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The Revolution’s Caine Mutiny
In Pierre Landais the Continental Navy had its own real-life Commander Queeg. His tour as master of the Alliance was a nightmare wilder than any a novelist could invent
April 1960 | Volume 11, Issue 3
And there were still other mutinies to be recorded on the log of the Alliance. On his initial cruise on Landais’ ship Barry was forced to report: “I believe a ship never put to sea in a worse condition as to seamen.” For disobeying orders under fire three sailors were tried for a breach of the twenty-ninth article of the Navy Rules which fixed the penalty for desertion and cowardice. One of the accused was sentenced to receive 354 lashes on the bare back; the second to wear a halter across his neck and to receive fifty lashes; and the third to “be hanged by the starboard foreyard arm of the said ship Alliance until he is dead.” But the sentences were never carried out. John Brown, secretary to the Agent of Marine, visited Boston some months after the trials and reported finding the three men in prison awaiting execution of their sentences and suffering acutely from the cold. To “save expense” Brown had two of the culprits whipped and put aboard the frigate Deane; the third was sold by the sheriff to pay his bill for fees and board. As Brown reported to Robert Morris, then Agent of Marine, “with the surplus of the money” he procured three good seamen for the Deane.
The following year, when the Alliance was in the port of New London, the crew mutinied, calling for “liberty and back allowance.” Barry, who was on shore at the time, returned to hold an inquiry aboard ship. Three men were court-martialed and flogged.
So from first to last the Alliance kept the Navy Boards and courts-martial busy investigating complaints against her officers and men, and the taint of the distraught Landais and his mutinous crew clung to her till the end.