Short URL for this page:
The Coast Guardsmen like their work; they like to see it well done, and will bend every effort to see that it is well done. Such jobs as the Childar and the Purnell T. White always bring a comfortable feeling of a task well done to the heart of the Coast Guardsman. But there are other incidents, incidents of which the Coast Guard does not like to speak, that bring a tightness to the lips of the service man and a grim look to his eye. Such an incident was the killing of two Coast Guardsmen and a Federal Agent aboard the CG 249 on the 7th of August, 1927.
The passage of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States plunged the Coast Guard into a bitter war that was to last for nearly fourteen years. Prohibition made the smuggling of liquor into the United States a profitable venture, a lure for desperate characters, men fascinated by prospect of adventure and easy money — big money!
At one time there was an estimated fleet of 250 foreign vessels engaged in the business of smuggling liquor into the United States. The Coast Guard was p147 given orders to stop this smuggling. It was a big job, calling for long, almost endless patrols in all kinds of weather. In calm blue water, through towering seas, in raging winter gales and fog, the patrols went on against the small, rakish craft that employed cunning ruses to land their cargoes. Poison gas, smoke screens, and machine guns were the smugglers' common weapons.
Sometimes they were smugglers, defying the laws of the United States; all too often, they were Coast Guardsmen, dying in battle as men of the Coast Guard had died in every war this country has known. The motto of the Service, semper paratus — Always Ready — is enhanced and exemplified by the facts now to be presented.
It was a pleasant Sunday morning, the 7th of August, 1927 when the liberty party returned to the Coast Guard base at Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. They came in through the gate — healthy‑looking, bronze-faced men, clad in white. The sentry on watch saluted briskly as Boatswain Sidney C. Sanderlin, tall and sharp-eyed, entered the reservation.
The sentry said: "The commanding officer wished to see you, sir. You are to report to him immediately."
Boatswain Sanderlin nodded cheerily and went on. He found Lieutenant , commander of the base, standing on the dock, talking to a big p148 man in grey civilian clothes. Returning Sanderlin's salute, Lieutenant Jordan introduced him to Robert Webster, secret service operative.
Jordan then explained that Mr. Webster had orders from his department to proceed to Bimini, British West Indies, there to confer with schooner owners, who had important information concerning a recent flood of counterfeit money which had been issuing from the islands. The Coast Guard, Jordan added, was to furnish transportation and Sanderlin was to carry out the mission of the CG 249, a trim •seventy-five-foot patrol boat.
It was later that same morning when Sanderlin, secret service agent aboard, headed the 249 out to sea, a rendezvous with death!
The crew on that memorable trip consisted of Boatswain Sidney C. Sanderlin, in command of the CG 249; Boatswain's Mates Lawrence F. Tuten and John A. Robinson; Motor Machinist's Mates Frank Lehman and Victor A. Lamby; Seamen H. M. Caudle and Jodie L. Hollingsworth. In addition to the crew, as passenger, was the secret service operative, Robert Webster.
A bright morning sun glinting on the dancing, choppy water gave no hint of what was to follow. The 249 was •about forty miles out from the base when a small schooner was sighted approaching from the direction of Bimini. In those days Bimini was the base for liquor boats, and it was from there that p149 the "rummies" made their runs across to the Florida coast with cargoes of alcohol.
Boatswain Sanderlin leveled powerful glasses on the schooner. •About forty feet long, she was apparently powered with auxiliary motors, and the numbers V13997 were painted on her bow. She turned slightly in toward the shore when at Sanderlin's command the CG 249 swung toward her.
"A rummy," the boatswain said, laconically; and he reached for the signal cord.
The blast sounded, but the schooner paid no heed to this signal. She plowed on, heading closer in toward land.
Sanderlin next ordered a blank shot fired from the one‑pounder on deck. Twice this was done, without result. "All right," he snapped. "Fire a shot across her bow!"
