THE CAPTAIN CALLED IT MUTINY by Frederic F. Van de Water


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This account of disaffection which occurred aboard the Somers, a brig-of-war in the Caribbean in 1842, is an entriguing incident, as the only mutiny recorded in the U.S.Navy since the Constitution was ratified, in the furor it created which eventually led to the establishment of Annapolis, and particularly in the conduct- and misconduct- of its principals. For Philip Spencer, the 18 year old Acting Midshipman who was the center of dissension aboard the Somers was also the son of the Secretary of War, and a sulky, surly incorrigible. While Mackenzie, his captain, was a vain, arbitrary authoritarian whose ""ambitions outran his abilities""- and he flailed and flogged his juvenile crew (only six were more than 19 years old) unmercifully. Equally unmerciful was his treatment of Spencer, and two others, whom he arrested- although no mutinous word was spoken or act attempted- tried, judged, and condemned- to hang. With Mackenzie's return to the untempered approval and admiration of the press, the wind veered- and a public uproar followed- as did a court martial which, in spite of the influence of Spencer's father, failed to convict him but his last years were dogged by the unhappy repercussions of his brutal judgment.... Based on old records, including those of a great-uncle aboard the Somers, Van de Water's narrative shows spirit- and is attractively styled.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1954
Publisher: Ives Washburn