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Colonial Cases

United States v. Linn and Gertzen, 1896


United States v. Linn and Gertzen

United States Consular Court, Shanghai
Source: San Francisco Call, 21 March 1896


Captain Dreyer of the Lyman D. Foster Stabbed in the Back.


After Being reprimanded the Cooly Sought to Revenge Himself at Once.

[Sketches of ship and captain.]

Those that go down to the sea in ships hold their lives in their hands, but their fate does not come on all occasions as a result of the elements.  Many a sailor has lost his life at the hands of a revengeful shipmate when out furling the royals or close-reefing the topsails.  Time and again it has been recorded that the braces have been let go and the swinging yard has plunged a man into eternity.  On every occasion it has been the sailor who has got the worst of it, while the captain and officers as a general rule got the entire blame.

The tables have been turned, however, and the relatives of Captain Phil Dreyer are now mourning his loss.  A more dastardly crime was never committed at sea.  The captain had occasion to reprimand the steward, and the latter seized the opportunity when the master was at dinner to plunge a carving-knife into his back.  Captain Dreyer died, and the steward is now under arrest.

The four-masted schooner Lyman D. Foster sailed from San Francisco about the latter end of November last.  Captain "Phil" Dreyer was in command and C. G. Linn, a half-breed Chinese, was cook and steward.  For an assistant he had Thomas Gertzen, another half-breed, who acted as cabin boy.

Neither Linn nor Gertzen had ever been in trouble before, and both had served in the American vessel Topgallant.  Neither wore queues, and both claimed to be Native Sons of the Golden West.  When the Lyman D. Foster arrived at Shanghai and the two Chinese were arrested for the murder of the captain they claimed the protection of the American flag, and it was given them.  It was a cold-blooded affair, however, and one of the men is sure to hang.

When the Foster left San Francisco she had a crew of fourteen all told aboard.  At Bellingham Bay she loaded lumber for Shanghai and sailed last December.  All went well for a time, but Linn and the captain did not get along well together.  The Chinese was derelict in his duty and frequently had to be reprimanded.  On February 25 matters came to a climax. The captain pointed out certain shortcomings in the work of the Chinese and the latter took the first opportunity to revenge himself.  As he was serving the skipper he leaned over his back and grasping the carving-knife stabbed Dreyer between the shoulders.

A struggle ensued, but the wounded master was no match for the infuriated Chinese and was soon overcome.  When Mate L. Anderson and others of the crew broke into the cabin Captain Dreyer was dead and the Chinese was sitting at the table gazing upon the corpse.  His mind was completely gone and he had to be placed in irons to prevent further trouble. Whether his craze was temporary or not remains to be seen, but that will certainly be his plea when the case comes to trial in the Consular Court in Shanghai. [Biography of Dreyer.]

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School