UNITED STATES COMMISSIONER'S OFFICE.
Before Commissioner Betts.
September 30, 1865
The examination, commenced yesterday morning in the alleged mutinous conduct of thirty-one men employed as seamen on the ship Calhoun, attracted a large crowd of the friends of the accused parties. The crew were all brought into court ironed, and, although a rough-looking lot, they appeared to be above the average in intelligence. The charge against them was refusing to do duty and mutinous conduct. The Captain of the Calhoun was the first witness called.
George P. Page, sworn, stated that he was master of the Calhoun; on the 24th of September the crew came aft in a body requesting that the third mate and boatswain might be put in irons; witness replied that they were already in confinement; they asked if they were in irons, and were answered in the negative, but witness said he would bring them to the proper authorities; the men then said that they would have them in irons and must see the place where they were confined; witness was compelled to show them the place of confinement; they then again stated that the two men must be put in irons and placed in a room forward; being thus forced, witness put the mate and boatswain in irons, and placed them in a room in the wheel-house, where the crew insisted upon and did place a guard of their own men over them; James Green was spokesman of the party; at this time the ship was about 128 miles east of Sandy Hook.
Cross-examined -- Previous to this one man had been shot and two men wounded by the boatswain and mate; pilot boat No. 4 was in sight, and about two miles from the vessel when the crew made the demand to iron the officers; the crew stated that they were apprehensive that the mate and boatswain would escape; after this the crew performed their duty, but in a very slow and dilatory manner; no threats were used, only the men were then in a body.
Robert Vineir, pilot, testified that he boarded the Calhoun, Sunday, the 24th; Captain told him the ship was in a state of mutiny; saw two men on guard over the wheel-house; the men on guard helped to work the ship when told to; my orders were all punctually obeyed; I had entire command of the ship.
The Doctor and the first mate were called to identify the men who came aft. The fourth mate was also called to testify to the same point.
The last witness, Philip Woodhouse, further testified that on the 21st he heard a row in the galley, and on stepping out of his room, he saw the cook thrust from the galley, and a number of men beating him; on his interceding for the man the crew said they would kill him and the cook too; one of the men said they intended to kill the cook before they got to New-York and they would fix him now; they continued beating and kicking him until the boatswain and second mate came to his assistance; the boatswain came from aft singing out, "Clear the way," "Make room," &c.; on coming close up to the men he fired; the men had the cook down at the time; several shots were fired.
The further hearing was adjourned until Monday next.
The following statement was prepared by one of the passengers and placed in the hands of prisoners' counsel. It is understood that the defence will prove the facts alleged in it:
On board ship Calhoun, Black Star Line of Liverpool packets.
A statement of the treatment experienced by the passengers and sailors on board the ship Calhoun:
Aug. 14. -- Passenger R. Morrison, walking on the deck, stood in the way of the third mate, (Wilson,) pushed aside, and upon remonstrating, Wilson struck him a sharp blow on the ear. No notice taken of the above by chief officer.
Aug. 15. -- Passenger James Miller, walking too near the aft cabin. The boatswain came up, struck him several severe blows on the face, disfiguring the poor fellow badly. Passenger cook, James Matthews, accused by some passengers of negligence, whereupon the boatswain came to the galley, and struck and kicked Matthews dreadfully. Matthews was also put in irons for this offence.
Aug. 25 -- All passengers ordered on deck; passenger Pat. McCormick below locking his box previous to going up: the third mate (Wilson) told him to go on deck; McCormick said he would when he had secured his box; then Wilson struck him very severe and repeated blows, covering his face with blood. A respectable looking German passenger was afflicted with the "bad disease." He told the doctor, who said he could do nothing in such cases, and said he had better throw himself overboard. On Sept. 5, about 1 A.M., he told a comrade that he should drown himself, and afterward ran on deck and threw himself overboard, as is supposed, as nothing was seen or heard of him afterward.
Sept. 12 -- Disturbance between the sailors and the boatswain in the steerage. Passenger James Bowker making his bed. The boatswain had a knife and marling-spike in his hands, and was brandishing them about near Bowker; he (Bowker) to save himself from possible harm, caught hold of the boatswain's arm while he got out of the way. For this Bowker was accused of interfering with the boatswain in the performance of his duties. Placed in irons, and while manacled the Captain struck him several times with his clenched fist.
Same day -- Margaret Lawley asked the Doctor for medicine. He refused to give any, and told her to "Go to h__l."
Mrs. Murray, whose child died on Sept. 13, asked the Doctor for a certificate, which he refused to give without a fee of five shillings.
Mrs. Clark, unwell, informed by the Doctor that she needed nourishing diet, and if she sent him a fee he would send her a bowl of good soup.
Sept. 21 -- The sailors dissatisfied with the style in which their meals had been cooked during the passage and continually complaining. This morning their bread was boiled in salt water, and they could not eat it. Whereupon they proceeded in a body to the cook-house and rebuked the cook for bad cookery. He said it was too good for them. Had a large fork in his hand, with which he attempted to stab one of the men. Then one of the sailors threw the whole pan of slush at the cook. Most of them hauled him out of the galley and beat him; the boatswain came up, saw the proceeding, said nothing; went to the aft cabin, returned quickly (the row was over then) with a loaded revolver and cutlass, crying out "Clear away;" "Stand clear." Passengers and sailors crowded together near the galley; the boatswain fired several shots within a few feet of the passengers and men, wounding one sailor mortally, died an hour afterwards; also wounding two other sailors severely; several passengers had their hands and faces slightly burnt by the powder; the third mate also came out armed and fired his revolver but the cap snapped and he did no injury.
The boatswain was frequently very abusive, coming below during the dead of night rousing the passengers by calling out beastly names and using the most filthy language; holding the light to young women in their bunks and asking them what man they slept with last night, &c., &c.; provisions very inferior throughout the passage; flour and oatmeal, often sour biscuits, old and grubby vinegar, only served out twice, potatoes four times, pepper and mustard once; all kinds of provisions supplied deficient in weight and quantity; always a short water supply; the Captain has sold a deal of flour, sugar, oatmeal and bread at three times its value to passengers; this statement is signed by twenty of the passengers who declared their willingness to swear to the facts which we have given as written out by one of the signers. It is proper to state that Assistant District-Attorney Joseph Bell, who conducts this case for the government, has had the third mate arrested, and has procured a warrant for the arrest of the boatswain.