With Richard Parker’s surrender and imprisonment, the inevitable retribution began. The British Navy had a tradition of leniency towards certain kinds of mutiny but by the same token ruthlessly suppressed mutinies which struck at the authority of the captain. The Nore mutiny clearly fell into the latter category and the mutineers, by their blockade of the Thames, had forfeited any claim to being considered loyal subjects, a theme, we will recall which was relentlessly repeated by Valentine Joyce and the Spithead mutineers.
The sailors involved in the mutiny were under no illusions about what was coming.
As early as June 11 a large boat filled with mutineers sailed from The Nore and was chased by a revenue cutter but escaped. From what we know of the Revenue Service of the era the escape may or may not have been a function of the skill of the crews and sailing properties of the ships.
On the 15th, three boatloads of mutineers from Inflexible, effectively the Ground Zero of the no-surrender faction of the mutiny, seized a small private ship named Good Intent and sailed to Calais. Some men from Montague fled to Holland. Undoubtedly many more of the more visible mutineers were feeling the scratch of hemp rope on their necks and looking for any way out.
Most were not successful. The president of the delegates aboard Standard shot himself when Standard defected from the mutiny on June 13. Two mutineers who had seized a fishing smack were arrested by a revenue cutter about the time of the flight of the Inflexibles to Calais. On June 16 another boat containing thirteen mutineers was captured by a revenue cutter as it left the Thames.
Parker’s court martial convened on board Neptune on June 22, a Thursday, he was convicted on June 26 and on the morning of Friday, June 30 he was hanged from the foreyard of HMS Standard.
Parker’s final words were, “I wish only to declare that I acknowledge the justice sentence under which I suffer, and I hope than my death may be deemed sufficient atonement, and save the lives of others.”
His hope was in vain.
Over the coming weeks one court martial after another was convened. Over four hundred sailors were tried. Fifty-nine were sentenced to death, though in the end only twenty-nine were executed. Nine were flogged through the fleet and we don’t know how many of these died. Twenty-nine more were sentenced to terms of imprisonment which undoubtedly resulted in some of them dying. The tally of actions is below:
Sandwich, 25 court martialed, 15 condemned, 6 hanged, 2 flogged, 9 imprisoned.
Montague, 16 court martialed, 9 condemned, 4 hanged, 6 imprisoned, 4 pardoned.
Director, 12 court martialed, 12 pardoned.
Inflexible, 41 court martialed, 41 pardoned.
Monmouth, 51 court martialed, 11 condemned, 6 hanged, 4 flogged, 4 imprisoned, 29 pardoned.
Belliqueux, 3 court martialed, 2 pardoned.
Standard, 28 court martialed, 10 condemned, 3 hanged, 3 flogged, 7 imprisoned, 15 pardoned.
Lion, 46 court martialed, 46 pardoned.
Nassau, 20 court martialed, 19 pardoned.
Repulse, 6 court martialed, 4 pardoned.
Grampus, 6 court martialed, 5 condemned, 3 hanged, 1 imprisoned.
Prosperine, 7 court martialed, 7 pardoned.
Brilliant, 14 court martialed, 13 pardoned.
Iris, 2 to be court martialed but both deserted before trial.
Champion, 22 court martialed, 22 pardoned.
Comet, general pardon for crew.
Tysiphone, 11 court martialed, 11 pardoned.
Pylades, 8 court martialed, 8 pardoned.
Swan, 11 court martialed, 11 pardoned.
Lancaster, general pardon for crew.
Inspector, 9 court martialed, 5 pardoned.
Vestal, 7 court martialed, 7 pardoned.
Isis, 42 court martialed, 42 pardoned.
Leopard, 41 court martialed, 9 condemned, 7 hanged, 2 imprisoned, 32 pardoned.
Agamemnon, 13 court martialed, 13 pardoned.
Ranger, 13 court martialed, 12 pardoned.
All was not well in the Fleet after this. The wounds were too deep and the mutual trust between the men who sailed the ships and the officers who commanded them was severely damaged. Within the ships there were additional divisions created between those who had been active in the mutiny and those who had tried to thwart it. Sailors who had not been convicted by courts martial were in daily contact with shipmates who had testified against them.
Ships which were thought to remain unreliable were packed off to the Mediterranean Fleet then under St. Vincent. St. Vincent was not a man to be trifled with and he dealt swiftly with rumors of mutiny in his fleet, so much so that St. Vincent complained, “What do they mean by invariably sending the mutinous ships to me? Do they think that I will be hangman to the fleet?”
Mutiny continued to strike the British Navy throughout the Napoleonic wars but never again did it experience anything resembling that tumultuous spring of 1797.