Below we write on the career of Captain Robert Faulknor who achieved renown as the captor of Fort Louis, Guadaloupe and the victor in his duel with the French frigate Picque.
Less well known is his court martial for murder on Guadaloupe which was brought about by his inability to control his temper. His deployment of troops and guns ashore was criticized by a British artillery officer. Faulknor thought the man to be insolent, flew into a rage, and began gesticulating with his sword. In the process he killed a quartermaster from Admiral Jervis’s flagship who happened within range.
Faulknor was acquitted, a verdict I speculate that had as much to do with his status as a favorite of Jervis and a hero of the operation at hand as it did with the facts, but feeling ran so high against Faulknor ashore that he was ordered back to his ship.
Faulknor had more potent allies than facts and law. He had the family connections which came from a being a third generation naval officer and the patronage of several senior officers, among them Admiral Sir John Jervis.
If you weren’t a Robert Faulknor, fate could be much more unkind.
From the Newgate Calendar:
Lieutenant Gamage, late of the Griffon Sloop-of-War, hanged at the Yardarm of that Ship, in November, 1812, for the Murder of a Sergeant of Marines
THIS unfortunate young officer fell a victim to ungovernable passion. He had ordered a sergeant of marines upon some duty which the sergeant, conceiving it incompatible with his rank, refused performing. He was, withal, insolent in his replies. The Lieutenant burst into a violent passion, ran to his cabin, seized his dirk, returned and stabbed the sergeant to the heart. For this crime he was tried by a court martial, and sentenced to death.
” THE Commander-in-Chief most earnestly desires to direct the particular attention of the fleet to the melancholy scene they are now called to attend — a scene which offers a strong, and much he hopes an impressive, lesson to every person in it — a lesson to all who are to command, to all who are to obey. Lieutenant Gamage is represented by every person who knew him, and by the unanimous voice of the Griffon’s ship’s company, as a humane, compassionate man, a kind, indulgent officer; yet for want of that guard which every man should keep over his passions this kind, humane, compassionate man commits the dreadful crime of murder!
“Let his example strike deep into the minds of all who witness his unhappy end; and, whatever their general disposition may be, let them learn from him that, if they are not always watchful to restrain their passions within their proper bounds, one moment of intemperate anger may destroy the hopes of a well-spent honourable life, and bring them to an untimely and disgraceful death.
The irony here is that had Lieutenant Gamage restrained himself, the marine sergeant had made himself liable to the noose for his insolence and disrespect towards a commissioned officer, and had he family connections or powerful patrons in the fleet he would have undoubtedly eventually ascended to flag rank.