The Hazen Court-Martial: The Responsibility for the Disaster of the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition Definitely Established with Proposed Reforms in the Law and Practice of Courts-Martial.

Mackey held Secretary of War Robert T. Lincoln responsible for the tragedy by withholding necessary support because of his animosity to Hazen, Chief Signal Officer. Secondly he blamed Garlington for not following the plan as ordered, a plan on which Greeley depended for survival. (p. 7). On p. 6 Mackey refers to the North Pole as “the crown jewel of the Arctic dome.”

p. 314-, on the potentially lethal effects of failing to read something required:



Washington, D. C, December 3, 1884.

General W. B. Hazen , Chief Signal Officer, U. S. A:

Sir: In compliance with your request I have the honor to submit the following report and accompanying chart:

The Greely relief party left this city at 9.50 p.m., June 11, 1883, and on the following morning went aboard the United States steamship Yantic in the Brooklyn Navy-Yard. The day passed and Lieutenant Garlington said nothing to the Signal Service observers about comparison of instruments in New York. On the morning of the 13th we learned that the vessel would sail at 4 p.m. Knowing that we had instructions to compare some instruments in New York, we went to Lieutenant Garlington. I asked him what we were to do about the matter. “Don’t you do anything until you are ordered,” was his quick and irritated reply. I said: “Well, lieutenant, we have received very explicit instructions in regard to making these comparisons, and, as the Signal Office is looking to us to do our work well, I thought it but proper to call your attention to this subject before leaving this place”; to which he replied in the same irritated manner: ” Yes, old Abbe [Professor Cleveland Abbe], and, among them, have got up a lot of d — d instructions about your work. It is too late now to do anything about it; the vessel sails at 2 o’clock.” I then told him I would like to have a copy of the instructions. He said that he only had one copy of them; that he would let me have those, but that we must be very careful with them, as this was the only copy he had, and that he had not read them. He got the instructions at once and gave them to me, and I kept them until we reached St. John’s. At that place the instructions contemplated scientific work for us, but in disregard of them Lieutenant Garlington ordered us to other work not in the line of our duty, and said nothing about the work we were instructed to do at that place. We knew that he had not read these instructions, and therefore if we said nothing we should fail entirely to accomplish our mission; so, after consultation, we decided that if we could only get him to read the instructions he could not fail to see the importance of our work, and would give us an opportunity to comply with our instructions. So we carried them to him and told him that our duties with the expedition were other than those he had assigned us; that our reputation at the Signal Office depended upon the manner in which we performed the important work entrusted to us; that he was not giving us a fair opportunity to perform our duties, and insisted upon his reading the instructions. He seemed enraged that we should presume to approach him on the subject, and told us that our duties would be the same as the regular Army party. We protested that we were detailed for special duty, and that from his instructions he would find that this special work was calculated to occupy every moment of our time; that this was the service we had volunteered for, and that it was entirely different from that of the regular Army party. He was very angry, and ordered us back to work shifting the cargo of the Proteus. He took the instructions, but in a few minutes handed them to Ellis without reading them, saying that he did not have time to read them then, but that he would call for them some time when he was at leisure. We kept them until the Proteus sank. He never called for them, and could never have read them. Whenever approached in regard to our work in any way he always became irritated, and answered pettishly, so we avoided contact with him as much as possible, never speaking to him except when it was absolutely necessary in order to carry on our work.

The instructions required him to issue to each man a blank-book for a diary. These books were with observers’ stationery supplies, and were unpacked at St. John’s, and kept ready to be issued when called for by Lieutenant Garlington. This he never did.

The Proteus was the same vessel that took Lieutenant Greely’s party to the Arctic in 1881. The cabin was very large, having ten berths besides those in the captain’s state-room. In this cabin Lieutenant Greely took two lieutenants, the surgeon, and all of his observers; but Lieutenant Garlington packed these berths full of bedding, and could not find room for his two observers, who were always on duty in that portion of the ship, and in all kinds of weather had to go the entire length of the ship, over a deck stacked with lumber, to take observations. His attention was called by Captain Pike to the disposition Lieutenant Greely had made of his men, and the captain offered to accommodate Ellis and myself in the cabin; but Lieutenant Garlington would not agree to such an arrangement, but forced us to go into the dirty forecastle of the ship and eat and sleep with the sailors, his own description of whom is to be found in his report. It is a noteworthy fact, which I respectfully submit, that, whilst Lieutenant Garlington refused his observers permission to accept the accommodations offered by the captain and provided by the government, these observers were paying out of their own private means as much for ship’s fare as himself.

