Narrative of the Mutiny on Board His Majesty’s Ship Bounty

Author: William Bligh  | Date: 1790

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William Bligh London 1790

Mutiny on the Bounty

[1789]

II

Tuesday the 28th: Just before sun-rising, while I was yet asleep, Mr. Christian, with the master at arms, gunner’s mate, and Thomas Burkitt, seaman, came into my cabin, and seizing me, tied my hands with a cord behind my back, threatening me with instant death, if I spoke or made the least noise. I, however, called as loud as I could, in hopes of assistance; but they had already secured the officers who were not of their party, by placing sentinels at their doors. There were three men at my cabin door, besides the four within. Christian had only a cutlass in his hand; the others had muskets and bayonets. I was hauled out of bed, and forced on deck in my shirt, suffering great pain from the tightness with which they had tied my hands.

I demanded the reason of such violence but received no other answer than abuse for not holding my tongue. The master, the gunner, the surgeon, Mr. Elphinstone, master’s mate, and Nelson, were kept confined below; and the fore hatchway was guarded by sentinels. The boatswain and carpenter, and also the clerk, Mr. Samuel, were allowed to come upon deck, where they saw me standing abaft the mizen-mast, with my hands tied behind my back, under a guard with Christian at their head. The boatswain was ordered to hoist the launch out, with a threat, if he did not do it instantly, to take care of himself.

When the boat was out, Mr. Hay-ward and Mr. Hallet, two of the midshipmen, and Mr. Samuel, were ordered into it. I demanded what their intention was in giving this order, and endeavored to persuade the people near me not to persist in such acts of violence; but it was to no effect.

"Hold your tongue, Sir, or you are dead this instant," was constantly repeated to me.

The master, by this time, had sent to request that he might come on deck, which was permitted; but he was soon ordered back again to his cabin.

I continued my endeavors to turn the tide of affairs, when Christian changed the cutlass which he had in his hand for a bayonet that was brought to him, and, holding me with a strong grip by the cord that tied my hands, he with many oaths threatened to kill me immediately, if I would not be quiet. The villains round me had their pieces cocked and bayonets fixed. Particular people were called on to go into the boat, and were hurried over the side; whence I concluded that with these people I was to be set adrift. I therefore made another effort to bring about a change, but with no other effect than to be threatened with having my brains blown out.

The boatswain and seamen, who were to go in the boat, were allowed to collect twine, canvas, lines, sails, cordage, an 8 and 20 gallon cask of water, and Mr. Samuel got 150 lb. of bread, with a small quantity of ram and wine, also a quadrant and compass; but he was forbidden, on pain of death, to touch either map, ephemeris (book of astronomical observations), sextant, time-keeper, or any of my surveys or drawings.

The mutineers having forced those of the seamen whom they meant to get rid of, into the boat, Christian directed a dram to be served to each of his own crew. I then unhappily saw that nothing could be done to effect the recovery of the ship. There was no one to assist me, and every endeavor on my part was answered with threats of death.

The officers were next called upon deck, and forced over the side into the boat, while I was kept apart from every one, abaft the mizen-mast; Christian, armed with a bayonet, holding me by the bandage that secured my hands. The guard round me had their pieces cocked, but on my daring the ungrateful wretches to fire, they uncocked them.

It is of no moment for me to recount my endeavors to bring back the offenders to a sense of their duty. All I could do was by speaking to them in general; but it was to no purpose, for I was kept securely bound, and no one except the guard suffered to come near me.

Much altercation took place among the mutinous crew during the whole business. Some swore "I’ll be damned if he does not find his way home, if he gets anything with him" meaning me): and, when the carpenter’s chest was carrying away, "Damn my eyes, he will have a vessel built in a month." While others laughed at the helpless situation of the boat, being very deep, and so little room for those who were in her. As for Christian, he seemed as if meditating destruction on himself and every one else.

I asked for arms, but they laughed at me, and said I was well acquainted with the people among whom I was going, and therefore did not want them. Four cutlasses, however, were thrown into the boat, after we were veered astern.

The officers and men being in the boat, they only waited for me, of which the master-at-arms informed Christian; who then said: "Come, Captain Bligh, your officers and men are now in the boat, and you must go with them. If you attempt to make the least resistance you will instantly be put to death"; and, without further ceremony, with a tribe of armed ruffians about me, I was forced over the side, where they untied my hands. Being in the boat, we were veered astern by a rope. A few pieces of port were thrown to us, and some clothes, also the cutlasses I have already mentioned; and it was then that the armorer and carpenters called out to me to remember that they had no hand in the transaction. After having undergone a great deal of ridicule, and been kept some time to make sport for these unfeeling wretches, we were at length cast adrift in the open ocean.

Notwithstanding the roughness with which I was treated, the remembrance of past kindnesses produced some signs of remorse in Christian. When they were forcing me out of the ship, I asked him if this treatment was a proper return for the many instances he had received of my friendship? He appeared disturbed at my question, and answered with much emotion.

"That—Captain Bligh—that is the thing. I am in hell—I am in hell!"

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Chicago: William Bligh, Narrative of the Mutiny on Board His Majesty’s Ship Bounty, ed. William Bligh in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Co., 1951), Original Sources, accessed May 28, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=TM13S9FFSRQJVYY.

MLA: Bligh, William. Narrative of the Mutiny on Board His Majesty’s Ship Bounty, edited by William Bligh, in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, edited by Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris, Harrisburg, Pa., Stackpole Co., 1951, Original Sources. 28 May. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=TM13S9FFSRQJVYY.

Harvard: Bligh, W, Narrative of the Mutiny on Board His Majesty’s Ship Bounty, ed. . cited in 1951, History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. , Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pa.. Original Sources, retrieved 28 May 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=TM13S9FFSRQJVYY.