The ship Junior from New Bedford, Mass., was sailing between Australia and New Zealand on Christmas Day 1857 when Captain Archibald Mellen gave each man a cup of grog, a mixture of rum and water. After the captain and officers retired for the night, Cyrus Plummer crept into their cabins with other disgruntled men, killing the captain and 3rd mate, and injuring the 1st and 2nd mates.
This case drew much attention in the ports on Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. An article appeared in the NY Times on Aug. 26, 1858, describing the argument by the defense that they had been driven to commit the crimes because of treatment by Captain Mellen. Four men were were found innocent, three were convicted of manslaughter, and Cyrus Plummer was found guilty of murder. President Buchanan later reduced his death sentence to life in prison.