Later in his career, Sawyer suffered from what might be now diagnosed as paranoid personality disorder; he was terribly unpredictable, swinging back and forth from rage to pleasantness. His officers feared that he was promoting mutiny among the men. Even when the men were unruly, he would forego punishment. In one instance, he even ordered double rum and a rope yarn sunday. (The crew would receive double their rum ration, and spend the day in idleness.) However, he treated his officers with open contempt, especially Hornblower and Wellard, accusing them of conspiracy.
One night, Sawyer turned out the Marine detachment aboard the Renown to hunt for mutineers. Sawyer and several Marines were racing through the hold when Sawyer fell into a hatchway and fractured his skull. Delirious, he was confined to his bed by the ship's lieutenants. He was later shot on board the Renown by escaped Spanish prisoners.