The young seaman apprentice stopped for a second at the top of the gangplank of the receiving ship USS Franklin; smiling, he continued down. “Ah, two days of freedom,” he said to himself. Decked out in his Navy blues, Charles Hammond had been granted leave and was hitting the streets of Norfolk, Virginia, in early 1908 with expectations of a good time—but all that would soon evaporate into the night.
Most likely, it was while he was sitting in one of the wharfside grog shops that someone slipped a drug into Hammond’s drink. In a stupor, he was dragged along to a dredging vessel setting out for the oyster grounds of the Chesapeake Bay. His uniform was replaced with ragtag civilian work clothes. Each time the vessel put into a harbor the seaman apprentice was kept belowdecks. For three months, Hammond was unable to mount an escape or call out for help.
“The Record Straight,” The Charlotte News, 5 May 1904.
“To End Shanghaiing on the Chesapeake,” The York Daily, 11 November 1911.
“To Stop Shanghaiing,” The Weekly High Point Enterprise, 28 November 1906.
“Men Held as Slaves on the Oyster Boats,” San Francisco Call, 12 February 1906.
“More Sailors Tell of Being Kidnapped,” The New York Times, 30 August 1917.
“Pirates of the Chesapeake,” New York Tribune, 23 November 1888.
“Press Gangs of 1908,” The Oregon Daily Journal, 1 March 1908.
“Richmond Men Missing,” The Washington Post, 9 November 1906.
“Two Weeks as a Shanghaied, The Washington Times, 3 December 1905.
“War on Oyster Dredgers,” The Washington Post, 19 January 1908.
“The People of the State of New York v. William C. Hamilton, May 17, 1917,” trial record, www.casetext.com.
Mark Strecker, Shanghaiing Sailors: A Maritime History of Forced Labor, 1849–1915 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011).