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The Plough Boy Journals

The Journals and Associated Documents

The Plough Boy Anthology

19th Century American Whaling

Bonin Islands

Pitcairn's Island

Dictionaries & Glossaries

Ashley's Glossary of
Whaling Terms

Dana's Dictionary of
Sea Terms


W. H. Macy

Ballou's Monthly Magazine
Vol. XLV, No. 3 (Mar 1877)
pp. 262-266.

262 Ballou's Monthly Magazine.

. . . .



      Archelaus Bowen, who was our chief mate in the Tamerlaine, used to tell this story of an adventure of his younger days, which I set down as nearly as possible in his own words.

      When I was a happy rollicking young fellow of twenty, I found myself adrift in the port of Buenos Ayres, by reason of the vessel in which I went out from home having been sold to those patriotic heroes out there, to be converted into a privateer. I had no desire to serve under any kind of patriotic flag except that of my own country, though good inducements were offered. There were no American vessels shipping hands at the time, so I accepted an offer as able seaman in the English brig Jupiter, bound to Liverpool, and took my traps on board the same day, as her cargo was completed, and she was to take her anchor the next morning. The Jupiter was a large clumsy square-rigged brig, with everything about her in the old-fashioned style, and altogether very different from the trim saucy half-clipper, from which I had so lately been discharged.

      We mustered eight men in the forecastle, pretty well mixed as to nationality, two mates, captain and steward, making twelve souls on board.

      The brig was commanded by a smart young Englishman named Knapp, and this was his first command, for he had come out from Liverpool as mate of the vessel and the captain had died of yellow fever. I found the vessel a dull sailer, but tight and strong, and as the treatment was good enough on board, and the captain and I were mutually pleased with each other, there was nothing to complain of.

      But, I soon conceived a dislike for some of my shipmates, and in particular for one Mike Maroney, a burly big-jawed Irishman who had joined at Buenos Ayres on the same day that I did. This fellow soon made his power felt, and wielded a marvellous influence over nearly all the men in the forecastle. He was a good sailor, with more than average intelligence, and I think knew something of navigation, but the character which I felt obliged to give him after a few days' acquaintance, was that of a reckless adventurer. He was in the habit of button-holing one or another of his watchmates at night, and taking him aside from the rest, to hold long and earnest conferences, but he had but little to say either to me or to the other American, Joe Ashley, who had been my shipmate in the last vessel.

      The brig's cargo consisted mainly of hides, but it had been whispered that certain mysterious little boxes which were brought on board by the captain just before we sailed, and taken down into his stateroom, contained gold and silver coin. I gave little heed to these whispers, for it was, as I thought, none of my business; but I had once heard Maroney speak very knowingly on this subject, hinting that he had seen more of these boxes than he cared to tell, and I had not failed to notice how the dark eyes of the two Spaniards Pedro and Agustin lighted up while they talked on this subject, and how they exchanged meaning looks when they thought they were unnoticed.

The Mutiny on the Jupiter. 263

      We had a long passage, for we could seldom drive more than five or six knots out of the old Jupiter even with a fair breeze; but we had stretched well to the northward of the equator without anything remarkable having occurred, when one night I had occasion to go on deck during my middle watch below, and feeling a little unwell, stood leaning against the forescuttle to enjoy the fresh air, when I heard voices, in low but earnest tones, coming from behind the cook's galley, which, instead of being amidship, as usual in merchant vessels, occupied a place on the port bow. The voices were those of Mike Maroney and Pedro the elder Spaniard. I had soon heard enough to make me want to hear more, and I gathered enough within a few minutes to know that they had a serious plan for taking the brig, and if necessary, killing all the officers, to get possession of the money in the little boxes.

      I now heard Mike say that he was positive about the money, for he had seen it in the consignee's office at Buenos Ayres before the packages were nailed up. In his judgment there was, at least, twenty thousand dollars in silver, but there were two little boxes, which he supposed to contain gold pieces.

      "Now wouldn't that be a haul for us, Pedro," said the Irishman, coolly, "even if we did have to do a little murder to get it? I don't think you or I would mind slitting a throat or two to make ourselves rich so easily."

