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Lieutenant Benjamin Westcott, RN
Court Martial, 1804


Minutes of the Proceedings at a Court Martial, Held on board His Majesty's Ship Galatea At English Harbour Antigua, on the 4th of October, 1804.


Henry Heathcoate, Esquire Captain of His Majesty's Ship Galatea and Senior Officer of His Majesty's Ships & Vessels at English Harbour, Antigua, President


James OBryen   Kenneth Mkenzie
Jno.C Woolcombe   Edwd. Woolcombe

The Prisoner was brought into Court, and the Evidence and Audience Admitted. Read the Order from Commodore Hood, Commander in Chief &c &c &c dated the 6th of September and directed to Henry Heathcoate, Esqr. Captain of His Majesty's Ship Galatea and Senior Officer at Antigua for to Try Acting Lieutenant Benjamin Westcott, Commander Officer of His Majesty's Sloop Fort Diamond, together with the Petty Officers and Men under his Command, for the Loss of that Vessel, by suffering her to be captured in Roseau Bay, St. Lucia by two of the Enemy's Boats, as set forth in his letter. Then the Members of the Court, and Judge Advocate in Open Court, and before they proceeded to Trial, respectively took the Oaths directed by Act of Parliament made and passed in the 22nd Year of the Reign of His late Majesty King George the 2d entitled, "An Act for Amending, explaining and reducing into One Act of Parliament the Laws relating to the Government of His Majesty's Ships, Vessels and Forces by Sea". A letter from Lieutenant Benjamin Westcott to Commodore Hood, Commander in Chief &c &c &c was then read as follows.

Blenheim, Carlisle Bay, Barbadoes
20th July 1804

In Pursuance of directions from Captain Maurice, I proceeded with His Majesty's Sloop Fort Diamond to Roseau Bay in the Island of St Lucia, for Wood and Water for the Rock. Three Days had elapsed on this Service when we were boarded and taken possession of, at ½ past 7 OClock. PM. 23d June by two French Row Boats; there was little resistence made, most part of the Crew being asleep, and the Arms all below, in consequence of having no chest on board to keep them in.
I am, Sir &c &c &c

Lt. Benjn. Westcott
To Saml Hood, Esqr.
Commodore Commr. in Chief
&c &c &c

All the Evidences ordered to withdraw, except Thomas Batch. / Seaman of the Fort Diamond, who was Sworn

By the Court Relate to the Court what you know respecting the Loss of His Majesty's late Sloop the Fort Diamond.

Answer Laying in Roseau Bay, most of the People had been on Shore watering and Cutting Bamboo, they returned about 7 OClock in the Evening, some of them were below, Lt. Westcott was, at the time of the Boat coming in sight, Fishing on the Taffrail -- he was the first Person that saw the Boat, he Hailed her without receiving an Answer, he Hailed a second time, and they answered it was a Boat from the Shore, he then enquired who was in that Boat, they gave no Answer but Fired several Musquets. Mr. Westcott then called for the Cutlasses to be Handed up, I went down and was Cleaning the Musquets & Cutlasses in the Locker when Lieutt. Westcott came down and got a Cutlass out, he stood by the Hatchway awhile, and then turned about and said, it was no Use, it was too late. I heard him say no more for a considerable time after. The people were by that time all below, the French Men were on board, and had Centries over all the Hatches, they Cut the Cable, Lt. Westcott told us, the quieter we kept ourselves then, 'twould be the better for us; he Hailed the French Men on Deck after awhile and asked permission to go on Deck, they allowed him that but no one else to go on Deck, 'till we got alongside the Schooner, they then called us up and, ordered us into a Boat, and sent us on Board the Schooner.

Court How many Men did the Row Boats carry.

Answer I saw but one Boat and don't know how many Men was in her.

Court At what distance was the Boat from the Vessel when Discovered.

Answer About a ship's length Off.

Court Was it very Dark.

Answer Yes, but not very Dark.

Court Did you hear Lieutt. Westcott call the Crew on Deck or make any preparation for Defence before the Boat fired at the Fort Diamond.

Answer No, Sir.

Court Did Lt. Westcott afterwards use any exertions to get the Men on Deck.

Answer None.

Court Were the Enemy absolutely in Possession when he said it was too late.

