The Black Warrior was built 1852 in New York at a cost of $135,000 and owned by the New York and New Orleans Steamship Co. The wood ship was 225 feet in length and weighed 1,556 gross tons. Aside from being fully rigged with sails, the 37 foot beam was flanked by two steam driven side wheels.
The Black Warrior carried mail, passengers and cargo through her voyages, most of which were between New York, New Orleans and Havana, Cuba. Her most notable voyage was on February 28, 1854, when she was seized by the newly appointed governor of Cuba. The governor stated that the Alabama cotton on board the ship should have been listed for the Havana customs people. Captain Bullock of the Black Warrior tried to explain that since the cotton wasn't being unloaded in Havana, he was within regulations. Despite his arguments, the Captain and his crew were forced to leave the ship while Cuban officials confiscated the cargo. After transferring the Warrior's crew to the American steamer, Fulton, which was then loading in Havana, the Cuban officials imposed a $6,000 fine and detained the Warrior.
Pro-slavery forces in this country used the Warrior incident as a reason to demand war with Spain. Their hope was to add Cuba as another slave territory. Fortunately, Spain surrendered her position and not only repaid the original fine of $6,000 but an additional compensation of $53,000 for the detention of the Warrior.
During another journey in 1857, the Black Warrior was caught in a furious gale. All of her coal was consumed trying to keep the ship running, while her wheel-house and life boats were knocked away by the sea. According to the NEW YORK TIMES, " Captain Smith manifested the qualities of the cool and skillful." He ordered that all light wood work, furniture and any remaining spars be used as fuel to power her steam engine. His seamanship brought all passengers and crew to safety.
On February 20, 1859, about 9:00 AM, while trying to enter New York harbor in a heavy fog, the captain of the Black Warrior ran his ship aground on Rockaway Bar. All passengers, crew and cargo were brought safely to New York by the assisting vessels, Screamer, Achilles and Edwin Blount. At first, she was resting easy and no trouble was anticipated in towing her off. Unfortunately, the Black Warrior struck at high tide, and although during the next few days every effort was made to save her, she settled deeper and deeper into the sand. Finally, on February 24, during high tide, she was moved about one hundred feet before grounding again. That same day a gale blew up and the once-proud Black Warrior was pounded to pieces.
The Warrior now rests in 30 to 35 five feet of water. She is all broken up and spread out over a large area. Although most of her brass artifacts have been recovered, lucky divers may still find anything from brass spikes, silverware, and portholes. Take note that the eating utensils found here have the vessel's name engraved on their handles. In the past eight years, we have made many dives on this wreck, and although the site is home to some huge Blackfish which would be great for spear fishing, we have always been content to find a spot in the sand and dig for artifacts.
Excerpted from Wreck Valley CDROM by Dan Berg