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The mutiny on the Hermione: warfare, revolution, and treason in the Royal Navy.

On September 21, 1797, the crew of his Majesty's frigate Hermione, cruising in the Mona Passage between the islands of Santo Domingo and Puerto Rico, rose on their officers, brutally murdered ten of them, handed the ship over to the Spanish authorities in Caracas, and then, with only the slightest of traces, disappeared into the gaping crevices of the war-torn Atlantic world. It was the most violent mutiny in the history of the British Royal Navy.

And only as such has it been remembered. Even though contemporaries linked the mutiny to the revolutionary upheavals of the 1790s, historians have made no effort to reconstruct that context. Instead, dazzled by the unusual level of violence, previous work has started with the assumption that the mutiny was a unique event, and then gone on to explore in what ways the crew, their commander, and their experiences together were different from those of other ships in the navy The most common explanation has been to heap blame on Hugh Pigot, the frigate's exceptionally sadistic commander, and to accuse the crew of having suffered an episode of collective psychological breakdown when they violently revolted against him and his cruel shipboard regime. The mutiny, according to this explanation, was an isolated failure of command, not the intentional action of those who no longer wished to be commanded, and thus it would serve little purpose to look beyond the Hermione for reasons that drove the men to rise up. (1)

Naval historians have not only perpetuated a miniature version of the great man theory of history in this way, but they have also overlooked ample evidence which connects the mutiny to the unprecedented explosion of lower deck unrest across navies in the 1790s, and beyond that to the vast transnational networks that sent revolution thundering across the Atlantic throughout the decade. The blinders imposed by writing their histories from the top down have thus been reinforced by an approach which takes single nations and empires as its primary units of analysis and rarely considers what happens beyond or between these as in any way relevant. Social historians, by shifting the perspective from the quarterdeck to the forecastle, have long since demonstrated how the mobility and cosmopolitanism, early proletarianization, and everyday experience of both cooperative labor and sharply enforced social hierarchies made deep-sea mariners an especially unruly element throughout the eighteenth-century Atlantic world. (2) Yet despite having added crucial dimensions to our understanding of the dynamics of early modern Atlantic history, social historians, even those who study the maritime world, have for the most part done relatively little to challenge the limitations that the national/imperial approach continues to impose on their analyses. (3)

The persistence of this approach - and that despite the rise of Atlantic and other transnational histories - has obscured how broadly rebellious the lower deck became during the peak revolutionary years of the 1790s. (4) This truly was the Atlantic's great age of mutiny. Beginning even before the walls of the Bastille came tumbling down, seamen in the French navy launched an all-out assault on the command structure of the mighty Royale. By the time war broke out with Britain in 1793, the lower deck had become all but ungovernable. Revolutionary seamen habitually disregarded their commanders, they organized autonomous councils, they struck for higher wages, for higher invalid compensation, for better treatment of war widows and their children, they rioted through port towns, wandered on and off their ships at will, threw admirals into prison, sabotaged their ships, refused to put to sea, and soon drove virtually the entire officer corps into exile. (5) In the British navy, as soon as the war started, a series of increasingly militant strikes culminated in the vast fleet mutinies of 1797. Following their suppression, the service was ravaged by dozens of conspiracies, riots, and insurrections, many of them with openly treasonous intent. (6) In the Batavian navy, the 1795 combined French invasion and domestic revolution was greeted by naval seamen with mass desertions that left many ships nearly empty. The following year, a multi-ship mutiny at Saldanha Bay led to the surrender of a whole fleet to the British, an event repeated at Vlieter in north Holland in 1799 which effectively ended Batavian naval power. (7) Excluding half a dozen fleet mutinies which involved anywhere from eight to forty ships each time, the French, British, and Batavian navies alone suffered over one hundred and fifty mutinies in the course of the 1790s. (8) Conservatively estimated, about a third of all ships deployed by these three navies experienced some form of collective revolt in the course of the decade. (9)

Few of these many mutinies left behind a paper trail as long, dense, and expansive as the insurrection on the Hermione in 1797. The British Admiralty, determined to capture, condemn, and kill as many mutineers as it could get its hands on, conducted an unparalleled transatlantic manhunt that in the course of nearly a decade resulted in eighteen court martial cases trying a total of thirty-eight men. In addition to extensive trial minutes, these cases generated substantial correspondence, many newspaper articles in both Britain and abroad, several pamphlets, as well as a number of lengthy confessions and personal memoirs. This unusual wealth of evidence, apart from enabling a rich reconstruction of the mutiny itself, allows for a rare look into the lives of a large number of individual mutineers. Like most ships, the Hermione brought together men from over a dozen countries on its lower deck, and even though the majority of the crew was British-born, there were a substantial number among them with many years of experience in the cosmopolitan world of the deep-sea industries. They were men who over the years had served under many different masters, and many different flags. And it was men such as these, both British and foreign-born, who led the mutiny.

When treated not as a unique event, but as part of the extraordinary Atlantic surge of lower-deck insurrection in the 1790s, the mutiny on the Hermione emerges into a different light, at once more ordinary and far more important. A close focus on its dynamics and on the varied, intersecting circumstances that carried her crew onboard and then pushed them into revolt opens a window onto the tumultuous world of seafarers during revolutionary 1790s as a whole. It reveals a population of men, probably tens of thousands strong, whose biographies carried them back and forth and far beyond the national and imperial borders that still largely determine the way we study even such hemispheric events as the age of revolution. (10) Treating the Atlantic as a real, material, historical space instead, broader than its national and imperial incarnations, what follows takes the events of the mutiny as its starting point, traces the many forces that brought it about backward in time and outward in space, and finally concludes by accompanying the mutineers as they once again dispersed around the Atlantic, trying and largely succeeding in keeping their necks clear off British gallows.


The Hermione was not the first British mutiny of the French Revolutionary Wars. Beginning as early as 1793, a series of increasingly militant "armed strikes" tore through the navy's European commands. (11) First came the Winchelsea. Her crew, "one and all," barricaded themselves below deck and demanded that their rotten old ship be replaced with a newer, less life-threatening one. Two men were given 200 lashes each. (12) In 1794, the Windsor Castles went below, turned the foremost guns aft, and demanded that their captain and first lieutenant be replaced for acting with "cruelty, tyranny and oppression." The Admiralty put the two officers on trial, and honorably acquitted them. (13) A month later, the crew of the Culloden, armed to the teeth, barricaded themselves below deck for a week. They elected delegates, organized watches, and oathed each other not to cave in until they had a new ship: "By the holy St. Jesus," one of them cursed, "before we will go up without coming to honorable Terms I'll blow them to the Bounds of Buggery." The mutiny failed, ten men were put on trial, and five hanged from the yardarm. (14) The year after, in 1795, the crew of the Terrible revolted over the poor quality of provisions they were issued. In a now familiar pattern, they went below, turned the guns aft and issued their demands. But their captain decided that the time had come for "a striking and forcible example": instead of negotiating, he ordered the marines to open fire. Five men lay wounded when the smoke cleared, some of them requiring amputations of arms and legs. Captain Campbell then ordered a further five men to be flogged with the cat-o'-nine-tails, and another twelve to be put in front of a court martial, five of whom were eventually hanged. (l5) A few weeks later, the crew of the Defiance rose up. Hollering out "No Five Water Grog" and "liberty, liberty, liberty," they sent their officers away, took over the ship for three days, and then demanded stronger alcohol and the right to leave the ship for visits ashore. After successfully repelling several attacks, they were finally lured back to duty by the promise of a pardon. It was a lie. After surrendering the ship, nine mutineers were sentenced to death, four to 300 lashes each, and two to 100 lashes each. (16)

N.A.M. Rodger has argued that the mid-eighteenth-century Admiralty had tended to view mutiny as a necessary safety valve for the periodic release of shipboard tensions. If men were prepared to risk death by committing the ultimate military transgression, they reasoned, their grounds were unlikely to be frivolous, and it probably would be for the best of the service to attend to their complaints. (17) By the 1790s, however, a time when aristocrats were dangling from lampposts across the Channel, such a view of lower class insurgency had come to appear irresponsible at best, suicidal at worst. After all, what in France had begun as a call for moderate, limited, and reasonable reform had soon turned into bloody revolution, king killing, and civil war. Even more immediately relevant perhaps, mass mutinies at the Brest, Toulon, and West Indian naval stations had crippled and nearly destroyed the fighting efficiency of the once powerful French Navy. The British Admiralty was determined to prevent the same thing from happening to their service. Lower deck demands for change were therefore ignored as long as possible, forcefully repressed when necessary.

E.P. Thompson called the fleet mutinies of 1797 "events of world-wide significance," and so they were. (18) For nearly two months, over 30,000 warworkers at the Plymouth, Spithead, Nore, and Yarmouth naval stations felt "the power there is in so numerous a body" and went on strike. (19) Officers were told to stop interfering with the government of the ships, the mutineers elected delegates, formed ship and fleet committees, collected and categorized grievances, wrote petitions, negotiated with the Admiralty, the government, and the King, issued proclamations, and organized large shoreside demonstrations: altogether, it was the single biggest, the hest organized, and the most sustained working class offensive in eighteenth-century Britain. The mutinies disabled the most powerful fleet on earth, and instead of blowing Frenchmen out of the water, British tars took two whole months, in the middle of the annual fighting season, to discuss the rights of man, and how these might best be realized in the Royal Navy. (20)

Initially, a speedy reconciliation had seemed possible when the government conceded that the demand for a pay raise - the first in 145 years - was not entirely unreasonable. It was also doable, for despite the catastrophic shape of the state's finances, seamen's wages were routinely years in arrears, so this was nothing more than a promise to pay a little more at some future, as yet unspecified date. Though accepted by the committee of delegates at Spithead, this was not good enough for some of the more radical mutineers who now were gaining influence at the other naval stations. "The Age of Reason is at Length arrived," the general committee at the Nore determined, "We had long been endeavouring to find ourselves Men - We now find ourselves so - We will be treated as such." (21)

They then went on to describe their plans "to new model the fleet": they demanded guaranteed shore leave and freedom from press gangs; they demanded both an increase in wages and that they actually would get paid, and on time; they demanded the abolition of officers' disproportionate privileges in regards to prize money; they demanded the right to oust tyrannous officers; and, when in breach of the articles of war, they demanded to be tried by a jury of their peers, not by a court martial made up only of officers. (22) These were all reasonable demands - none of them would have turned the royal into a republican navy, or necessarily impeded the fleet's battle readiness - but the government was unwilling to grant them nonetheless. Instead, it crushed the mutinies, mobilizing the full arsenal of its punitive apparatus: just over 400 men were arrested, around sixty put on trial, twenty-nine executed, dozens more imprisoned, a number flogged round the fleet, and a handful transported to New South Wales. (23) Throughout the ensuing months, thousands of ex-mutineers were regularly ordered on deck to witness the punishments - the public torture and the killings - of their former comrades.

