Letters from Kingston
Kingston, 1804 - Letter 1 - Re: Court Martial of Renown Officers
Just a few minutes to write you a note, the letter I sent out
dispatch vessel yesterday gave you all my news, but I have been called, no,
ordered, into a situation that is not of my making or my liking. I have no
one else to talk to about it except you.
After the dispatch vessel left I was ordered to assist in adjudicating
court martial of a young man called Horatio Hornblower and the other officers
of HMS Renown. Here is some the information that came to me in the briefing
packet: These officers, Lt. Buckland, Bush, Hornblower and the fourth, Archie
Kennedy, are charged with mutiny which includes the death of their captain,
I'm sure your remember Archie Kennedy, you met him at Edinburgh
of years ago when we visited my sister Lady McLean. Young man, blond hair,
just a little shorter than I am, he had just been promoted. And Mr.
Hornblower, he was a middy with Edward and Archie in Indefatigable. This man
Bush and Mr. Buckland I have no knowledge of.
Hornblower was the lad that Edward 'adopted', in his mind at
replace Eddy. They would have been of an age you know. Edward had not let
anyone get close to him from the time he lost Amanda until that young man
came along. You might say that young Hornblower saved Edward Pellew's life. I
remember seeing him in London before he took the Indy commission, a more
desperate man I have never seen. Well, that's a subject for another time.
These officers are claiming that Sawyer was mad and they acted
good of the ship. That well may be. I saw the man at the Admiralty and he was
acting strangely, but I made no special note of it. It didn't concern me.
I would have been happy to see Commodore Pellew in any other
than this. He now sits as head of this tribunal that will either condemn or
absolve this young man. That would be enough to cause him to be depressed,
but why did it have to come to trial in Kingston.
I have had no contact with Pellew since I received my summons,
but I have
seen him wondering along the streets, stopping here and there. Once he
stopped and ran his hand along the wall that looks out over the roadstead. I
am sure that he is remembering her. Even though he has a new wife and a
goodly crop of children, he still, well, another time. He is going gray now,
just like the rest of us.
My duty here is to ferret out the truth, let the blame fall
where it may.
According to the statements of these officers, some of the warrant officers
and the master, Sawyer put the Renown into a terrible situation, men not
trained or under proper discipline. Then some of the crew ran and were
murdered by rebel slaves. That was followed by an encounter with the Spanish
garrison. What a mess these officers had on their hands.
I know that the Commodore may not like the choices I make and
questions I have to ask. But the duty I have here is to administer justice. I
should add that the Admiralty may not be happy with my enquiry either.
I am keeping a journal of these proceedings as well as writing
know you will not get these letters until well after the events are over, but
I just need someone to talk to. Normally I would go to Edward, but in this
circumstance I cannot. I will be sealing all of these letters up as I write
them so I am unable to alter my first thoughts. Thank you, Big Emmie, for
Pray for me that I don't let my tongue get started before I
what I say. I have run afoul of Edward and others because I don't always
consider what I say before I open my mouth. I still have a ball in my
shoulder because I could not hold my peace with Foster. (He did come out
worse than I did in that affair.) And that I may make considered and good
judgements in the case before me.
God bless you, and I pray to him that the children continue well.
Your loving husband,
Notes: These letters have been recently found in an old trunk
ancestral home of the Hammonds. The heirs have been gracious enough to let me
pass them on. They put Captain Hammond in a better light. There have been a
couple of others found, so I may be able to pass them on as well.
Kingston, 1804 Letter 2 Re: Court Martial of RenownOfficers
Well, thisdamned trial has started.
I met with Collins and the Commodore just for a few moments prior
to filing into the courtroom. When Edward entered the anteroom, his face was
set in that mask he wears when he does not want anyone to know what he is
thinking. If he wanted that trick to work he should have made arrangements
for someone else to sit on this tribunal.
Edward was wearing his ribbon and star. He does not wear them
often and they look like they just came out of the box. No one would think
they were over twenty years old.He should wear them more often.
Collins, our other judge, is our age, (by our I mean Edward and
I) and he seems to have a concern for the officers. Almost a soft spot for
them. I will have to get to know him better to be sure that he is impartial.
If this is mutiny, and it may not be, we have to be sure that those involved
do not go unpunished.
There are only two of the Renown's officers in the dock. Mr.
Hornblower and Mr. Buckland. I remember this Buckland from years ago. He was
reticent then, almost shy.There's been talk about a drinking problem. He is
rather old, almost as old as I am, for a leftenant. He was first of the
Renown because he was the most senior. He also seems easily swayed. If that
is the case, with a demented Captain and an opportunistic third, the man may
have changed his mind several times in the course of the mutiny. I also seem
to remember him blaming his shortcomings on others. The other officers are in
Bush, the newest man, was cut across the belly by sword, and will
recover. Young Kennedy was shot. I took a few minutes to visit the hospital
and was not allowed to speak with Archie. The doctors have little hope for
The first witness was the ships physician, Clive. The first
question out of Edward'smouth was one of those double ended things: Was the
captain well or no? Clive had no other recourse but to say yes. Pellew asked
for a better answer. The man finally answered that Sawyer was "indisposed
temporarily". Unfit? Pellew turned to me, almost like a co-conspirator, the
doctor then said he was forced to make that assessment.
I heard Buckland whisper, that the doctor had killed them all. I
don't know if Pellew heard that or not. (You know his hearing is not what it
used to be, sometimes he has to ask people to repeat what they say. Too much
cannon fire, too close.)
I pushed the doctor for more information, evidently he made the
decision in the heat of battle, and further questioning I found that
Hornblower was the instigator. Pellew tried to move the responsibility back
to Buckland. Certainly I can fault Buckland for some of the actions, but the
suggestion was made by Hornblower; and a swayed Buckland would have supported
his junior officer. There's more here than meets the eye.
It seems that it was later than night that part of the crew ran
from the ship. What were these officers doing that those men leaving, and
taking some of the ship's boats, were not noticed? This was a poorly run ship.
That was all of the testimony this morning, as before I am
sealing this up and sending to you on the first dispatch vessel.
Kiss the only daughter we've got left at home for me. Tell her I
love you both. Thank God you quit having children, eight is enough! Haw Haw.
PS: I got the book and small clothes you sent out for me.Thank you very much;
my old ones had holes in the seat.