William Muspratt

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William Muspratt (1759–1797) was an able seaman (AB) on His Majesty's Armed Ship Bounty. After participating in the Mutiny on the Bounty on 28 April 1789, he was court-martialed at Spithead in September 1792, sentenced to death, but escaped the hangman's noose after his conviction was overturned on appeal. He returned to active service in the British navy, and likely perished in 1797 aboard HMS Bellerophon.[1]

Mutiny[edit]

On the books of the Bounty, Muspratt is listed not only as an able seaman but also as the ship's tailor. His status as a craftsman did not grant any special privileges and, like the other AB's of the ship's crew, Muspratt was subject to the discipline of the ship's captain, William Bligh. Upon the Bounty's landfall in Tahiti in late 1788, Muspratt soon fell afoul of his commanding officers and was sentenced in December to endure a dozen lashes with the cat o' nine tails for "neglect of duty." The seaman appears to have responded to this treatment by attempting to desert the ship, for on 5 January 1789, he absconded with two shipmates. All were recaptured and Muspratt was re-sentenced to four dozen additional lashes.[1]

Soon after the Bounty made sail for the West Indies in early 1789, the mutiny occurred. Witnesses later testified that Muspratt was armed during the take-over with a musket, which he never used nor fired. The mutineer left the Bounty when it again called at Tahiti and did not accompany the inner core of the mutineers to their eventual destination in the Pitcairn Islands.[1]

Bligh had meanwhile returned to England and written out descriptions of the mutineers; from this record we learn that Muspratt was "5 feet 6 inches high. Dark complexion, brown hair, slender made. Very strong black beard under his scarred chin. Tattooed in several places." When HMS Pandora arrived in Tahiti to try to recapture those mutineers that could be found, Muspratt was among those recaptured and returned to England to stand trial for mutiny.[1]

One key element in the outcome of this trial was that Muspratt, although a common seaman, was able to find an attorney to defend him. Although eyewitness testimony depicted the seaman as having been armed during the mutiny, and he was convicted and sentenced to death, he was able to successfully appeal his conviction and return to the ranks. His subsequent service was short, however. His will, probated in January 1798, indicated that his service ended aboard HMS Bellerophon, a ship of the line.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Bounty's Crew Encyclopedia". Pacific Union College. Retrieved 2011-07-21.