The solid shell screamed into the wind and went howling out in front of the schooner. She hove to instantly and lay rocking in the swells while the Coast Guard circled her and came up on her port side. When two vessels had been lashed together, Boatswain Sanderlin jumped onto the deck of the schooner, gun in hand. A tall, bearded man came out of her pilot house; he was about fifty, with small, snake-like eyes.
Sanderlin searched him, but found no weapons. "Don't you know the regulations about stopping when signalled by a Coast Guard vessel?" he demanded. "Let's see your papers."
p150 Sanderlin watched the man closely as he went into the pilot house and presently returned. The papers he showed to the Coast Guardsman indicated that the schooner belonged to James Horace Alderman, of Miami.
"You're Alderman, I suppose? What're you carrying on this boat?"
Alderman spat carefully over the side. "Nothing much. Fishing gear. Going to do a little fishing." His eyes darted about nervously, then focused on the deck at his feet.
Grinning tightly to himself, Sanderlin went aft to the hold; he had seen many rum runners in his day, and he felt sure he was not mistaken in this man.
He was right. In the hold he found twenty cases of liquor in burlap bags. He poked his head up through the hatch and called for his chief boatswain's mate Tuten. Assisted by the latter and Seaman Hollingsworth, he brought the liquor up and placed it on the schooner's deck, while Alderman watched with a glint in his sullen eyes.
"Tough luck, fellow," Sanderlin said to him. "You're caught with the goods."
It should be understood that the Coast Guard bore no personal grudge against smugglers as men, but merely endeavored to carry out orders to the very best of its ability. When caught, smugglers usually grinned ruefully and shrugged. They knew that the p151 syndicates which employed them would soon buy them out, and that with luck they'd be back working at the same old stand. Alderman, however, hated the Coast Guard, hated it with all the power of his warped soul. His friends had been killed by the Coast Guard. It didn't matter to him that they had died resisting lawful authority and that the Guardsmen had killed in self-defense. His hate was instilled in his heart; blood alone could erase it.
While Sanderlin herded Alderman across to the patrol boat, another man named Weech — a companion and henchman of Alderman — was left on board the rummy boat with instructions to make ready to be towed back to the Coast Guard base.
Boatswain Sanderlin went forward to the pilot house in a thoughtful mood. He was in a predicament. He had orders to carry the secret service man into Bimini, but one of the Coast Guard's primary duties was its campaign against such persons as Alderman. Picking up the radio microphone, he switched on the transmitter and prepared to call the radio station at Base six for advice. He glanced back at Alderman, who was standing just outside the door, a queer expression on his dirty face. Webster, the secret service man, leaned against the rail, staring at the rummy boat. Victor Lamby, the motor machinist's mate, was coming up out of the forecastle's hatch, a grin on his homely face. That grin was the last thing Boatswain Sanderlin was conscious of in life. Suddenly, Alderman p152 jerked out a .45 calibre automatic and shot the Coast Guard officer in the back of the neck. Blood spewing from his wound, Sanderlin fell across the desk; he tumbled to the deck, dead.
There has always been a mystery attached to Alderman's possession of the gun. He had been thoroughly searched and watched carefully; yet, somehow, with the cunning of a trapped animal, he had managed to get his hands on a weapon. The only logical explanation is that Alderman had placed a gun at some convenient place on deck, and as he went by on his way across to the patrol boat, he had slipped it into his shirt.
There was no time for conjecture now. With the report, Lamby spun round in time to see his commanding officer fall. Shouting, he started to run aft, intending to get to the armory, where there were plenty of weapons. But Alderman hurdled Sanderlin's body, and rushing through the pilot house, fired at Lamby just as the Coast Guardsman was turning the corner. The bullet struck the boy's side, tore upward to rest in his spine. He fell to the deck, his lower limbs paralyzed and useless. He kept crawling, trying to escape the death that was just behind him. He pulled his body up over the engine room hatch coaming, fell •ten feet to the floor plates and lay still, bloody, but still faintly breathing.
