zaterdag 3 december 2011

The Wager

Bulkley & the Speedwell survivors return to England

The thirty mutineers had an anxious time before eventually securing passage to Rio de Janeiro on the brigantine Saint Catherine which set sail on Sunday 28 March 1742. Once in Rio de Janeiro internal and external diplomatic wrangling continually threatened to terminally complicate either their lives, or at least their return to England. John King did not help. He formed a violent gang that spent most of its time repeatedly terrorising his former shipmates on various pretexts, who in turn spent most of their time moving to the opposite side of Rio to wherever King was. After many episodes of fleeing their accommodation in terror from King and his gang (who now referred to him as their 'commander'), Bulkley, Cummins and the cooper, John Young, eventually sought protection from the Portuguese authorities. Captain S W C Pack describes these events:
"As soon as the ruffians had gone [Kings gang], the terrified occupants left their house via the back wall and fled into the country. Early the next morning they called on the consul and asked for protection. He readily understood that they were all in mortal peril from the mad designs of the boatswain [King] and placed them under protection and undertook to get them on board a ship where they could work their passage."[45]
They eventually secured passage to Bahia in the Saint Tubes, which set sail on 20 May 1742, where with great relief they left the boatswain John King behind to continue causing criminal havoc in Rio de Janeiro. On 11 September 1742, the Saint Tubes left Bahia bound for Lisbon, and from there they embarked in HMS Stirling Castle on 20 December bound for Spithead, England, arriving on New Year's Day 1743, after an absence of more than two years.[46]
Events were also reported back to London from the British Consul in Lisbon, being covered within a general dispatch received in October 1742, which was summarised as:
"...Arrival of some of the castaways from the loss of H.M.S. Wager in the South Pacific. Were well treated by Portuguese at Rio de Janeiro, but sailors were mutinous against their officers. King of Portugal has had another seizure and his departure for Caldas is postponed... etc."[47]
Lieutenant Baynes, in order to exonerate himself, rushed ahead of Bulkley and Cummins to the Admiralty in London and gave an account of what happened to Wager which reflected badly on Bulkley and Cummins but not himself. This behaviour was not out of character, Baynes was a weak man and an incompetent officer, as has already been frequently referenced and recorded by all those who provided an narrative of these events. As a result of Baynes' report, Bulkley and Cummins were detained aboard HMS Stirling Castle for two weeks whilst the Admiralty decided how to act. It was eventually decided to release them and defer any formal court martial proceedings until the return of either Commodore Anson or Captain Cheap. When Anson did return in 1744 it was decided that no trial would proceed until Cheap returned. Bulkley then asked the Admiralty for permission to publish his journal, whereby the reply came to the effect that it was his business and he could do as he liked. He duly released a book containing his journal, but the initial reaction from some who read it was not what he expected, namely that he should be hanged as a mutineer.[48]
Bulkley found employment when he assumed command of a forty-gun privateer Saphire. It wasn't long before Bulkley's competence and nerve found him success as he tricked his way around a superior force of French frigates which his vessel encountered when cruising. As a result, Bulkley soon found his antics being reported in popular London papers and that he was a bit of a celebrity around town. He began thinking that it was would not be long before the Admiralty would offer him the coveted command of a Royal Navy ship. On 9 April 1745 however Cheap arrived back in England.[49]
[edit]The survivors of Captain Cheap's group return to England

