The morning of Wednesday 14 March 1759 dawned bright and cold when Captain Joseph Halsey climbed the scaffold at London’s Execution Dock. The previous August, Halsey had struck a seaman under his command with a handspike. One month later, he attacked another mariner, Daniel Davidson, with ‘a certain weapon called a pitch mop’ and was found guilty of two counts of murder on the high seas.
The night before his public execution, Halsey wrote a letter to his mother. In it, he described the crimes for which he was accused, but the majority of his writing focused on comforting her: ‘Mother, I am in hopes to meet you in heaven, and my father, brother, sisters and all’, he wrote.
I am very sorry mother, to think I should be call’d so soon out of this world by an untimely [death], for I had always hopes of helping you … Don’t make yourself uneasy, for it cannot be help’d; I’ll send you home my shirt, buckles, and hat. Remember me …
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