Joe Robinson, another member of the Coast Guard crew, was standing near the engine room hatch, a p153 heavy wrench in his hand. When he saw what had happened to Lamby, he hurled the wrench at the killer's head. Missed! The man whirled around, snarling, and brought his gun down on Robinson, who promptly dove overboard.
Alderman then herded the remaining Coast Guardsmen and the secret service agent back on the stern of the rummy boat. "I've got two of you damn Coast Guardsmen," he snarled. "I'll get the whole bunch of you before this thing's over!" He called his henchman Weech and asked: "You with me in this thing, Weech?"
Weech nodded, his eyes on the gun in the man's hand.
"O.K.," said Alderman. "Go down in the engine room of the patrol boat. Break all the gas lines and set fire to the damn thing. I'll bump these guys and throw the bodies over on the deck."
Cold sweat broke out on the faces of the prisoners. The secret service agent started talking fast: "What the hell are you trying to do? You can't get away with this! You don't want to have all this blood on your hands just for the sake of a few sacks of liquor, do you? Put us over the side in a small boat and let us take our chances that way."
"Give you a chance, hell!" Alderman laughed harshly. "The only chance I'm going to give you is a chance to say your prayers! Get down on your knees if you want to make your peace!"
p154 Meanwhile, the shriveled-faced Weech had clambered down into the engine room of the patrol boat, where he found Lamby sprawled out on the floor plates, blood welling from his mouth.
"Get up, damn you," Weech said, pulling the Coast Guardsman to a sitting position and staring into his wan face. "You're going to help me flood this place with gasoline. We're going to burn her."
"I'm paralyzed — dying," Lamby groaned. "I —"
Weech kicked him in the side, the side so recently pierced by a bullet. Almost mad with pain, Lamby reached up and handed Weech a wrench. Then he dropped back to the deck, unconscious.
Going to the pipe lines, Weech immediately tore them down, letting the gasoline pour into the bilges. This done, he climbed back up on deck and sang out to Alderman: "There's a wounded man in the engine room. What'll I do with him?"
Alderman cursed. "Kill the –––––!"
Weech scratched his head. "But I haven't a gun. You never gave me a gun!"
"Damn it, then, set fire to the gasoline. Burn him alive. We're wasting time!"
Chief Boatswain's mate Tuten said: "You're going to blow us all up. If you set fire to the patrol boat, there'll be an explosion and then your schooner will catch fire. We won't have a chance." He was stalling for time, a chance to rush the killer. But Alderman now held Sanderlin's gun, as well as his own. His eyes p155 gleamed, and Tuten thought that he was going to shoot. Instead he cursed and said: "I don't need any help from you stinking Coast Guard. You've caused me enough trouble already." Tuten's suggestion, however, seemed to find favor with him, for he sent Weech to start up the motors of the schooner.
Meanwhile, Joe Robinson, the man who had jumped over the rail to avoid being shot by Alderman, pulled himself up over the rail. Alderman watched him with baleful eyes, but made no belligerent move as Robinson joined his companions.
The Coast Guardsmen knew that as soon as the motors of the schooner were started, Alderman would kill them and set fire to the patrol boat. His scheme was crude, but evidently destined to succeed. Sanderlin had failed to contact the base via radio. When the patrol boat failed to show up at her destination, her disappearance would be charged to fire and explosion. Alderman would never be suspected, much less apprehended. It is more than probable that Alderman, in order to be entirely in the clear, was also plotting Weech's death.
Weech was having trouble with the motors. He got them started, only to have them sputter and die. Alderman sat on a coil of rope and shouted instructions and curses at the monkey-faced little smuggler.
Suddenly, Robinson saw a small ice pick lying on the deck just behind him. Lucky! he thought. While the others screened him, he stooped quickly and p156 picked it up. It was short, almost too short, but it was a weapon. There came a backfire from the schooner's motors. Alderman jerked his head around in alarm. Through the minds of the tense men before him ran the same thought — now!
