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Title: Memoirs of Service Afloat, During the War Between the States

Author: Raphael Semmes

Release Date: January 2, 2011 [eBook #34827]

Language: English

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Raphail Semmes

 

 

MEMOIRS

OF

SERVICE AFLOAT,

DURING THE

WAR BETWEEN THE STATES.

 

BY

ADMIRAL RAPHAEL SEMMES,

OF THE LATE CONFEDERATE STATES NAVY,

Author of “Service Afloat and Ashore, during the Mexican War.”

 

 

Illustrated with Steel Engraved Portraits and Six Engravings from Original Designs printed in Chromo-Tints.

 

 

 

BALTIMORE:
KELLY, PIET & CO., 174 Baltimore Street.

 

NEW YORK, L. P. LEVY; LOUISVILLE, KY., F. I. DIBBLE & CO.; ST. LOUIS, MO., J. HART & CO.;
RICHMOND, VA., R. T. TAYLOR; NEW ORLEANS, LA., C. W. JARRATT;
SAN FRANCISCO, CAL., H. H. BANCROFT & CO.
LONDON: RICHARD BENTLEY.

1869.

 

 

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by
KELLY, PIET & CO.
in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United States for the District of Maryland.

 

PRESS OF
KELLY, PIET & CO.

 

 

TO THE MEMORY

OF THOSE

SAILORS AND SOLDIERS OF THE SOUTHERN STATES,

WHO LOST THEIR LIVES, IN THE WAR BETWEEN THE STATES
IN DEFENCE OF THE LIBERTIES WHICH HAD BEEN
BEQUEATHED TO THEM BY THEIR FATHERS,
THIS VOLUME IS RESPECTFULLY
AND AFFECTIONATELY
INSCRIBED BY

THE AUTHOR.

 

 


PREFACE.

 

A number of publications have appeared, first and last, concerning the author and his career, as was naturally to have been expected. The Alabama was the first steamship in the history of the world—the defective little Sumter excepted—that was let loose against the commerce of a great commercial people. The destruction which she caused was enormous. She not only alarmed the enemy, but she alarmed all the other nations of the earth which had commerce afloat, as they could not be sure that a similar scourge, at some future time, might not be let loose against themselves. The Alabama, in consequence, became famous. It was the fame of steam. As a matter of course, she attracted the attention of the book-makers—those cormorants ever on the lookout for a “speculation.” A number of ambitious literateurs entered the seductive field. But it was easier, as they soon found, to enter the field than to explore it, and these penny-a-liners all made miserable failures,—not even excepting the London house of Saunders, Otley & Co., to whom the author was induced to loan his journals, in the hope that something worthy of his career might be produced. To those who have chanced to see the “Log of the Sumter and Alabama,” produced by that house, it will be unnecessary to say that the author had no hand in its preparation. He did not write a line for it, nor had he any interest whatever in the sale of it, as the loan of his journals had been entirely gratuitous. So far as his own career was concerned, the author would gladly have devolved the labor of the historian on other shoulders, if this had been possible. But it did not seem to be possible, after the experiments that had been made. With all the facilities afforded the London house referred to, a meagre and barren record was the result. The cause is sufficiently obvious. The cruise of a ship is a biography. The ship becomes a personification. She not only

“Walks the waters like a thing of life,”

but she speaks in moving accents to those capable of interpreting her. But her interpreter must be a seaman, and not a landsman. He must not only be a seaman, he must have made the identical cruise which he undertakes to describe. It will be seen, hence, that the career of the author was a sealed book to all but himself. A landsman could not even interpret his journals, written frequently in the hieroglyphics of the sea. A line, or a bare mark made by himself, which to other eyes would be meaningless would for him be fraught with the inspiration of whole pages.

Besides, the Alabama had an inside as well as an outside life. She was a microcosm. If it required a seaman to interpret her as to her outside life, much more did it require one to give an intelligible view of the little world that she carried in her bosom. No one but an eye-witness, and that witness himself a sailor, could unveil to an outside world the domestic mysteries of the every-day life of Jack, and portray him in his natural colors, as he worked and as he played. The following pages may, therefore, be said to be the first attempt to give anything like a truthful picture of the career of the author upon the high seas, during the late war, to the public. In their preparation the writer has discarded the didactic style of the historian, and adopted that of memoir writing, as better suited to his subject. This style gave him more latitude in the description of persons and events, and relieved him from some of the fetters of a mere writer of history. There are portions of the work, however, purely historical, and these have been treated with the gravity and dignity which became them. In short, the author has aimed to produce what the title of his book imports—an historical memoir of his services afloat during the war. That his book will be generally read by the Northern people he does not suppose. They are scarcely in a temper yet to read anything he might write. The wounds which he has inflicted upon them are too recent. Besides, men do not willingly read unpalatable truths of themselves. The people of America being sovereign, they are like other sovereigns,—they like those best who fool them most, by pandering to their vices and flattering their foibles. The author, not being a flatterer, cannot expect to be much of a favorite at the court of the Demos.

A word now as to the feeling with which the author has written. It has sometimes been said that a writer of history should be as phlegmatic and unimpassioned as the judge upon the bench. If the reader desires a dead history, in other words, a history devoid of the true spirit of history, the author assents to the remark. But if he desires a living, moving, breathing picture of events—a personam instead of a subjectam, the picture must not be undertaken by one who does not feel something of that which he writes. Such a terrible war as that through which we have passed could not be comprehended by a stolid, phlegmatic writer, whose pulse did not beat quicker while he wrote. When all the higher and holier passions of the human heart are aroused in a struggle—when the barbarian is at your door with the torch of the incendiary in one hand, and the uplifted sword of diabolical revenge in the other,—feeling is an important element in the real drama that is passing before the eyes of the beholder. To attempt to describe such a drama with the cold words of philosophy, is simply ridiculous. If the acts be not described in words suited to portray their infamy, you have a lie instead of history. Nor does it follow that feeling necessarily overrides judgment. All passions blind us if we give free rein to them; but when they are held in check, they sharpen, instead of obscuring the intellect. In a well-balanced mind, feeling and judgment aid each other; and he will prove the most successful historian who has the two in a just equipoise. But though the author has given vent occasionally to a just indignation, he has not written in malice. He does not know the meaning of the word. He has simply written as a Southern man might be supposed to think and feel, treading upon the toes of his enemies as tenderly as possible. If he has been occasionally plain-spoken, it is because he has used the English language, which calls a rogue a rogue, notwithstanding his disguises. When the author has spoken of the Yankee and his “grand moral ideas,” he has spoken rather of a well-known type than of individual men. If the reader will bear these remarks in mind as he goes along, he will find them a key to some of the passages in the book. In describing natural phenomena, the author has ventured upon some new suggestions. He submits these with great diffidence. Meteorology is yet a new science, and many developments of principles remain to be made.

Anchorage, near Mobile, Ala.,
December, 1868.

 

 


[Pg xi]

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I.PAGE
A Brief Historical Retrospect17
 
CHAPTER II.
The Nature of the American Compact24
 
CHAPTER III.
From the Foundation of the Federal Government down to 1830, both the North and the South held the Constitution to be a Compact between the States36
 
CHAPTER IV.
Was Secession Treason?45
 
CHAPTER V.
Another Brief Historical Retrospect52
 
CHAPTER VI.
The Question of Slavery as it affected Secession62
 
CHAPTER VII.
The Formation of the Confederate Government, and the Resignation of Officers of the Federal Army and Navy71
 
CHAPTER VIII.
Author proceeds to Montgomery, and reports to the New Government, and is dispatched northward on a Special Mission81
 
CHAPTER IX.
The Commissioning of the Sumter, the First Confederate States Ship of War89
 
CHAPTER X.
The Preparation of the Sumter for Sea—She drops down between the Forts Jackson and St. Philip—Receives her Sailing Orders—List of her Officers97
 
CHAPTER XI.
After long Waiting and Watching, the Sumter runs the Blockade of the Mississippi, in open Daylight, pursued by the Brooklyn108
 
CHAPTER XII.
Brief Sketch of the Officers of the Sumter—Her First Prize, with other Prizes in Quick Succession120
 
CHAPTER XIII.
Rapid Work—Seven Prizes in Two Days—The Sumter makes her First Port, and what occurred there132
 
[Pg xii]CHAPTER XIV.
The Sumter on the Wing again—She is put wholly under Sail for the first time—Reaches the Island of Curaçoa, and is only able to enter after a Diplomatic Fight144
 
CHAPTER XV.
The Sumter at Curaçoa—Her Surroundings—Preparations for Sea—Her Captain solicited to become a Warwick—Her Departure—The Capture of other Prizes—Puerto Cabello, and what occurred there155
 
CHAPTER XVI.
Steaming along the Coast of Venezuela—The Coral Insect, and the Wonders of the Deep—The Andes and the Rainy Season—The Sumter enters the Port of Spain in the British Island of Trinidad170
 
CHAPTER XVII.
On the Way to Maranham—The Weather and the Winds—The Sumter runs short of Coal, and is obliged to “bear up”—Cayenne and Paramaribo, in French and Dutch Guiana—Sails again, and arrives at Maranham, in Brazil188
 
CHAPTER XVIII.
The Sumter at Maranham—More Diplomacy necessary—The Hotel Porto and its Proprietor—A week on Shore—Ship coals and sails again210
 
CHAPTER XIX.
The Sumter at Martinique—Proceeds from Fort de France to St. Pierre—Is an Object of much Curiosity with the Islanders—News of the Arrest of Messrs. Mason and Slidell, on board the British Mail Steamer, The Trent—Mr. Seward’s extraordinary Course on the Occasion232
 
CHAPTER XX.
Arrival at St. Pierre of the Enemy’s Steam-sloop Iroquois—How she violates the Neutrality of the Port—Arrival of the French Steamer-of-War Acheron—The Iroquois blockades the Sumter—Correspondence with the Governor—Escape of the Sumter252
 
CHAPTER XXI.
The Sumter pursues her Voyage across the Atlantic—Capture and Burning of the Arcade, Vigilant, and Ebenezer Dodge—A Leaky Ship and a Gale—An Alarm of Fire!268
 
CHAPTER XXII.
Voyage across the Atlantic pursued—Christmas-day on board the Sumter—Cape Fly-away, and the Curious Illusion produced by it—The Sumter passes from the Desert Parts of the Sea into a Tract of Commerce once more—Boards a large Fleet of Ships in one Day, but finds no Enemy among them—Arrival at Cadiz283
 
CHAPTER XXIII.
Annoyance of the Spanish Officials—Short Correspondence with the U. S. Consul—The Telegraph put in Operation by the Officials between Cadiz and Madrid—The Sumter is ordered to leave in twenty-four Hours—Declines Obedience to the Order—Prisoners land, and Ship Docked after much ado—Deserters—Sumter leaves Cadiz297
 
CHAPTER XXIV.
The Sumter off Cadiz—The Pillars of Hercules—Gibraltar—Capture of the Enemy’s Ships Neapolitan and Investigator—A Conflagration between Europe and Africa—The Sumter anchors in the Harbor of Gibraltar; the Rock; the Town; the Military; the Review, and the Alameda306
 
[Pg xiii]CHAPTER XXV.
The Sumter still at Gibraltar—Ship crowded with Visitors—A Ride over the Rock with Colonel Freemantle—The Galleries and other Subterranean Wonders—A Dizzy Height, and the Queen of Spain’s Chair—The Monkeys and the Neutral Ground320
 
CHAPTER XXVI.
The Sumter in Trouble—Finds it impossible to coal, by reason of a Combination against her, headed by the Federal Consul—Applies to the British Government for Coal, but is refused—Sends her Paymaster and Ex-Consul Tunstall to Cadiz—They are arrested and imprisoned in Tangier—Correspondence on the Subject—The Sumter laid up and sold329
 
CHAPTER XXVII.
Author leaves Gibraltar and arrives in London—Mr. Commissioner Mason—Confederate Naval News—Short Sojourn in London—Author embarks on board the Steamer Melita for Nassau—Receives new Orders from the Navy Department—Returns to Liverpool346
 
CHAPTER XXVIII.
A Brief Resumé of the History of the War, from the date of the commissioning the Sumter, to the commissioning of the Alabama—Secretary Mallory and the Difficulties by which he was surrounded—The Reorganization of the Confederate States Navy361
 
CHAPTER XXIX.
The Legality of the Equipment of the Alabama, and a few Precedents for her Career, drawn from the History of the War of 1776370
 
CHAPTER XXX.
The Equipment of the Alabama illustrated by that of sundry Colonial Cruisers during the War of 1776—Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane sent to Paris as Chiefs of a Naval Bureau—The Surprise and the Revenge—Captains Wickes and Conyngham, and Commodore John Paul Jones388
 
CHAPTER XXXI.
Author leaves Liverpool to join the Alabama—Arrives at Terceira—Description of the Alabama—Preparing her for Sea—The Portuguese Authorities—The commissioning of the Ship—A Picture of her Birth and Death—Captain Bullock returns to England—The Alabama on the High Seas400
 
CHAPTER XXXII.
The Alabama a Ship of War, and not a Privateer—Sketch of the Personnel of the Ship—Putting the Ship in Order for Service—Sail and Steam—The Character of the Sailor—The First Blow is struck at the Whale Fishery—The Habitat and Habits of the Whale—Capture of the Ocmulgee414
 
CHAPTER XXXIII.
Capture of the Starlight; Ocean Rover; Alert; Weather Gauge—A Chase by Moonlight—Capture of the Altamaha; Virginia; Elisha Dunbar—A Rough Sea, Toiling Boats, and a Picturesque Conflagration in a Gale428
 
CHAPTER XXXIV.
The Yankee Colony of the Island of Flores—What the Captains of the Virginia and Elisha Dunbar said of the Alabama when they got back among their Countrymen—The Whaling Season at the Azores at an End—The Alabama changes her Cruising Ground—What she saw and what she did445
 
[Pg xiv]CHAPTER XXXV.
Capricious Weather of the Gulf Stream—Capture of the Packet-Ship Tonawanda; of the Manchester and Lafayette—A Cyclone, the Alabama’s First Gale—How she behaved463
 
CHAPTER XXXVI.
The Physiognomy of Ships—Capture of the Lafayette—Decree of the Admiralty Court on board the Alabama in her Case, and in that of the Lauretta—The Criticisms of the New York Press—Further Evidence of the Rotary Nature of the Winds—The Lauretta captured—The Crenshaw captured—The New York Chamber of Commerce cries aloud in Pain—Capture of the Baron de Castine, and of the Levi Starbuck—Capture of the T. B. Wales—Lady Prisoners479
 
CHAPTER XXXVII.
The Calm-Belts and the Trade-Winds—The Arrival of the Alabama at the Island of Martinique—The Curiosity of the Islanders to see the Ship—A Quasi Mutiny among the Crew, and how it was quelled498
 
CHAPTER XXXVIII.
The Alabama at Martinique—Is blockaded by the Enemy’s Steamer San Jacinto—How she escaped the Old Wagon—The Island of Blanquilla, the Alabama’s new Rendezvous—Coaling Ship—A Yankee Skipper and his Alarm—How the Officers and Men amused themselves at this Island—The Alabama sails again—Capture of the Parker Cooke, Union, and Steamer Ariel514
 
CHAPTER XXXIX.
The Alabama is disabled by an Accident, and stops to repair her Machinery—Proceeds to her New Rendezvous at the Arcas Islands, and thence to Galveston—Engagement with the United States Steamer Hatteras, which she sinks536
 
CHAPTER XL.
The Alabama proceeds to Jamaica, where she lands her Prisoners and refits—Her Commander visits the Country—Intercourse with the English Naval Officers—Earl Russell’s Letter—Preparations for Sea—A Boat Race by Moonlight, in which Strange Tactics are practised—Captain Blake of the Hatteras complains of “Dixie” being played by the English Bands—How the Matter is settled551
 
CHAPTER XLI.
Departure from Jamaica—Capture of the Golden Rule—Coasting the Island of Hayti—Capture of the Castelaine—The Old City of St. Domingo and its Reminiscences—The Dominican Convent and the Palace of Diego Columbus—Capture of the Palmetto, the Olive Jane, and the Golden Eagle—How the Roads are blazed out upon the Sea—Captain Maury563
 
CHAPTER XLII.
The Crossing of the 30th Parallel—The Toll-Gate upon the Sea—How the Travellers pass along the Highway—Capture of the Washington; John A. Parks; the Bethia Taylor; the Punjaub; the Morning Star; the Kingfisher; the Charles Hill; and the Nora—Alabama crosses the Equator—Capture of the Louisa Hatch—Arrival at Fernando de Noronha581
 
CHAPTER XLIII.
Fernando de Noronha—Its Famous Peak—Is a Penal Settlement of Brazil—A Visit from the Governor’s Ambassadors—A Visit to the Governor in return—The Aristocracy of the Island—Capture of the Lafayette and the Kate Cory—Burning of these two Ships with the Louisa Hatch—Prisoners sent to Pernambuco—The Cloud Ring and the Rainy and Dry Seasons596
 
[Pg xv]CHAPTER XLIV.
The Alabama leaves Fernando de Noronha for a Cruise on the Coast of Brazil—Enters the great Highway, and begins to overhaul the Travellers—Capture of the Whalers Nye; Dorcas Prince; Union Jack; Sea Lark—A Reverend Consul taken Prisoner—Alabama goes into Bahia—What occurred there—Arrival of the Georgia—Alabama proceeds to Sea again—Capture of the Gildersleeve; the Justina; the Jabez Snow; the Amazonian; and the Talisman610
 
CHAPTER XLV.
The Alabama continues her Cruise on the Coast of Brazil—American Ships under English Colors—The Enemy’s Carrying-Trade in Neutral Bottoms—The Capture of the Conrad—She is commissioned as a Confederate States Cruiser—The Highways of the Sea, and the Tactics of the Federal Secretary of the Navy—The Phenomena of the Winds in the Southern Hemisphere—Arrival at Saldanha Bay, on the Coast of Africa626
 
CHAPTER XLVI.
The connecting Thread of the History of the War taken up—A brief Review of the Events of the last twelve Months, during which the Alabama has been commissioned—The Alabama arrives at Cape Town—Capture of the Sea-Bride—Excitement thereupon—Correspondence between the U. S. Consul and the Governor on the Subject of the Capture642
 
CHAPTER XLVII.
A Gale at Cape Town—The Alabama gets under way for Simon’s Town—Capture of the Martha Wenzell—The Tuscaloosa—Her Status as a Ship of War considered—She proceeds to Sea—The Alabama follows her—They, with the Sea-Bride, rendezvous at Angra Pequeña660
 
CHAPTER XLVIII.
The Alabama on the Indian Ocean—The Passengers questioned, and contracted with—The Agulhas Current—The brave West Winds—A Theory—The Islands of St. Peter and St. Paul—The Tropic of Capricorn—The South-east Trade-Winds, and the Monsoons—The Alabama arrives off the Strait of Sunda—Capture of the Amanda—Runs in and anchors under the Coast of Sumatra674
 
CHAPTER XLIX.
The Alabama passes through the Strait of Sunda, seeing nothing of the Wyoming—Burns the Winged Racer just inside of the Strait—The Malay Boatmen, and their Alarm—Alabama makes for the Gaspar Strait, and burns the Contest, after an exciting Chase—She passes through the Carimata Passage—Discharges her Prisoners into an English Ship—Miniature Sea-Serpents—The Currents—Island of Pulo Condore—Arrives at Singapore690
 
CHAPTER L.
The Alabama at Singapore—Panic among the Enemy’s Shipping in the China Seas—The Multitude flock to see the Alabama—Curious Rumor concerning a Portion of her Crew—The Author rides to the Country and spends a Night—The Chinese in possession of the Business of Singapore—Alabama leaves Singapore—Capture of the Martaban, alias Texan Star—Alabama touches at Malacca—Capture of the Highlander, and Sonora—Alabama once more in the Indian Ocean708
 
CHAPTER LI.
The Alabama crosses the Bay of Bengal—The Pilgrims to Mecca, and how they received her Boarding-Officer—The Burning of the Emma [Pg xvi]Jane—The Town of Anjenga, and the Hindoos—The Great Deserts of Central Asia, and the Cotton Crop of Hindoston—The Alabama crosses the Arabian Sea—The Animalculæ of the Sea—The Comoro Islands—Johanna, and its Arab Population—The Alabama passes through the Mozambique Channel—Arrives at the Cape of Good Hope722
 
CHAPTER LII.
The Alabama again in Cape Town—The Seizure of the Tuscaloosa, and the Discussion which grew out of it—Correspondence between the Author and Admiral Walker—Action of the Home Government, and Release of the Tuscaloosa738
 
CHAPTER LIII.
The Alabama at the Cape of Good Hope—Leaves on her Return to Europe—Capture of the Rockingham, and of the Tycoon—She crosses the Equator into the Northern Hemisphere, and arrives at Cherbourg on the 11th of June, 1864—The Engagement between the Alabama and the Kearsarge744
 
CHAPTER LIV.
Other Incidents of the Battle between the Alabama and the Kearsarge—The Rescue of a Portion of the Crew of the Alabama by the English Steam-Yacht Deerhound—The United States Government demands that they be given up—The British Government refuses Compliance—The rescued Persons not Prisoners—The Inconsistency of the Federal Secretary of the Navy761
 
CHAPTER LV.
The Federal Government and the English Steam-Yacht Deerhound—Mr. Seward’s Despatch—Mr. Lancaster’s Letter to the “Daily News”—Lord Russell’s Reply to Mr. Adams, on the Subject of his Complaint against Mr. Lancaster—Presentation of a Sword to the Author by the Clubs of England; of a Flag by a Lady777
 
CHAPTER LVI.
Author makes a Short Visit to the Continent—Returns to London, and embarks on his Return to the Confederate States—Lands at Bagdad, near the Mouth of the Rio Grande—Journey through Texas—Reaches Louisiana; crosses the Mississippi, and reaches his Home after an Absence of four Years789
 
CHAPTER LVII.
Author sets out for Richmond—Is two Weeks in making the Journey—Interview with President Davis; with General Lee—Author is appointed a Rear-Admiral, and ordered to command the James River Squadron—Assumes Command—Condition of the Fleet—Great Demoralization—The Enemy’s Armies gradually increasing in Numbers—Lee’s Lines broken799
 
CHAPTER LVIII.
The Evacuation of Richmond by the Army—The Destruction of the James River Fleet—The Sailors of the Fleet converted into Soldiers—Their helpless Condition without any Means of Transportation—The Conflagration of Richmond, and the Entry of the Enemy into the Confederate Capital—The Author improvises a Railroad Train, and escapes in it, with his Command, to Danville, Va.809
 
CHAPTER LIX.
Interview with President Davis and Secretary Mallory—Author’s Command organized as a Brigade of Artillery—The Brigade marches to Greensboro’, N. C.—Capitulation between General Joseph E. Johnston and General Sherman—Dispersion of Johnston’s Command in Consequence—Author returns Home, and is arrested—Conclusion817

 

 


[Pg 17]

MEMOIRS OF SERVICE AFLOAT.

 

CHAPTER I.

A BRIEF HISTORICAL RETROSPECT.

 

The disruption of the American Union by the war of 1861 was not an unforeseen event. Patrick Henry, and other patriots who struggled against the adoption of the Federal Constitution by the Southern States, foretold it in burning words of prophecy; and when that instrument was adopted, when the great name and great eloquence of James Madison had borne down all opposition, Henry and his compatriots seemed particularly anxious that posterity should be informed of the manly struggle which they had made. Henry said, “The voice of tradition, I trust, will inform posterity of our struggles for freedom. If our descendants be worthy of the name of Americans, they will preserve, and hand down to the latest posterity, the transactions of the present times; and though I confess my explanations are not worth the hearing, they will see I have done my utmost to preserve their liberty.”

The wish of these patriotic men has been gratified. The record of their noble deeds, and all but inspired eloquence, has come down to posterity, and some, at least, of their descendants, “worthy of the name of Americans,” will accord to them the foremost rank in the long list of patriots and sages who illustrated and adorned our early annals.

But posterity, too, has a history to record and hand down. We, too, have struggled to preserve our liberties, and the liberties of those who are to come after us; and the history of that struggle must not perish. The one struggle is but the complement of the other, and history would be incomplete if either[Pg 18] were omitted. Events have vindicated the wisdom of Henry, and those who struggled with him against the adoption of the Federal Constitution. Events will equally vindicate the wisdom of Jefferson Davis, and other Confederate patriots, who endeavored to preserve that Constitution, and hand it down, unimpaired, to their posterity.

The wisdom of a movement is not always to be judged by its success. Principles are eternal, human events are transitory, and it sometimes takes more than one generation or one revolution to establish a principle. At first sight, it may appear that there is some discordance between Patrick Henry and Jefferson Davis, as the one struggled against the adoption of the Constitution, and the other to preserve it. But they were, in fact, both engaged in a similar struggle; the object of both being to preserve the sovereignty of their respective States. Henry did not object so much to the nature of the partnership, into which his State was about to enter, as to the nature of the partners with whom she was about to contract. He saw that the two sections were dissimilar, and that they had different and antagonistic interests, and he was unwilling to trust to the bona fides of the other contracting party. “I am sure,” said he, “that the dangers of this system are real, when those who have no similar interests with the people of this country are to legislate for us—when our dearest interests are to be left in the hands of those whose advantage it will be to infringe them.”

The North, even at that early day, was in a majority in both houses of Congress; it would be for the advantage of that majority to infringe the rights of the South; and Henry, with much more knowledge of human nature than most of the Southern statesmen of his era, refused to trust that majority. This was substantially the case with Jefferson Davis and those of us who followed his lead. We had verified the distrust of Henry. What had been prophecy with him, had become history with us. We had had experience of the fact, that our partner-States of the North, who were in a majority, had trampled upon the rights of the Southern minority, and we desired, as the only remedy, to dissolve the partnership into which Henry had objected to entering—not so much because[Pg 19] of any defect in the articles of copartnership, as for want of faith in our copartners.

This was the wisdom of Jefferson Davis and his compatriots, which, I say, will be vindicated by events. A final separation of these States must come, or the South will be permanently enslaved. We endeavored to bring about the separation, and we sacrificed our fortunes, and risked our lives to accomplish it. Like Patrick Henry, we have done our “utmost to preserve our liberties;” like him, we have failed, and like him, we desire that our record shall go down to such of our posterity as may be “worthy of the name of Americans.”

The following memoirs are designed to commemorate a few of the less important events of our late struggle; but before I enter upon them, I deem it appropriate to give some “reason for the faith” that was in us, of the South, who undertook the struggle. The judgment which posterity will form upon our actions will depend, mainly, upon the answers which we may be able to give to two questions: First, Had the South the right to dissolve the compact of government under which it had lived with the North? and, secondly, Was there sufficient reason for such dissolution? I do not speak here of the right of revolution—this is inherent in all peoples, whatever may be their form of government. The very term “revolution” implies a forcible disruption of government, war, and all the evils that follow in the train of war. The thirteen original Colonies, the germ from which have sprung these States, exercised the right of revolution when they withdrew their allegiance from the parent country. Not so with the Southern States when they withdrew from their copartnership with the Northern States. They exercised a higher right. They did not form a part of a consolidated government, as the Colonies did of the British Government. They were sovereign, equally with the Northern States, from which they withdrew, and exercised, as they believed, a peaceful right, instead of a right of revolution.

Had, then, the Southern States the peaceful right to dissolve the compact of government under which they had lived with the North? A volume might be written in reply to this [Pg 20]question, but I shall merely glance at it in these memoirs, referring the student to the history of the formation of the old Confederacy, prior to the adoption of the Constitution of the United States; to the “Journal and Debates of the Convention of 1787,” that formed this latter instrument; to the debates of the several State Conventions which adopted it, to the “Madison Papers,” to the “Federalist,” and to the late very able work of Dr. Bledsoe, entitled “Is Davis a Traitor?” It will be sufficient for the purpose which I have in view—that of giving the reader a general outline of the course of reasoning, by which Southern men justify their conduct in the late war—to state the leading features of the compact of government which was dissolved, and a few of its historical surroundings, about which there can be no dispute.

The close of the War of Independence of 1776 found the thirteen original Colonies, which had waged that war, sovereign and independent States. They had, for the purpose of carrying on that war, formed a league, or confederation, and the articles of this league were still obligatory upon them. Under these articles, a Federal Government had been established, charged with a few specific powers, such as conducting the foreign affairs of the Confederacy, the regulation of commerce, &c. At the formation of this Government, it was intended that it should be perpetual, and was so declared. It lasted, notwithstanding, only a few years, for peace was declared in 1783, and the perpetual Government ceased to exist in 1789. How did it cease to exist? By the secession of the States.

Soon after the war, a convention of delegates met at Annapolis, in Maryland, sent thither by the several States, for the purpose of devising some more perfect means of regulating commerce. This was all the duty with which they were charged. Upon assembling, it was found that several of the States were not represented in this Convention, in consequence of which, the Convention adjourned without transacting any business, and recommended, in an address prepared by Alexander Hamilton, that a new convention should be called at Philadelphia, with enlarged powers. “The Convention,” says Hamilton, “are more naturally led to this conclusion, as in their reflections on the subject, they have been induced to[Pg 21] think, that the power of regulating trade is of such comprehensive extent, and will enter so far into the great system of the Federal Government, that to give it efficacy, and to obviate questions and doubts concerning its precise nature and limits, may require a corresponding adjustment in other parts of the Federal system. That these are important defects in the system of the Federal Government is acknowledged by the acts of those States, which have concurred in the present meeting. That the defects, upon closer examination, may be found greater and more numerous than even these acts imply, is at least, so far probable, from the embarrassments which characterize the present state of our national affairs, foreign and domestic, as may reasonably be supposed to merit a deliberate and candid discussion, in some mode which will unite the sentiments and counsels of all the States.”

The reader will observe that the Government of the States, under the Articles of Confederation, is called a “Federal Government,” and that the object proposed to be accomplished by the meeting of the new Convention at Philadelphia, was to amend the Constitution of that Government. Northern writers have sought to draw a distinction between the Government formed under the Articles of Confederation, and that formed by the Constitution of the United States, calling the one a league, and the other a government. Here we see Alexander Hamilton calling the Confederation a government—a Federal Government. It was, indeed, both a league and a government, as it was formed by sovereign States; just as the Government of the United States is both a league and a government, for the same reason.

The fact that the laws of the Confederation, passed in pursuance of its League, or Constitution, were to operate upon the States; and the laws of the United States were to operate upon the individual citizens of the States, without the intervention of State authority, could make no difference. This did not make the latter more a government than the former. The difference was a mere matter of detail, a mere matter of machinery—nothing more. It did not imply more or less absolute sovereignty in the one case, than in the other. Whatever of sovereignty had been granted, had been granted by the States, in both instances.

[Pg 22]The new Convention met in Philadelphia, on the 14th of May, 1787, with instructions to devise and discuss “all such alterations, and further provisions as may be necessary to render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of the Union.” We see, thus, that the very Convention which framed the Constitution of the United States, equally called the Articles of Confederation a Constitution. It was, then, from a Constitutional, Federal Government, that the States seceded when they adopted the present Constitution of the United States! A Convention of the States assembled with powers only to amend the Constitution; instead of doing which, it abolished the old form of government altogether, and recommended a new one, and no one complained. As each State formally and deliberately adopted the new government, it as formally and deliberately seceded from the old one; and yet no one heard any talk of a breach of faith, and still less of treason.

The new government was to go into operation when nine States should adopt it. But there were thirteen States, and if nine States only acceded to the new government, the old one would be broken up, as to the other four States, whether these would or not, and they would be left to provide for themselves. It was by no means the voluntary breaking up of a compact, by all the parties to it. It was broken up piece-meal, each State acting for itself, without asking the consent of the others; precisely as the Southern States acted, with a view to the formation of a new Southern Confederacy.

So far from the movement being unanimous, it was a long time before all the States came into the new government. Rhode Island, one of the Northern States, which hounded on the war against the Southern States, retained her separate sovereignty for two years before she joined the new government, not uttering one word of complaint, during all that time, that the old government, of which she had been a member, had been unduly broken up, and that she had been left to shift for herself. Why was this disruption of the old government regarded as a matter of course? Simply because it was a league, or treaty, between sovereign States, from which any one of the States had the right to withdraw at any time, without consulting the interest or advantage of the others.

[Pg 23]But, say the Northern States, the Constitution of the United States is a very different thing from the Articles of Confederation. It was formed, not by the States, but by the people of the United States in the aggregate, and made all the States one people, one government. It is not a compact, or league between the States, but an instrument under which they have surrendered irrevocably their sovereignty. Under it, the Federal Government has become the paramount authority, and the States are subordinate to it. We will examine this doctrine, briefly, in another chapter.

 

 


[Pg 24]

CHAPTER II.

THE NATURE OF THE AMERICAN COMPACT.

 

The two principal expounders of the Constitution of the United States, in the North, have been Daniel Webster and Joseph Story, both from Massachusetts. Webster was, for a long time, a Senator in Congress, and Story a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. The latter has written an elaborate work on the Constitution, full of sophistry, and not always very reliable as to its facts. The great effort of both these men has been to prove, that the Constitution is not a compact between the States, but an instrument of government, formed by the people of the United States, as contra-distinguished from the States. They both admit, that if the Constitution were a compact between the States, the States would have a right to withdraw from the compact—all agreements between States, in their sovereign capacity, being, necessarily, of no more binding force than treaties. These gentlemen are not always very consistent, for they frequently fall into the error of calling the Constitution a compact, when they are not arguing this particular question; in short, it is, and it is not a compact, by turns, according to the use they intend to make of the argument. Mr. Webster’s doctrine of the Constitution, chiefly relied on by Northern men, is to be found in his speech of 1833, in reply to Mr. Calhoun. It is in that speech that he makes the admission, that if the Constitution of the United States is a compact between the States, the States have the right to withdraw from it at pleasure. He says, “If a league between sovereign powers have no limitation as to the time of duration, and contains nothing making it perpetual, it subsists only during the good pleasure of the parties, although no violation be complained of. If in the opinion of either party it be violated, such party may say he will no longer[Pg 25] fulfil its obligations, on his part, but will consider the whole league or compact as at an end, although it might be one of its stipulations that it should be perpetual.”

In his “Commentaries on the Constitution,” Mr. Justice Story says, “The obvious deductions which may be, and indeed have been drawn, from considering the Constitution a compact between States, are, that it operates as a mere treaty, or convention between them, and has an obligatory force no longer than suits their pleasure, or their consent continues.” The plain principles of public law, thus announced by these distinguished jurists, cannot be controverted. If sovereign States make a compact, although the object of the compact be the formation of a new government for their common benefit, they have the right to withdraw from that compact at pleasure, even though, in the words of Mr. Webster, “it might be one of its stipulations that it should be perpetual.”

There might, undoubtedly, be such a thing as State merger; that is, that two States, for instance, might agree that the sovereign existence of one of them should be merged in the other. In which case, the State parting with its sovereignty could never reclaim it by peaceable means. But where a State shows no intention of parting with its sovereignty, and, in connection with other States, all equally jealous of their sovereignty with herself, only delegates a part of it—never so large a part, if you please—to a common agent, for the benefit of the whole, there can have been no merger. This was eminently the case with regard to these United States. No one can read the “Journal and Debates of the Philadelphia Convention,” or those of the several State Conventions to which the Constitution was submitted for adoption, without being struck with the scrupulous care with which all the States guarded their sovereignty. The Northern States were quite as jealous, in this respect, as the Southern States. Next to Massachusetts, New Hampshire has been, perhaps, the most fanatical and bitter of the former States, in the prosecution of the late war against the South. That State, in her Constitution, adopted in 1792, three years after the Federal Constitution went into operation, inserted the following provision, among others, in her declaration of principles: “The people of this Commonwealth[Pg 26] have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves as a free, sovereign, and independent State; and do, and forever hereafter shall exercise and enjoy every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not, or may not hereafter be, by them, expressly delegated to the United States.”

Although it was quite clear that the States, when they adopted the Constitution of the United States, reserved, by implication, all the sovereign power, rights, and privileges that had not been granted away—as a power not given is necessarily withheld—yet so jealous were they of the new government they were forming, that several of them insisted, in their acts of ratification, that the Constitution should be so amended as explicitly to declare this truth, and thus put it beyond cavil in the future. Massachusetts expressed herself as follows, in connection with her ratification of the Constitution: “As it is the opinion of this Convention, that certain amendments and alterations in said Constitution would remove the fears, and quiet the apprehensions of the good people of the Commonwealth, and more effectually guard against an undue administration of the Federal Government, the Convention do, therefore, recommend that the following alteration and provisions be introduced in said Constitution: First, that it be explicitly declared, that all powers not delegated by the aforesaid Constitution are reserved to the several States, to be by them exercised.”

Webster and Story had not yet arisen in Massachusetts, to teach the new doctrine that the Constitution had been formed by the “People of the United States,” in contra-distinction to the people of the States. Massachusetts did not speak in the name of any such people, but in her own name. She was not jealous of the remaining people of the United States, as fractional parts of a whole, of which she was herself a fraction, but she was jealous of them as States; as so many foreign peoples, with whom she was contracting. The powers not delegated were to be reserved to those delegating them, to wit: the “several States;” that is to say, to each and every one of the States.

Virginia fought long and sturdily against adopting the Constitution at all. Henry, Mason, Tyler, and a host of other[Pg 27] giants raised their powerful voices against it, warning their people, in thunder tones, that they were rushing upon destruction. Tyler even went so far as to say that “British tyranny would have been more tolerable.” So distasteful to her was the foul embrace that was tendered her, that she not only recommended an amendment of the Constitution, similar to that which was recommended by Massachusetts, making explicit reservation of her sovereignty, but she annexed a condition to her ratification, to the effect that she retained the right to withdraw the powers which she had granted, “whenever the same shall be perverted to her injury or oppression.”

North Carolina urged the following amendment—the same, substantially, as that urged by Virginia and Massachusetts: “That each State in the Union shall respectively [not aggregately] retain every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not by this Constitution delegated to the Congress of the United States, or to the departments of the Federal Government.”

Pennsylvania guarded her sovereignty by insisting upon the following amendment: “All the rights of sovereignty which are not, by the said Constitution, expressly and plainly vested in the Congress, shall be deemed to remain with, and shall be exercised by the several States in the Union.” The result of this jealousy on the part of the States was the adoption of the 10th amendment to the Constitution of the United States as follows: “The powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, or to the people.”

It is thus clear beyond doubt, that the States not only had no intention of merging their sovereignty in the new government they were forming, but that they took special pains to notify each other, as well as their common agent, of the fact. The language which I have quoted, as used by the States, in urging the amendments to the Constitution proposed by them, was the common language of that day. The new government was a federal or confederate government—in the “Federalist,” it is frequently called a “Confederation”—which had been created by the States for their common use and benefit; each State taking special pains, as we have seen, to declare that it retained all the sovereignty which it had not expressly granted [Pg 28]away. And yet, in face of these facts, the doctrine has been boldly declared, in our day, that the Constitution was formed by the people of the United States in the aggregate, as one nation, and that it has a force and vitality independent of the States, which the States are incompetent to destroy! The perversion is one not so much of doctrine as of history. It is an issue of fact which we are to try.

It is admitted, that if the fact be as stated by our Northern brethren, the conclusion follows: It is, indeed, quite plain, that if the States did not create the Federal Constitution, they cannot destroy it. But it is admitted, on the other hand, by both Webster and Story, as we have seen, that if they did create it, they may destroy it; nay, that any one of them may destroy it as to herself; that is, may withdraw from the compact at pleasure, with or without reason. It is fortunate for us of the South that the issue is so plain, as that it may be tried by the record. Sophistry will sometimes overlie reason and blind men’s judgment for generations; but sophistry, with all its ingenuity, cannot hide a fact. The speeches of Webster and the commentaries of Story have been unable to hide the fact of which I speak; it stands emblazoned on every page of our constitutional history.

Every step that was taken toward the formation of the Constitution of the United States, from its inception to its adoption, was taken by the States, and not by the people of the United States in the aggregate. There was no such people known as the people of the United States, in the aggregate, at the time of the formation of the Constitution. If there is any such people now, it was formed by the Constitution. But this is not the question. The question now is, who formed the Constitution, not what was formed by it? If it was formed by the States, admit our adversaries, it may be broken by the States.

The delegates who met at Annapolis were sent thither by the States, and not by the people of the United States. The Convention of 1787, which formed the Constitution, was equally composed of members sent to Philadelphia by the States. James Madison was chosen by the people of Virginia, and not by the people of New York; and Alexander Hamilton[Pg 29] was chosen by the people of New York, and not by the people of Virginia. Every article, section, and paragraph of the Constitution was voted for, or against, by States; the little State of Delaware, not much larger than a single county of New York, off-setting the vote of that great State.

And when the Constitution was formed, to whom was it submitted for ratification? Was there any convention of the people of the United States in the aggregate, as one nation, called for the purpose of considering it? Did not each State, on the contrary, call its own convention? and did not some of the States accept it, and some of them refuse to accept it? It was provided that when nine States should accept it, it should go into operation; was it pretended that the vote of these nine States was to bind the others? Is it not a fact, on the contrary, that the vote of eleven States did not bind the other two? Where was that great constituency, composed of the people of the United States in the aggregate, as one nation, all this time?

“But,” say those who are opposed to us in this argument, “look at the instrument itself, and you will see that it was framed by the people of the United States, and not by the States. Does not its Preamble read thus: ‘We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, &c., do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America’?” Perhaps there has never been a greater literary and historical fraud practised upon any people, than has been attempted in the use to which these words have been put. And, perhaps, no equal number of reading and intelligent men has ever before submitted so blindly and docilely to be imposed upon by literary quackery and the legerdemain of words, as our fellow-citizens of the North have in accepting Webster’s and Story’s version of the preamble of the Constitution.

A brief history of the manner, in which the words, “We, the people,” &c., came to be adopted by the Convention which framed the Constitution, will sufficiently expose the baldness of the cheat. The only wonder is, that such men as Webster and Story should have risked their reputations with posterity, on a construction which may so easily be shown to be a [Pg 30]falsification of the facts of history. Mr. Webster, in his celebrated speech in the Senate, in 1833, in reply to Mr. Calhoun, made this bold declaration: “The Constitution itself, in its very front, declares, that it was ordained and established by the people of the United States in the aggregate!” From that day to this, this declaration of Mr. Webster has been the chief foundation on which all the constitutional lawyers of the North have built their arguments against the rights of the States as sovereign copartners.

If the Preamble of the Constitution stood alone, without the lights of contemporaneous history to reveal its true character, there might be some force in Mr. Webster’s position; but, unfortunately for him and his followers, he has misstated a fact. It is not true, as every reader of constitutional history must know, that the Constitution of the United States was ordained by the people of the United States in the aggregate; nor did the Preamble to the Constitution mean to assert that it was true. The great names of Webster, and Story have been lent to a palpable falsification of history, and as a result of that falsification, a great war has ensued, which has sacrificed its hecatomb of victims, and desolated, and nearly destroyed an entire people. The poet did not say, without reason, that “words are things.” Now let us strip off the disguises worn by these word-mongers, and see where the truth really lies. Probably some of my readers will learn, for the first time, the reasons which induced the framers of the Constitution to adopt the phraseology, “We, the people,” &c., in the formation of their Preamble to that instrument. In the original draft of the Constitution, the States, by name, were mentioned, as had been done in the Articles of Confederation. The States had formed the old Confederation, the States were equally forming the new Confederation; hence the Convention naturally followed in their Preamble the form which had been set them in the old Constitution, or Articles. This Preamble, purporting that the work of forming the new government was being done by the States, remained at the head of the instrument during all the deliberations of the Convention, and no one member ever objected to it. It expressed a fact which no one thought of denying. It is thus a fact beyond question, not only that the Constitution[Pg 31] was framed by the States, but that the Convention so proclaimed in “front of the instrument.”

Having been framed by the States, was it afterward adopted, or “ordained and established,” to use the words of Mr. Webster, by the people of the United States, in the aggregate, and was this the reason why the words were changed? There were in the Convention several members in favor of submitting the instrument to the people of the United States in the aggregate, and thereby accomplishing their favorite object of establishing a consolidated government—Alexander Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris among the number. On the “Journal of the Convention,” the following record is found: “Gouverneur Morris moved that the reference of the plan [i. e. of the Constitution] be made to one General Convention, chosen and authorized by the people, to consider, amend, and establish the same.” Thus the question, as to who should “ordain and establish” the Constitution, whether it should be the people in the aggregate, or the people of the States, was clearly presented to the Convention. How did the Convention vote on this proposition? The reader will perhaps be surprised to learn, that the question was not even brought to a vote, for want of a second; and yet this is the fact recorded by the Convention.

The reader who has read Mr. Madison’s articles in the “Federalist,” and his speeches before the Virginia Convention, in favor of the ratification of the Constitution, will perhaps be surprised to learn that he, too, made a somewhat similar motion. He was not in favor, it is true, of referring the instrument for adoption to a General Convention of the whole people, alone, but he was in favor of referring it to such a Convention, in connection with Conventions to be called by the States, thus securing a joint or double ratification, by the people of the United States in the aggregate, and by the States; the effect of which would have been to make the new government a still more complex affair, and to muddle still further the brains of Mr. Webster and Mr. Justice Story. But this motion failed also, and the Constitution was referred to the States for adoption.

