The Wellesley Historical Society on Tuesday, October 13th at 7pm as part of its 2020-21 Lecture Series will host a virtual presentation delivered by Stephen Puleo, author of Voyage of Mercy: The USS Jamestown, the Irish Famine, and the Remarkable Story of America’s First Humanitarian Mission.
A mission like no other
More than 5,000 ships left Ireland during the great potato famine in the late 1840s, transporting the starving and destitute away from their stricken homeland. The first vessel to sail in the other direction, to help the millions unable to escape, was the USS Jamestown, a converted warship, which left Boston in March 1847 loaded with precious food for Ireland.
- Subscribe to Swellesley’s daily email
- Please consider contributing to Swellesley to sustain our independent journalism venture
In an unprecedented move by Congress, the warship had been placed in civilian hands, stripped of its guns, and committed to the peaceful delivery of food, clothing, and supplies in a mission that would launch America’s — and the world’s — first full-blown humanitarian relief effort.
The Jamestown was the first step in a monumental effort that involved contributions from citizens of virtually every community in the United States over the next 16 months, with more than 150 ships traveling to Ireland with food and supplies.
Voyage of Mercy is a story about hope, generosity, and soaring goodwill against a backdrop of nearly unfathomable despair; and like any story with such powerful themes, its lessons run deep and its ramifications are measured in decades rather than days.
The Lecture Series is sponsored by Christine Mayer, in partnership with the Wellesley Free Library.