Hollingsworth and Webster lunged forward, closely followed by the rest of the Coast Guardsmen. Webster grappled with the killer, got his hand on the gun in the man's right hand. But he missed the other gun. Alderman jerked the .45 up. It belched almost directly into the face of Webster, who fell to the deck, dead.
Hollingsworth was fighting, fighting for his life and for the lives of the others. He had almost succeeded in disarming Alderman when the man shot him through the arm, then again, through the right eye. Reeling to the rail, he fell over into the shark-infested water.
Robinson was close in now, striking, stabbing Alderman with the ice pick, stabbing for a vital spot. The smuggler seemed possessed of the lives of a thousand devils. He bellowed and cursed and struggled. Then, finally, it was all over. Alderman went down, bleeding, under the combined assault of the Coast Guardsmen, who beat him into insensibility.
Seaman Caudle picked Alderman's gun from the deck. "There's another one of these rats down in the engine room," he said grimly. "I'll get him." Letting himself down through the engine room hatch, he p157 came upon Weech huddled behind the engines. The little smuggler saw the look on Caudle's face, and picking up a heavy pipe, prepared to fight.
Caudle jabbed the gun at the man and pulled the trigger. The gun failed to fire, presumably damaged when it had fallen from Alderman's hand. The Coast Guardsman threw it at Weech and dived into him, fists flying. He fought the man off his feet, dragged him up the ladder and threw him on deck.
It was Caudle and Robinson who fished Hollingsworth out of the water. The badly wounded boy had been hanging on desperately to a line swaying over the side of the patrol boat. His right eye was gone and he was bleeding terribly from the mouth. As they brought him over the side, he grinned faintly and tried to thank his shipmates. They put him down on the deck and made him as comfortable as possible, turning his head so that the blood might run freely from his mouth.
They went down into the engine room and hoisted Lamby out. The machinist's mate was badly hurt and in terrible pain. He kept saying over and over again: "I couldn't get to the armory! I couldn't get to the armory!"
There was nothing to be done for Webster, the secret agent, and Boatswain Sanderlin. They were dead. Tuten assumed command of the vessel and radioed the base, giving full details and asking for immediate assistance. The Coast Guard base, under p158 the command of Lieutenant Jordan, swung into action. Ensign Hahn, in a fast speedboat, was directed to the scene with six petty officers and two seamen. All available boats at sea were ordered to proceed to the assistance of the CG 249.
Ensign Hahn arrived in a couple of hours and the wounded men and the bodies of the dead were loaded on the speedboat for the run back to the base. The officer left orders with a sister ship CG 249 that the 249 and the rummy boat be repaired and brought into the base. Alderman and his helper Weech were shackled together in the hold of the patrol boat.
The Coast Guardsmen went to work repairing the damaged engine room of the 249. They pumped the bilges free of gasoline, and presently, the craft was able to move under its own power. But they were not so lucky with the rummy boat. In trying to start the motors, there was a backfire and an explosion; the vessel caught fire, burning to the water's edge and finally sinking.
Once back at the base, the murderer and his henchman were turned over to the sheriff for safe keeping. The peace officer deemed it necessary that the two men be removed, and accordingly they were carried to the Miami jail. Then began the long series of legal fights, for which the underworld of the Florida East coast banded together in a desperate attempt to save Alderman's life.
For two years this went on; threats were made, p159 witnesses approached. The commander of the Coast Guard base received a letter saying that for Alderman's life, three Coast Guardsmen would die. A man who enjoyed a high reputation in Florida, wrote a letter to the President of the United States, in which he pointed out the faults of the Coast Guard and asked that the Alderman case be investigated fully before action was taken.
The Coast Guard, however, considered further investigation unnecessary. Two of their men were dead, Lamby having died on the morning of August 11, 1927. They had been killed in the performance of their duty, and all the Coast Guard wanted now was to see their murderers punished in accordance with the law.
The amount of the bail set in the cases of Alderman and Weech was surprisingly small. Twenty-five thousand dollars. The Coast Guard protested, as did the secret service, which had sent a man down to investigate Webster's death. They said that such a sum as bail was unthinkable.
