HMS Hermione (1782)
A print by Thomas Whitcombe, depicting the Santa Cecilia, the former HMS Hermione, being cut out by boats from Edward Hamilton's HMS Surprise in 1799
|Career (Great Britain)|
|Ordered:||20 March 1780|
|Builder:||Sydenham Teast, Bristol|
|Laid down:||June 1780|
|Launched:||9 September 1782|
|Commissioned:||January 1783 (at builder)
Between 7 April and 28 June 1783 at Sheerness
|Out of service:||Taken by mutineers on 21/22 September 1797
Handed over to the Spanish on 27 September
|Acquired:||27 September 1797|
|Captured:||By the Royal Navy on 25 October 1799|
|Career (United Kingdom)|
|Acquired:||Captured on 25 October 1799|
|Renamed:||HMS Retribution on 31 January 1800|
|Fate:||Broken up in June 1805|
|Class and type:||32-gun fifth rate frigate|
|Tons burthen:||714 bm|
|Length:||129 ft (39.3190 m)|
|Beam:||35 ft 5.5 in (10.8 m)|
|Draught:||9 ft 2 in (2.8 m)
15 ft 3 in (4.6 m) (loaded)
|Depth of hold:||12 ft 8 in (3.9 m)|
|Sail plan:||Full rigged ship|
HMS Hermione was a 32-gun fifth-rate frigate of the Royal Navy. She was notorious for having the bloodiest mutiny in British naval history, which saw her commander and most of the officers killed. The mutineers then handed the ship over to the Spanish, where she remained for two years, before being cut-out and returned to Royal Navy service under the names Retaliation and then Retribution.
HMS Hermione was the lead ship of a six ship class of frigates designed by Edward Hunt, termed the Hermione class. She was launched on 9 September 1782 from Teast's of Bristol, having cost –11,350.14.4d to build, with a further –4,570.2.2d spent on dockyard expenses, and –723.16.9d on fitting out.
She was commissioned initially under Captain Thomas Lloyd, who commanded her until she was paid off in April 1783. She recommissioned that same month under Captain John Stone, who sailed her to Nova Scotia, after which she was paid off in 1785. The Hermione may have then been recommissioned under Captain William Ricketts during the Spanish Armament of 1790, though this is uncertain. She did however undergo a great repair between October 1790 and June 1792, followed by a period spent refitting at Chatham Dockyard until January 1793. She was recommissioned in December 1792 under Captain John Hills, under whom she sailed to Jamaica in early 1793. She served in the West Indies during the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars, being commanded from 1794 by Captain Philip Wilkinson. He was replaced in February 1797 – the year of the Spithead and Nore mutinies – by Captain Hugh Pigot. Pigot was a cruel officer who meted out severe and arbitrary punishment on his men. During a nine-month period, as captain of his previous command HMS Success he ordered at least 85 floggings, the equivalent of half the crew; two men died from their injuries. 
HMS Hermione under the command of Captain Pigot was sent to patrol the Mona Passage between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Under Pigot Hermione destroyed three privateers at Puerto Rico on 22 March 1797 and on 6 September 1797 and in company with HMS Diligence and HMS Renommee she captured a 6-gun Spanish privateer.
Midshipman David Casey was an experienced midshipman who had distinguished himself to Captain Pigot during the previous months, but his disrating was a primary trigger to the mutiny. About a week before the mutiny, Casey was at his station on the main top, and the captain noticed a reef knot which had not been tied by one of the sailors under his supervision. Casey was brought before the captain, and while he begged his pardon, Casey refused to be humiliated by apologizing on his knees. The captain gave him 12 lashes, and he was disrated, which would end his career as a naval officer. The crew felt Casey was punished unfairly, and the topmen began to plot mutiny.
Pigot had also developed the practice of flogging the last sailor down from working aloft. On 20 September 1797, Pigot ordered the topsails to be reefed after a squall struck the ship. Dissatisfied with the speed of the operation because "these would be the yard-arm men, the most skilful topmen" he gave the order that the last men off the yard would be flogged. Three young sailors, in their haste to get down, fell to their deaths on the deck, one of which hit and injured the master Southcott. Pigot ordered their bodies thrown into the sea with the words "throw the lubbers overboard" - the worst insult in the seaman's vocabulary - then instructed two bosun's mates to flog the rest of the topmen when they complained. The topmen were also flogged the next morning.
The humiliation of Casey, the deaths of the topmen and the severe punishment of the rest of the sailors afterward triggered the mutiny. The evening of 21 September, 1797, a number of the crew, drunk on stolen rum, rushed Pigot's cabin and forced their way in after overpowering the marine stationed outside. They hacked at Pigot with knives and cutlasses before throwing him overboard, probably while he was still alive. The mutineers, probably led by a core group of just 18, went on to murder another eight of Hermione's officers: First Lieutenant Samuel Reed, Second Lieutenant Archibald Douglas, Third Lieutenant Henry Foreshaw, the Marine commander, Lieutenant McIntosh; Bosun William Martin, Purser Pacey, Surgeon Sansum, and the captain's clerk. Two midshipmen were also killed and all the bodies were thrown overboard. Three warrant officers survived, the Gunner and Carpenter were spared because they were considered useful to the ship, and Southcott the master was spared so he could navigate. Southcott lived to be a key witness, along with Casey who was also spared, and their eyewitness accounts and testimony were key to the trials of many of the mutineers. Three petty officers joined the mutiny, one midshipman, Surgeon's Mate Cronin, and Master's Mate Turner.
Fearing retribution for their actions, the mutineers decided to navigate the ship toward Spanish waters. One reason the master's life was spared was because Turner could not navigate the ship properly without his help. The Hermione sailed to La Guaira, where they handed the ship over to the Spanish authorities. The mutineers claimed they had set the officers adrift in a small boat, as had happened in the mutiny on the Bounty some eight years earlier. The Spanish gave the mutineers just $25 dollars each in return, and presented them with the options of joining the Spanish army, heavy labour, or refitting their ship. The Hermione was taken into service with the Spanish and renamed Santa Cecilia, and was manned by 25 of her former sailors under Spanish guard.
Meanwhile news of the fate of Hermione reached Admiral Sir Hyde Parker when HMS Diligence captured a Spanish schooner. Parker wrote to the governor of La Guaira, demanding the return of the ship and the surrender of the mutineers. Meanwhile he despatched HMS Magicienne under Captain Henry Ricketts to commence negotiations. He also set up a system of informers and posted rewards that eventually led to the capture of 33 of the mutineers, some of whom were tried aboard HMS York, and at least one on HMS Gladiator. Of these, 24 were hanged and gibbetted, one was transported, and eight were acquitted or pardoned. To Parker's fury, Admiral Richard Rodney Bligh had issued pardons to several mutineers. Parker forced Bligh to resign and return to Britain. Hermione had meanwhile sat in Puerto Cabello until Captain Edward Hamilton, aboard HMS Surprise cut her out of the harbour on 25 October 1799. The Spanish casualties included 119 dead; 231 were taken prisoner, while another 15 jumped or fell overboard. Hamilton had 11 injured, four seriously, but none killed.
Parker renamed Hermione HMS Retaliation; the Admiralty then renamed her again on 31 January 1800 to HMS Retribution. She was recommissioned in September 1800 at Jamaica under Captain Samuel Forster. She subsequently sailed to Britain and was fitted at Woolwich in October 1803 for service for Trinity House at a cost of –484. She was broken up at Deptford in June 1805.
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