Richard T. Harriss owned the Pass of Bahmaha and leased it to the U.S. government during WWI
July 12, 2009
Dear Terry and Mac,
This is the ship that became the SeaAdler after it was taken by Count Von Luckner. I have heard stories of how the Count had always said he would eventually return it to its owner when the war ended, but that he unfortunately ran it onto the rocks while on the return journey. He still managed to bring my great-grandfather some relic of the ship (perhaps the flag, I'm not sure) and they actually became great friends. The Count would visit and stay at my great-grandfather's plantation in Louisiana.
I am thinking of selling my great-grandfather's gold pocket watch and am looking for some further information to go with it. (He was President of the Cotton Exchange during the early 1920's.) We used to have a book in our family library about Count Von Luckner, and I believe it was called either The SeaAdler or The Sea Wasp, perhaps having Count Von Luckner's name in the title as well. I can't seem to find this book, and I was wondering if you have run across a copy or know the name. I think it would be very interesting to see. I do hope I can find our family copy, as I seem to remember that Count Von Luckner had signed it, although I can't be sure.
This information has been passed down in our family over the years, and I never really thought it would be all that interesting to anyone else. While I was growing up in the '60's and '70's, none of my friends were the least bit interested. However, now that I've seen your website and that there is a Count Von Luckner Society, it might be fun to be in contact with others who like this sort of thing.
I would be delighted to hear from you!
What a lovely, tactful e-mail! I'm afraid I had quite a few of my facts mixed up when I wrote to you earlier. I've talked to my uncle since then, and found that the story my father told me about the ship being leased to the government for $1/year was mixed up with something else. I just noticed that you have my letter on your website, and you may want to remove it. The correct story is as follows.
My great-grandfather, Richard T. Harriss, grew up in Texas in such poverty that he and his siblings were rather stunted in growth from not getting enough food to eat. Somehow, he and his 2 brothers managed to pull themselves up and go into the cotton brokerage business. They became extremely wealthy, with my great-grandfather being known as "King Cotton" and eventually becoming President of the New York Cotton Exchange, which is the oldest commodities exchange in the city.
The three brothers, along with Irby and Vose, owned the ship, which was part of their cotton brokerage. It was captured by a German submarine, taken to Germany, where it was renamed the Walter, I believe, and eventually became the Seeadler. The Germans actually paid my great-grandfather's company $625,000 for the cotton in 1915, but the ship was confiscated, along with her equipment and provisions. (It was, however, covered by insurance, which was paid off after the war
After the Seeadler was lost, Count Von Luckner came to the U.S. on speaking tours. He made a point to visit my great-grandfather to apologize for the loss of the ship. They actually became great friends, and he visited my great-grandfather's Louisiana's plantation several times, which I think attests to the Count's well-known charm!
I'm very sorry to have given you incorrect information earlier!
Thank you for your interesting mail.
I have always had a great interest in this swashbuckling character, and when writing my German Armed Merchant Raiders of WW1 I naturally included the Count and his Seeadler ( the former Pass de Bahmahma as you have indicated )
The Count has resulted in more responses to me from around the world than any other subject on which I have written. He was an amazing Sailor the like of whom we will never see again on the high seas and the world stage.
The Count was a great giver of his own photo or that of Seeadler, if he travelled on a train with someone with whom he engaged in conversation, he would whip out a photo from his pocket, dedicate it to the one he was with and sign it with a flourish.
He travelled the world and is reported to have had the ability to tear a New York phone book in half.
Here is a Bibliography that applies to him:
Blaine Pardoe's Book of 2005 being the latest, we corresponded whilst he researched and wrote it, likewise with James Bade in New Zealand.
During WW2 I knew two sisters in Melbourne, Louise and Mary Barr, their Dad was a clergyman. Louise sailed in my ship HMAS Shropshire from Australia as part of the Victory Contingent to Britain in 1946.
Lovely to talk with you Louise.