Upon the ship breaking up, the spirits floated on shore, when there ensued such a scene of tumult and insubordination as, happily for the honour of the service, seldom occurs in the British navy. The men broke open the casks, and before the officers were aware of it, scarcely a man was to be seen sober. This brought with it its own punishment; many had drank to such a degree that they fell lifeless in the snow. The officers then caused the remainder of the rum to be stove, excepting a certain quantity placed under their own care; but when discipline is once broken, it is not easily restored. The next day, forty-eight men deserted, after plundering several of their shipmates, and breaking open every trunk that was washed up. These paid the penalty of their crimes, for many of them were found dead in the woods by the Canadians.
We cannot do better than take up the account which is thus given by one of the surviving officers:—
’With the remaining part of the crew the boats were hauled up, which we began to repair the best way we could. Sails were made from a lower and topmast studding-sail, which were fortunately washed ashore; a cask of flour was also found, a part of which was made into dough, and preparations were made to proceed to Quebec.
’On the third day, a Canadian boat was passing, when the captain ordered her to be detained to proceed to that port. With the assistance of the cooking utensils found in the Canadian boat, all the pork that could be found was cooked and served out to the different boats, which was a very short allowance for two days.
’On the sixth day of our misery, the weather moderated, the boats were launched, and all hands embarked; sixty-eight persons in all, including two women. The wind was favourable, but light; with rowing and sailing, we got to Great Fox River that night, at which place we were hospitably entertained with potatoes and salt at a Canadian hut. Next morning we sailed for Gasper Bay, and reached Douglas Town in the evening.
’The captain and officers were accommodated at Mr. Johnston’s, and the crew lodged at the different huts around the place. After three days’ rest, we walked nine miles over the ice to where the transports lay; leaving the sick at Douglas Town. The captain hoisted his pendant on board the Ann, transport, and put a lieutenant in each of the others, and an equal number of men. When the ice broke up, which was seven days after we got on board, we dropped down to Douglas Town, and embarked the sick, one of whom died, and two deserted. The next morning we sailed for Quebec, where we arrived on the 28th, many of us not having a change of clothes of any description.’
In concluding the above narrative of the loss of this vessel, we will quote the language of Captain Galloway, who thus deprecates, in strong terms, the disgraceful conduct of the majority of the crew of the Penelope:—’I feel it my duty,’ he says, ’to state to you the infamous conduct of the whole of the crew, with a very few exceptions. From the time that the ship struck, their behaviour was not in the character of British seamen in general; they had neither principle nor humanity; some, in consequence, have suffered severely, and several died from drunkenness.’