The Express and Telegraph Saturday, November 29, 1902
This article is titled: A THRILLING STORY.
If the official reports received at the German Naval Department are to be believed Admiral Killick, who commanded the Haytian gunboat Crete a Pierrot which was destroyed by the German gunboat Panther on September 6 was a bold buccaneer worthy to have sailed the Spanish main in the days when piracy flourished (writes the Glasgow "Mail"). Among other things, he is accused of bloodthirsty cruelty and a disregard for human life that was equaled only by his itching for gold. But his end doesn't seem compatible with those charges.
In truth, with the established facts, it would take very little imagination to picture him as a patriotic hero who died a martyr to his convictions and for the honor of his cause. There isn't much known about Killick's early life. His father was a Scotchman and his mother a native Haytian. Physically he was a powerful man and rather sallow, with marvelously bright and piercing eyes. He did not look like a mulatto. He was born on the island and the early part of his life was passed as a clerk for a shipping merchant. A girl jilted him—she was a white girl— and that drove him to sea. Later he entered the Haytian navy.
Now, the Haytian navy is a joke that can be appreciated only by those who have seen its men-of-war. But Killick took it rather seriously. According to stories told by German officers in their reports, the manner in which he became a naval officer was most remarkable. One of the ramshackle craft that made up one-half of the Haytian navy was in the harbor, and Killick organized a desperate crew to take possession of her.
The man for whom Killick happened to be working at the time learned about the plot and threatened Killick with exposure. The merchant was coolly told that if he gave information he would be murdered. The conspirators chose a dark and stormy night and made their way to the man-of-war in small row-boats. They boarded the vessel without difficulty, threw the men on watch overboard (of course, Killick is reported to have done that himself), and then prepared to meet the rest of the crew. As fast as they came from below they were shot or stabbed. The few that managed to jump over the side were eaten by sharks. So runs The tale, although it is pretty well demonstrated that sharks in those waters will not attack a black man.
As an instance of Killick's cheerful cruelty, the Germans report that on one occasion President Hippolyte arrested four citizens on a charge of "conspiring against the Government." The prisoners had many friends, who threatened to liberate them by force. The President had them removed to the flagship of the navy, the Crete-a-Pierrot. Their friends continued to make threats, and President Hippolyte found the existence of his prisoners uncomfortable. It is said that one day Admiral Killick had the four brought from the hold of the vessel. "Gentlemen, I wish to congratulate you," he said politely. "The President has decided to set you at liberty."
The prisoners shouted for joy as the ropes were cut from their limbs. "This is the way to liberty," continued Killick. as he pointed to the boat-companionway. One of the prisoners stepped forward. There was no boat at the foot of the ladder, but sharks were swimming about. "As I said before, gentlemen, you are at liberty to go," said Killick. The victims shrank back and asked to be shot rather than to be thrown to the sharks. But, so runs the tale, Killick would not listen to their prayers. With an oath, lie grasped the prisoner nearest him and threw him overboard. He ordered his men to treat the remaining prisoners in the same way. It is charged that during the Hippolyte administration Killick ran a gambling house at Cape Haytien, in addition to running the navy, the piratical business being a trifle slow at that time. According to the German officers, it was a pretty evil place, and the player who made a large winning had not the slightest chance of getting away with it. He always disappeared mysteriously. There were a good many fights in the gambling-house and Killick was always in the thick of them. The admiral did a little fighting on his own account, landing his men here and there, and invariably he won his little battles. Also, he held up Haytien ships and a few others and was getting along very well indeed. The enemy didn't care much about fighting him, but it told the most awful stories about his wholesale murders and cruelty. The Crete- a-Pierrot was a good, able boat. It was 210 ft. long. 30 ft. beam, and could steam 16 knots. She carried a 6-in., a 4-in., and four 3-in. guns, two Maxims, and two Nordenfelts. And Killick knew how to handle the vessel. She was about the best fighting craft in those waters.
Admiral Killick didn't hit it off with the Germans. He thought they were helping the other side. He was skating along on pretty thin ice, so far as international complications were concerned. And General Nord, through his provisional Government, had proclaimed Admiral Killick a pirate and called upon the Powers to capture and hang him on the high seas. But maybe Admiral Killick might have skated successfully over the thin ice if he had not made the attack upon the Hamburg steamer Marommannia, loaded with arms and ammunition for the forces of the provisional Government. Killick calmly took possession of the cargo, which the insurgents found most useful. The Germans said he would have destroyed the steamer had it not been that one of the German gunboats, cruising in the neighborhood, came to the Mareomannia's rescue. This piratical act—for the Powers have not yet recognized the insurgents as belligerents—aroused the ire of the German Government. Killick had caused a deal of concern long before this. If he had taken it into his Scotch-Haytian head to become dictator of the Republic it is more than likely that he would have succeeded, and he might have turned things topsy-turvy. to the great loss of trade. When Killick confiscated the Marcomannia's cargo the German Government decided that it was time to act. They sent the Panther after the Crete-n-Pierrot. with orders to capture her or sink her. The commander of the Panther sent an ultimatum to Admiral Killick.
"You must strike your colors within 15 minutes and disembark immediately without making any defensive preparations or an attack will follow." Killick must have known that the game was up so far as he was concerned. He had made up his mind what he should do. He could have gone ashore and saved his life. Possibly he might have become a general as well as an admiral. But he was a sailor. Or he could end it all in one ripping good fight with a foeman worthy of his steel if his men would stand by him. But they would not. Directly they heard of the ultimatum deadly fear possessed them. They began slinking over the side as fast as they could go. Admiral Killick made not the slightest move to stop them. He realized the hopelessness of trying to do anything with a "Piratical crew" like that. Evidently, he felt that lie had no right to sacrifice lives to please himself. In these last hours of his the stories of the bloodthirstiness. the selfishness, and cruelty of Admiral Killick became as the shadows of a dream. The message that he sent to Boisron Canal shines luminously:—"Killick fears nothing. Will blow up ship and company for sake of national honor." He watched the crew desert the ship, every last man except three, who were asleep and did not know what was going on. But he would not permit the colors to be struck. Nor would he go himself. Admiral Killick retired to his cabin. He carefully donned his uniform the full-dress uniform, with the rich adornment of gold lace and the orders and decorations on the breast. He went to the quarter-deck, and stood there with folded arms, watching the boarding party approach from the Panther. When the Panther's boat was within 30 yards Killick disappeared for a moment. The Germans thought he was bent upon escaping. But in a few minutes, he was again on deck. Then came a terrific explosion that shook the waters of the sea and sent half the Crete-a-Pierrot high in the air, an explosion that nearly capsized the Panther's boat. Admiral Killick had exploded the magazine of his vessel.