But now a new question arose, which was, whether the Constitution was to be “ordained and established” by the legislatures[Pg 32] of the States, or by the people of the States in Convention. All were agreed, as we have seen, that the instrument should be referred to the States. This had been settled; but there were differences of opinion as to how the States should act upon it. Some were in favor of permitting each of the States to choose, for itself, how it would ratify it; others were in favor of referring it to the legislatures, and others, again, to the people of the States in Convention. It was finally decided that it should be referred to Conventions of the people, in the different States.

This being done, their work was completed, and it only remained to refer the rough draft of the instrument to the “Committee on Style,” to prune and polish it a little—to lop off a word here, and change or add a word there, the better to conform the language to the sense, and to the proprieties of grammar and rhetoric. The Preamble, as it stood, at once presented a difficulty. All the thirteen States were named in it as adopting the instrument, but it had been provided, in the course of its deliberations by the Convention, that the new government should go into effect if nine States adopted it. Who could tell which these nine States would be? It was plainly impossible to enumerate all the States—for all of them might not adopt it—or any particular number of them, as adopting the instrument.

Further, it having been determined, as we have seen, that the Constitution should be adopted by the people of the several States, as contra-distinguished from the legislatures of the States, the phraseology of the Preamble must be made to express this idea also. To meet these two new demands upon the phraseology of the instrument, the Committee on Style adopted the expression, “We, the people of the United States,”—meaning, as every one must see, “We, the people of the several States united by this instrument.” And this is the foundation that the Northern advocates of a consolidated government build upon, when they declare that the people of the United States in the aggregate, as one nation, adopted the Constitution, and thus gave the fundamental law to the States, instead of the States giving it to the Federal Government.

It is well known that this phrase, “We, the people,” &c., [Pg 33]became a subject of discussion in the Virginia ratifying Convention. Patrick Henry, with the prevision of a prophet, was, as we have seen, bitterly opposed to the adoption of the Constitution. He was its enemy a l’outrance. Not having been a member of the Convention, of 1787, that framed the instrument, and being unacquainted with the circumstances above detailed, relative to the change which had been made in the phraseology of its Preamble, he attacked the Constitution on the very ground since assumed by Webster and Story, to wit: that the instrument itself proclaimed that it had been “ordained and established” by the people of the United States in the aggregate, instead of the people of the States. Mr. Madison replied to Henry on this occasion. Madison had been in the Convention, knew, of course, all about the change of phraseology in question, and this was his reply: “The parties to it [the Constitution] were the people, but not the people as composing one great society, but the people as composing thirteen sovereignties. If it were a consolidated government,” continued he, “the assent of a majority of the people would be sufficient to establish it. But it was to be binding on the people of a State only by their own separate consent.” There was, of course, nothing more to be said, and the Virginia Convention adopted the Constitution.

Madison has been called the Father of the Constitution. Next to him, Alexander Hamilton bore the most conspicuous part in procuring it to be adopted by the people. Hamilton, as is well known, did not believe much in republics; and least of all did he believe in federal republics. His great object was to establish a consolidated republic, if we must have a republic at all. He labored zealously for this purpose, but failed. The States, without an exception, were in favor of the federal form; and no one knew better than Hamilton the kind of government which had been established.

Now let us hear what Hamilton, an unwilling, but an honest witness, says on this subject. Of the eighty-five articles in the “Federalist,” Hamilton wrote no less than fifty. Having failed to procure the establishment of a consolidated government, his next great object was, to procure the adoption by the States of[Pg 34] the present Constitution, and to this task, accordingly, he now addressed his great intellect and powerful energies. In turning over the pages of the “Federalist,” we can scarcely go amiss in quoting Hamilton, to the point that the Constitution is a compact between the States, and not an emanation from the people of the United States in the aggregate. Let us take up the final article, for instance, the 85th. In this article we find the following expressions: “The compacts which are to embrace thirteen distinct States in a common bond of amity and Union, must necessarily be compromises of as many dissimilar interests and inclinations.” Again: “The moment an alteration is made in the present plan, it becomes, to the purpose of adoption, a new one, and must undergo a new decision of each State. To its complete establishment throughout the Union, it will, therefore, require the concurrence of thirteen States.”

And again: “Every Constitution for the United States must, inevitably, consist of a great variety of particulars, in which thirteen Independent States are to be accommodated in their interests, or opinions of interests. * * * Hence the necessity of moulding and arranging all the particulars which are to compose the whole in such a manner as to satisfy all the parties to the compact.” Thus, we do not hear Hamilton, any more than Madison, talking of a “people of the United States in the aggregate” as having anything to do with the formation of the new charter of government. He speaks only of States, and of compacts made or to be made by States.

In view of the great importance of the question, whether it was the people of the United States in the aggregate who “ordained and established” the Constitution, or the States,—for this, indeed, is the whole gist of the controversy between the North and South,—I have dwelt somewhat at length on the subject, and had recourse to contemporaneous history; but this was scarcely necessary. The Constitution itself settles the whole controversy. The 7th article of that instrument reads as follows: “The ratification of the Conventions of nine States shall be sufficient for the establishment of the Constitution between the States so ratifying the same.” How is it possible to reconcile this short, explicit, and unambiguous provision with the theory I am combating? The Preamble, as explained[Pg 35] by the Northern consolidationists, and this article, cannot possibly stand together. It is not possible that the people of the United States in the aggregate, as one nation, “ordained and established” the Constitution, and that the States ordained and established it at the same time; for there was but one set of Conventions called, and these Conventions were called by the States, and acted in the names of the States.

Mr. Madison did, indeed, endeavor to have the ratification made in both modes, but his motion in the Convention to this effect failed, as we have seen. Further, how could the Constitution be binding only between the States that ratified it, if it was not ratified—that is, not “ordained and established”—by them at all, but by the people of the United States in the aggregate? As remarked by Mr. Madison, in the Virginia Convention, a ratification by the people, in the sense in which this term is used by the Northern consolidationists, would have bound all the people, and there would have been no option left the dissenting States. But the 7th article says that they shall have an option, and that the instrument is to be binding only between such of them as ratify it.

With all due deference, then, to others who have written upon this vexed question, and who have differed from me in opinion, I must insist that the proof is conclusive that the Constitution is a compact between the States; and this being so, we have the admission of both Mr. Webster and Justice Story that any one of the States may withdraw from it at pleasure.

 

 


[Pg 36]

CHAPTER III.

FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DOWN TO 1830, BOTH THE NORTH AND THE SOUTH HELD THE CONSTITUTION TO BE A COMPACT BETWEEN THE STATES.

 

One of the great difficulties in arguing the question of the relative power of the States and of the Federal Government, consists in the fact that the present generation has grown up under the shadow of the great Federal monster, and has been blinded by its giant proportions. They see around them all the paraphernalia and power of a great government—its splendid capital, its armies, its fleets, its Chief Magistrate, its legislature, and its judiciary—and they find it difficult to realize the fact, that all this grandeur is not self-created, but the offspring of the States.

When our late troubles were culminating, men were heard frequently to exclaim, with plaintive energy, “What! have we no government capable of preserving itself? Is our Government a mere rope of sand, that may be destroyed at the will of the States?” These men seemed to think that there was but one government to be preserved, and that that was the Government of the United States. Less than a century had elapsed since the adoption of the Constitution, and the generation now on the theatre of events had seemingly forgotten, that the magnificent structure, which they contemplated with so much admiration, was but a creature of the States; that it had been made by them for their convenience, and necessarily held the tenure of its life at sufferance. They lost sight of the fact that the State governments, who were the creators of the Federal Government, were the governments to be preserved, if there should be any antagonism between them and the Federal Government; and that their services, as well as[Pg 37] their sympathies, belonged to the former in preference to the latter. What with the teachings of Webster and Story, and a host of satellites, the dazzling splendor of the Federal Government, and the overshadowing and corrupting influences of its power, nearly a whole generation in the North had grown up in ignorance of the true nature of the institutions, under which they lived.

This change in the education of the people had taken place since about the year 1830; for, up to that time, both of the great political parties of the country, the Whigs as well as the Democrats, had been State-Rights in doctrine. A very common error has prevailed on this subject. It has been said, that the North and the South have always been widely separated in their views of the Constitution; that the men of the North have always been consolidationists, whilst the men of the South have been secessionists. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Whilst the North and the South, from the very commencement of the Government, have been at swords’ points, on many questions of mere construction and policy,—the North claiming that more ample powers had been granted the Federal Government, than the South was willing to concede,—there never was any material difference between them down to the year 1830, as to the true nature of their Government. They all held it to be a federal compact, and the Northern people were as jealous of the rights of their States under it, as the Southern people.

In proof of this, I have only to refer to a few of the well-known facts of our political history. Thomas Jefferson penned the famous Kentucky Resolutions of ’98 and ’99. The first of those resolutions is in these words: “Resolved, That the several States comprising the United States of America are not united on the principles of unlimited submission to their general Government; but that by a compact, under the style and title of the Constitution of the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constitute a general Government for special purposes; and that whensoever the general Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void and of no force; that to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral party, its co-States forming, as to itself, the other party; that the government created by this compact[Pg 38] was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself, since that would have made its discretion, not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that, as in all cases of compact among persons having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions, as of the mode and measure of redress.”

It is unnecessary to quote the other resolution, as the above contains all that is sufficient for my purpose, which is to show that Mr. Jefferson was a secessionist, and that with this record he went before the American people as a candidate for the Presidency, with the following results: In 1800 he beat his opponent, John Adams, who represented the consolidationists of that day, by a majority of 8 votes in the Electoral College. In 1804, being a candidate for re-election, he beat his opponent by the overwhelming majority of 162, to 14 votes. In the Northern States alone, Mr. Jefferson received 85 votes, whilst in the same States his opponent received but 9. This was a pretty considerable indorsement of secession by the Northern States.

In 1808, Mr. Madison, who penned the Virginia Resolutions of ’98, similar in tenor to the Kentucky Resolutions, became a candidate for the Presidency, and beat his opponent by a vote of 122 to 47; the Northern majority, though somewhat diminished, being still 50 to 39 votes. Mr. Madison was re-elected in 1812, and in 1816, James Monroe was elected President by a vote of 183 to his opponent’s 34; and more than one half of these 183 votes came from the Northern States. In 1820, Mr. Monroe was re-elected over John Quincy Adams, of Massachusetts, by a majority of 231 votes to 13. Besides Monroe and Adams, Crawford and Jackson were also candidates, but these two latter received only 11 votes between them. This last election is especially remarkable, as showing that there was no opposition to Jefferson’s doctrine of State-Rights, since all the candidates were of that creed. The opposition had been so often defeated, and routed in former elections, that they had not strength enough left to put a candidate in the field.

John Quincy Adams succeeded Mr. Monroe, and his [Pg 39]State-Rights doctrines are well known. He expressed them as follows: “The indissoluble link of union between the people of the several States of this confederated nation, is, after all, not in the right, but in the heart. If the day should ever come (may heaven avert it) when the affections of the people of these States shall be alienated from each other; when the fraternal spirit shall give way to cold indifference, or collision of interests shall fester into hatred, the bands of political association will not long hold together parties, no longer attracted by the magnetism of conciliated interests, and kindly sympathies; and far better will it be for the people of the dis-united States to part in friendship with each other, than to be held together by constraint. Then will be the time for reverting to the precedents, which occurred at the formation, and adoption of the Constitution, to form again a more perfect union, by dissolving that which could no longer bind, and to leave the separated parts to be reunited by the law of political gravitation to the centre.”

General Jackson succeeded Mr. Adams in 1828, and was re-elected in 1832. It was during his administration that the heresy was first promulgated by Mr. Webster, that the Constitution was not a compact between the States, but an instrument of government, “ordained, and established,” by the people of the United States, in the aggregate, as one nation. With respect to the New England States in particular, there is other and more pointed evidence, that they agreed with Mr. Jefferson, and the South down to the year 1830, on this question of State rights, than is implied in the Presidential elections above quoted. Massachusetts, the leader of these States in intellect, and in energy, impatient of control herself, has always sought to control others. This was, perhaps, but natural. All mankind are prone to consult their own interests. Selfishness, unfortunately, is one of the vices of our nature, which few are found capable of struggling against effectually.

The New England people were largely imbued with the Puritan element. Their religious doctrines gave them a gloomy asceticism of character, and an intolerance of other men’s opinions quite remarkable. In their earlier history as colonists, there is much in the way of uncharitableness and persecution, which a liberal mind could wish to see blotted[Pg 40] out. True to these characteristics, which I may almost call instincts, the New England States have always been the most refractory States of the Union. As long as they were in a minority, and hopeless of the control of the Government, they stood strictly on their State rights, in resisting such measures as were unpalatable to them, even to the extremity of threatening secession; and it was only when they saw that the tables were turned, and that it was possible for them to seize the reins of the Government, that they abandoned their State-Rights doctrines, and became consolidationists.

One of the first causes of the dissatisfaction of the New England States with the General Government was the purchase of Louisiana, by Mr. Jefferson, in 1803. It arose out of their jealousy of the balance of power between the States. The advantages to result to the United States from the purchase of this territory were patent to every one. It completed the continuity of our territory, from the head waters of the Mississippi, to the sea, and unlocked the mouths of that great river. But Massachusetts saw in the purchase, nothing more than the creation of additional Southern States, to contest, with her, the future control of the Government. She could see no authority for it in the Constitution, and she threatened, that if it were consummated, she would secede from the Union. Her Legislature passed the following resolution on the subject: “Resolved, That the annexation of Louisiana to the Union, transcends the Constitutional power of the Government of the United States. It formed a new Confederacy, to which the States [not the people of the United States, in the aggregate] united by the former compact, are not bound to adhere.”

This purchase of Louisiana rankled, for a long time, in the breast of New England. It was made, as we have seen, in 1803, and in 1811 the subject again came up for consideration; this time, in the shape of a bill before Congress for the admission of Louisiana as a State. One of the most able and influential members of Congress of that day from Massachusetts was Mr. Josiah Quincy. In a speech on this bill, that gentlemen uttered the following declaration: “If this bill passes, it is my deliberate opinion that it is virtually a dissolution of the Union; that it will free the States from their moral obligation, and as it will be the right of all, so it will[Pg 41] be the duty of some definitely to prepare for separation, amicably if they can, violently if they must.”

Time passed on, and the difficulties which led to our War of 1812, with Great Britain, began to rise above the political horizon. Great Britain began to impress seamen from New England merchant ships, and even went so far, at last, as to take some enlisted men from on board the United States ship of war Chesapeake. Massachusetts was furious; she insisted that war should be declared forthwith against Great Britain. The Southern States, which had comparatively little interest in this matter, except so far as the federal honor was concerned, came generously to the rescue of the shipping States, and war was declared. But the first burst of her passion having spent itself, Massachusetts found that she had been indiscreet; her shipping began to suffer more than she had anticipated, and she began now to cry aloud as one in pain. She denounced the war, and the Administration which was carrying it on; and not content with this, in connection with other New England States, she organized a Convention, at Hartford, in Connecticut, with a view to adopt some ulterior measures. We find the following among the records of that Convention: “Events may prove, that the causes of our calamities are deep, and permanent. They may be found to proceed not merely from blindness of prejudice, pride of opinion, violence of party spirit, or the confusion of the times; but they may be traced to implacable combinations, of individuals, or of States, to monopolize office, and to trample, without remorse, upon the rights and interests of the commercial sections of the Union. Whenever it shall appear, that these causes are radical, and permanent, a separation by equitable arrangement, will be preferable to an alliance, by constraint, among nominal friends but real enemies, inflamed by mutual hatred, and jealousy, and inviting, by intestine divisions, contempt and aggressions from abroad.” Having recorded this opinion of what should be the policy of the New England States, in the category mentioned, the “Journal of the Convention” goes on to declare what it considers the right of the States, in the premises. “That acts of Congress, in violation of the Constitution, are absolutely void, is an indisputable position. It does not, however, consist with the respect, from a Confederate State toward the General[Pg 42] Government, to fly to open resistance, upon every infraction of the Constitution. The mode, and the energy of the opposition should always conform to the nature of the violation, the intention of the authors, the extent of the evil inflicted, the determination manifested to persist in it, and the danger of delay. But in case of deliberate, dangerous, and palpable infractions of the Constitution, affecting the sovereignty of the State, and liberties of the people, it is not only the right, but the duty, of each State to interpose its authority for their protection, in the manner best calculated to secure that end. When emergencies occur, which are either beyond the reach of judicial tribunals, or too pressing to admit of the delay incident to their forms, States, which have no common umpire, must be their own judges, and execute their own decisions.” These proceedings took place in January, 1815. A deputation was appointed to lay the complaints of New England before the Federal Government, and there is no predicting what might have occurred, if the delegates had not found, that peace had been declared, when they arrived at Washington.

It thus appears, that from 1803-4 to 1815, New England was constantly in the habit of speaking of the dissolution of the Union—her leading men deducing this right from the nature of the compact between the States. It is curious and instructive, and will well repay the perusal, to read the “Journal of the Hartford Convention,” so replete is it with sound constitutional doctrine. It abounds in such expressions as these: “The constitutional compact;” “It must be the duty of the State to watch over the rights reserved, as of the United States to exercise the powers which were delegated;” the right of conscription is “not delegated to Congress by the Constitution, and the exercise of it would not be less dangerous to their liberties, than hostile to the sovereignty of the States.” The odium which has justly fallen upon the Hartford Convention, has not been because of its doctrines, for these were as sound, as we have seen, as the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of ’98 and ’99, but because it was a secret conclave, gotten together, in a time of war, when the country was hard pressed by a foreign enemy; the war having, in fact, been undertaken for the benefit of the very shipping States which were threatening to dissolve the Union on account of it.

[Pg 43]Mr. John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States, himself, as is well known, a Massachusetts man, speaking of this dissatisfaction of the New England States with the Federal Government, says: “That their object was, and had been, for several years, a dissolution of the Union and the establishment of a separate Confederation, he knew from unequivocal evidence, although not provable in a court of law; and that in case of a civil war, the aid of Great Britain, to effect that purpose, would be assuredly resorted to, as it would be indispensably necessary to their design.” See Mr. Adams’ letter of Dec. 30th, 1828, in reply to Harrison Gray Otis and others.

We have thus seen, that for forty years, or from the foundation of the Federal Government, to 1830, there was no material difference of opinion between the sections, as to the nature of the league or compact of government which they had formed. There was this difference between the sections, however. The South, during this entire period of forty years, had substantially controlled the Government; not by force, it is true, of her own majorities, but with the aid of a few of the Northern States. She was the dominant or ruling power in the Government. During all this time, she conscientiously adhered to her convictions, and respected the rights of the minority, though she might have wielded her power, if she had been so inclined, to her own advantage.

Constitutions are made for the protection of minorities, and she scrupulously adhered to this idea. Minorities naturally cling to the guarantees and defences provided for them in the fundamental law; it is only when they become strong, when they throw off their pupilage, and become majorities, that their principles and their virtues are really tested. It is in politics, as in religion—the weaker party is always the tolerant party. Did the North follow this example set her by the South? No; the moment she became strong enough, she recanted all the doctrines under which she had sought shelter, tore the Constitution into fragments, scattered it to the winds; and finally, when the South threw herself on the defensive, as Massachusetts had threatened to do, in 1803 and 1815, she subjugated her.

What was the powerful motive which thus induced the North to overthrow the government which it had labored so[Pg 44] assiduously with the South to establish, and which it had construed in common with the South, for the period of forty years? It was the motive which generally influences human conduct; it was the same motive which Patrick Henry had so clearly foreseen, when he warned the people of Virginia against entering into the federal compact; telling them, that interested majorities never had, in the history of the world, and never would respect the rights of minorities.

The great “American System,” as it has been called, had in the meantime arisen, championed by no less a personage than Henry Clay of Kentucky. In 1824, and again in 1828, oppressive tariffs had been enacted for the protection of New England manufacturers. The North was manufacturing, the South non-manufacturing. The effect of these tariffs was to shut out all foreign competition, and compel the Southern consumer to pay two prices for all the textile fabrics he consumed, from the clothing of his negroes to his own broadcloth coats. So oppressive, unjust, and unconstitutional were these acts considered, that South Carolina nullified them in 1830. Immediately all New England was arrayed against South Carolina. An entire and rapid change took place in the political creed of that section. New England orators and jurists rose up to proclaim that the Constitution was not a compact between the States. Webster thundered in the Senate, and Story wrote his “Commentaries on the Constitution.” These giants had a herculean task before them; nothing less than the falsifying of the whole political history of the country, for the previous forty years; but their barren and inhospitable section of the country had been touched by the enchanter’s wand, and its rocky hills, and sterile fields, incapable of yielding even a scanty subsistence to its numerous population, were to become glad with the music of the spindle and the shuttle; and the giants undertook the task! How well they have accomplished it, the reader will see, in the course of these pages, when, toward the conclusion of my narrative, he will be called upon to view the fragments of the grand old Constitution, which has been shattered, and which will lie in such mournful profusion around him; the monuments at once of the folly and crimes of a people, who have broken up a government—a free government—which might else have endured for centuries.

 

 


[Pg 45]

CHAPTER IV.

WAS SECESSION TREASON?

 

A few more words, and we shall be in a condition to answer the question which stands at the head of this chapter. Being a legal question, it will depend entirely upon the constitutional right the Southern States may have had to withdraw from the Union, without reference to considerations of expediency, or of moral right; these latter will be more appropriately considered, when we come to speak of the causes which impelled the Southern States to the step. I have combated many of the arguments presented by the other side, but a few others remain to be noticed.

It has been said, that, admitting that the Constitution was a federal compact, yet the States did in fact cede away a part of their sovereignty, and from this the inference has been deduced, that they no longer remained sovereign for the purpose of recalling the part, which had been ceded away. This is a question which arises wholly under the laws of nations. It is admitted, that the States were independent sovereignties, before they formed the Constitution. We have only, therefore, to consult the international code, to ascertain to what extent the granting away of a portion of their sovereignty affected the remainder. Vattel, treating of this identical point, speaks as follows: “Several sovereign and independent States may unite themselves together by a perpetual confederacy, without ceasing to be, each individually, a perfect State. They will, together, constitute a federal republic; their joint deliberations will not impair the sovereignty of each member, though they may, in certain respects, put some restraint upon the exercise of it, in virtue of voluntary engagements.” That was just what the American States did, when they formed the Federal Constitution;[Pg 46] they put some voluntary restraint upon their sovereignty, for the furtherance of a common object.

If they are restrained, by the Constitution, from doing certain things, the restraint was self-imposed, for it was they who ordained, and established the instrument, and not a common superior. They, each, agreed that they would forbear to do certain things, if their copartners would forbear to do the same things. As plain as this seems, no less an authority than that of Mr. Webster has denied it; for, in his celebrated argument against Mr. Calhoun, already referred to, he triumphantly exclaimed, that the States were not sovereign, because they were restrained of a portion of their liberty by the Constitution. See how he perverts the whole tenor of the instrument, in his endeavor to build up those manufactories of which we spoke in the last chapter. He says: “However men may think this ought to be, the fact is, that the people of the United States have chosen to impose control on State sovereignty. There are those, doubtless, who wish that they had been left without restraint; but the Constitution has ordered the matter differently. To make war, for instance, is an exercise of sovereignty, but, the Constitution declares that no State shall declare war. To coin money is another act of sovereign power; but no State is at liberty to coin money. Again, the Constitution says, that no sovereign State shall be so sovereign, as to make a treaty. These prohibitions, it must be confessed, are a control on the State sovereignty of South Carolina, as well as of the other States, which does not arise from her feelings of honorable justice.”

Here we see, plainly, the germ of the monstrous heresy that has riven the States asunder, in our day. The “people of the United States,” a common superior, ordained and established the Constitution, says Mr. Webster, and imposed restraints upon the States! However some might wish they had been left without restraint, the Constitution has “ordained it differently!” And the ostrich stomach of the North received, and digested this monstrous perversion of the plainest historical truth, in order that the spindle might whirr on, and the shuttle dance from side to side of the loom.

Following the idea of Mr. Webster, that the people of the[Pg 47] United States gave constitutional law to the States, instead of receiving it from them, Northern writers frequently ask, in what part of the Constitution, is the doctrine of secession found? In no part. It was not necessary to put it there. The States who formed the instrument, delegated certain powers to the Federal Government, retaining all others. Did they part, with the right of secession? Could they have parted with it, without consenting to a merger of their sovereignty? And so far from doing this, we have seen with what jealous care they protested against even the implication of such a merger, in the 10th amendment to the Constitution. If the power was not parted with, by explicit grant, did it not remain to them, even before the 10th amendment was adopted, and still more, if possible, after it was adopted?

To make it still more apparent, that the common understanding among the Fathers of the Constitution was, that this right of secession was reserved, it is only necessary to refer to what took place, during the transition from the old to the new government. The thirteen original States seceded, as we have seen, from the Articles of Confederation, not unanimously, or all together, but one by one, each State acting for itself, without consulting the interests, or inclinations of the others. One of the provisions of those Articles was as follows: “Every State shall abide by the determination of the United States, in Congress assembled, in all questions, which, by this Confederation, are submitted to them; and the Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration, at any time hereafter, be made in any of them, unless such alteration be agreed to, in a Congress of the United States, and be afterward confirmed by the legislature of every State.”

Now, it is a pertinent, and instructive fact, that no similar provision of perpetuity was engrafted in the new Constitution. There must have been a motive for this—it could not have been a mere accidental omission—and the motive probably was, that the Convention of 1787 were ashamed to attempt, a second time, to bind sovereign States, by a rope of sand, which they, themselves, were in the act of pulling asunder. It was in accordance with this understanding, that both New York and[Pg 48] Virginia, in their ratifications of the new Constitution, expressly reserved to themselves the right of secession; and no objection was made to such conditional ratifications. The reservations made by these States enure, as a matter of course, to the benefit of all the States, as they were all to go into the new Union, on precisely the same footing.

In the extract from Mr. Webster’s speech, which has been given above, it is alleged among other things, that the States are not sovereign, because they cannot make treaties; and this disability also has been urged as an argument against secession. The disability, like others, was self-imposed, and, as any one may see, was intended to be binding on the States only so long as the contract which they were then forming should endure. The Confederate States respected this obligation while they remained in the Federal Union. They scrupulously forbore from contracting with each other until they had resumed, each for itself, their original sovereignty; they were then not only free to contract with each other, but to do and perform all the other acts enumerated by Mr. Webster; the act of declaring war included, even though this war should be against their late confederates.

The truth is, the more we sift these arguments of our late enemies, the less real merit there appears in them. The facts of history are too stubborn, and refuse to be bent to conform to the new doctrines. We see it emblazoned on every page of American history for forty years, that the Constitution was a compact between the States; that the Federal Government was created, by, and for the benefit of the States, and possessed and could possess no other power than such as was conferred upon it by the States; that the States reserved to themselves all the powers not granted, and that they took especial pains to guard their sovereignty, in terms, by an amendment to the Constitution, lest, by possibility, their intentions in the formation of the new government, should be misconstrued.

In the course of time this government is perverted from its original design. Instead of remaining the faithful and impartial agent of all the States, a faction obtains control of it, in the interests of some of them, and turns it, as an engine of oppression, against the others. These latter, after long and[Pg 49] patient suffering, after having exhausted all their means of defence, within the Union, withdraw from the agent the powers which they had conferred upon him, form a new Confederacy, and desire “to be let alone.” And what is the consequence? They are denounced as rebels and traitors, armies are equipped, and fleets provided, and a war of subjugation is waged against them. What says the reader? Does he see rebellion and treason lurking in the conduct of these States? Are they, indeed, in his opinion, in face of the record which he has inspected, so bereft of their sovereignty, as to be incapable of defending themselves, except with halters around the necks of their citizens?

Let us examine this latter question of halters for a moment. The States existed before the Federal Government; the citizens of the States owed allegiance to their respective States, and to none others. By what process was any portion of this allegiance transferred to the Federal Government, and to what extent was it transferred? It was transferred by the States, themselves, when they entered into the federal compact, and not by the individual citizens, for these had no power to make such a transfer. Although it be admitted, that a citizen of any one of the States may have had the right to expatriate himself entirely—and this was not so clear a doctrine at that day—and transfer his allegiance to another government, yet it is quite certain, that he could not, ex mero motu, divide his allegiance. His allegiance then was transferred to the Federal Government, by his State, whether he would or not.

Take the case of Patrick Henry, for example. He resisted the adoption of the Federal Constitution, by the State of Virginia, with all the energies of an ardent nature, solemnly believing that his State was committing suicide. And yet, when Virginia did adopt that Constitution, he became, by virtue of that act, a citizen of the United States, and owed allegiance to the Federal Government. He had been born in the hallowed old Commonwealth. In the days of his boyhood he had played on the banks of the Appomattox, and fished in its waters. As he grew to man’s estate, all his cherished hopes and aspirations clustered around his beloved State. The bones of his ancestors were interred in her soil; his loves, his joys,[Pg 50] his sorrows were all centred there. In short, he felt the inspiration of patriotism, that noble sentiment which nerves men to do, and dare, unto the death, for their native soil. Will it be said, can it be said, without revolting all the best feelings of the human heart, that if Patrick Henry had lived to see a war of subjugation waged against his native State, he would have been a traitor for striking in her defence? Was this one of the results which our ancestors designed, when they framed the federal compact? It would be uncharitable to accuse them of such folly, and stupidity, nay of such cruelty. If this doctrine be true, that secession is treason, then our ancestors framed a government, which could not fail to make traitors of their descendants, in case of a conflict between the States, and that government, let them act as they would.

It was frequently argued in the “Federalist,” and elsewhere, by those who were persuading the States to adopt the Federal Constitution, that the State would have a sufficient guarantee of protection, in the love, and affection of its citizens—that the citizen would naturally cling to his State, and side with her against the Federal Government—that, in fact, it was rather to be apprehended that the Federal Government would be too weak, and the States too strong, for this reason, instead of the converse of the proposition being true. It was not doubted, in that day, that the primary and paramount allegiance of the citizen was due to his State, and, that, in case of a conflict between her and the Federal Government, his State would have the right to withdraw his allegiance, from that Government. If it was she who transferred it, and if she had the right to transfer it, it follows beyond question, that she would have the right to withdraw it. It was not a case for the voluntary action of the citizen, either way; he could not, of his own free will, either give his allegiance to the Federal Government, or take it away.

If this be true, observe in what a dilemma he has been placed, on the hypothesis that secession is treason. If he adheres to the Federal Government, after his State has withdrawn his allegiance from that Government, and takes up arms against his State, he becomes a traitor to his State. If he adheres to his State, and takes up arms against the Federal[Pg 51] Government, he becomes a traitor to that Government. He is thus a traitor either way, and there is no helping himself. Is this consistent with the supposed wisdom of the political Fathers, those practical, common sense men, who formed the Federal Constitution?

The mutations of governments, like all human events, are constantly going on. No government stands still, any more than the individuals of which it is composed. The only difference is, that the changes are not quite so obvious to the generation which views them. The framers of the Constitution did not dare to hope that they had formed a government, that was to last forever. Nay, many of them had serious misgivings as to the result of the experiment they were making. Is it possible, then, that those men so legislated, as to render it morally certain, that if their experiment should fail, their descendants must become either slaves or traitors? If the doctrine that secession is treason be true, it matters not how grievously a State might be oppressed, by the Federal Government; she has been deprived of the power of lawful resistance, and must regain her liberty, if at all, like other enslaved States, at the hazard of war, and rebellion. Was this the sort of experiment in government, that our forefathers supposed they were making? Every reader of history knows that it was not.

 

 


[Pg 52]

CHAPTER V.

ANOTHER BRIEF HISTORICAL RETROSPECT.

 

In the previous chapters, I have given a brief outline of the history and formation of the Federal Constitution, proving, by abundant reference to the Fathers, and to the instrument itself, that it was the intention of the former to draft, and that they did draft, a federal compact of government, which compact was “ordained, and established,” by the States, in their sovereign capacity, and not by the people of the United States, in the aggregate, as one nation. It resulted from this statement of the question, that the States had the legal, and constitutional right to withdraw from the compact, at pleasure, without reference to any cause of quarrel. Accordingly, nothing has yet been said about the causes which impelled the Southern States to a separation, except indeed incidentally, when the tariff system was alluded to, as the motive which had induced Massachusetts and the other Northern States, to change their State-Rights doctrine.

It was stated in the opening chapter, that the judgment which posterity will form, upon the great conflict between the sections, will depend, mainly, upon the answers which we may be able to give to two questions: First, Had the South the right to dissolve the compact of government, under which it had lived with the North? and secondly, Was there sufficient ground for this dissolution? Having answered the first question—imperfectly, I fear, but yet as fully, as was consistent, with the design of these pages—I propose now to consider, very briefly, the second. I would gladly have left all this preliminary work to other, and abler pens, but I do not consider that the memoirs of any actor in the late war, who, like myself, was an officer in the old service, and who withdrew from that service, because of the breaking out of the war—or rather because of the secession of his State—would be complete without,[Pg 53] at least, a brief reference to the reasons, which controlled his judgment.

The American Constitution died of a disease, that was inherent in it. It was framed on false principles, inasmuch as the attempt was made, through its means, of binding together, in a republican form of government, two dissimilar peoples, with widely dissimilar interests. Monarchial governments may accomplish this, since they are founded on force, but republican governments never. Austria, and Russia, pin together, in our day, with their bayonets, many dissimilar peoples, but if a republic should make the attempt, that moment it must, of necessity, cease to be a republic, since the very foundation of such a government is the consent of the governed. The secession of the Southern States was a mere corollary of the American proposition of government; and the Northern States stultified themselves, the moment they attempted to resist it. The consent of the Southern States being wanted, there should have been an end of the question.

If the Northern States were not satisfied to let them go, but entertained, on the contrary, a desire to restrain them by force, this was a proof, that those States had become tired of the republican form, and desired to change it. But they should have been honest about it; they should have avowed their intentions from the beginning, and not have waged the war, as so many republics, endeavoring to coerce other republics, into a forced union with them. To have been logical, they should have obliterated the State boundaries, and have declared all the States—as well the Northern States, as the Southern—so many counties of a consolidated government. But even then, they could not have made war upon any considerable number of those counties, without violating the fundamental American idea of a government—the consent of the governed. The right of self-government was vindicated in the Declaration of Independence, in favor of three millions of the subjects of Great Britain. In the States of the Southern Confederacy, there were eight millions.

The American Republic, as has been said, was a failure, because of the antagonism of the two peoples, attempted to be bound together, in the same government. If there is to be but[Pg 54] a single government in these States, in the future, it cannot be a republic. De Toqueville saw this, thirty years ago. In his “Democracy in America” he described these States, as “more like hostile nations, than rival parties, under one government.”

This distinguished Frenchman saw, as with the eye of intuition, the canker which lay at the heart of the federal compact. He saw looming up, in the dim distance, the ominous, and hideous form of that unbridled, and antagonistic Majority, which has since rent the country in twain—a majority based on the views, and interests of one section, arrayed against the views, and interests of the other section. “The majority,” said he, “in that country, exercises a prodigious, actual authority, and a moral influence which is scarcely less preponderant; no obstacles exist, which can impede, or so much as retard its progress, or which can induce it to heed the complaints of those whom it crushes upon its path. * * * This state of things is fatal, in itself, and dangerous for the future. * * * If the free institutions of America are ever destroyed, that event may be attributed to the unlimited authority of the majority. * * * Anarchy will then be the result, but it will have been brought about by despotism.”

Precisely so; liberty is always destroyed by the multitude, in the name of liberty. Majorities within the limits of constitutional restraints are harmless, but the moment they lose sight of these restraints, the many-headed monster becomes more tyrannical, than the tyrant with a single head; numbers harden its conscience, and embolden it, in the perpetration of crime. And when this majority, in a free government, becomes a faction, or, in other words, represents certain classes and interests to the detriment of other classes, and interests, farewell to public liberty; the people must either become enslaved, or there must be a disruption of the government. This result would follow, even if the people lived under a consolidated government, and were homogenous: much more, then, must it follow, when the government is federal in form, and the States are, in the words of De Toqueville, “more like hostile nations, than rival parties, under one government.” These States are, and indeed always have been rival nations.

The dissimilarity between the people of the Northern, and[Pg 55] the people of the Southern States has always been remarked upon, by observant foreigners, and it has not escaped the attention of our own historians. Indeed it could not be otherwise, for the origin of the two sections has been diverse. Virginia and Massachusetts were the two original germs, from which the great majority of the American populations has sprung; and no two peoples, speaking the same language, and coming from the same country, could have been more dissimilar, in education, taste, and habits, and even in natural instincts, than were the adventurers who settled these two colonies. Those who sought a new field of adventure for themselves, and affluence for their posterity, in the more congenial climate of the Chesapeake, were the gay, and dashing cavaliers, who, as a class, afterward adhered to the fortunes of the Charleses, whilst the first settlers of Massachusetts were composed of the same materials, that formed the “Praise-God-Barebones” parliament of Cromwell.

These two peoples, seem to have had an instinctive repugnance, the one to the other. To use a botanical phrase, the Puritan was a seedling of the English race, which had been unknown to it before. It had few, or none of the characteristics of the original stock. Gloomy, saturnine, and fanatical, in disposition, it seemed to repel all the more kindly, and generous impulses of our nature, and to take a pleasure in pulling down everything, that other men had built up; not so much, as its subsequent history would seem to show, because the work was faulty, as because it had been done by other hands than their own. They hated tyranny, for instance, but it was only because they were not, themselves, the tyrants; they hated religious intolerance, but it was only when not practised by themselves.

Natural affinities attracted like unto like. The Cavalier sought refuge with the Cavalier, and the Puritan with the Puritan, for a century, and more. When the fortunes of the Charleses waned, the Cavaliers fled to Virginia; when the fortunes of Cromwell waned, the Puritans fled to Massachusetts. Trade occasionally drew the two peoples together, but they were repelled at all other points. Thus these germs grew, step by step, into two distinct nations. A different civilization[Pg 56] was naturally developed in each. The two countries were different in climate, and physical features—the climate of the one being cold and inhospitable, and its soil rugged, and sterile, whilst the climate of the other was soft, and genial, and its soil generous, and fruitful. As a result of these differences of climate, and soil, the pursuits of the two peoples became different, the one being driven to the ocean, and to the mechanic arts, for subsistence, and the other betaking itself to agriculture.

Another important element soon presented itself, to widen the social, and economical breach, which had taken place between the two peoples—African slavery. All the Colonies, at first, became slaveholding, but it was soon found, that slave labor was unprofitable in the North, where the soil was so niggard, in its productions, and where, besides, the white man could labor. One, by one, the Northern States got rid of their slaves, as soon as they made this discovery. In the South, the case was different. The superior fertility of the soil, and the greater geniality of the climate enabled the planter to employ the African to advantage; and thus slave labor was engrafted on our system of civilization, as one of its permanent features.

The effect was, as before remarked, a still greater divergence between the two peoples. The wealth of the South soon began to outstrip that of the North. Education and refinement followed wealth. Whilst the civilization of the North was coarse, and practical, that of the South was more intellectual, and refined. This is said in no spirit of disparagement of our Northern brethren; it was the natural, and inevitable result of the different situations of the two peoples. In the North, almost every young man was under the necessity, during our colonial existence, of laboring with his own hands, for the means of subsistence. There was neither the requisite leisure, nor the requisite wealth to bring about a very refined system of civilization. The life of a Southern planter on the other hand with his large estates, and hundreds of vassals, with his profuse hospitality, and luxurious style of living, resembled more that of the feudatories of the middle ages, than that of any modern gentleman out of the Southern States.

It is not my object to express a preference for either of these[Pg 57] modes of civilization—each, no doubt, had its advantages, and disadvantages—but to glance at them, merely, for the purpose of showing the dissimilarity of the two peoples; their uncongeniality, and want of adaptation, socially, the one to the other. With social institutions as wide asunder as the poles, and with their every material interest antagonistic, the separation of the two peoples, sooner or later, was a logical sequence.

As had been anticipated by Patrick Henry, and others, the moment the new government went into operation, parties began to be formed, on sectional interests and sectional prejudices. The North wanted protection for her shipping, in the way of discriminating tonnage dues, and the South was opposed to such protection. The North wanted a bank, to facilitate their commercial operations; the South was opposed to it. The North wanted protection for their manufactures, the South was opposed to it. There was no warrant, of course, for any of these schemes of protection in the Federal Constitution; they were, on the contrary, subversive of the original design of that instrument. The South has been called aggressive. She was thrown on the defensive, in the first Congress, and has remained so, from that day to this. She never had the means to be aggressive, having been always in a minority, in both branches of the Legislature. It is not consistent with the scope of these memoirs, to enter, at large, into the political disputes which culminated in secession. They are many, and various, and would fill volumes. It will be sufficient to sketch the history of one or two of the more important of them.

The “American System,” of which Mr. Clay, of Kentucky, became the champion, and to which allusion has already been made, became the chief instrument of oppression of the Southern States, through a long series of years. I prefer to let a late distinguished Senator, from the State of Missouri, Mr. Benton, tell this tale of spoliation. On the slavery question, Mr. Benton was with the North, he cannot, therefore, be accused of being a witness unduly favorable to the South. In a speech in the Senate, in 1828, he declared himself, as follows: “I feel for the sad changes, which have taken place in the South, during the last fifty years. Before the Revolution,[Pg 58] it was the seat of wealth, as well as hospitality. Money, and all it commanded, abounded there. But how is it now? All this is reversed. Wealth has fled from the South, and settled in regions north of the Potomac; and this in the face of the fact, that the South, in four staples alone, has exported produce, since the Revolution, to the value of eight hundred millions of dollars; and the North has exported comparatively nothing. Such an export would indicate unparalleled wealth, but what is the fact? In the place of wealth, a universal pressure for money was felt—not enough for current expenses—the price of all property down—the country drooping, and languishing—towns and cities decaying—and the frugal habits of the people pushed to the verge of universal self-denial, for the preservation of their family estates. Such a result is a strange, and wonderful phenomenon. It calls upon statesmen to inquire into the cause. Under Federal legislation, the exports of the South have been the basis of the Federal revenue. * * * Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia, may be said to defray three-fourths, of the annual expense of supporting the Federal Government; and of this great sum, annually furnished by them, nothing, or next to nothing is returned to them, in the shape of Government expenditures. That expenditure flows in an opposite direction—it flows northwardly, in one uniform, uninterrupted, and perennial stream. This is the reason why wealth disappears from the South and rises up in the North. Federal legislation does all this. It does it by the simple process of eternally taking from the South, and returning nothing to it. If it returned to the South the whole, or even a good part, of what it exacted, the four States south of the Potomac might stand the action of the system, but the South must be exhausted of its money, and its property, by a course of legislation, which is forever taking away, and never returning anything. Every new tariff increases the force of this action. No tariff has ever yet included Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia, except to increase the burdens imposed upon them.”

This picture is not overdrawn; it is the literal truth. Before the war the Northern States, and especially the New England States, exported next to nothing, and yet they “blossomed as[Pg 59] the rose.” The picturesque hills of New England were dotted with costly mansions, erected with money, of which the Southern planters had been despoiled, by means of the tariffs of which Mr. Benton spoke. Her harbors frowned with fortifications, constructed by the same means. Every cove and inlet had its lighthouse, for the benefit of New England shipping, three fourths of the expense of erecting which had been paid by the South, and even the cod, and mackerel fisheries of New England were bountied, on the bald pretext, that they were nurseries for manning the navy.

The South resisted this wholesale robbery, to the best of her ability. Some few of the more generous of the Northern representatives in Congress came to her aid, but still she was overborne; and the curious reader, who will take the pains to consult the “Statutes at Large,” of the American Congress, will find on an average, a tariff for every five years recorded on their pages; the cormorants increasing in rapacity, the more they devoured. No wonder that Mr. Lincoln when asked, “why not let the South go?” replied, “Let the South go! where then shall we get our revenue?

This system of spoliation was commenced in 1816. The doctrine of protection was not, at first, boldly avowed. A heavy debt had been contracted during the war of 1812, with Great Britain, just then terminated. It became necessary to raise revenue to pay this debt, as well as to defray the current expenses of the government, and for these laudable purposes, the tariff of 1816 was enacted. The North had not yet become the overshadowing power, which it has become in our day. It was comparatively modest, and only asked, that, in adjusting the duties under the tariff, such incidental protection, as might not be inconsistent with the main object of the bill, to wit, the raising of revenue, should be given to Northern manufactures. It was claimed that these manufactures had sprung up, sua sponte, during the war, and had materially aided the country in prosecuting the war, and that they would languish, and die, unless protected, in this incidental manner. This seemed but just and reasonable, and some of the ablest of our Southern men gave their assent to the proposition; among others, Mr. Calhoun of South Carolina, and Mr. Clay of Kentucky.

