“The Dreadnought”


A song describing a run on the "Dreadnaught" from Liverpool to New York. Other than a concluding wish for captain and crew, most of the song is a catalog of places the ship visits


The Dreadnought, one of the best-known of the packets, was launched in 1853 and wrecked off Cape Horn in 1869. It should not be confused with the battleship (launched in 1905) which started the "Dreadnaught Revolution" and a pre-World-War-I arms race.

Huntington, in the notes to this song in SHenry, writes, "Perhaps Laws is correct in including 'The _Dreadnaught_' as American; however, it derives from a broadside ballad about a British naval vessel, 'La _Pique_.'"

That "The Dreadnought" and "The Flash Frigate (La Pique)" share a tune is undeniable, and _La Pique_ was the earlier ship. I'm not sure that absolutely proves that "The Flash Frigate" is older, though.

There is some confusion about the spelling of the ship's name. Laws called it the _Dreadnaught_, and earlier editions of the Index followed him because, well, I didn't notice. Every reference I have checked, however, gives the title of the ship involved (as well as the later battleship) as _Dreadnought_ (with an o rather than an a).

Incidentally, _Dreadnought_ had about as interesting a career as a ship on the Liverpool/New York run could have. Octavius T. Howe and Frederick G. Matthews, _American Clipper Ships 1833-1858_ (Volume I), pp. 139-146, reproduces two paintings of the ship. It calls her a "medium clipper" (i.e. designed with capacity as well as speed in mind), built by the Massachusetts firm of Currier & Townsend. She originally sailed for the Red Cross line.

Her first captain was Samuel Samuels, who declared, "She was built for hard usage and to make a reputation for herself and me and I intended that she should do her duty, or that we both should sink" (Howe/Matthews, p. 140). Lincoln P. Paine, in _Ships of the World: An Historical Encylopedia_ (Houghton Mifflin, 1997), p. 150, reports that his attitude caused her to be called "The Flying Dutchman" and "The Wild Boat of the Atlantic." Samuels stayed with her for nine years, despite the fact that she broke her rudder on two voyages and he himself suffered a compound leg fracture and was nearly swept away on on voyage.

She was a very profitable ship; John Malcolm Brinnin, _The Sway of the Grand Saloon: A Social History of the North Atlantic_ (1971, 1986; I use the 2000 Barnes & Noble edition), p. 10, she is said to have cleared $40,000. But, after a decade on the North Atlantic route, she was shifted to the San Francisco run; in 1869, she was wrecked off Tiera del Fuego (Paine, p. 40).

She was not especially fast; it generally took her nearly two weeks to cross the Atlantic eastbound, and three weeks to cross westbound, despite Captain Samuels and his tendency to keep a lot of sails up even in heavy weather. Nonetheless, Captain Samuels once challenged the famous _Great Eastern_ to a race (see A. A. Hoehling, _Ships That Changed History_, 1992; I use the 2007 Barnes & Noble edition; pp. 41-42. The _Great Eastern_ won the race -- but the _Dreadnought_ had the last laugh; she made money, and carried plenty of passengers, whereas the _Great Eastern_ was a white elephant that bankrupted various owners and only once managed to fill even 65% of her passenger space. - RBW

Historical references

  • 1853- Launch of the Dreadnaught, the most famous of the transatlantic packets
  • 1869 - Wreck of the Dreadnaught

Cross references


  • Stanley Baby, "The 'Dreadnaught'" (on GreatLakes1)
  • Bill Barber & Cadgwith fishermen, "The Liverpool Packet" (on LastDays)


  1. Laws D13, "The Dreadnaught"
  2. Rickaby 42, "The Clipper Ship Dreadnaught" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Dean, pp. 58-59, "The Clipper Ship Dreadnaught" (1 text)
  4. Doerflinger, pp. 126-128, "The Dreadnought" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  5. Colcord, pp. 170-171, "The Dreadnaught" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Harlow, pp. 101-103, "Cruise of the Dreadnaught" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Hugill, pp. 122-123, "Goodbye, Fare-Ye-Well" (1 text, version D of "Homeward Bound") [AbEd, p. 106]; pp. 464-469, "The Flash Frigate," "The Dreadnaught," "The Liverpool Packet" (5 texts, 4 tunes and several fragments) [AbEd, pp. 344-348]; p. 124, "Goodbye, Fare-Ye-Well" (the "d" text is "The Dreadnought" with a "Homeward Bound" chorus) [AbEd, p. 106]
  8. Shay-SeaSongs, pp. 102-104, "The Dreadnought" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. SHenry H194, pp. 99-100, "The Zared" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. Creighton/Senior, pp. 227-229, "The Banks of Newfoundland" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  11. Creighton-Maritime, pp. 140-141, "Banks of Newfoundland" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. Smith/Hatt, p. 19, "Liverpool Packet" (1 text)
  13. DT 614, DREDNGHT*
  14. Roud #924
  15. BI, LD13


Alternate titles: “Bound Away”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1909
Found in: US(MA,MW) Canada(Mar,Ont) Ireland