The African slave trade continued long after it was formally ended by the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807.
Nathaniel Gordon plied that trade aboard his ship, Erie. On August 7, 1860, Gordon took on 897 enslaved Africans at the Congo River in present-day Angola. His captives were mostly children.
The next day, the Erie was intercepted by the USS Mohican only 50 miles into its voyage. The ship was diverted to Liberia, where the enslaved Africans were freed. Gordon was returned to New York City to stand trial in federal court for violations of the Piracy Act of 1820, which defined participation in the slave trade as piracy subject to the death penalty.
After a hung jury in his first trial, Gordon was found guilty on November 9, 1861, and sentenced to death by hanging.
President Abraham Lincoln denied his pardon request. The evening before his scheduled execution, Gordon attempted suicide. Nathaniel Gordon was hanged on February 21, 1862, in the court yard of the Tombs prison.