Embarked: 300 men
Voyage: 165 days
Surgeon's Journal: no
Previous vessel: Wanstead arrived 9 January 1814
Next vessel: Britannia arrived 14 February 1814
Captain Percy Earl
Surgeon Richard Hughes
THE GENERAL HEWITT was built at Bengal in 1812.  This was the only voyage of the General Hewitt bringing convicts to New South Wales.
The prisoners from counties in England and Scotland. The six men who were tried in Scotland were Peter Drummond, Andrew Leitch, John Mackenzie, John McIntosh, Thomas Turner and James Wood. There were also three soldiers who had been court-martialled - John May and Charles Quotte in Quebec and John McGuire.
Many were held in county gaols before being transferred to London where they worked in the hulks while awaiting transportation. Those tried in London were probably held in Newgate prison before being taken to the hulks. Thomas Reynolds, John Doggerty and William McHone were all tried on 2nd December 1812 in London but weren't admitted to the Retribution hulk until 6th April 1813. They were probably in Newgate when Stephen Grellet made his first visits to the prison in January 1813.
Having felt deeply for the sufferings of a large portion of the labouring class in this city, I believed it to be my religious duty to have religious meetings among them; great numbers are out of employment in consequence of the stagnation of business, caused by the desolating war which the various European nations are waging against each other; and the distress is greatly increased by the general scarcity of bread throughout this country. The first meeting I had among the distressed was held in the Friends' large meeting house at Devonshire House for the weavers of Spital fields, where thousands of them are out of employ. They came in such numbers that they stood in the house as close as they could crowd and many could not get in.
After that Stephen Grellet held several other meetings among the poorer classes in London. On the 19th January 1813 in a meeting house in St. Martin's lane which was very near to neighbourhoods resorted to by pickpockets, thieves of various descriptions and abandoned women, many gathered to hear his words and afterwards Grellet was approached by the Chief Police Magistrate in London who offered organise further meetings. Grellet declined this offer but asked instead if he could be given free access to the several prisons in London. The request was readily granted........
After that, I proceeded with a visit to Newgate which occupied some days, having religious opportunities in the many separate apartments, where the miserable inmates are confined. In the course of the visit through Newgate we found many boys who, decoyed into vice by thieves and pickpockets, and now mixing in prison with older and depraved men, were likely to come out thence far greater adepts in crime. We felt much for those poor youths, and seeing the necessity of having them kept separate from other criminals, we succeeded in inducing the sheriff and magistrates to have another part of the prison appropriated to them.
William Redfern in his inquiry in September 1814 referred to the embarkation of the convicts......
Received on the 28th July 1813 from the Hulk at Woolwich one hundred and twenty four convicts. She then dropped down to Gravesend where she remained sixteen days, whence she went to the Nore and received forty eight convicts from the hulk at Sheerness. (Prisoners who were held on the hulk Retribution in the Thames were transferred to the General Hewitt on 6th to 13th August 1813.)
On the 22nd and 23rd August, two days after her arrival at Portsmouth, the General Hewitt completed her number, three hundred, by one hundred and twenty four convicts from the hulks at Portsmouth and Langston.(3)
The General Hewitt departed England 26 August 1813 in convoy with the Windham and the Wanstead. They were the next convict ships to leave England for New South Wales after the departure of the Earl Spencer in June 1813.
A young adventurer and merchant by the name of John Parish Robertson left Scotland in August 1813 to join his brother in Paraguay. Many years later he published his memoirs including letters detailing his departure from Portsmouth which he dated 23rd August 1813.......
The younger travellers of the present generation, nurtured and going forth in peace, have little idea of the stir and animation which attended a sailing from England during the last war. Now, a single ship takes her quiet departure from the docks of London or Liverpool, and however long her passage may be, no 'hair-breadth escapes' are ever dreamed of.