By January 1742, as Bulkley was returning to Spithead, the four survivors of Cheap's group had now spent seven months in Chaco. Nominal prisoners of the local governor, they were actually allowed to live with local hosts and were left unmolested. The biggest obstacle in Byron's efforts to return to England began firstly with the old lady who initially looked after him (and her two daughters) in the countryside before his move to the town itself. All of the ladies were fond of Byron and became extremely reluctant to let him leave, successfully getting the governor to agree to Byron staying with her for a few extra weeks, but finally he left for Chaco itself, amidst many tears.[50] Once in Chaco, Byron was also offered the hand in marriage of the richest heiress in the town, although according to her beau "her person was good, she could not be called a regular beauty", and this seems to have sealed her fate.[51] On 2 January 1743, the group left on a ship bound for Valparaiso, whereupon Cheap and Hamilton removed to St Jago given that they were officers who had preserved their commissions, but Byron and Campbell were unceremoniously jailed.[42][52]
Campbell and Byron were confined in a single cell infested with insects and placed on a starvation diet. There quickly built a continual stream of locals visiting their cell, paying officials for the privilege of looking at the 'terrible Englishmen', people they had heard much about, but never actually seen. However, the barbarity of their confinement moved not only their curious visitors but also the sentry at their cell door, who allowed food and money to be taken to them. Eventually Cheap's whole group made it to Santiago, where things were much better, so good in fact that they stayed there on parole for the rest of 1743 and 1744. Exactly why becomes clearer in Campbell's account:
"The Spaniards are very proud, and dress extremely gay; particularly the women, who spend a great deal of money upon their persons and houses. They are a good sort of people, and very courteous to strangers. Their women are also fond of gentlemen from other countries, and of other nations."[42]
After two years, the group were offered passage on a ship to Spain, all of whom agreed to this option except Campbell, who preferred to travel overland with some Spanish naval officers to Buenos Aires and from there to connect to a different ship also bound for Spain. Campbell however deeply resented the fact that when Captain Cheap distributed a cash allowance from a sum he drew on the English consul in Lisbon,[53] he gave Campbell half that handed to Hamilton and Byron, because he was suspected, not of cavorting with Spanish ladies - this was fine - but edging toward marrying one, which was against the rules of the British Navy at that time. Campbell was furious at this treatment and he probably felt that the long and dangerous overland journey to Argentina worth it to avoid nine months cooped up with Captain Cheap on the voyage home. Campbell's exact words were:
"...the misunderstanding between me and the Captain, as already related, and since which we had not conversed together, induced me not to go home in the same ship with a man who had used me so ill; but rather to embark in a Spanish man-of-war then lying at Buenos Aires."[42]
On 20 December 1744, Cheap, Hamilton and Byron embarked on the French ship Lys,[54][55] which hastily returned to Valparaiso after the ship sprung a dangerous leak. On 1 March 1744 Lys once again set out for Europe, and after a good passage round the Horn, she dropped anchor in Tobago in late June. After managing to get lost and sail obliviously by night through the very dangerous island chain between Grenada and St Vincent the ship headed for Porto Rico. Here panic swept the crew after abandoned barrels from British warships were sighted floating in the sea, since Britain was now at war with France. After narrowly avoiding being captured off San Domingo, the ship made her way to Brest, arriving on 31 October 1744. After six months in Brest being virtually abandoned with no money, shelter, food or clothing, the destitute group embarked for England on a Dutch ship. On 9 April 1745 they landed at Dover, three men of the twenty who had left in the barge with Cheap on 15 December 1741.[56][57]
News of their arrival quickly spread to the Admiralty and Buckley. Cheap immediately made for the Admiralty in London with his version of events. A court martial was duly organised. After all he had been through and survived, Bulkley's life was once again in real danger, this time from judicial killing.[49]
[edit]The abandoned survivors of the Speedwell group return to England

Left by Bulkley at Freshwater Bay, in what is today the resort city of Mar del Plata,[58][59] were eight men who were alone, starving, sickly and in hostile remote country. After a month of living on seals killed with stones to preserve ball and powder the group began the 300-mile trek north to Buenos Aires. At this time their greatest fear, correctly as it would transpire, were the Tehuelche natives, who were known to live in the area. After a 60-mile trek north in two days they were forced to return to Freshwater Bay because they were unable to locate any fresh water. Once back they decided to wait for the wet season before making another attempt, but this again failed in May, this time due to a lack of food. They now became more settled in Freshwater Bay, built a hut, tamed some puppies they took from a wild dog and even began raising pigs. This relatively peaceful existence was disrupted when somebody spotted what they described as a 'tiger' reconnoitring their hut one night. Another sighting of a 'lion' shortly after this had the men hastily planning another attempt to walk to Buenos Aires (they would have encountered a jaguar and then a cougar).[60]
One day, when most of the men were out hunting, the group returned to find the two left behind to mind the camp had been murdered, the hut torn down and all their possessions taken. Two other men who were also out hunting in another area disappeared and their dogs made their way back to the devastated camp. The four remaining men now left Freshwater Bay for Buenos Aires, accompanied by sixteen dogs and two pigs.
They did not get very far, and once more, for the third time, were forced to return to Freshwater Bay where shortly afterwards a large group of Indians on horseback surrounded them, took them all prisoner and enslaved them. After being bought and sold four times, they were eventually taken to the local chieftain's camp. Here they were treated much better when he learned that they were English and more importantly were at war with the Spanish. By the end of 1743, after eight months as slaves, they eventually represented to the chief that they wished to return to Buenos Aires. This was agreed, with the exception of John Duck, who was mulatto and who the Indians felt should remain. An English trader in Montevideo, upon hearing of their plight, put up the ransom of $270 for the other three and they were released. On arrival in Buenos Aires, the governor flung them in jail after they refused to convert to Catholicism. In early 1745 they were moved to the ship Asia where they were to work as prisoners of war. After this they were thrown in prison once more and chained and placed on a bread and water diet for fourteen weeks before a judge eventually ordered their release. Then Midshipman Alexander Campbell, another of Wager's crew arrived in town.[61][62][63]
[edit]Midshipman Alexander Campbell's overland trek to Buenos Aires