      "Too many men to divide it," said Pedro, "make small shares, make nobody rich."

      "Hark'ee!" said Maroney, speaking so low, that in my eagerness I took a step nearer the galley to catch the words which were to follow. "You and I will take care of that, Pedro. Let me have help enough to work the vessel to a place that I know at one of the Cape Verde Islands, and I would think no more of making way with these other fellows after I've done with them, than of killing the skipper and the mates. You and I will divide the plunder, Pedro, and there will be enough to make two of us independent for the rest of our days."

      "Good," answered the Spaniard, "Dead men no tell tales."

      "We have six men with us in the forecastle, all but the two Yankees. I shall not trust them, for they might blow the thing before we are ready. I've got the steward all right, so we shall have a friend in the enemy's camp."

      "To-morrow night then," said Pedro, "will be the time."

      "That was the time appointed, but we must not wait too long. I've got the figures from the steward, and I find the brig has made a bigger run the last two days than I expected. If we should wait for to-morrow night, she will have run past the latitude of the island where I want to go. We must strike in the morning watch – just three hours from now, for there goes four bells for two o'clock, and five must be the hour. We must pass the word round at once, and have everything ready for the sleepiest hour of the morning. Don't talk any more now, but when the watch is changed, tell your crony Agustin what is expected of him, and I will look out for the rest."

      Here was an alarm at short notice, indeed! As I moved away to go below, I stumbled in my excitement of mind, and just then the eyes of the stalwart Irishman, peering round the corner of the galley, rested upon me, just picking myself up. Before I could stand erect, his hand was at my throat, and a long sheath knife gleamed before my face.

      "Bowen, you've been listening," he said, in a suppressed voice. "What did you hear? I'll loosen my grip to allow ye to speak, but if you raise any alarm, I'll stab you to the heart. Now, then, what did you hear?"

      I had by this time decided how I should temporize with him. It was useless to deny it, I knew.

      "I've heard enough to know what's in the wind," said I, as soon as my throat was free. "But why didn't you trust me in this business? If there's any money in it, you might be sure a Yankee would want a share."

      "I was afraid to trust you," he said, "and I'm afraid of you now. It is your turnout wheel, isn't it?"

      "Yes, it is."

      "Play sick when the watch is called at eight bells, and swap tricks with Jordy the Shields man. I can trust him to go aft, but not you. Do as I tell ye, if you value your life."

      "But the mate knows whose trick it is, and he never allows us to exchange without searching the matter up very closely for the reasons. Besides I think already he has

264 Ballou's Monthly Magazine.

suspicions, and anything out of the regular course would only increase them, and put him more on his guard. Besides, Jordy's the very man you must look out for, and he is not to be trusted at all, you see. I know more about this matter than you think I do, Mike, although I am with you heart and soul, if there's any money to be made; there are some that you think sound who will betray you before the time comes. And especially you must look out for the Shields man."'

      Now all this was a tissue of falsehoods, but it was said so coolly and impressively, that it carried all the force of truth, and did not fail of its impression upon one so suspicious as Mike Maroney. He was getting nervous and uncertain whom to place confidence in; and while he stood there undecided, I followed up my advantage.

      "You have missed it, Mike," I said, "in not putting your trust in me and Joe Ashley. But we are ready even now to follow you, as far as you may lead, even at this short notice; and don't forget that Ashley is a good navigator, and the very man you need after you get possession of the brig."

      "I'll trust you," suddenly exclaimed Maroney, with a terrible oath. "Tell Joe Ashley when you go below, and let the tricks at the wheel all go on as usual. If the Shields man blows upon me, he'll have to do it very soon; I shall strike the blow at two bells, and he wont know it till just before that time."

      "Maroney, I wish you had trusted me sooner," said I, in an injured tone.

      "Well, I didn't know really who was the safest man, and indeed I don't know now; but death to any man who proves false to me, for I'll have that money if I have to make the attack alone, and kill every man on board myself. Go below, and don't talk any more, for here comes the second mate forward."

      My first act was to wake Joe Ashley and give him an outline of the matter. A few whispered words between us, and we understood the parts we were to play. I lay awake in the dark and heard Mike come down, and wake the little Spaniard Agustin, who stole on deck and held a low conference with Pedro. My knowledge of the Spanish language was quite imperfect, but I was enabled to gather a part of its meaning.