The Proteus entered Smith Sound on the morning of July 22. No ice was to be seen with the large glass from the crow’s nest. Pandora Harbor was reached about 6 a.m. Lieutenant Garlington went ashore to examine the cairn, and at 7 a.m. we started for Littleton Island, which was passed between 8 and 9 o’clock, but no one landed to examine the cache. Passing Littleton Island, the ship was headed northward. At 11.36 a.m. we met the solid ice-pack, which extended from Cape Inglefield to Cape Sabine. The Proteus steamed along the edge of the pack to Payer Harbor, but not the slightest opening could be discovered by the watch in the crow’s nest, so the captain decided to go into Payer Harbor and wait for a change in the ice. He told me that he was not discouraged by meeting this barrier; that in a few days great changes would take place in the ice; that we were at least ten days earlier than any one else had ever passed Cape Sabine; that he would go into Payer Harbor and spend several days filling his bunkers with coal, and would then go out and see about the ice. After this conversation with Captain Pike I went to Lieutenant Garlington and told him that, as the vessel was going to stop several days, Ellis and myself would like to make some magnetic observations on the shore. He then spoke to Captain Pike about the time we should remain at Payer Harbor, and Captain Pike repeated about what he had just told me. Lieutenant Garlington made no objection to the delay, and when the vessel anchored at 2 p.m. he put us ashore with our instruments, and went on round the cape to examine the Beebe cache. He returned between 5 and 6 o’clock and reported open water towards Cape Albert, and Ellis and myself were called to hurry on board with our instruments. At 7 p.m. the vessel “was again under way. I soon met Captain Pike on deck, and asked him why his plans had been changed so suddenly. He said Lieutenant Garlington thought he had discovered open water to the northward, but that he had told him his men in the crow’s nest with the large glass had not seen it, and he did not think there was any safe water there, and that, besides that, he wished to fill his bunkers; but that Lieutenant Garlington insisted upon his going at once, saying that he (Pike) would not be doing his duty to the United States government or Lieutenant Greely’s party if he did not go at once. That he then started under protest. He told me that in his opinion it was very dangerous, and entirely unnecessary, to attempt to force a passage through the ice.

Passing round Cape Sabine, the vessel was put into a narrow lead extending in almost a straight line from Cape Sabine to Cape Albert. This lead was followed till we were nearing Cape Albert, when it closed, and all the heavy ramming that followed failed to break a passage through to the open pool of water round Cape Albert. At 11.30 p.m. the vessel was turned about, and after retreating several miles back towards Cape Sabine she was put in another lead, which extended several miles in a northeasterly direction, and then turned almost at right angles in a northwesterly direction, entering the pool of open water around Cape Albert a little northeast of the Cape. At 2 a.m. of the 23d the Proteus was nipped and held for two hours near the close of this lead. At this point the ice was light and no damage was done to the ship by the nip. At 4 A.M. the lead reopened and we steamed forward only to find that the open pool of water had vanished and heavy ice-pack was in its place. Lieutenant Garlington was now satisfied to return to Cape Sabine. We entered the lead which we had abandoned on the night before, but which was now our only chance of escape, and hurried back to Cape Sabine, passing without difficulty through the heavy floes that stopped the vessel on the previous evening. Our hasty retreat was almost concluded, only a few hundred yards more would bring us to the open water, when the treacherous lead closed, and at 2.45 p.m. the vessel was nipped between the heavy floes, she was crushed, and at 6.05 p.m., when the lead again opened, she sank, leaving us upon the ice.

As soon as the nip occurred Lieutenant Garlington set all the men to work getting provisions on deck, and when it became evident that the vessel could not withstand the enormous pressure the stores were thrown upon the ice on both sides of the vessel by those on board and carried back to a safe place by those on the ice. The ship’s party worked in the stern of the vessel, most of their provisions being in the cabin store-room. The expedition party worked in the forward hatch and forward peak, where our supplies were kept; hence there was very little chance for collisions between the two parties — in fact, it was only those members of both parties on the ice that could see each other, those on board being the length of the ship apart, and with engine-works between them.

