England: Thomas Blood Attempts to Steal the Crown Jewels
On this day in 1671, Colonel Thomas Blood attempted to steal the crown jewels of England in a daring robbery that went wrong very quickly. The attempted robbery took place in the Tower of London where the jewels were on public display.
The whole of Blood’s life is interesting, as he continually pops up in the chronology of England’s history during the period of his life (1618-1680). He plays a role in the civil war, was a major player during an Irish revolt against Charles II, was involved in an attempted assassination or two and his attempted theft of the crown jewels.
An account of his life can be found at the Internet Archive:
William Bligh: Mutiny on the Bounty
William Bligh was born on the 9th September 1754 to Francis and Jane Bligh in St Tudy, Cornwall. He was signed up for a career in the Royal Navy when aged 7 in 1761.
In 1776, Bligh was with Captain James Cook as Sailing Master on the Resolution for Cook’s third and final voyage during which Cook was killed. Following this Bligh served on various ships and saw military action at a number of locations including Gibraltar in 1782.
In 1787 Bligh was made commander of the Bounty. On this day in 1789, the mutiny on the Bounty took place. The mutiny was led by Fletcher Christian, Master’s Mate. Bligh and a large number of the crew were provided with a ship’s launch and a small amount of provisions and Bligh made for Timor (from near Tonga). The journey was completed in 47 days and covered a remarkable distance of 6 700km.
It is thought that the mutiny took place in order to escape from the hardline discipline of Bligh and to escape to the island pleasures of Tahiti. Evidence would suggest that Bligh was far more easy going than other captains, though the future ‘mutiny’ in Sydney (see below) would suggest otherwise. Bligh was treated well in the court-martial and was acquitted.
From the Bounty, Bligh served in various roles, including Governor of New South Wales from the 13th August 1806 to the 26th January 1808. His post ended with the Rum Rebellion, which essentially was an on land mutiny by the New South Wales Corps under Major George Johnston. He succeeded Philip Gidley King and was replaced by Lachlan Macquarie.
Bligh’s rise through the ranks of the Royal Navy continued until he was appointed Vice Admiral of the Blue in 1814, though he never again received an active command. He died on the 7th December 1817.
As an interesting side point, the current premier of Queensland (Anna Bligh) is a descendant of William Bligh.
Robert E. Lee: Turns Down Offer to Lead Union Troops
On this day in 1861, with the Civil War in the United States in its very early stages, Colonel Robert E. Lee was offered the role of Major General in the United States Army. Knowing that Virginia was likely to secede from the Union, Lee turned the offer down and resigned from the United States Army two days later. This despite having said to his son in a letter that ‘I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union.’ However, it was love for and loyalty to his home state of Virginia, that forced his hand to join the Confederacy. On the 23rd of April Lee took command of the armed forces of Virginia and began his role in the southern rebellion, in which he would rise to be the General-in-Chief of all Confederate forces. Almost four years later, on the 9th April 1865, his role in the war ended with his surrender to U.S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.