Page 26 - Galveston Monthly - September 2017

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26 |
GALVESTON MONTHLY |
SEPTEMBER 2017
of whiskey were sold to the crew. Unknown to Dearborne, the ship’s
Marine guards were also partaking of the whiskey.
By nine o’clock that night, Dearborne heard loud singing, cursing,
and roaring below the decks. He realized that most of his crew was
intoxicated. He was not particularly worried, as he could always call on
the guards to restore order.
The Marines on board had many duties, including sniping from
perches in the rigging during battle, leading boarding parties,
and providing security for shore parties. Their most important
responsibility, however, was to maintain discipline among unruly
sailors. If the crew got out of hand, Dearborne believed, the Marines
would take care of any trouble and restore order.
The Mutiny
Dearborne was not overly concerned when the big, burly, redheaded
Marine Sergeant Seymour Oswald staggered to the quarterdeck and
requested to speak to him. When Dearborne gave his permission,
Sergeant Oswald requested permission to go ashore. Dearborne
repeated Lieutenant Seeger’s orders that shore leave would not be
granted.
Oswald, in a loud voice, demanded that he be given a boat to take him
into New Orleans. By this time he was joined by half a dozen sailors
clamoring to go ashore.
The commotion had roused Lieutenant Fuller, who came on deck as
the angry men began shouting threats. Fuller then turned to Oswald
and ordered, “Sergeant, call out the guard.”
Oswald saluted, barked out a snappy “yes sir,” and went below deck.
There he issued muskets, bayonets, and cutlasses to two Marine
corporals and nine privates. He ordered, “Fix bayonets. Lock and load.”
Then he led his men on deck.
Oswald marched up to Fuller, smiled, and then snarled “We are going
ashore.” When the astonished officer objected, Oswald swung at his
head with a tomahawk but missed. As Fuller ducked the drunken
swing, two of the Marines shot him through his midsection. As Fuller
lay gasping in pain, Corporal Antonio Landois stabbed him, breaking off
his bayonet in the dying officer’s body.
Midshipmen William H. Allen and Theodore Odell, hearing the shots,
rushed to the deck to aid their officers, only to be shot down by other
Marines. The wounded midshipmen along with Dearborne were
unceremoniously thrown into a cargo hold and the latch
was locked over them.
The mutineers now held the ship, but none of them
knew how to navigate it, and they had no officers to
join their pitiful coup, much less to guide them out into
the Gulf of Mexico. For them to put out to sea would be
sheer lunacy in the darkness. With the floor deck awash
in blood, they lowered two of the
San Antonio’s
launches
and rowed frantically towards the harbor.
Restoring Order
The shouting and gunfire aboard the
San Antonio
attracted the attention of men on other vessels, including
the U.S. revenue cutter
Jackson
. Sending out boats
to intercept the fleeing boatmen, the remaining crew
spread the alarm to those ashore, where New Orleans
police and U.S. Marines captured six of the mutineers.
One boat rowed to the
San Antonio
, where men
boarded her, released the prisoners, and transported the
two wounded midshipmen to shore. They were taken to
a New Orleans hospital where they later recovered.
Two more of the fugitives were arrested the following
day, and Landois was captured in a Louisiana swamp
six months later. The mutineers were thrown into the
Orleans Parish jail.
The San Antonio’s
officers managed to
locate Lieutenant Seeger on shore, who rushed back to
his ship to lock down the crew and see that all was quiet.
Lieutenant Fuller’s body was carried ashore and buried
in a New Orleans cemetery in a ceremony attended by
officers of his ship and the
USS Jackson
. Within a few
weeks, the
San Antonio
was provisioned and departed
New Orleans. Seeger sailed for the Yucatán port of
Campeche, taking two of the conspirators charged with
complicity in the plot with him. Seeger left behind the
others, held under state murder charges to rot in the
New Orleans jail for the time being.
Rendezvous
Commodore Moore was off the coast of Campeche
when he found out about the mutiny on board the
San Antonio
. He was both angry and grief stricken, and
mourned the loss of Lieutenant Fuller, “one of the most
promising officers whom I’ve have ever known.” He
vowed to avenge the young lieutenant’s death to the
utmost limits of the law.
He convened a court martial aboard the
Austin
for
the two prisoners. Thomas Rowan was found guilty,
but Fred Shepherd was granted a continuance to allow
him to gather evidence against the mutineers. With the
grim righteousness of a Puritan minister, Moore read
the articles of war to the crew, informed them of the
mutiny aboard
San Antonio
, and told them of the deadly
consequences of the heinous crime. He hoped to squash
any inkling of mutinous rumblings aboard the
Austin
.
The
San Antonio
is lost
While the other mutineers were locked up in the
Texas Warships
Austin
and
San Antonio
sailing side by side