Friday, January 09, 2004

It's Friday and the work is light, so here's some more info on the "Dreadnought." I've got a lollapalooza of a story for you.


1859. Captain Samuels often had crews sent to him from a judge in Liverpool. Men in whom the judge saw some spark of good and, rather than doom them to a life in the cyclical criminal punishment system (for, lets face it, there's never been a focus on rehabilitation,) this judge would send the men to crew the "Dreadnought."
In July of 1859, the crew aboard were known to Captain Samuels as the "Bloody Forties," a sea gang that bordered on pirates. He'd also heard that these men meant to overthrow the officers, have their run of the ship glutting and pirating, then scuttling the ship with the passengers trapped below. So, as soon as the men were on board the Captain told them that he knew of their plan and ordered them all to have their knife blades dulled. They groused about it and Captain Samuels further reprimanded them saying "You have every right to grouse, but don't do it where I can hear it."
But the vibe grew worse until one day when the sailor steering was slacking off and not paying close attention. Samuels shouted, "Steer straight." The sailor sassed back, "I am steering straight."
Samuels hauled off to slap him in the ear and the sailor came out with his knife. Quickly Samuels struck the sailor in the temple, knocking him out, and Samuels' dog attacked the sprawled out sailor. Samuels picked up the knife and had the sailor carted off in irons before any of the other crew knew anything had happened.
Oh, but the news spread and that evening the crew surrounded Samuels. He ordered them to "turn to, and haul taut the weather main-brace." Nobody moved. One said that they wanted their man out of irons. Samuels told them that if they disobeyed an order it would be considered an act of mutiny. Still none of the crew moved. It was then that the Captain noticed that the knife he was holding had a sharp edge on it and that all of the crew most likely had resharpened their knives as well.
The Captain went into his cabin and came out with his pistol and cutlass hidden in his coat. He lead the passengers below deck and the crew followed behind him. When the passengers were below, the Captain wheeled around with a pistol pointed at one man's head and his cutlass aimed in front of him. Nobody moved. Samuels was well known as a dead eye shot. After a moment Samuels said, "Men, you have found your master."
He turned to go back to his cabin and the men rushed behind him. Again he turned and screamed "The next man who takes a step dies!"
He backed into his cabin safe.
One of the passengers approached the Captain and requested that they stop in Queenstown to let off the mutinous crew. Samuels informed the passenger that this ship was bound for New York.
That night the Captain went to reason with the crew. They swore at him. Finnegan, their ring master, bared his chest and dared the Captain to shoot him. So, Samuels raised his pistol and Finnegan shrank and took many steps backward. The Captain told them that they wouldn't eat until they returned to work.
The stand off began. In the meantime, the Captain told the Germans he was transporting that the crew would most likely scuttle the ship with them on board if the Captain lost power. The passengers were won over to Samuels' side. Then Samuels went and told the crew that if they threw their knives overboard and came back to work he would forgive their conduct, except for Finnegan.
Late that night two men from the crew came to the Captain's side of the deck and threw their knives overboard, telling Samuels that they had families they'd like to be able to go home to. Samuels asked them why they came back. They said that they didn't want to kill Samuels, which was what the crew was fixing to do.
At 4:00 AM, the dog began to growl. Two men lept up from behind the captain and were felled by the passenger hitting them over the head with iron bars just as quick. The rest of the crew fell back and the Captain ordered again for them to throw down their knives and get back to work. Finnegan swore and called Samuels a coward.
One other in the crew yelled, "What guarantee do we have if we throw down our knives that you won't shoot us?"
Samuels replied, "If I don't fear you with knives, I certainly won't without them. And to show good faith, if you throw down your knives I will give my pistols to any passenger you name."
Defeated, they threw down their knives and Samuels gave up his pistols. Then he asked that Finnegan apologize for calling the Captain a coward. Finnegan said he wouldn't. So the Captain clocked him unconcious and the crew tied him up. The crew went back to work.
When Finnegan came to, they threw him into "the sweat box" until he screamed for mercy (I really wish I knew what that meant.) They hauled him out and he apologized in front of everybody.
Samuels said that a more grateful and hard working crew he'd never seen before. So, then came the speech where Samuels begged them to break the chains of the depraved life they were leading. He told them to live decently, find good wives, work hard and one day they might be respectable Captains of clipper ships. He told them that he forgave them freely as he hoped to be forgiven in the world to come. He wrote up a contract of marine laws and promises to lead wholesome lives which all the crew signed and Finnegan himself delivered to the Captain. Before reaching New York the Captain told them that he would not prosecute and that if any of them wanted to serve on his ship again, he'd be happy to have them. "Bully for Dreadnought. Bully for Samuels." they cried.

And now a quick retelling of the sinking of the "Dreadnought."
So, apparently, as we see in the story above, the Red Cross Line, the line that the "Dreadnought" was on, was for carrying immigrants from Liverpool to New York. Tougher than any other boat it was nicknamed by others "the Wild Boat of the Atlantic."
In 1863, the ship got caught in a raging mid-Atlantic gale. The waves ripped the rudder right off the boat and broke Captain Samuels' leg. And I mean broken as in the bone snapped in two. They created a make shift rudder and steered for whatever was the closest sea town (details are a little muddy here.) The Captain took two months to recover his leg. It was Samuels' last journey on the "Dreadnought." Two more months of repairs on the "Dreadnought" and then it was rerouted to run "finished goods" from New York to San Francisco. I assume from some details that Samuels retired in San Francisco with his wife and son.
Then Captain Mayhew ran the boat ashore at Tierra del Fuego. The ship sank and the crew barely made it off in two boats.


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