Written by: Ed Zuckerman, Nelson Costello; Watch Now: – Sorry, not available on Amazon
[A significant episode despite being nearly a complete Role-playing show using the JAG characters (based on true 1842 executions aboard a naval vessel which led to the founding of Annapolis).]
Despite being in the middle of preparing for her wedding to Brumby, Mac (M) was assigned to give a JAG talk at the Naval Academy about its beginnings . She researched the case of the USS Somers where the tyrannical actions of the captain had eventually led to the establishment of a “much more sophisticated method of training officers.” During her preparations, M had “flashes” of the events, as she said “in a very personal nature.” In her flashbacks, Brumby played the captain Alexander Slidell MacKenzie who had believed that Philip Spencer, the son of the Secretary of War (SECNAV), was plotting a mutiny. Then, through his paranoia, he hung Spencer and two of his “accomplices.”
Spencer had spoken with Pursers Steward Wales (Tiner), 1st Lt Gansevoort (Bud), and Sgt Michael Garty (Gunny), master at arms, about the fantasy’s of taking over the ship to become pirates. They all thought it was foolish but Ganesvoort tattled on him to the captain who was an arrogant tyrant, flogging sailors regularly for minor infractions and belittling Spencer for his disrespect. During Gansevoort’s search, a list of mutineer men was found: 3 on the certain list including Wales who had turned him in.
The only place to hold the prisoners was on deck. The captain became increasingly suspicious, he thought the crew became more resistant so he had Gansevoort hold a special officers hearing (without telling the accused thereby giving them the right to confront their accusers or even know the charges.) They decided to hang the three to prevent the crew from “rescuing” them. Upon returning to port, a board of inquiry was held (headed by Lindsey) which did not pursue charges further. The Secretary of War then decided to hold a court martial for homicide and Cmdr Norris (Chegwidden) was trial counsel. Mr. Griffin (Webb) was defense council and Big Bud the judge. None of the officers would speak to Norris during his investigations- he pointed out to the jury that MacKenzie had recommended promotions for 100% of his officers except those he hanged, smacking of command influence. When Norris saw Mrs. MacKenzie (M) talking to other potential witnesses he called her to testify. He asked her if she loved her husband and she didn’t answer until she confessed “I don’t know” – (which startled M out of one of her reveries with Brum in the room.)
A sailor (Mikey) showed Norris the 15 lashes on his back that MacKenzie had given him for washing clothes without permission and plead with Norris to “do something” against the tyrant MacKenzie. Norris said that if he showed the scars to the jury they WOULD believe that the crew was ready to mutiny. Norris fragged Gansevoort on the stand who had to admit that the naval statues were NOT followed: The accused were not allowed to appear before the tribunal judges; they were not allowed to confront the witnesses against them; nor, make a case for their own defense. In fact, despite Gansevoort and the captain claiming that the officers hearing was “independent,” the captain had already made out the next days duty roster for the hangings! Spencer had admitted to a life-long fantasy obsession with pirates. His father had gotten him appointed midshipman to “straighten him out” and said that he had heard Phillip fantasize about being a pirate but “wasn’t fool enough to believe him.” The two others hanged, however, really never understood why they were being hanged. When Spencer asked MacKenzie why he was rushing to executing them, MacKenzie said “because your father would try to interfere to save you” and hurt his career.
Harm (H) had told Mac that he thought he “had overstepped the bounds of a well wisher” at her engagement party and “were they ok?” She said they were. In her final reverie she saw disclosed the 3rd person hanged by MacKenzie (Brum) and it was played by Harm! [In history the Capt was not court-marshaled; but, he was not “commended” for his actions as was the custom, so it ended up ruining his career and he ended up a broken man – and Annapolis was founded to train officers better.]