Answer Yes. I believe there were all on Board.

Court Where was Lt. Westcott standing at that time.

Answer In the Cabbin below.

Court Was any exertion Used or proposed by the Crew to Lt. Westcott, to regain the Vessel from the Enemy.

Answer None that I heard.

Court Was the Schooner perceived before the Vessel was given up.

Answer No.

Court Did any second Boat come on Board after the Vessel was taken.

Answer I believe not, 'till we got near the Schooner.

Court What Number of Men were on board the Fort Diamond.

Answer Eighteen in all.

Court What distance was the Fort Diamond from the Shore.

Answer She was then abt. a mile & a half, owing to her having drifted that day.

Court When the Boat was first discovered coming on board, did She appear as if coming from the Shore, or coming from Sea.

Answer Coming from the Shore.

Court At Sunset that Evening, were there any suspicious small Vessels, in sight or near the Bay.

Answer I don't know there was.

Court Was it customary to Set a Centry at Sunset.

Answer No, nor 'till Eight OClock.

Court Was the Men upon Deck Armed.

Answer No.

Court Were there any Arms on Deck.

Answer Nothing but Boarding Pikes, round the Booms.

Court When the Boat first Fired at the Fort Diamond, did her Commander Order her People to Arm themselves and defend her.

Answer I did not hear him but he called for Cutlasses.

Court How many Men do you suppose were on Deck, when the Boat came alongside.

Answer About Seven.

Court Where were the Arms usually kept.

Answer In a Locker in the Cabin.

Court Do you Know if there was any Defence made, or were any of the Crew of the Fort Diamond Wounded.

Answer I believe not.

Court After the Crew went Off the Deck, had they been properly Cheered & Headed, do you suppose they could have got up and regained the Vessel.

Answer I think they could.

Court Was it possible for the Commander to Communicate to the People from the Cabbin.

Answer Yes Sir. there was a Passage into the Hold.

Court You say Lt. Westcott went down to get Arms. what effort did he make to get on Deck again.

Answer None that I perceived.

Court How long did Lt Westcott stand at the Hatchway after he got the Cutlass before you heard him say it was too late.

Answer Not above a Minute.

Court How long do you think it was from the time the Boat Fired, 'till the People got on board of You.

Answer Not a Minute I believe, they were close too when they Fired.

Court You have said there was boarding Pikes on Deck was there any Shot upon Deck.

Answer Yes Sir.

Court Do you think that if the Officer Comm[anding] and Crew had made what Defence they could with the Boarding Pikes & Shot that you might have repulsed the French Boat.

Answer Yes Sir.

Court Where did the People go off the deck.

Answer Into the Cabbin for Arms.

Court Could those Men that went to the Passage for Arms have had Arms put into their Hands time enough to repulse the Men, before they got on board.

Answer No.

Court How long were the Men below before any Arms could be got at.

Answer About 4 or 5 Minutes.

Court How many places of Communication had you with the Deck below.

Answer Four.

Court Were the Hatches put on.

Answer The Main Hatch and Cabbin Slide.

Court Did you hear any of the Crew say they were ready to Assist in retaking the Vessel.

Answer No.

By Lt Westcott When the Enemy's Boat first Fired did you hear me call the People to Arms.

Answer I heard Lt Westcott call to Hand the Cutlasses.

Lt Westcott When you saw me in the Cabin for Cutlasses, did I make attempt to get on Deck.

Answer None that I Observed.

Evidence Withdrew

Thos. Ferris / Seaman / Called and Sworn

By the Court Relate to the Court what you know respecting the Capturing of the Fort Diamond.

Answer I was upon Deck when the Boat was Hailed, and they Answered a Boat from the Shore, then the Lieutt asked who was in that Boat they made no Answer then he Asked a second time, and they Fired, then the Lieutt called out to us to jump down and get the Arms, and while we were below they Boarded us; we could not get the Arms clear when we were below, except 2 or three Cutlasses, then he said it was no use for they had taken her, he told us all to sit down and be quiet, and the quieter we were the better they'd use us. that was all I heard him say. One Man Asked if we should go upon Deck, and retake her, and Lt Westcott said it was no Use for they had possession of her.

Court Did the Lieutt at any time, use any exertions to get the Men on Deck.

Answer No.

