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Reviewed by Melanie Kennedy for Readers' Favorite
Ship of Blood: Mutiny and Slaughter Aboard the Harry A. Berwind, and the Quest for Justice by Charles Oldham tells the true-life story of three shipmates’ fight for justice. On a moonlit night in October 1905, the schooner Harry A. Berwind was found in distress. Arthur Adams, Robert Sawyer, and Henry Scott were the only survivors of a crew of eight. The five deceased had met a brutal end according to two very different accounts. What follows was one of the most interesting and racially charged trials, murder convictions, and appeals that the United States of America, and specifically the South, had experienced. This book recounts a story most people would never have heard of but reflects a racial sentiment that was all too familiar and pronounced in the South in the 1900s. Oldham relays the perilous journey of these three sailors during their struggle in the courts as well as to have their names cleared.
Charles Oldham brings a very sensitive topic to the fore in this racially-biased court case. Deemed a fair trial back in 1905, it was anything but, and three men were to suffer under Wilmington, North Carolina’s white citizens’ attitude to African Americans at that time. Charles explains the essential background to the area, history, and racial relations before, after, and around the court case. Ship of Blood truly captures an extraordinary tale of murder on the high seas and court proceedings more than a hundred years ago, while several photos immerse us in the story of death and justice at a time where no one expected that those involved would be dealt with justly. A great read for anyone interested in American history.