[Pg 60]The latter, in particular, then a young member of the House of Representatives, espoused the Northern side of the controversy, and subsequently became known, as we have seen, as the father of the system. Much undeserved obloquy has been thrown upon Mr. Clay, for this supposed abandonment of his section. The most that he claimed, was that a temporary protection, of a few years’ duration only, should be given to these infant manufactures, until they should become self-sustaining. In later life, when he saw the extent to which the measure was pushed, he did, indeed recoil from it, as Mr. Calhoun, with keener intellect, had done, years before. The wedge, being thus entered, was driven home by the insatiable North.

In less than twenty years, or during the early part of General Jackson’s administration, the public debt was paid off, and it became necessary to reduce the tariffs, to prevent a plethora in the public treasury; but the North, by this time, had “waxed fat,” and like the ox in the scriptures, began to kick. From incidental protection, it advanced, boldly, to the doctrine of “protection, for the sake of protection”—thus avowing the unjust doctrine, that it was right to rob one section, for the benefit of the other; the pretence being the general good—the “general welfare” clause of the Constitution as well as the expression “We, the people,” in the Preamble, being invoked to cover the enormity. Under the wholesale system of spoliation, which was now practised, the South was becoming poorer, and poorer. Whilst her abundant cotton crops supplied all the exchanges of the country, and put in motion, throughout the North, every species of manufacturing industry, from the cut-nail, which the planter put in the weather-boarding of his house, to the coach in which his wife, and daughters took an airing, it was found, that, from year to year, mortgages were increasing on her plantations, and that the planter was fast becoming little better, than the overseer of the Northern manufacturer, and the Northern merchant. A statesman of England once declared, that “not so much as a hob-nail should be manufactured, in America.” The colonial dependence, and vassalage meant to be proclaimed by this expression, was now strictly true, as between the North, and the South. The South was compelled to purchase her hob-nails, in the North, being excluded by the Northern tariffs, from all other markets.

[Pg 61]South Carolina, taking the alarm at this state of things, resorted as we have seen, to nullification, in 1832. The quarrel was compromised in 1833, by the passage of a more moderate tariff, but the North still growing, in strength, and wealth, disregarded the compromise, in 1842, and enacted a more oppressive tariff than ever. From this time onward, no attempt was made to conciliate the South, by the practice of forbearance, and justice, and the latter sank, hopelessly, into the condition of a tributary province to her more powerful rival.

All this was done under a federal compact, formed by sovereign States, for their common benefit! Thus was the prophecy of Patrick Henry verified, when he said: “But I am sure, that the dangers of this system [the Federal Constitution] are real, when those who have no similar interest with the people of this country [the South] are to legislate for us—when our dearest rights are to be left, in the hands of those, whose advantage it will be to infringe them.” And thus also, was verified the declaration of Charles Cotesworth Pinkney, of South Carolina: “If they [the Southern States] are to form so considerable a minority, and the regulation of trade is to be given to the general Government, they will be nothing more than overseers of the Northern States.”

 

 


[Pg 62]

CHAPTER VI.

THE QUESTION OF SLAVERY, AS IT AFFECTED SECESSION.

 

Great pains have been taken, by the North, to make it appear to the world, that the war was a sort of moral, and religious crusade against slavery. Such was not the fact. The people of the North were, indeed, opposed to slavery, but merely because they thought it stood in the way of their struggle for empire. I think it safe to affirm, that if the question had stood upon moral, and religious grounds alone, the institution would never have been interfered with.

The Republican party, which finally brought on the war, took its rise, as is well known, on the question of extending slavery to the Territories—those inchoate States, which were finally to decide the vexed question of the balance of power, between the two sections. It did not propose to disturb the institution in the States; in fact, the institution could do no harm there, for the States, in which it existed, were already in a hopeless minority. The fat, Southern goose could not resist being plucked, as things stood, but it was feared that if slavery was permitted to go into the Territories, the goose might become strong enough to resist being plucked. If proof were wanted of this, we have it, in the resolution passed by the Federal Congress, after the first battle of Manassas, in the first year of the war, as follows: “Resolved, That the war is not waged on our part, in any spirit of oppression, or for any purpose of conquest, or for interfering with the rights, or established institutions of these States, but to defend, and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution, and to preserve the Union, with all the dignity and rights of the several States unimpaired.”

In 1820, in the admission of Missouri into the Union, the North and the South had entered into a compromise, which provided, that slavery should not be carried into any of the [Pg 63]Territories, north of a given geographical line. This compromise was clearly violative of the rights of the South, for the Territories were common property, which had been acquired, by the blood, and treasure, of the North and the South alike, and no discrimination could justly be made between the sections, as to emigration to those Territories; but discrimination would be made, if the Northern man could emigrate to all of them, and the Southern man to those of them only that lay South of the given line. By the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, introduced into the House of Representatives, in 1854 by Mr. Stephen A. Douglas, this unjust compromise was repealed; the repealing clause declaring, that the Missouri Compromise “being inconsistent with the principles of non-intervention, by Congress, with slavery in the States, and Territories, as recognized by the legislation of 1850, commonly called the Compromise Measures, is hereby declared inoperative, and void; it being the true intent, and meaning of this act, not to legislate slavery into any Territory, or State, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form, and regulate their domestic institutions, subject only to the Constitution of the United States.”

Nothing would seem more just, than the passage of this act, which removed the restriction which had been put upon a portion of the States, threw open the Territories to immigration from all the States, alike, and left the question of local government, the question of slavery included, to be decided by the inhabitants of the Territories themselves. But this act of justice, which Mr. Douglas had had the address and ability to cause to be passed, was highly distasteful to the Northern people. It was not consistent with their views of empire that there should be any more Southern Slave States admitted into the Union. The Republican party, which, up to that time, had made but little headway, now suddenly sprang into importance, and at the next elections in the North, swept every thing before it. The Northern Democratic members of Congress who had voted for the hated measure, were beaten by overwhelming majorities, and Republicans sent in their places; and the Republican Convention which assembled at Chicago in 1860, to nominate a candidate for the Presidency, adopted[Pg 64] as one of the “planks of its platform”—to use a slang political phrase of the day—the principle that slavery should thereafter be excluded from the Territories; not only from the Territories North of the geographical line, of the Missouri Compromise, but from all the Territories! The gauntlet of defiance was thus boldly thrown at the feet of the Southern States.

From 1816 to 1860, these States had been plundered by tariffs, which had enriched the North, and now they were told without any circumlocution, that they should no longer have any share in the Territories. I have said that this controversy, on the subject of slavery, did not rest, in the North, on any question of morals or religion. The end aimed at, in restricting slavery to the States, was purely political; but this end was to be accomplished by means, and the Northern leaders had the sagacity to see, that it was all-important to mix up the controversy, as a means, with moral, and religious questions. Hence they enlisted the clergy in their crusade against the South; the pulpit becoming a rostrum, from which to inflame the Northern mind against the un-Godly slave-holder; religious papers were established, which fulminated their weekly diatribes against the institution; magazine literature, fiction, lectures, by paid itinerants, were all employed, with powerful effect, in a community where every man sets himself up as a teacher, and considers himself responsible for the morals of his neighbor. The contumely and insult thus heaped upon the South were, of themselves, almost past endurance, to say nothing of the wrongs, under which she suffered. The sectional animosity which was engendered by these means, in the North, soon became intense, and hurried on the catastrophe with railroad speed.

Whilst the dispute about slavery in the Territories was drawing to a focus, another, and if possible, a still more exciting question, had been occupying the public mind—the rendition of fugitive slaves to their owners. Our ancestors, in the Convention of 1787, foreseeing the difficulty that was likely to arise on this subject, insisted that the following positive provision, for their protection, should be inserted in the Constitution: “No person held to service, or labor, in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in [Pg 65]consequence of any law, or regulation therein, be discharged from such service, or labor; but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service, or labor may be due.”

In 1793, a law, called the fugitive slave law, had been passed, for the purpose of carrying out this provision of the Constitution. This law was re-enacted, with some alterations, the better to secure the object in question, in 1850. Neither of those laws was ever properly executed in the North. It soon became unsafe, indeed, for a Southern man to venture into the North, in pursuit of his fugitive slave. Mr. Webster sought, in vain, in the latter part of his life, when he seemed to be actuated by a sense of returning justice to the South, to induce his countrymen to execute those laws, and he lost much of his popularity, in consequence. The laws were not only positively disobeyed, but they were formally nullified by the Legislatures of fourteen of the Northern States; and penalties were annexed to any attempt to execute them. Mr. Webster, in speaking on this subject, says: “These States passed acts defeating the law of Congress, as far as it was in their power to defeat it. Those of them to whom I refer, not all, but several, nullified the law of 1793. They said in effect, ‘We will not execute it. No runaway slave shall be restored.’ Thus the law became a dead letter. But here was the Constitution, and compact still binding; here was the stipulation, as solemn as words could form it, and which every member of Congress, every officer of the General Government, every officer of the State government, from governors down to constables, is sworn to support. It has been said in the States of New York, Massachusetts, and Ohio, over and over again, that the law shall not be executed. That was the language in conventions, in Worcester, Massachusetts; in Syracuse, New York, and elsewhere. And for this they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors. Now, gentlemen, these proceedings, I say it upon my professional reputation, are distinctly treasonable. And the act of taking Shadrick [a fugitive slave] from the public authorities, in Boston, and sending him off, was an act of clear treason.” Great outcry was raised against South Carolina when she nullified the tariff law of 1830, passed in clear violation of the spirit of the Constitution; here we see[Pg 66] fourteen States nullifying an act, passed to carry out an express provision of the same instrument, about which there was not, and could not be any dispute.

Let us again put Mr. Webster on the witness stand, and hear what he says, was the effect of this wholesale nullification by the Northern States of this provision of the Constitution. “I do not hesitate,” says he, “to say, and repeat, that if the Northern States refuse wilfully, and deliberately to carry into effect that part of the Constitution, which respects the restoration of fugitive slaves, the South would be no longer bound to keep the compact. A bargain broken on one side is broken on all sides.” That was spoken like Daniel Webster, the able jurist, and just man, and not like the Daniel Webster, whom I have before quoted, in these pages, as the casuist, and the sophist. The reader cannot fail to see what a full recantation we have here, of Mr. Webster’s heresy, of 1833, when he contended that the Constitution had been “ordained and established,” by the people of the United States, in the aggregate, as one nation.

Mr. Webster now calls the States, the parties to the instrument, and claims that the infraction of it, by some of the States, releases the others from their obligations under it. It is then, after all, it seems, a federal compact; and if it be such, we have the authority of Mr. Webster, himself, for saying that the States may withdraw from it, at pleasure, without waiting for an infringement of it, by their co-States.

But the Southern States did not desire to withdraw from it, without reason. They were sincerely attached to the Union, and were willing to suffer, and endure much rather than that it should be destroyed. They had stood, shoulder to shoulder, with the North in two wars against the mother country, and had freely spent their wealth, and shed their blood in defence of the common rights. They had rushed to the defence of New England, in the war of the Revolution, and had equally responded to her call in 1812, in defence of her shipping interest.

Mr. Madison relied much upon these ties, as a common bond of union. When Patrick Henry and other Southern patriots were warning their people against the new alliance, proposed[Pg 67] to them in the Federal Constitution, he spoke the following fervid language in reply to them, in one of the numbers of the “Federalist.” “Hearken not to the unnatural voice, which tells you, that the people of America, knit together, as they are, by so many natural cords of affection, can no longer live together as members of the same family; can no longer continue mutual guardians of their mutual happiness. * * * No, my countrymen, shut your ears against this unhallowed language. Shut your hearts against the poison which it conveys. The kindred blood which flows in the veins of American citizens, the mingled blood which they have shed in defence of their sacred rights, consecrate their union, and excite horror at the idea of their becoming aliens, rivals, enemies.” Much of this feeling still lingered in the bosoms of Southern men. They were slow to awaken from this dream of delusion. A rude and rough hand had been necessary to disenchant them. But they were compelled, in spite of themselves, to realize the fact at last, that they had been deceived, and betrayed into the federal compact, that they might be made slaves. Like an unhappy bride, upon whose brow the orange-wreath had been placed, by hands that promised tenderness, and protection, the South had been rudely scorned, and repelled, and forced, in tears, and bitter lamentation, to retract the faith which she had plighted. To carry still further our simile; like the deceived, and betrayed bride, the least show of relenting, and tenderness was sufficient to induce the South to forgive, and to endeavor to forget.

The history of our unhappy connection with the North is full of compromises, and apparent reconciliations—prominent among which was the compromise of 1833, growing out of the nullification of South Carolina, on the tariff question; and the compromise of 1850, in which it was promised, that Congress should not interfere with the question of slavery, either in the States, or Territories. The South, like the too credulous bride, accepted these evidences of returning tenderness, in good faith; the North, like the coarse and brutal husband, whose selfishness was superior to his sense of justice, withdrew them, almost as soon as made. The obnoxious laws which had[Pg 68] been modified, or repealed, under these compromises, were re-enacted with additional provocations, and restrictions.

So loth was the South to abandon the Union, that she made strenuous efforts to remain in it, even after Mr. Lincoln had been elected President, in 1860. In this election, that dreaded sectional line against which President Washington had warned his countrymen, in his Farewell Address, had at last been drawn; in it,—“the fire-bell of the night,”—which had so disturbed the last days of Jefferson, had been sounded. There had, at last, arisen a united North, against a united South. Mr. Lincoln had been placed by the Chicago Convention on a platform so purely sectional, that no Southern State voted, or could vote for him. His election was purely geographical; it was tantamount to a denial of the co-equality of the Southern States, with the Northern States, in the Union, since it drove the former out of the common Territories. This had not been a mere party squabble—the questions involved had been federal, and fundamental. Notwithstanding which, some of the Southern States were not without hope, that the North might be induced to revoke its verdict. Mr. Crittenden, of Kentucky, introduced into the Senate, a series of resolutions, which he hoped would have the effect of restoring harmony; the chief feature of which was, the restoration of the Missouri Compromise, giving the Southern States access to the Territories south of a geographical line. Although this compromise was a partial abandonment of the rights of the South, many of the ablest, and most influential statesmen of that section, gave in their adhesion to it; among others, Mr. Jefferson Davis. The measure failed.

Various other resolutions, looking to pacification, were introduced into both houses of Congress; but they failed, in like manner. The border Slave States aroused to a sense of their danger—for by this time, several of the Gulf States had seceded—called a Convention in the city of Washington, to endeavor to allay the storm. A full representation attended, composed of men, venerable for their years, and renowned for their patriotic services, but their labors ended also in failure; Congress scarcely deigned to notice them. In both houses of Congress the Northern faction, which had so recently triumphed[Pg 69] in the election of their President, was arrayed in a solid phalanx of hostility to the South, and could not be moved an inch. The Puritan leaven had at last “leavened the whole loaf,” and the descendants of those immigrants who had come over to America, in the May Flower, feeling that they had the power to crush a race of men, who had dared to differ with them in opinion, and to have interests separate and apart from them, were resolved to use that power in a way to do no discredit to their ancestry. Rebels, when in a minority, they had become tyrants, now that they were in a majority.

Nothing remained to the South, but to raise the gantlet which had been thrown at her feet. The Federal Government which had been established by our ancestors had failed of its object. Instead of binding the States together, in peace, and amity, it had, in the hands of one portion of the States, become an engine of oppression of the other portion. It so happened, that the slavery question was the issue which finally tore them asunder, but, as the reader has seen, this question was a mere means, to an end. The end was empire, and we were about to repeat, in this hemisphere, the drama which had so often been enacted in the other, of a more powerful nation crushing out a weaker.

The war of the American sections was but the prototype of many other wars, which had occurred among the human race. It had its origin in the unregenerated nature of man, who is only an intellectual wild beast, whose rapacity has never yet been restrained, by a sense of justice. The American people thought, when they framed the Constitution, that they were to be an exception to mankind, in general. History had instructed them that all other peoples, who had gone before them, had torn up paper governments, when paper was the only bulwark that protected such governments, but then they were the American people, and no such fate could await them. The events which I have recorded, and am about to record, have taught them, that they are no better—and perhaps they are no worse—than other people. It is to be hoped that they will profit by their dear-bought experience, and that when they shall have come to their senses, and undertake to lay the[Pg 70] foundation of a new government, they will, if they design to essay another republic, eliminate all discordant materials. The experiment of trusting to human honesty having failed, they must next trust to human interests—the great regulator, as all philosophy teaches, of human nature. They must listen rather to the philosophy of Patrick Henry, than to that of James Madison, and never attempt again to bind up in one sheaf, with a withe of straw, materials so discordant as were the people of the North, and the people of the South.

 

 


[Pg 71]

CHAPTER VII.

THE FORMATION OF THE CONFEDERATE GOVERNMENT, AND THE RESIGNATION OF OFFICERS OF THE FEDERAL ARMY AND NAVY.

 

As I am not writing a history of the war, but only of a very small portion of the war, it cannot be expected that I will follow events in a connected train. I have detained the reader, so far, as to give him a continuous, though hasty glance, of the causes of the war, but having brought him down to the final rupture of the sections, I must leave him to supply for himself many a link, here and there, in the broken chain, as we proceed. Let him imagine then that the Southern States have seceded—the gallant little State of South Carolina setting her larger, and more powerful sisters, the example, on the 20th December, 1860—and that they have met at Montgomery, in Alabama, by their delegates in Congress, to form a new Confederacy; that a Provisional Government has been formed and that Mr. Jefferson Davis has been elected President, and Mr. Alexander H. Stephens Vice-President.

The time had now come for the officers of the old Army, and Navy to make their election, as to which of the two Governments they would give their adhesion. There were no such questions then, as rebellion, and treason in the public mind. This was a Federal after-thought, when that Government began to get the better of us in the war. The Puritan, if he had been whipped, would have been a capital secessionist, and as meek, and humble as we could have desired. He would have been the first to make a “perpetual” alliance with us, and to offer us inducements to give him the benefits of our trade. After the first drubbing we gave him, at Manassas, he was disposed to be quite reasonable, and the Federal Congress passed the conciliatory resolution I have quoted in a previous chapter,[Pg 72] intimating to us, that if we would come back, slavery should be secure in the States, and our “rights and dignity” remain unimpaired. But as he gained strength, he gained courage, and as the war progressed, and it became evident that we should be beaten, he began to talk of traitors, and treason.

As a general rule, the officers both of the Army, and the Navy sided with their respective States; especially those of them who were cultivated, and knew something of the form of government, under which they had been living. But even the profession of arms is not free from sordid natures, and many of these had found their way into both branches of the public service. Men were found capable of drawing their swords against their own firesides, as it were, and surrendering their neighbors, and friends to the vengeance of a government, which paid them for their fealty. Some, with cunning duplicity, even encouraged their former messmates, and companions who occupied places above them, to resign, and afterward held back themselves. Some were mere soldiers, and sailors of fortune, and seemed devoid of all sensibility on the subject, looking only to rank and pay. They were open to the highest bidder, and the Federal Government was in a condition to make the highest bids. Some of the Southern men of this latter class remained with the North, because they could not obtain the positions they desired in the South; and afterward, as is the fashion with renegades, became more bitter against their own people than even the Northern men.

Civil war is a terrible crucible through which to pass character; the dross drops away from the pure metal at the first touch of the fire. It must be admitted, indeed, that there was some little nerve required, on the part of an officer of the regular Army, or Navy, to elect to go with his State. His profession was his only fortune; he depended upon it, for the means of subsisting himself and family. If he remained where he was, a competency for life, and promotion, and honors probably awaited him; if he went with the South, a dark, and uncertain future was before him; he could not possibly better his condition, and if the South failed, he would have thrown away the labor of a life-time. The struggle was hard in other respects. All professions are clannish. Men naturally cling[Pg 73] together, who have been bred to a common pursuit; and this remark is particularly applicable to the Army, and the Navy. West Point, and Annapolis were powerful bonds to knit together the hearts of young men. Friendships were there formed, which it was difficult to sever, especially when strengthened by years of after-association, in common toils, common pleasures, and common dangers. Naval officers, in particular, who had been rocked together in the same storm, and had escaped perhaps from the same shipwreck, found it very difficult to draw their swords against each other. The flag, too, had a charm which it was difficult to resist. It had long been the emblem of the principle that all just governments are founded on the consent of the governed, vindicated against our British ancestors, in the War of the Revolution, and it was difficult to realize the fact that it no longer represented this principle, but had become the emblem of its opposite; that of coercing unwilling States, to remain under a Government, which they deemed unjust and oppressive.

Sentiment had almost as much to do with the matter, as principle, for there clustered around the “old flag,” a great many hallowed memories, of sacrifices made, and victories won.

The cadet at West Point had marched and countermarched under its folds, dreaming of future battle-fields, and future honors to be gained in upholding and defending it; and the midshipman, as he gazed upon it, in some foreign port, flying proudly from the gaff-end of his ship, had drunk in new inspiration to do and to dare, for his country. Many bearded men were affected almost to tears, as they saw this once hallowed emblem hauled down from the flag-staves, of Southern forts, and arsenals. They were in the condition of one who had been forced, in spite of himself, to realize the perfidy of a friend, and to be obliged to give him up, as no longer worthy of his confidence or affection. General Robert E. Lee has so happily expressed all these various emotions, in a couple of letters, which he wrote, contemporaneously, with his resignation from the Federal Army, that I give them to the reader. One of these letters is addressed to General Winfield Scott, and the other to General Lee’s sister.

[Pg 74] Arlington, Va., April 20, 1861.

General:—Since my interview with you on the 18th instant, I have felt that I ought not longer to retain my commission in the army. I therefore tender my resignation, which I request you will recommend for acceptance. It would have been presented at once, but for the struggle which it has cost me to separate myself from a service, to which I have devoted all the best years of my life, and all the ability I possessed. During the whole of that time—more than a quarter of a century—I have experienced nothing but kindness from my superiors, and the most cordial friendship from my comrades. To no one, General, have I been as much indebted as yourself, for uniform kindness and consideration, and it has always been my ardent desire to merit your approbation. I shall carry to the grave the most grateful recollection of your kind consideration, and your name and fame will always be dear to me.

Save in defence of my native State, I never desire to draw my sword. Be pleased to accept my most earnest wishes for the continuance of your happiness and prosperity, and believe me most truly yours,

R. E. Lee.

Lieutenant-General Winfield Scott,
Commanding United States Army.

 

Arlington, Va., April 20, 1861.

My Dear Sister:—I am grieved at my inability to see you * * * I have been waiting “for a more convenient season,” which has brought to many before me deep and lasting regrets. Now we are in a state of war which will yield to nothing. The whole South is in a state of revolution, into which Virginia after a long struggle, has been drawn, and though I recognize no necessity for this state of things, and would have forborne and pleaded to the end, for redress of grievances, real or supposed, yet in my own person I had to meet the question, whether I should take part against my native State. With all my devotion to the Union, and the feeling of loyalty, and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home. I have therefore resigned my commission in the army, and save in defence of my native State, with the sincere hope that my services may never be needed, I hope I may never be called on to draw my sword.

I know you will blame me, but you must think as kindly of me as you can, and believe that I have endeavored to do what I thought right. To show you the feeling and struggle it has cost me, I send a copy of my letter to General Scott, which accompanied my letter of resignation. I have no time for more. * * * May God guard and protect you, and yours, and shower upon you every blessing is the prayer of your devoted brother.

R. E. Lee.

[Pg 75]In the winter of 1860, I was stationed in the city of Washington, as the Secretary of the Lighthouse Board, being then a commander in the United States Navy, and was an observer of many of the events I have described. I had long abandoned all hope of reconciliation between the sections. The public mind, North and South, was in an angry mood, and the day of compromises was evidently at an end. I had made up my mind to retire from the Federal service, at the proper moment, and was only waiting for that moment to arrive.

Although I had been born in the State of Maryland, and was reared on the banks of the Potomac, I had been, for many years, a resident citizen of Alabama, having removed to this State, in the year 1841, and settled with my family, on the west bank of the Perdido; removing thence, in a few years, to Mobile. My intention of retiring from the Federal Navy, and taking service with the South, in the coming struggle, had been made known to the delegation in the Federal Congress from Alabama, early in the session of 1860-1. I did not doubt that Maryland would follow the lead of her more Southern sisters, as the cause of quarrel was common with all the Southern States, but whether she did or not, could make no difference with me now, since my allegiance, and my services had become due to another State.

The month of February, 1861, found me still at the city of Washington. The following extract from a letter written by me to a Southern member of the Federal Congress, temporarily absent from his post, will show the state of mind in which I was looking upon passing events. “I am still at my post at the Light-House Board, performing my routine duties, but listening with an aching ear and beating heart, for the first sounds of the great disruption which is at hand.” On the 14th of that month, whilst sitting quietly with my family, after the labors of the day, a messenger brought me the following telegram:—

Montgomery, Feb. 14, 1861.

Sir:—On behalf of the Committee on Naval Affairs, I beg leave to request that you will repair to this place, at your earliest convenience.

Your obedient servant,
C. M. Conrad, Chairman.

Commander Raphael Semmes, Washington, D. C.

[Pg 76]Here was the sound for which I had been so anxiously listening. Secession was now indeed a reality, and the time had come for me to arouse myself to action. The telegram threw my small family-circle into great commotion. My wife, with the instincts of a woman, a wife, and a mother, seemed to realize, as by intuition, all the dangers and difficulties that lay before me. She had been hoping without hope, that I would not be subjected to the bitter ordeal, but the die was now cast, and with a few tears, and many prayers she nerved herself for the sacrifices, and trials that she knew were before her. Her children were to be withdrawn from school, her comfortable home broken up, and she was to return, penniless, to her people, to abide with them the fortunes of a bloody, and a doubtful war. The heroism of woman! how infinitely it surpasses that of man. With all her gentleness, and tenderness, and natural timidity, in nine cases in ten, she has more nerve than the other sex, in times of great emergency. With a bleeding and bursting heart, she is capable of putting on the composure, and lovely serenity of an angel, binding up the wounds of a husband or son, and when he is restored to health and vigor, buckling on his sword anew, and returning him to the battle-field. Glorious women of the South! what an ordeal you have passed through, and how heroically you have stood the trying test. You lost the liberty which your husbands, sires, and sons struggled for, but only for a period. The blood which you will have infused into the veins of future generations will yet rise up to vindicate you, and “call you blessed.”

The telegram reached me about four o’clock, P. M., and I responded to it, on the same evening as follows:

Washington, Feb. 14, 1861.

Hon. C. M. Conrad, Chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs, Congress of the Confederate States:—Despatch received; I will be with you immediately.

Respectfully, &c.,
R. Semmes.

The next morning, I repaired, as usual, to the office of the Light House Board, in the Treasury building, General John A. Dix being then the Secretary of the Treasury, and ex officio[Pg 77] President of the Board, and wrote the following resignation of my commission, as a Commander in the United States Navy:

Washington, D. C., Feb. 15, 1861.

Sir:—I respectfully tender through you, to the President of the United States, this, the resignation of the commission which I have the honor to hold as a Commander in the Navy of the United States. In severing my connection with the Government of the United States, and with the Department over which you preside, I pray you to accept my thanks for the kindness which has characterized your official deportment towards me.

I have the honor to be very respectfully your obedient servant,

Raphael Semmes,
Commander U. S. Navy.

Hon. Isaac Toucey, Secretary of the Navy,
Washington, D. C.

On the same day, I received the following acceptance of my resignation:—

Navy Department, Feb. 15, 1861.

Sir:—Your resignation as a Commander in the Navy of the United States, tendered in your letter of this date, is hereby accepted.

I am respectfully your obedient servant,
I. Toucey.

Raphael Semmes, Esq., late Commander
U. S. Navy, Washington.

A few days previously to my resignation, by the death of a lamented member of the Light-House Board, I had been promoted from the Secretaryship, to a Membership of that Board, and it now became necessary for me to inform the Board officially, of my being no longer a member of it, which I did in the following communication:—

Washington, D. C., Feb. 16, 1861.

Sir:—I have the honor to inform you, that I have resigned my commission, as a Commander in the Navy of the United States, and that, as a consequence, I am no longer a member of the Light-House Board. In severing thus my connection with the Board, at which I have had the honor to hold a seat, since the 17th of November, 1858, I desire to say to the members, individually, and collectively, that I shall carry with me to my home in the South, a grateful recollection of the amenities, and courtesies which have characterized, on their part, our official intercourse.

I am very respectfully your obedient servant,
Raphael Semmes.

Commander T. A. Jenkins, U. S. N.,
Secretary Light-House Board, Washington.

[Pg 78]I left in the Light-House Board, a South Carolinian, and a Virginian, both of whom were too loyal to their places, to follow the lead of their States. The South Carolinian has been rewarded with the commission of a Rear-Admiral, and the Virginian with that of a Commodore. The presence of these gentlemen in the Board may account for the fact, that my letter was not even honored with an acknowledgment of its receipt.

I have said that there was no talk at this time, about traitors, and treason. The reader will observe how openly, and as a matter of course, all these transactions were conducted. The seceded States had been several months in getting their Conventions together, and repealing, with all due form, and ceremony, the ordinances by which the Federal Constitution had been accepted. Senators, and members of the House of Representatives of the Federal Congress had withdrawn from their seats, under circumstances unusually solemn, and impressive, which had attracted the attention of the whole country. Mr. Jefferson Davis, in particular, had taken leave of a full Senate, with crowded galleries, in a speech of great dignity and power, in the course of which he said: “We will invoke the God of our Fathers, who delivered them from the power of the Lion, to protect us from the ravages of the Bear; and thus putting our trust in God, and in our own firm hearts, and strong arms, we will vindicate the right as best we may.”

As the resignation of each officer of the Army, and Navy went in, it was well understood what his object was, and yet we have seen, that up to this period, the Government accepted them all, and permitted the officers to depart to their respective States. It was not known, as yet, to what extent the disintegration might go, and it was not safe therefore to talk of treason. “The wayward sisters” might decide to go in a body, in which event it would not have been policy to attempt to prevent them, or to discuss questions of treason with them. The Secretary of the Navy did not think of arresting me, for telegraphing to the Congress of the Confederate States, that I would be with it, immediately; nor did he, though he knew my purpose of drawing my sword against the Federal Government, if necessary, refuse to accept my resignation. Nay, President Buchanan had decided that he had no power under the[Pg 79] Federal Constitution, to coerce a State; though, like a weak old man as he had now become, he involved himself afterward in the inconsistency of attempting to hold possession of the ceded places within the limits of the States which had withdrawn from the Union. It could not but follow, logically, from the premise, that there was no power in the Federal Constitution to coerce a State, that the State had the right to secede; for clearly any one may do that which no one has the right to prevent him from doing.

It was under such circumstances as these, that I dissolved my connection with the Federal Government, and returned to the condition of a private citizen, with no more obligation resting upon me, than upon any other citizen. The Federal Government, itself, had formally released me from the contract of service I had entered into with it, and, as a matter of course, from the binding obligation of any oath I had taken in connection with that contract. All this was done, as the reader has seen, before I moved a step from the city of Washington; and yet a subsequent Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Gideon Welles, has had the hardihood and indecency of accusing me of having been a “deserter from the service.” He has deliberately put this false accusation on record, in a public document, in face of the facts I have stated—all of which were recorded upon the rolls of his office. I do not speak here of the clap-trap he has used about “treason to the flag,” and the other stale nonsense which he has uttered in connection with my name, for this was common enough among his countrymen, and was perhaps to have been expected from men smarting under the castigation I had given them, but of the more definite and explicit charge, of “deserting from the service,” when the service, itself, as he well knew, had released me from all my obligations to it.

Another charge, with as little foundation, has been made against myself, and other officers of the Army and Navy, who resigned their commissions, and came South. It has been said that we were in the condition of élèves of the Federal Government, inasmuch as we had received our education at the military schools, and that we were guilty of ingratitude to that Government, when we withdrew from its service. This slander has no doubt had its effect, with the ignorant masses, but[Pg 80] it can scarcely have been entertained by any one who has a just conception of the nature of our federal system of government. It loses sight of the fact, that the States are the creators, and the Federal Government the creature; that not only the military schools, but the Federal Government itself belongs to the States. Whence came the fund for the establishment of these schools? From the States. In what proportion did the States contribute it? Mr. Benton has answered this question, as the reader has seen, when he was discussing the effect of the tariffs under which the South had so long been depleted. He has told us, that four States alone, Virginia, the two Carolinas and Georgia, defrayed three fourths of the expenses of the General Government; and taking the whole South into view, this proportion had even increased since his day, up to the breaking out of the war.

Of every appropriation, then, that was made by Congress for the support of the military schools, three fourths of the money belonged to the Southern States. Did these States send three fourths of the students to those schools? Of course not—this would have been something like justice to them; but justice to the Southern States was no part of the scheme of the Federal Government. With the exception of a few cadets, and midshipmen “at large,” whom the President was authorized to appoint—the intention being that he should appoint the sons of deceased officers of the Army and Navy, but the fact being that he generally gave the appointment to his political friends—the appointments to these schools were made from the several States, in proportion to population, and as a matter of course, the North got the lion’s share. But supposing the States to have been equally represented in those schools, what would have been the result? Why, simply that the South not only educated her own boys, but educated three fourths of the Northern boys, to boot. Virginia, for instance, at the same time that she sent young Robert E. Lee to West Point, to be educated, put in the public treasury not only money enough to pay for his education, and maintenance, but for the education and maintenance of three Massachusetts boys! How ungrateful of Lee, afterward, being thus a charity scholar of the North, to draw his sword against her.

 

 


[Pg 81]

CHAPTER VIII.

AUTHOR PROCEEDS TO MONTGOMERY, AND REPORTS TO THE NEW GOVERNMENT, AND IS DISPATCHED NORTHWARD, ON A SPECIAL MISSION.

 

On the evening of the 16th of February, the day after I had resigned my commission, I took a sorrowful leave of my family, and departed for Montgomery, by the way of Fredericksburg and Richmond. Virginia and North Carolina had not yet seceded, and anxious debates were going on, on the all-absorbing question, in each town and village in these two States, through which I passed. It was easy to see, that the great majority of the people were with the extreme South, in this her hour of need, but there were some time-servers and trimmers, who still talked of conciliation, and of guarantees. They inquired eagerly after news from Washington, at all the stations at which the train stopped, and seemed disappointed when they found we had nothing more to tell them, than they had already learned through the telegraph.

On the evening of the 18th, I entered the level tract of pine lands between West Point, and Montgomery. The air had become soft, and balmy, though I had left a region of frosts, and snow, only two days before. The pine woods were on fire as we passed through them, the flames now and then running up a lightwood tree, and throwing a weird and fitful glare upon the passing train. The scene was peculiarly Southern, and reminded me that I was drawing near my home, and my people, and I mechanically repeated to myself the words of the poet:

“Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!”

And my heart, which up to that moment, had felt as though a heavy weight were pressing upon it, began to give more vigorous[Pg 82] beats, and send a more inspiring current through my veins. Under this happy influence I sank, as the night advanced, and the train thundered on, into the first sound sleep which had visited my weary eyelids, since I had resigned my commission, and read at the foot of the letter accepting my resignation, my name inscribed as plain “Esq.” This night-ride, through the burning pine woods of Alabama, afterward stood as a great gulf in my memory, forming an impassable barrier, as it were, between my past, and my future life. It had cost me pain to cross the gulf, but once crossed, I never turned to look back. When I washed and dressed for breakfast, in Montgomery, the next morning, I had put off the old man, and put on the new. The labors, and associations of a lifetime had been inscribed in a volume, which had been closed, and a new book, whose pages were as yet all blank, had been opened.

My first duty was to put myself in communication with Mr. Conrad, the chairman of the Committee of Naval Affairs. Several naval officers had preceded me to the seat of the new government, and others were arriving. It was agreed that there should be a special meeting on the next day, in joint session, of the two committees—on military and naval affairs.

The Confederate Congress was in session in the State Capitol, and about noon, I repaired thither to witness the spectacle. They did me the honor to admit me to the floor, and upon casting my eyes over the august assembly, I recognized a number of familiar faces. General Howell Cobb of Georgia was the President; Toombs, Crawford, and other distinguished men were there from the same State. Curry, McRae, Robert H. Smith and other able men were there from Alabama. In short the Congress was full of the best talent of the South. It was by far the best Congress that ever assembled under the new government. It was a convention as well as a Congress, since it was charged with the establishment of a Provisional Government. Every one realized the greatness of the crisis that was upon us, and hence the very best men in the community had been selected to meet the emergency. The harmony of the body was equal to its ability, for, in the course of a few weeks, it had put the complicated machinery of a government in motion, and was already taking active measures for defence,[Pg 83] in case the Federal power should decide upon making war upon us.

Mr. Davis, the Provisional President, had preceded me to the capital, only a few days, and my next step was to call upon him. I had known him in the city of Washington. He received me kindly, and almost the first question which he asked me, was whether I had disembarrassed myself of my Federal commission. I replied to him that I had done so, as a matter of course, before leaving Washington, and that my allegiance henceforth belonged to the new government, and to the Southern people. He seemed gratified at this declaration, and entered into a free, and frank conversation with me, on the subject of the want of preparation for defence, in which he found our States, and the great labor that lay before us, to prepare for emergencies. Congress, he said, has not yet had time to organize a navy, but he designed to make immediate use of me, if I had no objection. I told him that my services were at his command, in any capacity he thought fit to employ them. He then explained to me his plan of sending me back to the city of Washington, and thence into the Northern States, to gather together, with as much haste as possible, such persons, and materials of war as might be of most pressing necessity.

The persons alluded to, were to be mechanics skilled in the manufacture, and use of ordnance, and rifle machinery, the preparation of fixed ammunition, percussion caps, &c. So exclusively had the manufacture of all these articles for the use of the United States, been confined to the North, under “the best government the world ever saw,” that we had not even percussion caps enough to enable us to fight a battle, or the machines with which to make them, although we had captured all the forts, and arsenals within our limits, except Fort Sumter and Fort McRae. The President was as calm and unmoved as I had ever seen him, and was living in a very simple, and unpretending style at the Exchange Hotel. He had not yet selected all his Cabinet; nor indeed had he so much as a private secretary at his command, as the letter of instructions which he afterward presented me, for my guidance, was written with his own hand. This letter was very full, and precise, frequently descending into detail, and manifesting an acquaintance[Pg 84] with bureau duties, scarcely to have been expected from one who had occupied his exalted positions.

On the next day, I attended the joint-session of the two committees above named. These committees were composed, as was to have been expected, of some of the best men of the Congress. Conrad, Crawford, Curry, and the brilliant young Bartow of Georgia were present, among others whose names I do not now recall. But few naval officers of any rank had as yet withdrawn from the old service; Rousseau, Tattnall, Ingraham, and Randolph were all the captains; and Farrand, Brent, Semmes, and Hartstone were all the commanders. Of these there were present before the committees, besides myself, Rousseau, Ingraham, and Randolph; Major Wm. H. Chase, late of the engineers of the Federal Army, was also present. Randolph commanded the Navy Yard at Pensacola, and Chase the military defences. We discussed the military and naval resources of the country, and devised such means of defence as were within our reach—which were not many—to enable us to meet the most pressing exigences of our situation, and separated after a session of several hours. I can do no more, of course, than briefly glance at these things, as I am not writing, as before remarked, the history of the war.

The next morning I called again on the President, received my instructions, and departed Northward on the mission which had been assigned me. I will be brief in the description of this mission also. I stopped a day at Richmond, and examined the State Arsenal, in charge of Capt. Dimmock, and the Tredegar Iron Works; having been especially enjoined to report upon the present, and future capacity of these works for the casting of cannon, shot, shells, &c. The establishment had already turned its attention in this direction, and I was gratified to find that it was capable of almost indefinite enlargement, and that it could be made a most valuable auxiliary to us. The reader will see how confidently we already reckoned upon the support of Virginia.

Reaching Washington again, I visited the Arsenal, and inspected such of its machinery as I thought worth my notice, particularly an improved percussion-cap machine which I found in operation. I also held conferences with some [Pg 85]mechanics, whom I desired to induce to go South. Whilst I was in Washington Mr. Abraham Lincoln, the newly elected President of the United States, arrived, for the purpose of being inaugurated. Being purely a sectional President, and feeling probably that he had no just right to rule over the South, he had come into the city by night, and in disguise, afraid to trust himself among a people of whom he claimed to be Chief Magistrate. Poor old General Winfield Scott was then verging toward senility, and second childhood, and had contributed no little, perhaps, to Mr. Lincoln’s alarm. He had been gathering together troops for some days, in the Federal capital, for the purpose of inaugurating, amid bayonets, a President of the United States. It had been the boast of the American people, heretofore, that their Presidents did not need guards, but trusted wholly for their security, to the love, and confidence of their constituents, but the reign of peace, and good will was at an end, and the reign of the bayonet was to ensue. The rumbling of artillery through the streets of Washington, and the ring of grounded arms on the pavements, had sounded the death-knell of liberty in these States for generations. Swarms of visitors from far and near, in the North and West, had flocked to Washington, to see their President inaugurated, and were proud of this spectacle of arms; too stupid to see its fearful significance.

The auspicious day, the 4th of March, at length arrived, and whilst the glorious pageant is being prepared; whilst the windows and the house-tops along Pennsylvania Avenue are being thronged with a motley population of men and women, come to see the show; whilst the President elect, in a hollow square of bayonets, is marching toward the Capitol, the writer of these pages, having again taken leave of his family, was hurrying away from the desecration of a capital, which had been ceded by a too credulous Maryland, and Virginia, and which had been laid out by Washington. As I left the Baltimore depot, extra trains were still pouring their thousands into the streets of Washington. I arrived in New York, the next day, and during the next three weeks, visited the West Point Academy, whither I went to see a son, who was a cadet at the Institution, and who afterward became a major of light[Pg 86] artillery, in the Confederate service; and made a tour through the principal work-shops of New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

I found the people everywhere, not only willing, but anxious to contract with me. I purchased large quantities of percussion caps in the city of New York, and sent them by express without any disguise, to Montgomery. I made contracts for batteries of light artillery, powder, and other munitions, and succeeded in getting large quantities of the powder shipped. It was agreed between the contractors and myself, that when I should have occasion to use the telegraph, certain other words were to be substituted, for those of military import, to avoid suspicion.

I made a contract, conditioned upon the approval of my Government, for the removal to the Southern States, of a complete set of machinery for rifling cannon, with the requisite skilled workmen to put it in operation. Some of these men, who would thus have sold body, and soul to me, for a sufficient consideration, occupied high social positions, and were men of wealth. I dined with them, at their comfortable residences near their factories, where the music of boring out cannon, accompanied the clatter of the dishes, and the popping of champagne-corks; and I had more than one business interview with gentlemen, who occupied the most costly suites of apartments at the Astor House in New York City. Many of these gentlemen, being unable to carry out their contracts with the Confederate States because of the prompt breaking out of the war, afterward obtained lucrative contracts from the Federal Government, and became, in consequence, intensely loyal. It would be a quasi breach of honor to disclose their names, as they dealt with me, pretty much as conspirators against their government are wont to deal with the enemies of their government, secretly, and with an implied confidence that I would keep their secret. It is accordingly safe.

In the mean time, the great revolution was progressing. Abraham Lincoln had delivered his inaugural address, with triple rows of bayonets between him, and the people to whom he was speaking, in which address he had puzzled his hearers, and was no doubt puzzled himself, as to what he really meant.[Pg 87] He was like President Buchanan; now he saw it, and now he didn’t. He would not coerce the States, but he would hold on to the ceded places within their limits, and collect the public revenue. Texas, and Arkansas went out whilst I was in New York. The bulletin-boards at the different newspaper offices were daily thronged by an unwashed multitude, in search of some new excitement. The Northern public was evidently puzzled. It had at first rather treated secession as a joke. They did not think it possible that the Southern people could be in earnest, in dissolving their connection with a people, so eminently proper as themselves; but they now began to waver in this opinion. Still they forbore any decided demonstration. Like sensible men they preferred waiting until they could see how large a bull they were required to take by the horns.

Toward the latter part of my stay in New York I received the following letter from the Hon. Stephen R. Mallory, who had been appointed Secretary of the Navy, which branch of the public service had been organized since I had left Montgomery:

Confederate States of America,
Navy Dept., Montgomery, Ala., March 13, 1861.

Commander Raphael Semmes.

Sir:—With the sanction of the President, I am constrained to impose upon you duties connected with this Department, in addition to the important trusts with which you are charged; but I do so, upon the express understanding, that they are not to interfere with the performance of your special duties. I have received reliable information, that two, or more steamers, of a class desired for immediate service, may be purchased at, or near New York; steamers of speed, light draught, and strength sufficient for at least one heavy gun. When I say to you, that they are designed to navigate the waters, and enter the bays, and inlets of the coast, from Charleston to the St. Mary’s, and from Key West, to the Rio Grande, for coast defence; that their speed should be sufficient to give them, at all times, the ability to engage, or evade an engagement; and that eight or ten-inch guns, with perhaps two thirty-twos, or if not, two of smaller calibre should constitute their battery, your judgment will need no further guide. Be pleased, should your other important engagements permit, to make inquiries, in such manner as may not excite special attention, and give me such details as to cost, character, &c., as you may deem important.