'Then the general rendezvous was Portsmouth: mighty fleets of merchantmen were gathered under the wings of British men-of-war; signals were to be answered; guns were to be attended to; and, in short, a high note of preparation was sounded, ere, in those war like times, any of the king's subjects were allowed to cross the Atlantic. I thus sailed from Portsmouth on the 23rd August, 1813, in a beautiful ship called the Marianne, and in a fleet of about eighty merchantmen, bound for different parts of the New World, under convoy of two fine frigates. On the signal being given to get under way, all was bustle on shore, all animation afloat. Every vessel loosed her sails, and the two frigates, sailing gallantly out under easy canvass, headed their numerous convoy, as they swept out to sea amid the acclamations of congregated thousands, who witnessed our departure from the shore. In sailing under convoy when the fleet is numerous, the monotony of a long voyage is broken in upon by a great variety of incident, and by a continual observation and speculation upon the movements of the floating community around you. But it has this terrible drawback, that the progress of the finest ship is brought down, to a level with that of the dullest sailers in the fleet. Our frigates were sometimes scudding under bare poles, while the heavy clumps of our convoy, crowding all sail, were unable to keep company. Then comes the signal to lie to; and those vessels which have distinguished themselves by their sailing qualities are ordered to take one of the wretched laggers-behind in tow, a task which was often assigned to the Marianne, one of the finest ships in the convoy. We had, notwithstanding, a fine run to Madeira, where a still more magnificent sight than the sailing of our convoy from Portsmouth presented itself to our view. Nearly two hundred sail of merchantmen, and about twenty men of-war line of battle ships and frigates, lay in the bay of Funchal; and when our own convoy sailed towards the mass, and gradually mixed itself up with it, the effect was really grand. '
The Voyage from England to Rio de Janeiro
William Redfern referred to the departure.....
On board in addition to the convicts, seventy soldiers, fifteen women, eight children and one hundred and four ships company, besides several passengers, in all, five hundred and fifteen, having been twenty seven days from the embarkation of the first of the convicts to the day of her sailing during the whole of which time it is to be observed and regretted the convicts were closely confined below.
They were divided into messes of six men each, six of which messes were admitted on deck in rotation during the day for the benefit of air; this practice was continued till she arrived at Madeira, when the prisoners were again kept below for nine days, the time of her stay at that Island; on proceeding to sea they were gain admitted on deck in the same number and usual manner until they made Rio Janeiro, when they were once more closely confined for ten days, by which time the Sickness which had commenced shortly after their quitting Madeira, had increased to an alarming degree. In consequence of this sickness the convicts were very properly allowed access to the deck during the day for the remaining part of the voyage. It was now, Alas! too late. No care, no exertion, however it might lessen, could now remedy the evil.
There were two days in the week appointed for shaving and cleaning the convicts but this regulation was not persisted in with any regularity; they were obliged to appear clean every Sunday on the quarter deck, on order to attend divine service till they arrived at Rio Janeiro when this salutary practice was neglected and the convicts were suffered to become exceedingly filthy. There was no fresh water allowed for washing any part of their linen; and the allowance of water was reduced to three pints per man per diem; that the soap was service out once a month to each mess. The first issue of wine was on the day they left Madeira when half a pint was served to each man; no more was issued for three weeks when a quarter of a pint was issued to each man, till they arrived at Rio Janeiro. About a month after their departure from that Port the issue was recommended and continued but very irregularly. And my information states that it is calculated there was a deficiency in the issue of at lease three hundred gallons.
The decks were swept every morning, scraped and swabbed twice a week; they were sprinkled with vinegar weekly until they made Rio Janeiro when this was discontinued. The ship was also fumigated once a week for six weeks but was afterwards much neglected. Three weeks previous to their arrived at Rio Janeiro their bedding was thrown overboard in consequence of having been wetted; from the want of which the convicts, when they came into a cold climate suffered exceedingly. 
The General Hewitt arrived at Rio on 17th November 1813.
The General Hewitt reached Port Jackson on 7 February 1814 with 266 male convicts. Thirty-four prisoners died on the passage out.
Forty-four prisoners were under the age of 21. Two were only 14 years of age - Richard Aris and John Bede.
Cabin and Free Passengers
Passengers included :
Captain John Piper who brought with him a fine thoroughbred black horse named Wellington. Captain Piper was to fill the appointment of Naval Officer and Collector of Duties in New South Wales. These Offices being incompatible with a Military Commission, Capt. Piper had resigned from the Army......
