Now to our story. The ship “Earl Cornwallis” anchored in Port Jackson on June 12, 1801. Onboard was Lieutenant Marshall. On the way out, Lieutenant Crawford was drowned, and Marshall appropriated some of his effects, including a gun. This coming to the ears of the officers of the N.S.W. corps, through their commanding officer (Captain Macarthur), it was reported to the Governor. Marshall thereupon received a reprimand.
A few days later he met Macarthur on the parade-ground, and during an altercation called that gentleman a liar. Macarthur called upon his friend Captain Abbott and despatched him to Marshall with a challenge to a duel. The captain found his man at Isaac Nichol’s house and delivered the challenge. The only second Marshall could find was Mr. Jeffries, supercargo of the “Earl Cornwallis,” and Abbott refused to meet him on the grounds that in a duel seconds must be of co-equals.
The duel never eventuated, but the incident slid not end here. The next day, July 23, Adjutant Minchin, standing on the roadway opposite the Orphan School, saw Marshall pass by with a huge bludgeon in his hand, the size of which, and Marshall’s appearance, induced Minchin to watch him. Marshall, when he came opposite Bridge Street, looked down that street, and when he saw Captain Abbott with a friend coming up the hill, advanced to meet that officer. When he came opposite to them he stopped and attempted to enter into a conversation with Abbott. The latter refused to have anything to say to the lieutenant, whereupon Marshall called him a damned scoundrel and struck him a violent blow with the bludgeon–such a blow that, Abbott maintained if it had struck his head, where it was intended, would have killed him.
The unfortunate captain retreated, and Marshall followed with his stick uplifted, but the captain called to the sentry at the Lieutenant-Governor’s house for assistance, and he interposed and prevented any further assault. With the threat that he would serve Captain Macarthur in the same way, Lieutenant Marshall stalked away in the direction of Hunter street. Captain Abbott was unarmed at the time of the assault. He was, moreover, a small man, and the club was of such a size that he could scarcely lift it from the ground. Marshall, not satisfied with one victim, or probably with his appetite for revenge whetted, sought out what he intended to be the second victim. But he was to meet a man of different caliber from Abbott; a man who was game to the last ounce, and our truculent lieutenant met his match.
An hour or two later Macarthur, in company with Adjutant Minchin, came out of the Lieutenant-Governor’s house and walked along George Street towards the Cove (i.e., across the foot of Grosvenor street). They turned, however, and walked back in the opposite direction. As they did so, Lieutenant Marshall came down the Grosvenor Street hill, passed the church steeple, the Provost-Marshal’s house, crossed the bridge, and appeared to be making for the Cove; but when he espied Macarthur, Marshall turned around and walked towards him. He was carrying his club, which he held carelessly in his hand until he arrived opposite the verandah of the Lieutenant-Governor’s house when he threw it over his left shoulder and advanced on Macarthur with the evident intention of treating that gentleman to a taste of it. It was not a small unarmed Abbott facing him this time, however, but an extremely capable gentleman with a sword in his hand and every intention of using it.
“If you offer to strike me as you have Captain Abbott I will run you through the body,” said Macarthur.
Marshall was only three or four paces distant, and the sight of the sword and the determined eyes behind it knocked all the truculence out of him. He dropped the bludgeon from his shoulder and said: “You will not run me through now, will you?”
Macarthur did not use his sword, but called the sentry to take charge of the lieutenant; and, escorted by a file of men, he was taken to the guardhouse.
Marshall was subsequently brought to trial before a court-martial, and I would that I had space to quote Macarthur’s address before that body. A sentence must suffice as a flavour. “It is true,” he said, “I was armed with a sword to oppose him (a weapon as appropriate to me, as an officer, as a bludgeon was to him as a ruffian), but what could a sword have prevailed in my defence if this monstrous mass of matter, this second Goliath, had been animated with one spark of spirit, with one atom of courage?” “Monstrous mass of matter” is distinctly good.