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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Bounding Billow - 1897 US Navy Newspaper Crime Account

I have finally found my equivalent aboard a an American naval vessel. Granted he's from 1897, and I wasn't really looking for my equivalent, but  - presto!

Welcome to a newspaper clipping taken from a shipmen aboard the USF Olympia (that's her in the photo above)… a self-published newspaper providing US naval aboard-ship news to link the 400+ men.

It's written in a simple manner and attempts to provide a lot of information - just as I would do.

First off… some background information… the name of the newspaper is The Bounding Billow, and was indeed "published in the interests of American men-o'-warsmen."

Published as Volume 1, No. 2, and published at intervals on the USF Olympia, the paper is dated "Nagasaki, Japan, December 30, 1897."

The editor is L.S. Young (Louis Stanley), and H.B. Glover, the letterpress printer. To quote the paper, it's "Value per copy" is 20 Sen.

Depending on who is on board, each publication of The Bounding Billow might have a different editor and printer. In fact.. Vol. 1 No. 1 was actually printed in 1895.

A fan of history and Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife was kind enough to point me in the correct direction regarding these wonderful newspapers.

Below is the chief headline that caught my attention of this 10-page all type paper:

Murder Of A Blue-Jacket!

An American Blue-Jacket Killed By Japanese Sampan Men.

Frank Epps, an Apprentice belonging to the USF Olympia, while returning to his ship at or about 8P.M. the night of the 12th of December, was set upon and killed by two sampan men.
Epps went on liberty at one o'clock the same day and spent the afternoon walking about the worn and making a few purchases at the Bazaar. He seldom drank and friends that were with him testify that he left the Hatoba perfectly sober.
About 8:15P.M. the crew of the English ship "Saint Enoch," which lay about 500 yards from shore, were considerably startled by hearing the sounds of a struggle and shouting in a sampan nearby. On running to the rail they saw three men scuffling in a sampan. While watching, they heard one of the men cry for help and saw another raise a club and strike him. The two the pushed or threw him overboard and while he clung to the gunwale calling for help, they struck him again.
In the meantime, the crew of the "Saint Enoch" called a sampan and started to the rescue but before they could reach the drowning man he sank, and they only picked up a hat with the name F. Epps, in it.
They pursued the murderers but they, finding that they were followed, extinguished their light and eluded their pursuers in the darkness.
The list was sent to the "Olympia" with an account of the murder and notice was immediately sent to the authorities on shore.
The next day, boats were sent out to drag for the body. At 2:25 P.M. a Japanese sampan man caught and brought it to the surface.
A board of doctors examined the body and found that he had received a blow in the left eye with a club or some blunt instrument of sufficient force to cause insensibility if not death. There were also marks on the legs, probably made in slipping over the gunwale of the sampan.
A number of arrests were made but it was almost a week before the murderers were captured. A preliminary trial was held and the accused so committed themselves that they left no doubt of their guilt. The final trial will take place January 10, 1898.
The probable facts of the case as far as we can determine from the meagre information gleaned, are as follows: Epps was with a couple of friends belonging to the U.S.S. Boston (then in drydock) and had expressed his determination to go off to the ship. At about eight o'clock in company with E.F. Taylor, of the "Boston" he went down to the Hatoba. Here he bid Taylor good-bye telling him he would write often, as the "Boston" was to leave for Chemulpo, Korea, next day, then turning to the sampan men, he said: "To the Olympia." Taylor then went back to town.
It seems that when they got abreast of the "Saint Enoch" the Japs stopped and demanded a dollar before they would go any further. Epps refused and ordered them to go ahead, saying that when he got to the ship he would give them sixty sen. They then began to abuse him and finally one of them struck at him. Epps was very strong and on shore would have made short work of his assailants, but he could not swim and had a wholesome dread of the water, as as the sampan no doubt rolled considerably, he held onto the house with one hand and defended himself with the other. In addition he had on a heavy coat closely buttoned, which also hampered his movements.
When he attempted to strike back at his assailant, the other send struck him with a short club. Both then rushed at him and managed to force him over the side. Here he hung crying for help when one of the Japs gave him the fatal blow over the eye.
The position of the hands when the boost was picked up, as well as the bruises and marks corroborate this theory.
About a week ago, all the foreign consuls in Nagasaki, met at the American Consulate in order to determine on some system for the prevention of a repetition of this crime. It was finally decided that Nagasaki should adopt the method of taking the name and destination of night passengers in vogue at Hong Kong.

Okay.. the last paragraph is pretty weak, but otherwise - brilliant!

If you aren't sure what a sampan is… use your imagination… Epps was being transported from the land to his boat out in the harbor… a sampan is a small skiff… a small flat boat with a single oar, and a low shelter (the house mentioned in the article).
Painted photograph of a sampan dated from 1886 or earlier, according to a written note on the album containing the photographs. Presumed Author of the original photographs: Adolfo Farsari.
As for the USF Olympia (the F stands for frigate), launched in 1892, it is the oldest steel warship still afloat in the world.

Her specifications are:
Length: 344 Feet
Beam: 53 feet
Displacement: 5,870 tons
Crew: 33 Officers, 396 enlisted men
Top Speed: 22 knots (25mph)
Coal Consumption at Top Speed: 633 lbs/minute
She's not in service anymore, but the Olympia can still be toured, and is designated a United States National Historic landmark.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Should you be wondering, the US military also publishes its brilliant Stars And Stripes newspaper (and website), having begun doing so on November 9, 1861. Obviously, being at sea, for sailors aboard ships like the Olympia, getting news wasn't easy. And despite the close quarters aboard a ship, fact and fiction often get twisted, so The Bouncing Billow sought to provide a single source of well-researched materials, but to do so in a newsy, non-book form. Like me.

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