Alfred Thrupp, Naval Officer was recommended to Lord Bathurst as a proper person to become a settler and was to receive a grant of land in Van Diemen's Land, however on arrival he decided to remain in Sydney and was granted land there......
Richard Gore did not possess the usual amount of property to claim indulgences however he was related to a reputable family already in New South Wales and he did possess recommendations from the Earl of Winchelsea(1)........
John Harris, former Principal Surgeon of the 102nd regiment who had originally arrived on the Surprize in 1790 and was returning to the colony........
Another of the convicts of the General Hewitt was Richard Parsons. He achieved fame as being one of the first white men at Moreton Bay......
Joseph Burridge arrived as a convict on the General Hewitt. He escaped on the Speedwell from Newcastle settlement and was never heard from again. Find out more here.
Convicts and passengers of the General Hewitt identified in the Hunter Valley included John Allen, Richard Aris, Samuel Ashbolt, Daniel Bedley, John Best, John Betteridge, John Bide, George Blackwidge, Thomas Boardman, William Bowden, Joseph Bradley, William Browning, Joseph Burridge, George Clarke (alias Rees Rees), Jean de Richie, John Dally, Richard Duncan, Benjamin Elsey, Edmond Farley, Richard Frederick, John Glass, John Green, John Harrison, James Harvey, Nicholas Hatfield, John Haywood, John McKenzie, James Kelly, Nicholas Knight, Phillip Lamprey, John McGuire, Patrick McDermott, Moses Milton, John Mole, John Murrell, John Nicholson, Thomas Norton, William Page, Frederick Parkes, Isaac Parkes, Richard Parsons, John Peters, Isaac Pettit, Jonathon Pierce, Edward Price, Edward Primmer, Moses Prosser, William Pugh, Charles Quotte,
Bartholomew Roach, John Rowe, Richard Silby, Daniel Sharp, Abraham Shaw, Ryley Smith, Richard Snell, James Stewart, Matthew Pearson Thompson, John Walliff, James Wells, George Williams, Joseph Willis and Thomas Yates.
The Indents for the General Hewitt included quite a lot of information about each convict - Name, Place and Date of Trial, Sentence, Native Place, Trade, Physical Description and occasional information about Conditional Pardons and Tickets of Leave. Sometimes other details were recorded - John Bradley died at Port Macquarie, John McGuire had lost his left hand and another man was sent to Norfolk Island. Details of indents in these years were recorded by place of trial not alphabetical by surname, so that possible associates are identified. In many cases the convicts of the General Hewitt were far from their native place when sent for trial. There were prisoners who had been born in Germany, France, Portugal, Italy, Prussia, Gibraltar and Bengal. Eleven of the prisoners were born in Ireland.
Governor Macquarie informed Lord Bathurst in April 1814.....Having reason to apprehend from the sickly state of the convicts who arrived, and from the alarming extent of the mortality during the passage, that proper attention had not been paid by the Master and Surgeon of the General Hewitt to the health and comforts of the convicts on board that vessel, I appointed a court of enquiry to examine into and report on the conduct of those Officers. The result of which enquiry is that the conduct of the Commander has been highly culpable in some instances; Under this consideration I feel it my duty to transmit the proceedings of that court to the Commissioners of the Transport Board in order to their adopting such measures for the punishment of the commander as the circumstances of the case will admit. (4)
The Medical Court of Inquiry was held in March 1814 to investigate the circumstances of the high mortality on the General Hewitt. The inquiry was presided over by Darcy Wentworth, William Redfern and Edward Luttrell. Surgeons Richard Hughes and John Harris were interviewed by the panel and their replies and the findings of the inquiry are printed in the Historical Records of Australia......
Mr. Richd. Hughes, Surgeon of the General Hewitt, sworn :
Q. What number of Convicts was received on board the General Hewitt?
A. 300 Convicts.
Q. From what place or places were they received?
A. From Woolwich, Sheerness, Portsmouth and Langston.
Q. What was their general state of health on being received on board the Transports?
A. Some of them were in a state of Debility.
Q. If a number of Convicts was in a state of a Debility to render them unfit to proceed on the voyage, why did you not object to them?
