Corporal In this case the Ship's Corporal, who assists the Master-at-Arms with his duties.
countenance 1. Appearance, especially the expression of the face. 2. The face or facial features. 3. a. A look or expression indicative of encouragement or of moral support. b. Support or approval.
coxswain The person who has charge of the boat and crew in the absence of officers. On a man-of-war, the Captain's coxswain ranked high among the petty officers and had charge of the Captain's boat and attends him.
Cross, the A reference to the cross upon which Christ was executed. In this case, the spar from which Billy hanged is likened unto one of the most universally recognized symbols of Christianity.
cynic 1. A person who believes all people are motivated by selfishness. 2. Cynic. A member of a sect of ancient Greek philosophers who believed virtue to be the only good and self-control to be the only means of achieving virtue.
cynosure 1. An object that serves as a focal point of attention and admiration. 2. Something that serves to guide.
Dansker Melville's variation on Dane, referring to a person from Denmark. The precise effect of this identification is unclear; perhaps Melville hoped to evoke a sense of mystery by making the old Dansker a foreigner.
De Grasse, Francois Joseph Paul De Grasse (1722-1788) was the French Admiral who aided George Washington at the siege of Yorktown. He was later defeated and captured by the British in the West Indies.
deadeyes The flat, round wooden block with a grooved perimeter and three holes through which the lanyard is threaded and used to extend the shrouds; also the triangular blocks with one large hole that are similarly used to extend the stays.
decamped, decamp 1. To depart secretly or suddenly. 2. To depart from a camp or camping ground.
Decatur, Stephen Ascending to the rank of Captain at only twenty-five years old, Decatur (1779-1820) was renowned throughout his career as a daring yet uncommonly successful officer. He was killed in a duel by former Commodore James Barron, against whom he had ruled as a member of a military court.
deckstation The place for anyone stationed on a given deck.
decoction, decoct 1. To extract the flavor of by boiling. 2. To make concentrated; boil down.
deferred, defer 1. To put off; postpone. 2. To postpone the induction of (one eligible for the military draft). The central meaning shared by these verbs is "to put off until a later time."