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The Rum Rebellion and the Dirty Dozen

William Bligh has been governor of New South Wales, Australia for a little over a year, now. It is a place where the United Kingdom sends its criminals and malcontents. (They cannot send them to America any more.) Governor Bligh has a reputation as a tough guy. He was the captain of HMS Bounty whose crew mutinied due to ill treatment. The review board absolved the Captain of blame, but he remains a controversial subject. When he arrived in Australia, he was greeted by Major Johnston who represented the military and Mr. MacArthur who represented the civilians. Neither of them are sweethearts but they make things work. As governor, Bligh, starts handing out relief supplies to the farmers who had suffered under a recent flood, but Australia is run under a barter economy. Those supplies were Australian money! Bligh is putting a stop to the use of rum as money. He begins by confiscating stills, but he is meeting with a lot of resistance. (Can you say "Whiskey Rebellion?") Soon the establishment is calling for his head. Major Johnston officially signs a warrant for the governor's arrest. A military contingent marches to the Governor's house and yanks Bligh out from under his bed. Eventually they put him on a boat and tell him to sail back to England. Naturally, he sails to Tasmania. He will be briefly reinstated as governor and recalled to England.

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The Australians were actually making a go of it, but the British wanted the Australians to suffer in the largest free-range prison in the world. Governor Bligh's goal was to be the warden. A cartoon was drawn showing Bligh being pulled out from under his bed. It became the first political cartoon in Australia. Major Johnston was "dishonorably discharged". It was the lightest sentence they could give. Bligh was promoted to rear-admiral and never given a command again. It was up-and-out as they say in the military. Incompetents are sometimes promoted into a position where they are out of sight... or you collect all the bad eggs into one basket, and then "drop the basket." In other words, you send all of your undesirables into a battle as a group where they are sure to kill everyone... including themselves. I don't know if this happens today, but up through World War Two (inclusive) it certainly did. A popular movie depicting this REAL policy is "The Dirty Dozen" (1967) where murderers and insubordinate soldiers are sent on a suicide mission, but if they succeed, they will be reinstated. It is still a good movie. [1]

The Ballad of Omie Wise

Oh, listen to my story, I'll tell you no lies,
How John Lewis did murder poor little Omie Wise.

A young girl in trouble has few options these days, but Naomi "Omie" Wise is not that young anymore and John Lewis has made her pregnant. This will be her 3rd child. At this point, marriage is not in the cards because John is engaged to another woman. Naomi seems not to care. She wants the money. John Lewis promises to pay, and arranges to meet her down by the local spring. If she had taken him to court, he would have been forced to put up a bastardy bond, so payments like this are common. They are also commonly abused, so when Naomi shows up to collect her money, there is a fight. Witnesses hear a woman shrieking, and they see John Lewis running away. A few days later someone will find Naomi's body face down in the water. She will be buried in Randolf County, North Carolina. The murder and trial create a sensation and songs will be sung of "Omie" Wise into the modern day. [2]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
These type of songs are called "murder ballads". You know how they go. Johnny Cash sings the Folsom Prison Blues about killing a man in Reno "just to watch him die," [YouTube link]. Or when Barry Manilow sings the Copacabana song [YouTube link], and a shot rings out "but who shot who?" The lyrics for the Ballad of Omie Wise were written almost immediately after her death and the lyrics have been improving ever since. Doc Watson sang a good rendition if I am any judge. [YouTube Link]. He passed away a few years ago in North Carolina. He was 89. I doubt it was murder. [3] [4] [5] [6]

In Other News

  • Captain Samuel Brown patents the iron anchor chain. His chain design will be used on ships for the next 100 years. [7]
  • Henry Crabb Robinson becomes the first war correspondent. He is sent by "The Times of London" to cover the war between Napoleon and Spain. Later, he will decide he would rather be a lawyer. [8] [9]
  • Beethoven's 5th Symphony premieres in Vienna. The 1st movement has a distinctive beginning that is familiar to all... ta-ta-ta-dum, ta-ta-ta-dum. YouTube Link [10] [11]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1808, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Filthy Thirteen - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 15 June 2016. “Of the activities of the Filthy Thirteen, Jack Agnew once said, 'We weren’t murderers or anything, we just didn’t do everything we were supposed to do in some ways and did a whole lot more than they wanted us to do in other ways. We were always in trouble.'”
  2. Naomi Wise - Notes on the History of Randolph County, NC. randolphhistory.wordpress.com (June 3, 2009). Retrieved on 15 June 2016. “The murder on which the song is based really happened in Randolph County more than two hundred years ago, yet sadly, little physical evidence remains. The tombstone shown above is located in the graveyard at Providence Friends Meeting, on Providence Church Road west of New Salem Road in Providence Township, Although a hundred or more years old, the stone is not original; it moreover bears an inaccurate date of her death. Perhaps that makes it the perfect emblem of the story of Naomi Wise.”
  3. Omie Wise. YouTube (2016). Retrieved on 15 June 2016. “Doc Watson performs the bittersweet traditional American murder ballad 'Omie Wise' from his wonderful folk album, 'The Essential Doc Watson.'”
  4. Copacabana (song) - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 15 June 2016. “The story starts in the late 1940s, focused on Lola, a Copacabana showgirl, and her lover Tony, a bartender at the club. One night, a mobster named Rico takes an interest in Lola, but he overplays his hand while trying to seduce her and is attacked by Tony. The ensuing fight results in a shooting. Thirty years later, the club has been transformed into a discotheque, but a crazed and drunken Lola, having lost Tony, still spends her nights at the Copacabana dressed in her 1940's finery.”
  5. Copacabana 1978. YouTube (2016). Retrieved on 15 June 2016.
  6. Folsom Prison blues. YouTube (2016). Retrieved on 15 June 2016. “Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison blues. Shown on the programme Country at the BBC, but originally from BBC programme Later... with Jools Holland 1994.”
  7. Samuel Brown (Royal Navy officer) - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 15 June 2016. “In 1808 Brown took out patents for twisted open chain links, joining shackles and swivels. His shackle and swivel designs were scarcely improved on for the next 100 years.”
  8. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 378-379. 
  9. Henry Crabb Robinson - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 15 June 2016. “He then became correspondent for The Times in Altona in 1807. Later on he was sent to Galicia, in Spain, as a war correspondent in the Peninsular War.”
  10. File:Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphonie 5 c-moll - 1. Allegro con brio.ogg - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 15 June 2016. “Conductor: Simon Schindler Ensemble: Fulda Symphonic Orchestra”
  11. Symphony No. 5 (Beethoven) - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 15 June 2016. “The Symphony No. 5 in C minor of Ludwig van Beethoven, Op. 67, was written between 1804–1808. It is one of the best-known compositions in classical music, and one of the most frequently played symphonies.[1] First performed in Vienna's Theater an der Wien in 1808, the work achieved its prodigious reputation soon afterward.”

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