This was the shocking case of a motley set of desperadoes composing the crew of an American ship, rising and murdering their commander, in order to possess themselves thereof. This desperate gang consisted of seven villains of different countries, viz.
Samuel Dearbon, Archibald Hart, and John Cassado, American citizens of the United States;
Francis Cole, an American Savage of the Cherokee nation;
George Colley, an Irishman;
Emanuel Batha, and Michael Blanche, Spaniards;
and who were apprehended in the Isle of Wight, on a charge of having murdered William Little, and possessed themselves unlawfully of the ship called, "The American Eagle," upon the high seas, and within the jurisdiction of the admiralty of England. They were brought to trial at the admiralty sessions in the Old Bailey for 1796, and thereon Dearbon, Hart, and Cassado, were admitted evidence for the crown.
It appeared from their depositions, that the murder of William Little, the captain of the American Eagle was committed at twelve o'clock at night, of October 27, 1795, within three days' sail of the chops of the channel, and the command of the vessel was then taken by George Colley, who before had been appointed mate, in consequence of the death of Richard Little the original mate. The circumstances attending this murder were truly horrid and diabolical. Cole, the savage, was the chief murderer, Colley the director, and the two Spaniards, Blanche and Batha, the assistants. Between one and two o'clock the witness Dearbon was alarmed at the cries of the captain, who called out murder, while some one was saying, "Rub him down, d—n him, rub him down well;" he then was heard to say, "I am not dead though you think me so," and in a short time after exclaimed in a faint voice, "Cook, for God's sake let me lie down and die quietly;" these last words must have been addressed to Cole, as he acted in the capacity of cook. Michael Blanche then came down from the deck, and attempted to murder the witness Dearbon, who was lying in his hammock; when a scuffle ensued, and the witness got upon deck and begged his life of Colley, who then directed the body of the captain to be drawn up from the cabin and thrown overboard. During this operation, Cole said, I can haul him up with a hearty good will; and when the body was drawn up and thrown overboard, Colley said, "There, let him go to hell and be damned;"—the body had no covering but a shirt, pair of stockings and drawers: the trousers having been stripped off by Cole who kept them. Colley then took possession of the captain's effects, among which were 245 dollars, which were afterwards sold by him at Cowes, and divided between the witnesses and the others, together with the clothes of the deceased. Colley the mate had entered in the log-book that the deceased died on the 27th of October, of a yellow fever: on the ship's arrival in the Isle of Wight Colley attempted to make an alteration of the entry of the death he had recorded before, and place it at a former period.
A variety of other circumstances appeared, which tended to prove that the part the witnesses took in this horrid transaction was entirely through fear, and that the origin seemed to have been set on foot by Colley. Blanche and Batha being Spaniards, and unacquainted, with the English language, had an interpreter who explained every circumstance of the evidence to them: they, denied being actually guilty of the murder, though they acknowledged they knew of its being done. Cole said it was perpetrated by Colley, and Colley said it was done by Blanche and Cole, but did not say who directed it to be done. The manner of the murder was exceedingly barbarous, a knife and an iron tea-kettle being used to effect it.
Batha, in his defence, delivered a paper, translated from Spanish, which was as follows-"I, Emanuel, declare before God, that I am innocent of having any share whatever in the death of Captain Little. I was at that time at the helm, and could not have concerted with any one as I cannot speak English at all, and my language is that of the Bay of Biscay." Foreigners appeared to his character, one of whom said he was an angel of God, meaning a good man. The jury acquitted Batha, and found the rest Guilty. Blanche expressed much astonishment at the verdict.
Sentence was immediately passed by Sir James Marriott on the prisoners, to be hanged on the ensuing Monday at Execution Dock, and afterwards dissected and anatomized. Sir James Marriot afterwards respited the execution of the three prisoners to the following Thursday, on account of the tide, but desired they might be told not to flatter themselves on that account with any hopes of further time. On that day, pursuant to their sentence, they suffered at Execution Dock. The concourse of spectators who attended to witness this act of justice was immense. Cole laughed and behaved in the most indecent manner. He and Hart (the witness) were Americans of colour. Colley was an Irishman. They would make no confession, but remained obstinate and sullen. Their bodies were brought back to Surgeon's Hall, and publicly exposed.