[Pg 88]Under these instructions I made diligent search in the waters of New York, for such steamers as were wanted, but none could be found. The river, and Long Island Sound boats were mere shells, entirely unfit for the purposes of war, and it was difficult to find any of the sea-going steamers, which combined the requisite lightness of draught, with the other qualities desired.

March was now drawing to a close, the war-cloud was assuming darker, and more portentous hues, and it soon became evident that my usefulness in the North was about to end. Men were becoming more shy of making engagements with me, and the Federal Government was becoming more watchful. The New York, and Savannah steamers were still running, curiously enough carrying the Federal flag at the peak, and the Confederate flag at the fore; and in the last days of March, I embarked on board one of them, arriving in Montgomery on the 4th of April, just eight days before fire was opened upon Fort Sumter. During the short interval that elapsed between my arrival, and my going afloat, I was put in charge of the Light-House Bureau; the Confederate Congress having, upon my recommendation, established a Bureau, with a single naval officer at its head, instead of the complicated machinery of a Board, which existed in the old Government. I had barely time to appoint the necessary clerks, and open a set of books, before Fort Sumter was fired upon, and the tocsin of war was sounded.

 

 


[Pg 89]

CHAPTER IX.

THE COMMISSIONING OF THE SUMTER, THE FIRST CONFEDERATE STATES’ SHIP OF WAR.

 

Fort Sumter surrendered on the 13th of April. The next day was a gala day in Montgomery. We had driven an insolent enemy from one of the strongest positions in the South, and the people were all agog to hear the news. A large Confederate flag was displayed from a balcony of the War Office, and the Hon. L. P. Walker, the Secretary of War, announced in a brief speech, to the assembled multitude below, amid repeated cheering, and the waving of hats, and handkerchiefs, the welcome tidings. The Union men, who have become so numerous since the war, had, if any of them were in the city, slunk to their holes, and corners, and the air was redolent, alone, of Southern patriotism, and Southern enthusiasm.

The driving of the enemy from Charleston harbor, decided the fate of Virginia, which had been trembling in the balance for some days. The grand old State could no longer resist her generous impulses. Under a proclamation of President Lincoln the martial hosts of an enraged and vindictive North were assembling, to make war upon her sisters, and this was enough—her ordinance of secession was passed, by a very gratifying majority. Patrick Henry had become a prophet, and the beautiful, and touching apostrophe of James Madison to the “kindred blood,” and the “mingled blood” of the American people, which was given to the reader a few pages back, had proved to be the mere chimera of an excited imagination.

The effect of the surrender of Sumter in the North was beyond conception. A prominent leader of the public press of that section had said of the American flag:—

[Pg 90] “Tear down that flaunting lie,
Half-mast the starry flag,
Insult no sunny sky
With hate’s polluted rag.”

Instantly, and as if by the touch of a magician’s wand, the polluted rag became the rallying cry of the whole Northern people, and of none more so, than of the very men who had thus denounced it. But there was method in this madness; the rag had only been polluted whilst it was the emblem of good faith between the North, and the South; whilst, in other words, it prevented the mad fanatics of the North from violating that slave property, which their ancestors had promised our ancestors, in the solemn league and covenant of the Constitution, should forever remain inviolate.

But now that the rag, instead of being an obstacle, might be made the means of accomplishing their designs, it was no longer necessary to pull it down. The moment it was fired upon, it became, in their eyes, a new flag, and the symbol of a new faith. It was no longer to represent the federative principle, or to protect the rights of States; it was henceforth to wave over yelling, and maddened majorities, whose will was to be both Constitution, and law. Strange that the thinking portion of the Northern people did not see this; strange that the hitherto conservative Democratic party did not see it. Or was it that the whole North had been wearing a mask, and that the mask was now no longer available, or desirable, to hide their treachery?

Perhaps the future historian, in calmer moments, when the waves of passion engendered by the late storm shall have sunk to rest, will be better able to answer this question. For the present it is sufficient to record the fact, mortifying, it must be confessed, to poor human nature, that all our quondam friends, without so many as half a dozen exceptions in a whole nation—I speak, of course, of prominent men—went over to the common enemy. The very men who had stood, shoulder to shoulder, with us, in resisting Northern aggression, who had encouraged us with pen, and voice, to resist, if need be, unto the death, who promised in case of secession, to stand between us, and the march of Northern armies of invasion, instantly, and[Pg 91] without even the salvo to their consciences of circumlocution, changed their political faith of a life-time, and became, if not straight-out Republicans, at least blatant War Democrats.

The reader cannot be at a loss to account for this change. It was caused by the purest, and most refined selfishness. Next to the love of wealth, the love of office may be said to be the distinguishing passion of the American people. In the hands of a skilful office-seeker, patriotism is a mere word with which to delude the ignorant masses, and not a sentiment, or a creed, to be really entertained. Our allies in the North were very patriotic, whilst there were still hopes of preserving the Union, and along with it the prospect of office, by the aid of the Southern people, but the moment the Southern States went out, and it became evident that they would be politically dead, unless they recanted their political faith, it was seen that they had no intention of becoming martyrs. Their motto, on the contrary, became sauve qui peut, and the d—l take the hindmost; and the banks of the new political Jordan were at once crowded with a multitude anxious to be dipped in its regenerating waters!

As the tidings of these doings in the North were flashed to us, over the wires, in Montgomery, it became evident to me, that the Light-House Bureau was no longer to be thought of. It had become necessary for every man, who could wield a sword, to draw it in defence of his country, thus threatened by the swarming hordes of the North, and to leave the things of peace to the future.

I had already passed the prime of life, and was going gently down that declivity, at whose base we all arrive, sooner or later, but I thanked God, that I had still a few years before me, and vigor enough of constitution left, to strike in defence of the right. I at once sought an interview with the Secretary of the Navy, and explained to him my desire to go afloat. We had, as yet, nothing that could be called a navy; not a ship indeed, if we except a few river steamers, that had been hastily armed by some of the States, and turned over, by them, to the Navy Department. The naval officers, who had come South, had brought with them nothing but their poverty, and their swords; all of them who had been in command of ships, at the secession of their respective States, having, from a sense of honor, delivered them back to the Federal Government.

[Pg 92]If a sense of justice had presided at the separation of the States, a large portion of the ships of the Navy would have been turned over to the South; and this failing to be done, it may be questionable whether the Southern naval officers, in command, would not have been justified in bringing their ships with them, which it would have been easy for them to do. But, on the other hand, they had been personally intrusted with their commands, by the Federal Government, and it would have been treason to a military principle, if not to those great principles which guide revolutions, to deliver those commands to a different government. Perhaps they decided correctly—at all events, a military, or naval man, cannot go very far astray, who abides by the point of honor.

Shortly before the war-cloud had arisen so ominously above the political horizon, I had written a letter to a distinguished member of the Federal Congress from the South, in reply to one from himself, giving him my views as to the naval policy of our section, in case things should come to a crisis. I make no apology to the reader for presenting him with the following extract from that letter, bearing upon the subject, which we have now in hand. “You ask me to explain what I mean, by an irregular naval force. I mean a well-organized system of private armed ships, called privateers. If you are warred upon at all, it will be by a commercial people, whose ability to do you harm will consist chiefly in ships, and shipping. It is at ships and shipping, therefore, that you must strike; and the most effectual way to do this, is, by means of the irregular force of which I speak. Private cupidity will always furnish the means for this description of warfare, and all that will be required of you will be to put it under sufficient legal restraints, to prevent it from degenerating into piracy, and becoming an abuse. Even New England ships, and New England capital would be at your service, in abundance. The system of privateering would be analogous to the militia system on the land. You could have a large irregular sea force, to act in aid of the regular naval force, so long as the war lasted, and which could be disbanded, without further care or expense, at the end of the war.”

Wealth is necessary to the conduct of all modern wars, and[Pg 93] I naturally turned my eyes, as indicated in the above letter, to the enemy’s chief source of wealth. The ingenuity, enterprise, and natural adaptation of the Northern people to the sea, and seafaring pursuits, had enabled them, aided by the vast resources, which they had filched, under pretence of legislation, from the South, to build up, in the course of a very few years, a commercial marine that was second only to that of Great Britain, in magnitude and importance.

The first decked vessel that had been built in the United States, was built by one Adrian Block, a Dutch skipper, on the banks of the Hudson, in 1614, and in 1860, or in less than two centuries and a half, the great Republic was competing with England, the history of whose maritime enterprise extended back a thousand years, for the carrying trade of the world! This trade, if permitted to continue, would be a powerful means of sustaining the credit of the enemy, and enabling him to carry on the war. Hence it became an object of the first necessity with the Confederate States, to strike at his commerce. I enlarged upon this necessity, in the interview I was now holding with Mr. Mallory, and I was gratified to find that that able officer agreed with me fully in opinion.

A Board of naval officers was already in session at New Orleans, charged with the duty of procuring, as speedily as possible, some light and fast steamers to be let loose against the enemy’s commercial marine, but their reports up to this time, had been but little satisfactory. They had examined a number of vessels, and found some defects in all of them. The Secretary, speaking of the discouragement presented by these reports, handed me one of them, which he had received that morning, from the Board. I read it, and found that it described a small propeller steamer, of five hundred tons burden, sea-going, with a low-pressure engine, sound, and capable of being so strengthened as to be enabled to carry an ordinary battery of four, or five guns. Her speed was reported to be between nine, and ten knots, but unfortunately, said the Board, she carries but five days’ fuel, and has no accommodations for the crew of a ship of war. She was, accordingly, condemned. When I had finished reading the report, I turned to the Secretary, and said, “Give me that ship; I think I can[Pg 94] make her answer the purpose.” My request was at once acceded to, the Secretary telegraphed to the Board, to receive the ship, and the clerks of the Department were set at work, to hunt up the necessary officers, to accompany me, and make out the proper orders. And this is the way in which the Confederate States’ steamer Sumter, which was to have the honor of being the first ship of war to throw the new Confederate flag to the breeze, was commissioned. I had accepted a stone which had been rejected of the builders, and which, though, it did not afterward become the “chief corner-stone of the temple,” I endeavored to work into the building which the Confederates were then rearing, to remind their posterity that they had struggled, as Patrick Henry and his contemporaries had struggled before them, “in defence of their liberties.”

The next day, the chief clerk of the Navy Department handed me the following order:

Confederate States of America,
Navy Department, Montgomery, April 18, 1861.

Sir:—You are hereby detached from duty as Chief of the Light-House Bureau, and will proceed to New Orleans, and take command of the steamer Sumter (named in honor of our recent victory over Fort Sumter). The following officers have been ordered to report to you, for duty: Lieutenants John M. Kell, R. T. Chapman, John M. Stribling, and Wm. E. Evans; Paymaster Henry Myers; Surgeon Francis L. Galt; Midshipmen, Wm. A. Hicks, Richard F. Armstrong, Albert G. Hudgins, John F. Holden, and Jos. D. Wilson. I am respectfully your obedient servant,

S. R. Mallory, Secretary of the Navy.

Commander Raphael Semmes.

The reader will observe that I am addressed as a “commander,” the rank which I held in the old service. The Navy Department, in consultation with the President, had adopted the rule of accepting all the officers who chose to come to us from the old Navy—as the Federal Navy began now to be called—without increase of rank; and in arranging them on the Navy-list, their old relative rank was also preserved. This rule had two good effects; it did not tempt any officer to come to us, moved by the hope of immediate promotion, and it put us all on an equal footing, in the future race for honors.

I had been living in Montgomery as a bachelor, at the house[Pg 95] of Mr. Wm. Knox, an old friend—my family having gone to spend some time with a beloved brother, in Maryland, until I could see, by the light of events, what final disposition to make of it. It did not occupy me long, therefore, to make my preparations for departure, in obedience to my orders. I took a respectful, and affectionate leave of the officers of the government, with whom I had been associated, and embarked on the afternoon of the same day on which I had received my orders, on board the steamer Southern Republic for Mobile. At Mobile I fell in with Lieutenant Chapman, one of the officers who had been detailed to report to me, and he, being a minute-man like myself, took a hasty leave of a young wife, and we continued our journey together.

I found Mobile, like the rest of the Confederacy, in a great state of excitement. Always one of the truest of Southern cities, it was boiling over with enthusiasm; the young merchants had dropped their daybooks and ledgers, and were forming, and drilling companies, by night and by day, whilst the older ones were discussing questions of finance, and anxiously casting about them, to see how the Confederate Treasury could be supported. The Battle House, at which I stopped for a few hours, previous to taking the steamer for New Orleans, was thronged with young men in military costume, and all seemed going “as merrily as a marriage-bell.” Alas! my poor young countrymen, how many of you had disappeared from the scene, when I next returned among you, near the close of the war, and how many poor mothers there were, weeping for the sons that were not. But your gallant and glorious record!—that, at least, remains, and must remain forever; for you have inscribed your names so high on the scroll of fame, that the slanderous breath of an ungenerous foe can never reach them.

I arrived in New Orleans, on Monday, the 22d of April, and at once put myself in communication with the commanding naval officer, the venerable Lawrence Rousseau, since gone to his long home, full of years, and full of honors. Like a true son of the South he had obeyed the first call of his fatherland, the State of Louisiana, and torn off the seal from the commission of a Federal captain, which he had honored for forty[Pg 96] years. I will not say, “peace to his ashes,” for the spirit of a Christian gentleman, which animated his frame during life, has doubtless received its appropriate reward; nor will I say aught of his name, or fame, for these are embalmed in the memories of his countrymen. He was my friend, and in that name “friend” I pronounce his eulogy. On the same day of my arrival, in company with Lieutenant Chapman, I inspected, and took possession of my new ship. I found her only a dismantled packet-ship, full of upper cabins, and other top-hamper, furniture, and crockery, but as unlike a ship of war as possible. Still, I was pleased with her general appearance. Her lines were easy, and graceful, and she had a sort of saucy air about her, which seemed to say, that she was not averse to the service on which she was about to be employed.

 

 


[Pg 97]

CHAPTER X.

THE PREPARATION OF THE SUMTER FOR SEA—SHE DROPS DOWN BETWEEN THE FORTS JACKSON, AND ST. PHILIP—RECEIVES HER SAILING ORDERS—LIST OF OFFICERS.

 

A great change was apparent in New Orleans since I had last visited it. The levée in front of the city was no longer a great mart of commerce, piled with cotton bales, and supplies going back to the planter; densely packed with steamers, and thronged with a busy multitude. The long lines of shipping above the city had been greatly thinned, and a general air of desolation hung over the river front. It seemed as though a pestilence brooded over the doomed city, and that its inhabitants had fled before the fell destroyer. The Sumter lay on the opposite side of the river, at Algiers, and I crossed over every morning to superintend her refitment. I was sometimes detained at the ferry-house, waiting for the ferry-boat, and on these occasions, casting my eyes up and down the late busy river, it was not unfrequent to see it without so much as a skiff in motion on its bosom.

But this first simoon of the desert which had swept over the city, as a foretaste of what was to come, had by no means discouraged its patriotic inhabitants. The activity of commerce had ceased, it is true, but another description of activity had taken its place. War now occupied the thoughts of the multitude, and the sound of the drum, and the tramp of armed men were heard in the streets. The balconies were crowded with lovely women in gay attire, to witness the military processions, and the Confederate flag in miniature was pinned on almost every bosom. The enthusiasm of the Frenchman had been most easily and gracefully blended with the stern determination of the Southern man of English descent; the consequence of which was, that there was more demonstrative[Pg 98] patriotism in New Orleans, than in any other of our Southern cities. Nor was this patriotism demonstrative only, it was deep and real, and was afterward sealed with some of the best Creole blood of the land, poured out, freely, on many a desperate battle-field. Alas! poor Louisiana. Once the seat of wealth, and of a gay and refined hospitality, thy manorial residences are deserted, and in decay, or have been levelled by the torch of the incendiary; thy fruitful fields, that were cultivated by the contented laborer, who whistled his merriment to his lazy plow, have been given to the jungle; thy fair daughters have been insulted, by the coarse, and rude Vandal; and even thy liberties have been given in charge of thy freedmen; and all this, because thou wouldst thyself be free!

I now took my ship actively in hand, and set gangs of mechanics at work to remove her upper cabins, and other top-hamper, preparatory to making the necessary alterations. These latter were considerable, and I soon found that I had a tedious job on my hands. It was no longer the case, as it had been in former years, when I had had occasion to fit out a ship, that I could go into a navy-yard, with well-provided workshops, and skilled workmen ready with all the requisite materials at hand to execute my orders. Everything had to be improvised, from the manufacture of a water-tank, to the “kids, and cans” of the berth-deck messes, and from a gun-carriage to a friction-primer. I had not only to devise all the alterations but to make plans, and drawings of them, before they could be comprehended. The main deck was strengthened, by the addition of heavy beams to enable it to support the battery; a berth-deck was laid for the accommodation of the crew; the engine, which was partly above the water-line, was protected by a system of wood-work, and iron bars; the ship’s rig was altered so as to convert her into a barkentine, with square-sails on her fore and main-masts; the officers’ quarters, including my own cabin, were re-arranged; new suits of sails were made, and new boats constructed; hammocks and bedding were procured for the crew, and guns, gun-carriages, and ammunition ordered. Two long, tedious months were consumed in making these various alterations, and additions. My battery was to consist of an eight-inch shell gun, to be pivoted [Pg 99]amidships, and of four light thirty-two pounders, of thirteen cwt. each, in broadside.

The Secretary of the Navy, who was as anxious as myself that I should get to sea immediately, had given me all the assistance in his power, readily acceding to my requests, and promptly filling, or causing to be filled, all my requisitions. With the secession of Virginia we had become possessed of a valuable depot of naval supplies, in the Norfolk Navy Yard. It was filled with guns, shot, shell, cordage, and everything that was useful in the equipment of a ship, but it was far away from New Orleans, and such was the confusion along the different lines of railroad, that it was difficult to procure transportation. Commander Terry Sinclair, the active ordnance officer of the yard, had early dispatched my guns, by railroad, but weeks elapsed without my being able to hear anything of them. I was finally obliged to send a lieutenant in search of them, who picked them up, one by one, as they had been thrown out on the road-side, to make room for other freight. My gun-carriages I was obliged to have constructed myself, and I was fortunate enough to obtain the services of a very ingenious mechanic to assist me in this part of my duties—Mr. Roy, a former employee of the Custom-House, within whose ample walls he had established his work-shop. He contrived most ingeniously, and constructed out of railroad iron, one of the best carriages (or rather, slide and circle) for a pivot-gun, which I have ever seen. The large foundry of Leeds & Co. took the contract for casting my shot, and shells, and executed it to my satisfaction.

Whilst all these various operations are going on, we may conveniently look around us upon passing events, or at least upon such of them as have a bearing upon naval operations. President Davis, a few days after the secession of Virginia, and when war had become imminent, issued a proclamation for the purpose of raising that irregular naval force, of which I have spoken in a previous page. Parties were invited to apply for letters-of-marque and reprisal, with a view to the fitting out of privateers, to prey upon the enemy’s commerce. Under this proclamation several privateers—generally light-draught river-steamers, with one or two small guns each—were hastily[Pg 100] prepared, in New Orleans, and had already brought in some prizes captured off the mouths of the Mississippi. Even this small demonstration seemed to surprise, as well as alarm the Northern government, for President Lincoln now issued a proclamation declaring the molestation of Federal vessels, on the high seas, by Confederate cruisers, piracy. He had also issued a proclamation declaring the ports of the Confederacy in a state of blockade. The mouths of the Mississippi were to be sealed on the 25th of May.

The European governments, as soon as it became evident, that the two sections were really at war, took measures accordingly. Great Britain took the lead, and declared a strict neutrality between the combatants. It was of the essence of such a declaration, that it should put both belligerents on the same footing. This was apparently done, and the cruisers of both sections were prohibited, alike, from taking their prizes into British ports. I shall have something to say of the unequal operation of this declaration of neutrality, in a future part of these memoirs; for the present it is only necessary to state, that it acknowledged us to be in possession of belligerent rights. This was a point gained certainly, but it was no more than was to have been expected. Indeed, Great Britain could do nothing less. In recognizing the war which had broken out between the sections, as a war, and not as a mere insurrection, she had only followed the lead of Mr. Lincoln himself. Efforts had been made it is true, both by Mr. Lincoln, and his Secretary of State, to convince the European governments that the job which they had on their hands was a small affair; a mere family quarrel, of no great significance.

But the truth would not be suppressed, and when, at last, it became necessary to declare the Confederate ports in a state of blockade, and to send ships of war thither, to enforce the declaration, the sly little game which they had been playing was all up with them. A blockade was an act of war, which came under the cognizance of the laws of nations. It concerned neutrals, as well as belligerents, and foreign nations were bound to take notice of it. It followed that there could not be a blockade without a war; and it equally followed, that there could not be a war without at least two belligerent [Pg 101]parties to it. It will thus be seen, that the declaration of neutrality of Great Britain was a logical sequence of Mr. Lincoln’s, and Mr. Seward’s own act. And yet with sullen, and singular inconsistency, the Northern Government has objected, from that day to this, to this mere routine act of Great Britain. So much was this act considered, as a matter of course, at the time, that all the other powers of the earth, of sufficient dignity to act in the premises, at all, followed the example set them by Great Britain, and issued similar declarations; and the four years of bloody war that followed justified the wisdom of their acts.

We may now return to the equipment of the Sumter. A rendezvouz had been opened, and a crew had been shipped for her, which was temporarily berthed on board the receiving ship, Star of the West, a transport-steamer of the enemy, which had been gallantly captured by some Texans, and turned over to the Navy. New Orleans was full of seamen, discharged from ships that had been laid up, and more men were offering themselves for service, than I could receive. I had the advantage, therefore, of picking my crew, an advantage which no one but a seaman can fully appreciate. My lieutenants, surgeon, paymaster, and marine officer had all arrived, and, with the consent of the Navy Department, I had appointed my engineers—one chief, and three assistants—boatswain, carpenter, and sailmaker. My provisions had been purchased, and were ready to be put on board, and my funds had already arrived, but we were still waiting on the mechanics, who, though doing their best, had not yet been able to turn the ship over to us. From the following letter to the Secretary of the Navy, inclosing a requisition for funds, it will be seen that my demands upon the department were quite moderate, and that I expected to make the Sumter pay her own expenses, as soon as she should get to sea.

New Orleans, May 14, 1861.

Sir:—I have the honor to inclose, herewith, a requisition for the sum of $10,000, which I request may be remitted to the paymaster of the Sumter, in specie, for use during my contemplated cruise. I may find it necessary to coal several times, and to supply my crew with fresh provisions, &c., before I have the opportunity of replenishing my military chest from the enemy.

[Pg 102]The ammunition remained to be provided, and on the 20th of May, I dispatched Lieutenant Chapman to the Baton Rouge Arsenal, which had been captured a short time before, for the purpose of procuring it, under the following letter of instructions:

New Orleans, May 20, 1861.

Sir:—You will proceed to Baton Rouge, and put yourself in communication with the commander of the C. S. Arsenal, at that point, for the purpose of receiving the ammunition, arms, shot, shell, &c., that may be required for the supply of the C. S. steamer Sumter, now fitting for sea at this port. It is presumed that the proper orders [which had been requested] have been, or will be dispatched from Montgomery, authorizing the issue of all such articles, as we may need. Should this not be the case, with regard to any of the articles, it is hoped that the ordnance officer in charge will not hesitate to deliver them, as it is highly important that the Sumter should not be detained, because of any oversight, or informality, in the orders of the War Department. Be pleased to present the accompanying requisition to Captain Booth, the superintendent, and ask that it may be filled. The gunner will be directed to report to you, to accompany you to Baton Rouge, on this service.

The reader will thus perceive that many difficulties lay in the way of equipping the Sumter; that I was obliged to pick up one material here, and another there, as I could best find it, and that I was not altogether free from the routine of the “Circumlocution Office,” as my requisitions had frequently to pass through many hands, before they could be complied with.

About this time, we met with a sad accident in the loss of one of our midshipmen, by drowning. He, with other young officers of the Sumter, had been stationed, temporarily, on board the receiving ship, in charge of the Sumter’s crew, whilst the latter ship was still in the hands of the mechanics. The following letter of condolence to the father of the young gentleman will sufficiently explain the circumstances of the disaster:

New Orleans, May 18, 1861.

Sir:—It becomes my melancholy duty to inform you, of the death, by drowning, yesterday, of your son, Midshipman John F. Holden, of the C. S. steamer Sumter. Your son was temporarily attached to the receiving ship (late Star of the West) at this place, whilst the Sumter was being prepared for sea, and whilst engaged in carrying out an anchor, in a boat belonging to that[Pg 103] ship, met his melancholy fate, along with three of the crew, by the swamping of the boat, in which he was embarked. I offer you, my dear sir, my heartfelt condolence on this sad bereavement. You have lost a cherished son, and the Government a valuable and promising young officer.

W. B. Holden, Esq., Louisburg, Tenn.

War had begun, thus early, to demand of us our sacrifices. Tennessee had not yet seceded, and yet this ardent Southern youth had withdrawn from the Naval Academy, and cast his lot with his section.

A few extracts from my journal will now, perhaps, give the reader a better idea of the progress of my preparations for sea, and of passing events, than any other form of narrative. May 27th.—News received this morning of the appearance, at Pass à L’Outre, yesterday, of the U. S. steamer Brooklyn, and of the establishment of the blockade. Work is progressing satisfactorily, and I expect to be ready for sea, by Sunday next.

News of skirmishing in Virginia, and of fresh arrivals of Northern troops, at Washington, en route for that State. The Federal Government has crossed the Potomac, in force, and thus inaugurated a bloody, and a bitter war, by the invasion of our territory. So be it—we but accept the gantlet, which has been flung in our faces. The future will tell a tale not unworthy of the South, and her glorious cause.

Monday, May 30th. My patience is sorely tried by the mechanics. The water-tanks for the Sumter are not yet completed. The carriage for the 8-inch gun was finished, to-day, and we are busy laying down the circles for it, and cutting the holes for the fighting-bolts. The carriages for the 32-pounders are promised us, by Saturday next, and also the copper tanks for the magazine. Our ammunition, and small arms arrived, yesterday, from Baton Rouge. Besides the Brooklyn, at the Passes, we learn, to-day, that the Niagara, and Minnesota, two of the enemy’s fastest, and heaviest steamships have arrived, to assist in enforcing the blockade, and to lie in wait for some ships expected to arrive, laden with arms and ammunition, for the Confederacy. May 31st.—The tanks are at last finished, and they have all been delivered, to-day. Leeds & Co. have done an excellent job, and I shall be enabled to carry three[Pg 104] months’ water for my crew. We shall now get on, rapidly, with our preparations.

Saturday, June 1st, finds us not yet ready for sea! The tanks have all been taken on board, and stowed; the gun carriages for the 32s will be finished on Monday. The circles for the 8-inch gun have been laid down, and the fighting-bolts are ready for placing. On Monday I shall throw the crew on board, and by Thursday next, I shall, without doubt be ready for sea. We are losing a great deal of precious time. The enemy’s flag is being flaunted in our faces, at all our ports by his ships of war, and his vessels of commerce are passing, and repassing, on the ocean, in defiance, or in contempt of our power, and, as yet, we have not struck a blow.

At length on the 3d of June, I was enabled to put the Sumter, formally, in commission. On that day her colors were hoisted, for the first time—the ensign having been presented to me, by some patriotic ladies of New Orleans—the crew was transferred to her, from the receiving ship, and the officers were ordered to mess on board. The ship was now hauled off and anchored in the stream, but we were delayed two long and tedious weeks yet, before we were finally ready. During these two weeks we made a trial trip up the river, some ten or twelve miles. Some of the principal citizens were invited on board, and a bright, and beautiful afternoon was pleasantly spent, in testing the qualities of the ship, the range of her guns, and the working of the gun-carriages; the whole ending by a collation, in partaking of which my guests were kind enough to wish me a career full of “blazing honors.”

I was somewhat disappointed in the speed of my ship, as we did not succeed in getting more than nine knots out of her. There was another great disadvantage. With all the space I could allot to my coal-bunkers, she could be made to carry no more than about eight days’ fuel. We had masts, and sails, it is true, but these could be of but little use, when the coal was exhausted, as the propeller would remain a drag in the water, there being no means of hoisting it. It was with such drawbacks, that I was to take the sea, alone, against a vindictive and relentless enemy, whose Navy already swarmed on our coasts, and whose means of increasing it were inexhaustible.[Pg 105] But the sailor has a saying, that “Luck is a Lord,” and we trusted to luck.

On the 18th of June, after all the vexatious delays that have been described, I got up my anchor, and dropped down to the Barracks, below the city a short distance, to receive my powder on board, which, for safety, had been placed in the State magazine. At 10.30 P. M. of the same day, we got up steam, and by the soft and brilliant light of a moon near her full, threw ourselves into the broad, and swift current of the Father of Waters, and ran rapidly down to the anchorage, between Fort Jackson, and Fort St. Philip, where we came to at 4 A. M. In the course of the day, Captain Brand, an ex-officer of the old Navy, and now second in command of the forts, came on board to make us the ceremonial visit; and I subsequently paid my respects to Major Duncan, the officer in chief command, an ex-officer of the old Army. These gentlemen were both busy, as I found upon inspecting the forts, in perfecting their batteries, and drilling their men, for the hot work that was evidently before them. As was unfortunately the case with our people, generally, at this period, they were over-confident. They kindly supplied some few deficiencies, that still remained in our gunner’s department, and I received from them a howitzer, which I mounted on my taffarel, to guard against boat attacks, by night.

I remained three days at my anchors between the forts, for the purpose of stationing, and drilling my crew, before venturing into the presence of the enemy; and I will take advantage of this lull to bring up some matters connected with the ship, which we have hitherto overlooked. On the 7th of June, the Secretary of the Navy—the Government having, in the mean time, removed to Richmond—sent me my sailing orders, and in my letter of the 14th of the same month, acknowledging their receipt, I had said to him: “I have an excellent set of men on board, though they are nearly all green, and will require some little practice, and drilling, at the guns, to enable them to handle them creditably. Should I be fortunate enough to reach the high seas, you may rely upon my implicit obedience of your instructions, ‘to do the enemy’s commerce the greatest injury, in the shortest time.’”

[Pg 106]Here was a model of a letter of instruction—it meant “burn, sink, and destroy,” always, of course, within the limits prescribed by the laws of nations, and with due attention to the laws of humanity, in the treatment of prisoners. The reader will see, as we progress, that I gave the “implicit obedience” which had been promised, to these instructions, and that if greater results were not accomplished, it was the fault of the Sumter, and not of her commander. In the same letter that brought me my sailing orders, the Secretary had suggested to me the propriety of adopting some means of communicating with him, by cipher, so that, my despatches, if captured by the enemy, would be unintelligible to him. The following letter in reply to this suggestion, will explain how this was arranged: “I have the honor to enclose herewith a copy of ‘Reid’s English Dictionary,’ a duplicate of which I retain, for the purpose mentioned in your letter of instructions, of the 7th instant. I have not been able to find in the city of New Orleans, ‘Cobb’s Miniature Lexicon,’ suggested by you, or any other suitable dictionary, with but a single column on a page. This need make no difference, however. In my communications to the Department, should I have occasion to refer to a word in the copy sent, I will designate the first column on the page, A, and the second column, B. Thus, if I wish to use the word ‘prisoner,’ my reference to it would be as follows: 323, B, 15; the first number referring to the page, the letter to the column, and the second number to the number of the word from the top of the column.” By means of this simple, and cheap device, I was enabled, at all times, to keep my dispatches out of the hands of the enemy, or, in other words, prevent him from interpreting them, when I had anything of importance to communicate.

Before leaving New Orleans, I had, in obedience to a general order of the service, transmitted to the Navy Department, a Muster Roll of the officers, and men, serving on board the Sumter. Her crew, as reported by this roll, consisted of ninety-two persons, exclusive of officers. Twenty of these ninety-two persons were marines—a larger guard than was usual for so small a ship. The officers were as follows:

Commander.—Raphael Semmes.

[Pg 107]Lieutenants.—John M. Kell; Robert T. Chapman; John M. Stribling; William E. Evans.

Paymaster.—Henry Myers.

Surgeon.—Francis L. Galt.

1st Lieutenant of Marines.—B. Howell.

Midshipmen.—William A. Hicks; Albert G. Hudgins; Richard F. Armstrong; Joseph D. Wilson.

Engineers.—Miles J. Freeman; William P. Brooks; Matthew O’Brien; Simeon W. Cummings.

Boatswain.—Benjamin P. Mecasky.

Gunner.—Thomas C. Cuddy.

Sailmaker.—W. P. Beaufort.

Carpenter.—William Robinson.

Captain’s Clerk.—W. Breedlove Smith.

Commissions had been forwarded to all the officers entitled to receive them, and acting appointments had been given by me to the warrant officers. It will thus be seen, how formally all these details had been attended to. These commissions were to be our warrants for what we were to do, on the high seas.

And now the poor boon will be permitted to human nature, that before we launch our frail bark, on the wild sea of adventure, before us, we should turn our thoughts, homeward, for a moment.

“‘And is he gone?’—on sudden solitude
How oft that fearful question will intrude!
’Twas but an instant past—and here he stood!
And now!—without the portal’s porch she rushed,
And then at length her tears in freedom gushed;
Big, bright, and fast, unknown to her they fell;
But still her lips refused to send ‘farewell!’
For in that word—that fatal word—howe’er
We promise—hope—believe—there breathes despair.”

Such was the agony of many a fair bosom, as the officers of the Sumter had torn themselves from the embraces of their families, in those scenes of leave-taking, which more than any other, try the sailor’s heart. Several of them were married men, and it was long years before they returned to the homes which they had made sad by their absence.

 

 


[Pg 108]

CHAPTER XI.

AFTER LONG WAITING AND WATCHING, THE SUMTER RUNS THE BLOCKADE OF THE MISSISSIPPI, IN OPEN DAYLIGHT, PURSUED BY THE BROOKLYN.

 

Whilst we were lying at our anchors between the forts, as described in the last chapter, Governor Moore of Louisiana, who had done good service to the Confederacy, by seizing the forts, and arsenals in his State, in advance of secession, and the Hon. John Slidell, lately returned from his seat in the Federal Senate, and other distinguished gentlemen came down, on a visit of inspection to the forts. I went on shore to call on them, and brought them on board the Sumter to lunch with me. My ship was, by this time, in excellent order, and my crew well accustomed to their stations, under the judicious management of my first lieutenant, and I took pleasure in showing these gentlemen how much a little discipline could accomplish, in the course of a few weeks. Discipline!—what a power it is everywhere, and under all circumstances; and how much the want of it lost us, as the war progressed. What a pity the officers of our army did not have their respective commands, encircled by wooden walls, with but a “single monarch to walk the peopled deck.”

Just at nightfall, on the evening of the 21st of June, I received the following despatch from the commanding officer of the forts:

Captain:—I am desired by the commanding officer to state, that the Ivy—this was a small tender of the forts, and letter-of-marque—reports that the Powhatan has left, in pursuit of two ships, and that he has a telegram from Pass à L’Outre, to the effect, that a boat from the Brooklyn had put into the river and was making for the telegraph station, where she was expected to arrive within a few minutes.

[Pg 109]The Powhatan was blockading the Southwest Pass, and it was barely possible that I might get to sea, through this pass, if a pilot could be at once procured; and so I immediately ordered steam to be raised, and getting up my anchor, steamed down to the Head of the Passes, where the river branches into its three principal outlets. Arriving here, at half-past ten P. M. I dispatched a boat to the light-house, for a pilot; but the keeper knew nothing of the pilots, and was unwilling to come on board, himself, though requested. The night wore away, and nothing could be done.

The telescope revealed to us, the next morning, that the Powhatan had returned to her station. From the sullen, and unsatisfactory message, which had been returned to me, by the keeper of the light-house, I began to suspect that there was something wrong, about the pilots; and it being quite necessary that I should have one constantly, on board, to enable me to take advantage of any temporary absence of the enemy’s cruisers, without having to hunt up one for the emergency, I dispatched the Ivy, to the pilots’ station, at the Southwest Pass, in search of one. This active little cruiser returned in the course of a few hours, and reported that none of the pilots were willing to come on board of me! I received, about the same time, a telegraphic despatch from the Southwest Pass, forwarded to me through Major Duncan, which read as follows: “Applied to the Captain of the Pilots’ Association for a pilot for the Sumter. He requested me to state, that there are no pilots on duty now!” “So ho! sits the wind in that quarter,” thought I—I will soon set this matter right. I, at once, sent Lieutenant Stribling on board the Ivy, and directed him to proceed to the Pilots’ Association, and deliver, and see executed the following written order:

C. S. Steamer Sumter, Head of the Passes,
June 22, 1861.

Sir:—This is to command you to repair on board this ship, with three or four of the most experienced pilots of the Bar. I am surprised to learn, that an unwillingness has been expressed, by some of the pilots of your Association, to come on board the Sumter; and my purpose is to test the fact of such disloyalty to the Confederate States. If any man disobeys this summons I will not only have his Branch taken from him, but I will send an armed force, and arrest, and bring him on board.

[Pg 110]This order had the desired effect, and in the course of the afternoon, Lieutenant Stribling returned, bringing with him, the Captain of the Association, and several of the pilots. I directed them to be brought into my cabin, and when they were assembled, demanded to know the reason of their late behavior. Some stammering excuses were offered, which I cut short, by informing them that one of them must remain on board constantly, and that they might determine for themselves, who should take the first week’s service; to be relieved at the end of the week, by another, and so on, as long as I should find it necessary. One of their number being designated, I dismissed the rest. The reader will see how many faithful auxiliaries, Admiral Farragut afterward found, in the Pilots’ Association of the mouths of the Mississippi, when he made his famous ascent of the river, and captured its great seaport. Nor was this defection confined to New Orleans. The pilots along our whole Southern coast were, with few exceptions, Northern men, and as a rule they went over to the enemy, though pretending, in the beginning of our troubles, to be good secessionists. The same remark may be applied to our steamboat men, of Northern birth, as a class. Many of them had become domiciled in the South, and were supposed to be good Southern men, until the crucial test of self-interest was applied to them, when they, too, deserted us, and took service with the enemy.

The object of the Brooklyn’s boat, which, as we have seen, pulled into the telegraph station at Pass à L’Outre, just before we got under way from between the forts, was to cut the wires, and break up the station, to prevent intelligence being given me of the movements of the blockading fleet. I now resorted to a little retaliation. I dispatched an officer to the different light-houses, to stave the oil-casks, and bring away the lighting apparatus, to prevent the enemy’s shipping from using the lights. They were of great convenience, not only to the ships employed on the blockade, but to the enemy’s transports, and other ships, bound to and from the coast of Texas. They could be of no use to our own blockade-runners, as the passes of the Mississippi, by reason of their long, and tortuous, and frequently shifting channels, were absolutely closed to them.

[Pg 111]The last letter addressed by me to the Secretary of the Navy, before escaping through the blockade, as hereinafter described, was the following:

C. S. Steamer Sumter, Head of the Passes,
June 30, 1861.

Sir:—I have the honor to inform the Department that I am still at my anchors at the “Head of the Passes”—the enemy closely investing both of the practical outlets. At Pass à L’Outre there are three ships, the Brooklyn, and another propeller, and a large side-wheel steamer; and at the Southwest Pass, there is the Powhatan, lying within half a mile of the bar, and not stirring an inch from her anchors, night or day. I am only surprised that the Brooklyn does not come up to this anchorage, which she might easily do—as there is water enough, and no military precautions, whatever, have been taken to hold the position—and thus effectually seal all the passes of the river, by her presence alone; which would enable the enemy to withdraw the remainder of his blockading force, for use elsewhere. With the assistance of the Jackson, Lieutenant Gwathmey, and the McRae, Lieutenant Huger—neither of which has, as yet, however, dropped down—I could probably hold my position here, until an opportunity offers of my getting to sea. I shall watch, diligently, for such an opportunity, and have no doubt, that sooner or later, it will present itself. I found, upon dropping down to this point, that the lights at Pass à L’Outre, and South Pass had been strangely overlooked, and that they were still being nightly exhibited. I caused them both to be extinguished, so that if bad weather should set in—a gale from the south-east, for instance—the blockading ships, having nothing to “hold on to,” will be obliged to make an offing. At present the worst feature of the blockade of Pass à L’Outre is, that the Brooklyn has the speed of me; so that even if I should run the bar, I could not hope to escape her, unless I surprised her, which with her close watch of the bar, at anchor near by, both night and day, it will be exceedingly difficult to do. I should be quite willing to try speed with the Powhatan, if I could hope to run the gantlet of her guns, without being crippled; but here again, unfortunately, with all the buoys, and other marks removed, the bar which she is watching is a perfectly blind bar, except by daylight. In the meantime, I am drilling my green crew, to a proper use of the great guns, and small arms. With the exception of a diarrhœa, which is prevailing, to some extent, brought on by too free use of the river water, in the excessive heats which prevail, the crew continues healthy.

Nothing in fact surprised me more, during the nine days I lay at the Head of the Passes, than that the enemy did not attack me with some of his light-draught, but heavily armed steamers, or by his boats, by night. Here was the Sumter, a[Pg 112] small ship, with a crew, all told, of a little over a hundred men, anchored only ten, or twelve miles from the enemy, without a gun, or an obstruction between her and him; and yet no offensive movement was made against her. The enemy watched me closely, day by day, and bent all his energies toward preventing my escape, but did not seem to think of the simple expedient of endeavoring to capture me, with a superior force. In nightly expectation of an assault, I directed the engineer to keep the water in his boilers, as near the steam-point as possible, without actually generating the vapor, and sent a patrol of boats some distance down the Southwest Pass; the boats being relieved every four hours, and returning to the ship, at the first streaks of dawn. After I went to sea, the enemy did come in, and take possession of my anchorage, until he was driven away by Commodore Hollins, in a little nondescript ram; which, by the way, was the first ram experiment of the war. The reader may imagine the tedium, and discomforts of our position, if he will reflect that it is the month of June, and that at this season of the year, the sun comes down upon the broad, and frequently calm surface of the Father of Waters, with an African glow, and that clouds of that troublesome little insect the mosquito tormented us, by night and by day. There was no sleeping at all without the mosquito bar, and I had accordingly had a supply sent down for all the crew. Rather than stand the assaults of these little picadores, much longer, I believe my crew would have run the gantlet of the whole Federal Navy.

My diary will now perhaps give the reader, his clearest conception of the condition of things on board the Sumter, for the remaining few days that she is to continue at her anchors.

Tuesday, June 25th.—A sharp thunder-storm at half-past three A. M., jarring and shaking the ship with its crashes. The very flood-gates of the heavens seem open, and the rain is descending on our decks like a cataract. Clearing toward ten o’clock. Both blockading ships still at their anchors. The British steam sloop Jason touched at the Southwest Pass, yesterday, and communicated with the Powhatan. We learn by the newspapers, to-day, that the enemy has taken possession of Ship Island, and established a blockade of the Sound. The [Pg 113]anaconda is drawing his folds around us. We are filling some shell, and cartridges to-day, and drilling the crew at the battery.

Wednesday, June 26th.—Cloudy, with occasional rain squalls, which have tempered the excessive heats. The Ivy returned from the city to-day, and brought me eighty barrels of coal. Sent the pilot, in the light-house keeper’s boat, to sound the S. E. bar, an unused and unwatched outlet to the eastward of the South Pass—in the hope that we may find sufficient water over it, to permit the egress of the ship. The Federal ships are keeping close watch, as usual, at both the passes, neither of them having stirred from her anchor, since we have been at the “Head of the Passes.”

Thursday, June 27th.—Weather sultry, and atmosphere charged with moisture. Pilot returned this afternoon, and reports ten and a half feet water on the S. E. bar. Unfortunately the Sumter draws twelve feet; so we must abandon this hope.

Saturday, June 29th.—A mistake induced us to expend a little coal, to-day, uselessly. The pilot having gone aloft, to take his usual morning’s survey of the “situation,” reported that the Brooklyn was nowhere to be seen! Great excitement immediately ensued, on the decks, and the officer of the watch hurried into my cabin with the information. I ordered steam to be gotten up with all dispatch, and when, in the course of a very few minutes, it was reported ready—for we always kept our fires banked—the anchor was tripped, and the ship was under way, ploughing her way through the turbid waters, toward Pass à L’Outre. When we had steamed about four miles down the pass, the Brooklyn was seen riding very quietly at her anchors, in her usual berth near the bar. Explanation: The Sumter had dragged her anchor during the night, and the alteration in her position had brought a clump of trees between her, and the enemy’s ship, which had prevented the pilot from seeing the latter! With disappointed hopes we had nothing to do, but to return to our anchors, and watch and wait. In half an hour more, the sailors were lounging idly about the decks, under well-spread awnings; the jest, and banter went round, as usual, and save the low hissing and singing of the[Pg 114] steam, which was still escaping, there was nothing to remind the beholder of our recent disappointment. Such is the school of philosophy in which the seaman is reared. Our patience, however, was soon to be rewarded.

