1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bligh, William

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5490431911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 4 — Bligh, William

BLIGH, WILLIAM (1754–1817), English admiral, was born of a good Cornish family in 1754. He accompanied Captain Cook in his second expedition (1772–1774) as sailing-master of the “Resolution.” During the voyage, the bread-fruit, already known to Dampier, was found by them at Otaheite; and after seeing service under Lord Howe and elsewhere, “Bread-fruit Bligh,” as he was nicknamed, was despatched at the end of 1787 to the Pacific in command of H.M.S. “Bounty,” for the purpose of introducing it into the West Indies from the South Sea Islands. Bligh sailed from Otaheite, after remaining there about six months; but, when near the Friendly Islands, a mutiny (April 28, 1789) broke out on board the “Bounty,” headed by Fletcher Christian, the master’s mate, and Bligh, with eighteen others, was set adrift in the launch. The mutineers themselves settled on Pitcairn Island (q.v.), but some of them were afterwards captured, brought to England and in three cases executed. This mutiny, which forms the subject of Byron’s Island, did not arise so much from tyranny on the part of Bligh as from attachments contracted between the seamen and the women of Otaheite. After suffering severely from hunger, thirst and storms, Bligh and his companions landed at Timor in the East Indies, having performed a voyage of about 4000 m. in an open boat. Bligh returned to England in 1790, and he was soon afterwards appointed to the “Providence,” in which he effected the purpose of his former appointment by introducing the bread-fruit tree into the West India Islands. He showed great courage at the mutiny of the Nore in 1797, and in the same year took part in the battle of Camperdown, where Admiral Duncan defeated the Dutch under De Winter. In 1801 he commanded the “Glatton” (54) at the battle of Copenhagen, and received the personal commendations of Nelson. In 1805 he was appointed “captain general and governor of New South Wales.” As he made himself intensely unpopular by the harsh exercise of authority, he was deposed in January 1808 by a mutiny headed by Major George Johnston of the 102nd foot, and was imprisoned by the mutineers till 1810. He returned to England in 1811, was promoted to rear-admiral in that year, and to vice-admiral in 1814. Major Johnston was tried by court martial at Chelsea in 1811, and was dismissed the service. Bligh, who was an active, persevering and courageous officer, died in London in 1817.