Had Campbell known just how hazardous the overland journey would prove, he may have considered his sulky avoidance of Cheap's company on the ship Lys a trifling reason to take the alternate route home. On 20 January 1745 Campbell and four Spanish naval officers set out across South America from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires. Using mules, the party trekked into the high Andes, where they faced precipitous mountains, severe cold and altitude sickness. First a mule slipped on an exposed path and was dashed onto rocks far below, then two mules froze to death on a particularly horrendous night of blizzards, and a further twenty died of thirst or starvation on the remaining journey. After seven weeks travelling the party eventually arrived in Buenos Aires.[42][64]
[edit]Campbell and the Freshwater Bay survivors return to England

It took five months for Alexander Campbell to get out of Buenos Aires, where he was twice confined in a fort for periods of several weeks, however eventually the governor sent him to Montevideo, which was just 100 miles across the Río de la Plata. It was here that the three Freshwater Bay survivors, Midshipman Isaac Morris, Seaman Samuel Cooper and John Andrews were languishing as prisoners of war aboard the Spanish ship Asia along with sixteen other English sailors from another ship. Campbell's now confirmed conversion to Catholicism was to suit him very well. While his fellow shipmates were treated harshly and confined aboard the Asia, Campbell wined and dined with various captains on the social circuit of Montevideo.[42][65]
All four Wager survivors departed for Spain in the Asia at the end of October 1745, however the passage was not without incident. Having been at sea three days, eleven Indian crew onboard mutinied against their barbaric treatment by the Spanish officers. They killed twenty Spaniards and wounded another twenty before briefly taking control of the ship (which had a total crew of over five hundred). Eventually the Spaniards made moves to reassert control and through a 'lucky shot', according to Morris, they managed to shoot the Indian chief Orellana dead, at which point his followers all jumped overboard rather than submit themselves to Spanish retribution.[62][66]
The Asia dropped anchor at the port Corcubion, near Cape Finisterre on 20 January 1746, whereupon Morris, Cooper and Andrews were chained together and flung into a prison cell. Campbell however went to Madrid for questioning. After four months held captive in awful conditions the three Freshwater Bay survivors were eventually released to Portugal, from where they sailed for England, arriving in London on 5 July 1746. Once again Bulkley would be forced to confront, in his mind, dead men he had callously abandoned on a desolated coastline thousands of miles away.[67]
Campbell's insistance that he had not entered the service of the Spanish Navy, as Cheap and Byron had believed, was apparently confirmed when he too arrived in London during early May 1746, shortly after Cheap. Campbell went straight to the Admiralty where he was promptly dismissed from the service for his change in religion. His hatred for Cheap had, if anything, intensified. After all he had been through, he completes his account of this incredible story bitter with resentment thus:
"Most of the hardships I suffered in following the fortunes of Captain Cheap were the consequence of my voluntary attachment to that gentleman. In reward for this the Captain has approved himself the greatest Enemy I have in the world. His ungenerous Usage of me forced me to quit his Company, and embark for Europe in a Spanish ship rather than a French one."[42][67]
[edit]Court martial into the loss of Wager

