Tried and executed for mutiny and murder of their officers, while making an English port, in a French prize brig, December, 1812
AT a court-martial held on board his majesty's ship Salvador del Mundo, in the Hamoaze at Plymouth in December, 1812, these inhuman seamen were tried for one of the foulest, unprovoked, and desperate murders which ever disgraced the British navy.
It appeared in evidence that Joachim, a Portuguese; Martin, a black, belonging to the Diana; Millington, an Irishman; and Williams, an Englishman, belonging to the Growler gun-brig; Baptist, another black, concerned in the murder, drowned, -- with two other seamen, named Boyd and Grant, admitted as evidence against them, were put on board the French prize-brig Le Suir Marée, along with the three persons they murdered, viz. Mr Andrews, master's mate; Mr Bolen, quarter master; and Mr Winsland, steward, a passenger; and that, after in vain attempting to carry the vessel into an enemy's port, they were again fell in with by the Diana and Aquilon frigates and brought to Plymouth in irons.
After the court had been duly sworn, the first witness called was Boyd, who deposed, that, on the 25th of November, himself, with Grant, the prisoners, the black since drowned, and the three missing people, were put on board the brig, and directed to proceed to Plymouth, which they did, until the night of the 29th, or morning of the 30th; when off Scilly, the diabolical plan was put in execution. That he and Grant had the first watch, from eight to twelve, and were relieved at twelve by some of the prisoners. That at about three o'clock be was called by Joachim, but he did not attend to him; -- that he was called the second time, when he went upon deck, where he was told by Joachim and Baptist, they had taken the vessel, and intended to take her to France, and if he would join them he might; -- this offer he peremptorily refused, and called for Bolen, who did not answer; he called again, and was answered by one of the prisoners that he was dead; horror instantly struck him to the soul: he, however, called for Grant, who answered very low; on which Joachim told him, as he was a poor seaman like himself he might go below and they should not hurt him: that he then went down the steerage into the cable-tier, where be found Grant, who had been previously called up, and asked the same questions. Here their situation must have been truly dismal, expecting every moment to be murdered also. They were kept as prisoners by the negro Martin, who stood over them with Mr Andrews's sword. Boyd further stated that there was only a sliding door which parted them and the cabin, where they saw a body covered over with a quilt, and lying on the floor, which was afterwards removed on deck, and thrown overboard. That in the morning, at day-light, they heard a voice on deck say, two sail in chase, and about eight o'clock they heard the boat lowered from the stern, and row off. That, after the boat was gone, Boyd looked on deck, and perceiving only Baptist, Millington, and Williams, he said to Grant, 'Now is our time to go on deck, and throw the black (Baptist) overboard, and secure the other two;' with which Grant complied, and they both went up: -- by this time the vessels were near them, and they were about seven miles from the Saints Island, standing quite on upon the land; for some time they (the witnesses) appeared to take no notice; but on Boyd observing the fore-top bowline loose, be desired the black to haul it taught, and he went to assist, hoping to get an opportunity to throw him overboard; but, not finding an advantageous opportunity then, he walked behind him towards the stern, and observing the main mast topsail-sheet gone, he desired him to haul that tight. When the desired moment arrived, he seized the black, and threw him outside the bulwark, where the fellow clung with his hands to the rigging, and with his teeth almost bit off Boyd's thumb, On Grant observing this, he ran to Boyd's assistance, and struck the black on the head with a stick, and knocked him overboard. That he (Boyd) then went to the helm, seized Millington, tied his hands, and set him on the deck; that Grant, at the same time seized Williams, and set them side by side on the deck, when they stood the vessel off the land, to near the frigate, and to avoid the black who was still swimming. That the Aquilon's boat boarded them soon after, when he related to the lieutenant what had happened, and was then taken on board the Diana.
The next witness called was Grant, who deposed exactly to the same effect. Both of them gave their evidence in the most clear and steady manner.
The prisoners stated no cause that led them to commit this diabolical act. They were of course found guilty, after a most patient investigation, and accordingly were sentenced to suffer death on board such ships, and at such time, as the lords commissioners of the Admiralty shall be pleased to direct.
The awful sentence, although read in the most impressive manner by the judge-advocate, had not the smallest effect on anyone but Millington, who cried much, for which he was jeered by Williams, who told him that hanging was nothing but choaking!
The president, before dismissing the court, took the opportunity of returning thanks to Boyd and Grant, for their brave and seaman-like conduct while in such a perilous situation; and said, he hoped it would never be forgotten by those present, and that their high and meritorious behaviour deserved the greatest praise. The prisoners were hanged from the yard-arm of a vessel of war.