Review: A Hanging Offense

Rating: ★★★★☆
A Hanging Offense: The Strange Affair of the Warship Somers
by Buckner F. Milton, Jr.

Now normally I side with the pirates – it’s in my nature. But in this story I just had to root for the naval captain. Sorry, not story – this is history. And a fascinating piece at that. Word has it that at the time these events gripped the nation (the OJ trials of the 1800s, I suppose,) but today not many have heard of the Somers. 19 year old Philip Spencer was a midshipman, the son of the secretary of war, and trouble. Insubordinant from the get-go and selfish to boot. That may be all forgivable, but when he’s stationed on the Somers, a training vessel manned almost entirely by children, well, that’s when I draw the line and playful mutiny becomes cold-blooded murder. Of course, Captain Mackenzie learned of the plans in advance and dealt with it as best he could, but you can read about that yourself.

This book was a fascinating read, and a rather easy read as well. It opens up some difficult moral questions about a captain’s responsibilities while at sea, where the safety of his crew and the letter of the law may not always coincide. Highly recommended.