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.
The arrival of part of Admiral Duncan’s Yarmouth based fleet at The Nore gave a new boost the morale of the mutineers which had been battered by the change of attitude of the people of Sheerness towards them and the defection of several ships to the government, (that story is detailed here).
While their morale may have improved their situation had not. They were cut off from shore, denied supplies, and the government refused to enter into further negotiations with them. Some unnamed genius came up with the idea that two could play at that game and conceived the idea of a blockade of the Thames and, therefore, of London. Accordingly, on the evening of May 31, Richard Parker presented himself at the home of the port commissioner at Sheerness and announced that London was under blockade.
At first, it seemed like this was mere bluster but on June 2 HMS Swan, sloop, began intercepting inbound merchantmen and detaining them. The traffic soon outpaced the capabilities of a single ship and HMS Brilliant (28), HMS Standard (64), and HMS Inspector (16) were called upon to lend a helping hand.
Parker and the mutineers desperately needed a bring the mutiny to an end and this move seems calculated to do just that.
HMS Clyde escapes from the mutinous fleet at The Nore
When we last visited the mutiny at The Nore, the Lords Commissioner of the Admiralty had departed their conference with the mutineers disappointed. Their offer, to apply the same conditions as those received by the mutineers at Spithead and to offer them a royal pardon, was rejected by the delegates.
It was now obvious that lines were being firmly drawn. On the one hand the controlling forces behind the mutiny at The Nore, and those forces weren’t necessarily the delegates themselves, were unwilling to settle for less than their demands — and their actions actually lead one to believe that no concessions by the government were going to end the mutiny but rather the demands represented a ever moving set of goal posts — and the government did not feel that it could given into mutineers so soon after caving to the Spithead mutiny.
From the beginning the mutiny at The Nore had a more pronounced element of mob rule than did the mutiny at Spithead.
As we mentioned in the first installment on The Nore mutiny, the mutineers took advantage of the court martial of a Captain Savage for the loss of his ship. When the court martial reconvened the next day, the mutineers sent a boat to HMS San Fiorenzo, under Captain Harry Burrard Neale, which had not returned the cheers of the mutineers as she came into The Nore on the previous day. They demanded that San Fiorenzo provide two delegates to the mutiny and that San Fiornezo cheer Inflexible when she moved farther out into the anchorage.
Captain Neale took a boat to report this activity to the officers at the court martial and he was followed closely by the delegates in their boat. When the delegates entered the court martial they were told by the officers they had no business there and to leave. Chastened they did so.
HMS Inflexible, in the mean time, had begun her move with guns run out. The crew of San Fiorenzo still refused to cheer and Inflexible fire a single gun which cut a foot rope under San Fiorenzo’s bowsprit. The crew decided that discretion was the better part of valor and cheered. Continue reading