Court Did he try to Hurry the Men.

Answer No.

Court Was there any Centry looking out.

Answer No.

Court Was it Customary to place a Man to look out at Sunset.

Answer Not 'till 8 OClock.

Court Did you see any of the Men board.

Answer Yes. One Man.

Court Was any Attempt made to drive him back.

Answer No.

Court Do you think if the Men upon Deck had thrown Shot, and Used the Hand Pikes you could have driven them away.

Answer Yes.

Court Would the Crew do you think, if any one had headed them, force their way on Deck to retake the Vessel.

Answer Yes Sir.

Court When it was proposed by one of the Men to go on Deck and retake the Vessel, did any of the other Men give their Opinion, or Make an Answer as to the possibility of doing it.

Answer Yes Sir. they said they were all willing to come upon Deck.

By Lt Westcott When I desired the People to be quiet in the Hold, did I ask their Opinions if any thing could be done to regain the Vessel.

Answer Not that I heard of.

Court Did you hear Lt Westcott at any one time propose retaking the Vessel.

Answer No.

Court Did the Boat appear to be a large Boat or small.

Answer Small.

Court How many Men do you suppose were in the Boat.

Answer About 8 or Ten.

Lt Westcott Was you in the Cabbin getting Arms when first we were Boarded.

Answer No. I was on Deck, when the first Man boarded.

Lt Westcott Did you hear any Person propose blowing the Magazine up.

Answer No.

Evidence Withdrew.

The Evidence on the Part of the Prosecution being Closed, the Prisoner requested time for his Defence which was allowed. the Court was again Opened, and Called upon the Prisoner for his Defence which he gave as follows.

Mr. President and Gentlemen of this Honorable Court, all I can say in my defence is that I have been unfortunate in the Evidence which has been brought down, as neither of them had heard what was Actually the Case, that I proposed to the Crew retaking the Vessel, and that I,/ after getting a Cutlass/ made every effort to get upon deck, but could not with the Cutlass in my Hand, as the only way of getting up was by small Steps to a Bulkhead, and on looking up saw two or three Musquets with Bayonets fixed pointed downwards. I then saw it was too late to make resistence as they had Compleat possession of the Vessel, and had secured the Main Hatchway and Cabin Scuttle. The reason the Men could not get Armed sooner was owing to the Arms being kept in a Locker, where the Door was so small that not more than one Man could get in, to hand them out. The reason I went down myself on the first Alarm was to get the People Armed as quick as possible, supposing most of them were asleep, they being much fatigued from hard labour that day. And had not in the Vessel an Officer of any description to encourage the few Men on Deck to Use what they could get in their Defence. Out of the Men belonging to the Fort Diamond there were two Sick, One Boy, one Frenchman, a Spaniard, And two Dutchmen. Having nothing more to Add in my Defence, I must now throw myself on the Mercy of this Honorable Court, Hoping & relying on their known Justice and Lenity ["clemency"] that they will see my Conduct in a favourable light.

Lieutt Westcott examined by the

Court Did you apply for any evidence on this Trial that was denied you.

Answer No.

Court Had you an opportunity given you of selecting such Evidences from Your Crew, as you supposed were best.

Answer Yes.

Court Have you any thing to say against the Crew of the Fort Diamond.

Answer No.

The Prisoner having nothing farther to offer in his Defence, the Court was Cleared, and proceeded to deliberate upon and form the Sentence.

The Court having carefully and deliberately weighed and considered the evidence produced on the part of the Charge, and what the Prisoner had to Offer in his Defence, Were of Opinion, That the Charge of suffering the said Vessel to be Captured by the Enemy in Rosseau Bay St Lucia is Proved, and that he falls under the first part of the 10th Article of War, in consequence of which the Court Adjudge Lieutt Benjamin Westcott to be Dismissed His Majesty's Service and rendered incapable of ever Serving in the Naval Service of His Majesty his Heirs and Successors; And he was therefore Dismissed His Majesty's Service. And nothing appear[ing?] against the Crew of the said Vessel, the Court did Adjudge that they should be Acquitted.

The Court was Opened, Audience Admitted, And Sentence Pronounced Accordingly.

[Signature] GBHarrison
Appd to Officiate
As Judge Advocate

Source: Public Record Office, Kew