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Nipping A Mutiny

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From the Diary of a Naval Officer. Our gun-boat lay in the Mississippi, attached to Admiral Porter's flotilla, and I was acting as chief engineer. Our captain was a volunteer officer, an excellent sailor, and a brave man ; and if he bad a lault, it was that ot' over-indulgence to his crew, a motley collection made up aluiost entirely of river men, flat boat-men, raftsmeii, landing-porters, and 'longshoremen of all kinds ; and too many ot them were of a disposition to take advautage ofkindness. ïhey had no conception of duty save that which was forced upon theui ; and they had evidently shipped with the inipression that they would have but little work and little danger. It was during the war between the Nurth and the South, and we were on the eve of stirring events. Word had come to us that we were to run the batteries of Vicksburg ; and we knew there was warm work in store for us at the Grand Gulf. One morning, upon going to the fire-room, I found that two of the stokers, who should have been on duty, were absent; and upon making inquiry I heard that they bad refused to do any more work. I called them to me, and asked what tbey ineant? One of them, an iü-favored fellow, who had shipped at New Orleans, answered me that his time was out, and that he wanted his discharge. I iuformed him that according to the rules of war, he must continue to do his duty until his discharge was re ceived. He laughed at me, and said he should like to see me make him work after his time was out. I observed that quite a number of the crew had followed iny stokers to the door of the fire-room, and, from the glances which were exchanged, I was satisfied that the defection was not confined to my department. I was strongly tempted to shootthe mutineeron the spot; but Iheld my hand, concluding that it was the best to know the full extent of the evil before I made a decisivo move. And it is well that I did so, for had I raised my hand at that time there would have been much blood shed. I sought the captain, and told him what had transpired. "Iknewit - I knew it," he said nervously, - " Nearly half the crew have refused to do further duty, and demand to be paid off and set on shore. They have not spoken to me yet, but I expect them every moment." While we were conversing the officer of the deck came into the cabin and informed the Captain that a number of the crew ha} aRsembled in the gangway, and demauded to see him. He arose, buckled on his sword, and went out. In the etarboard gangwav were about forty of the men, headed by a stout, burly, dark-visaged fellow named Basard. - He was a bully and a blackleg. As the Captain approached, this man stepped forward, and said he had been chosen to epeak for his compauions. He wanted it understood that there was no particular leader in this business, but that the terins of enli8tmentof forty-two of the men had expired, and they deeired to be paid off and eet ashore. Now the facts of the cnse were these : The terms for which these men had os tensibly enlisted expired this very day ; but the Captain had known that they could not be paid off and discharged at present, and he had, several days before, spoken with them on the subject. At that time they had not appreheuded danger, and had agreed to reiuain until they could be properly discharged. They had supposed that Gen. Grant would be left to battle away at the land defences of Vicksburg, and that Admiral Porter would rest safely on the river until the way was clear. They had no tho't that the Commodore would venture beneath the frowuing batteries. But now the prospect was changed. Wn were to run the batteries, and enter a field below in which there would be sure to be warm work ; for there was fighting to be done when we could get once clear of Vicksburg. These men were cowards. The Captain spoke to them at first very moderately. He explained to them what were the rules of war. He told them the mere expiratiou of a given time could ntjt absolve an enlisted man from his allegiance. Any open opposition to constituted authority before they were regularly discharged would be mutiny; and if such mutiny could not be quelled, the efficiency of the service would be destroyed. Then he appealed to tbeir patriotism.- Would they back out and sneak away just as an opportunity was offered to face the enemy 'i The men treated his appeals with scorn and contempt, and swore that they would do no more duty ; and it was plain to be seen that they meant what they said. They were desperate cb.aracters, and f ully believed that there was not power enough on board to overeóme them. As I have said they constituted nearly half the crew ; and we knew that the other half could not be depended upon to resist them with arms. Pinally the Captain told them that he would go and see the Commodore, and xplain the matter to him ; and the inen went forward swearing tha they would never return to duty come what might. When the Captain's boat was ready, he asked me to accompany hioi, as the firsi demonstration of rnutiny had been made to me. We found the Commodore jusi sitting down to dinner, and he invited us to joiu hiiu; and while the meal was in progresa the Captain told his story. The Admiral listened very attentively, and at his conclusión he said, with a smile, " All right. Captain. I guess there won't be much trouble. I will come on board duriug the afteruoon, and see if I can straighten things out lor you." ■ Af ter this the Commodore turnod the conversation upon other subjects, and when we had tinished dinuer and smoked our segars, we returned to our vessel. Commodore Porter was not far behind us. At two o'clock hecame on board, ac coinpanieil by a lieutenant and twenty marines. His first movement was to direct the crew to be mustered aft; and while tLis was being done, the marines were drawn up on the starboard side of the quarter deck in two ranks, the crew luustered on the other side. When all was quiet the Commodore ad vaneed from his position against the taffrall and addressed our men : - " Look ye, my men," said he, in his abrupt, authoritative way, " I ain informed that some of you rei'use to do your duty. You know very well that you can't be disoharged to-day ; the thing is impossiale; and the rules of the service will not 3ermit you to re.'use to obey your officers. As the roll is called, those wlio are not willing to do farther duty will, in answer o their names, go forward to the forecastle ; the others will reinain as they are." The stbward coiumenced to cali the roll, with a pause after eaeh name. The two irst who answered to their names did o without moving. At length tho name of Louis Básard was ca' led, and he went foi ward ; and wjien he started, these other two, who had tremblingly hesitated, 'ollowed. When the roll was tinished, 'orty men had gone to the forecastle ; and there they stood, dogged and determined ; at least so they tried to appear ; hough it was vpry evident that some of hem wished they were safely out of the scrape ; tor therc was danger to them in the look ot' the eagle-eyed chief. The Commodore caused the marines to be drawn up across the waist, faoing forward ; and vvhen this had been doue he ascended the gangway ladder, and turned toward the mutineers. "Now, my men,"said he, "I want you to return to your duty. Those of you who are willing to do so may lay aft. Marines! attention ! ready airn '"'" The marines cccked their rifles and brought them to their shoulders, the mnzzles covering thu closely huddled pack pon the forecastle. Most of the ruutieers paled and trembled This w.-ís worse than running the batteriqs of Vicks)urg. "Look ye," pursued the Commodore, rawing out bis wateh, " I will give you ust one-half a minute - not a second nore! In thirtj seconds I shall give the rder to fire ! Now, report for duty or tay where you are !" Perhaps tíve seconds passed, during which a stillness like the hush of death cigned upon the deck. The Commodore 's ye was upon the dial of his wutch, and lis lips were ready to pronounce the faal word. The spirit of insubordination as growing weak in the presence of a power that held life and death at will. A few seconds more and my two stokers broke from the gang. and came aft; and they carne not alone. Through the gap thus opened others followed in oontinuous line until the forecastle was vacant. Every man had reported for duty. Admiral Porter put up his watch and stepped down. " Captain," he said, as he carne upon the quarter-deck, " I have au order for you, and I will assume all responsibility in the eveut of its execution. The first man of your crew who refuses to do duty, shoot him on the spot!" But our Captain had noneed to turn his pistol against his own men. They had discovered what mutiny really raeant, and had no desire to experiment thereon again- at least while the broad pennant of Admiral Porter was in sight.


Old News
Michigan Argus