The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty
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More than two centuries have passed since Master's Mate Fletcher Christian mutinied against Lieutenant Bligh on a small, armed transport vessel called Bounty. Why the details of this obscure adventure at the end of the world remain vivid and enthralling is as intriguing as the truth behind the legend.
In giving the Bounty mutiny its historical due, Caroline Alexander has chosen to frame her narrative by focusing on the court-martial of the ten mutineers who were captured in Tahiti and brought to justice in England. This fresh perspective wonderfully revivifies the entire saga, and the salty, colorful language of the captured men themselves conjures the events of that April morning in 1789, when Christian's breakdown impelled every man on a fateful course: Bligh and his loyalists on the historic open boat voyage that revealed him to be one of history's great navigators; Christian on his restless exile; and the captured mutineers toward their day in court. As the book unfolds, each figure emerges as a full-blown character caught up in a drama that may well end on the gallows. And as Alexander shows, it was in a desperate fight to escape hanging that one of the accused defendants deliberately spun the mutiny into the myth we know today-of the tyrannical Lieutenant Bligh of the Bounty.
Ultimately, Alexander concludes that the Bounty mutiny was sparked by that most unpredictable, combustible, and human of situations-the chemistry between strong personalities living in close quarters. Her account of the voyage, the trial, and the surprising fates of Bligh, Christian, and the mutineers is an epic of ambition, passion, pride, and duty at the dawn of the Romantic era.
signed his subsequent letter. In the gun room, none of his private good news was communicated to the other prisoners. Still Peter passed much of his days and nights in irons, and he continued to take his meals with his condemned companions. The daily ministrations of the Reverend Mr. Howell undoubtedly kept some part of his imagination on the great hereafter. In such circumstances it was perhaps impossible to believe wholly and absolutely that liberty was just around the corner. On October 21,
be very much pleased to go back again to his wife and children whom he left there; it is a curious circumstance,” the young writer mused, “that his associates were hanged upon the same day by which they had promised to return if cleared by their country.” JUDGMENT Duty. The backbone of honor. When in 1794, under heavy fire in the campaign of the Glorious First of June, Admiral George Bowyer lost a leg and was carried to the cockpit for treatment, he had insisted that traditional protocol be
conducted in Edward’s Gray’s Inn chambers, but a number were also conducted at a Greenwich public house, the Crown and Sceptre. Built of weathered timber, with back windows that looked out on the Thames, the Crown and Sceptre was not the most respectable venue available, but it was conveniently close to Greenwich Hospital, where three of the Bounty men had been admitted. The pub also provided the kind of familiar, unthreatening atmosphere in which ordinary seamen like Coleman and Byrn would feel
white and hanging in long strands from his bald pate. He was the sole surviving mutineer. Smith’s principal concern at this first meeting with the outside world, and the source of his wife’s anxiety, was that a King’s ship might carry him away to serve justice in England. Folger had caught wind of this fear, and revised his own introduction, disclosing to his three young guides that he was not after all from England but from America. “Where is America?” they had asked, and then settled among
Christian’s ease with the lower deck is described in Edward Christian’s “Appendix” to Stephen Barney’s Minutes of the Proceedings . . . (London, 1794), p. 28. Regarding falsification of a ship’s books, Article XXXI reads: “Every Officer or other Person in the Fleet, who shall knowingly make or sign a false Muster or Muster-book, or who shall command, counsel, or procure the making or signing thereof, or who shall aid or abet any other Person in the making or signing thereof, shall, upon Proof of