Royal Naval Biography/Pulling, James
JAMES PULLING, Esq.
Passed his examination at Portsmouth, in April 1810; obtained his first commission on the 23d Feb. 1815; and was subsequently employed in the suppression of smuggling on the coast of Hampshire. The following account of a trial which took place at Winchester, in July 1825, is taken from the Hampshire Telegraph:
“James Pulling and William Young, the former a lieutenant in the navy, the latter a seaman employed in the preventive service, were charged with having, at the parish of Milton, wilfully murdered James Reade.
“John Goddard, of Christchurch, surgeon, deposed that on the morning of the 4th June last, he was called to attend on the deceased, who he found had been shot in the belly, just above the navel: deceased was in great pain, and witness extracted a leaden ball from the right buttock, soon after which he died of the wound. During his illness, deceased told witness, on inquiries from him, that it was a person by the name of Evans, on the preventive service, who had shot him, and that at the time they were about four or five yards apart: that he was positive of the man, but he did not think the aim was taken at him (deceased) in particular; that no goods were landed at the time; that there was an assembly of about sixty persons; that he was paid for going out at nights, and was owed thirty shillings for seven nights; that on being shot he fell senseless, and on coming to himself, crawled away from the spot on his hands and knees. – Timothy Dawkins had often worked at Hurst Castle, and knows the prisoners. About eleven o’clock in the night of the 3d June last, witness was at Milton, and heard the report of pistols, which seemed to come from a place called Lobb’s Hole. He hastened that way, the firing still continuing, and met a number of persons coming away from shore. Witness turned back with them, and they had not proceeded far when Lieutenant Pulling, with two more persons, ran up to them, crying out, ‘What are you up to here?’ Some one replied, ‘We are not up to much.’ He then stopped and conversed with his men, while his (witness’s) party walked on. He soon, however, ran after them, and seized on a man, who was struggling, when Pulling demanded, ‘Are you ready, for we are.’ No one made reply to this, and the prisoner stepped back and fired a pistol at the man. A number of persons were round him at the time. Prisoner then commanded his men to fire, and some one immediately did so. Witness saw the prisoner. Young, there. Williams, one of Pulling’s men, chopped with his cutlass at a person who was endeavouring to assist the man who was shot. – William Gibbs was present on the night in question. He was going home when a party of men came shouting after him, and they all proceeded together. Three persons came up to them (as described by last witness), and one of them caught hold of James Reade, saying ‘I’ll have you for the first,’ and directly after, shot him. The person who shot Reade commanded the others to load and fire. Witness was certain that the prisoner Young was one of the three, and he believed Lieutenant Pulling was the man who shot Reade, but he could not positively swear to him. Several other witnesses corroborated the above testimony, but would not positively swear that Lieutenant Pulling was the man who shot, although, before the coroner, Fuller had sworn that he was. The evidence for the Crown having been gone through. Lieutenant Pulling read his defence, stating, that being on duty on the night in question, they met a party of smugglers, who used the most abusive and menacing language, and challenged them to put down their arms and fight like men: they declined to do this, there being about sixty against three or four; but asserted they would not use their fire-arms except in their own defence. Prisoner then observed some of them getting out something from under their frocks, and fearing danger, fired his pistol. The whole band then rushed on Lieutenant Pulling’s party, and but for the timely assistance of one of his men, he himself must have been slain by a blow which was aimed at his head. On the smugglers retiring, prisoner saw that a man was wounded, and ordered his men to render assistance. His men said the wound was not much, at which prisoner exclaimed, ‘Thank God.’ This was all that passed, nor did prisoner hear more of the matter till his apprehension. – Young, the other prisoner, said nothing in his defence, but bore testimony to the truth of Mr. Pulling’s statement. A great number of witnesses, on behalf of the prisoners, proved this narration to be correct, and the most respectable and unqualified evidence was adduced as to Lieutenant Pulling’s previous excellent character, as an officer and as a man. He was represented in convincing terms as of firm moral principles, and a truly humane disposition. – The Judge then summed up with the utmost minuteness, and the Jury, after a few minutes deliberation, during which the most intense anxiety prevailed throughout the Court, returned a verdict against Lieutenant Pulling – Guilty of Manslaughter; and acquitted Young, who was discharged. A question of law arising in arrest of judgment, his Lordship suspended sentence to some future opportunity, and in the interim directed that Lieutenant Pulling should be admitted to bail, which was immediately put in, and he was liberated accordingly.”
This trial was followed by that of a smuggler named James Pitman, charged with having, in the night of June 3d, 1825, with other persons, obstructed Lieutenant Pulling and his men in the execution of their duty. The desperado was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and hard labour in the House of Correction.
Lieutenant Pulling was promoted to his present rank on the 8th Sept. 1829; and appointed an inspecting commander of the coast guard in Oct. 1831.