V is for the Veronica Mutineers

I am again focusing on the famous, the forgotten and the misbegotten for Round 21 of the popular ABC Wednesday meme. But finding suitable characters is getting harder, so apologies in advance if there are repeats of previous posts.

Unusually my post this week is not about an individual, but rather a group of people who together became known as the Veronica Mutineers.

The Veronica in question was a three-masted wooden barque built in 1879 and by 1902 it was still being used as a cargo ship despite the competition from the much faster steamships.

In October that year, the Veronica set sail from Biloxi, Mississippi, bound for Montevideo with a cargo of pitch pine. At the helm was Captain Alexander Shaw, a red-bearded martinet, ably assisted in his maltreatment of the crew a sadist of a second officer, Alexander MacLeod.

The way that the owners of sailing ships like the Veronica could compete with the steamers was by cutting costs and that meant cutting the crew’s wages. That meant they were not too fussy about who they employed and the ‘sailors’ were often inexperienced or had shady backgrounds.

Already frayed tempers were made worse when rations were cut

All in all, a bad combination. MacLeod subjected the crew to physical assaults with the captain’s tacit approval and the already frayed tempers were made worse when rations were cut due to the Veronica’s slow progress.

Among the shady characters of the crew were Gustav Rau (real name August Mailahn) and Otto Monsson and they had smuggled a pair of revolvers on board. They enlisted the help of Willem Schmidt and 19-year-old Henry Flohr in their mutiny.

On 8th December 1902, they threw First Officer MacLeod overboard and shot and killed Captain Shaw, his second officer and four other crew members. The only person they spared was Moses Thomas, the ship’s cook.

Rau sought to hide their crimes by setting fire to the Veronica and the mutineers escaped in the ship’s lifeboat and were picked up by a tramp steamer bound for Liverpool.

Thomas kept himself apart from the others during the voyage and as soon as the ship docked he went to the police with his account of events aboard the Veronica.

Rau, Monsson, Smith and Flohr were charged with murder, conspiracy, arson, piracy and theft. It was an interesting case as there were no bodies, or indeed a ship, and that it rested entirely on the evidence of the ship’s cook.

Nevertheless, the four were found guilty and sentenced to death. Only Flohr was reprieved following a recommendation of mercy on account of his youth. The others were hanged at Liverpool’s Walton prison on 2nd June 1903.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

5 comments… Add yours
  • Yorkshire Pudding 6th December 2017

    I wonder where the steamer had picked up its cargo of tramps. Although I have seen several tramps in Liverpool I guess that most of them were gradually absorbed into Liverpudlian society – possibly interbreeding with native Scousers.

    Reply
  • ABC Wednesday 6th December 2017

    A very harsh piece of history… brrr glad to live now and not then

    Have a ♥-warming ABC-Wednes-day / -week
    ♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫ (ABC-W-team)
    http://melodymusic.nl/21-v

    Reply
  • A ShutterBug Explores 6th December 2017

    Intriguing bit of history and well told for V ~ thanks,

    Happy Week to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    (aka, A Creative Harbor

    Reply
  • Trevor Rowley 6th December 2017

    I had come across this story before and enthralling it certainly is. Having witnessed what he had, what torment the ship’s cook must have gone through during their journey back to Europe. I think the story is in the book “The Fifty Most Amazing Crimes of the Last One Hundred Years.” (published about 1930).

    Reply
  • Roger O Green 7th December 2017

    VIVID tale
    ROG, ABCW

    Reply

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