- William Bligh
name = William Bligh
image_size = 240px
caption = 1814 portrait
birth_date = birth date|1754|09|09|df=y
St Tudy, Cornwall, United Kingdom
death_date = death date and age|1817|12|7|1754|09|09|df=y
death_place = Bond Street, London, England
resting_place = St Mary's Church,
Lambeth, London, England
occupation = Vice-Admiral
spouse = Elizabeth (Betsy) Betham
Vice-AdmiralWilliam Bligh FRS RN (9 September 1754 – 7 December 1817) was an officer of the British Royal Navyand a colonial administrator. He is best known as the "Captain Bligh" of Mutiny on the Bountyfame, where the literature chronicled in part the real history.
The mutiny was against his captain's command, and he is well remembered for the remarkable voyage he made to
Timor, after being set adrift by the mutineers in the "Bounty's" launch, an extraordinary feat of navigation and survival against odds, by any informed measure. Many years after the "Bounty" mutiny, he was appointed Governor of New South Walesin Australia, with a brief ("instructions and authority") to clean up the corrupt rum trade of the NSW Corps. This culminated in the Rum Rebellionled by Major George Johnston working closely with John Macarthur.
Bligh was born in
St Tudynear Bodmin[ [http://www.sttudy.org.uk/Bligh/bligh.htm Captain Bligh ] ] in Cornwall to Cornish parents, named Francis and Jane Bligh (née Balsam) [genealogics|id=00262903] . He was signed up for the Royal Navy in 1761, at the age of seven, in the same town. It was common practice to sign on a "young gentleman" simply in order to rack up the required years of service for quick promotion. In 1770, at the age of 16, he joined HMS "Hunter" as an able seaman, the term being used only because there was no vacancy for a midshipman. He became a midshipman early in the following year of 1771. In September 1771, Bligh was transferred to the "Crescent" and remained on that ship for three years.
In 1776, Bligh was selected by Captain
James Cookfor the position of Sailing Master on the "Resolution" and accompanied Captain Cook in July 1776 on Cook's third and fatal voyage to the Pacific. He reached England again at the end of 1780 and was able to give further details of Cook's last voyage.
Bligh married Elizabeth Betham, the daughter of a Customs Collector (stationed in
Douglas, Isle of Man), on 4 February 1781, at the age of 26. The wedding took place at nearby Onchan. Trevor Kneale, "The Isle of Man", Pevensey Island Guides, Brunel House, Newton Abbot, Devon, 2007, ISBN 1-898630-25-9] A few days later, he was appointed to serve on HMS "Belle Poule" as its master. Soon after this, in August 1781, he fought in the Battle of Dogger Bank under Admiral Parker. For the next 18 months, he was a lieutenant on various ships. He also fought with Lord Howe at Gibraltarin 1782.
Between 1783 and 1787, Bligh was a captain in the merchant service. In 1787 Bligh was selected as commander of the "Bounty". Bligh would eventually rise to the rank of
Vice Admiralin the Royal Navy.
Left66|BG=#f9f9a9|97|B=1 ;Travel of Bounty and small boat after mutiny. Data key:;Pre-mutiny travel:• 1) 1788-08-21: Tasmania, Adventure Bay:• 2) 1788-10-26: Taiti, first arrival; I• 1789-04-04: leaving for England:• 3) Palmerston:• 4) Tofua:• 5) 1789-04-28: mutiny;Christian's travel with Bounty to ::• 6) Tubai, then 1789-07-06: Taiti, second arrival. :• 7) 1789-07-16; Tubai :• 8) 1789-09-22: Taiti, third arrival. I• 1789-09-23: final leaving:• 9) 1789-11-15: Tongatabu:• 10) 1790-01-15: Pitcairn. 1790-01-23: burning Bounty;Bligh party's boat travel::• 16) Tonga:• 17) 1789-06-14: Timorcol-end
The voyage of the "Bounty"
In 1787, Bligh took command of the "Bounty." In order to win a premium offered by the RSA he first sailed to
The voyage to Tahiti was difficult. After trying unsuccessfully for a month to round
Since it was rated only as a cutter, the"Bounty" had no officers other than Bligh himself (who was then only a lieutenant), a very small crew, and no Marines to provide protection from hostile inhabitants during stops or to enforce security on board ship. To allow longer uninterrupted sleep, Bligh divided his crew into three watches instead of two, and placed his protégé
Despite being in the majority, none of the loyalists seemed to have put up any significant struggle once they saw Bligh bound, and the ship was taken without bloodshed. The mutineers provided Bligh and the eighteen of his crew who remained loyal with a 23 foot (7 m) launch (so heavily loaded that the sides were only a few inches above the water), with four cutlasses and food and water for a few days to reach the most accessible ports, a
Tahiti was upwind from Bligh's initial position, and was the obvious destination of the mutineers. Many of the loyalists claimed to have heard the mutineers cry "Huzzah for Otaheite!" as the Bounty pulled away. Timor was the nearest European outpost. Bligh and his crew did make for
Bligh had confidence in his navigational skills, which he had perfected under the instruction of
To this day, the reasons for the mutiny are a subject of considerable debate. Some believe that Bligh was a cruel tyrant whose abuse of the crew led members of the crew to feel that they had no choice but to take the ship from Bligh. Others believe that the crew, inexperienced and unused to the rigours of the sea and, after having been exposed to freedom and sexual excess on the island of Tahiti, refused to return to the "
The "Bounty"'s log shows that Bligh resorted to punishments relatively sparingly. He scolded when other captains would have whipped and whipped when other captains would have hanged. He was an educated man, deeply interested in science, convinced that good diet and sanitation were necessary for the welfare of his crew. He took a great interest in his crew's exercise, was very careful about the quality of their food, and insisted upon the "Bounty" being kept very clean. He tried (unsuccessfully) to check the spread of venereal disease among them. Fact|date=September 2007 The flaw in this otherwise enlightened naval officer was, as J.C. Beaglehole wrote: " [Bligh made] dogmatic judgements which he felt himself entitled to make; he saw fools about him too easily... thin-skinned vanity was his curse through life... [Bligh] never learnt that you do not make friends of men by insulting them."
