Birthplace: St. Tudy, England
Location of death: London, England
Cause of death: Illness
Remains: Buried, St. Mary's Churchyard, Lambeth, London, England
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Military, Government
Executive summary: Captain of the Bounty
Military service: British Navy (1773-1817, to Vice Admiral)
William Bligh apprenticed under a Naval officer beginning when he was nine years old, and eventually became a sailor, master's mate, and midshipman, earning a reputation as an excellent navigator. At the age of 22 he was appointed sailing master of the Resolution under Captain James Cook, and witnessed Cook's killing by the Hawaiian natives in 1779. In 1787 he was promoted to Commanding Lieutenant and given command of His Majesty's Armed Vessel Bounty.
Bligh's management style was infamously cruel, and after nearly a year and a half at sea his master's mate and one-time friend Fletcher Christian led a mutiny. Bligh and 18 crewmen loyal to him were set adrift in a small open boat, and one of his men was subsequently killed by hostile natives on the nearest island. Returning to their small boat and fleeing for their lives, they sailed some 3,600 miles over 47 days under Bligh's rather remarkable seamanship with no further loss of life, and found safe harbor at Timor, Java. In 1793, six seamen from the Bounty faced court-martial for mutiny. Three were hanged, two were pardoned, and one was released on a technicality.
After Bligh made his way back to England, he was promoted to full Captain, and though he was disparaged for the rest of his life as the "Bounty Bastard", he commanded nine ships over the remainder of his career. While Bligh commanded the HMS Director in 1797, his crew mutinied as part of a general rebellion in the fleet. In 1805 he was appointed Governor of the Australian province of New South Wales, where his oppressive manner was a contributing factor in what became known as the Rum Rebellion, when British soldiers led by Major George Johnston mutinied in 1808, deposing Bligh and imprisoning him for two years. Upon his release Bligh and Johnson both faced inquiries for their actions; Johnson was expelled from the Navy, while Bligh was exonerated and soon promoted to Rear Admiral.
Father: Francis Bligh (customs officer, d. 27-Dec-1780)
Mother: Jane Balsam Pearce Bligh (d. 1769)
Sister: Mary Bligh
Wife: Elizabeth Betham Bligh ("Betsy", m. 4-Feb-1781, d. 15-Apr-1812)
Daughter: Harriet Maria Bligh Barker (b. 15-Nov-1781, d. 26-Feb-1856)
Daughter: Mary Bligh O'Connell (b. 1783, d. 4-Dec-1864)
Daughter: Elizabeth Bligh Bligh (b. 24-Mar-1786, d. 17-Jul-1854)
Daughter: Jane Bligh (b. 11-May-1788 twin, d. 1875)
Daughter: Frances Bligh (b. 11-May-1788 twin, d. 1862)
Daughter: Anne Campbell Bligh (mentally retarded, b. 1791, d. 1-Nov-1843)
Son: William Bligh, Jr. (b. 1795 twin, d. 1795)
Son: Henry Bligh (b. 1795 twin, d. 1795)
Royal Society 1801
Governor of New South Wales (13-Aug-1806 to 26-Jan-1808)
Author of books:
A Voyage to the South Sea (1792)
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