Captain Bligh's Letter to his Wife
Posted on 26th April 2021
On 19 August 1789, from his place of sanctuary in the Dutch East Indies Captain William Bligh wrote to his wife and by so doing provided us with the first full account of what occurred during the notorious Mutiny on the Bounty.
At no time during his ordeal despite the threat of violence to his person and the prospect of being cast upon the vast ocean in a small open boat was Captain Bligh distracted from his sense of duty something of which he ws justifiably proud, a fact reflected in the letter to his wife.
The fact he then successfully navigated the boat some 3,618 nautical miles to safety in Timor only enhanced an already growing reputation and ensured that the mutineers were either brought to justice or were to live the rest of their lives in fear of being so:
My Dear, Dear Betsy,
I am now, for the most part, 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 28 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 Cabin Doors were guarded by Sentinels, 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 & endeavoured to rally someone to a sense of their duty but to no effect….
The Secrecy of this Mutiny is beyond all conception so that I cannot discover that any who are with me had the least knowledge of it. It is unbeknown to me why I must beguile such force. 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 happiness. 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.
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