Our party worked effectively and as hard as they were able to work, many of us to perfect exhaustion. Before we left the ship, and while we were working at the forward hatch, it struck me that in case of a wreck the charts, boat compasses, and chronometers which we had in the cabin would be almost indispensable, so I ventured to suggest to Lieutenant Garlington that it would be well for me to go and get them out on the ice. He replied with great excitement: “Damn the instruments; save provisions.” After the vessel was crushed in, and most of us were on the ice, I was getting articles away from near the vessel, and if I did not happen to get the very articles he had in his own mind he would rail in a most disagreeable manner to me. Convinced that I could do more effectual service away from Lieutenant Garlington, I took the first opportunity to get on the port floe under the command of Lieutenant Colwell, who was always cool and calculating, never becoming fretted, inspiring respect and confidence in every one. Had it not been for his presence of mind at the wreck our largest and best whale-boat, which was indispensable to a successful retreat, and much, if not all, of the provisions on the port floe would have been lost. I remained with his party till this floe was abandoned. When the vessel sank the lead opened rapidly, and both floes drifted southeastward, the port floe travelling much faster than the other. Some of the provisions were transferred to the other floe in boats; but it soon became impossible to get the boats across, and the port floe, with all the provisions on it, was then abandoned, and the entire party united on the starboard floe. It was early morning of the 24th before it was safe for the boats to attempt to reach the shore. At that time Lieutenant Colwell launched a loaded whale-boat, and with a crew of six men, four of whom belonged to the ship’s crew, started for the shore. Captain Pike some time later got off one of his boats, and Lieutenant Garlington soon followed with our other whale-boat, the ship’s crew following soon after with another boat; Lieutenant Colwell’s boat was the only one of these four that returned to the floe before it was abandoned. When he reached the floe there were on it Dr. Harrison and myself, of the expedition party, with our dingey loaded, and Captain Pike and ten or twelve of his men, with one boat. The captain and several of his men soon started for the shore in their only boat, and Lieutenant Colwell took off all the men that were left, leaving our dingey loaded on the ice. This boat we were to take in tow, but the ice looked dangerous, so it was left. When we left the floe it was off Cape Sabine, and drifting southeasterly, and bearing away on it the greater part of the provisions saved from the wreck. We reached Cape Sabine, and found Lieutenant Garlington, Captain Pike, and all the others had landed at the same point except the first boat-load, by Lieutenant Colwell, which was landed about half-way between Cocked-Hat Island and Cape Sabine, and was never seen by our party again. After we had unloaded the boat in which I came ashore I observed that no further effort was being made by Lieutenant Garlington to save anything more from the floe. I spoke to Moritz about going back to the floe again, and he expressed a willingness to make another trial. We asked Lieutenant Garlington if we could go back, telling him we could get up a party; but he refused, saying we must not risk it. About this time several of the ship’s crew decided to go back to the floe to get provisions and clothing, and as they stepped into their boats Moritz and myself got in with them. We soon readied the floe, which, with a change of tide, was drifting back to the northeastward. Moritz and myself got out our dingey, which was already well loaded, and made the shore safely. The boat we went over in was loaded and reached the shore soon after we did. Another boat with a volunteer crew of expedition men and ship’s crew succeeded without difficulty in reaching the floe soon after we left it, and it also brought a heavy load of provisions ashore. Ellis, perhaps, knows better than any one else available what remained on the floe after this boat left, as he was in it, and was about the last man to leave the floe. Thus by the voluntary action of the men three heavy boat-loads were saved, Lieutenant Garlington not approving of the risk and positively refusing to let our whale-boats go back to the floe. If he had made another trip to the floe with our party, in our own boats, then the three boats of the ship’s party would have been available for another trip with their own crews, and two or three more boat-loads would have been saved. But as it was most of the regular members of our party made the last trip in the ship’s boats, and when they returned were too tired to go again, even if Lieutenant Garlington had asked them to do so; but he did not make such a request, nor did he endeavor to get a boat party from those men of the ship’s crew who had not made an extra trip to the ice. They could easily have gone, and in my opinion could have been hired to do anything. When the last boat left the floe, about 2.30 P.M., it was drifting back northwestward, and must have continued in that course till high tide, about 6 p.m., and hence it must have remained in reach of the shore for several hours later.

p. 326, where roughly the same account of Garlington’s refusal to read or even recognize the Signal Corps special orders, in this case to Sergeant Frank W. Ellis