Early on the next morning, which was the 30th of June, the steamer, Empire Parish, came down from the city, and coming alongside of us, put on board some fresh provisions for the crew, and about one hundred barrels of coal, which my thoughtful, and attentive friend, Commodore Rousseau, had sent down to me. Having done this, the steamer shoved off, and proceeded on her trip, down Pass à L’Outre, to the pilots’ station, and lighthouse. It was a bright Sunday morning, and we were thinking of nothing but the usual muster, and how we should get through another idle day. In the course of two or three hours, the steamer returned, and when she had come near us, she was seen to cast off a boat, which she had been towing, containing a single boatman—one of the fishermen, or oyster-men so common in these waters. The boatman pulled rapidly under our stern, and hailing the officer of the deck, told him, that the Brooklyn had gone off in chase of a sail, and was no longer in sight. The crew, who had been “cleaning themselves,” for Sunday muster, at once stowed away their bags; the swinging-booms were gotten alongside, the boats run up, and, in ten minutes, the steam was again hissing, as if impatient of control. The men ran round the capstan, in “double-quick,” in their eagerness to get up the anchor, and in a few minutes more, the ship’s head swung off gracefully with the current, and, the propeller being started, she bounded off like a thing of life, on this new race, which was to decide whether we should continue to stagnate in midsummer, in the marshes of the Mississippi, or reach those “glad waters of the dark blue sea,” which form as delightful a picture in the imagination of the sailor, as in that of the poet.

Whilst we were heaving up our anchor, I had noticed the pilot, standing near me, pale, and apparently nervous, and agitated, but, as yet, he had said not a word. When we were fairly under way, however, and it seemed probable, at last, that we should attempt the blockade, the fellow’s courage fairly broke down, and he protested to me that he knew nothing of[Pg 115] the bar of Pass à L’Outre, and durst not attempt to run me over. “I am,” said he, “a S. W. bar pilot, and know nothing of the other passes.” “What,” said I, “did you not know that I was lying at the Head of the Passes, for the very purpose of taking any one of the outlets through which an opportunity of escape might present itself, and yet you dare tell me, that you know but one of them, and have been deceiving me.” The fellow stammered out something in excuse, but I was too impatient to listen to him, and, turning to the first lieutenant, ordered him to hoist the “Jack” at the fore, as a signal for a pilot. I had, in fact, resolved to attempt the passage of the bar, from my own slight acquaintance with it, when I had been a light-house inspector, rather than forego the opportunity of escape, and caused the Jack to be hoisted, rather as a matter of course, than because I hoped for any good result from it. The Brooklyn had not “chased out of sight,” as reported—she had only chased to the westward, some seven or eight miles, and had been hidden from the boatman, by one of the spurs of the Delta. She had probably, all the while, had her telescopes on the Sumter, and as soon as she saw the black smoke issuing from her chimney, and the ship moving rapidly toward the pass, she abandoned her chase, and commenced to retrace her steps.

We had nearly equal distances to run to the bar, but I had the advantage of a four-knot current. Several of my officers now collected around me, and we were discussing the chances of escape. “What think you of our prospect,” said I, turning to one of my lieutenants, who had served a short time before, on board the Brooklyn, and knew well her qualities. “Prospect, sir! not the least in the world—there is no possible chance of our escaping that ship. Even if we get over the bar ahead of her, she must overhaul us, in a very short time. The Brooklyn is good for fourteen knots an hour, sir.” “That was the report,” said I, “on her trial trip, but you know how all such reports are exaggerated; ten to one, she has no better speed, if so good, as the Sumter.” “You will see, sir,” replied my lieutenant; “we made a passage in her, only a few months ago, from Tampico to Pensacola, and averaged about thirteen knots the whole distance.”

[Pg 116]Here the conversation dropped, for an officer now came to report to me that a boat had just shoved off from the pilots’ station, evidently with a pilot in her. Casting my eyes in the given direction, I saw a whale-boat approaching us, pulled by four stout blacks, who were bending like good fellows to their long ashen oars, and in the stern sheets was seated, sure enough, the welcome pilot, swaying his body to, and fro, as his boat leaped under the oft-repeated strokes of the oars, as though he would hasten her already great speed. But more beautiful still was another object which presented itself. In the balcony of the pilot’s house, which had been built in the very marsh, on the margin of the river, there stood a beautiful woman, the pilot’s young wife, waving him on to his duty, with her handkerchief. We could have tossed a biscuit from the Sumter to the shore, and I uncovered my head gallantly to my fair countrywoman. A few moments more, and a tow-line had been thrown to the boat, and the gallant young fellow stood on the horse-block beside me.

As we swept past the light-house wharf, almost close enough to touch it, there were other petticoats fluttering in the breeze, the owners of which were also waving handkerchiefs of encouragement to the Sumter. I could see my sailors’ eyes brighten at these spectacles, for the sailor’s heart is capacious enough to love the whole sex, and I now felt sure of their nerves, in case it should become necessary to tax them. Half a mile or so, from the light-house, and the bar is reached. There was a Bremen ship lying aground on the bar, and there was just room, and no more, for us to pass her. She had run out a kedge, and had a warp attached to it that was lying across the passage-way. The crew considerately slackened the line, as we approached, and in another bound the Sumter was outside the bar, and the Confederate flag was upon the high seas! We now slackened our speed, for an instant—only an instant, for my officers and men all had their wits about them, and worked like good fellows—to haul the pilot’s boat alongside, that he might return to the shore. As the gallant young fellow grasped my hand, and shook it warmly, as he descended from the horse-block, he said, “Now, Captain, you are all clear; give her h—ll, and let her go!”

We had now nothing to do, but turn our attention to the[Pg 117] enemy. The Brooklyn, as we cleared the bar, was about three and a half, or four miles distant; we were therefore just out of reach of her guns, with nothing to spare. Thick volumes of smoke could be seen pouring from the chimneys of both ships; the firemen, and engineers of each evidently doing their best. I called a lieutenant, and directed him to heave the log. He reported our speed to be nine, and a half knots. Loth to believe that we could be making so little way, through the yet turbid waters, which were rushing past us with great apparent velocity, I directed the officer to repeat the experiment; but the same result followed, though he had paid out the line with a free hand. I now sent for the engineer, and, upon inquiry, found that he was doing his very best—“though,” said he, “there is a little drawback, just now, in the ‘foaming’ of our boilers, arising from the suddenness with which we got up steam; when this subsides, we may be able to add half a knot more.”

The Brooklyn soon loosed, and set her sails, bracing them sharp up on the starboard tack. I loosed and set mine, also. The enemy’s ship was a little on my weather quarter, say a couple of points, and had thus slightly the weather-gauge of me. As I knew I could lay nearer the wind than she, being able to brace my yards sharper, and had besides, the advantage of larger fore-and-aft sails, comparatively, stay-sails, try-sails, and a very large spanker, I resolved at once to hold my wind, so closely, as to compel her to furl her sails, though this would carry me a little athwart her bows, and bring me perhaps a little nearer to her, for the next half hour, or so. A rain squall now came up, and enveloped the two ships, hiding each from the other. As the rain blew off to leeward, and the Brooklyn reappeared, she seemed fearfully near to us, and I began to fear I should realize the foreboding of my lieutenant. I could not but admire the majesty of her appearance, with her broad flaring bows, and clean, and beautiful run, and her masts, and yards, as taunt and square, as those of an old time sailing frigate. The stars and stripes of a large ensign flew out from time to time, from under the lee of her spanker, and we could see an apparently anxious crowd of officers on her quarter-deck, many of them with telescopes directed toward us. She had, evidently, I thought, gained upon us, and I [Pg 118]expected every moment to hear the whiz of a shot; but still she did not fire.

I now ordered my paymaster to get his public chest, and papers ready for throwing overboard, if it should become necessary. At this crisis the engineer came up from below, bringing the welcome intelligence that the “foaming” of his boilers had ceased, and that his engine was “working beautifully,” giving the propeller several additional turns per minute. The breeze, too, favored me, for it had freshened considerably; and what was still more to the purpose, I began to perceive that I was “eating” the Brooklyn “out of the wind”; in other words, that she was falling more and more to leeward. I knew, of course, that as soon as she fell into my wake, she would be compelled to furl her sails. This she did in half an hour or so afterward, and I at once began to breathe more freely, for I could still hold on to my own canvas. I have witnessed many beautiful sights at sea, but the most beautiful of them all was when the Brooklyn let fly all her sheets, and halliards, at once, and clewed up, and furled, in man-of-war style, all her sails, from courses to royals. We now began to gain quite perceptibly on our pursuer, and at half-past three, the chase was abandoned, the baffled Brooklyn retracing her steps to Pass à l’Outre, and the Sumter bounding away on her course seaward.

We fired no gun of triumph in the face of the enemy—my powder was too precious for that—but I sent the crew aloft, to man the rigging, and three such cheers were given for the Confederate flag, “that little bit of striped bunting,” that had waved from the Sumter’s peak during the exciting chase, as could proceed only from the throats of American seamen, in the act of defying a tyrant—those cheers were but a repetition of many such cheers that had been given, by our ancestors, to that other bit of “striped bunting” which had defied the power of England in that olden war, of which our war was but the logical sequence. The reader must not suppose that our anxiety was wholly allayed, as soon as we saw the Brooklyn turn away from us.

 


KELLY, PIET & CO. PUBLISHERS  LITH. BY A. HOEN & CO. BALTO.
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The Sumter running the blockade of Pass à l’Outre by the enemy’s Ship Brooklyn, on the 30th June, 1861.

 

We were, as yet, only a few miles from the land, and our coast was swarming with the enemy’s cruisers. Ship Island [Pg 119]was not a great way off, and there was a constant passing to and fro, of ships-of-war between that island and the passes of the Mississippi, and we might stumble upon one of these at any moment. “Sail ho!” was now shouted from the mast-head. “Where away!” cried the officer of the deck. “Right ahead,” said the look-out. A few minutes only elapsed, and a second sail was descried, “broad on the starboard bow.” But nothing came of these spectres; we passed on, seaward, without so much as raising either of them from the deck, and finally, the friendly robes of night enveloped us. When we at length realized that we had gained an offing; when we began to feel the welcome heave of the sea; when we looked upon the changing aspect of its waters, now darkening into the deepest blue, and breathed the pure air, fresh from the Gulf, untainted of malaria, and untouched of mosquito’s wing, we felt like so many prisoners who had been turned loose from a long and painful confinement; and when I reflected upon my mission, to strike for the right! to endeavor to sweep from the seas the commerce of a treacherous friend, who had become a cruel and relentless foe, I felt, in full force, the inspiration of the poet:—

“Ours the wild life in tumult still to range,
From toil to rest, and joy in every change.
Oh, who can tell? Not thou, luxurious slave,
Whose soul would sicken o’er the heaving wave;
Not thou, vain lord of wantonness and ease,
Whom slumber soothes not—pleasures cannot please;
Oh, who can tell, save he whose heart hath tried,
And danced in triumph o’er the waters wide,
The exulting sense—the pulse’s maddening play,
That thrills the wanderer of that trackless way?
*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    Death!
Come when it will—we snatch the life of life;
When lost—what recks it—by disease or strife?
Let him who crawls, enamored of decay,
Cling to his couch, and sicken years away;
Heave his thick breath, and shake his palsied head;
Ours! the fresh turf, and not the feverish bed;
While gasp by gasp he falters forth his soul,
Ours, with one pang—one bound—escapes control.
His corpse may boast its wan and narrow cave,
And they who loathed his life, may gild his grave:
Ours are the tears, though few, sincerely shed,
When ocean shrouds and sepulchres our dead.”

 

 


[Pg 120]

CHAPTER XII.

BRIEF SKETCH OF THE OFFICERS OF THE SUMTER—HER FIRST PRIZE, WITH OTHER PRIZES, IN QUICK SUCCESSION—HER FIRST PORT.

 

Captain Poor, the commander of the Brooklyn, was greatly censured by his Government, for permitting the escape of the Sumter. It was even hinted that there had been treason, in the engine-room of the Brooklyn, as one or more of the engineers had been heard to express sentiments favorable to the South. There was no truth, of course, in this report. It had its origin in the brain of a people, who, having become traitors, themselves, to their former principles, were ready to suspect, and to impute treason to every one else. The greatest offence which had been committed by Captain Poor was that he had probably permitted his cupidity to draw him away from his station. He had chased a prize, in his eagerness to clutch the prize-money, a little too far—that was all. But in this, he sinned only in common with his countrymen. The thirst of gain, as well as the malignity of hate, seemed, from the very first days of the war, to have seized upon a majority of the Northern people. The Army, and the Navy, professions hitherto held honorable, did not escape the contamination. They were soon found, first plundering, and then maliciously burning private houses. The spectacle of cotton-thieving was more than once presented by the highest dignitaries of the two services—the Admiral quarrelling with the General, as ignoble rogues are wont to quarrel, as to which rightly pertained the booty.

The evening of the escape of the Sumter was one of those Gulf evenings, which can only be felt, and not described. The wind died gently away, as the sun declined, leaving a calm, and sleeping sea, to reflect a myriad of stars. The sun had gone down behind a screen of purple, and gold, and to add to[Pg 121] the beauty of the scene, as night set in, a blazing comet, whose tail spanned nearly a quarter of the heavens, mirrored itself within a hundred feet of our little bark, as she ploughed her noiseless way through the waters. As I leaned on the carriage of a howitzer on the poop of my ship, and cast a glance toward the quarter of the horizon whence the land had disappeared, memory was busy with the events of the last few months. How hurried, and confused they had been! It seemed as though I had dreamed a dream, and found it difficult, upon waking, to unite the discordant parts. A great government had been broken up, family ties had been severed, and war—grim, ghastly war—was arraying a household against itself. A little while back, and I had served under the very flag which I had that day defied. Strange revolution of feeling, how I now hated that flag! It had been to me as a mistress to a lover; I had looked upon it with admiring eyes, had dallied with it in hours of ease, and had had recourse to it, in hours of trouble, and now I found it false! What wonder that I felt a lover’s resentment?

My first lieutenant now approached me, and touching my elbow, said, “Captain, had we not better throw this howitzer overboard? it can be of no further service to us, and is very much in the way.” My waking dream was dissolved, on the instant, and I returned at once to the duties of the ship. I assented to the lieutenant’s proposition, and in a few minutes more, the poop was cleared of the incumbrance. It was the howitzer—a heavy, awkward, iron field-piece with huge wheels—which we had received on board, when we lay between the forts, as a protection against the enemy’s boats. The rest of the night, to a late hour, was devoted to lashing, and otherwise securing such heavy articles, as were likely to be thrown from their places, by the rolling of the ship; getting the anchors in-board and stowing them, and, generally, in making the ship snug. I turned in after a day of excitement, and slept too soundly to continue the day-dream from which I had been aroused by my first lieutenant.

The sun rose in an unclouded sky, the next morning, with a gentle breeze from the south-west, or about abeam; our course being about south-east. The look-out at the mast-head, after[Pg 122] having carefully scanned the horizon in every direction, informed the officer of the deck, that there was nothing in sight. The awnings were soon spread, and the usual routine of a man-of-war, at sea, commenced. The crew was mustered, in clean apparel, at quarters, at nine o’clock, and a division of guns was exercised, the rest of the crew being dispersed in idle groups about the deck; the old salts overhauling their bags, and seeing that their tobacco, and soap, and needles, and thread were all right for the cruise, and the youngsters discussing their recent escape. At noon, we found ourselves in latitude 26° 18′, and longitude 87° 23′. I had provided myself with two excellent chronometers, before leaving New Orleans, and having had much experience as a master, I was always enabled, when the sun was visible, at the proper hours, to fix my position within from a quarter, to half a mile, or, what is the same thing, within from one to two seconds of time. I appointed my junior lieutenant, navigating officer, pro forma, but always navigated my ship, myself. I had every confidence in the ability of my young lieutenant, but I always found, that I slept better, when surrounded by danger, after I had fixed the position of my ship, by my own observations.

We held on our course, during the rest of this day, without the least incident to break in upon the monotony—not so much as a sail having been descried in any direction; not that we were in want of excitement, for we had scarcely regained our equilibrium from the excitement of the previous day. An occasional swash of the sea against the ship’s sides, the monotonous beating of time by her propeller, an occasional order from the officer of the deck, and the routine “calls” of the boatswain’s whistle, as dinner, or grog was piped, were the only sounds audible, beyond the usual hum of conversation among the crew.

If the reader will permit me, I will avail myself of this interval of calm before the storm, to introduce to him some of my officers. This is indeed but a courtesy due him, as he is to be a passenger in our midst. On the afternoon of our escape from the Brooklyn, the officers of the ward-room were kind enough to invite me to drink a glass of wine with them, in honor of our success, and I will avail myself of this occasion,[Pg 123] to make the presentations. I am seated at one end of the long mess-table, and my first lieutenant at the other. The first lieutenant, as the reader has already been informed, by an inspection of the Sumter’s muster-roll, is from Georgia. John McIntosh Kell is a descendant from one of the oldest families in that State, having the blood of the McIntoshes in his veins, through one branch of his ancestors. He was bred in the old Navy, and my acquaintance with him commenced when he was in trouble. He was serving as a passed midshipman, on board the old sailing sloop Albany, and being ordered, on one occasion, to perform what he considered a menial duty, he resisted the order. Some of his brother passed midshipmen were in the same category. A court-martial resulted, and, at the request of the young gentlemen, I defended them. The relation of counsel, and client, as a matter of course, brought us close together, and I discovered that young Kell had in him, the making of a man. So far from being a mutineer, he had a high respect for discipline, and had only resisted obedience to the order in question, from a refined sense of gentlemanly propriety. The reader will see these qualities in him, now, as he sits opposite me. He has developed since the time I speak of, into the tall, well-proportioned gentleman, of middle age, with brown, wavy hair, and a magnificent beard, inclining to red. See how scrupulously neat he is dressed, and how suave, and affable he is, with his associates. His eye is now beaming gentleness, and kindness. You will scarcely recognize him, as the same man, when you see him again on deck, arraigning some culprit, “at the mast,” for a breach of discipline. When Georgia seceded, Lieutenant Kell was well on his way to the commander’s list, in the old Navy, but he would have scorned the commission of an admiral, if it had been tendered him as the price of treason to his State. To have brought a Federal ship into the waters of Georgia, and ravaged her coasts, and fired upon her people, would have been, in his eyes, little less than matricide. He forthwith resigned his commission, and joined his fortunes with those of his people. When it was decided, at Montgomery, that I was to have the Sumter, I at once thought of Kell, and, at my request, he was ordered to the ship—Commodore Tattnall, with[Pg 124] whom he had been serving on the Georgia coast, giving him up very reluctantly.

Seated next to myself, on my right hand, is Lieutenant Robert T. Chapman. This gentleman is from Alabama; he is several years younger than Kell, not so tall, but stouter, in proportion. His complexion, as you see, is dark, and he has jet-black hair, and eyes—the latter remarkable for their brilliancy, and for a twinkle of fun, and good humor. Chapman is the life of the mess-table; always in a pleasant mood, and running over with wit and anecdote. Though he has a fashion, as you see, of wearing his hair closely cropped, he is the very reverse of a round-head, being a preux chevalier, as ready for the fight as the dance, and having a decided preference for the music of the band, over that of “Old Hundred.” He is the second lieutenant, and has, consequently, the easiest berth among the sea lieutenants, being relieved from the drudgery of the first lieutenant, and exempt from the calls for extra duty, that are sometimes made upon the junior lieutenant. When his watch is over, and his division drilled, he is a gentleman at large, for the rest of the day. You see by his build—a slight inclination to corpulency—that he is fond of his ease, and that he has fallen as naturally into the place of second lieutenant, as if it had been cut out for him on purpose. He also was bred in the old Navy, and was found to be of the pure metal, instead of the dross, when the touchstone of secession came to be applied to separate the one from the other.

At Lieutenant Kell’s right hand, sits Lieutenant John M. Stribling, the third lieutenant, and a native of the glorious little State of South Carolina. He is of medium height, somewhat spare in build, with brown hair, and whiskers, and mild and expressive blue eyes; the mildness of the eye only dwelling in it, however, in moments of repose. When excited at the thought of wrong, or oppression, it has a peculiar stare of firmness, as much as to say,

“This rock shall fly,
From its firm base as soon as I.”

Stribling was also an élève of the old Navy, and, though tied[Pg 125] to it, by cords that were hard to sever, he put honor above place, in the hour of trial, and came South.

 


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Kelly, Piet & Co. Baltimore.

 

Next to Stribling, sits Lieutenant William E. Evans, the fourth and junior lieutenant of the ship. He is not more than twenty-four years of age, slim in person, of medium height, and rather delicate-looking, though not from ill health. His complexion is dark, and he has black hair, and eyes. He has a very agreeable, riante expression about his face, and is somewhat given to casuistry, being fond of an argument, when occasion presents itself. He is but recently out of the Naval Academy, at Annapolis, and like all new graduates, feels the freshness of academic honors. He is a native of South Carolina, and a brother of General Evans of that State, who so greatly distinguished himself, afterward, at the battle of Manassas, and on other bloody fields.

If the reader will now cast his eye toward the centre of the table, on my right hand, he will see two gentlemen, both with black hair and eyes, and both somewhat under middle size, conversing together. These are Dr. Francis L. Galt, the Surgeon, and Mr. Henry Myers, the Paymaster, both from the old service; the former a native of Virginia, and the latter a native of South Carolina; and opposite these, are the Chief Engineer, and Marine Officer,—Mr. Miles J. Freeman, and Lieutenant B. Howell, the latter a brother-in-law of Mr. Jefferson Davis, our honored President. I have thus gone the circuit of the ward-room. All these officers, courteous reader, will make the cruise with us, and if you will inspect the adjoining engraving, and are a judge of character, after the rules of Lavater and Spurzheim, you will perceive in advance, how much reason I shall have to be proud of them.

We may now take up our narrative, from the point at which it was interrupted, for the purpose of these introductions. Day passed into night, and with the night came the brilliant comet again, lighting us on our way over the waste of waters. The morning of the second of July, our second day out, dawned clear, and beautiful, the Sumter still steaming in an almost calm sea, with nothing to impede her progress. At eight A. M. we struck the north-east trade-wind, and made sail in aid of steam, giving orders to the engineer, to make the most of his fuel, by carrying only a moderate head of steam. Toward[Pg 126] noon, a few trade squalls passed over us, with light and refreshing showers of rain; just enough to cause me to take shelter, for a few moments, under the lee of the spanker. At noon, we observed in latitude 23° 4′ showing that we had crossed the tropic—the longitude being 86° 13′. The reader has seen that we have been steering to the S. E., diminishing both latitude, and longitude, and if he will look upon the chart of the Caribbean Sea, he will perceive, that we are approaching Cape San Antonio, the south end of the island of Cuba; but he can scarcely conjecture what sort of a cruise I had marked out for myself. The Secretary of the Navy, in those curt sailing orders which we have already seen, had considerately left me carte blanche as to cruising-ground, but as I was “to do the greatest injury to the enemy’s commerce, in the shortest time,” the implication was, that I should, at once, throw myself into some one of the chief thoroughfares of his trade. I accordingly set my eye on Cape St. Roque, in Brazil, which may be said to be the great turning-point of the commerce of the world. My intention was to make a dash, of a few days, at the enemy’s ships on the south side of Cuba, coal at some convenient point, stretch over to Barbadoes, coal again, and then strike for the Brazilian coast. It is with this view, that the Sumter is now running for the narrow outlet, that issues from the Gulf of Mexico, between Cape Antonio, and the opposite coast of Yucatan. I shaped my course for the middle of this passage, but about midnight, made the light of Cape Antonio right ahead, showing that I had been drifted, northward, by a current setting, at the rate of from three fourths of a mile, to a mile per hour. We drew off a little to the southward, doubled the Cape, with the light still in view, and at nine o’clock, the next morning, we found ourselves off Cape Corrientes.

The weather had now become cloudy, and we had a fresh trade-wind, veering from E. to E. S. E., with some sea on. At meridian, we observed in latitude 21° 29′, the longitude being 84° 06′. Running along the Cuban coast, between it and the Isle of Pines, of piratical memory, at about three in the afternoon, the cry of “Sail ho!” was heard from the mast-head, for the first time since we had left the mouths of the Mississippi. The look-out, upon being questioned, said that he saw two[Pg 127] sail, and that they were both right ahead. We came up with them, very rapidly, for they were standing in our direction, and when we had approached within signal distance, we showed them the English colors. The nearest sail, which proved to be a brig, hoisted the Spanish colors, and, upon being boarded, was found to be from Cadiz, bound for Vera Cruz. She was at once permitted to proceed. Resuming our course, we now stood for the other sail, which, by this time, there was no mistaking; she being plainly American, although she had not yet shown her colors. A gun soon brought these to the peak, when, as I had expected, the stars and stripes unfolded themselves, gracefully, to the breeze. Here was our first prize, and a most welcome sight it was. The capture, I find, upon looking over my notes, was recorded in a few lines, barren of all incident, or remark, except only that the doomed ship was from the “Black Republican State of Maine;” but I well recollect the mingled impressions of joy, and sadness, that were made upon me by the event. The “old flag,” which I had been accustomed to worship, in my youth, had a criminal look, in my eyes, as it ascended to the peak of that ship. How strangely we sometimes invest mere inanimate things with the attributes of life! When I had fired the gun, as a command to the stranger to heave to, and show his colors, I had hauled down the English, and hoisted my own flag. The stars and stripes seemed now to look abashed in the presence of the new banner of the South; pretty much as a burglar might be supposed to look, who had been caught in the act of breaking into a gentleman’s house; but then the burglar was my relative, and had erst been my friend—how could I fail to feel some pity for him, along with the indignation, which his crime had excited? The boarding officer soon returned from the captured ship, bringing with him the master, with his papers. There were no knotty points of fact or law to embarrass my decision. There were the American register, and clearance, and the American character impressed upon every plank and spar of the ship. Nothing could exceed the astonishment of the master, who was rather a mild, amiable-looking gentleman, not at all disposed to go either into hysterics, or the heroics. “A clap of thunder in a cloudless sky could not[Pg 128] have surprised me more,” said he to me as I overhauled his papers, “than the appearance of the Confederate flag in these seas.” “My duty is a painful one,” said I, “to destroy so noble a ship as yours, but I must discharge it without vain regrets; and as for yourself, you will only have to do, as so many thousands have done before you, submit to the fortunes of war—yourself and your crew will be well treated on board my ship.” The prize bore the name of The Golden Rocket, was a fine bark, nearly new, of about seven hundred tons, and was seeking, in ballast, a cargo of sugar in some one of the Cuban ports. Boats were dispatched to bring off the crew, and such provisions, cordage, sails, and paints as the different departments of my ship stood in need of, and at about ten o’clock at night, the order was given to apply the torch to her.

The wind, by this time, had become very light, and the night was pitch-dark—the darkness being of that kind, graphically described by old sailors, when they say, you may cut it with a knife. I regret that I cannot give to the reader the picture of the burning ship, as it presented itself to the silent, and solemn watchers on board the Sumter as they leaned over her hammock rails to witness it. The boat, which had been sent on this errand of destruction, had pulled out of sight, and her oars ceasing to resound, we knew that she had reached the doomed ship, but so impenetrable was the darkness, that no trace of either boat, or ship could be seen, although the Sumter was distant only a few hundred yards. Not a sound could be heard on board the Sumter, although her deck was crowded with men. Every one seemed busy with his own thoughts, and gazing eagerly in the direction of the doomed ship, endeavoring, in vain, to penetrate the thick darkness. Suddenly, one of the crew exclaimed, “There is the flame! She is on fire!” The decks of this Maine-built ship were of pine, calked with old-fashioned oakum, and paid with pitch; the wood-work of the cabin was like so much tinder, having been seasoned by many voyages to the tropics, and the forecastle was stowed with paints, and oils. The consequence was, that the flame was not long in kindling, but leaped, full-grown, into the air, in a very few minutes after its first faint glimmer had been seen. The boarding officer, to do his work more effectually, had [Pg 129]applied the torch simultaneously in three places, the cabin, the mainhold, and the forecastle; and now the devouring flames rushed up these three apertures, with a fury which nothing could resist. The burning ship, with the Sumter’s boat in the act of shoving off from her side; the Sumter herself, with her grim, black sides, lying in repose like some great sea-monster, gloating upon the spectacle, and the sleeping sea, for there was scarce a ripple upon the water, were all brilliantly lighted. The indraught into the burning ship’s holds, and cabins, added every moment new fury to the flames, and now they could be heard roaring like the fires of a hundred furnaces, in full blast. The prize ship had been laid to, with her main-topsail to the mast, and all her light sails, though clewed up, were flying loose about the yards. The forked tongues of the devouring element, leaping into the rigging, newly tarred, ran rapidly up the shrouds, first into the tops, then to the topmast-heads, thence to the top-gallant, and royal mast-heads, and in a moment more to the trucks; and whilst this rapid ascent of the main current of fire was going on, other currents had run out upon the yards, and ignited all the sails. A top-gallant sail, all on fire, would now fly off from the yard, and sailing leisurely in the direction of the light breeze that was fanning, rather than blowing, break into bright, and sparkling patches of flame, and settle, or rather silt into the sea. The yard would then follow, and not being wholly submerged by its descent into the sea, would retain a portion of its flame, and continue to burn, as a floating brand, for some minutes. At one time, the intricate net-work of the cordage of the burning ship was traced, as with a pencil of fire, upon the black sky beyond, the many threads of flame twisting, and writhing, like so many serpents that had received their death wounds. The mizzen-mast now went by the board, then the fore-mast, and in a few minutes afterward, the great main-mast tottered, reeled, and fell over the ship’s side into the sea, making a noise like that of the sturdy oak of the forests when it falls by the stroke of the axeman.

By the light of this flambeau, upon the lonely and silent sea, lighted of the passions of bad men who should have been our brothers, the Sumter, having aroused herself from her dream of vengeance, and run up her boats, moved forward on her course.[Pg 130] The captain of the Golden Rocket watched the destruction of his ship from the quarter-deck of the Sumter, apparently with the calm eye of a philosopher, though, doubtless, he felt the emotions which the true sailor always feels, when he looks upon the dying agonies of his beloved ship, whether she be broken up by the storm, or perish in any other way.

The flag! what was done with the “old flag”? It was marked with the day, and the latitude and longitude of the capture, and consigned to the keeping of the signal quartermaster, who prepared a bag for its reception; and when this bag was full, he prepared another, and another, as the cruise progressed, and occasion required. It was the especial pride of this veteran American seaman to count over his trophies, and when the weather was fine, he invariably asked permission of the officer of the deck, under pretence of damage from moths, to “air” his flags; and as he would bend on his signal-halliards, and throw them out to the breeze, one by one, his old eye would glisten, and a grim smile of satisfaction would settle upon his sun-burned, and weather-beaten features. This was our practice also on board the Alabama, and when that ship was sunk in the British channel, in her engagement with the enemy’s ship Kearsarge, as the reader will learn in due time, if he has the patience to follow me in these memoirs, we committed to the keeping of the guardian spirits of that famous old battle-ground, a great many bags-full of “old flags,” to be stored away in the caves of the sea, as mementos that a nation once lived whose naval officers prized liberty more than the false memorial of it, under which they had once served, and who were capable, when it became

“Hate’s polluted rag,”

of tearing it down.

The prisoners—what did we do with them? The captain was invited to mess in the ward-room, and when he was afterward landed, the officers generously made him up a purse to supply his immediate necessities. The crew was put into a mess by themselves, with their own cook, and was put on a footing, with regard to rations, with the Sumter’s own men.[Pg 131] We were making war upon the enemy’s commerce, but not upon his unarmed seamen. It gave me as much pleasure to treat these with humanity, as it did to destroy his ships, and one of the most cherished recollections which I have brought out of a war, which, in some sense, may be said to have been a civil war, is, that the “pirate,” whom the enemy denounced, with a pen dipped in gall, and with a vocabulary of which decent people should be ashamed, set that same enemy the example, which he has failed to follow, of treating prisoners of war, according to the laws of war.

 

 


[Pg 132]

CHAPTER XIII.

RAPID WORK—SEVEN PRIZES IN TWO DAYS—THE SUMTER MAKES HER FIRST PORT, AND WHAT OCCURRED THERE.

 

We burned the Golden Rocket, as has been seen, on the 3d of July. The next day was the “glorious Fourth”—once glorious, indeed, as the day on which a people broke the chains of a government which had bound them against their will, and vindicated the principle of self-government as an inalienable right; but since desecrated by the same people, who have scorned, and spat upon the record made by their fathers, and repudiated, as a heresy fraught with the penalties of treason, the inalienable right for which their fathers struggled. The grand old day belonged, of right, to us of the South, for we still venerated it, as hallowed by our fathers, and were engaged in a second revolution, to uphold, and defend the doctrines which had been proclaimed in the first, but we failed to celebrate it on board the Sumter. We could not help associating it with the “old flag,” which had now become a sham and a deceit; with the wholesale robberies which had been committed upon our property, and with the villification and abuse which had been heaped upon our persons by our late co-partners, for a generation and more. The Declaration of Independence had proved to be a specious mask, under which our loving brethren of the North had contrived to draw us into a co-partnership with them, that they might be the better enabled, in the end, to devour us. How could we respect it, in such a connection? Accordingly, the Captain of the Sumter was not invited to dine in the ward-room, on the time-honored day, nor was there any extra glass of grog served to the crew, as had been the custom in the old service.

The weather still continued cloudy, with a few rain squalls[Pg 133] passing with the trade wind, during the morning. I had turned into my cot, late on the previous night, and was still sleeping soundly, when, at daylight, an officer came below to inform me, that there were two sails in sight from the mast-head. We were steaming, as before, up the south side of Cuba, with the land plainly in sight, and soon came close enough to distinguish that the vessels ahead were both brigantines, and probably Americans. There being no occasion to resort to ruse, or stratagem, as the wind was light, and there was no possibility of the ships running away from us, we showed them at once the Confederate colors, and at the same time fired a blank cartridge to heave them to. They obeyed our signal, promptly, and came to the wind, with their foretop-sails aback, and the United States colors at their peaks. When within a few hundred yards, we stopped our engine, and lowered, and sent a boat on board of them—the boarding officer remaining only a few minutes on board of each, and bringing back with him, their respective masters, with their ships’ papers. Upon examination of these, it appeared that one of the brigantines was called the Cuba, and the other the Machias; that they were both laden with sugar and molasses, for English ports, and that they had recently come out of the port of Trinidad-de-Cuba. Indeed the recency of their sailing was tested, by the way in which their stern-boats were garlanded, with festoons of luscious bananas, and pine-apples, and by sundry nets filled with golden-hued oranges—all of which was very tempting to the eyes and olfactories of men, who had recently issued from a blockaded port, in which such luxuries were tabooed. The cargoes of these small vessels being neutral, as certified by the papers—and indeed of this there could be little doubt, as they were going from one neutral port to another—I could not burn the vessels as I had done the Golden Rocket, and so after transferring prize crews to them, which occupied us an hour or two, we took them both in tow, and steamed away for Cienfuegos—it being my intention to test the disposition of Spain toward us, in this matter of taking in prizes. England and France had issued proclamations, prohibiting both belligerents, alike, from bringing prizes into their ports, but Spain had not yet spoken, and[Pg 134] I had hopes that she might be induced to pursue a different course.

Nothing worthy of note occurred during the rest of this day; we steamed leisurely along the coast, making about five knots an hour. Finding our speed too much diminished, by the towage of two heavily laden vessels, we cast off one of them—the Cuba—during the night and directed the prize-master to make sail, and follow us into port. The Cuba did not rejoin us, and we afterward learned through the medium of the enemy’s papers, that she had been recaptured by her crew. I had only sent a midshipman and four men on board of her as a prize crew; and the midshipman incautiously going aloft, to look out for the land, as he was approaching his port, and a portion of his prize crew proving treacherous—they were not native Americans I am glad to say—he was fired upon by the master, and crew of the brig, who had gotten possession of the revolvers of the prize crew, and compelled to surrender, after defending himself the best he could, and being wounded in one or two places. The vessel then changed her course and made haste to get out of the Caribbean Sea.

The morning of the fifth dawned cloudy, with the usual moderate trade-wind. It cleared toward noon, and at two P. M. we crossed the shoal off the east end of the Jardinillos reef, in from seven to five fathoms of water. The sea, by this time, had become quite smooth, and the rays of a bright sun penetrated the clear waters to the very bottom of the shoal, revealing everything to us, as clearly as though the medium through which we were viewing it were atmosphere instead of water. Every rock, sea-shell, and pebble lying at the bottom of the sea were distinctly visible to us, and we could see the little fish darting into their holes, and hiding-places, as the steamer ploughed her way through their usually quiet domain. It was quite startling to look over the side, so shallow did the waters appear. The chart showed that there was no danger, and the faithful lead line, in the hands of a skilful seaman, gave us several fathoms of water to spare, and yet one could hardly divest himself of the belief, that at the next moment the steamer would run aground.

[Pg 135]Crossing this shoal, we now hauled up N. E. by N., for the Cienfuegos lighthouse. As we approached the lights, we descried two more sail in the south-east, making an offing with all diligence, to which we immediately gave chase. They were eight or nine miles distant from the land, and to facilitate our pursuit, we cast off our remaining tow, directing the prize-master to heave to, off the lighthouse, and await our return. We had already captured three prizes, in twenty-four hours, and, as here were probably two more, I could perceive that my crew were becoming enamoured of their business, pretty much as the veteran fox-hunter does in view of the chase. They moved about with great alacrity, in obedience to orders; the seamen springing aloft to furl the sails like so many squirrels, and the firemen below sending up thick volumes of black smoke, from their furnaces. The Sumter, feeling the renewed impulse of her engines, sprang forward in pursuit of the doomed craft ahead, as if she too knew what was going on. We had just daylight enough left to enable us to accomplish our purpose; an hour or two later, and at least one of the vessels might have escaped. Coming up, first with one, and then the other, we hove them to, successively, by “hail,” and brought the masters on board. They both proved to be brigantines, and were American, as we had supposed:—one, the Ben. Dunning, of Maine, and the other, the Albert Adams, of Massachusetts. They had come out of the port of Cienfuegos, only a few hours before, were both sugar laden, and their cargoes were documented as Spanish property. We hastily threw prize crews on board of them, and directed the prize masters to stand in for the light, still in sight, distant about twelve miles, and hold on to it until daylight. It was now about ten P. M. Some appeal was made to me by the master of one of the brigantines, in behalf of his wife and a lady companion of hers, who were both invalids from the effects of yellow fever, which they had taken in Cienfuegos, and from which they were just convalescing. I desired him to assure the ladies, that they should be treated with every tenderness, and respect, and that if they desired it, I would send my surgeon to visit them; but I declined to release the captured vessel on this account.

[Pg 136]We now stood in for the light ourselves, and letting our steam go down, to the lowest point consistent with locomotion, lay off, and on, until daylight. The next morning dawned beautiful, and bright, as a tropic morning only can dawn. We were close in under the land, and our prizes were lying around us, moving to and fro, gracefully, to preserve their positions. The most profuse, and luxuriant vegetation, of that peculiarly dark green known only to the tropics, ran down to the very water’s edge; the beautiful little stream, on which Cienfuegos lies, disembogued itself at the foot of the lighthouse perched on a base of blackened limestone rock; and the neat, white fort, that sat a mile or two up the river, was now glistening in the rays of the sun, just lifting himself above the central range of mountains. The sea breeze had died away during the night, and been replaced by the land breeze, in obedience to certain laws which prevail in all countries swept by the trade-winds; and this land breeze, blowing so gently, as scarce to disturb a tress on the brow of beauty, came laden with the most delicious perfume of shrub and flower.

But, “what smoke is that we perceive, coming down the river?” said I, to the officer of the deck. “I will see in a moment,” said this active young officer, and springing several ratlines up the rigging, to enable him to obtain a view over the intervening foliage, he said, “There is a small steam-tug coming down, with three vessels in tow, two barks and a brig.” “Can you make out the nationality of the ships in tow?” I inquired. “Plainly,” he replied, “they all have the American colors set.” Here was a piece of unlooked-for good fortune. I had not reckoned upon carrying more than three, or four prizes into port, but here were three others. But to secure these latter, a little management would be necessary. I could not molest them, within neutral jurisdiction, and the neutral jurisdiction extended to a marine league, or three geographical miles from the land. I immediately hoisted a Spanish jack at the fore, as a signal for a pilot, and directed the officer of the deck, to disarrange his yards, a little, cock-billing this one, slightly, in one direction, and that one, in another, and to send all but about a dozen men below, to give the strangers the idea that we were a common merchant steamer, instead of a ship[Pg 137] of war. To carry still further the illusion, we hoisted the Spanish merchant flag. But the real trouble was with the prizes—two of these must surely be recognized by their companions of only the day before! Luckily my prize masters took the hint I had given them, and hoisted their respective flags, at the fore, for a pilot also. This mystified the new-comers, and they concluded that the two brigantines, though very like, could not be the same. Besides, there was a third brigantine in company, and she evidently was a new arrival. And so they came on, quite unsuspiciously, and when the little steamer had towed them clear of the mouth of the harbor, she let them go, and they made sail. The fellows worked very industriously, and soon had their ships under clouds of canvas, pressing them out to get an offing, before the sea breeze should come in. The steam-tug, as soon as she had let go her tows, came alongside the Sumter, and a Spanish pilot jumped on board of me, asking me in his native tongue, if I desired to go up to town; showing that my ruse of the Spanish flag had even deceived him. I replied in the affirmative, and said to him, pleasantly, “but I am waiting a little, to take back those ships you have just towed down.” “Diablo!” said he, “how can that be; they are Americanos del Norte, bound to Boston, and la Nueva York!” “That is just what I want,” said I, “we are Confederados, and we have la guerra with the Americanos del Norte!” “Caramba!” said he, “that is good; give her the steam quick, Captain!” “No, no,” replied I, “wait a while. I must pay due respect to your Queen, and the Captain-General; they command in these waters, within the league, and I must wait until the ships have passed beyond that.” I accordingly waited until the ships had proceeded some five miles from the coast, as estimated both by the pilot, and myself, when we turned the Sumter’s head seaward, and again removed the leash. She was not long in pouncing upon the astonished prey. A booming gun, and the simultaneous descent of the Spanish, and ascent of the Confederate flag to the Sumter’s peak, when we had approached within about a mile of them, cleared up the mystery of the chase, and brought the fugitives to the wind. In half an hour more, their papers had been examined, prize crews had been thrown on board of them, and they were[Pg 138] standing back in company with the Sumter, to rejoin the other prizes.

I had now a fleet of six sail, and when the sea breeze set in next morning, which it did between nine and ten o’clock, I led into the harbor, the fleet following. The three newly captured vessels were the bark West Wind, of Rhode Island; the bark Louisa Kilham, of Massachusetts, and the brigantine Naiad, of New York. They had all cargoes of sugar, which were covered by certificates of neutral property. When the Sumter came abreast of the small fort, which has already been noticed, we were surprised to see the sentinels on post fire a couple of loaded muskets, the balls of which whistled over our heads, and to observe them making gestures, indicating that we must come to anchor. This we immediately did; but the prizes, all of which had the United States colors flying, were permitted to pass, and they sped on their way to the town, some miles above, as they had been ordered. When we had let go our anchor, I dispatched Lieutenant Evans to the fort, to call on the Commandant, and ask for an explanation of his conduct, in bringing us to. The explanation was simple enough. He did not know what to make of the new-born Confederate flag. He had never seen it before. It did not belong to any of the nations of the earth, of which he had any knowledge, and we might be a buccaneer for aught he knew. In the afternoon, the Commandant himself came on board to visit me, and inform me, on the part of the Governor of Cienfuegos, with whom he had communicated, that I might proceed to the town, in the Sumter, if I desired. We drank a glass of wine together, and I satisfied him, that I had not come in to carry his fort by storm—which would have been an easy operation enough, as he had only about a corporal’s guard under his command—or to sack the town of Cienfuegos, after the fashion of the Drakes, and other English sea-robbers, who have left so vivid an impression upon Spanish memory, as to make Spanish commandants of small forts, cautious of all strange craft.

It had only been a week since the Sumter had run the blockade of New Orleans, and already she was out of fuel! having only coal enough left for about twenty-four hours steaming. Here was food for reflection. Active operations[Pg 139] which would require the constant use of steam, would never do; for, by-and-by, when the enemy should get on my track, it would be easy for him to trace me from port to port, if I went into port once a week. I must endeavor to reach some cruising-ground, where I could lie in wait for ships, under sail, and dispense with the use of steam, except for a few hours, at a time, for the purpose of picking up such prizes, as I could not decoy within reach of my guns. I was glad to learn from the pilot, that there was plenty of coal to be had in Cienfuegos, and I dispatched Lieutenant Chapman to town, in one of the ship’s cutters, for the double purpose of arranging for a supply, and communicating with the Governor, on the subject of my prizes, and the position which Spain was likely to occupy, during the war. The following letter addressed by me to his Excellency will explain the object I had in view in coming into Cienfuegos, and the hopes I entertained of the conduct of Spain, whose important island of Cuba lay, as it were, athwart our main gateway to the sea—the Gulf of Mexico.