      When my watch was called at four o'clock I went aft, without any further talk with Ashley, but we exchanged looks, and each read the other's intentions. Maroney sat on the windlass end as I passed, and appeared nervous and fidgety, as is often the case even with the bravest and most resolute of men when on the eve of action, and just before their blood gets fired up with the excitement of battle. The discovery that I had overheard his talk with Pedro had unsettled and disconcerted him, at the very moment when he needed all his coolness.

      "Joe Ashley is all right," I whispered, in a reasurring tone, as I passed him. "He'll follow you to the death."

      "Good," he answered in the same low tone. "Remember, if you play me false, I'll have your heart's blood first of all!"

      "Hush! not so loud, for there's Mr. Taylor just coming on deck. Never fear for me or Joe either."

      As I took the helm, Tom Atkins, the man whom I had relieved, gave me the course, and passed away into the darkness on the lee side.

      The next moment the mate sauntered aft on the weather side, and leaned over to look in at the compass. "Mr. Taylor," I said, in a whisper, without moving my head, "there's danger at hand."

      He looked directly in my face.

      "Don't speak, sir," I continued, in the same whisper, "There's mutiny brewing, and the attack is to be made at two bells. Let me speak to Captain Knapp. Ask him not to come on deck, but to put his face up here to the binnacle light. Be careful and quiet about it, and I will explain all. The steward is in the plot."

      The mate, who was a cool wary man, at once took in the whole situation, and answered me only with a nod of intelligence.

      He walked carelessly to the break of the quarter-deck, and then back again, five or six times, and then took out his pipe, and knocking the old ashes from it, clapped it into his mouth, and stepped below quickly as if to light it. It was hardly a minute before he returned, and resumed his march fore and aft the short quarter-deck, puffing away vigorously.

      The Jupiter's binnacle, instead of being a separate box of itself, was only the after part of the large cabin gangway, so that a man at the helm and one in the cabin could see and converse with each other.

      While Mr. Taylor paced the quarter-deck and smoked his pipe. Captain Knapp had

The Mutiny on the Jupiter. 265

mounted upon the cabin table, thus bringing his face close up to the binnacle compass, and he and I were engaged In a colloquy, carried on entirely in a low whisper, but involving matters of life and death to us all.

      We did not waste many words, for we felt that time was precious. The second mate was already astir, and he and Captain Knapp made all haste in loading up the firearms, and making ready to give the mutineers such a reception as would make the surprise mutual.

      The mate did not leave the deck, but continued his measured walk as before.

      In a few minutes loaded pistols for him and also for me were passed out through the binnacle window, so that we were now four well-armed men to resist the attack of six, for the captain whispered that he and Mr. Drew had fixed the black steward so that there would be no trouble from him. He had been gagged and fastened up in his own dormitory, and there was no danger from him, unless he could break out through the broadside of the ship.

      I had tampered with the half-hour glass, so as to put back for a few minutes the time of striking two bells, but now that all was in readiness, I struck the rattle and some one on the bow rang forth the two strokes loud and clear. At the same instant a dark group of men sallied in two divisions from behind the long boat and advanced quickly upon us.

      "Now! Whereupon the mate, Mr. Drew, stepped from the companion stairs out upon the deck on one side, and the captain on the other, while I letting go the wheel stepped to the side of Captain Knapp, so that two men with loaded pistols confronted three on each aide. There was a discharge from each of our batteries at the same time, but it was not so effective as could have been wished.

      The Shields man received the ball from Captain Knapp's pistol and fell dead in his tracks, while my bullet extorted a yell from the little Spaniard Agustin, showing that it had taken effect somewhere. But on the other side the mate's pistol had snapped full in the face of the arch-mutineer, and Mr. Drew missed his aim and was disabled himself by a stunning blow from a handspike wielded by Tom Atkins. We rushed to the support of our friend, being now but three effective men against four who came on pellmell, all regular plan of attack or defence being now abandoned.