Proceedings for a full court martial to inquire into the loss of Wager were initiated once Cheap had returned and made his report to the Admiralty. All Wager survivors were ordered to report aboard HMS Prince George at Spithead for the court martial. Bulkley on hearing this reacted in his typical style of being overly clever and devious. He arranged to dine with the Deputy Marshal of the Admiralty (the enforcing officer of the Royal Navy command) but kept his true identity concealed. Bulkley then describes how his prepared conversation with the Deputy Marshal at the Paul's Head Tavern in Cateaton Street, near St Paul's Cathedral, went thus:
"Desiring to know his opinion in regard to the Officers of the Wager, as their Captain was come home; for that I had a near relation which was an Officer that came in the long-boat from Brazil, and it would give me concern if he would suffer: His answer was that he believ'd that we should be hang'd[sic]. To which I replied, for God's Sake for what, for not being drown'd? And is a Murderer at last come home to their Accuser? I have carefully perused the Journal, and can't conceive that they have been guilty of Piracy, Mutiny, nor any Thing else to deserve it. It looks to me as if their Adversaries have taken up arms against the Power of the Almighty, for delivering them."[68]
At which point the Marshal responded:
"Sir, they have been guilty of such things to Captain Cheap whilst a Prisoner, that I believe the Gunner and Carpenter will be hang'd if no Body else."[68]
Bulkley then informed the Marshal of his real identity, who brought their meal to an end by immediately arresting him. Upon arrival aboard Prince George, Bulkley sent some of his friends to visit Cheap to gauge his mood and intentions. Their report gave Bulkley little comfort. Cheap was in a vindictive frame of mind, telling them:
"Gentlemen, I have nothing to say for nor against Villains, until the Day of Tryal, and then it is not in my Power to be off from hanging them"[69]
Upon securing the main players, trial was set for Tuesday 15 April 1746, presided by Vice Admiral of the Red Squadron James Steuart. Much of what happened on the day land was first sighted off Patagonia as recounted here came out in sworn testimonies, with statements from Cheap, Byron, Hamilton, Bulkley, Cummins and even King (who had also returned to England under unknown circumstances) and a number of other crew members.
Cheap, although keen to charge those who abandoned him in the Speedwell with mutiny, decided not to make any accusations when it was suggested to him that any such claims would lead to himself being accused of murdering Midshipman Cozens. This made what was to happen next much easier for the Admiralty. None of the witnesses were actually aware at this point that events after the ship floundered were deliberately not part of the scope of the court martial proceedings.
After testimony and questioning, all were promptly acquitted of any wrong-doing, except for Lieutenant Baynes, who was admonished for not reporting the carpenter's sighting of land to the west to the captain or letting go the anchor when ordered.

One of the main arguments put forward by the mutineers for their actions was that since their pay stopped on the day their vessel floundered, they were no longer under naval law. Captain S W C Pack, in his book about the mutiny, describes this, and the decision by the Admiralty not to investigate events after the Wager was lost in more detail:
"Their Lordships knew that a conviction of mutiny would be unpopular with the country. Things were bad with the Navy in April 1746. Their Lordships were out of favour. One of the reasons for this was their harsh treatment of Admiral Vernon, a popular figure with the public... The defence that the Mutineers had was that as their wages automatically stopped when the ship was lost, they were no longer under naval law. Existence of such a misconception could lead, in time of enemy action or other hazard, to anticipation that the ship was already lost. Anson realised the danger and corrected this misconception. As Lord Commissioner he removed any further doubt in 1747. An Act was passed "for extending the discipling of the Navy to crews of his majesty's ships, wrecked lost or taken, and continuing to receive wages upon certain conditions... The survivors of the Wager were extremely lucky not to be convicted of mutiny and owe their acquittal not only to the unpopularity of the Board, but to the strength of public opinion, to the fact that their miraculous escapes had captured the public fancy."[70]
Captain Cheap was promoted to the distinguished rank of post captain and appointed to command the forty-gun ship Lark, demonstrating that the Admiralty considered Cheap's many faults insignificant compared to his steadfast loyalty and sense of purpose. He captured a valuable prize soon after, which allowed him to marry in 1748. He died in 1752. His service records, reports, will and death are recorded in the National Archives.[71][72]
Midshipman John Byron was also promoted, to the rank of master and commander, and appointed to command the twenty-gun ship Syren. He eventually rose to the rank of vice admiral. John Byron had a varied and significant active service history which included a circumnavigation of the globe. He married in 1748 and raised a family, his grandson would become the famous poet George Gordon Byron. He died in 1786.
Robert Baynes' service records exist from prior to the sailing of Anson's squadron.[73] Upon his return to England after the Wager affair, he would never serve at sea again. Instead, in February 1745, before the court martial, he was given a position onshore running a naval store yard in Clay near the Sea Norfolk[74] where, apart from some reports of thieving, little else is recorded of significance.[75] He remained in this capacity until his death in 1758.[76][77]
Shortly after the court martial, John Bulkley was offered command of the cutter Royal George, which he declined, thinking her "too small to keep to the sea". He was right in his assessment as the vessel subsequently foundered in the Bay of Biscay with the loss of all hands.[16][78]
Alexander Campbell completes his narrative of the Wager affair by angrily denying he had entered the service of the Spanish Navy, however in the same year his book was published there was a damning encounter with him. Commodore Edward Legge (formerly captain of HMS Severn in Anson's original squadron) reported back that whilst cruising in Portuguese waters he encountered a certain Alexander Campbell in port, formerly of the Royal Navy and the Wager, busily enlisting English seamen and sending them overland to Cadiz to join the Spanish service.[79]


A Voyage to the South-Seas, in the Years 1740-1. Containing a faithful narrative of the loss of His Majesty's Ship the Wager on a desolate island in the latitude 47 South, longitude 81:40 West

London: printed for Jacob Robinson, 1743. 8vo (7 11/16 x 4 3/4 inches). 8-page publisher's advertisement at end (2 neatly repaired tears in text). Contemporary speckled sheep, expertly rebacked to style.