Serious unrest continued to rock the home command throughout the summer months. In June, some sixty men on the Pompee plotted another fleet mutiny, and this time they laid the axe to the root: the object was peace. The nation, they knew, longed for it, and "if the Seamen stood out they were the people who could get it." The attempt failed. (24) A few weeks later, the crew of the Saturn began with building up a parallel command structure on board and then went on to hold trials on their enemies. One midshipman was sentenced to death (he only just escaped execution one night), and they flogged a man who was known to he an informer. Finally, they decided to give themselves shore leave and put the ship into harbor. There they were arrested. (25)

But the main force of revolt moved outward into the Atlantic, and with every ship leaving England that summer, naval insurrection sailed along as a stowaway. In early July, unrest flared up in the Mediterranean fleet, but Admiral Jervis, Earl St Vincent was quick to stomp it out. In addition to executing four mutineers, he was determined to humiliate the restless crew of his flagship: he ordered them to hang two of their shipmates convicted of homosexuality. "The times," he dryly noted, "require summary punishments." (26) But this did not keep the spirit of insurrection from spreading still further. In October, the squadron at the Cape of Good Hope was crippled by strikes for a week and just before that, discontent had begun bubbling away in the West Indian fleet. (27)

And then, on September 21, came the mutiny on the Hermione. Around 10:30 at night, between 25 and 30 men fanned out across the ship, and in three separate groups attacked the cabin, the quarterdeck, and the gunroom. The first to die was the captain: "Reminding him of his own severity, and Cruelty," around half a dozen mutineers stabbed and cut Captain Pigot, "according to the Weapons they were arm'd with (which were various)," and then left him in "a dying state." (28) John Farrell found him, a little later, leaning against his couch, soaked in blood but still alive. "You bugger, are you not dead yet?" he cursed, knocking him hard over the head, once again leaving him for dead. (29) But still Pigot clung to life. Finally, Joseph Mansell, an able seaman from Switzerland, stomped into the cabin, clarified to the captain that he really was to die ("You have shewn no Mercy yourself, and therefore deserve none."), and then ran him through with a bayonet, making sure he really was dead this time, before pushing the body through the cabin window. (30)

The next to die was Third Lieutenant Henry Foreshaw, officer of the watch. Already fighting for his life with a number of mutineers, Foreshaw was knocked in the head and launched overboard when the group that had led the first attack on the captain's cabin emerged onto the quarterdeck. But Foreshaw saved himself: he managed to hold on, and crawled onto the half-deck through one of the portholes, "with streams of blood running down his face." Thomas Nash, a leading mutineer, was beside himself. He roughly grabbed the wounded lieutenant by the arm: "Foreshaw, you Bugger, are you not overboard yet; Overboard you must and overboard you shall go." Together with several others, Nash made sure that this time Foreshaw really did go into the water. (31)

Then came the turn of Second Lieutenant Douglas and Midshipman Smith, the latter only a teenager. Midshipman David O'Brien Casey later remembered their deaths:
  I perceived Mr. Douglas Second Lieutenant run past my hammock calling
  our for Mercy and on getting abreast of the Midshipman's Birth saw
  him seized by several of the Crew [...]; those men fell on him and
  left him apparently Dead on the gratings of the after hold, [...]; I
  then saw Mr. Smith the Midshipman put to death in the like manner in
  the same place. (32)

John Place, sergeant of marines, estimated that Douglas had about "twenty Tomahawks, Axes and boarding pikes jagged into him." (33) Still, for some of the mutineers this was not nearly enough vengeance. They had fallen to fighting over who was allowed to strike another blow while their victims were still alive, and some even continued stabbing, slashing, and cutting after they were quite obviously dead: (34)
  The examinant afterwards saw [Lieutenant Douglas] dragged up the
  after Ladder from between decks by the Heels followed by William
  Crawley a Foretopman with a Tomahawk in his hand saying Where is the
  Bugger? Let me have another stroke at him before he goes. On which he
  struck Lieutenant Douglas on the head with the point of a Tomahawk.
  He was then thrown overboard through a porthole. (35)

Midshipman Smith went the same way.

With that, the killings stopped, for the moment at least. After placing the remaining officers under guard, posting sentinels throughout the ship, and securing all the small arms, the mutineers retreated into the captain's cabin to deliberate on their next moves. First they had to agree on where to take the ship. This was not too difficult: after rejecting both France and Spain as possibilities, the choice quickly fell on the Spanish-American port of La Guaira in the province of Caracas, less than a week away across the Caribbean Sea. Next they had to determine some sort of command structure in order to sail the ship there. They kept it simple: William Turner, master's mate, was appointed captain, but only as far as working the ship was concerned. Thomas Nash, a forecastleman, Robert McReady, a maintopman, and John Luxton, captain of the hold, were to act as his boatswains. Finally, there was the question of what to do with the remaining officers, and this is where the disagreements began. (36)

There seem to have been no discussions about the acceptable level of violence prior to the mutiny, and though most could probably see the advantage of having knocked out the ship's highest authority and his temporary placeholder with the murders of Captain Pigot and Lieutenant Foreshaw, the wanton butcheries of Lieutenant Douglas and Midshipman Smith were something else altogether. Men like James Phillips, Thomas Jay, and John Mason - all among the original group of mutineers, and all opposed to violence from the start - had perhaps hoped to put the officers into a boat somewhere near land, much like the mutineers of the Lady Shore, a British convict ship, had done a few months earlier off the coast of Brazil. But others thought differently, especially those who had been involved in the first round of killings. (37)

Meanwhile, something of a carnival had erupted throughout the ship. The remainder of the crew, not initially involved in the mutiny, had broken into the spirit room and began looting their officers' possessions. Adrian Paulson, a Dane, was suddenly seen wandering around in a frilled shirt, and James Allen, the late Lieutenant Douglas' fourteen year-old servant boy, helped himself to his master's gold rings, shirts, and boots, telling all who would listen: "He shall not make me jump around the Gun Room any more." Midshipman Casey remembered that "all were more or less inflam'd, and excited by Spirits." Some of the men "were dancing on the Quarter Deck." (38)

Suddenly, the mood shifted. Lawrence Cronin, surgeon's mate from Belfast, climbed onto the gunroom table, and "desired all the people to be assembled around the Sky Lights":
  He read a paper he had got written previous to the Mutiny, purporting
  the conduct of the Captain and Officers, that he had been a
  Republican ever since the War, that they were doing a good thing,
  that all the Officers must be put to death as it was of no use to put
  [just] one to death. (39)

Cronin's words had a galvanizing effect: the captain was a tyrant, his officers cruel stooges, and the time had come for calling them all to account. The time had come for their punishment. The mutiny now turned into a revolutionary tribunal, its justice merciless and swift. But it was no random slaughter. Each officer on board was hauled up on deck, his crimes and merits debated, and after a general vote either killed or sent back below. Edward Southcott, the Hermione's master, was among the ship's eight surviving officers:
  They brought me on Deck to put me to Death, and [...] they then said
  that if any body had a Mind to save my life, they should hold up
  their Hands, the greatest part of the Ship's Company held their hands
  up, they gave 3 cheers, and I was ordered below. (40)

But the crew found the behavior of six other officers wanting, and these were immediately executed. "Some were wounded and thrown overboard, and others thrown over unhurt." Macintosh, the lieutenant of marines, "out of his mind in a Fever," lay dying in his cot when they came for him: four men rolled him onto a sheet, carried him above, and after a brief debate and a general vote launched him over the side. (41)

The trials carried on into the early morning hours, when most of the crew, exhausted from the night's events, finally collapsed into their hammocks. The original group of mutineers now seized the opportunity to reassert their authority. The trials and executions had gone far beyond anything they had planned, and even though they had tried to save as many of the officers as possible, there was little they could do. (42) But with the ship back in their power, they took a firm line. Their aim had been to get off the ship and away from the navy as quickly as possible, not to launch experiments in retributive justice and shipboard democracy. They now made sail straight for La Guaira, dispensing with the need for any further general meetings of the crew. No one dared challenge them: they "paraded the decks with Cutlasses threatening to murder any Man that disliked their conduct." (43)

Support for the mutiny, or at least for the course plotted by its self-appointed leadership, dropped very rapidly. At first, "the whole Ship's Company appeared to be unanimous," but during the following days, according to Midshipman Casey's estimation, only about 25 percent of the crew remained committed. That number is roughly confirmed by a list containing the names of forty-nine men who took part in a lottery of the officers' valuables a few days later. This, it appears, was voluntary and we can therefore assume that participation in the lottery signaled continued support for the direction taken by the principal mutineers. The fact that as many as two-thirds to three-quarters of the crew chose not to participate in sharing the loot perhaps helps explain why subsequently they were all made to swear an oath "not to divulge what had pass'd, or in any case to impeach one another." (44) At the same time, it must have been clear to everyone on board that since none of them had actively opposed the mutiny, the Admiralty would view them all as murderers and seek their death should they ever return to England or otherwise fall into the hands of the authorities. It was enough to make a man despair.