A. I would have objected to about 15 or 16 had there been time to have done so previous to the sailing of the Ship.
Q. Is it not usual for an Inspecting Medical Officer to see the Prisoners after embarking on board the Transports, in order to ascertain whether there be any among them labouring under infectious diseases or otherwise unfit to proceed on the voyage?
A. I have been Surgeon to two Convict Ships from England and to one from Ireland ; In Ireland the Convicts were, after their Embarkation, carefully examined by a Physician and Surgeon, but it has not come within my knowledge that such examination has been instituted in England.
Q. Were the Prisoners sent on board the General Hewitt without any Certificate respecting their Health?
A. They were accompanied by a Certificate stating that they were in good health
Q. Did that Certificate correspond with your opinion respecting their State of health?
A. Not with the whole of them.
Q. Did you conceive that any of them labored under infectious mortality.
A. Not on the transport General Hewitt.
Q. How long did the Ship remain at Portsmouth after she had received the last of the Convicts?
A. Three days.
Q. How long had you been on your Voyage before disease appeared among the Prisoners?
A. About 3 Weeks, shortly after we quitted Madeira.
Q. What did you conceive the nature of the Disease to be, which appeared among them?
A. Chiefly Dysentery.
Q. What number was attacked with Dysentery at this early part of the voyage?
A. About 12 or 14 within the first fortnight after quitting Madeira.
Q. As you had an opportunity of seeing the Convicts two or three times a day, and consequently of observing the various circumstances connected with their situation, we wish to know from what causes you conceive the Dysentery to arise?
A. About the period at which they were attacked and for some days previous, the weather was very wet, which prevented the Prisoners from going on Deck as usual. During the rain the Bedding got wetted, and the continuance of the Rain prevented them from being dried ; they were put together in a heap and I suppose somewhat heated, and as the Prisoners lay on them in this wet state I conceive that the state of the weather, the wet Bedding, and the Confinement below had much share on the production of the Disease.
Q. How did it happen that the Bedding was suffered to remain so long on Deck during the rain as to become wet?
A. We were fumigating the Prison Deck, with their Bedding, when a squall came suddenly on and drenched them before the Prison could be opened and the Convicts get below.
Q. In a former part of your examination you stated that there was a number of Convicts much debilitated when they were received ; Did you perceive that those thus debilitated were more liable to disease than others?
A. Yes. they were.
Q. In answer to the question respecting the nature of the disease that prevailed among the Convicts, You stated that Dysentery chiefly prevailed, what other diseases manifested themselves?
A. No other Disease of consequence appeared at this early part of the Voyage.
Q. What was the state of the Convicts' health when you arrived at Rio de Janeiro? A.
A great number was very sick and ill of Dysentery.
Q. Was the Prison regularly and properly cleansed, fumigated and ventilated?
A. The Prison Decks were dry scraped and swept daily. The Prison and Hospital were fumigated with Oil of Tar and Sulphur twice or thrice a week, and sprinkled with vinegar every day. Windsails were kept constantly down the Hatchways and Scuttles, whenever the weather would admit.
Q. Were the Sick duly supplied with the Articles of Comfort put on board for their use?
A. All that was put on board was served out to them.
Q. Was there a sufficient quantity of the Articles of Comfort for the use of the Sick put on board?
A. I do not think there was enough of Tea and Sugar.
Q. Were the Convicts during their Stay at Rio de Janeiro supplied with a different quantity of fresh meat and vegetables?
A. I do not conceive that they were supplied with a sufficient quantity proceedings of of fresh meat, as several of the Convicts complained to me that medical court they had not a sufficiency, but on my representing to Capt. Earl of inquiry into that the Prisoners were dissatisfied with the quantity of meat, He increased it, and there were no more Complaints. With regard to General Hewitt. Vegetables, they had plenty.
Q. Do you know what was the daily Ration served to each Convict at Rio Janeiro?
A. I do not.
Q. Were the Convicts supplied with fresh fruit during their Stay at Rio Janeiro?
A. It was not the fruit Season. They were however supplied with as much as could be obtained.
Q. What was the general state of the health of the Convicts when the Ship quitted Rio Janeiro?
A. They were Sickly, and many of them reduced to a state of very great debility.
Q. If the Convicts were in so bad a state of health, why did you not object to the Ship proceeding to Sea?
A. I did not think that I possessed the Authority to object to the sailing of the Ship.
Q. As the Convicts were in so sickly a state, why were they not landed as the sick of several Ships had been on former occasions?
