Tuesday, May 04, 2010

First Seamen to be hung in the navy?

The following was taken from a report on the navy court system, I found this information interesting for two reason, one the harshness of the sentence, and the other shows once again that are Government right hand don’t know what it’s left hand was doing. Now historians will write that the Government was new and they had their hands full trying to get our navy fit. When they found their error, they did what they could to make this mass go away.

In the early summer of 1781, possess a peculiar interest, because of the light which they throw upon the penal code of the Continental navy, and because this case is one of the first in which a seaman in the American navy was sentenced to be hanged.

Three seamen, who were enlisted on board the "Alliance," were tried for a breach of the 29th article of the rules and regulations of the navy. Of Patrick Sheridan, the court adjudged that he should be whipped three hundred and fifty-four lashes upon the naked back, one hundred and seventy-seven thereof alongside the ship "Alliance," and the remainder alongside the ship "Deane." John Crawford was sentenced to wear a halter around his neck, and receive fifty lashes. Sheridan and Crawford were to lose certain wages and their share of prize money. The court found the third seaman, William McClehany, "peculiarly Guilty of a breach of all the Clauses in the Article aforesaid," and it adjudged that he should '' suffer the punishment of death, and that he be hanged by the neck on the starboard fore Yard Arm of the said ship 'Alliance' until he is dead."

The Board of Admiralty laid the proceedings of this court-martial before Congress in July, 1781, but owing to the confusion of the naval business at this time, and to the carelessness of Congress, no action was taken on them. When John Brown, the naval agent of the Agent of Marine, reached Boston, towards the end of 1781, he found the three men in prison, waiting the execution of their sentences, and "perishing with cold for want of Clothing." The fate of the three men is best told in Brown's words: "Under these circumstances it was the opinion of the Board (and I agreed with them) that as the proceedings had lain so long before Congress without anything being done, and it being uncertain when they would act upon them, to save expense it was best to dispose of the Men in the best manner we could. Accordingly the two who were sentenced to be whipped were put on board the Deane, the other was sold by the Sheriff to pay his bill of fees, keeping, &c., and with the surplus of the money he procured us three good seamen for the Deane. My motive for concurring in this proceeding was to save expense and preserve the public Money in my hands for more Material purposes."1

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