After an uneasy passage across the Caribbean Sea, the Hermione dropped anchor at La Guaira a week after the mutiny. A group of "Delegates" was sent ashore to negotiate terms with the Spanish authorities. (45) In return for surrendering themselves and the ship to the King of Spain, "they asked to be treated as his subjects and not handed over to the English, not even at the conclusion of peace. They also demanded some money." After this had been provisionally granted - it would, of course, take some time for the King to make his pleasure known in the matter - the Hermiones came ashore, and soon dispersed. The mutiny was finally over. (46)


The Hermione under Captain Pigot had not been a happy ship. Sadistic, erratic, and highly irritable, Pigot flogged frequently and without mercy. A week before the mutiny, he appears to have come completely unhinged. First he took the most irregular step of publicly flogging and demoting one of his midshipmen, David O'Brien Casey, probably the most popular officer on board. The grounds were spurious - a minor mistake, an imagined slight - but once Pigot had worked himself into a rage, there was no going back. Casey recalled that Pigot "launch'd out in the most abusive and unofficerlike language, calling me a damn'd lubber, a worthless goodfornothing fellow, that I never did any thing right, & used many other severe expressions." Pigot, Casey later suggested, "appear'd to have drank freely." (47)

A few days later, Pigot exploded again. This time, some of the topmen struck him as not quite fast enough, and so he screamed and shouted, threatening the last man down with a flogging. Three panic-stricken men slipped. They crashed onto the quarterdeck, dead. Their comrades aloft froze and stared, and Pigot instantly dispatched two boatswain's mates to beat them all indiscriminately with ropes' ends. The three bodies were unceremoniously dumped overboard. The next morning, "a very severe punishment of several Men, I believe twelve or fourteen, took place in the usual way at the public place of punishment." The men had grumbled at the events of the evening before. Finally, a couple of days later, Pigot had yet another three men punished with the lash, but this time it is not clear why. That night the crew revolted. (48)

For nearly two hundred years now, naval historians have maintained that Captain Pigot's reprehensible behavior explains all that needs explaining about the mutiny. (49) And yet, his behavior only differed in degree from that of his fellow commanders in the fleet, all of them vested with near-absolute powers over their completely disenfranchised crews. The constant threat and frequent application of violence underpinned their regimes, and a tone of casual violence, clothed occasionally in sanctimonious regret, prevailed amongst the officer corps. Few commanders let a fortnight pass without ordering someone flogged, not to mention those incessant sub-judicial punishment beatings known as "startings." (50) In the rare event that an investigation took place into accusations of excessive disciplinary violence, even the most sadistic commanders received the full backing of their superiors. Captain Harvey of the Triumph, for instance, had ordered 433 men flogged in just sixteen months - on average, that is, almost one every day - but the navy's highest body, the Lords of the Admiralty, were easily persuaded that "no one was ever punished in the Ship who did not really deserve it." The men were all drunkards, Captain Harvey said. (51) In similar fashion, Captain Pigot was well-known for having an extremely short fuse - once he had even caused a diplomatic incident by ordering an incompetent American merchant captain flogged for bringing disorder to a convoy he was escorting - but this was not at all considered to be a problem. (52) Admiral Earl St Vincent, for a while his immediate superior, called him "a very promising officer & very spirited fellow." (53) The later Admiral Hamilton, meanwhile, an enthusiastic flogger himself, was willing to grant that the man was "very indiscreet" but overall he found him a "well-intentioned young officer." (54)

While Pigot's brutality undoubtedly played a role in sparking the insurrection, the truly horrifying conditions of naval warwork in the 1790s were of far greater importance in preparing the tinder that was set aflame by that spark. As in most wars, mind-numbing boredom and endless hours of make-work alternated with short bursts of intense violence that left people deformed and dead. Work-related injuries and catastrophic medical care took a significant toll, and the combination of alien disease environments, malnourishment, depression, and alcoholism cut down immense numbers.

The Hermione had spent nearly five years in the West Indies before the mutiny, and her crewmen grew to be hardened veterans of the catastrophic British invasion attempt of St. Domingue. They had watched thousands die when yellow fever tore apart the squadron in 1794. "In the Hermione alone," Midshipman Casey remembered,
  we lost in three or four Months, nearly halt our Crew; many from
  apparent good health, dying in a few hours, and such was the
  malignancy of the prevailing disease, and the extreme rapidity of
  putrefaction, that we were absolutely obliged to dispose of the
  Corpse, the moment the person expired. I have often as Midshipman,
  when Conveying a Corpse a certain distance to Sea, been call'd back
  to receive a second and a third. (55)

Over sixty percent of all British troops sent to St. Domingue never returned. (56) In the West Indies as a whole, between 1793 and 1801, malaria and yellow fever together killed at least 65,000-70,000 British warworkers, 19,000-24,000 of whom were seamen. (57) Of the two killers, malaria was the more merciful. Death, though painful, came within only hours and days. Yellow fever dragged on for up to two weeks. After enduring high fever, severe headaches, and nausea, a sufferer entering the toxic phase developed jaundice, vomited and defecated congealed blood, bled through the mouth, nose, eyes, and stomach, and eventually suffered kidney failure. Then, finally, he died.

Many of the later Hermione mutineers had come out to the West Indies between 1793 and 1795. For years, therefore, they had lived with the daily fear of - and in closest possible proximity to - death through disease. Out of a shipboard population that usually hovered at just below 180, 134 men died between December 1792 and July 1797. (58) As on all of the Navy's ships stationed in the West Indies, watching one's closest, most trusted friends quite literally rot to death became an everyday event on board of the Hermione. The psychological traumas these men must have suffered can barely be guessed at.

Disease, moreover, was not the only horror the West Indies held for the newly arrived warriors from Europe. Slave insurrections broke out on almost every plantation island, and these eruptions generated levels of violence that even hardened naval men found difficult to stomach. Nowhere more so than in St. Domingue, where half a million African slaves went to war against their masters. Britain launched an attempted conquest of the French colony, and poured thousands and thousands of soldiers and sailors into the revolutionary race war that ensued. They became witnesses, victims, and perpetrators of truly horrifying acts of violence. (59) As a young midshipman, David O'Brien Casey witnessed Cape Francois falling into the hands of the insurgents: "The scenes which followed were dreadful in the extreme, and impossible for to describe; the Whites were almost indiscriminately murder'd." (60)

As the campaign to reimpose slavery in St. Domingue ground on, the Hermiones added their efforts to the general mayhem that consumed the colony. They chased enemy privateers around the coast, bombarded rebel positions ashore, burnt down villages to terrorize the population, and often took part in amphibious assaults:
  In Capturing Port au Prince, the Hermione was singly opposed to one
  of the Batteries for some hours, & in addition to the injury and loss
  sustained from the Enemy's fire, We suffer'd very severely in Kill'd
  and Wounded, by the unfortunate bursting of one of our Main Deck
  Guns; by which accident the larboard side of our Forecastle was also
  blown up - We were also partially engaged at the reduction of
  St. Marks, Le Arch Leogane, and other fortified places along the
  Coast, the names of which I do not recollect.

The Hermione's duties, Casey concluded, "were very harassing and distressing in the extreme." (61)

Unsurprisingly, there was a severe shortage of volunteers for this kind of service, and at the very least half, and probably many more, of the navy's berths were therefore filled with coerced workers. (62) Forced recruitment took a variety of forms, but impressment was the most important: tens of thousands of men were quite simply dragged off the street, grabbed in dockside taverns, picked off anything that floated, and then forced aboard warships, there to serve until they deserted, died, the war ended, or the ship was paid off. The navy's labor procurers also picked over various carceral institutions - gaols, prisons, PoW camps, hulks, and the like - and there, too, gathered up thousands of men for service. Finally, with the nationwide proto-draft system set up under the Quota Acts from 1795 onwards, the Admiralty began using the wretched economic conditions of the early war years to raise men: under the Acts, each county in England, Wales, and Scotland had to deliver up a certain number of men for service. This system funneled up to 30,000 indigents, debtors, and bankrupts into the navy. (63)

As far as we are able to tell, the Hermione's crew fit the navy's overall demographic profile. They were poor men - seafarers, laborers, butchers, clerks, farmhands, painters, shoemakers, and the like - who somehow or other had fallen victim to his Majesty's press gangs. Some, like John Brown and John Williams, had been pressed straight out of merchantmen sailing the Caribbean. (64) Others had in all likelihood been gathered up by the press gangs that regularly swept through Britain's Atlantic port cities. At least two had fallen victim to one of the navy's most insidious practices: intercepting and pressing straight out of the cartels that were used for exchanging prisoners of war. William Johnson, a merchant's clerk, had come out to Port-au-Prince in 1796 as one of the countless smalltime war profiteers who followed in the wake of every major military expedition. (65) But Johnson's hopes for a quick fortune were soon shattered, for shortly after his arrival, while on assignment to Jamaica, he was captured by the French. After several months incarceration, he was finally exchanged, and to his intense disappointment, promptly pressed. (66) John Duncan was sent out to the West Indies as part of the 18th Regiment of Dragoons, but before even getting there he was made prisoner by the French and taken to Guadeloupe. From there he was sent to Jacmel, and twelve months later exchanged and conveyed to Port-au-Prince. There he was pressed into the Abergevenny, before being ordered into the Ceres and from there into the Hermione. (67)

Naval crews were among the most cosmopolitan and multinational assemblies of workers to be found anywhere in the Atlantic world, and the men on the Hermione certainly proved the point. Only just under half the men were born in England, while a further fifth came from within the British Empire: Scots, Welsh, Manxmen, Canadians, Nova Scotians, and British West Indians. Another fifth of the crew came from Ireland. The remaining ten percent hailed from Prussia, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Low Countries, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, the United States, and the Danish West Indies. At least two of the men were of African descent, but there probably were quite a few more given the ship's long service in the Caribbean. (68)

Unfortunately, there is no information on how the foreign-born men found their way onto the Hermione, but we can assume that a majority of them were professional deep-sea sailors of several years experience. These were men who usually cared relatively little about the flag they sailed under. If the wages and conditions were right, and the captain did not have the name of a "tartar," such men were as likely to be found working on American slave ships as on Danish whalers, English merchantmen, French warships, or Dutch East Indiamen. (69) Carl Ortmann, who was executed for conspiracy to mutiny on the Dutch man-of-war Utrecht in 1798 was typical of these ocean-wandering laborers: born in Danzig, he had served in the French navy, been imprisoned by the British, and was hanged for plotting a violent, treasonous mutiny on a Dutch warship. One of his co-conspirators, Louwrens Perinai, was born in Hungary and had served in the Imperial navy in the war against the Ottoman Empire and after that had made his way to the Low Countries. A third conspirator, Daniel Thulander, came from Sweden and had served in the war against Russia between 1788 and 1790, after which he had signed on with a merchantman that left him in Amsterdam. (70) Though we lack substantial information, it is likely that quite a few of the British-born men on the Hermione must have had similarly globe-trotting biographies. Robert Gray, who was flogged round the fleet for plotting mutiny in the Phoenix in the summer of 1797, was one of these British lower deck cosmopolites: a total of fifteen years at sea, he had served several times on different Royal Navy ships, sometimes he had been impressed and sometimes he had volunteered, he had twice been imprisoned in France, once in Toulon and once in Brest, he had sailed on merchantmen from Bristol, Hamburg, and Genoa, and he had toiled under British, American, and French colors. (71)