Popular fiction often confuses Bligh with Edward Edwards of HMS "Pandora", who was sent on the Royal Navy's expedition to the South Pacific to find the mutineers and bring them to trial. Edwards was allegedly every bit the [http://www.qm.qld.gov.au/features/pandora/information/faq.asp#3 cruel man] that Bligh was accused of being; the 14 men that he captured were confined in a cramped 18' x 11' x 5' 8" wooden cell on the "Pandora's" quarterdeck. When the "Pandora" ran aground on the
In October 1790, Bligh was honourably acquitted at the court-martial inquiring the loss of the "Bounty". Shortly thereafter, "A Narrative of the Mutiny on board His Majesty's Ship "Bounty" was published. Of the 10 surviving prisoners, eventually brought home in spite of the "Pandora"'s loss, four were acquitted, due to Bligh's testimony that they were non-mutineers that Bligh was obliged to leave on the "Bounty" due to lack of space in the launch. Two others were convicted because, while not participating in the mutiny, they were passive and did not resist. They subsequently received royal pardons. One was convicted but excused on a technicality. The remaining three were convicted and hanged.
Bligh's Letter to his Wife
The following is a letter to Bligh's wife, written from Coupang, Dutch East Indies, (circa June 1791) in which the first reference to events on the "Bounty" is mentioned.
My Dear, Dear Betsy,
I am now in a part of the world I never expected, it is however a place that has afforded me relief and saved my life, and I have the happiness to assure you that I am now in perfect health...
Know then my own Dear Betsy, that I have lost the "Bounty"...on the 28th April at day light in the morning Christian having the morning watch. He with several others came into my Cabin while I was a Sleep, and seizing me, holding naked Bayonets at my Breast, tied my Hands behind my back, and threatened instant destruction if I uttered a word. I however call'd loudly for assistance, but the conspiracy was so well laid that the Officers Cabbin Doors were guarded by Centinels, so Nelson, Peckover, Samuels or the Master could not come to me. I was now dragged on Deck in my Shirt & closely guarded -- I demanded of Christian the case of such a violent act, & severely degraded for his Villainy but he could only answer -- "not a word sir or you are Dead." I dared him to the act & endeavored to rally some one to a sense of their duty but to no effect...
The Secrisy of this Mutiny is beyond all conception so that I can not discover that any who are with me had the least knowledge of it. Even Mr. Tom Ellison took such a liking to Otaheite [Tahiti] that he also turned Pirate, so that I have been run down by my own Dogs...
My misfortune I trust will be properly considered by all the World -- It was a circumstance I could not foresee -- I had not sufficient Officers & had they granted me Marines most likely the affair would never have happened -- I had not a Spirited & brave fellow about me & the Mutineers treated them as such. My conduct has been free of blame, & I showed everyone that, tied as I was, I defied every Villain to hurt me...