A. When I came out as Surgeon of the Providence, I made Application to send two men to the Hospital at Rio de Janeiro, and when I was Surgeon of the Aeolus a similar Application was made by the Surgeon of the Gambler, and both were refused ; I therefore conceived an Application would be unavailing.
Q. How often and in what number were the Convicts admitted on Deck?
A. Previous to our arrival at Rio Janeiro, they were divided into three divisions, one of which was admitted upon Deck in Rotation. The whole were admitted up in the course of the day ; and at the times in which the Ship was undergoing fumigation all the Prisoners were on the Deck at once. After quitting Rio Janeiro the whole of the Prisoners had access to the Deck.
Q. How many Convicts died on the Passage?
Q. Did they all die of Dysentery?
A, No, the greater Number died of Dysentery, four of Typhus, two of apoplexy, two of Remitting fevers, and two of extreme debility without apparent disease.
Q. During what part of the Voyage did the greater part of the Mortality take place?
A. About nineteen died on our Passage to, and during our stay at Rio de Janeiro ; the remainder on the Passage from Rio to Port Jackson.
Q. From what causes did the Typhus Fever arise?
A. I cannot exactly say; Three of them had been previously afflicted with Dysentery, and much debilitated and labouring under great depression of Spirits, for a considerable time before they were attacked with Typhus.
Q. Did it come within your knowledge that a part of the Convicts' ration of salted Beef was purchased from them by Capt. Earl; and if so in what quantity was it withheld?
A. I did know that some of ye Ration of salted Beef was purchased by Capt. Earl from the Prisoners, but I cannot speak as to the quantity that was withheld ; I shall however beg leave to add in explanation, that an Application was made by the Prisoners to Capt: Earl requesting him to purchase a portion of their salted Beef during the hot weather, as they alleged that they could not eat it, and that if they did, they were fearful it would dispose them to Scurvy, and that they wished to be paid for it that they might purchase other articles more congenial to their tastes and better suited to their Situations.
Q. As you have stated in Evidence that the Convicts, previous to their arrival at Rio, were in a very debilitated state, did it never occur to you that a subduction of a portion of their ration might have had a considerable share in producing that Debility?
A. No, it never did.
John Harris, Esqr., sworn :
Q. As you came out Passenger in the General Hewitt, and was for a length of time Surgeon of the 102nd Regt., stationed in this Colony, and consequently well acquainted with the nature of the service, which we are now investigating, Will you have the goodness to state about what time the Sickness commenced on board the General Hewitt among the Convicts?
A. I think it was about 6 or 7 weeks after our quitting England. The Surgeon in answer to my frequent Enquiry told me that a number of the Prisoners was attacked with Dysentery. I went down to the Sick Birth to visit them with him ; I enquired particularly into the mode of treatment, and was satisfied that it was correct; I advised him to persist in the use of Salts and tartalized Antimony in divided Dose, it having been a plan of cure from which I had experienced much benefit in the treatment of my Dysenteric Patients during my former residence in this Country.
Q. Were you requested to visit the sick at any other Period of the Voyage?
A. Yes. I visited them frequently and gave such advice as I .judged best calculated to benefit them, and which was in every instance complied with.
Q. From the Opportunity you had of making observations on the general state of Health and of the management of the Convicts in particular, during the Voyage, will you be kind enough to state what you conceive to have been the causes which induced so great and unusual a degree of Sickness and mortality among the Convicts in the General Hewitt?
A. I conceive that the causes originated in the first Instance in the extreme wet weather, and the bad state of the Bedding in consequence of being wetted. For I very frequently visited the Prison and never saw any place better fitted up, nor kept in a more cleanly state, and the Prisoners had frequent and indeed almost constant access to the Deck.
Q. Did you conceive that the Convicts were treated with humanity and attention by Capt. Earl and Mr. Hughes, the Surgeon, during the Voyage?