Confederate States Steamer Sumter,
Island of Cuba, July 6, 1861.

Sir:—I have the honor to inform you, of my arrival at the port of Cienfuegos, with seven prizes of war. These vessels are the brigantines Cuba,[1] Machias, Ben. Dunning, Albert Adams, and Naiad; and barks West Wind, and Louisa Kilham, property of citizens of the United States, which States, as your Excellency is aware, are waging an aggressive and unjust war upon the Confederate States, which I have the honor, with this ship under my command, to represent. I have sought a port of Cuba, with these prizes, with the expectation that Spain will extend to the cruisers of the Confederate States, the same friendly reception that, in similar circumstances, she would extend to the cruisers of the enemy; in other words, that she will permit me to leave the captured vessels within her jurisdiction, until they can be adjudicated by a Court of Admiralty of the Confederate States. As a people maintaining a government de facto, and not only holding the enemy in check, but gaining advantages over him, we are entitled to all the rights of belligerents, and I confidently rely upon the friendly disposition of Spain, who is our near neighbor, in the most important of her colonial possessions, to receive us with equal and even-handed justice, if not with the sympathy which our identity of interests and policy, with regard to an important social and industrial institution, are so well calculated to inspire. A rule which would[Pg 140] exclude our prizes from her ports, during the war, although it should be applied, in terms, equally to the enemy, would not, I respectfully suggest, be an equitable, or just rule. The basis of such a rule, as indeed, of all the conduct of a neutral during war, is equal and impartial justice to all the belligerents, without inclining to the side of either; and this should be a substantial and practical justice, and not exist in terms merely, which may be deceptive. Now, a little reflection will, I think, show your Excellency that the rule in question—the exclusion of the prizes of both belligerents from neutral ports—cannot be applied in the present war, without operating with great injustice to the Confederate States. It is well known to your Excellency, that the United States are a manufacturing and commercial people, whilst the Confederate States are an agricultural people. The consequence of this dissimilarity of pursuits was, that at the breaking out of the war, the former had within their limits, and control, almost all the naval force of the old government. This naval force they have dishonestly seized, and turned against the Confederate States, regardless of the just claims of the latter to a large proportion of it, as tax-payers, out of whose contributions to the common Treasury it was created. The United States, by this disseizin of the property of the Confederate States, are enabled, in the first months of the war, to blockade all the ports of the latter States. In this condition of things, observe the practical working of the rule I am discussing, whatever may be the seeming fairness of its terms. It will be admitted that we have equal belligerent rights with the enemy. One of the most important of these rights, in a war against a commercial people, is that which I have just exercised, of capturing his property, on the high seas. But how are the Confederate States to enjoy, to its full extent, the benefit of this right, if their cruisers are not permitted to enter neutral ports, with their prizes, and retain them there, in safe custody, until they can be condemned, and disposed of? They cannot send them into their own ports, for the reason already mentioned, viz.: that those ports are hermetically sealed by the agency of their own ships, forcibly wrested from them. If they cannot send them into neutral ports, where are they to send them? Nowhere. Except for the purpose of destruction, therefore, their right of capture would be entirely defeated by the adoption of the rule in question, whilst the opposite belligerent would not be inconvenienced by it, at all, as all his own ports are open to him. I take it for granted, that Spain will not think of acting upon so unjust, and unequal a rule.

But another question arises, indeed has already arisen, in the cases of some of the very captures which I have brought into port. The cargoes of several of the vessels are claimed, as appears by certificates found among the papers, as Spanish property. This fact cannot, of course, be verified, except by a judicial proceeding, in the Prize Courts of the Confederate States. But if the prizes cannot be sent either into the ports of the Confederate States, or[Pg 141] into neutral ports, how can this verification be made? Further—supposing there to be no dispute about the title to the cargo, how is it to be unladen, and delivered to the neutral claimant, unless the captured ship can make a port? Indeed, one of the motives which influenced me in making a Spanish colonial port, was the fact that these cargoes were claimed by Spanish subjects, whom I was desirous of putting to as little inconvenience as possible, in the unlading and reception of their property, should it be restored to them, by a decree of the Confederate Courts. It will be for your Excellency to consider, and act upon these grave questions, touching alike the interests of both our governments.

I have the honor to be, &c., &c.,

Raphael Semmes.

I did not expect much to grow immediately out of the above communication. Indeed, as the reader will probably surmise, I had written it more for the eye of the Spanish Premier, than for that of the Governor of a small provincial town, who had no diplomatic power, and whom I knew to be timid, as are all the subordinate officers of absolute governments. I presumed that the Governor would telegraph it to the Captain-General, at Havana, and that the latter would hold the subject in abeyance, until he could hear from the Home Government. Nor was I disappointed in this expectation, for Lieutenant Chapman returned from Cienfuegos, the next morning, and brought me intelligence to this effect.

To dispose of the questions raised, without the necessity of again returning to them, the reader is informed, that Spain, in due time, followed the lead of England and France, in the matter of excluding prizes from her ports; and that my prizes were delivered—to whom, do you think, reader? You will naturally say, to myself, or my duly appointed agent, with instructions to take them out of the Spanish port. This was the result to be logically expected. The Captain-General had received them, in trust, as it were, to abide the decision of his Government. If that decision should be in favor of receiving the prizes of both belligerents, well; if not, I expected to be notified to take them away. But nothing was further, it seems, from the intention of the Captain-General, than this simple and just proceeding; for as soon as the Queen’s proclamation was received, he deliberately handed back all my prizes to their original owners! This was so barefaced a proceeding, that[Pg 142] it was necessary to allege some excuse for it, and the excuse given was, that I had violated the neutral waters of Cuba, and captured my three last prizes within the marine league—my sympathizing friend, the Spanish pilot, and an English sailor, on board the tug, being vouched as the respectable witnesses to the fact! Such was the power of Spanish gold, and Yankee unscrupulousness in the use of it. When I heard of these transactions a few months afterward, I planned a very pretty little quarrel between the Confederate States and Spain, in case the former should be successful in establishing their independence. Cuba, I thought, would make us a couple of very respectable States, with her staples of sugar and tobacco, and with her similar system of labor; and if Spain refused to foot our bill for the robbery of these vessels, we would foot it ourselves, at her expense. But poor old Spain! I ought perhaps to forgive thee, for thou wast afterward kicked, and cuffed by the very Power to which thou didst truckle—the Federal steamers of war making a free use of thy coast of the “Ever Faithful Island of Cuba,” chasing vessels on shore, and burning them, in contempt of thy jurisdiction, and in spite of thy remonstrances. And the day is not far distant, when the school-ma’am and the carpet-bag missionary will encamp on thy plantations, and hold joint conventicles with thy freedmen, in the interests of Godliness, and the said ma’am and missionary.

Great excitement was produced, as may be supposed, by the arrival of the Sumter, with her six prizes, at the quiet little town of Cienfuegos. Lieutenant Chapman was met by a host of sympathizers, and carried to their club, and afterward to the house of one of the principal citizens, who would not hear of his spending the night at a hotel, and installed as his honored guest. Neighbors were called in, and the night was made merry, to a late hour, by the popping of champagne-corks and the story, and the song; and when the festivities had ceased, my tempest-tossed lieutenant was laid away in the sweetest and whitest of sheets, to dream of the eyes of the houries of the household, that had beamed upon him so kindly, that he was in danger of forgetting that he was a married man. For weeks afterward, his messmates could get nothing out of him, but something[Pg 143] about Don this, and Doña that. There was a hurrying to and fro, too, of the stewards, and mess boys, as the cutter in which he returned, came alongside of the ship, for there were sundry boxes, marked Bordeaux, and Cette, and sundry baskets branded with anchors; and there were fruits, and flowers, and squalling chickens to be passed up.

The principal coffee-house of the place had been agog with wonders; the billiard-players had rested idly on their cues, to listen to Madam Rumor with her thousand tongues—how the fort had fired into the Sumter, and how the Sumter had fired back at the fort, and how the matter had finally been settled by the Pirata and the Commandante, over a bottle of champagne. Yankee captains, and consignees, supercargoes, and consuls passed in, and out, in consultation, like so many ants whose nest had been trodden upon, and nothing could be talked of but freights, and insurance, with, and without the war risk; bills of lading, invoices, consul’s certificates to cover cargoes, and last, though not least, where the d—l all the Federal gunboats were, that this Confederate hawk should be permitted to make such a flutter in the Yankee dove-cot.

 

 


[Pg 144]

CHAPTER XIV.

THE SUMTER ON THE WING AGAIN—IS PUT UNDER SAIL FOR THE TIME—REACHES THE ISLAND OF CURAÇOA, AND IS ONLY ABLE TO ENTER AFTER A DIPLOMATIC FIGHT.

 

From what has been said in the last chapter, the reader will have observed how anxious I was to conform my conduct, in all respects, to the laws of war. My hope was, that some of the nations of the earth, at least, would give me an asylum for my prizes, so that I might have them formally condemned by the Confederate States Prize Courts, instead of being obliged to destroy them. It was with this hope, that I had entered the port of Cienfuegos, as the reader has seen; and it was in furtherance of this object, that I now drew up the following appointment of a Prize Agent, who had come well recommended to me, as a gentleman of integrity and capacity.

C. S. Steamer Sumter, Cienfuegos,
July 6, 1861.

Sir:—You are hereby appointed Prize Agent, for, and in behalf of the Confederate States of America, of the following prizes, to wit: The Cuba, Machias, Ben. Dunning, Albert Adams, Naiad, West Wind, and Louisa Kilham, and their cargoes, until the same can be adjudicated, by the Prize Courts of the Confederate States, and disposed of by the proper authorities. You will take the necessary steps for the safe custody of these prizes, and you will not permit anything to be removed from, or disturbed on board of them. You will be pleased, also, to take the examinations of the master, and mate of each of these vessels, before a notary, touching the property of the vessels, and cargoes; and making a copy thereof, to be retained in your own possession, you will send, by some safe conveyance, the originals, addressed to “The Judge of the Confederate States District Court, New Orleans, La.”

I have the honor to be, &c.,
Raphael Semmes.

Señor Don Mariano Dias.

[Pg 145]During the day, the steam-tug towed down from the town, for me, a couple of lighters, containing about one hundred tons of coal, five thousand gallons of water, and some fresh provisions for the crew. It was necessary that we should prepare for sea, with some dispatch, as there was a line of telegraph, from Cienfuegos to Havana, where there were always a number of the enemy’s ships of war stationed. As a matter of course, the U. S. Consul at Cienfuegos had telegraphed to his brother Consul, in Havana, the arrival of the Sumter, in the first ten minutes after she had let go her anchor; and as another matter of course, there must already be several fast steamers on their way, to capture this piratical craft, which had thus so unceremoniously broken in upon the quiet of the Cuban waters, and the Yankee sugar, and rum trade. I had recourse to the chart, and having ascertained at what hour these steamers would be enabled to arrive, I fixed my own departure, a few hours ahead, so as to give them the satisfaction of finding that the bird, which they were in pursuit of, had flown. My excellent first lieutenant came up to time, and the ship was reported ready for sea before sunset, or in a little more than twenty-four hours, after our arrival.

To avoid the coal dust, which is one of the pests of a steamer, and the confusion, and noise which necessarily accompany the exceedingly poetic operation of coaling, I landed, as the sun was approaching the western horizon, in company with my junior lieutenant and sailing-master, for a stroll, and to obtain sights for testing my chronometers, as well. Having disposed of the business part of the operation first, in obedience to the old maxim; that is to say, having made our observations upon the sun, for time, we wandered about, for an hour, and more, amid the rich tropical vegetation of this queen of islands, now passing under the flowering acacia, and now under the deep-foliaged orange-tree, which charmed two senses at once—that of smell, by the fragrance of its young flowers, and that of sight, by the golden hue of its luscious and tempting fruit. We had landed abreast of our ship, and a few steps sufficed to put us in the midst of a dense wilderness, of floral beauty, with nothing to commune with but nature. What a contrast there was between this peaceful, and lovely scene, and the life we[Pg 146] had led for the last week! We almost loathed to go back to the dingy walls, and close quarters of our little craft, where everything told us of war, and admonished us that a life of toil, vexation, and danger lay before us, and that we must bid a long farewell to rural scenes, and rural pleasures. As we still wandered, absorbed in such speculations as these, unconscious of the flight of time, the sound of the evening gun came booming on the ear, to recall us to our senses, and retracing our steps, we hurriedly re-embarked. That evening’s stroll lingered long in my memory, and was often recalled, amid the whistling, and surging of the gale, and the tumbling, and discomforts of the ship.

I had been looking anxiously, for the last few hours, for the arrival of our prize brigantine, the Cuba, but she failed to make her appearance, and I was forced to abandon the hope of getting back my prize crew from her. I left with my prize agent, the following letter of instructions for the midshipman in command of the Cuba.

Confederate States Steamer Sumter,
Cienfuegos, July 7, 1861.

Sir:—Upon your arrival at this place, you will put the master, mate, and crew of the Cuba on parole, not to serve against the Confederate States, during the present war, unless exchanged, and release them. You will then deliver the brigantine to the Governor, for safe custody, until the orders of the Captain-General can be known in regard to her. I regret much that you are not able to arrive in time, to rejoin the ship, and you must exercise your judgment, as to the mode in which you shall regain your country. You will, no doubt, be able to raise sufficient funds for transporting yourself, and the four seamen who are with you, to some point in the Confederate States, upon a bill of exchange, which you are hereby authorized to draw, upon the Secretary of the Navy. Upon your arrival within our territory, you will report yourself to that officer. Your baggage has been sent you by the pilot.

Midshipman A. G. Hudgins.

I did not meet Mr. Hudgins, afterward, until as a rear admiral, I was ordered to the command of the James River fleet, in the winter of 1864. He was then attached to one of my ships, as a lieutenant. On the retreat from Richmond, I made him a captain of light artillery, and he was paroled with me, at Greensboro’, North Carolina, in May 1865. How he has settled with my friend, the Spanish pilot, who agreed[Pg 147] with me that the prizes which I captured, off Cienfuegos, were five miles from the land, and with the Northern claimants, and the Captain-General of Cuba, that they were less than three miles from it, about his baggage, I have never learned.

Everything being in readiness for sea, on board the Sumter, and the officers having all returned from their visits to the town, at eleven P. M., we got under way, and as the bell struck the midnight hour, we steamed out of the harbor, the lamps from the light-house throwing a bright glare upon our deck, as we passed under its shadow, close enough to “have tossed a biscuit” to the keeper; so bold is the entrance of the little river. The sea was nearly calm, and the usual land breeze was gently breathing, rather than blowing. Having given the course to the officer of the deck, I was glad to go below, and turn in, after the excitement, and confusion of the last forty-eight hours. When some seven or eight miles from the land, we lost the land breeze, and were struck by the sea breeze, nearly ahead, with some force. We steamed on, all the next day, without any incident to break in upon the monotony, except a short chase which we gave to a brigantine, which proved, upon our coming up with her, to be Spanish. Between nine, and ten o’clock in the evening, we passed the small islands of the Caymans, which we found to be laid down in the charts we were using, some fifteen or sixteen miles too far to the westward. As there is a current setting in the vicinity of these islands, and as the islands themselves are so low, as to be seen with difficulty, in a dark night,—and the night on which we were passing them was dark,—I make this observation, to put navigators on their guard.

The morning of the ninth of July dawned clear, and beautifully, but as the sun gained power, the trade-wind increased, until it blew half a gale, raising considerable sea, and impeding the progress of the ship. Indeed, so little speed did we make, that the island of Jamaica, which we had descried with the first streaks of dawn, remained in sight all day; its blue mountains softened but not obliterated by the distance as the evening set in. The sea was as blue as the mountains, and the waves seemed almost as large, to our eyes, as the little steamer plunged into, and struggled with them, in her vain attempt[Pg 148] to make headway. All the force of her engine was incapable of driving her at a greater speed than five knots. The next day, and the day after were equally unpropitious. Indeed the weather went from bad, to worse, for now the sky became densely overcast, with black, and angry-looking clouds, and the wind began to whistle through the rigging, with all the symptoms of a gale. We were approaching the hurricane season, and there was no telling at what moment, one of those terrible cyclones of the Caribbean Sea might sweep over us. To add to the gloominess of the prospect, we were comparatively out of the track of commerce, and had seen no sail, since we had overhauled the Spanish brigantine.

As explained to the reader, in one of the opening chapters, it was my intention to proceed from Cuba, to Barbadoes, there recoal, and thence make the best of my way to Cape St. Roque, in Brazil, where I expected to reap a rich harvest from the enemy’s commerce. I was now obliged to abandon, or at least to modify this design. It would not be possible for me to reach Barbadoes, with my present supply of coal, in the teeth of such trade-winds, as I had been encountering for the last few days. I therefore determined to bend down toward the Spanish Main; converting the present head-wind, into a fair wind, for at least a part of the way, and hoping to find the weather more propitious, on that coast. It was now the thirteenth of July, and as we had sailed from Cienfuegos, on the seventh, we had consumed six out of our eight days’ supply of fuel. Steaming was no longer to be thought of, and we must make some port under sail. The Dutch island of Curaçoa lay under our lee, and we accordingly made sail for that island. The engineer was ordered to let his fires go down, and uncouple his propeller that it might not retard the speed of the ship, and the sailors were sent aloft to loose the topsails.

This was the first time that we were to make use of our sails, unaided by steam, and the old sailors of the ship, who had not bestridden a yard for some months, leaped aloft, with a will, to obey the welcome order. The race of sailors has not yet entirely died out, though the steamship is fast making sad havoc with it. There is the same difference between the old-time sailor, who[Pg 149] has been bred in the sailing-ship, and the modern sailor of the steamship, that there is between the well-trained fox-hound, who chases Reynard all day, and the cur that dodges a rabbit about, for half an hour or so. The sailing-ship has a romance, and a poetry about her, which is thoroughly killed by steam. The sailor of the former loves, for its own sake, the howling of the gale, and there is no music so sweet to his ear, as the shouting of orders through the trumpet of the officer of the deck, when he is poised upon the topsail-yard, of the rolling and tumbling ship, hauling out the “weather ear-ring.” It is the ranz de vache, which recalls the memory of his boyhood, and youth, when under the tutelage of some foster-father of an old salt, he was taking his first lessons in seamanship.

It used to be beautiful to witness the rivalry of these children of the deep, when the pitiless hurricane was scourging their beloved ship, and threatening her with destruction. The greater the danger, the more eager the contest for the post of honor. Was there a sail to be secured, which appeared about to be torn into ribbons, by the gale, and the loose gear of which threatened to whip the sailor from the yard; or was there a topmast to be climbed, which was bending like a willow wand under the fury of the blast, threatening to part at every moment, and throw the climber into the raging, and seething caldron of waters beneath, from which it would be impossible to rescue him, Jack, noble Jack was ever ready for the service. I have seen an old naval captain, who had been some years retired from the sea, almost melt into tears, as he listened to the musical “heaving of the lead” by an old sailor, in the “chains” of a passing ship of war.

But steam, practical, commonplace, hard-working steam, has well-nigh changed all this, and cut away the webbing from the foot of the old-time sailor. Seamanship, evolutions, invention, skill, and ready resource in times of difficulty, and danger, have nearly all gone out of fashion, and instead of reefing the topsails, and club-hauling, and box-hauling the ship, some order is now sent to the engineer, about regulating his fires, and paying attention to his steam-gauges. Alas! alas! there will be no more Nelsons, and Collingwoods, and no more such venerable “bulwarks upon the deep,” as the Victory, and the[Pg 150] Royal Sovereign. In future wars upon the ocean, all combatants will be on the dead level of impenetrable iron walls, with regard to dash, and courage, and with regard to seamanship, and evolutions, all the knowledge that will be required of them, will be to know how to steer a nondescript box toward their enemy.

Our first night under canvas, I find thus described, in my journal: “Heavy sea all night, and ship rolling, and tumbling about, though doing pretty well. The propeller revolves freely, and we are making about five knots.” The next day was Sunday, and the weather was somewhat ameliorated. The wind continued nearly as fresh as before, but as we were now running a point free, this was no objection, and the black, angry clouds had disappeared, leaving a bright, and cheerful sky. A sail was seen on the distant horizon, but it was too rough to chase. This was our usual muster-day, but the decks were wet, and uncomfortable, and I permitted my crew to rest, they having scarcely yet recovered from the fatigue of the last few days.

There is, perhaps, no part of the world where the weather is so uniformly fine, as on the Spanish Main. The cyclones never bend in that direction, and even the ordinary gales are unknown. We were already beginning to feel the influence of this meteorological change; for on Monday, the 15th of July, the weather was thus described in my journal: “Weather moderating, and the sea going down, though still rough. Nothing seen. In the afternoon, pleasant, with a moderate breeze, and the clouds assuming their usual soft, fleecy, trade-wind appearance.” The next day was still clear, though the wind had freshened, and the ship was making good speed.

At nine A. M. we made the land, on the starboard bow, which proved to be the island of Oruba, to leeward, a few miles, of Curaçoa. For some hours past, we had been within the influence of the equatorial current, which sets westward, along this coast, with considerable velocity, and it had carried us a little out of our course, though we had made some allowance for it. We hauled up, a point, or two, and at eleven A. M. we made the island of Curaçoa, on the port bow. We doubled the north-west end of the island, at about four P. M. and hauling up on the[Pg 151] south side of it we soon brought the wind ahead, when it became necessary to put the ship under steam again, and to furl the sails.

The afternoon proved beautifully bright, and clear; the sea was of a deep indigo-blue, and we were all charmed, even with this barren little island, as we steamed along its bold, and blackened shores, of limestone rock, alongside of which the heaviest ship might have run, and throwing out her bow and stern lines, made herself fast with impunity, so perpendicularly deep were the waters. Our average distance from the land, as we steamed along, was not greater than a quarter of a mile. There were a few stunted trees, only, to be seen, in the little ravines, and some wild shrubbery, and sickly looking grass, struggling for existence on the hills’ sides. A few goats were browsing about here, and there, and the only evidence of commerce, or thrift, that we saw, were some piles of salt, that had been raked up from the lagoons, ready for shipment. And yet the Dutch live, and thrive here, and have built up quite a pretty little town—that of St. Anne’s, to which we were bound. The explanation of which is, that the island lies contiguous to the Venezuelan coast, and is a free port, for the introduction of European, and American goods, in which a considerable trade is carried on, with the main land.

We arrived off the town, with its imposing battlements frowning on either side of the harbor, about dusk, and immediately hoisted a jack, and fired a gun, for a pilot. In the course of half an hour, or so, this indispensable individual appeared, but it was too late, he said, for us to attempt the entrance, that night. He would come off, the first thing in the morning, and take us in. With this assurance we rested satisfied, and lay off, and on, during the night, under easy steam. But we were not to gain entrance to this quaint little Dutch town, so easily, as had been supposed. We were to have here a foretaste of the trouble, that the Federal Consuls were to give us in the future. We have already commented on the love of office of the American people. There is no hole, or corner of the earth, into which a ship can enter, and where there is a dollar to be made, that has not its American Consul, small or large. The smallest of salaries are eagerly accepted, and, as a[Pg 152] consequence, the smallest of men are sometimes sent to fill these places. But the smaller the place, the bigger were the cocked hats and epaulettes the officials wore, and the more brim-full were they of patriotism.

At the time of which I am writing, they called one Wm. H. Seward, master, and they had taken Billy’s measure to a fraction. They knew his tastes, and pandered to them, accordingly. His circular letters had admonished them, that, in their intercourse with foreign nations, they must speak of our great civil war, as a mere rebellion, that would be suppressed, in from sixty, to ninety days; insist that we were not entitled to belligerent rights, and call our cruisers, “corsairs,” or “pirates.” Accordingly, soon after the pilot had landed, from the Sumter, carrying with him to the shore, the intelligence that she was a Confederate States cruiser, the Federal Consul made his appearance at the Government-House, and claimed that the “pirate” should not be permitted to enter the harbor; informing his Excellency, the Governor, that Mr. Seward would be irate, if such a thing were permitted, and that he might expect to have the stone, and mortar of his two forts knocked about his ears, in double quick, by the ships of war of the Great Republic.

This bold, and defiant tone, of the doughty little Consul, seemed to stagger his Excellency; it would not be so pleasant to have St. Anne’s demolished, merely because a steamer with a flag that nobody had seen before, wanted some coal; and so, the next morning, bright and early, he sent the pilot off, to say to me, that “the Governor could not permit the Sumter to enter, having received recent orders from Holland to that effect.” Here was a pretty kettle of fish! The Sumter had only one day’s fuel left, and it was some distance from Curaçoa, to any other place, where coal was to be had. I immediately sent for Lieutenant Chapman, and directed him to prepare himself for a visit to the shore; and calling my clerk, caused him to write, after my dictation, the following despatch to his Excellency:—

Confederate States Steamer Sumter,
Off St. Anne’s, Curaçoa, July 17, 1861.

His Excellency Governor Crol:—

I was surprised to receive, by the pilot, this morning, a message[Pg 153] from your Excellency, to the effect that this ship would not be permitted to enter the harbor, unless she was in distress, as your Excellency had received orders from his Government not to admit vessels of war of the Confederate States of America, to the hospitality of the ports, under your Excellency’s command. I most respectfully suggest that there must be some mistake here; and I have sent to you the bearer, Lieutenant Chapman, of the Confederate States Navy, for the purpose of an explanation. Your Excellency must be under some misapprehension as to the character of this vessel. She is a ship of war, duly commissioned by the government of the Confederate States, which States have been recognized, as belligerents, in the present war, by all the leading Powers of Europe, viz:—Great Britain, France, Spain, &c., as your Excellency must be aware.

It is true, that these Powers have prohibited both belligerents, alike, from bringing prizes into their several jurisdictions; but no one of them has made a distinction, either between the respective prizes, or the cruisers, themselves, of the two belligerents—the cruisers of both governments, unaccompanied by prizes, being admitted to the hospitalities of the ports of all these great Powers, on terms of perfect equality. In the face of these facts, am I to understand from your Excellency, that Holland has adopted a different rule, and that she not only excludes the prizes, but the ships of war, themselves, of the Confederate States? And this, at the same time, that she admits the cruisers of the United States; thus departing from her neutrality, in this war, ignoring the Confederate States, as belligerents, and aiding and abetting their enemy? If this be the position which Holland has assumed, in this contest, I pray your Excellency to be kind enough to say as much to me in writing.

When this epistle was ready, Chapman shoved off for the shore, and a long conference ensued. The Governor called around him, as I afterward learned, all the dignitaries of the island, civil and military, and a grand council of State was held. These Dutchmen have a ponderous way of doing things, and I have no doubt, the gravity of this council was equal to that held in New Amsterdam in colonial days, as described by the renowned historian Diederick Knickerbocker, at which Woutter Van Twiller, the doubter, was present. Judging by the time that Chapman was waiting for his answer, during which he had nothing to do but sip the most delightful mint juleps—for these islanders seemed to have robbed old Virginia of some of her famous mint patches—in company with an admiring crowd of friends, the councillors must have “smoked and talked, and smoked again;” pondered with true Dutch[Pg 154] gravity, all the arguments, pro and con, that were offered, and weighed my despatch, along with the “recent order from Holland,” in a torsion balance, to see which was heaviest.

After the lapse of an hour, or two, becoming impatient, I told my first lieutenant, that as our men had not been practised at the guns, for some time, I thought it would be as well to let them burst a few of our eight-inch shells, at a target. Accordingly the drum beat to quarters, a great stir was made about the deck, as the guns were cast loose, and pretty soon, whiz! went a shell, across the windows of the council-chamber, which overlooked the sea; the shell bursting like a clap of rather sharp, ragged thunder, a little beyond, in close proximity, to the target. Sundry heads were seen immediately to pop out of the windows of the chamber, and then to be withdrawn very suddenly, as though the owners of them feared that another shell was coming, and that my gunners might make some mistake in their aim. By the time we had fired three or four shells, all of which bursted with beautiful precision, Chapman’s boat was seen returning, and thinking that our men had had exercise enough, we ran out and secured the guns.

My lieutenant came on board, smiling, and looking pleasantly, as men will do, when they are bearers of good news, and said that the Governor had given us permission to enter. We were lying close in with the entrance, and in a few minutes more, the Sumter was gliding gracefully past the houses, on either side of her, as she ran up the little canal, or river, that split the town in two. The quays were crowded with a motley gathering of the townspeople, men, women, and children, to see us pass, and sailors waved their hats to us, from the shipping in the port. Running through the town into a land-locked basin, in its rear, the Sumter let go her anchor, hoisted out her boats, and spread her awnings,—and we were once more in port.

 

 


[Pg 155]

CHAPTER XV.

THE SUMTER AT CURAÇOA—HER SURROUNDINGS—PREPARATIONS FOR SEA, AND DEPARTURE—THE CAPTURE OF OTHER PRIZES—PUERTO CABELLO, AND WHAT OCCURRED THERE.

 

The Sumter had scarcely swung to her anchors, in the small land-locked harbor described, before she was surrounded by a fleet of bum-boats, laden with a profusion of tropical fruits, and filled with men, and women, indifferently—the women rather preponderating. These bum-boat women are an institution in Curaçoa; the profession descends from mother to daughter and time seems to operate no change among them. It had been nearly a generation since I was last at Curaçoa. I was then a gay, rollicking young midshipman, in the “old” Navy, and it seemed as though I were looking upon the same faces, and listening to the same confusion of voices as before. The individual women had passed away, of course, but the bum-boat women remained. They wore the same parti-colored handkerchiefs wound gracefully around their heads, the same gingham or muslin dresses, and exposed similar, if not the same, bare arms, and unstockinged legs. They were admitted freely on board, with their stocks in trade, and pretty soon Jack was on capital terms with them, converting his small change into fragrant bananas, and blood-red oranges, and replenishing his tobacco-pouch for the next cruise. As Jack is a gallant fellow, a little flirtation was going on too with the purchasing, and I was occasionally highly amused at these joint efforts at trade and love-making. No one but a bum-boat woman is ever a sailor’s blanchiseuse, et par consequence a number of well-filled clothes’-bags soon made their appearance, on deck, from the different apartments of the ship, and were passed into the boats alongside.

[Pg 156]These people all speak excellent English, though with a drawl, which is not unmusical, when the speaker is a sprightly young woman. Jack has a great fondness for pets, and no wonder, poor fellow, debarred, as he is, from all family ties, and with no place he can call his home, but his ship; and pretty soon my good-natured first lieutenant had been seduced into giving him leave to bring sundry monkeys, and parrots on board, the former of which were now gambolling about the rigging, and the latter waking the echoes of the harbor with their squalling. Such was the crowd upon our decks, and so serious was the interruption to business, that we were soon obliged to lay restrictions upon the bum-boat fleet, by prohibiting it from coming alongside, except at meal-hours, which we always designated by hoisting a red pennant, at the mizzen. It was curious to watch the movements of the fleet, as these hours approached. Some twenty or thirty boats would be lying upon their oars, a few yards from the ship, each with from two to half a dozen inmates, eagerly watching the old quartermaster, whose duty it was to hoist the pennant; the women chattering, and the parrots squalling, whilst the oarsmen were poising their oars, that they might get the first stroke over their competitors in the race. At length, away goes the flag! and then what a rushing and clattering, and bespattering until the boats are alongside.

In an hour after our anchor had been let go, the business of the ship, for the next few days, had all been arranged. The first lieutenant had visited a neighboring ship-yard, and contracted for a new foretop-mast, to supply the place of the old one which had been sprung; the paymaster had contracted for a supply of coal, and fresh provisions, daily, for the crew, and for having the ship watered; the latter no unimportant matter, in this rainless region, and I had sent an officer to call on the Governor, with my card, being too unwell to make the visit, in person. Upon visiting the shore the next day, I found that we were in a quasi enemy’s territory, for besides the Federal Consul before spoken of, a Boston man had intrenched himself in the best hotel in the place, as proprietor, and was doing a thriving business, far away from “war’s alarms,” and a New Yorker had the monopoly of taking all the phizes of the staid old [Pg 157]Dutchmen—“John Smith, of New York, Photographer,” hanging high above the artist’s windows, on a sign-board that evidently had not been painted by a Curaçoan. Mr. Smith had already taken an excellent photograph of the Sumter, which he naively enough told me, was intended for the New York illustrated papers. If I had had ever so much objection, to having the likeness of my ship hung up in such a “rogues’ gallery,” I had no means of preventing it. Besides, it could do us but little damage, in the way of identification, as we had the art of disguising the Sumter so that we would not know her, ourselves, at half a dozen miles distance.

I was surprised, one morning, during our stay here, whilst I was lounging, listlessly, in my cabin, making a vain attempt to read, under the infliction of the caulkers overhead, who were striking their caulking-irons with a vigor, and rapidity, that made the tympanum of my ears ring again, at the announcement that Don somebody or other, the private secretary of President Castro, desired to see me. The caulkers were sent away, and his Excellency’s private secretary brought below. President Castro was one of those unfortunate South American chiefs, who had been beaten in a battle of ragamuffins, and compelled to fly his country. He was President of Venezuela, and had been deprived of his office, before the expiration of his term, by some military aspirant, who had seated himself in the presidential chair, instead, and was now in exile in Curaçoa, with four of the members of his cabinet. The object of the visit of his secretary was to propose to me to reinstate the exiled President, in his lost position, by engaging in a military expedition, with him, to the mainland.

Here was a chance, now, for an ambitious man! I might become the Warwick of Venezuela, and put the crown on another’s head, if I might not wear it myself. I might hoist my admiral’s flag, on board the Sumter, and take charge of all the piraguas, and canoes, that composed the Venezuelan navy, whilst my colleague mustered those men in buckram, so graphically described by Sir John Falstaff, and made an onslaught upon his despoiler. But unfortunately for friend Castro, I was like one of those damsels who had already plighted her faith to another, before the new wooer appeared—I was not in the[Pg 158] market. I listened courteously, however, to what the secretary had to say; told him, that I felt flattered by the offer of his chief, but that I was unable to accept it. “I cannot,” I continued, “consistently with my obligations to my own country, engage in any of the revolutionary movements of other countries.” “But,” said he, “Señor Castro is the de jure President of Venezuela, and you would be upholding the right in assisting him;—can you not, at least, land us, with some arms and ammunition, on the main land?” I replied that, “as a Confederate States officer, I could not look into de jure claims. These questions were for the Venezuelans, themselves, to decide. The only government I could know in Venezuela was the de facto government, for the time being, and that, by his own showing, was in the hands of his antagonists.” Here the conversation closed, and my visitor, who had the bearing and speech of a cultivated gentleman, departed. The jottings of my diary for the next few days, will perhaps now inform the reader, of our movements, better than any other form of narrative.

July 19th.—Wind unusually blustering this morning, with partial obscuration of the heavens. The engineers are busy, overhauling and repairing damages to their engine and boilers; the gunner is at work, polishing up his battery and ventilating his magazine, and the sailors are busy renewing ratlines and tarring down their rigging. An English bark entered the harbor to-day from Liverpool.

July 20th.—Painting and refitting ship; got off the new fore-topmast from the shore. It is a good pine stick, evidently from our Southern States, and has been well fashioned. The monthly packet from the island of St. Thomas arrived, to-day, bringing newspapers from the enemy’s country as late as the 26th of June. We get nothing new from these papers, except that the Northern bee-hive is all agog, with the marching and countermarching of troops.

July 21st.—Fresh trade-winds, with flying clouds—atmosphere highly charged with moisture, but no rain. This being Sunday, we mustered and inspected the crew. The washer-women have decidedly improved the appearance of the young officers, the glistening of white shirt-bosoms and collars having been somewhat unusual on board of the Sumter, of late.[Pg 159] The crew look improved too, by their change of diet, and the use of antiscorbutics, which have been supplied to them, at the request of the surgeon; though some of them, having been on shore, “on liberty,” have brought off a blackened eye. No matter—the more frequently Jack settles his accounts, on shore, the fewer he will have to settle on board ship, in breach of discipline. We read, at the muster, to-day, the finding and sentence of the first court-martial, that has sat on board the Sumter, since she reached the high seas.

July 22d.—Warped alongside a wharf, in the edge of the town, and commenced receiving coal on board. Refitting, and repainting ship. In the afternoon, I took a lonely stroll through the town, mainly in the suburbs. It is a quaint, picturesque old place, with some few modern houses, but the general air is that of dilapidation, and a decay of trade. The lower classes are simple, and primitive in their habits, and but little suffices to supply their wants. The St. Thomas packet sailed, to-day, and, as a consequence, the Federal cruisers, in and about that island, will have intelligence of our whereabouts, in four or five days. To mislead them, I have told the pilot, and several gentlemen from the shore, in great confidence, that I am going back to cruise on the coast of Cuba. The packet will of course take that intelligence to St. Thomas.

July 23d.—Still coaling, refitting and painting. Weather more cloudy, and wind not so constantly fresh, within the last few days. Having taken sights for our chronometers, on the morning after our arrival, and again to-day, I have been enabled to verify their rates. They are running very well. The chronometer of the Golden Rocket proves to be a good instrument. We fix the longitude of Curaçoa to be 68° 58′ 30″, west of Greenwich.

July 24th.—Sky occasionally obscured, with a moderate trade-wind. Our men have all returned from their visits to the shore, except one, a simple lad named Orr, who, as I learn, has been seduced away, by a Yankee skipper, in port, aided by the Boston hotel-keeper, and our particular friend, the consul. As these persons have tampered with my whole crew, I am gratified to know, that there has been but one traitor found among them.

[Pg 160]We had now been a week in Curaçoa, during which time, besides recruiting, and refreshing my crew, I had made all the necessary preparations for another cruise. The ship had been thoroughly overhauled, inside and out, and her coal-bunkers were full of good English coal. It only remained for us to put to sea. Accordingly, at twelve o’clock precisely, on the day last above mentioned, as had been previously appointed, the Sumter, bidding farewell to her new-made friends, moved gracefully out of the harbor—this time, amid the waving of handkerchiefs, in female hands, as well as of hats in the hands of the males; the quay being lined, as before, to see us depart. The photographer took a last shot at the ship, as she glided past his sanctum, and we looked with some little interest to the future numbers of that “Journal of Civilization,” vulgarly yclept “Harper’s Weekly,” for the interesting portrait; which came along in due time, accompanied by a lengthy description, veracious, of course, of the “Pirate.”

Curaçoa lies a short distance off the coast of Venezuela, between Laguayra, and Puerto Cabello, and as both of these places had some commerce with the United States, I resolved to look into them. The morning after our departure found us on a smooth sea, with a light breeze off the land. The mountains, back of Laguayra, loomed up blue, mystic, and majestic, at a distance of about thirty miles, and the lookout, at the mast-head, was on the qui vive for strange sails. He had not to wait long. In the tropics, there is very little of that bewitching portion of the twenty-four hours, which, in other parts of the world, is called twilight. Day passes into night, and night into day, almost at a single bound. The rapidly approaching dawn had scarcely revealed to us the bold outline of the coast, above mentioned, when sail ho! resounded from the mast-head. The sail bore on our port-bow, and was standing obliquely toward us. We at once gave chase, and at half-past six A. M., came up with, and captured the schooner Abby Bradford, from New York, bound for Puerto Cabello.

We knew our prize to be American, long before she showed us her colors. She was a “down-East,” fore-and-aft schooner, and there are no other such vessels in the world. They are[Pg 161] as thoroughly marked, as the Puritans who build them, and there is no more mistaking the “cut of their jib.” The little schooner was provision laden, and there was no attempt to cover her cargo. The news of the escape of the Sumter had not reached New York, at the date of her sailing, and the few privateers that we had put afloat, at the beginning of the war, had confined their operations to our own, and the enemy’s coasts. Hence the neglect of the owners of the Bradford, in not providing her with some good English, or Spanish certificates, protesting that her cargo was neutral. The “old flag” was treated very tenderly on the present occasion. The “flaunting lie,” which Mr. Horace Greeley had told us, should “insult no sunny sky,” was hauled down, and stowed away in the quartermaster’s bag described a few pages back.

The Bradford being bound for Puerto Cabello, and that port being but a short distance, under my lee, I resolved to run down, with the prize, and try my hand with my friend Castro’s opponent, the de facto President of Venezuela, to see whether I could not prevail upon him, to admit my prizes into his ports. I thought, surely, an arrangement could be made with some of these beggarly South American republics, the revenue of which did not amount to a cargo of provisions, annually, and which were too weak, besides, to be worth kicking by the stronger powers. What right had they, thought I, to be putting on the airs of nations, and talking about acknowledging other people, when they had lived a whole generation, themselves, without the acknowledgment of Spain.

But, as the reader will see, I reckoned without my host. I found that they had a wholesome fear of the Federal gun-boats, and that even their cupidity could not tempt them to be just, or generous. If they had admitted my prizes into their ports, I could, in the course of a few months, have made those same ports more busy with the hum and thrift of commerce, than they had ever been before; I could have given a new impulse to their revolutions, and made them rich enough to indulge in the luxury of a pronunciamiento, once a week. The bait was tempting, but there stood the great lion in their path—the model Republic. The fact is, I must do this model Republic the justice to say, that it not only bullied the little[Pg 162] South American republics, but all the world besides. Even old John Bull, grown rich, and plethoric, and asthmatic and gouty, trembled when he thought of his rich argosies, and of the possibility of Yankee privateers chasing them.

Taking the Bradford in tow, then, we squared away for Puerto Cabello, but darkness came on before we could reach the entrance of the harbor, and we were compelled to stand off and on, during the night—the schooner being cast off, and taking care of herself, under sail. The Sumter lay on the still waters, all night, like a huge monster asleep, with the light from the light-house, on the battlements of the fort, glaring full upon her, and in plain hearing of the shrill cry of “Alerta!” from the sentinels. So quietly did she repose, with banked fires, being fanned, but not moved, by the gentle land-breeze that was blowing, that she scarcely needed to turn over her propeller during the night, to preserve her relative position with the light. There was no occasion to be in a hurry to run in, the next morning, as no business could be transacted before ten, or eleven o’clock, and so I waited until the sun, with his broad disk glaring upon us, like an angry furnace, had rolled away the mists of the morning, and the first lieutenant had holy-stoned his decks, and arranged his hammock-nettings, with his neat, white hammocks stowed in them, before we put the ship in motion.

We had, some time before, hoisted the Confederate States flag, and the Venezuelan colors were flying from the fort in response. The prize accompanied us in, and we both anchored, within a stone’s throw of the town, the latter looking like some old Moorish city, that had been transported by magic to the new world, gallinazos, and all. Whilst my clerk was copying my despatch to the Governor, and the lieutenant was preparing himself, and his boat’s crew, to take it on shore, I made a hasty reconnoissance of the fort, which had a few iron pieces, of small calibre mounted on it, well eaten by rust, and whose carriages had rotted from under them. The following is a copy of my letter to his Excellency.

[Pg 163] Confederate States Steamer Sumter,
Puerto Cabello, July 26, 1861.

His Excellency, the Governor:—

I have the honor to inform your Excellency of my arrival at this place, in this ship, under my command, with the prize schooner, Abby Bradford, in company, captured by me about seventy miles to the northward and eastward. The Abby Bradford is the property of citizens of the United States, with which States, as your Excellency is aware, the Confederate States, which I have the honor to represent, are at war, and the cargo would appear to belong, also, to citizens of the United States, who have shipped it, on consignment, to a house in Puerto Cabello. Should any claim, however, be given for the cargo, or any part of it, the question of ownership can only be decided by the Prize Courts of the Confederate States. In the meantime, I have the honor to request, that your Excellency will permit me to leave this prize vessel, with her cargo, in the port of Puerto Cabello, until the question of prize can be adjudicated by the proper tribunals of my country. This will be a convenience to all parties; as well to any citizens of Venezuela, who may have an interest in the cargo, as to the captors, who have also valuable interests to protect.

In making this request, I do not propose that the Venezuelan government shall depart from a strict neutrality between the belligerents, as the same rule it applies to us, it can give the other party the benefit of, also. In other words, with the most scrupulous regard for her neutrality, she may permit both belligerents to bring their prizes into her waters; and, of this, neither belligerent could complain, since whatever justice is extended to its enemy, is extended also to itself. * * * [Here follows a repetition of the facts with regard to the seizure of the Navy by the Federal authorities, and the establishment of the blockade of the Southern ports, already stated in my letter to the Governor of Cienfuegos.] * * * Thus, your Excellency sees, that under the rule of exclusion, the enemy could enjoy his right of capture, to its full extent—all his own ports being open to him—whilst the cruisers of the Confederate States could enjoy it, sub modo, only; that is, for the purpose of destroying their prizes. A rule which would produce such unequal results as this, is not a just rule (although it might, in terms, be extended to both parties), and as equality and justice, are of the essence of neutrality, I take it for granted, that Venezuela will not adopt it.