At last, the two men went on trial. Weech saw a way out. The star witness against Alderman, he claimed that he had been forced to do Alderman's bidding. Weech was sentenced to a year and a day which he subsequently served in the Atlanta Federal Prison.
Alderman's defense was weak. He claimed that he had mistaken the Coast Guardsmen for pirates and hijackers p160 and was merely protecting his vessel against their attacks. He did not explain how he had come to miss the huge CG 249 painted in white on the gray bow of the patrol boat and the Coast Guard ensign flying at the mast. The jury rejected his defense plea and returned a verdict of guilty.
Alderman was sentenced to hang.
All pleas for mercy by the doomed man's family and friends were denied. Then the problem of where Alderman was to be hanged arose. He had committed murder on the high seas and therefore was a Federal responsibility. Judge Ritter ordered that he be hanged on the government reservation at base six, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The Coast Guard deeply regretted the choice of this location.
Accordingly, Alderman, who had come to be known as the "lone wolf of the sea," was hanged on the 17th of August, 1929, in the grey light of dawn, while sentries patrolled the grounds. The loud "clap!" of the trap door as it fell from under Alderman's feet, pronounced an end to the blood spattered saga of the "Battle at Sea."
March 20, 1929. The Gulf of Mexico. Dirty, gray water whipped by a frenzied wind. Lowering clouds and drifting, misty rain. The Coast Guard patrol boat Wolcott was on its regular patrol, out from the base at Pascagoula, Mississippi. Boatswain Frank Paul, with p161 a well earned reputation of competency in the Coast Guard, commanded her. He stood in the pilot house, his legs spread apart, bracing himself against the pitch and roll of the ship. He was alert, as were the helmsman and the lookout atop the pilot house. All knew that this was "rummy" country, with dark, speedy boats lying out there in the rolling swells, waiting to make a dash for aside with their cargoes of liquor and aliens. It was the Wolcott's job to see that those cargoes were never landed.
"Boat dead ahead, sir!" the lookout called down suddenly through the voice tube.
Five or ten minutes passed before the boat was visible to those in pilot house. Then they saw her — a dark shape lying in the trough of the sea. Another ten minutes and Boatswain Paul could read the name on the stern of the rakish looking craft.
She was the schooner I'm Alone — known to the entire Coast Guard patrol force operating in the Gulf, for she headed the lists of vessels suspected of smuggling. Though chased a number of times, she was never caught, always managing to get away in fog or darkness. This time, Boatswain Paul resolved grimly, she would not escape. Rapidly computing his position, he found that he was well within the twelve‑mile limit. He logged that with satisfaction, and turning to the signal cord, jerked it hard. The horn bellowed hoarsely.
Immediately the schooner came to life. Her motors p162 started, and she went ahead through the waves, spray bursting over her squatty pilot house. Paul whistled softly. Plenty of speed there! He swung to the annunciators and threw the handles down to full speed. The Wolcott's motors hummed and the powerful little patrol boat cut through the water.
Again, the Wolcott's signal to heave to went out, but the I'm Alone kept on. The Coast Guard officer ordered his gun crew to their posts and directed that the customary blank shot be fired.
The skipper of the I'm Alone paid no heed. By this time, the Wolcott had pulled up within hailing distance. Paul megaphoned across the water: "Heave to, there! This is a Coast Guard vessel! Heave to!"
A man came to the door of the I'm Alone, shook his head and motioned derisively with his hands.
"Solid shot this time, across her bow!" snapped the officer.
The gun roared sharply. The shell screamed past the schooner, struck the water •a half mile away and skidded out to sea.
This time the captain of the schooner came out on deck. He ran a flag up on the mainmast of the schooner. It fluttered out in the wind and the Coast Guardsmen saw that it was the British flag. The man came to the rail and motioned the Coast Guard patrol boat closer and shouted that if the captain of the p163 Wolcott would come across unarmed, he'd be glad to talk over the situation.