First edition of "one of the principal accounts of the 'Wager'" (Hill), here with the rare publisher's advertisements.

First edition, published by Robinson with the authors' names given on the title page: both Hill and Sabin mention another edition published in the same year by Twig with a title that does not mention the authors' names. This latter edition is not mentioned by ESTC , and none of the bibliographies mention the publisher's advertisements.

The Wager was a transport and supply ship, part of George Anson's fleet of eight ships sent to harass the Spanish in the Pacific. She rounded Cape Horn successfully but ran aground on 14 May 1741 in the Guayaneco Archipelago on the southern coast of Chile. The present work (by the ship's gunner Bulkeley and the carpenter Cummins) records the "proceedings and conduct of the officers and crew, and the hardships they endured in the said island for the space of five months; their bold attempt at liberty [under the command of Bulkeley and the senior ranking officer, John Baynes], in coasting the southern part of the vast region of Patagonia; setting out upwards of eighty souls in their boats; the loss of the cutter; their passage through the Straits of Magellan; an account of their manner of living during the voyage on seals, wild horses, dogs, &c. and the incredible hardships they frequently underwent for want of food of any kind; a description of the several plates where they touch'd in the Straits of Magellan, with an account of the inhabitants, &c. and their safe arrival in Brazil, after sailing one thousand leagues in a long-boat; their reception from the Portuguese; an account of the disturbances at Rio Grand [sic.]; their arrival at Rio Janeiro [on 12 April 1742]; their passage and usage on board a Portuguese ship to Lisbon [which arrived on 28 November 1742]; and ... [the eight remaining survivors] return to England" (title page). David Cheap, the captain of the Wager, and John Byron, then a midshipman, belonged to a second return party which became the subject of separate accounts by Byron and others. An interesting side-effect was the change in Royal Naval procedures prompted by the events surrounding the wreck of The Wager : at the time, men who were serving aboard ships that were wrecked ceased to be paid from the date of the wreck. This allowed members of The Wager's crew to make the case that since they were no longer being paid by the navy, they were also no longer bound by naval discipline and therefore able to ignore the orders of senior officers. This prompted the Royal Navy to make it clear that the members of a ship's crew were under naval discipline even after a shipwreck and therefore liable to court-martial if they rebelled against their officers.

Hill (2004) 210; Howgego B-186; Sabin 9108.



A Voyage to the South Seas, in the years 1740-1. containing a faithful narrative of the loss of His Majesty's Ship the the [sic] Wager on a desolate island.... The second edition, with additions

"London, Printed. Philadelphia: Reprinted by James Chattin, for the Author", 1757. Small 8vo in 4s (6 15/16 x 4 1/2 inches). 17pp. list of subscribers. (Browned as usual, I3 holed). Contemporary marbled sheep, the flat spine divided into six compartments by double gilt rules, black morocco label in the second compartment lettered in gilt (damage to extremities), modern half morocco slipcase. Provenance: Mary G... and "William Denny Esq / Magazine" (inscriptions on the first two leaves); Daniel Remich (Kennebunk, Mass., inscription); American Antiquarian Society (Worcester, Mass., early blindstamp to title).

Second (first American) edition of this important account of a major voyage; the first such narrative to be published in the British colonies

First American edition of this primary source for information on the wreck of the "Wager" off the coast of Chile, beyond the Straits of Magellan. The ship, part of Anson's fleet, had been en route to harass the Spanish. Bulkeley, a gunner, and Cummins, ship's carpenter, led the small group of survivors through much hardship until they arrived safely in Rio de Janeiro and finally England, concluding a voyage that had lasted almost two years. Bulkeley later settled in Pennsylvania where he arranged for the publication of this edition (the first edition had been published in London in 1743). This edition is also valuable for the long list of colonial subscribers, as well as the narrative of Isaac Morris, one of the members of the Wager's crew left in Patagonia, which was not included in the first edition.

Evans 7859; Hildeburn 1519; Hill (2004) 211; Huntress 50C; NAIP w029694