On the other hand, the rule admitting both parties, alike, with their prizes into your ports, until the prize courts of the respective countries could have time to adjudicate the cases, would work equal and exact justice to both; and this is all that the Confederate States demand.

With reference to the present case, as the cargo consists chiefly of provisions, which are perishable, I would ask leave to sell them, at public auction, for the benefit of “whom it may concern,” depositing[Pg 164] the proceeds with a suitable prize agent, until the decision of the court can be known. With regard to the vessel, I request that she may remain in the custody of the same agent, until condemned and sold.

When the Sumter entered Puerto Cabello, with her prize, she found an empty harbor, there being only two or three coasting schooners anchored along the coast; there was a general dearth of business, and the quiet little city was panting for an excitement. A bomb-shell, thrown into the midst of the stagnant commercial community, could not have startled them more, than the rattling of the chain cable of the Sumter through her hawse-hole, as she let go her anchor; and when my missive was handed to the Governor, there was a racing, and chasing of bare-footed orderlies, that indicated a prospective gathering of the clans, similar to the one which had occurred at Curaçoa. A grand council was held, at which the Confederate States had not the honor to be represented.

That the reader may understand the odds against which we now had to struggle, he must recollect, that all these small South American towns are, more or less, dependent upon American trade. The New England States, and New York supply them with their domestic cottons, flour, bacon, and notions; sell them all their worthless old muskets, and damaged ammunition, and now and then, smuggle out a small craft to them, for naval purposes. The American Consul, who is also a merchant, represents not only those “grand moral ideas,” that characterize our Northern people, but Sand’s sarsaparilla, and Smith’s wooden clocks. He is, par excellence, the big dog of the village. The big dog was present on the present occasion, looking portentous, and savage, and when he ope’d his mouth, all the little dogs were silent. Of course, the poor Sumter, anchored away off in the bay, could have no chance before so august an assemblage, and, pretty soon, an orderly came down to the boat, where my patient lieutenant was waiting, bearing a most ominous-looking letter, put up in true South American style, about a foot square, and bearing on it, “Dios y Libertad.”

When I came to break the seal of this letter, I found it to purport, that the Governor had not the necessary funciones, to reply to me, diplomatically, but that he would elevate my [Pg 165]despatch, to the Supreme Government; and that, in the mean time, I had better take the Abby Bradford and get out of Puerto Cabello, as soon as possible! This was all said, very politely, for your petty South American chieftain is

“As mild a mannered man, as ever cut a throat,”

but it was none the less strong for all that. The missive of the Governor reached me early, in the afternoon, but I paid not the least attention to it. I sent the paymaster on shore, to purchase some fresh provisions, and fruits, for the crew, and gave such of the officers “liberty,” as desired it. The next morning I sent a prize crew on board the Bradford, and determined to send her to New Orleans. Being loth to part with any more of my officers, after the experience I had had, with the prize brig Cuba, I selected an intelligent quartermaster, who had been mate of a merchantman, as prize-master. My men I could replace—my officers I could not. The following letter of instructions was prepared for the guidance of the prize-master:

Confederate States Steamer Sumter,
Off Puerto Cabello, July 26, 1861.

Quartermaster and Prize-Master, Eugene Ruhl:

You will take charge of the prize schooner, Abby Bradford, and proceed with her, to New Orleans—making the land to the westward of the passes of the Mississippi, and endeavoring to run into Barrataria Bay, Berwick’s Bay, or some of the other small inlets. Upon your arrival, you will proceed to the city of New Orleans, in person, and report yourself to Commodore Rousseau, for orders. You will take especial care of the accompanying package of papers, as they are the papers of the captured schooner, and you will deliver them, with the seals unbroken, to the judge of the Prize Court, Judge Moise. You will batten down your hatches, and see that no part of the cargo is touched, during the voyage, and you will deliver both vessel, and cargo, to the proper law officers, in the condition in which you find them, as nearly as possible.

I availed myself of this opportunity, to address the following letter to Mr. Mallory, the Secretary of the Navy; having nothing very important to communicate, I did not resort to the use of the cipher, that had been established between us.

[Pg 166] Confederate States Steamer Sumter,
Puerto Cabello, July 26, 1861.

Sir:—Having captured a schooner of light draught, which, with her cargo, I estimate to be worth some twenty-five thousand dollars, and being denied the privilege of leaving her at this port, until she could be adjudicated, I have resolved to dispatch her for New Orleans, in charge of a prize crew, with the hope that she may be able to elude the vigilance of the blockading squadron, of the enemy, and run into some one of the shoal passes, to the westward of the mouth of the Mississippi, as Barrataria, or Berwick’s Bay. In great haste, I avail myself of this opportunity to send you my first despatch, since leaving New Orleans. I can do no more, for want of time, than barely enumerate, without describing events.

We ran the blockade of Pass à L’Outre, by the Brooklyn, on the 30th of June, that ship giving us chase. On the morning of the 3d of July, I doubled Cape Antonio, the western extremity of Cuba, and, on the same day, captured, off the Isle of Pines, the American ship, Golden Rocket, belonging to parties in Bangor, in Maine. She was a fine ship of 600 tons, and worth between thirty and forty thousand dollars. I burned her. On the next day, the 4th, I captured the brigantines Cuba and Machias, both of Maine, also. They were laden with sugars. I sent them to Cienfuegos, Cuba. On the 5th of July, I captured the brigs Ben. Dunning, and Albert Adams, owned in New York, and Massachusetts. They were laden, also, with sugars. I sent them to Cienfuegos. On the next day, the 6th, I captured the barks West Wind, and Louisa Kilham, and the brig Naiad, all owned in New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. I sent them, also, to Cienfuegos.

On the same day, I ran into that port, myself, reported my captures to the authorities, and asked leave for them to remain, until they could be adjudicated. The Government took them in charge, until the Home Government should give directions concerning them. I coaled ship, and sailed, again, on the 7th. On the 17th I arrived at the Island of Curaçoa, without having fallen in with any of the enemy’s ships. I coaled again, here—having had some little difficulty with the Governor, about entering—and sailed on the 24th. On the morning of the 25th, I captured, off Laguayra, the schooner Abby Bradford, which is the vessel, by which I send this despatch. I do not deem it prudent to speak, here, of my future movements, lest my despatch should fall into the hands of the enemy. We are all well, and “doing a pretty fair business,” in mercantile parlance, having made nine captures in twenty-six days.

The Bradford reached the coast of Louisiana, in due time, but approaching too near to the principal passes of the Mississippi, against which I had warned her, she was re-captured, by one of the enemy’s steamers, and my prize crew were made prisoners, but soon afterward released, though they did not[Pg 167] rejoin me. I am thus particular, in giving the reader an account of these, my first transactions, for the purpose of showing him, that I made every effort to avoid the necessity of destroying my prizes, at sea; and that I only resorted to this practice, when it became evident that there was nothing else to be done. Not that I had not the right to burn them, under the laws of war, when there was no dispute about the property—as was the case with the Golden Rocket, she having had no cargo on board—but because I desired to avoid all possible complication with neutrals.

Having dispatched the Bradford, we got under way, in the Sumter, to continue our cruise. We had scarcely gotten clear of the harbor, before a sail was discovered, in plain sight, from the deck. The breeze was light, and she was running down the coast, with all her studding sails set. Her taunt and graceful spars, and her whitest of cotton sails, glistening in the morning’s sun, revealed at once the secret of her nationality. We chased, and, at the distance of full seven miles from the land, came up with, and captured her. She proved to be the bark Joseph Maxwell, of Philadelphia, last from Laguayra, where she had touched, to land a part of her cargo. The remainder she was bringing to Puerto Cabello. Upon inspection of her papers, I ascertained that one-half of the cargo, remaining on board of her, belonged to a neutral owner, doing business in Puerto Cabello.

Heaving the bark to, in charge of a prize crew, beyond the marine league, I took her master on board the Sumter, and steaming back into the harbor, sent Paymaster Myers on shore with him, to see if some arrangement could not be made, by which the interests of the neutral half-owner of the cargo could be protected; to see, in other words, whether this prize, in which a Venezuelan citizen was interested, would not be permitted to enter, and remain until she could be adjudicated. Much to my surprise, upon the return of my boat, the paymaster handed me a written command from the Governor, to bring the Maxwell in, and deliver her to him, until the Venezuelan courts could determine whether she had been captured within the marine league, or not! This insolence was refreshing. I scarcely knew whether to laugh, or be angry at it. I[Pg 168] believe I indulged in both emotions. The Sumter had not let go her anchor, but had been waiting for the return of her boat, under steam. She was lying close under the guns of the fort, and we could see that the tompions had been taken out of the guns, and that they were manned by some half-naked soldiers. Not knowing but the foolish Governor might order his commandant to fire upon me, in case I should attempt to proceed to sea, in my ship, before I had sent a boat out to bring in the Maxwell, I beat to quarters, and with my crew standing by my guns, steamed out to rejoin my prize. When I had a little leisure to converse with my paymaster, he told me, that the Federal consul had been consulted, on the occasion, and that the nice little ruse of the Governor’s order had been resorted to in the hope of intimidating me. I would have burned the Maxwell, on the spot, but, unfortunately, as the reader has seen, she had some neutral cargo on board, and this I had no right to destroy. I resolved, therefore, to send her in; not to the Confederate States, for she drew too much water to enter any, except the principal ports, and these being all blockaded, by steamers, it was useless for her to make the attempt. The following letter of instructions to her prize-master, will show what disposition was made of her.

Confederate States Steamer Sumter,
At Sea, July 27, 1861.

Midshipman and Prize-Master Wm. A. Hicks:—

You will take charge of the prize bark, Joseph Maxwell, and proceed, with her, to some port on the south side of the island of Cuba, say St. Jago, Trinidad, or Cienfuegos. I think it would be safest for you to go into Cienfuegos, as the enemy, from the very fact of our having been there, recently, will scarcely be on the look for us a second time. The steamers which were probably sent thither from Havana in pursuit of the Sumter must, long since, have departed, to hunt her in some other quarter.

Upon your arrival, you will inform the Governor, or Commandant of the Port, of the fact, state to him that your vessel is the prize of a ship of war, and not of a privateer, and ask leave for her to remain in port, in charge of a prize agent, until she can be adjudicated by a prize court of the Confederate States. Should he grant you this request, you will, if you go into Cienfuegos, put the vessel in charge of Don Mariano Dias, our agent for the other prizes; but should you go into either of the other ports, you will appoint some reliable person to take charge of the prize, but without power to sell, until further orders—taking from him a[Pg 169] bond, with sufficient sureties for the faithful performance of his duties.

Should the Governor decline to permit the prize to remain, you will store the cargo, with some responsible person, if permitted to land it, taking his receipt therefor, and then take the ship outside the port, beyond the marine league, and burn her. Should you need funds for the unlading and storage of the cargo, you are authorized to sell so much of it as may be necessary for this purpose. You will then make the best of your way to the Confederate States, and report yourself to the Secretary of the Navy. You will keep in close custody the accompanying sealed package of papers, being the papers of the captured vessel, and deliver it, in person, to the Judge of the Admiralty Court, in New Orleans. The paymaster will hand you the sum of one hundred dollars, and you are authorized to draw on the Secretary of the Navy for such further sum as you may need, to defray the expenses of yourself, and crew, to the Confederate States.

I had not yet seen the proclamation of neutrality by Spain, and the reader will perceive, from the above letter, that I still clung to the hope that that Power would dare to be just, even in the face of the truckling of England and France. The master of the Maxwell had his wife on board, and the sea being smooth, I made him a present of one of the best of his boats, and sent him and his wife on shore in her. He repaid my kindness by stealing the ship’s chronometer, which he falsely told the midshipman in charge of the prize I had given him leave to take with him. At three P. M., taking a final leave of Puerto Cabello, there being neither waving of hats or handkerchiefs, or regrets on either side, we shaped our course to the eastward, and put our ship under a full head of steam.

 

 


[Pg 170]

CHAPTER XVI.

STEAMING ALONG THE COAST OF VENEZUELA—THE CORAL INSECT, AND THE WONDERS OF THE DEEP—THE ANDES AND THE RAINY SEASON—THE SUMTER ENTERS THE PORT OF SPAIN, IN THE BRITISH ISLAND OF TRINIDAD, AND COALS, AND SAILS AGAIN.

 

There was a fresh trade-wind blowing, and some sea on, as the Sumter brought her head around to the eastward, and commenced buffeting her way, again, to windward. She had, in addition, a current to contend with, which sets along this coast in the direction of the trade-wind, at the rate of about a knot an hour. We were steaming at a distance of seven or eight miles from the land, and, as the shades of evening closed in, we descried a Federal brigantine, running down the coast—probably for the port we had just left—hugging the bold shore very affectionately, to keep within the charmed marine league, within which she knew she was safe from capture. We did not, of course, molest her, as I made it a point always to respect the jurisdiction of neutrals, though never so weak. I might have offended against the sovereignty of Venezuela, by capturing this vessel, with impunity, so far as Venezuela was herself concerned, but then I should have committed an offence against the laws of nations, and it was these laws that I was, myself, looking to, for protection. Besides, the Secretary of the Navy, in preparing my instructions, had been particular to enjoin upon me, not only to respect the rights of neutrals, but to conciliate their good will.

As we were running along the land, sufficiently near for its influence to be felt upon the trade-winds, it became nearly calm during the night, the land and sea breezes, each struggling for the mastery, and thus neutralizing each other’s forces. The[Pg 171] steamer sprang forward with renewed speed, and when the day dawned the next morning, we were far to windward of Laguayra. The sun rose in a sky, without a cloud, and the wind did not freshen, as the day advanced, so much as it had done the day before. The mountains of Venezuela lay sleeping in the distance, robed in a mantle of heavenly blue, numerous sea-birds were on the wing, and the sail of a fishing-boat, here and there, added picturesqueness to the scene. At half-past nine, we gave chase to a fore-and-aft schooner, which proved to be a Venezuela coaster.

In the afternoon, we passed sufficiently near the island of Tortuga, to run over some of its coral banks. The sun was declining behind the yet visible mountains, and the sea breeze had died away to nearly a calm, leaving the bright, and sparkling waters, with a mirrored surface. We now entered upon a scene of transcendent beauty, but the beauty was that of the deep, and not of the surface landscape. The reader is familiar with the history of the coral insect, that patient little stone-mason of the deep, which, though scarcely visible through the microscope, lays the foundations of islands, and of continents. The little coralline sometimes commences its work, hundreds of fathoms down in the deep sea, and working patiently, and laboriously, day and night, night and day, week after week, month after month, year after year, and century after century, finally brings its structure to the surface.

When its tiny blocks of lime-stone, which it has secreted from the salts of the sea, have been piled so high, that the tides now cover the structure, and now leave it dry, the little toiler of the sea, having performed the functions prescribed to it by its Creator, dies, and is entombed in a mausoleum more proud than any that could be reared by human hands. The winds, and the clouds now take charge of the new island, or continent, and begin to prepare it for vegetation, and the habitation of man, and animals. The Pacific Ocean, within the tropics is, par excellence, the coral sea, and the navigator of that ocean is familiar with the phenomenon, which I am about to describe. In the midst of a clear sky, the mariner sometimes discovers on the verge of the horizon, a light, fleecy cloud, and as he sails toward it, he is surprised to find that it scarcely alters its[Pg 172] position. It rises a little, and a little higher, as he approaches it, pretty much as the land would appear to rise, if he were sailing toward it, but that is all. He sails on, and on, and when he has come near the cloud, he is surprised to see under it, a white line of foam, or, maybe a breaker, if there is any undulation in the sea, in a spot where all is represented as deep water on his chart. Examining with his telescope, he now discovers, in the intervals of the foam, caused by the rising and falling of the long, lazy swell, a coral bank, so white as scarcely to be distinguished from the seething and boiling foam. He has discovered the germ of a new island, which in the course of time, and the decrees of Providence, will be covered with forests, and inhabited by men, and animals.

The cloud, as a sort of “pillar by day,” has conducted him to the spot, whilst it has, at the same time, warned him of his danger. But the cloud—how came it there, why does it remain so faithfully at its post, and what are its functions? One of the most beautiful of the phenomena of tropical countries is the alternation, with the regularity of clock-work, of the land and sea breezes; by day, the sea breeze blowing toward the land, and by night the land breeze blowing toward the sea. The reason of this is as follows. The land absorbs heat, and radiates it, more rapidly than the sea. The consequence is, that when the sun has risen, an hour or two, the land becomes warmer than the surrounding sea, and there is an in-draught toward it; in other words, the sea breeze begins to blow. When, on the contrary, the sun has set, and withdrawn his rays from both land and sea, and radiation begins, the land, parting with its absorbed heat, more rapidly than the sea, soon becomes cooler than the sea. As a consequence, there is an out-draught from the land; in other words, the land breeze has commenced to blow. The reader now sees how it is, that the “pillar by day” hangs over the little coral island; the bank of coral absorbing heat by day more rapidly than the surrounding sea, there is an in-draught setting toward it, and as the lazy trade-winds approach it, they themselves become heated, and ascend into the upper air. There is thus a constantly ascending column of heated atmosphere over these[Pg 173] banks. This ascending column of atmosphere, when it reaches a certain point, is condensed into cumuli of beautiful, fleecy clouds, often piled up in the most fantastic and gorgeous shapes. It is thus that the cloud becomes stationary. It is ever forming, and ever passing off; retaining, it may be, its original form, but its nebulæ constantly changing.

When a cooler blast of trade-wind than usual comes along, the condensation is more rapid, and perfect, and showers of rain fall. The sea-birds are already hovering, in clouds, over the inchoate little island, fishing, and wading in its shallow waters, and roosting on it, when they can get a sufficient foothold. Vegetation soon ensues, and, in the course of a few more ages, nature completes her work.

But to return from this digression, into which we were led by a view of the coral bank over which we were passing. The little insect, which is at work under our feet, has not yet brought its structure sufficiently near the surface, to obstruct our passage over it. We are in five or six fathoms of water, but this water is so clear, that we are enabled to see the most minute object, quite distinctly. We have “slowed” the engine the better to enjoy the beautiful sub-marine landscape; and look! we are passing over a miniature forest, instinct with life. There are beautifully branching trees of madrepores, whose prongs are from one to two feet in length, and sometimes curiously interlaced. Each one of the branches, as well as the trunk, has a number of little notches in it. These are the cells in which the little stone-mason is at work. Adhering to the branches of these miniature trees, like mosses, and lichens, you see sundry formations that you might mistake for leaves. These are also cellular, and are the workshops of the little masons. Scattered around, among the trees, are waving the most gorgeous of fans, and, what we might call sea-ferns, and palms. These are of a variety of brilliant colors, purple predominating.

Lying on the smooth, white sand, are boulders of coral in a variety of shapes—some, like the domes of miniature cathedrals; some, perfectly spherical; some, cylindrical. These, and the trees, are mostly of a creamy white, though occasionally, pink, violet, and green are discovered. As the passage[Pg 174] of the steamer gives motion to the otherwise smooth sea, the fans, ferns, and palms wave, gracefully, changing their tints as the light flashes upon them, through the pellucid waters. The beholder looks entranced, as though he were gazing upon a fairy scene, by moonlight; and to add to the illusion, there is a movement of life, all new to the eye, in every direction. The beautiful star-fish, with its five points, as equally, and regularly arranged, as though it had been done by the rule of the mathematician, with great worm-like molluscs, lie torpid on the white sand. Jelly-fish, polypi, and other nondescript shapes, float about in the miniature forest; and darting hither and thither, among the many-tinted ferns, some apparently in sport, and some in pursuit of their prey, are hundreds of little fishes, sparkling, and gleaming in silver, and gold, and green, and scarlet.

The most curious of these is the parrot-fish, whose head is shaped like the beak of the parrot, and whose color is light green. How wonderfully full is the sea of animal life! All this picture is animal life; for what appears to be the vegetable portion of this sub-marine landscape, is scarcely vegetable at all. The waving ferns, fans, and palms are all instinct with animal life. The patient little toiler of the sea, the coralline insect, is busy with them, as he is with his limestone trees. He is helping on their formation by his secretions, and it is difficult to say what portion of them is vegetable, what, mineral, and what, animal.

I had been an hour, and more, entranced by the fairy sub-marine forest, and its denizens, which I have so imperfectly described, when the sun sank behind the Andes, and night threw her mantle upon the waters, changing all the sparkling colors of forest, and fish, to sombre gray, and admonishing me, that it was time to return to every-day life, and the duties of the ship. “Let her have the steam,” said I to the officer of the deck, as I arose from my bent posture over the ship’s rail; and, in a moment more, the propeller was thundering us along at our usual speed.

At eleven P. M., we were up with the island of Margarita, and as I designed to run the passage between it, and the main land, I preferred daylight for the operation; and so, sounding[Pg 175] in thirty-two fathoms of water, I hove the ship to, under her trysails for the night, permitting her steam to go down. The next day, the weather still continued clear and pleasant, the trade-wind being sufficiently light not to impede our headway, for we were steaming, as the reader will recollect, nearly head to wind. We had experienced but little adverse current during the last twenty-four hours, and were making very satisfactory progress. I was now making a passage, rather than cruising, as a sail is a rare sight, in the part of the ocean I was traversing.

At meridian we passed that singular group of islands called the Frayles—Anglice, friars—jutting up from the sea in cones of different shapes, and looking, at a distance, not unlike so many hooded monks. With the exception of a transient fisherman, who now and then hauls up his boat out of the reach of the surf, on these harborless islands, and pitches his tent, made of his boat’s sail, for a few days of rest and refreshment, they have no inhabitants.

July 30th.—“Thick, cloudy weather, with incessant, and heavy rains; hauling in for the coast of Venezuela, near the entrance to the Gulf of Paria. So thick is the weather, that to ‘hold on to the land,’ I am obliged to run the coast within a mile, and this is close running on a coast not minutely surveyed.” So said my journal. Indeed the day in question was a memorable one, from its scenery, and surroundings. Few landscapes present so bold, and imposing a picture as this part of the South American coast. The Andes here rise abruptly out of the sea, to a great height. Our little craft running along their base, in the bluest and deepest of water, looked like a mere cockle-shell, or nautilus. Besides the torrents of rain, that were coming down upon our decks, and through which, at times, we could barely catch a glimpse of the majestic, and sombre-looking mountains, we were blinded by the most vivid flashes of lightning, simultaneously with which, the rolling and crashing of the thunder deafened our ears. I had stood on the banks of the Lake of Geneva, and witnessed a storm in the Alps, during which Byron’s celebrated lines occurred to me. They occurred to me more forcibly here, for literally—

[Pg 176] “Far along
From peak to peak, the rattling crags among,
Leaps the live thunder! Not from one cloud,
But every mountain now had found a tongue,
And Jura answers, through her misty shroud,
Back to the joyous Alps, who call to her aloud!”

That word “joyous” was well chosen by the poet, for the mountains did indeed seem to rejoice in this grand display of nature. Of wind there was scarcely any—what little there was, was frequently off the land, and even blew in the direction opposite to that of the trade-wind. We were in the rainy season, along this coast, and all the vegetable kingdom was in full luxuriance. The cocoanut, and other palms, giving an Eastern aspect to the scenery, waved the greenest of feathery branches, and every shrub, and almost every tree rejoiced in its flower. It was delightful to inhale the fragrance, as the whirling aërial current brought us an occasional puff from the land.

On board the ship, we looked like so many half-drowned rats. The officer of the deck, trumpet in hand, was ensconced, to his ears, in his india-rubber pea-jacket, his long beard looking like a wet mop, and little rills of rain trickling down his neck, and shoulders, from his slouched “Sou’wester.” The midshipman of the watch had taken off his shoes, and rolled up his trousers, and was paddling about in the pools on deck, as well pleased as a young duck. And as for the old salt, he was in his element. There was plenty of fresh water to wash his clothes in, and accordingly the decks were filled with industrious washers, or rather scrubbers, each with his scrubbing-brush, and bit of soap, and a little pile of soiled duck frocks and trousers by his side.

The reader has been informed, that we were running along the coast, within a mile of it, to enable us to keep sight of the land. The object of this was to make the proper landfall for running into the Gulf of Paria, on which is situated the Port of Spain, in the island of Trinidad, to which we were bound. We opened the gulf as early as nine A. M., and soon afterward identified the three islands that form the Bocas del Drago, or dragon’s mouth. The scenery is remarkably bold and striking at the entrance of this gulf or bay. The islands rise to the[Pg 177] height of mountains, in abrupt and sheer precipices, out of the now muddy waters—for the great Orinoco, traversing its thousands of miles of alluvial soil, disembogues near by. Indeed, we may be said to have been already within the delta of that great stream.

Memory was busy with me, as the Sumter passed through the Dragon’s Mouth. I had made my first cruise to this identical island of Trinidad, when a green midshipman in the Federal Navy. A few years before, the elder Commodore Perry—he of Lake Erie memory—had died of yellow fever, when on a visit, in one of the small schooners of his squadron, up the Orinoco. The old sloop-of-war Lexington, under the command of Commander, now Rear-Admiral Shubrick, was sent to the Port of Spain to bring home his remains. I was one of the midshipmen of that ship. A generation had since elapsed. An infant people had, in that short space of time, grown old and decrepid, and its government had broken in twain. But there stood the everlasting mountains, as I remembered them, unchanged! I could not help again recurring to the poet:—

“Man has another day to swell the past,
And lead him near to little but his last;
But mighty Nature bounds as from her birth.
The sun is in the heavens, and life on earth;
Flowers in the valley, splendor in the beam,
Health on the gale, and freshness in the stream.
Immortal man! behold her glories shine,
And cry, exulting inly, ‘they are thine!’
Gaze on, while yet thy gladdened eye may see;
A morrow comes when they are not for thee:
And grieve what may above thy senseless bier,
Nor earth, nor sky shall yield a single tear;
Nor cloud shall gather more, nor leaf shall fall,
Nor gale breathe forth one sigh for thee, for all;
But creeping things shall revel in their spoil,
And fit thy clay to fertilize the soil.”

We entered through the Huevo passage—named from its egg-shaped island—and striking soundings, pretty soon afterward, ran up by our chart and lead-line, there being no pilot-boat in sight. We anchored off the Port of Spain a little after[Pg 178] mid-day—an English merchant brig paying us the compliment of a salute.

I dispatched a lieutenant to call on the Governor. The orders of neutrality of the English government had already been received, and his Excellency informed me that, in accordance therewith, he would extend to me the same hospitality that he would show, in similar circumstances, to the enemy; which was nothing more, of course, than I had a right to expect. The Paymaster was dispatched to the shore, to see about getting a supply of coal, and send off some fresh provisions and fruit for the crew; and such of the officers as desired went on liberty.

The first thing to be thought of was the discharge of our prisoners, for, with the exception of the Captain, whom I had permitted to land in Puerto Cabello, with his wife, I had the crew of the Joseph Maxwell, prize-ship, still on board. I had given these men, eight in number, to understand that they were hostages, and that their discharge, their close confinement, or their execution, as the case might be, depended upon the action of their own Government, in the case of the Savannah prisoners. The reader will probably recollect the case to which I allude. President Lincoln, of the Federal States, in issuing his proclamation of the 15th of April, 1861, calling out 75,000 troops to revenge the disaster of Fort Sumter, inserted the following paragraph:—

“And I hereby proclaim, and declare, that, if any person, under the pretended authority of said States, or under any other pretence, shall molest a vessel of the United States, or the persons, or cargo on board of her, such persons will be held amenable to the laws of the United States, for the prevention, and punishment of piracy.”

On the 6th of May following, the Congress of the Confederate States, passed the following act, in reply, as it were, to this manifesto of Mr. Lincoln:—

Whereas, The earnest efforts made by this Government, to establish friendly relations between the Government of the United States, and the Confederate States, and to settle all questions of disagreement between the two Governments, upon principles of right, equity, justice, and good faith, have proved unavailing, by reason of the refusal of the Government of the United States to hold any [Pg 179]intercourse with the Commissioners appointed by this Government, for the purposes aforesaid, or to listen to any proposal they had to make, for the peaceful solution of all causes of difficulty between the two Governments; and whereas, the President of the United States of America has issued his proclamation, making requisition upon the States of the American Union, for 75,000 men, for the purpose, as therein indicated, of capturing forts, and other strongholds within the jurisdiction of, and belonging to the Confederate States of America, and raised, organized, and equipped a large military force, to execute the purpose aforesaid, and has issued his other proclamation, announcing his purpose to set on foot a blockade of the ports of the Confederate States; and whereas, the State of Virginia has seceded from the Federal Union, and entered into a convention of alliance, offensive and defensive, with the Confederate States, and has adopted the Provisional Constitution of said States, and the States of Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas and Missouri have refused, and it is believed, that the State of Delaware, and the inhabitants of the Territories of Arizona, and New Mexico, and the Indian Territory, south of Kansas will refuse to co-operate with the Government of the United States, in these acts of hostility, and wanton aggression, which are plainly intended to overawe, oppress, and finally subjugate the people of the Confederate States; and whereas, by the acts, and means aforesaid, war exists between the Confederate States, and the Government of the United States, and the States and Territories thereof, excepting the States of Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, and Delaware, and the Territories of Arizona, and New Mexico, and the Indian Territory south of Kansas: Therefore,

Sec. 1. The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That the President of the Confederate States is hereby authorized to use the whole land, and naval force of the Confederate States, to meet the war thus commenced, and to issue to private armed vessels, commissions, or letters-of-marque, and general reprisal, in such form, as he shall think proper, under the seal of the Confederate States, against the vessels, goods, and effects of the Government of the United States, and of the citizens, or inhabitants of the States, and Territories thereof, except the States and Territories hereinbefore named. Provided, however, that the property of the enemy, (unless it be contraband of war,) laden on board a neutral vessel, shall not be subject to seizure, under this Act; and provided further, that the vessels of the citizens, or inhabitants of the United States, now in the ports of the Confederate States, except such as have been since the 15th of April last, or may hereafter be, in the service of the Government of the United States, shall be allowed thirty days, after the publication of this Act, to leave said ports, and reach their destination; and such vessels, and their cargoes, excepting articles contraband of war, shall not be subject to capture, under this Act, during said period, unless they shall previously have reached the destination for which they were bound, on leaving said ports.”

[Pg 180]Among the private armed vessels which took out commissions under this Act, was the schooner Savannah, formerly a pilot-boat out of Charleston. She carried one small gun, and about twenty men. During the month of June, this adventurous little cruiser was captured by the U. S. brig Bainbridge, and her crew were hurried off to New York, confined in cells, like convicted felons, and afterward brought to trial, and convicted of piracy, under Mr. Lincoln’s proclamation. I had informed myself of these proceedings from newspapers captured on board the enemy’s ships, and hence the announcement I had made to the prisoners of the Joseph Maxwell. The reader may imagine the delight of those men, and my own satisfaction, as well, when my lieutenant brought back with him, from the shore, after his visit to the Governor, an American newspaper, of late date, stating that the Savannah prisoners had been released from close confinement, and were to be treated as prisoners of war. I was stretching a point, in undertaking retaliation of this serious character without instructions from my Government, but the case was pressing, and we of the Sumter were vitally interested in the issue. The commission of the Savannah, though she was only a privateer, was as lawful as our own, and, judging by the abuse that had already been heaped upon us, by the Northern newspapers, we had no reason to expect any better treatment, at the hands of well-paid New York District-Attorneys, and well-packed New York juries.

I was gratified to learn, as I did soon afterward, that my Government had taken a proper stand on this question. President Davis, as soon as he heard of the treatment to which the Savannah prisoners had been subjected, wrote a letter of remonstrance to President Lincoln, threatening retaliation, if he dared execute his threat of treating them as pirates. In that letter so worthy of the Christian statesman, and so opposite to the coarse fulminations of the enemy, Mr. Davis used the following expressions: “It is the desire of this Government so to conduct the war, now existing, as to mitigate its horrors, as far as may be possible; and with this intent, its treatment of the prisoners captured by its forces has been marked, by the greatest humanity, and leniency, consistent with public obligation. Some have been permitted to return home, on parole, others to[Pg 181] remain at large, under similar conditions, within the Confederacy, and all have been furnished with rations for their subsistence, such as are allowed to our own troops. It is only since the news has been received, of the treatment of the prisoners taken on the Savannah, that I have been compelled to withdraw those indulgences, and to hold the prisoners taken by us, in strict confinement. A just regard to humanity, and to the honor of this Government, now requires me to state, explicitly, that, painful as will be the necessity, this Government will deal out to the prisoners held by it, the same treatment, and the same fate, as shall be experienced by those captured on the Savannah; and if driven to the terrible necessity of retaliation, by your execution of any of the officers, or crew of the Savannah, that retaliation will be extended so far, as shall be requisite to secure the abandonment of a practice, unknown to the warfare of civilized men, and so barbarous, as to disgrace the nation which shall be guilty of inaugurating it.”

Shortly before the conviction of the Savannah prisoners, a seaman named Smith, captured on board the privateer Jefferson Davis, was tried, and convicted of piracy, in Philadelphia. There were fourteen of these men, in all, and the following order from Mr. Benjamin, the Acting Secretary of War of the Confederate States, to General Winder, in charge of Federal prisoners, in Richmond, will show how much in earnest President Davis was, when he wrote the above letter to President Lincoln:—

Sir:—You are hereby instructed to choose, by lot, from among the prisoners of war, of highest rank, one who is to be confined in a cell appropriated to convicted felons, and who is to be treated, in all respects, as if such convict, and to be held for execution, in the same manner as may be adopted by the enemy for the execution of the prisoner of war, Smith, recently condemned to death in Philadelphia.

“You will, also, select thirteen other prisoners of war, the highest in rank of those captured by our forces, to be confined in cells, reserved for prisoners accused of infamous crimes, and will treat them as such, so long as the enemy shall continue so to treat the like number of prisoners of war, captured by them at sea, and now held for trial in New York as pirates.

“As these measures are intended to repress the infamous attempt now made by the enemy, to commit judicial murder on prisoners of war, you will execute them, strictly, as the mode best calculated to prevent the commission of so heinous a crime.”

[Pg 182]The list of hostages, as returned by General Winder, was as follows: Colonels Corcoran, Lee, Cogswell, Wilcox, Woodruff, and Wood; Lieutenant-Colonels Bowman, and Neff; Majors Potter, Revere, and Vogdes, and Captains Ricketts, McQuade, and Rockwood. These measures had the desired effect; the necessity, that the Federal Government was under of conciliating the Irish interest, contributing powerfully thereto—Colonel Corcoran, the first hostage named, being an Irishman of some note and influence, in New York. President Lincoln was accordingly obliged to take back his proclamation, and the Savannah prisoners, and Smith, were put on the footing of prisoners of war. But this recantation of an attempted barbarism had not been honestly made. It was not the generous taking back of a wrong principle, by a high-minded people. The tiger, which had come out of his jungle, in quest of blood, had only been driven back by fear; his feline, and bloodthirsty disposition would, of course, crop out again, as soon as he ceased to dread the huntsman’s rifle. Whilst we were strong, but little more was heard of “pirates,” and “piracy,” except through Mr. Seward’s long-winded and frantic despatches to the British Government, on the subject of the Alabama, but when we became weak, the slogan was taken up again, and rung, in all its changes, by an infuriated people.

To return now to the Sumter. Our decks were crowded with visitors, on the afternoon of our arrival; some of these coming off to shake us warmly by the hand, out of genuine sympathy, whilst others had no higher motive than that of mere curiosity. The officers of the garrison were very civil to us, but we were amused at their diplomatic precaution, in coming to visit us in citizens’ dress. There are no people in the world, perhaps, who attach so much importance to matters of mere form and ceremony, bluff and hearty as John Bull is, as the English people. Lord Russell had dubbed us a “so-called” government, and this expression had become a law to all his subordinates; no official visits could be exchanged, no salutes reciprocated, and none other of the thousand and one courtesies of red-tapedom observed toward us; and, strange to say, whilst all this nonsense of form was being practised, the substance of nationality, that is to say, the acknowledgment[Pg 183] that we possessed belligerent rights, had been frankly and freely accorded to us. It was like saying to a man, “I should like, above all things, to have you come and dine with me, but as you havn’t got the right sort of a dining-dress, you can’t come, you know!” Some ridiculous consequences resulted from this etiquette of nations. Important matters of business frequently remained unattended to, because the parties could not address each other officially. An informal note would take the place of an official despatch.

The advent of the Sumter invariably caused more, or less commotion, in official circles; the small colonial officials fearing lest she might complicate them with their governments. There was now another important council to be held. The opinion of the “law-officers of the crown” was to be taken by his Excellency, upon the question, whether the Sumter was entitled to be coaled in her Majesty’s dominions. The paymaster had found a lot of indifferent coal, on shore, which could be purchased at about double its value, but nothing could be done until the “council” moved; and it is proverbial that large bodies like provincial councils, move slowly. The Attorney-General of the Colony, and other big wigs got together, however, after due ceremony, and, thanks to the fact, that the steamer is an infernal machine of modern invention, they were not very long in coming to a decision. If there had been anything about a steamer, in Coke upon Littleton, Bacon, or Bracton, or any other of those old fellows who deal in black letter, I am afraid the Sumter would have been blockaded by the enemy, before she could have gotten to sea. The pros and cons being discussed—I had too much respect for the calibre of certain guns on shore, to throw any shells across the windows of the council-chamber—it was decided that coal was not contraband of war, and that the Sumter might purchase the necessary article in the market.

But though she might purchase it, it was not so easy to get it on board. It was hard to move the good people on shore. The climate was relaxing, the rainy season had set in, and there was only negro labor to be had, about the wharves and quays. We were four tedious days in filling our coal-bunkers. It had rained, off and on, the whole time. I did not visit the[Pg 184] shore, but I amused myself frequently by inspecting the magnificent scenery by which I was surrounded, through an excellent telescope. The vegetation of Trinidad is varied, and luxuriant beyond description. As the clouds would break away, and the sun light up the wilderness of waving palms, and other tropical trees and plants of strange and rich foliage, amid which the little town lay embowered, the imagination was enchanted with the picture.

The emancipation of the slave ruined this, as it did the other West India islands. As a predial laborer, the freedman was nearly worthless, and the sugar crop, which is the staple, went down to zero. In despair, the planters resorted to the introduction of the coolie; large numbers of them have been imported, and under their skilful and industrious cultivation, the island is regaining a share of its lost prosperity.

A day or two after my arrival, I had a visit from the master of a Baltimore brig, lying in the port. He was ready for sea, he said, and had come on board, to learn whether I would capture him. I told him to make himself easy, that I should not molest him, and referred him to the act of the Confederate Congress, declaring that a state of war existed, to show him that, as yet, we regarded Maryland as a friend. He went away rejoicing, and sailed the next day.

We had, as usual, some little refitting of the ship to do. Off Puerto Cabello, we had carried away our main yard, by coming in contact with the Abby Bradford and the first lieutenant having ordered another on our arrival, it was now towed off, and gotten on board, fitted, and sent aloft.

Sunday, August 4th.—Morning calm and clear. The chimes of the church-bells fall pleasantly and suggestively on the ear. An American schooner came in from some point, up the bay, and anchored well in shore, some distance from us, as though distrustful of our good faith, and of our respect for British neutrality. Being all ready for sea, at half-past ten A. M., I gave the order to get up steam; but the paymaster reporting to me that his vouchers were not all complete, the order was countermanded, and we remained another day.

Her Majesty’s steam-frigate Cadmus having come in, from one of the neighboring islands, I sent a lieutenant on board to[Pg 185] call on her captain. This was the first foreign ship of war to which I had extended the courtesy of a visit, and, in a few hours afterward, my visit was returned. I had, from this time onward, much agreeable intercourse with the naval officers of the several nations, with whom I came in contact. I found them much more independent, than the civil, and military officers. They did not seem to care a straw, about de factos, or de jures, and had a sailor’s contempt for red tape and unmeaning forms. They invariably received my officers, and myself, when we visited their ships, with the honors of the side, appropriate to our rank, without stopping to ask, in the jargon of Lord Russell, whether we were “So-Called,” or Simon Pure. After the usual courtesies had passed between the lieutenant of the Cadmus and myself, I invited him into my cabin, when, upon being seated, he said his captain had desired him to say to me, that, as the Sumter was the first ship of the Confederate States he had fallen in with, he would take it, as a favor, if I would show him my commission. I replied, “Certainly, but there is a little ceremony to be complied with, on your part, first.” “What is that?” said he. “How do I know,” I rejoined, “that you have any authority to demand a sight of my commission—the flag at your peak may be a cheat, and you may be no better than you take me for, a ship of war of some hitherto unknown government—you must show me your commission first.” This was said, pleasantly, on my part, for the idea was quite ludicrous, that a large, and stately steam-frigate, bearing the proud cross of St. George, could be such as I had hypothetically described her. But I was right as to the point I had made, to wit, that one ship of war has no right to demand a sight of the commission of another, without first showing her own. Indeed, this principle is so well known among naval men, that the lieutenant had come prepared for my demand, having brought his commission with him. Smiling, himself, now, in return, he said: “Certainly, your request is but reasonable; here is her Majesty’s commission,” unrolling, at the same time, a large square parchment, beautifully engraved with nautical devices, and with sundry seals, pendent therefrom. In return, I handed him a small piece of coarse, and rather dingy Confederate paper, at the bottom of which was inscribed[Pg 186] the name of Jefferson Davis. He read the commission carefully, and when he had done, remarked, as he handed it back to me, “Mr. Davis’s is a smooth, bold signature.” I replied “You are an observer of signatures, and you have hit it exactly, in the present instance. I could not describe his character to you more correctly, if I were to try—our President has all the smoothness, and polish of the ripe scholar and refined gentleman, with the boldness of a man, who dares strike for the right, against odds.”

Monday, August 5th.—Weather clear, and fine. Flocks of parrots are flying overhead, and all nature is rejoicing in the sunshine, after the long, drenching rains. Far as the eye can reach, there is but one sea of verdure, giving evidence, at once, of the fruitfulness of the soil, and the ardor of the sun. At eleven A. M., Captain Hillyar, of the Cadmus, came on board, to visit me, and we had a long and pleasant conversation on American affairs. He considerately brought me a New York newspaper, of as late a date, as the 12th of July. “I must confess,” said he, as he handed me this paper, “that your American war puzzles me—it cannot possibly last long.” “You are probably mistaken, as to its duration,” I replied; “I fear it will be long and bloody. As to its being a puzzle, it should puzzle every honest man. If our late co-partners had practised toward us the most common rules of honesty, we should not have quarrelled with them; but we are only defending ourselves against robbers, with knives at our throats.” “You surprise me,” rejoined the Captain; “how is that?” “Simply, that the machinery of the Federal Government, under which we have lived, and which was designed for the common benefit, has been made the means of despoiling the South, to enrich the North;” and I explained to him the workings of the iniquitous tariffs, under the operation of which the South had, in effect, been reduced to a dependent colonial condition, almost as abject, as that of the Roman provinces, under their proconsuls; the only difference being, that smooth-faced hypocrisy had been added to robbery, inasmuch as we had been plundered under the forms of law.

“All this is new to me, I assure you,” replied the Captain; “I thought that your war had arisen out of the slavery [Pg 187]question.” “That is a common mistake of foreigners. The enemy has taken pains to impress foreign nations with this false view of the case. With the exception of a few honest zealots, the canting, hypocritical Yankee cares as little for our slaves, as he does for our draught animals. The war which he has been making upon slavery, for the last forty years, is only an interlude, or by-play, to help on the main action of the drama, which is Empire; and it is a curious coincidence, that it was commenced about the time the North began to rob the South, by means of its tariffs. When a burglar designs to enter a dwelling, for the purpose of robbery, he provides himself with the necessary implements. The slavery question was one of the implements employed, to help on the robbery of the South. It strengthened the Northern party, and enabled them to get their tariffs through Congress; and when, at length, the South, driven to the wall, turned, as even the crushed worm will turn, it was cunningly perceived by the Northern men, that ‘No Slavery’ would be a popular war-cry, and hence they used it. It is true, we are defending our slave property, but we are defending it no more than any other species of our property—it is all endangered, under a general system of robbery. We are, in fact, fighting for independence. Our forefathers made a great mistake, when they warmed the Puritan serpent in their bosom; and we, their descendants, are endeavoring to remedy it.”

The Captain now rose to depart. I accompanied him on deck, and when he had shoved off, I ordered the ship to be gotten under way—the fires having been started some time before, the steam was already up. The Sumter, as she moved out of the harbor of the Port of Spain, looked more like a comfortable passenger steamer, bound on a voyage, than a ship of war, her stern nettings, and stern and quarter boats being filled with oranges, and bananas, and all the other luscious fruits that are produced so abundantly in this rich tropical island. Other luxuries were added, for Jack had brought, on board, one or two more sad-looking old monkeys, and a score more of squalling parrots.

 

 


[Pg 188]

CHAPTER XVII.