It was experienced and skilled deep-sea sailors such as these, both British and foreign-born, who planned and carried out the first phase of the mutiny. This was quite common. Mutinies, especially when they aimed at seizing power on board, were often initiated by such men, for not only did their experience give them a degree of authority and respect amongst their fellow crewmen below deck, but they frequently also possessed the requisite navigational skills actually to sail the ship after the rising. (72) On the Hermione, nearly all of the thirty or so men who belonged to this original core group were rated as "able," a number of them had advanced to become petty officers' mates, and the rest were nearly all topmen. (73) Edward Southcott, the Hermione's master, later stated that "all the best Men were the Principals of the Mutineers." (74) About a third of the original mutineers had even belonged to a group of twenty-two men who had voluntarily followed Pigot from the Success into the Hermione in February 1797. (75) This was a common enough practice in the navy, and crews sometimes petitioned the Admiralty to be allowed to stay with a popular commander who was given a new ship. (76) In this case, however, it was Pigot who asked his men to stay with him, and it seems that out of the twenty-five he approached, only three refused. (77) All of them were highly skilled workers whom Pigot evidently regarded as critical for making his new command in the Hermione a success. About half of them were petty and warrant officers, or their mates - gunners, quartermasters, and the like - and the remaining half were all rated as "able." (78)

Whatever their reasons for staying with Pigot, the fact that many of these men took a leading role in the mutiny seven months later suggests that it was hardly a matter of loyalty. Nevertheless, their decision remains remarkable, for not only was Pigot a terrible commander to serve under, but their old ship, the Success, was bound for home waters. Given the horrors of service in the West Indies, it is difficult to understand what made them volunteer to stay there. Perhaps it was the prospect of further prize money, or the reassuring familiarity of a life they knew, or even a perverse joy in warfare. Perhaps Pigot simply was the devil they knew, and maybe they hoped that despite his sociopathy he would be able to recognize the mutual benefits of the patronage system and eventually reward their loyalty with promotions. (79) Or maybe it was just their desperation for a few days' worth of drunken revelry in Port Royal's dockside taverns. Either way, whatever emotional or familial ties might once have bound them to the British Isles - and most of them were born there - after several years of service in the fleet, these had evidently grown to be fairly weak. They apparently had no immediate desire to return home.

The treasonous nature of the mutiny they plotted, in any case, does not suggest they had much sense of national loyalty. And that is hardly surprising. This core group of the mutineers were in the majority men who for many years had circulated throughout the maritime industries and thus had lived, even before coming on board the Hermione, in a highly cosmopolitan environment. This did not necessarily make for an internationalist outlook - in fact, there is quite a bit of evidence of animosity between some of the different groups onboard the ships of the Royal Navy, such as the Irish and the English - but the physical constraints of the ship environment nevertheless fostered intense familiarity with, and in many cases friendships between, men of different nations. (80) They all ate, drank, toiled, and slept together for months on end, and they had to be able to trust each other implicitly up in the yards during a gale or down on the gun deck in a battle. The mere presence of a number of trusted foreign-born men on a ship alone demonstrated that the colors flying at the mast made relatively little difference to their daily lives as naval proletarians. They all earned the same measly wages, they all spent them on the same rum and on the same women, they all chewed on the same indelicate salt beef, they all suffered from the same diseases, they all were screamed at by the same officers, and they all were ripped to shreds by the same enemy broadsides. Quite literally, they were all men in the same boat, and it is not hard to understand how one such man, Florence McCarthy of the Phoebe, came to feel that "one country was as good to him as another." (81)

This is not to say that seamen were immune to the lure of either xenophobia or patriotism - French seamen in the Atlantic fleet, for instance, were renowned for their passionate hatred of the English, and these in turn were famous for their love of sending belligerent hymns like "Rule Britannia" thundering across the waves - but following the suppression of the fleet mutinies in 1797 the mood on Britain's lower decks underwent a noticeable shift. (82) The Admiralty, the Crown, and the government had all revealed themselves to be oblivious at best, callously unappreciative at worst of the great sacrifices the men under their command endured. At the end of the Nore mutiny, the Admiralty found the hand-written lyrics to a song called "The Tender's Hold" amongst the papers of the delegates on the Repulse. It spoke of the deep disappointment and of the hatred that Britain's veteran warriors felt towards those who jubilantly sent them across the oceans to kill and die:
If liberty be ours, O say,
Why are not all protected,
Why is the hand of ruffian sway,
'Gainst seaman thus directed;
Is this your proof of British rights?
Is this rewarding bravery?
O shame! to boast your tar's exploits,
Yet dooms chose tars to slavery. (83)

Such bitterness and resentment became more common as the war ground on. Hundreds of thousands of men were sucked into the imperial war machine, sent into battle, and were then left scattered across the globe. Patrick Tobin, for instance, twice made prisoner already, once in Montreal and once in San Fermin, was cast away half a world away during the battle of Trincomalee on Ceylon. This made him feel "very low in the world," and when he finally came home, "quite naked to a Wife and eight Children," he learnt that he was not to receive any of the prize money from the campaign. The same happened to him after the Battle of Cape St Vincent in early 1797, and now he was livid. He began to advocate piracy, for he found that "black colours was as good as any." (84) Colin Brown of the Phoenix agreed. What they needed was "a roving Commission," for though conditions in the ship were tolerably good, piracy was the only way they would be able to secure decent wages. (85) Others cared nothing for money. They wanted revenge. Alexis Moody of the Renard prayed he would get the opportunity of making war on England: "Damn and bugger the king and country, if I was clear of this bugger of a ship, I would be the first man that would fight against the country." (86) Republicans, too, populated the Navy's lower deck, and these often wished success to the French. One day, William Guthrie of the Pompee, on blockade duty off Brest, stretched out his arm through a porthole towards the coast of France, and then reminded his messmates: "It is not our enemies that live there, it is our friends." (87) He was not alone. Walter Baker Tanton of the Magecienne "damn[ed] the King and all kingly governments, he wished to see a republican form of government established throughout the world." (88)

It is hard to know how many such revolutionaries were on hoard of the Hermione, but at the very least there was one: Lawrence Cronin, the Belfast republican who inspired the second round of killings. Cronin was the surgeon's mate on board, and thus exactly the type of person who was suspected by the government to have helped stir up mutiny in the home command that summer. (89) Three months to the day before the mutiny on the Hermione, the chief secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Thomas Pelham, had raised the matter with the Duke of Portland's secretary:
  Whatever mischief has arisen from Persons of this Country, has arisen
  from those of a higher class, such as Surgeons and Mates, or from
  Enthusiasts, who inlisted voluntarily, with a view to produce Mutiny.
  Above a year ago I intimated that the United Irishmen in the North
  talked confidently of Mutiny in the Fleet. (90)

This does not prove, of course, that Cronin was a United Irishman, though it is suggestive that he was also the man who after the mutiny administered the oath of secrecy to everyone on board. (91) Even so, there is no indication that there was a sworn and organized United Irishmen cell in the ship, as there would be the following year throughout large parts of the navy to coincide with the 1798 rebellion. (92) At the same time, there were some 35 to 40 Irishmen on the Hermione, and given that the Irish Insurrection Act of 1796 had authorized the sending of radicals into the fleet in order to defuse the brewing revolt at home, it is reasonable to expect that at least a few of them were of Cronin's mind. (93)

It would be wrong to assume, however, that the Irish had some sort of monopoly on radicalism. This was, after all, the age of Atlantic revolution, and whether the men on hoard came from Ireland, from the Low Countries, from Switzerland, from Italy, from Norway, from the United States, from the West Indies, from Denmark, or from England, everywhere they would have witnessed revolutionary upheaval. They would have seen ancient states tumble and fall. Some of them, the Dutch, the Americans, and the West Indians, would have experienced full-blown revolutions. Others, like the Scandinavians, the Italians, the Swiss, or the English, would have known widespread unrest, rioting, and occasional revolt. For the English revolutionary commonist Thomas Spence, naval mutinies and the revolutions in France and America were all of one piece, and it is unlikely he alone held that opinion. (94)

John Farrell and James Phillips, two of the Hermiones, the latter probably a Dutchman, appeared to agree with Spence. They called the mutiny a "strike for liberty" - words powerfully evocative of the lower deck's history of political radicalism. (95) Seamen had been among the first enthusiasts for hemispheric revolution, and as early as the 1740s they had assumed a leading role in stirring up the troubles that eventually culminated in the American Revolution. (96) Deep-sea mariners easily identified with the republican demand for liberty that afterwards echoed even more strongly from shore to shore, back and forth across the Atlantic as the century drew towards a close. "Liberty" was deeply embedded in the vocabulary of the shipboard struggles that gave shape to their everyday lives. It was the word they used when speaking about the time they spent on shore, away from the coerced service, disciplinary violence, and physical confinement of the ship. When seamen deserted, it was "liberty" they sought to gain. And when the mutineers of the Defiance in 1795 refused orders and shut down the ship, their demand was for "liberty," to be allowed to go on shore to visit with their friends and families. William Handy, who during the mutiny cleared the quarterdeck of officers with the help of a burgoo stirrer, explained "with an Oath that the World was nothing without liberty." (97) The crew of the Hermione apparently agreed.

When they went out on their final cruise in September 1797, they had just received word of the massive strike that had crippled the navy's home command that summer. During their last visit to port, little over a month before the mutiny, Captain Pigot sat on a court martial which tried six men from the Thames for uttering words of mutiny and sedition. The crew, in mid-May, had taken part in the last stages of the fleet mutiny at Spithead, and had then sailed to Yarmouth where they arrived just in time for the mutinies in the North Sea squadron on May 26. In early June, they received orders to make sail for the West Indies, but many on board would rather have staid in England. One of them, John Jenkinson, swore that "he did not like to go to the West Indies and if every man in the Ship was of his mind they would go back to Spithead." Henry Peters agreed, and helpfully pointed out the option of cutting the weather lanyards, sending the masts overboard, and making any sailing to the West Indies, or elsewhere, impossible. (98)

All this muttering put the Thames' officers on edge, and they appear to have gone conspicuously armed. This angered the crew. John Chrystall suggested that maybe one ought to teach the officers a lesson on the relative balance of power on board by turning some of the guns aft and "blowing the Quarter Deck to Hell." George Delmar further undermined the officers' monopoly of violence when he threatened to use a shot of iron to bash the boatswain's brains out. John Daley, finally, questioned

the officers' right to beat people, grumbling that "it was a pity we were not like the French, to have no flogging at all." (99)

This, then, was the unruly crew that brought news of the fleet mutinies to the Hermiones, and one can only imagine with what enthusiasm and anger they chose to speak about them. They had not witnessed the final suppression of the "floating republic" at the Note, but by the time they had left Yarmouth, sometime in late May or early June, it was already quite clear which way things were going. The government was no longer in a conciliatory mood, and rumors were circulating that they had ordered thousands of troops to the Nore, and red hot shot to be made ready for a bombardment of the mutinous ships. (100) It is hard to imagine that the rebellious men from the Thames would have forgotten to mention this.