A. I have certainly every reason to think so. I know nothing to the contrary.
Q. Did it come within your knowledge that Capt. Earl had purchased any Portion of the Convicts' ration of salted Beef during the Voyage?
A. I never heard of it, until at this Enquiry.
We have the honor of stating for the Information of His Excellency the Governor, that we met on Wednesday the 16th Instant, and proceeded to investigate those Causes, the result of which enquiry we now submit as follows :
1st. That it appears from the testimony of Mr. Hughes, Surgeon of the General Hewitt, that several of the Convicts when received on board were in a state of debility; We are of opinion that Mr. Hughes ought to have objected to those in that state, and which he stated he would have done, had not the vessel sailed so soon; As it is a fact universally admitted that nothing predisposes more to disease than a certain degree of debility, however produced, and more especially when combined with the responding state of mind naturally attendant upon men under similar unfortunate Circumstances.
2ndly. We concur in opinion with Mr. Harris, late Surgeon of the 102nd Regt., who was a Passenger on board and with Mr. Hughes, the Surgeon of the Ship, that the primary and chief cause of the Sickness, which took place on board the Transport General Hewitt and of which so many unfortunately died, is to be attributed to a continuance of wet weather, to the Bedding having been wetted, thrown together in a heap till heated, afterwards slept on by the Prisoners, and the necessity of the Convicts remaining so long confined below, not being able, on account of the Rain to have access to the Deck.
3rd. That we are of opinion, as observed before, that whatever induces a certain debility in the human body, disposes to disease, and more especially to contagious disease; We therefore further infer that the withholding of a Portion of the Convicts' Ration of salted Beef, thereby subducting a part of their stated subsistence for a certain Period, without substituting any thing in lieu thereof, as appears to have been done by Captain Earl, although at the recommendation of the Surgeon, and from whose evidence it appears to be but too common a practice, is highly censurable, and must have had a tendency, by producing debility
And lastly. We are of opinion from the evidence produced before us that there is no reason for supposing a want of humanity or attention on the part of Mr. Earl, Master, and Mr. Hughes, Surgeon of the General Hewitt, towards the Convicts intrusted to their charge, but that on the contrary every attention was paid to keeping the Prison and Hospital carefully cleansed, fumigated and ventilated, and the Comforts put on board for the Service of the Sick were duly appropriated for that purpose. We have, ETCc,, D. Wentworth, Prin. Surgeon. W. Redfern, Ass't Surgeon. Edwd. Luttrell, Ass't Surgeon. - Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Vol. VIII, p. 244.
Notes and Links
1). Theophilus Mitchell arrived on the General Hewitt as a convict. He was born at Hull York on 5th May, son of Theophilus and Ann Mitchell 1788. Theophilus Mitchell of Kingston-upon-Hull, a chemist by profession and possibly his father, was declared bankrupt in July 1811 (Caledonia Mercury 18 July 1811). At the Middlesex Quarter Sessions on 4th July 1812 Theophilus Mitchell of Yorkshire, age 26, occupation surgeon, was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 7 years transportation. (Convict Indents). He was admitted to the Retribution hulk at Woolwich on 16th November 1812. He was transferred to the General Hewitt on 13th August 1814. In September 1815 only about nineteen months after he arrived, the Sydney Gazette reported the marriage of Theophilus Mitchell to Miss Crowder (SG 30 September 1815). Theophilus Mitchell absconded from the colony and was apprehended in India in 1818. He was embarked on the Greyhound to return to New South Wales however managed to escape while the ship was at Batavia.
5). Number of prisoners, date and place of Conviction and sentences - Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command, Volume 16 By Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons - General Hewitt in 1814.
6). Return of Convicts of the General Hewitt assigned between 1st January 1832 and 31st March 1832 (Sydney Gazette ; 21 June 1832)..... James Harvey - Maltster assigned to William Haywood at Parramatta
 HRA, Series 1, Vol., VIII, p.28
 Four years in Paraguay: comprising an account of that republic under the Dictator Francia ..., Volume 1 By John Parish Robertson, William Parish Robertson, 1838
 HRA, Series 1, Vol. VIII, p. 275
 HRA, Series 1, Vol. VIII p. 140
 Bateson, Charles. Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.340-341, 381