, were gladdened with no welcome sail. Neither were tidings of their arrival at their destined port brought by any of the ships from England. Distressing doubts and gloomy fears began to arise. The nameless presentiment which overshadowed all minds at the embarkation was now remembered,—ominous tokens and signs were noted. As the months passed on with still no news from the missing ship, even the most hopeful began to despair. Those who had at first surmised that she had been driven by contrary winds to a foreign port, and was, therefore, longer absent, gradually yielded to the conviction that they never more should behold the gallant vessel. There was mourning for their loss throughout all the colony, and much prayer to God, that, if it was His good pleasure, He “would let them hear what He had done with their friends, and prepare them with a suitable submission to His holy will.” Their fervent prayers were answered. In the month of June a terrific thunder-storm overhung the town, arising from the northeast. After this had passed away, and the atmosphere became serene, about an hour before sundown, a SHIP, like to the missing one, came gaily up the harbor with canvas and colors all abroad, sailing against the wind, neither tacking nor veering, but holding an onward course. She seemed rather to sail in the heavens than the sea, though she came no nearer the shore than is done by vessels of such large dimensions. Some, however, averred that they might have hurled a stone on board of her. Many were drawn forth to behold this strange vision,-this work of God. The very children cried out, “There goes a brave ship!” All that saw her said she was the very likeness and image of the ship they had lost. She continued in full sight from a quarter to half an hour, amid exclamations of the admiring spectators, who could distinguish the colors and rigging of the various parts. Suddenly there appeared on the top of the poop a man, with his left arm placed akimbo, and his right holding a sword, with which he pointed towards the heavens. Thereupon the ship vanished. First her maintop seemed to be blown off, her left hanging in the shrouds; then her mizen-top; then all her masting seemed blown away by the board; then careening, she overset, and so vanished into a smoky cloud, which soon was dissipated, and left the air as pure and clear as before. Greatly edified by the sight, the pious spectators hesitated not to say, “This was the mould of our ship, and this her tragic end.” They returned thanks to God for thus placing at rest their minds, disquieted by hopes and fears; and Mr. Davenport publicly declared, “That God had condescended, for the quieting of their afflicted spirits, this extraordinary account of His sovereign disposal of those for whom so many fervent prayers were made continually.”
[The above is almost a literal transcript from the original accounts of the appearance of this phantom ship, according to Mather’s Magnalia, Book I, 25, Winthrop’s History of New England, vol. II, 328. Peter’s Hist. of Conn. (London Ed., 186,) has a still different account; but as he pretends to borrow from Mather, I have not noticed it. I may add, that Winthrop places the appearance of the ship two years after its loss, while Pierpont’s letter, as given by Mather, makes the ship appear in the spring following. Winthrop speaks of the appearance of the man with the sword, while Mather only tells us of the ship.]
—Yale Literary Magazine (1855), Vol. 21, pp. 118-119.