Before going out on their next - and last - cruise, the Hermiones were forced to witness the punishments of the condemned Thames men. Pigot and his fellow officers sentenced one man to 50 lashes, and two men to be flogged around the fleet with 300 lashes each. This latter was a common form of punishment in the navy, its main purpose to maximize the spectacular impact of terror. The victim was taken in a boat from ship to ship - "round the fleet" - and next to each one was given a certain number of lashes, while every hand on board the ships was forced to watch. Samuel Leech had the great misfortune of witnessing such punishments during his time in the navy:
  Arriving at the side of another ship, the brutal scene is repeated,
  until every crew in the fleet has witnessed it, and from one to three
  hundred lashes have lacerated the back of the broken-spirited tar to
  a bleeding pulp. He is then placed under the surgeon's care, to be
  fitted for duty a ruined man - broken in spirit! All sense of
  self-respect gone, forever gone! If he survive[s], it is only to be
  like his own brave bark, when winds and waves conspire to dash her on
  the pitiless strand, a wretched, hopeless wreck; a living, walking
  shadow of his former self. (101)

After absorbing that, twice over, the Hermiones put to sea again.

In light of their mutiny a few weeks later, it is interesting to consider what conclusions they may have drawn from watching this vile spectacle right after hearing of the great but defeated upsurge of lower deck militancy earlier that summer. One thing at least must have appeared certain: the lines were hardening, and the time for putting forward petitions and demands had passed. The lower deck had struck with unprecedented force, yet the Admiralty swept aside most of their demands and instituted a policy of repression instead. The Hermiones were no doubt especially disappointed to hear that no mechanism for replacing tyrannous officers would be forthcoming any time soon. They were stuck with Captain Pigot and his lash.

The mutineers on the Hermione are remembered for their violence, and not for their remarkable restraint. And yet, considering the cavalier arrogance with which seamen were routinely beaten and killed by their officers, especially in the months following the fleet mutinies, it is astonishing how many of their officers they spared, even though that dramatically increased the risk of getting caught. For all their rage and their quick recourse to interpersonal violence, they never abandoned their concern for justice. They weighed each officer's crimes and merits on a case-by-case basis, and then together decided if he was to live or die. This was a far more open and democratic, if no less brutal, system of shipboard justice than they themselves had endured under the very officers they now put on trial.

Never again would there be such an extraordinary tribunal on any of the navy's ships, but it is clear that many common seamen throughout the fleet thought it a good idea. John Jones, Captain Pigot's former steward, was made to feel the full strength of the lower deck's solidarity after he gave testimony that proved crucial for hanging John Duncan, one of the Hermiones. A few days after the trial, he passed the Gladiator man-of-war in a small boat in Portsmouth Harbour and very nearly sparked a shipboard riot. A woman stuck her head through a porthole and, upon seeing him, screamed: "There goes bloody Jack Catch, belonging to the Hermione, you bloody buggar you hung the Man the other day, if ever I catch you on shore I will have your bloody life taken from you." Jones went on board to find the woman, but "a great Number of Men hooted and hissed at him." Thomas Nelson violently charged him: "You buggar who are you going to hang now, that is the bloody buggar belonging to the Hermione who hangs all the Men, you Buggar if I had my Will of you I'd hang you, I'd make a swab of you upon the Beach." Jones, prudently, decided to leave, but "[Nelson] still kept abusing me as far as I could hear him." (102)

Being a fugitive from the Hermione evidently was not considered a stain on one's character below deck. Some men even went so far as to claim, wrongfully, to have been part of the mutiny. Both John Baird and William Oates, when drunk, boasted of being Hermiones, and Oates, in particular, was wont to point out that he had cut off heads in the past, and if certain people on the quarterdeck were not to mend their ways, he may well be forced to do so again. (103) For the most part, however, the real Hermiones kept quiet and well out of the way. It must have occurred to most of them fairly soon after the mutiny that they had taken a step of some finality that entailed near-certain death were they ever to fall into the hands of the navy. If in doubt, they only had to turn their eyes to the corpses of their unfortunate comrades who, after being caught and executed, were left to rot in gibbets at the entrances to key ports around the British-controlled Atlantic. (104)

Beside the officers, there had been around 160 men on board the Hermione at the time of the mutiny. (105) Only one of these surrendered to the British authorities. (106) Thirty-five others were captured between 1797 and 1806, of whom fifteen were hanged and gibbeted, nine were handed, two were transported to New South Wales for life, one was recommended for mercy, two were admitted King's evidence, and six were acquitted. All others got away and we can only speculate on where they might have gone. Based on rumors and the testimonies of those who were caught, it appears that many stayed in Caracas, and those who had learnt a trade before entering the navy took it up again. Among these was Lawrence Cronin, the Belfast republican. Others became day laborers, and quite a large number were allowed to enlist in the Spanish army. (107) The ship's only two confirmed black men, Thomas Diamond and John Jackson, together joined the local coasting trade. (108)

A few of the mutineers made their way to the United States, apparently with a view to retiring from the sea for good. (109) Among these was William Brigstock, for whom this was a return to his native country. About six months after the mutiny, he arrived from St. Domingue in the Relief brig, and soon he was lodged in gaol in New Brunswick on suspicion of piracy and murder. After a personal intervention by President Adams, who had sought assurances from the British that Brigstock was not accused of being a principal, he was released, and that is the last anyone knows of him. (110) Thomas Nash was less fortunate. He also washed up in America, but was soon spotted by a British naval lieutenant in Charleston, who first had him committed to gaol and then demanded his extradition. Nash claimed to be an American by the name of Jonathan Robbins; the English lieutenant said he was Thomas Nash, a mutineer, a murderer, and Irish. (111) After a bitter controversy fought out in the new nation's belligerently partisan press, it was finally decided that Nash really was Irish, and hence could be made available for British justice to take its inevitable course with him. He was hanged soon after in Port Royal Harbour. (112)

Many of the professional seafarers amongst the mutineers appear to have melted back into the international maritime labor market from whence they had originally come. Sometimes they went back onboard warships, and in a small number of cases there are even creditable suggestions that former Hermione men participated in mutinies on other ships. John Pearce, one of the troublemakers on the Malta, had been a marine on the Hermione and it seems that one of the Danae mutineers might also have served on that ship at the time of the mutiny. (113) There were even two cases of unrest in the young US Navy that centered on men who might have come from, the Hermione. (114)

Most of the mutineers seem to have avoided further naval service and went aboard Danish, Dutch, American, Spanish, French, Swedish, or British merchantmen instead, and in these they continued working the Caribbean, going up the North American seaboard, and crossing the Atlantic to Europe and Africa. John Duncan, for instance, signed on with the Danish Eagle and cruised the Caribbean for a while, but he told his shipmates who he was, and somehow the governor of St. Croix came to hear about it. Duncan was put into confinement, sent to St, Thomas, and then on to Copenhagen, where King Christian VII instructed his foreign minister Count Bernsrorff to present him as a gift to the British consul. Duncan was hanged soon afterwards in Portsmouth Harbor. (115)

More adventurous types joined French privateers and in these waged commercial war on Britain. This promised higher wages and better conditions of service than most merchantmen, but the dangers were greater too. John Mason, Antonio Marco, John Elliott, Joseph Mansell and Pierre D'Orlanie were only on board the Magecienne for a few weeks before HMS Valiant made her a prize. (116) Isaac Stoutenling and Thomas Charlton held out slightly longer, but they, too, fell into British hands on a French privateer. They had bragged about the mutiny, someone told on them, they were found out, tried, hanged and gibbeted. (117)


The mutiny on the Hermione, it turned out, was not a unique event, but a crucial turning point in the lower deck's struggle for justice. In the first four years of the war, they fought for improved conditions of service, launching strike after strike after strike. They firmly insisted on reform, but they remained loyal to the service ("Damn my Eyes," cursed Henry Long of the Champion, "[...] give us our Due at once and no more of it, till we go in search of the Rascals the Enemys of our Country." (118)). But the navy administration responded with singling out ringleaders and executing them. The lower deck then set everything on one card and organized the biggest mutiny in British history. Tens of thousands were directly involved. Yet again, the navy responded with repression, flogging and executing dozens of men. Lord Collingwood, who witnessed these events first hand, predicted that this would inevitably lead to a radicalization of the lower deck. (119) When, a few months later, the crew of the Hermione not only ran away with the ship, but also took to judging and executing their officers, it was clear that the struggle for justice had given way to that for liberty. From then on, strikes disappeared almost entirely from the arsenal of the lower deck. Instead, there were at least twelve serious conspiracies uncovered in the first two years after the Hermione, all of them with the aim of violently seizing power onboard and quickly bringing the ship into an enemy or neutral port. (120) Then, in March 1800, the men on the Danae revolted and sailed the ship to France. (121) In November of that year, the crew of the Albanaise rose and took her to Spain. (122) And finally, in July 1801, the crew of the Gaza mutinied and escaped to Italy. (123)

Historians have long since recognized the importance of the struggle against revolutionary France in uniting the people of Britain and transitioning their patriotic sentiments into belligerent nationalism, but they have for the most part failed to pay as close attention to the war's more centrifugal forces. (124) In particular the navy's voracious appetite for cannon-, or rather yellow-fever-fodder pulled tens of thousands into the unpredictable vortex of global warfare, and as they deserted, were captured, or sent from ship to ship for years on end, many eventually lost the social bonds that tied them to a given place on shore and they became footloose, ocean-wandering "crisscrossers of empire" instead. (125) While work on the formation of British national identity has recently begun focusing on such people, historians have probably underestimated quite how many of them there were, and quite how powerful a social force they became during the naval wars of 1790s. (126) Never before or since have there been this many simultaneous mutinies on both sides of the front during a major war.