Paul agreed. He stationed four men on deck with rifles and then, as the cutter pulled up alongside the schooner, hopped across to the deck.
A tall, gray haired man with a military bearing met him and introduced himself as Captain John T. Randall. He admitted openly that he was carrying a load of liquor, that he had come from British Honduras, and that although his clearing papers showed that he was bound for Hamilton, Bermuda, he had no intention of going there. In other words, his liquor was destined for an American port, and he didn't care who knew it.
They went into the captain's room. Paul knew then that the whole thing had been just a ruse to let him see that the skipper meant to fight any boarding party that might come aboard his vessel. There was a rifle rack in the captain's room, with slots for eight rifles. There was only one rifle in the rack. A heavy automatic lay close at hand.
Paul said tightly: "There's nothing to be gained by talking, captain. You're carrying liquor. It is my duty to stop you."
The tall man's clouded quickly. "If you fire on this boat, you'll be firing on the British flag. You know what that means. I've been an officer in the British navy. I'll be damned if I surrender to you!"
p164 The Coast Guard officer said, quickly: "Then I'll sink you, captain."
Randall tried one more argument. "I'm outside the treaty boundary. I'm on the high seas."
Boatswain Paul smiled briefly. "When this chase started, you were within boundary. That's the principle of the 'hereto chase.' It was originated during the Civil War and every civilized country in the world recognizes its validity. I can chase you to Kingdom Come and back and still be within my rights and authority!"
The schooner's captain scowled darkly. "If you board me, there'll be a fight. My men are armed. I'll see this vessel sunk before I'll allow her to be taken by you!"
Boatswain Paul saw that there was no need for further talking. He went across to the Wolcott and turning once more to Randall, said "I'll start firing in ten minutes!"
The captain of the I'm Alone shook his fist at the patrol boat. "Fire and be damned to you!" he shouted.
Ten minutes later, a shell from the patrol boat howled into the rigging of the schooner. Again the demand to heave to came from Boatswain Paul. And again it was refused.
Then, on the third shot, the three‑inch gun jammed, went out of commission. The officer called for volunteers, and the entire ship's company, those who could be spared from necessary watches responded. p165 Paul told them that he was going to board the I'm Alone, and that he wanted them to know that the smugglers were armed and meant to fight. Some of the Coast Guardsman would not come back, he said. He was silent for a moment, waiting for the volunteers to back down, while in his heart, he knew they would not. Not one asked to be released.
Boatswain Paul shook his head. He thought a lot of these men of his. It was too great a price to pay. There was another way, a way in which Coast Guardsmen would not die. Abruptly, he dismissed the boarding party and went up into the radio room.
In a few minutes, the radio operator had contacted the base and was giving the message. Boatswain Paul explained about the three‑inch gun, the dangers attending upon the boarding of the I'm Alone and asked that another patrol boat contact the Wolcott and her trail. The message was passed to Lieutenant Commander A. H. Bixby, the commander of the base.
At 5:30 P.M. that afternoon, the Dexter, a sister ship of the Wolcott, under the command of Boatswain A. W. Powell, put to sea, heading out to intercept the I'm Alone. Then, at 7:30 A.M., the 22nd of March, the Dexter made contact with the Wolcott. She came within hailing range and the two Coast Guard officers discussed the situation.
Paul explained that the schooner had repeatedly ignored the command to heave to for boarding and that he had been trailing the I'm Alone since the preceding p166 Wednesday morning. He further stated that the three‑inch gun on the Wolcott was out of commission and that he did not have another gun of sufficient calibre to stop the I'm Alone.
Powell arranged then with the captain of the Wolcott that his cutter would make the necessary show of force and that the crew of the Wolcott would do the boarding. Then he immediately hailed the skipper of the rummy schooner and demanded that he stop his vessel at once. The man laughed and pointed at the British flag flying from the mast head.
At about 8:22 A.M., Powell ordered solid shot fired into the rigging of the schooner. He took great pains to instruct his men to fire forward of the main mast, as the crew of the rummy boat seemed to be gathered on the stern. He also directed that machine gun fire be played on the I'm Alone's hull, in order that a slow leak might be brought about in the vessel.