I know how shocked you will be at this affair but I request of you My Dear Betsy to think nothing of it all is now past & we will again looked forward to future happyness. Nothing but true consciousness as an Officer that I have done well could support me....Give my blessings to my Dear Harriet, my Dear Mary, my Dear Betsy & to my Dear little stranger* & tell them I shall soon be home...To You my Love I give all that an affectionate Husband can give --
Love, Respect & all that is or ever will be in the power of your
ever affectionate Friend and Husband Wm Bligh. [Alexander, Caroline, "The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty", (Viking Penguin, NY, 2003)p.154-156]
[* The Blighs' fourth child, another daughter, born a few months after Lt. Bligh sailed from England]
The Second Breadfruit Voyage
After his exoneration by the Court Martial inquiry into the loss of the "Bounty", Bligh remained in the British navy. From 1791-1793, as master and commander of HMS|Providence|1791|6 and in company with HMS "Assistance", he undertook again to transport
In 1797 Bligh was one of the captains whose crews mutinied over "issues of pay and involuntary service for common seamen" during the Spithead mutiny.cite web|url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A3970352|title=William Bligh - Vice Admiral of the Blue] Despite receiving some of their demands at Spithead, disputes over navy life continued among the common sailors. Bligh was again one of the captains affected during the mutiny at the Royal Navy anchorage of Nore. "Bligh became more directly involved in the Nore Mutiny", which "failed to achieve its goals of a fairer division of prize money and an end to brutality." It should be noted that these events were not triggered by any specific actions by Bligh as they "were widespread, [and] involved a fair number of English ships". It was at this time that he learned "that his common nickname among men in the fleet was 'that Bounty bastard'." Bligh went on to serve under Admiral Nelson at the As captain of HMS "Director", at the Bligh was offered the position of Bligh sailed from Hobart and arrived in Sydney on 17 January 1810 to collect evidence for the upcoming Court Martial of Major George Johnston. He departed for the trial in Britain in HMS "Porpoise" on 12 May 1810 and arrived on 25 October 1810. The Court Martial sentenced Johnston to be cashiered, a form of disgraceful dismissal that entailed surrendering his commission in the Bligh designed the North Bull Wall at the mouth of the Bligh died in References * Christopher Lloyd, "St.Vincent & Camperdown", B.T. Batsford Ltd., London, 1963. Further reading * Alexander, Caroline. "The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty", Viking Penguin, 2003, hardcover, 512 pages, ISBN 0-670-03133-X. External links *, including:
* "Atlas of Maritime History". ISBN 0-8317-0485-3.
* G.P. Bom Hgz, "D'VRIJHEID", Amsterdam, 1897.
* Gavin Kennedy, "Bligh",
*Dictionary of Australian Biography|First=William|Last=Bligh|Link=http://gutenberg.net.au/dictbiog/0-dict-biogBe-Bo.html#bligh1
*Bligh, William. "The Bounty Mutiny: Captain William Bligh's Firsthand Account of the Last Voyage of HMS Bounty". St Petersburg, Florida: Red and Black Publishers, 2008. ISBN 978-1-934941-06-5
* Conway, Christiane (2005). "Letters from the Isle of Man - The Bounty-Correspondence of Nessy and Peter Heywood". The Manx Experience. ISBN 1-873120-77-X.
* Dening, Greg. "Mr Bligh's Bad Language: passion, power and theatre on the Bounty" (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992). Reprinted 1994 in the Canto series, ISBN 0-521-46718-7.
* McKinney, Sam. "Bligh: A True Account of the Mutiny Abord His Majesty's Ship Bounty", International Marine Publishing Company, 1989, hardcover, 210 pages, ISBN 0-87742-981-2.
* Mackaness, George. "The life of Vice-Admiral William Bligh, R.N., F.R.S." [New and rev. ed.] . Sydney, Angus and Robertson,  .
* Schreiber, Roy. "Captain Bligh's Second Chance: An eyewitness account of his return to the south seas by Lt George Tobin", UNSW Press, 2007, paperback, 208 pages, http://www.unireps.com.au/isbn/0868408468.htm.
* Toohey, John. "Captain Bligh's Portable Nightmare", London: Fourth Estate, 1999. ISBN 1-84115-078-9.
** [http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/20337 A Narrative Of The Mutiny, On Board His Majesty's Ship Bounty] , 1790
** [http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/15411 A Voyage to the South Sea] , 1792
* [http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/person.asp?sText=William+Bligh&LinkID=mp00451 Portraits of Bligh] in the
* [http://www.norfolkisland.com.au/HistoryAndCulture/timeline.cfm Norfolk Island Your Island Home] .
* [http://www.royalnavalmuseum.org/info_sheets_bounty.htm Royal Naval Museum] .
* [http://www.lareau.org/sagaintro.htm The Saga of HMS Bounty and Pitcairn Island] .
* [http://www.abc.net.au/bligh/ The Extraordinary Life, Times and Travels of Vice-Admiral William Bligh] . A major on-line biography of Bligh based around a dramatically illustrated graphic novel in ten chapters. Produced by [http://www.filmartdoco.com/ Film Art Doco] with assistance from the
* [http://www.atmitchell.com/journeys/history/terra/logbook.cfm William Bligh's official HMS Bounty logbook - State Library of NSW]
* [http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A010111b.htm A. G. L. Shaw, 'Bligh, William (1754 - 1817)',
*There is a display devoted to Bligh at the [http://www.museumgardenhistory.org/grave.htm Museum of Garden History] .
Bligh went on to serve under Admiral Nelson at the
As captain of HMS "Director", at the
Bligh was offered the position of
Bligh sailed from Hobart and arrived in Sydney on 17 January 1810 to collect evidence for the upcoming Court Martial of Major George Johnston. He departed for the trial in Britain in HMS "Porpoise" on 12 May 1810 and arrived on 25 October 1810. The Court Martial sentenced Johnston to be cashiered, a form of disgraceful dismissal that entailed surrendering his commission in the
Bligh designed the North Bull Wall at the mouth of the
Bligh died in
* Christopher Lloyd, "St.Vincent & Camperdown", B.T. Batsford Ltd., London, 1963.
* Alexander, Caroline. "The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty", Viking Penguin, 2003, hardcover, 512 pages, ISBN 0-670-03133-X.
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