The wealth of documentation that survives from the Hermione allows us to glimpse one example of the rich confluence of experiences that turned one ship's crew after another into a heaving mass of mutinous discontent. The men onboard were unusual for rising up with such ferocity, but otherwise they were much like any other crew in the British, French, or Dutch navies. They came from two, perhaps three continents and over a dozen countries. They counted Irish republican shoemakers amongst them, British, Danish, Dutch, French, Canadian and even Swiss seamen, free blacks from the West Indies and possibly Africa, citizens of the young United States, clerks from England, and peasants from Norway. Many of them had served on other ships before coming into the Hermione, and some of them went on to serve again on yet others. They moved through and simultaneously helped constitute the vast network of itinerant biographies and shared experiences that ultimately, in its totality, formed the revolutionary Atlantic. The crew brought their previous experiences of struggle, of mutiny, desertion, revolution, and personal disappointment with them into the forecastle, and there they let them stew, telling, embellishing, and re-telling their lives' stories ("A subject," noted Melville, "upon which most high-bred castaways in a man-of-war are very diffuse." (127)). These experiences from around the Atlantic world in the era of revolution - Lawrence Cronin's uncompromising Ulster republicanism, for example, or the impressed men's anger at having their rights of man violated - determined the course of the mutiny. And in return, once the crew left the ship and scattered from La Guaira, they carried a new and powerful experience with them into the cosmopolitan networks of the revolutionary Atlantic.


(1.) See, for example, Christopher McKee, "Fantasies of Mutiny and Murder: A Suggested Psycho-History of the Seamen in the United States Navy, 1798-1815," Armed Forces and Society 4, no. 2 (1978): 293-304; Dudley Pope, The Black Ship (London, 1963); J. D. Spinney, "The Hermione Mutiny," Mariner's Mirror 41 (1955): 123-36. There are also sections on the Hermione in Leonard F. Guttridge, Mutiny: A History of Naval Insurrection (Annapolis, MD, 1992), 75-82; Lawrence James, Mutiny in the British and Commonwealth Forces, 1797-1956 (London, 1987), 67-71; and Richard Woodman, A Brief History of Mutiny (New York, 2005), 124-37.

(2.) Paul Adam, ed., Seamen in society/Gens de mer en societe (Perthes, 1980); Karel Davids, "Seamen's Organization and Social Protest in Europe, c. 1300-1825," International Review of Social History 39, Supplement (1994): 145-169; Jesse Lemisch, "Jack Tar in the Streets: Merchant Seamen in the Politics of Revolutionary America," William and Mary Quarterly 25, no. 3 (1968): 371-407; Marcus Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates, and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700-1750 (Cambridge, 1987); Julius Scott, "The Common Wind: Currents of Afro-American Communication in the Era of the Haitian Revolution" (PhD diss., Duke University, 1986).

(3.) See, for a representative sample, the essays assembled in Paul C. van Royen, Jaap R. Bruijn and Jan Lucassen, eds, "Those Emblems of Hell"? European Sailors and the Maritime Labour Market, 1570-1870 (Research in Maritime History No. 13) (St. John's, Newfoundland, 1997).

(4.) Amongst the avalanche of works in Atlantic history in recent years, only very few push beyond the established imperial units of analysis, and quite a few seek to re-affirm them. See, for example, David Armitage and Michael J. Braddick, eds, The British Atlantic World, 1500-1800 (New York, 2002); J.H. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America, 1492-1830 (New Haven, 2006); "AHR Forum: Entangled Empires in the Atlantic World," American Historical Review 112, no. 3 (2007): 710-799.

(5.) Martine Acerra and Jean Meyer, Marines et Revolution (Rennes, 1988); William S. Cormack, Revolution and political Conflict in the French Navy, 1789-1794 (Cambridge, 1995); Norman Hampson, La Marine de l'An II: Mobilisation de la Flotte de l'Ocean, 1793-1794 (Paris, 1959).

(6.) James Dugan, The Great Mutiny (New York, 1965); Jonathan Neale, "Forecastle and Quarterdeck: Protest, Discipline and Mutiny in the Royal Navy, 1793-1814," (PhD diss., University of Warwick, 1990).

(7.) C.N. Fehrmann, Onze Vloot in de Franse Tijd: De Admiralen De Winter en Ver Huell (Den Haag, 1969); J.C. de Jonge, Geschiedenis van het Nederlandsche Zeewesen, Vijfde Deel (Haarlem, 1862); Thea Roodhuyzen, In Woelig Vaarwater: Marineofficieren in de Jaren 1779-1802 (Amsterdam, 1998).

(8.) The figures cited here are cases explicitly mentioned in the archives of the British, French, and Dutch navies. But mutinies tended to be underreported, though we do not know to what extent. For a full discussion of the data on mutinies in the British, French, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, and US navies, see my forthcoming dissertation "The Wooden World Turned Upside Down: Naval Mutinies in the Age of Atlantic Revolution," (PhD diss., University of Pittsburgh, forthcoming).

(9.) In 1795, the three navies had a combined total of 462 vessels at sea. N.A.M. Rodger, The Command of the Ocean - A Naval History of Britain, 1649-1815 (New York, 2005), 608.

(10.) There have been only few advances since the classic studies by R.R. Palmer and Jacques Godechot in this field. R.R Palmer, The Age of Democratic Revolution, 2 vols (Princeton, 1959 and 1964); Jacques Godechot, La grande nation: L'expansion revolutionnaire de la France dans le monde de 1789 a 1799, 2nd ed. (Paris, 1983); for a number of important exceptions, see Scott, "The Common Wind," op. cit.; Robin Blackburn, The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776-1848 (London, 1988); Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Boston, 2000).

(11.) The phrase "armed strike" is from Neale, "Forecastle and Quarterdeck," passim.

(12.) Trial of William Price, William Duggan, and Robert Field, 30 September to 2 October 1793, The National Archives: Public Recrods Office (hereafter TNA: PRO) ADM 1/5330.

(13.) Trial of William Shield and George McKinley, 11 November 1794, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5331.

(14.) Trial of Francis Watts, James Johnson (the 2nd), Cornelius Sullivan, Joseph Curtain, David Hyman, Jeremiah Collins, Samuel Triggs, James Leader, John Morrish and James Bartlett, 15 to 20 December 1794, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5331.

(15.) Trial of Hugh Irwin, William Rogers, Michael Collins, Edward Masters, James Ludington, William Wilkinson, Robert Bullmer, Richard Peacock, James Davidson, John McKenzie, Lawrence Lawrence, and Thomas Bruce (2d), TNA: PRO ADM 1/5331.

(16.) Trial of William Parker (1st), Robert McLawrin, George Wythick, Martin Ealey, William Froud, John McDonald, John Sullivan, William Handy, George Harden, John Prime, Joseph Flint, Michael Cox, John Lawson, William Morrison, John Graham (1st), Charles Pick, and William Avery, 20 January to 11 February 1796, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5334.

(17.) Nicholas A. M. Rodger, "Shipboard Life in the Old Navy: The Decline of the Old Order?" in The North Sea: Twelve Essays on Social History of Maritime Labour, ed. by Lewis R. Fischer, Harald Hamre, Poul Holm, and Jaap R. Bruijn (Stavanger, 1992), 32.

(18.) E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (New York, 1964), 184.

(19.) "To Dr. Alexander Carlyle, Excellent, off Cadiz, June 3, 1797," in The Private Correspondence of Admiral Lord Collingwood, ed. by Edward Hughes (London, 1957), 82-3.

(20.) For a detailed overview of the fleet mutinies, see James Dugan. The Green Mutiny (New York, 1965); G.E. Manwaring and Bonamy Dobree, The Floating Republic (Barnsley, 2004).

(21.) Address to the Delegates of the Different Ships Assembled in Council, undated, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5125.

(22.) The phrase is Lord Collingwood's who evidently saw the specter of the English Revolution in the fleet mutinies. The mutineers themselves may well have thought of something chronologically much closer at hand: the French revolutionary navy. Save for the freedom from press gangs, which were unknown in France, everything the British mutineers demanded had been granted to French seamen since 1789. One can only assume that British seamen were aware of this, since they came into frequent contact with their French counterparts. But there is, unfortunately, only fragmentary evidence showing such an awareness. "To his sister, Excellent, off Cadiz, August 7, 1797," in Hughes, Collingwood, 85; for the British demands, see "Address from the British Seamen and Marines at the Nore to their Brethren and Fellow Subjects on shore," TNA: PRO ADM 1/727; for the reforms in the post-1789 French heavy, see Recueil des lois relatives a marine et aux colonies. 18 vols. (Paris, Year V-1870).

(23.) List of mutineers at the Nore, TNA: PRO ADM 3/137; List of pardoned mutineers sent to Cold Bath Fields prison in preparation of their being sent to the hulks, TNA: PRO ADM 1/4173; Convicts transported, 1787-1809, TNA: PRO HO 11/1

(24.) Trial of William Guthrie, James Callaway, Thomas Ashley, Robert Johnson, and John Davis, 20 to 23 June 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5339.

(25.) Trial of John Goody, George Perry, James Dixon, John Farrel (3rd), Thomas Biddle, John Burton, Charles Painter, Joseph Simpson, John Evans, Thomas Kenyan, Luke Eardly, James Pilton, and William Dickinson, 19 to 27 July 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5340.

(26.) Trial of John Benson and Philip Francis, 30 June 1797; Trial of John Anderson, Michael McCann, John Hayes (2nd), and James Fitzgerald, 7 to 8 July 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5340; Letter, Admiral Jervis, off Cadiz, 3 July 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 1/396; "To his sister, Excellent, off Cadiz, August 7, 1797," in Hughes, Collingwood, 85.

(27.) Trial of George Hopewell Stephens, 6 to 14 November 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5342; Trial of Philip James, Daniel Chapman, and Francis Peacock, 17 to 23 November 1797. TNA: PRO ADM 1/5342; Trial of Andrew Burnet, Jonathan Scofield, Richard Foot, James Reese, John Wilson, Anthony Parker and Henry Thomas, 30 November to 5 December 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5488; Trial of John Clark, 2 August 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5341; Trial of Charles Duff, 3 to 7 October 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5342.

(28.) "Statement of service, 1789-1839, of Lt. David O'Brien Casey (1779-1853)," National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (hereafter NMM), BGR/12.

(29.) Trial of James Irwin, John Holford the Elder, and John Holford the Younger, 23 May 1798, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5344.

(30.) Joseph Mansell's confession, TNA: PRO ADM 1/248.

(31.) Trial of James Irwin, John Holford the Elder, and John Holford the Younger, 23 May 1798, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5344.

(32.) Trial of John Williams, John Slenison, alias John Slushing, James Parrott, John, alias Richard, Redmond, and Jacob Tollard, alias Jacob Tuldge, 13 to 15 March 1799, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5348.

(33.) Trial of John Watson and James Allen, 30 July 1800, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5353.