      The master-spirit, Maroney, infuriated with rage, singled me out as the main object of his vengeance, and rushed upon me with his long knife, while Pedro and the two Englishmen occupied themselves with the captain and mate. I parried Mike's desperate blows with the barrel of an old musket which I had seized upon after hurling my empty pistol at him without effect, for there were no revolvers in those days, and we had no time to reload anything. We were at too close quarters to aim and fire the king's arm. Which perhaps would have refused duty if I had done so.

      I clubbed it and struck a heavy blow at Maroney with the stock, which took a partial effect upon his shoulder, but coming down with great force upon the quarter rail broke the stock from the barrel as short as a pipestem. Mike got an awful cut at my face, laying open one cheek – you see the scar here – and was following up his advantage with a savage thrust intended to stab me to the heart, when he was suddenly felled by the blow of a capstan-bar, delivered full upon the back of his skull, and Joe Ashley, our friend in the enemy's camp, turned his attention to Pedro who was getting the best of it in a desperate fight with the mate, just as Captain Knapp who had crippled the Englishman, breaking the head of one and the arm of the other, was also moving to reinforce Mr. Taylor. Short work was made with the Spaniard; a crack from Joe's capstan-bar staggered him and was followed up by another from the captain's large horse-pistol, which knocked him over the quarter rail into the sea. The victory was ours and the brig was safe from the mutineers.

      But meanwhile, left to her own guidance, the old Jupiter had come up into the wind, got aback, gone round and round, and boxhauled herself about with a sort of roving commission. But as the breeze was light there was no danger, and no damage done. It was now time to get her under control again, to clear away the smoke of battle, and set matters to rights.

      Maroney was found to be fatally wounded and died within forty-eight hours after the fight was over. Thus we were well clear of the two most dangerous men, and in all the other cases, were able to repair damages, though my own wound was a severe one, as well as that of Agustin, who had been shot

266 Ballou's Monthly Magazine.

in the month by my bullet which was intended for his head. The poor black steward remained gagged and shut up in his room during all this uproar, and when released had turned nearly white from fright, expecting to be either hung at the yardarm or thrown overboard. But short-handed as we were, Captain Knapp took the wisest course in saying little about it, and assuming a conciliatory though firm tone toward the guilty men. There was no further danger, now that the two master-spirits, Maroney and Pedro, were gone to their final account.

      The captain and second mate, when the alarm was first given, had found some of the firearms already loaded. This had been done privately by the steward, and was sufficient evidence of his guilty intentions, but he had not ventured to remove any of the guns before the moment for action had arrived, as their absence from the rack in the cabin would have been noticed. By the prompt action of the captain, in caging him quietly at the outset, we were rid of a powerful enemy acting in our rear.

      Maroney had refused to trust Joe Ashley, and had left him in the forecastle, trusting to strike the blow so quickly as to get possession of the brig before any harm could be done by the interference of Joe. His distrust of me had returned after I had left him to take my trick at the wheel, and he had stationed Tom Atkins at the corner of the galley to keep a constant watch upon my movements, and to report if I was seen to hold the least communication with the officer of the deck. But all had been so cleverly managed that the mutineers had not the least suspicion of the warm reception in store for them when they moved aft to the attack.

      We all felt sorry for the sad fate of poor Jordy the Shields man, a well-meaning but credulous fellow, who had been frightened into the business by Mike Maroney.

      On our arrival at Liverpool, a legal investigation was held, and the survivors of the mutineers, three in number, were sentenced to seven years penal servitude, the steward, from not having been actually engaged in any overt act, escaping with an imprisonment of only one year.

      It proved a lucky piece of business for me and Joe Ashley, as in addition to our pay, the owners rewarded us liberally for our agency in saving the vessel and their money bags.

      I never knew just how much gold and silver were in those packages, but it was dearly bought with the lives of three men, and the wounding and maiming of nearly all the rest on board the Jupiter.

      I shall carry this hideous mark through the whole voyage of life and have good reason to remember my first and last cruise in a lime-juicer.


Author: Macy, William Hussey
Title: The Mutiny on the Jupiter.
Publication: Ballou's Monthly Magazine.
Vol/No/Date: Vol. 45, No. 3 (Mar 1877)
Pages: 262-266