At 8:30, after a number of shells had struck the schooner, the Coast Guard officer ordered the firing held, and again demanded that the schooner surrender. This demand, as were the others, was refused.
Accordingly, it being apparent that the skipper of the I'm Alone had no intention of stopping his vessel for a search, Powell directed that the three‑inch gun be trained on the schooner's hull below the water line. At 8:50, a three‑inch shell struck the schooner below the water line, just forward of the main mast, and tore a great hole in her side.
p167 Immediately, the vessel started filling with water, settling quickly by the head. At 9:03, she turned over and sank, her crew and captain having jumped just before she capsized.
A boat was put over immediately from the Dexter and the Wolcott in an effort to rescue the crew of the schooner. Charles B. Raeburn, seaman first class aboard the Dexter, saw a man floating in an unconscious state just below the surface of the water. The seaman jumped over the side into the rough sea, and brought the man to the surface, supporting him above the water, until both were picked up by a boat from the Wolcott.
Four other men, including the captain of the schooner, were picked up by means of lines and brought aboard the Dexter. The remainder of the crew had been rescued by the Wolcott.
The two patrol boats cruised around searching for wreckage and ascertaining that all the crew of the I'm Alone had been rescued. The man that Seaman Raeburn had saved turned out to be the first mate of the I'm Alone and was apparently drowned. Artificial respiration was practiced on him steadily for three hours without success.
A cousin of the drowned man, another member of the crew of the I'm Alone, swore under oath that he had gone to Captain Randall several times during the chase and pleaded with him to stop the schooner. The captain had sworn at him and said: "If you shut those p168 engines off, I'll shoot you! I'm too damned proud of these medals I won in the war to surrender this vessel!"
The man, whose name was Chesley Hobbs, further stated that had it not been for the hardheadedness of the schooner's skipper, his cousin would not have died. There was, according to his sworn statements, not a single life preserver aboard the I'm Alone. Certainly, there were none found by the Dexter and the Wolcott and none were used by the crew when they jumped overboard at the end.
The crew of the I'm Alone were taken to New Orleans and turned over to the United States there. Immediately, notes of diplomatic representation were received from England. A British ship had been sunk; the British flag had been fired on by an armed vessel of the United States. It was a situation that was fraught with tense possibilities.
The United States held that the I'm Alone had been discovered well within the treaty limits. And this had to be proven. As luck would have it, at the beginning of the chase, the Wolcott and the I'm Alone had passed the American tanker Hadnot. With unusual intuition, Boatswain Paul had requested the skipper of the Hadnot to plot the position of the Wolcott and the I'm Alone, and log it. Later, this was to prove important, for knowing the speed of the two vessels and the direction from which they came, it was possible to determine almost exactly the position of the I'm Alone at the start of the chase.
p169 It was pointed out by the Coast Guard that the I'm Alone was a known smuggler. She had been given every chance to stop and submit to a search. If she had been clear, this opportunity would no doubt have been accepted. The captain, John T. Randall, had openly admitted that his vessel was carrying liquor; he had refused to allow a peaceful search.
Once, Randall had stood at the rail and shouted to the Coast Guard patrol boat: "Come across and get a little lead!"
It was proven conclusively that the mate had drowned when he jumped from the schooner. Had there been life preservers, it was safe to assume that he would not have died before help from the two Coast Guard boats reached him.
Correspondence went back and forth between the two countries. Gradually, the tension over the sinking of the I'm Alone lessened. As one high official in the Coast Guard headquarters at Washington said: "The Coast Guard rises or falls by this case. We are at constant war and must not, for one moment, relax our vigilance. We are entrusted with a great responsibility and the Coast Guard will meet this responsibility firmly."
The Coast Guard has done, and will do, just that.
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY if its URL has a total of one *asterisk. If the URL has two **asterisks, the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use. If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 6 Nov 13