(34.) Trial of John Williams, John Slenison, alias John Slushing, James Parrott, John, alias Richard, Redmond, and Jacob Tollard, alias Jacob Tuldge, 13 to 15 March 1799, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5348.

(35.) Trial of James Irwin, John Holford the Elder, and John Holford the Younger, 23 May 1798, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5344.

(36.) Trial of James Irwin, John Holford the Elder, and John Holford the Younger, 23 May 1798, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5344; Trial of John Williams, John Slenison, alias John Slushing, James Parrott, John, alias Richard, Redmond, and Jacob Tollard, alias Jacob Tuldge, 13 to 15 March 1799, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5348; John Slenison's confession, TNA: PRO ADM 1/397.

(37.) Trial of James Irwin, John Holford the Elder and John Holford the Younger, 23 May 1798, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5344; Trial of John Williams, John Slenison, alias John Slushing, James Parrott, John, alias Richard, Redmond, and Jacob Tollard, alias Jacob Tuldge, 13 to 15 March 1799, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5348; John Black, An Authentic Narrative of the Mutiny aboard the Ship Lady Shore (Ipswich, n.d.).

(38.) Trial of John Pearce, 25 August 1801, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5357; Trial of John Watson and James Allen, 30 July 1800, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5353; "Statement of service," NMM BGR/12.

(39.) Trial of John Watson and James Allen, 30 July 1800, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5353; "Statement of service," NMM BGR/12.

(40.) Trial of John Watson and James Allen, 30 July 1800, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5353.

(41.) "Statement of service," NMM BGR/12; Trial of John Williams, John Slenison, alias John Slushing, James Parrott, John, alias Richard, Redmond, and Jacob Tollard, alias Jacob Tuldge, 13 to 15 March 1799, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5348.

(42.) Midshipman Casey later went so far as to praise "the steady good Conduct of some of the principal Mutineers." "Statement of service," NMM BGR/12.

(43.) Trial of James Irwin, John Holford the Elder, and John Holford the Younger, 23 May 1798, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5344; John Slenison's confession, TNA: PRO ADM 1/397.

(44.) Trial of James Irwin, John Holford the Elder, and John Holford the Younger, 23 May 1798, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5344; Trial of John Williams, John Slenison, alias John Slushing, James Parrot, John, alias Richard, Redmond, and Jacob Tollard, alias Jacob Tuldge, 13 to 15 March 1799, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5348; Joseph Mansell's confession, TNA: PRO ADM 1/248.

(45.) TNA: PRO ADM 1/5344.

(46.) Trial of James Irwin, John Holford the Elder, and John Holford the Younger, 23 May 1798, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5344; Statement, Don Ysidro Ornez, TNA: PRO ADM 1/397.

(47.) "Statement of service," NMM BGR/12.

(48.) "Statement of service," NMM BGR/12; John Mason's confession, TNA: PRO ADM 1/248. Emphasis in the original.

(49.) See, for two standard works from either end of the chronological spectrum, William James, The Naval History of Great Britain, from the Declaration of War by France, in February 1793, to the Accession of George IV in January 1820 (London, 1826), 148-50; and Rodger, Command, 452.

(50.) Any random sample of logbooks contained in the series ADM 51 in the British National Archives will confirm the frequency of floggings. Startings, unfortunately, were not logged, but there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence to suggest their high frequency. Christopher Lloyd, The British Seaman, 1200-1860: A Social Survey (Rutherford, 1970), 241.

(51.) Letter, J. Holloway, Spithead, 21 August 1801, TNA: PRO ADM 1/1048.

(52.) Letter, Admiral Parker, Saint Nicholas Mole, 24 January 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 1/248. This incident became something of a cause celebre in the United States, and helped to create the near jubilant tone with which some US newspapers reported on the subsequent mutiny.

(53.) Letter, Admiral Jervis, Earl St Vincent, Cadiz, 22 December 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 1/396.

(54.) Sir Admiral E. A. Hamilton, A Narrative of the Circumstances that led to the Attempt, and the Particulars of the Boarding and Capturing of the Hermione Frigate in 1799 (London, 1867), 4.

(55.) "Statement of service," NMM BGR/12.

(56.) David Patrick Geggus, Slavery, War, and Revolution: The British Occupational Saint Domingue 1793-1798 (Oxford, 1982), 275.

(57.) Michael Duffy, Soldiers, Sugar, and SeaPower: The British Expeditions to the West Indies and the War Against Revolutionary France (New York, 1987), 333-4. The losses represented approximately .4 percent of the population. The present-day equivalent would be the death of around 240,000 British, or of 1,200,000 American, troops in an eight-year campaign.

(58.) The death rate peaked dramatically between 1793 and 1795, the years of "seasoning." Hermione muster book, April-July 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 36/12011.

(59.) These have been described in great and necessary detail elsewhere. See, for example, Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge, Mass., 2004); Carolyn E. Fick, The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution From Below (Knoxville, 1990); C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (London, 2001).

(60.) "Statement of service," NMM BGR/12.

(61.) "Statement of service," NMM BGR/12.

(62.) Nicholas Rogers, The Press Gang: Naval impressment, and its opponents in Georgian Britain (London: 2007), 4-5; Denver Alexander Brunsman, "The Evil Necessity: British Naval Impressment in the Eighteenth Century British Atlantic World" (Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 2004), esp. Appendix I.

(63.) Rodger, Command, 443-4.

(64.) John Brown's confession, TNA: PRO ADM 248; Trial of John Williams, John Slenison, alias John Slushing, James Parrott, John, alias Richard, Redmond, and Jacob Tollard, alias Jacob Tuldge, 13 to 15 March 1799, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5348.

(65.) Duffy, Soldiers, Sugar, and Seapower, 106.

(66.) Trial of William Johnson and Adiel Powelson, alias Henry Poulson, 2 July 1801, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5357.

(67.) John Duncan's confession, TNA: PRO ADM 1/731.

(68.) The last surviving muster book, ending in July 1797, contains 168 names. For about half of these (85) we can establish a place of origin. Hermione muster book, April-July 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 36/12011; Adventure muster book, January-February 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 36/12931; Success muster book, December 1796-Septemher 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 36/14745.

(69.) See, for an earlier but formative period, Marcus Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates, and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700-1750 (Cambridge, 1987). For a different, US-centric view, see Daniel Vickers (with Vince Walsh), Young Men and the Sea: Yankee Seafarers in the Age of Sail (Yale, 2005). Both of these studies have been the subject of fruitful roundtable discussions in the pages of the International Journal of Maritime History (1, no. 2 (1989): 337-57; and 17, no. 2 (2005): 311-66).

(70.) Sentence against Carl Ortmann, sentence against Louwrens Perinai, and second interrogation of Daniel Thulander, Nationaal Archief (NL), Den Haag, Hoge Militaire Rechtspraak, 1795-1813 (1818), nummer toegang 2.01.11, inventariesnummer 234.

(71.) Trial of Colin Brown, James Hayes, James O'Neale, Robert Gray and Thomas Needs, 3 to 7 July 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5340.

(72.) Rediker, Deep Blue Sea, 228-229.

(73.) Hermione muster book, April-July 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 36/12011.

(74.) Trial of William Johnson and Adiel Powelson, alias Henry Poulson, 2 July 1801, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5357.

(75.) Hermione muster book, April-July 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 36/12011; Success muster book, December 1796-September 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 36/14745.

(76.) See a number of petitions in TNA: PRO ADM 1/5125.

(77.) Trial of John Williams, John Slenison, alias John Slushing, James Parrott, John, alias Richard, Redmond, and Jacob Tolland, alias Jacob Tuldge, 13 to 15 March 1799, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5348.

(78.) Hermione muster book, April-July 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 36/12011; Success muster book, December 1796-September 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 36/14745.

(79.) N.A.M. Rodgers, The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1986), 122-123.

(80.) In 1798, a number of mutinies failed because English sailors reported Irish conspirators to their officers. See, for example, the trial of Bartholomew Duff, Lawrence Buckley, Michael Butler, John Divine, John Desmond, James Cluney, James Mahan, John Matier, William Cotton, Dennis Kilroy, Robert McGee, John Close, John McGarr, Edward Leonard, Guille Brille, Thomas Burke, Michael Doyle, Henry McClennon, Thomas Short, John Rusty, Martin Riley and Patrick Hangling, 16 to 23 August 1798, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5346.

(81.) Trial of Florence McCarty and William Grace, 7 April 1800, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5352.

(82.) Acerra and Meyer, Marines, 14; Anon. ("A British Seaman"), Life on Board a Man-of-War; Including a Full Account of the Battle of Navarino (Glasgow, 1829), 159.

(83.) Lyrics, "The Tender's Hold," TNA: PRO ADM 1/727; see also R. Thompson, A Tribute to Liberty: or, A Collection of Select Songs: Together with a Collection of Toasts and Sentiments. Sacred to the Rights of Man (London, 1798), 84-5.

(84.) Trial of Patrick Tobin and Francis Matthew, 17 to 18 August 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5341.

(85.) Trial of Colin Brown, James Hayes, James O'Neale, Robert Gray and Thomas Needs, 3 to 7 July 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5340.

(86.) Trial of Alexis Julius Moody, 27 December 1805, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5371.

(87.) Trial of William Guthrie, James Callaway, Thomas Ashley, Robert Johnson, and John Davis, 20 to 23 June 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5339.

(88.) Trial of Walter Baker Tanton, 29 November 1805, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5370.

(89.) For opposing views on the actual role of Irishmen in the fleet mutinies of 1797, see N.A.M. Rodger, "Mutiny or Subversion? Spithead and the Nore" in 1798: A Bicentenary Perspective, ed. by Thomas Bartlett, David Dickson, Daire Keogh and Kevin Whelan (Dublin, 2003), 549-64; and Roger Wells, Insurrection: The British Experience, 1795-1803 (Gloucester, 1983) 79-110. The most recent contribution is Anthony G. Brown, "The Nore Mutiny - Sedition or Ships' Biscuits? A Reappraisal," Mariner's Mirror 92, no. 1 (2006), 60-74.

(90.) Letter, Mr Cooke to C. Greville, Dublin, 21 June 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 1/4172.

(91.) Ceremonious oath-sweating figured prominently in the activities of the United Irishmen. Trial of James Irwin, John Holford the Elder, and John Holford the Younger, 23 May 1798, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5344; Nancy J. Curtin, The United Irishmen: Popular Politics in Ulster and Dublin, 1791-1798 (Oxford, 1998), 246-7.

(92.) Trial of Bartholomew Duff, Lawrence Buckley, Michael Butler, John Divine, John Desmond, James Cluney, James Mahan, John Matier, William Cotton, Dennis Kilroy, Robert McGee, John Close, John McGarr, Edward Leonard, Guille Brille, Thomas Burke, Michael Doyle, Henry McClennon, Thomas Short, John Rusty, Martin Riley and Patrick Hangling, 16 to 23 August 1798, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5346; Trial of John Brady, William Lindsey, John Hopkins, James Moor, Christopher Mahane, Terence Dunn, Thomas Jourdaine, James Cannon, David Reed, Thomas Derbyshire, Nicholas Ryan, Cornelius Callaghan, Owen McCarty, Richard Kenneday, Thomas Laffin, Patrick Devoy, John Donolly, Peter McGuire, John Hoare, Edward Swinney, Patrick Hynes, Michael Foy, Michael Kelly, Edward McLaughlin, and James Lawless, 8 to 14 September 1798, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5346; Trial of William Regan, Patrick Murphy, George Norton, James Clancy, John O'Bryan, Lawrence Dowd, Dennis Mahoney, Richard Holmes, Edmund Gibbons, John Hoare, Thomas Dillon, and Patrick Boyle, 1 to 9 October 1798, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5347.

(93.) Pelham in his letter argues that most of those sent into the fleet were Defenders rather than United men, and therefore - poor, ignorant, Catholic, and generally useless as they are - could not possibly have had a hand in the mutinies. But Jim Smyth has taught us that the Defenders were perfectly capable of organizing revolt. Thomas Bartlett, "Defence, counter-insurgency and rebellion: Ireland, 1793-1803," in A Military History of Ireland, ed. by Thomas Bartlett and Keith Jeffery (Cambridge, 1996), 263; TNA: PRO ADM 1/4172; Jim Smyth, The Men of No Property: Irish Radicals and Popular Politics in the Late Eighteenth Century (New York, 1998).

(94.) Thomas Spence, "The Restorer of Society to its Natural State" in The Political Works of Thomas Spence, ed. by H.T. Dickinson (Newcastle upon Tyne, 1982), 78.

(95.) Trial of John Williams, John Slenison, alias John Slushing, James Parrott, John, alias Richard, Redmond, and Jacob Tollard, alias Jacob Tuldge, 13 to 15 March 1799, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5348.

(96.) Jesse Lemisch, Jack Tar vs John Bull: The Role of New York's Seamen in precipitating the Revolution (New York, 1997); Linebaugh and Rediker, Hydra, 211-247; Christopher P. Magra, The Fisherman's Cause: Atlantic Commerce and Maritime Dimensions of the American Revolution (New York, 2009); for a different interpretation of the role of seamen during this period, see Paul A. Gilje, Liberty on the Waterfront: American Maritime Culture in the Age of Revolution (Philadelphia, 2004).

(97.) Trial of William Parker (1st), Robert McLawrin, George Wythick, Martin Ealey, William Froud, John McDonald, John Sullivan, William Handy, George Harden, John Prime, Joseph Flint, Michael Cox, John Lawson, William Morrison, John Graham (1st), Charles Pick, and William Avery, 20 January to 11 February 1796, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5334.

(98.) Trial of John Chrystall, Henry Peters, George Delmar, William Cummins, John Jenkinson and John Daley, 14 to 15 August 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5341; Thames log book, 12 December 1796 to 31 December 1798, TNA: PRO ADM 51/1227.

(99.) Trial of John Chrystall, Henry Peters, George Delmar, William Cummins, John Jenkinson and John Daley, 14 to 15 August 1797, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5341.

(100.) Letter, William Shoveller to Thomas Shoveller, Great Note, 31 May 1797, TNA: PRO PC 1/38/122.

(101.) Samuel Leech, Thirty Years From Home, or, A Voice from the Main Deck (Boston, 1844), 62. Leech was wrong about the maximum number of lashes inflicted. In the late 1790s, sentences of 400, 500 and 600 lashes were common, and even 800 were not unheard of. See "Digest of the Admiralty Records of Trials by Court-Martial, From the 1st January 1755 to 1st January 1806; Fifty-one Years. Volume Fourth," TNA: PRO ADM 12/24.

(102.) Trial of Thomas Nelson, 30 July 1800, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5353.

(103.) Letter, R. Bennet, Port Royal, 9 February 1801, TNA: PRO ADM 1/251.

(104.) The gibbers, not unintentionally, also terrified men who had never even been near the Hermione. Samuel Robinson, a young slave ship sailor at the time, still remembered decades later the shock on seeing the gibbets with executed Hermione men swinging in Port Royal Harbor in 1803. Samuel Robinson, A Sailor Boy's Experience aboard a Slave Ship in the Beginning of the Present Century (Wigtown, 1996), 100. I am grateful to Marcus Rediker for this reference.

(105.) Since the last extant muster book ends two months before the mutiny, it is impossible to determine the exact number of mutineers.

(106.) A further ten men, chiefly officers and marines, had given themselves up as prisoners of war to the Spanish authorities in Caracas. They were quickly exchanged and sent to England.

(107.) Mutineers of the Hermione (Antigua, 1798); Joseph Mansell's confession, TNA: PRO ADM 1/248.

(108.) Trial of John Brown; William Benives, alias William Murray; William Herd, alias William Mitchell, and John Hill, alias Samuel Swain, 5 May 1798, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5344; for African-Atlantic coasting, see W. Jeffrey Bolster, Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail (Cambridge, Mass., 1997), esp. ch. 2 and David S. Cecelski, The Waterman's Song: Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 2001).

(109.) Joseph Mansell's confession, TNA: PRO ADM 1/248.

(110.) Gazette of the United States, March 15, 1798 and August 8, 1798.

(111.) Charles Pinckney, Three Letters, written, and originally published, under the Signature of A South Carolina Planter (Philadelphia, 1799).

(112.) The bitterness in the press the not cease: "The case [...] is a modern improvement upon this ancient law of Britain, it is enough to call a man an Irishman, to make it no murder, to pervert the law of nations, and to degrade national honor and character." The Times; and District of Columbia Daily Advertiser, February 18, 1800.

(113.) Letter, Alan Gardner, Cawsand Bay, 26 March 1800, TNA: PRO ADM 1/115; The New Hampshire Gazette, August 12, 1800; Letter, Milbank, Spithead, 11 August 1801, TNA: PRO ADM 1/1048.

(114.) "Extract from Captain Thomas Truxtun's journal, U.S. Frigate Constellation, at Hampton Roads, 31 August 1798, Friday" in Naval Documents Related to the Quasi-War Between the United States and France: Naval Operations from February 1797 to October 1798 (Washington, DC, 1935): 312, .365; W.M.P. Dunne, "The Constellation and the Hermione," Mariner's Mirror 70, no. 1 (1984), 82-5; Eugene S. Ferguson, Truxtun of the Constellation: The Life of Commodore Thomas Truxtun, U.S. Navy, 1755-1822 (Baltimore, 1956), 146-7; James E. Valle, Rocks and Shoals: Order and Discipline in the Old Navy, 1800-1861 (Annapolis, Md, 1980), 110-1.

(115.) John Duncan's confession, TNA: PRO ADM 1/731; Letter, Robert Stephen Fitzgerald, Copenhagen, 10 December 1798, TNA: PRO FO 22/32; Rigsarkivet (DK), 0008, Marineministeriet, Skibsjournaler 1650-1969, Iris Fregat 1797-1798, Nummer 689A-1 - 689A-3; Rigsarkrvet (DK), 515, Holmens chef (soetaten), Vagtrapporter fra Gammel- og Nyholms Hovedvagt, 1798-1800, Nummer 12.

(116.) The Magecienne was quite a haul. Along with five Hermiones, there were three deserters from the Aquilon, and two suspected mutineers from the Grampus on board. The latter two were let go for lack of evidence, however. Letter, Admiral Parker, Saint Nicholas Mole, 12 March 1798, TNA: PRO ADM 1/248; Trial of Anthony Mark, alias Antonio Marco, John Elliott, Joseph Mansell, Peter Delany, alias Pierre D'Orlanie, 17 March 1798, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5343; Trial of John Percy, Timothy Cardigan and James Kelly, 17 May 1798, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5344.

(117.) Letter, Halifax, 13 September 1798, TNA: PRO ADM 1/494.

(118.) No. 29, Note, Henry Long to the Lords Commissioners of the Board of Admiralty, TNA: PRO ADM 1/727.

(119.) "To Dr. Alexander Carlyle, Excellent, off Cadiz, June 3, 1797," in Hughes, Collingwood, 82-3.

(120.) "Digest of the Admiralty Records of Trials by Court-Martial, From the 1st January 1755 to 1st January 1806; Fifty-one Years. Volume Fourth," TNA: PRO ADM 12/24.

(121.) Trial of Lord Proby, 17 June 1800, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5353; Trial of John March, 2 September 1800, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5354; Trial of John Williams, 12 September 1801, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5358.

(122.) Trial of Francis Newcombe, 17 June 1801, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5356; Trial of Jacob Godfrey, 11 January 1802, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5360; Trial of Thomas Parsons, Alexander McEver and James Harriott, 19 June 1802, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5361; Trial of John Ferrell, 19 June 1802, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5361; Trial of Nathaniel Hay, Jeremiah Hinton and James Brady, 27 September 1802, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5362; Trial of Henry Kennedy, 5 October 1802, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5362.

(123.) Trial of William Milne, 26 November 1801, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5359, Trial of Peter Jones, Stephen White and John King, 14 to 15 December 1801, TNA: PRO ADM 1/5359.

(124.) Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (New Haven, 1992), 283-319; John Dinwiddy, "England," in Nationalism in the Age of the French Revolution, ed. by Otto Damn and John Dinwiddy (London, 1988), 53-70.

(125.) Julius S. Scott, "Crisscrossing Empires: Ships, Sailors, and Resistance in the Lesser Antilles in the Eighteenth Century," in The Lesser Antilles in the Age of European Expansion, ed. by Robert. L. Paquette and Stanley L. Engerman (Gainesville, 1996): 128-143.

(126.) Linda Colley, Captives: Britain, Empire, and the World, 1600-1850 (London, 2002).

(127.) Herman Melville, While-Jacket, or The World in a Man-of-War (Oxford, 1990), 53.

By Niklas Frykman

Claremont McKenna College

Department of History

Claremont, CA 91711
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Author:Frykman, Niklas
Publication:Journal of Social History
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 22, 2010
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