ON THE WAY TO MARANHAM—THE WEATHER AND THE WINDS—THE SUMTER RUNS SHORT OF COAL, AND IS OBLIGED TO “BEAR UP”—CAYENNE AND PARAMARIBO, IN FRENCH AND DUTCH GUIANA—SAILS AGAIN, AND ARRIVES IN MARANHAM, BRAZIL.

 

We passed out of the Gulf of Paria, through the eastern, or Mona passage, a deep strait, not more than a third of a mile in width, with the land rising, on both sides, to a great height, almost perpendicularly. The water of the Orinoco here begins to mix with the sea-water, and the two waters, as they come into unwilling contact, carry on a perpetual struggle, whirling about in small circles, and writhing and twisting like a serpent in pain.

We met the first heave of the sea at about two o’clock in the afternoon, and turning our head again to the eastward, we continued to run along the mountainous and picturesque coast of Trinidad, until an hour or two after nightfall. The coast is quite precipitous, but, steep as it is, a number of negro cabins had climbed the hill-sides, and now revealed their presence to us by the twinkle of their lights, as the shades of evening fell over the scene. These cabins were quite invisible, by daylight, so dense was the foliage of the trees amid which they nestled. This must, indeed, be the very paradise of the negro. The climate is so genial, that he requires little or no clothing, and bountiful Nature supplies him with food, all the year round, almost unasked. In this land of the sun, a constant succession of fruits is pendent from the trees, and the dwellers in the huts beneath their sheltering arms, have only to reach out their hands when hunger presses. I was reminded, by this scene, of a visit I had once made to the island of St. Domingo, and of the indolence in which the negro lives in[Pg 189] that soft and voluptuous climate. I landed at the bay of Samana, from the ship of war to which I was attached, and taking a stroll, one evening, I came upon the hut of an American negress. Some years before, Boyer, the President of the island, had invited the immigration of free negroes, from the United States. A colony from the city of Baltimore had accepted his invitation, and settled at Samana. In the course of a very few years, all the men of the colony had run off, and found their way back, in various capacities, on board of trading vessels, to the land of their birth; leaving their wives and daughters behind to shift for themselves. The negro woman, whose hut I had stumbled upon, was one of these grass widows. She had become quite old, but was living without apparent effort. The cocoanut waved its feathery branches over her humble domicil, and the juicy mango and fragrant banana hung within tempting reach. A little plot of ground had been picketed in with crooked sticks, and in this primitive garden were growing some squashes and watermelons, barely visible under the rank weeds. I said to her, “My good woman, you don’t seem to have much use for the plough or the hoe in your garden.” “La! master,” said she, “no need of much work in this country—we have only to put in the seed, and the Lord, he gives the increase.”

In time, no doubt, all the West India islands will lapse into just such luxuriant wildernesses, as we were now coasting along, in the Sumter. Amalgamation, by slow, but sure processes, will corrupt what little of European blood remains in them, until every trace of the white man shall disappear. The first process will be the mulatto; but the mulatto, as the name imports, is a mule, and must finally die out; and the mass of the population will become pure African. This is the fate which England has prepared, for some of her own blood, in her colonies. I will not stop here to moralize on it. If we are beaten in this war, what will be our fate in the Southern States? Shall we, too, become mongrelized, and disappear from the face of the earth? Can this be the ultimate design of the Yankee? The night was quite light, and taking a fresh departure, at about ten P. M., from the east end of Trinidad, we passed through the strait between it and the island[Pg 190] of Tobago, and soon afterward emerged from the Caribbean Sea, upon the broad bosom of the South Atlantic. Judging by the tide rips, that were quite visible in the moonlight there must have been considerable current setting through this strait, to the westward. The next day the weather was still fine, and the wind light from about E. N. E., and the Sumter made good speed through the smooth sea. At about ten A. M. a sail was descried, some twelve or fourteen miles distant. She was away off on our port beam, running before the trade-wind, and I forbore to chase. As before remarked, I was not now cruising, but anxious to make a passage, and could not afford the fuel to chase, away from the track I was pursuing, the few straggling sail I might discover in this lonely sea. Once in the track of commerce, where the sails would come fast and thick, I could make up for lost time. At noon, we observed in latitude 9° 14′; the longitude, by chronometer, being 59° 10′.

Wednesday, August 7th.—Weather clear, and delightful, and the sea smooth. Nothing but the broad expanse of the ocean visible, except, indeed, numerous flocks of flying-fish, which we are flushing, now and then like so many flocks of partridges, as we disturb the still waters. These little creatures have about the flight of the partridge, and it is a pretty sight to see them skim away over the billows with their transparent finny wings glistening in the sun, until they drop again into their “cover,” as suddenly as they rose. Our crew having been somewhat broken in upon, by the sending away of so many prize crews, the first lieutenant is re-arranging his watch and quarter-bills, and the men are being exercised at the guns, to accustom them to the changes which have become necessary, in their stations. Officers and men are enjoying, alike, the fine weather. With the fore-castle, and quarter-deck awnings spread, we do not feel the heat, though the sun is nearly perpendicular at noon. Jack is “overhauling” his clothes’-bag, and busy with his needle and thread, stopping, now and then, to have a “lark” with his monkey, or to listen to the prattle of his parrot. The boys of the ship are taking lessons, in knotting, and splicing, and listening to the “yarn” of some old salt, as he indoctrinates them in these mysteries. The midshipmen[Pg 191] have their books of navigation spread out before them, and slate in hand, are discussing sine and tangent, base, and hypothenuse. The only place in which a lounger is not seen is the quarter-deck. This precinct is always sacred to duty, and etiquette. No one ever presumes to seat himself upon it, not even the Commander. Here the officer of the deck is pacing to and fro, swinging his trumpet idly about, for the want of something to do. But hold a moment! he has at last found a job. It is seven bells (half-past eleven) and the ship’s cook has come to the mast, to report dinner. The cook is a darkey, and see how he grins, as the officer of the deck, having tasted of the fat pork, in his tin pan, and mashed some of his beans, with a spoon, to see if they are done, tells him, “that will do.” The Commander now comes on deck, with his sextant, having been informed that it is time to “look out for the sun.” See, he gathers the midshipmen around him, each also with his instrument, and, from time to time, asks them what “altitude they have on,” and compares the altitude which they give him with his own, to see if they are making satisfactory progress as observers. The latitude being obtained, and reported to the officer of the deck, that officer now comes up to the Commander, and touching his hat, reports twelve o’clock, as though the Commander didn’t know it already. The Commander says to him, sententiously, “make it so,” as though the sun could not make it so, without the Commander’s leave. See, now what a stir there is about the hitherto silent decks. Since we last cast a glance at them, Jack has put up his clothes’-bag, and the sweepers have “swept down,” fore and aft, and the boatswain having piped to dinner, the cooks of the different messes are spreading their “mess-cloths” on the deck, and arranging their viands. The drum has rolled, “to grog,” and the master’s mate of the spirit-room, muster-book in hand, is calling over the names of the crew, each man as his name is called, waddling up to the tub, and taking the “tot” that is handed to him, by the “Jack-of-the-dust,” who is the master-mate’s assistant. Dinner now proceeds with somewhat noisy jest and joke, and the hands are not “turned to,” that is, set to work again, until one o’clock.

We have averaged, in the last twenty-four hours, eight knots[Pg 192] and a half, and have not, as yet, experienced any adverse current, though we are daily on the lookout for this enemy; latitude 8° 31′; longitude 56° 12′. In the course of the afternoon, a brigantine passing near us, we hove her to, with a blank cartridge, when she showed us the Dutch colors. She was from Dutch Surinam, bound for Europe. Toward nightfall, it became quite calm, and naught was heard but the thumping of the ship’s propeller, as she urged her ceaseless way through the vast expanse of waters.

August 8th.—Weather still beautifully clear, with an occasional rain squall enclosing us as in a gauze veil, and shutting out from view for a few minutes, at a time, the distant horizon. The wind is light, and variable, but always from the Eastern board; following the sun as the chariot follows the steed. We are making good speed through the water, but we have at length encountered our dreaded enemy, the great equatorial current, which sets, with such regularity, along this coast. Its set is about W. N. W., and its drift about one knot per hour. Nothing has been seen to-day. The water has changed its deep blue color, to green, indicating that we are on soundings. We are about ninety miles from the coast of Guiana. The sun went down behind banks, or rather cumuli of pink and lilac clouds. We are fast sinking the north polar star, and new constellations arise, nightly, above the southern horizon. Amid other starry wonders, we had a fine view this evening, of the southern cross; latitude 7° 19′; longitude 53° 04′.

The next day was cloudy, and the direction of the current was somewhat changed, for its set was now N. W., half N. This current is proving a serious drawback, and I begin to fear, that I shall not be able to make the run to Maranham, as I had hoped. Not only are the elements adverse, but my engineer tells me, that we were badly cheated, in our coal measure, at Trinidad, the sharp coal-dealer having failed to put on board of us as many tons as he had been paid for; for which the said engineer got a rowing. We observed, to-day, in latitude 6° 01′ and longitude 50° 48′.

August 10th.—Weather clear, with a deep blue sea, and a fresh breeze, from the south-east. The south-east trade-winds[Pg 193] have thus crossed the equator, and reached us in latitude 5° north, which is our latitude to-day. I was apprehensive of this, for we are in the middle of August, and in this month these winds frequently drive back the north-east trades, and usurp their place, to a considerable extent, until the sun crosses back into the southern hemisphere. We thus have both wind, and current ahead; the current alone has retarded us fifty miles, or a fraction over two knots an hour; which is about equal to the drift of the Gulf Stream off Cape Hatteras.

Things were beginning now to look decidedly serious. I had but three days of fuel on board, and, upon consulting my chart, I found that I was still 550 miles from my port, current taken into account. It was not possible for the dull little Sumter to make this distance, in the given time, if the wind, and current should continue of the same strength. I resolved to try her, however, another night, hoping that some change for the better might take place. My journal tells the tale of that night as follows:—

August 11th.—“The morning has dawned with a fresh breeze, and rather rough sea, into which we have been plunging all night, making but little headway. The genius of the east wind refuses to permit even steam to invade his domain, and drives us back, with disdain. His ally, the current, has retarded us sixty miles in the last twenty-four hours!” I now no longer hesitated, but directing the engineer to let his fires go down, turned my ship’s head, to the westward, and made sail; it being my intention to run down the coast to Cayenne in French Guiana, with the hope of obtaining a fresh supply of fuel at that place. We soon had the studding sails on the ship, and were rolling along to the northward and westward, with more grace than speed, our rate of sailing being only four knots. The afternoon proved to be remarkably fine, and we should have enjoyed this far niente change, but for our disappointment. Our chief regret was that we were losing so much valuable time, in the midst of the stirring events of the war.

Hauling in for the coast, in the vicinity of Cape Orange, we struck soundings about nightfall. The sea now became quite smooth, and the wind fell very light during the night—the[Pg 194] current, however, is hurrying us on, though its set is not exactly in the right direction. Its tendency is to drive us too far from the coast. The next day, it became perfectly calm, and so continued all day. We were in twenty-three fathoms of water, and could see by the lead line that we were drifting over the bottom at the rate of about two knots an hour. We got out our fishing-lines, and caught some deep sea-fish, of the grouper species. The sea was alive with the nautilus, and the curious sea-nettle, with its warps and hawsers thrown out, and its semi-transparent, gelatinous disc contracting and expanding, as the little animal extracted its food from the water. Schools of fish, large and small, were playing about in every direction, and flocks of sea-gulls, and other marine birds of prey, were hovering over them, and making occasional forays in their midst. During the day, a sail was descried, far in shore, but we were unable to make it out; indeed sails were of the least importance to us now, as we were unable to chase. Just before sunset, we had a fine view of the Silver Mountains, some forty or fifty miles distant, in the south-west.

August 15th.—During the past night, we made the “Great Constable,” a small island, off the coast, and one of the landmarks for Cayenne. The night was fine, and moonlit, and we ran in, and anchored about midnight, in fourteen fathoms of water. At daylight, the next morning, after waiting for the passage of a rain-squall, we got under way, and proceeding along the coast, came up with the Remize Islands, in the course of the afternoon, where we found a French pilot-lugger lying to, waiting for us. We were off Cayenne, and the lugger had come out to show us the way into the anchorage. A pilot jumping on board, we ran in, and anchored to the north-west of the “Child”—a small island—in three and a quarter fathoms of water. I could scarcely realize, that this was the famous penal settlement of Cayenne, painted in French history, as the very abode of death, and fraught with all other human horrors, so beautiful, and picturesque did it appear. The outlying islands are high, rising, generally, in a conical form, and are densely wooded, to their very summits. Sweet little nooks and coves, overhung by the waving foliage of strange-looking tropical trees, indent their shores, and invite the fisherman, or[Pg 195] pleasure-seeker to explore their recesses. The main land is equally rich in vegetation, and though the sea-coast is low, distant ranges of mountains, inland, break in, agreeably, upon the monotony. A perennial summer prevails, and storms, and hurricanes are unknown. It was here that some of the most desperate and bloodthirsty of the French revolutionists of 1790, were banished. Many of them died of yellow fever; others escaped, and wandered off to find inhospitable graves, in other countries; few of them ever returned to France. Shortly after we came to anchor, the batteries of the town, and some small French steamers of war, that lay in the harbor, fired salutes in honor of the birthday of Louis Napoleon—this being the 15th of August.

The next morning, at daylight, I dispatched Lieutenant Evans, and Paymaster Myers, to the town—the former to call on the Governor, and the latter to see if any coal could be had. Their errand was fruitless. Not only was there no coal to be purchased, but my officers thought that they had been received rather ungraciously. The fact is, we found here, as in Curaçoa, that the enemy was in possession of the neutral territory. There was a Federal Consul resident in the place, who was the principal contractor, for supplying the French garrison with fresh beef! and there were three, or four Yankee schooners in the harbor, whose skippers had a monopoly of the trade in flour and notions. What could the Sumter effect against such odds?

In the course of an hour after my boat returned, we were again under way, running down the coast, in the direction of Surinam, to see if the Dutchmen would prove more propitious, than the Frenchmen had done. About six P. M., we passed the “Salut” Islands, three in number, on the summit of one of which shone the white walls of a French military hospital, contrasting prettily with the deep-green foliage of the shade-trees around it. It was surrounded by low walls, on which were mounted some small guns en barbette. Hither are sent all the sick sailors, and soldiers from Cayenne.

August 17th.—Morning clear, and beautiful, as usual, in this delightful climate, with a fresh breeze from the south-east. We are now in latitude 6° north, and still the south-east trade-wind is following us—the calm belt having been pushed[Pg 196] farther and farther to the northward. We are running along in ten fathoms of water, at an average distance of seven, or eight miles, from the land, with the soundings surprisingly regular. Passed the mouth of the small river Maroni, at noon. At four P. M., ran across a bank, in very muddy water, some fifteen miles to the northward and eastward, of the entrance of this river, with only three fathoms of water on it; rather close shaving on a strange coast, having but six feet of water under our keel. Becoming a little nervous, we “hauled out,” and soon deepened into five fathoms. There is little danger of shipwreck, on this coast, however, owing to the regularity of the soundings, and the almost perpetual smoothness of the sea. The bars off the mouths of the rivers, too, are, for the most part, of mud, where a ship sticks, rather than thumps. Hence, the temerity with which we ran into shallow waters.

Sunday, August 18th.—The south-east wind came to us, as softly, and almost as sweetly, this morning, as if it were “breathing o’er a bed of violets;” but it freshened as the day advanced, in obedience to the mandate of its master, the sun, and we had a fresh breeze, toward nightfall. After passing Post Orange, we ran over another three-fathom bank, the water deepening beyond, and enabling us to haul in toward the coast, as we approached Bram’s Point, at the mouth of the Surinam River, off which we anchored, (near the buoy on the bar,) at twenty minutes past five P. M., in four fathoms of water. This being Sunday, as we were running along the coast, we had mustered and inspected the crew, and caused the clerk to read the articles “for the better government of the Navy” to them—the same old articles, though not read under the same old flag, as formerly. This was my invariable practice on the Sabbath. It broke in, pleasantly, and agreeably, upon the routine duties of the week, pretty much as church-going does, on shore, and had a capital effect, besides, upon discipline, reminding the sailor of his responsibility to the laws, and that there were such merciless tribunals, as Courts-Martial, for their enforcement. The very shaving, and washing, and dressing, of a Sunday morning, contributed to the sailor’s self-respect. The “muster” gratified, too, one of his passions, as it gave him the opportunity of displaying all those anchors,[Pg 197] and stars, which he had so industriously embroidered, in floss silk, on his ample shirt-collar, and on the sleeve of his jacket. We had some dandies on board the Sumter, and it was amusing to witness the self-complacent air, with which these gentlemen would move around the capstan, with the blackest, and most carefully polished of pumps, and the whitest, and finest of sinnott hats, from which would be streaming yards enough of ribbon, to make the ship a pennant.

I had had considerable difficulty in identifying the mouth of the Surinam River, so low and uniform in appearance was the coast, as seen from the distance at which we had been compelled to run along it, by the shallowness of the water. There is great similarity between these shelving banks, running off to a great distance, at sea, and the banks on the coast of West Florida. The rule of soundings, on some parts of the latter coast, is a foot to the mile, so that, when the navigator is in ten feet of water, he is ten miles from the land. This is not quite the case, on the coast of Guiana, but on some parts of it, a large ship can scarcely come within sight of the land. A small craft, drawing but a few feet of water, has no need of making a harbor, on either coast, for the whole coast is a harbor—the sea, in bad weather, breaking in from three to five fathoms of water, miles outside of her, leaving all smooth and calm within. There is a difference, however, between the two coasts—the Florida coast is scourged by the hurricane, whilst the Guiana coast is entirely free from storms.

Soon after we came to anchor, as related, we descried a steamer in the west, steering for the mouth of the river. Nothing was more likely than that, by this time, the enemy should have sent some of his fast gun-boats in pursuit of us, and the smoke of a steamer on the horizon, therefore, caused me some uneasiness. I knew that I had not a chivalrous enemy to deal with, who would be likely to give me a fair fight. The captures made by the Sumter had not only touched the Yankee in a very tender spot—his pocket—they had administered, also, a well-merited rebuke to his ridiculous self-conceit. It was monstrous, indeed, in his estimation, that any one should have the audacity, in the face of Mr. Lincoln’s proclamation of prompt vengeance, to molest one of his ships.[Pg 198] A malignant press, from Maine to Maryland, had denounced the Sumter as a pirate, and no quarter was to be shown her. The steamer, now approaching, having been descried, at a great distance, by the curling of her black smoke high into the still air, night set in before she was near enough to be made out. We could see her form indistinctly, in the darkness, but no certain conclusion could be arrived at as to her size or nationality. I, at once, caused my fires to be lighted, and, beating to quarters, prepared my ship for action. We stood at our guns for some time, but seeing, about ten P. M., that the strange steamer came to anchor, some three or four miles outside of us, I permitted the men to leave their quarters, cautioning the officer of the watch, however, to keep a bright lookout, during the night, for the approach of boats, and to call me if there should be any cause for alarm. As I turned in, I thought things looked a little squally. If the strange vessel were a mail-steamer, she would, of course, be familiar with the waters in which she plied, and, instead of anchoring outside, would have run boldly into the river without waiting for daylight. Besides, she had no lights about her, as she approached, and packet steamers always go well lighted up. That she was a steamer of war, therefore, appeared quite certain; but, of course, it was of no use to speculate upon the chances of her being an enemy; daylight only could reveal that. In the meantime, the best thing we could do would be to get a good night’s rest, so as to rise refreshed for the morning’s work, if work there should be.

At daylight, all hands were again summoned to their quarters; and pretty soon the strange steamer was observed to be under way, and standing toward us. We got up our own anchor in a trice—the men running around the capstan in “double-quick,”—and putting the ship under steam, started to meet her. Neither of us had, as yet, any colors hoisted. We soon perceived that the stranger was no heavier than ourselves. This greatly encouraged me, and I could see a corresponding lighting up of the faces of my crew, all standing silently at their guns. Desiring to make the stranger reveal her nationality to me first, I now hoisted the French colors—a fine new flag, that I had had made in New Orleans. To my[Pg 199] astonishment, and no little perplexity, up went the same colors, on board the stranger! I was alongside of a French ship of war, pretending to be a Frenchman myself! Of course, there was but one thing to be done, and that was, to haul down the French flag and hoist my own, which was done in an instant, when we mutually hailed. A colloquy ensued, when the names of the two ships were interchanged, and we ascertained that the stranger was bound into the Surinam, like ourselves. We now both ran in for the light-ship, and the Frenchman receiving a pilot on board from her, I permitted him to take the lead, and we followed him up the long and narrow channel, having sometimes scarcely a foot of water to spare under our keel.

After we had passed inside of Bram’s Point, the tide being out, both ships anchored to wait for the returning flood. I took advantage of the opportunity, and sent a lieutenant to visit the French ship. The Vulture, for such was her name, was one of the old-fashioned, side-wheel steamers, mounting only carronades, and was last from Martinique, with convicts on board, for Cayenne. Running short of coal, she was putting into Paramaribo, for a supply. Getting under way again, soon after mid-day, we continued our course up the river. We were much reminded, by the scenery of the Surinam, of that of some of our Southern rivers—the Mississippi, for instance, after the voyager from the Gulf has left the marshes behind him, and is approaching New Orleans. The bottom lands, near the river, are cleared, and occupied by sugar, and other plantations, the back-ground of the picture presenting a dense, and unbroken forest. As we passed the well-known sugar-house, with its tall chimney, emitting volumes of black smoke, and saw gangs of slaves, cutting, and hauling in the cane, the illusion was quite perfect. Nothing can exceed the fertility of these alluvial lands. They are absolutely inexhaustible, yielding crop after crop, in continual succession, without rest or interval; there being no frosts to interfere with vegetation, in this genial climate. Some of the planters’ dwellings were tasteful, and even elegant, surrounded by galleries whose green Venetian blinds gave promise of coolness within, and sheltered besides by the umbrageous arms of giant forest-trees. Cattle wandered over the pasture lands, the negroes were well clothed, and[Pg 200] there was a general air of abundance, and contentment. Slavery is held by a very precarious tenure, here, and will doubtless soon disappear, there being a strong party, in Holland, in favor of its abolition. Our consort, the Vulture, and ourselves anchored almost at the same moment, off the town of Paramaribo, in the middle of the afternoon. There were two, or three American brigantines in the harbor, and a couple of Dutch ships of war. I sent a lieutenant to call on the Governor, and to request permission to coal, and refit; both of which requests were granted, with the usual conditions, viz.: that I should not increase my crew or armament, or receive ammunition on board. The Captain of the Vulture now came on board, to return the visit I had made him, through my lieutenant, and the commanding Dutch naval officer also called. But, what was more important, several coal merchants came off to negotiate with my paymaster, about supplying the ship with the very necessary article in which they dealt. The successful bidder for our contract was a “gentleman of color,” that is to say, a quadroon, who talked freely about whites, and blacks, always putting himself, of course, in the former category, by the use of the pronoun “we,” and seemed to have no sort of objection to our flag, or the cause it was supposed to represent. I wined this “gentleman,” along with my other visitors, and though I paid him a remunerative price for his coal, I am under many obligations to him, for his kindness, and assistance to us, during our stay. I take great pleasure in contrasting the conduct and bearing of this person, with those of the Federal Consul, at Paramaribo. This latter gentleman was a Connecticut man, who had probably worn white cravats, and delivered quarter-dollar lectures, in his native village, against slavery, as a means of obtaining an “honest living.” Coming to Paramaribo, he had married a mulatto wife, and through her, become a slave-holder. This virtuous representative of “great moral ideas,” at once threw himself into the breach, between the Sumter, and the coal-market, and did all he could to prevent her from coaling. He was one of Mr. Seward’s men, and taking up the refrain about “piracy,” went first to the Governor, to see what could be effected, in that quarter. Being told that Holland had followed the lead of the great powers, and[Pg 201] recognized the Confederates as belligerents, he next went to our quadroon contractor, and endeavored to bluff him off, by threatening him with the loss of any Yankee trade, that he might possess. Being equally unsuccessful here, he next tried to seduce the lightermen, to prevent them from delivering the coal to us. All would not do, however, the Sumter, or what is more likely, the Sumter’s gold—that talisman that works so many miracles in this virtuous world of ours—was too strong for him, and, pretty soon, the black diamonds—the most precious of jewels to men in our condition—came tumbling into our coal-bunkers. Failing to prevent us from coaling, the little Connecticut official next tampered with the pilot, and endeavored to prevail on him, to refuse to take us to sea. But the pilot was a sailor, with all the generous instincts that belong to his class, and he not only refused to be seduced, but presented me with some local charts of the coast, which I found very useful.

The Consul had his triumph at last, however. When I was fitting out the Sumter in New Orleans, a friend, and relative resident in that city, had kindly permitted me to take with me, as my steward, a valuable slave of his who had been brought up as a dining-room servant. Ned was as black as the ace of spades, and being a good-tempered, docile lad, had become my right-hand man, taking the best of care of my cabin, and keeping my table supplied with all the delicacies of the different markets, to which we had had access. He was as happy as the days were long, a great favorite with the crew, and when there was any fun going on, on the forecastle, he was sure to be in the midst of it. But the tempter came along. The Connecticut miscegenist (and slave-holder, at the same time) had seen Ned’s shining and happy face going to market, of mornings, and, like the serpent of old, whispered in his ear. One morning Ned was missing, but the market-basket came off, piled up as usual with luxuries for dinner. The lad had been bred in an honest household, and though his poor brain had been bewildered, he was still above theft. His market-basket fully balanced his account. Poor Ned! his after-fate was a sad one. He was taken to the country, by his Mephistophiles, and set at work, with the slaves of that pious Puritan, on a small plantation that[Pg 202] belonged to his negro wife. Ned’s head was rather too woolly, to enable him to understand much about the abstractions of freedom and slavery, but he had sense enough to see, ere long, that he had been beguiled, and cheated, by the smooth Yankee; and when, in course of time, he saw himself reduced to yam diet, and ragged clothing, he began, like the prodigal child, to remember the abundance of his master’s house, and to long to return to it. Accordingly, he was missing, again, one fine morning, and was heard of no more in Paramaribo. He had embarked on board a vessel bound to Europe, and next turned up in Southampton. The poor negro had wandered off at a hazard in quest of the Sumter, but hearing nothing of her, and learning that the Confederate States steamer Nashville, Commander Pegram, was at Southampton, he made his way on board of that ship, and told his tale to the officers. He afterward found his way to the United States, and died miserably, of cholera, in some of the negro suburbs of Washington City.

August 23d.—Weather clear, during the day, but we had some heavy showers of rain, with thunder, and lightning during the night. We are receiving coal rather slowly—a small lighter-load at a time. We are making some changes in the internal arrangements of the ship. Finding, by experience, that we have more tank-room, for water, than is requisite, we are landing a couple of our larger tanks, and extending the bulkheads of the coal-bunkers. By this means, we shall be enabled to increase our coal-carrying capacity by at least a third, carrying twelve days of fuel, instead of eight. Still the Sumter remains fundamentally defective, as a cruiser, in her inability to lift her screw.

August 24th.—Weather clear, and pleasant, with some passing clouds, and light showers of rain. The Dutch mail-steamer, from Demerara, arrived, to-day. We are looking anxiously for news from home, as, at last accounts—July 20th from New York—a battle near Manassas Junction, seemed imminent. Demerara papers of the 19th of August contain nothing, except that some skirmishing had taken place, between the two armies. The French steamer-of-war Abeille arrived, and anchored near us.

Sunday, August 25th.—Morning cloudy. At half-past eight[Pg 203] I went on shore to church. The good old Mother has her churches, and clergymen, even in this remote Dutch colony. The music of her choirs is like the “drum-beat” of England; it encircles the earth, with its never-ending melody. As the sun, “keeping company with the hours,” lights up, with his newly risen beams, one degree of longitude after another, he awakens the priest to the performance of the never-ending mass. The church was a neat, well-arranged wooden building, of large dimensions, and filled to overflowing with devout worshippers. All the shades of color, from “snowy white to sooty” were there, and there did not seem to be any order in the seating of the congregation, the shades being promiscuously mixed. The preacher was fluent, and earnest in action, but his sermon, which seemed to impress the congregation, being in that beautiful and harmonious language, which we call “low Dutch,” was entirely unintelligible to me. The Latin mass, and ceremonies—which are the same all over the world—were, of course, quite familiar, and awoke many tender reminiscences. I had heard, and seen them, in my own country, under the domes of grand cathedrals, and in the quiet retreat of the country house, where the good wife herself had improvised the altar. A detachment of the Government troops was present.

Some Dutch naval lieutenants visited the ship to-day. We learn, by late papers from Barbadoes, politely brought us by these gentlemen, that the enemy’s steamer, Keystone State, was in that island, in search of us, on the 21st of July. She probably heard, there, of my intention to go back to cruise off the island of Cuba, which, as the reader has seen, I confidentially communicated to my friends at Curaçoa, and has turned back herself. If she were on the right track she should be here before this. There was great commotion, too, as we learn by these papers, at Key West, on the 8th of July, when the news reached there of our being at Cienfuegos. Consul Shufeldt, at Havana, had been prompt, as I had foreseen. We entered Cienfuegos on the 6th, and on the 8th, he had two heavy and fast steamers, the Niagara and the Crusader, in pursuit of us. They, too, seem to have lost the trail.

August 28th.—Bright, elastic morning, with a gentle breeze[Pg 204] from the south-east. There was a grand fandango, on shore, last night, at which some of my officers were present. The fun grew “fast and furious,” as the night waned, and what with the popping of champagne-corks, and the flashing of the bright eyes of the waltzers, as they were whirled in the giddy dance, my young fellows have come off looking a little red about the eyes, and inclined to be poetical.

Rumors have been rife, for some days past, of a Confederate victory at Manassas. There seems now to be no longer any doubt about the fact. Private letters have been received, from Demerara, which state that the enemy was not only beaten, but shamefully routed, flying in confusion and dismay from the battle-field, and seeking refuge, pell-mell, in the Federal capital. With the exception of the Federal Consul, and Yankee skippers in the port, and a small knot of shop-keepers, interested in the American trade, all countenances are beaming with joy at this intelligence. This splendid victory was won by General Beauregard. McDowell was the commander of the enemy’s forces, assisted, as it would seem, by the poor old superannuated Winfield Scott—this renegade soldier lending his now feeble intellect to the Northern Vandal, to assist in stabbing to the heart his mother State—Virginia! Alas! what an ignoble end of a once proud and honored soldier.

August 29th.—We have, at length, finished coaling, after a tedious delay of ten days. A rumor prevailed in the town, yesterday, that there were two enemy’s ships of war off the bar—keeping themselves cunningly out of sight, to waylay the Sumter. The rumor comes with circumstance, for it is said that the fisherman, who brought the news, supplied one of the ships with fish, and said that the other ship was getting water on board from one of the coast plantations. To-day, the rumor dwindles; but one ship, it seems, has been seen, and she a merchant ship. The story is probably like that of the three white crows.

August 30th.—The pilot having come on board, we got under way, at two P. M., and steamed down to the mouth of the river, where we came to anchor. A ship, going to sea, is like a woman going on a journey—many last things remaining to be attended to, at the moment of departure. I have always[Pg 205] found it best, to shove off shore-boats, expel all visitors, “drop down” out of the influences of the port, and send an officer or two back, to arrange these last things. A boat was now accordingly dispatched back to the town, for this purpose, and as she would not return until late in the night, inviting the surgeon and paymaster, and my clerk to accompany me, I pulled on shore, in my gig, to make a visit to an adjoining sugar plantation, that lay close by, tempting us to a stroll under its fine avenues of cocoanut and acacia trees. We were received very hospitably at the planter’s mansion, where we found some agreeable ladies, and with whom we stayed late enough, to take tea, at their pressing solicitation. It was a Hollandese household, but all the inmates spoke excellent English. Whilst tea was being prepared, we wandered over the premises, the sugar-house included, where we witnessed all the processes of sugar making, from the expression of the juice from the cane, to the crystallization of the syrup. There were crowds of negroes on the place, old and young, male and female—some at work, and some at play; the players being rather the more numerous of the two classes. The grounds around the dwelling were tastefully laid out, in serpentine walks, winding through a wilderness of rare tropical shrubbery, redolent of the most exquisite of perfumes. True to the Dutch instinct for the water, the river, or rather the bay, for the river has now disembogued into an arm of the sea, washed the very walls of the flower-garden, and the plash, or rather the monotonous fretting of the tiny waves, at their base, formed no unmusical accompaniment to the hum of conversation, as the evening wore away. Among other plants, we noticed the giant maguey, and a great variety of the cactus, that favorite child of the sun. Our visit being over, we took a warm leave of our hospitable entertainers, and pulled on board the Sumter, by moonlight, deeply impressed, and softened as well by the harmonies of nature, and feeling as little like “pirates,” as possible.

The next morning, having run up our boats, and taken a final leave of the waters of the Surinam, we steamed out to sea, crossing the bar about meridian; the weather being fine, and the wind fresh from the north-east. Having given it out that we were bound to Barbadoes, to look for the Keystone State,[Pg 206] we stood north, until we had run the land out of sight, to give color to this idea, when we changed our course to E., half S. We ran along, for the next two or three days, on soundings, with a view to break the force of the current, doubling Cape Orange, on the 2d of September, and hauling more to the southward, with the trending of the coast. On the next day, we had regained the position from which we had been compelled to bear up, and my journal remarks:—“We have thus lost three days and a half of steaming, or about fifty tons of coal, but what is worse, we have lost twenty-three days of valuable time,—but this time can scarcely be said to have been wholly lost, either, since the display of the flag of our young republic, in Cayenne and Paramaribo, has had a most excellent effect.”

Sept. 4th.—Weather fine, with a fresh breeze, from about E. by S. During most of the day, we have carried fore and aft sails, and have made an excellent run, for a dull ship—175 miles. We have experienced no current. We passed the mouths of the great Amazon, to-day, bearing on its bosom the waters of a continent. We were running along in the deepest and bluest of sea-water, whilst at no great distance from us, we could plainly perceive, through our telescopes, the turbid waters of the great stream, mixing and mingling, by slow degrees, with the ocean. Numerous tide rips marked the uncongenial meeting of the waters, and the sea gull and penguin were busy diving in them, as though this neutral ground, or rather I should say, battle-ground, was a favorite resort for the small fish, on which they prey. A drift log with sedate water-fowl seated upon it, would now and then come along, and schools of porpoises were disporting themselves, now in the blue, now in the muddy waters. Unlike the mouths of the Mississippi, there were no white sails of commerce dotting the waters, in the offing, and no giant tow-boats throwing their volumes of black smoke into the air, and, with their huge side-wheels, beating time to the pulsations of the steam-engine. All was nature. The giant stream ran through a wilderness, scarcely yet opened to civilization. It disembogues a little south of the equator, and runs from west to east, nearly entirely across the continent.

[Pg 207]We crossed the equator in the Sumter, on the meridian of 46° 40′, and sounded in twenty fathoms of water, bringing up from the bottom of the sea, for the first time, some of the sand, and shells of the Southern Hemisphere. We hoisted the Confederate flag, though there were no eyes to look upon it outside of our ship, to vindicate, symbolically, our right to enter this new domain of Neptune, in spite of Abraham Lincoln, and the Federal gun-boats.

September 5th.—Wind fresh from E. S. E. Doubled Cape Garupi, during the early morning, and sounded, at meridian, in eight fathoms of water, without any land in sight, though the day was clear. Hauled out from the coast a little. At half-past three, P. M., made the island of San Joao, for which we had been running, a little on the starboard bow. We now hauled in close with this island, and running along its white sand beach, which reminded us much of the Florida coast, about Pensacola, we doubled its north-eastern end, in six, and seven fathoms of water. Night now set in, and, shaping our course S. E. by S., we ran into some very broken ground—the soundings frequently changing, in a single cast of the lead, from seven to four fathoms. Four fathoms being rather uncomfortably shoal, on an open coast, we again hauled out, until we deepened our water to eight fathoms, in which we ran along, still in very equal soundings, until we made the light on Mount Itacolomi, nearly ahead. In half an hour afterward, we anchored in six and a half fathoms of water, to wait for daylight.

When I afterward told some Brazilian officers, who came on board, to visit me, in Maranham, of this eventful night’s run, they held up their hands in astonishment, telling me that the chances were a hundred to one, that I had been wrecked, for, many parts of the broken ground over which I had run, were almost dry, at low water. Their steamers never attempt it, they said, with the best pilots on board. It is a pity this coast is not better surveyed, for the charts by which I was running, represented it free from danger. The Brazilian is a coral coast, and, as before remarked, all coral coasts are dangerous. The inequality of soundings was due to the greater industry of the little stone-mason, of which we read some pages back, in some spots than in others. This little worker of the sea will sometimes pierce[Pg 208] a ship’s bottom, with a cone, which it has brought near the surface, from surrounding deep waters. As it is constantly at work, the bottom of the sea is constantly changing, and hence, on coral coasts, surveying steamers should be almost always at work. Having anchored in the open sea, and the sea being a little rough, we found, when we came to heave up our anchor, the next morning, that we brought up only the ring, and a small piece of the shank. It had probably been caught in the rocky bottom, and broken by the force of the windlass, aided by the pitching of the ship.

There was, much to my regret, no pilot-boat in sight. The entrance to Maranham is quite difficult, but difficult as it was, I was forced to attempt it. We rounded safely, the shoals of Mount Itacolomi, and passed the middle ground of the Meio, and I was already congratulating myself that the danger was past, when the ship ran plump upon a sand-bank, and stopped! She went on, at full speed, and the shock, to those standing on deck, was almost sufficient to throw them off their feet. We had a skilful leadsman in the chains, and at his last cast, he had found no bottom, with eight fathoms of line—all that the speed of the ship would allow him to sink. Here was a catastrophe! Were the bones of the Sumter to be laid to rest, on the coast of Brazil, and her Commander, and crew to return to the Confederate States, and report to the Government, that they had lost its only ship of war! This idea flashed through my mind for an instant, but only for an instant, for the work of the moment pressed. The engineer on duty had stopped his engine, without waiting for orders, as soon as he felt the ship strike, and I now ordered it reversed. In a moment more the screw was revolving in the opposite direction, and the strong tide, which was running out, catching the ship, on the port bow, at the same time, she swung round to starboard, and slid off the almost perpendicular edge of the bank into deep water, pretty much as a turtle will drop off a log. The first thing I did was to draw a long breath, and the second was to put on an air of indifference, as if nothing had happened, and tell the officer of the deck, in the coolest manner possible, to “let her go ahead.” We now proceeded more cautiously, under low steam, giving the leadsman plenty of time to get his [Pg 209]soundings, accurately. These soon proving very irregular, and there being some fishermen on the coast, half a mile distant, throwing up their arms, and gesticulating to us, as though to warn us of danger, we anchored, and sending a boat on shore, brought one of them off, who volunteered to pilot us up to the town. Upon sounding the pumps, we found that the ship had suffered no damage from the concussion. We anchored in the port of Maranham, in three or four hours afterward, and the Confederate States flag waved in the Empire of Brazil. The Port Admiral sent a lieutenant to call on us, soon after anchoring, and I dispatched one of my own lieutenants, to call on the Governor; returning the Admiral’s visit, myself, in the course of the afternoon, at his place of business on shore.

 

 


[Pg 210]

CHAPTER XVIII.

THE SUMTER AT MARANHAM—MORE DIPLOMACY NECESSARY—THE HOTEL PORTO AND ITS PROPRIETOR—A WEEK ON SHORE—SHIP COALS AND SAILS AGAIN.

 

The day after our arrival in Maranham, was a day of feasting and rejoicing by the townspeople—all business being suspended. It was the 7th of September, the anniversary of the day on which Brazil had severed her political connection with Portugal—in other words, it was her Independence-day. The forts and ships of war fired salutes, and the latter were gayly draped in flags and signals, presenting a very pretty appearance. It is customary, on such occasions, for the ships of war of other nations, in the port, to participate in the ceremonies and merry-making. We abstained from all participation, on board the Sumter, our flag being, as yet, unrecognized, for the purposes of form and ceremony. In the evening, a grand ball was given, at the Government House, by the President of the Province, to which all the world, except the Sumter, was invited—the etiquette of nations, before referred to, requiring that she should be ruled out. The only feeling excited in us, by this official slight, was one of contempt for the silliness of the proceeding—a contempt heightened by the reflection that we were a race of Anglo-Saxons, proud of our lineage, and proud of our strength, frowned upon by a set of half-breeds. The Government House being situated on the river bank, near our anchorage, the lights of the brilliantly illuminated halls and chambers, shone full upon our decks, and the music of the bands, and even the confused hum of the voices of the merry-makers, and the muffled shuffling of the dancers’ feet, came to us, very distinctly, to a late hour. The Sumter lay dark, and motionless, and silent, amid this scene of merriment; the only answer which she sent back to the revellers, being the sonorous[Pg 211] and startling cry, every half hour, of her marine sentinels on post, of “All’s well!”

Having suffered, somewhat, in health, from the fatigue and excitement of the last few weeks, I removed on shore the next day, and took up my quarters at the hotel Porto, kept by one of those nondescripts one sometimes meets with in the larger South American cities, whose nationality it is impossible to guess at, except that he belongs to the Latin race. My landlord had followed the sea, among his thousand and one occupations, spoke half a dozen languages, and was “running”—to use a slang Americanism—a theatre and one or two fashionable restaurants, in beautifully laid out pleasure-grounds in the suburbs, in addition to his hotel. He drove a pair of fast horses, was on capital terms with all the pretty women in the town, smashed champagne-bottles, right and left, and smoked the best of Havana cigars. The reader will thus see, that being an invalid, and requiring a little nursing, I had fallen into capital hands. Whether it was that Senhor Porto—for he had given his own name to his hotel—had chased and captured merchant-ships, in former days, himself, or from some other motive, I could never tell, but he took quite a fancy to me at once, and I rode with him daily, during my stay, behind his fast ponies, and visited all the places of amusement, of which he was the padron. The consequence was, that I visibly improved in health, and at the end of the week which I spent with him, returned on board the Sumter, quite set up again; in requital whereof, I have permitted the gallant Captain to sit for his portrait in these pages.

My first duty, after being installed in my new apartments on shore, was, of course, to call on the President of the Department—the town of Maranham being the seat of government of the province of the same name. The President declined to see me then, but appointed noon, the next day, to receive me. Soon after I had returned to my hotel, Senhor Porto entered my room, to inform me that Captain Pinto, of the Brazilian Navy, the commanding naval officer on the station, accompanied by the Chief of Police, had called to see me. “What does this mean?” said I, “the Chief of Police, in our cities, is a very questionable sort of gentleman, and is[Pg 212] usually supposed to be on the scent of malefactors.” “Oh! he is a very respectable gentleman, I assure you,” replied Porto, “and, as you see, he has called with the Port Admiral, so that he is in good company, at least. Indeed he is reputed to be the confidential friend of the President.” Thus reassured, and making a virtue of necessity, I desired Porto, very complacently, to admit the visitors. The Port Admiral had done me the honor to visit me, immediately upon my arrival, and I had returned his visit, so that we were not strangers. He introduced the Chief of Police to me, who proved to be, as Porto had represented him, an agreeable gentleman, holding military rank, and, after the two had been seated, they opened their business to me. They had come, they said, on behalf of the President, to present me with a copy of a paper, which had been handed him, by the United States Consul, protesting against my being permitted to coal, or receive any other supplies in the port of Maranham. Oh ho! thought I, here is another of Mr. Seward’s small fry turned up. I read the paper, and found it full of ignorance and falsehoods—ignorance of the most common principles of international law, and barefaced misrepresentations with regard to my ship; the whole composed in such execrable English, as to be highly creditable to Mr. Seward’s Department. I characterized the paper, as it deserved, and said to the gentlemen, that as I had made an appointment to call on the President, on the morrow, I would take that opportunity of replying to the slanderous document. The conversation then turned on general topics, and my visitors soon after withdrew.

As I rode out, that afternoon, with Porto, he said, “Never mind! I know all that is going on, at the palace, and you will get all the coal, and everything else you want.” The pay of the Federal Consul at Maranham, was, I believe, at the time I visited the town, about twelve hundred dollars, per annum. As was to be expected, a small man filled the small place. He was quite young, and with commendable Yankee thrift, was exercising, in the consular dwelling, the occupation of a dentist; the “old flag” flying over his files, false teeth, and spittoons. He probably wrote the despatch, a copy of which had[Pg 213] been handed me, in the intervals between the entrance, and exit of his customers. It was not wonderful, therefore, that this semi-diplomat, charged with the affairs of the Great Republic, and with the decayed teeth of the young ladies of Maranham, at one and the same time, should be a little confused, as to points of international law, and the rules of Lindley Murray. That he should misrepresent me was both natural, and Federal.

At the appointed hour, the next day, I called to see his Excellency, the President, and being ushered, by an orderly in waiting, into a suite of spacious, and elegantly furnished apartments, I found Captain Pinto, and his Excellency, both prepared to receive me. We proceeded, at once, to business. I exhibited to his Excellency the same little piece of brownish paper, with Mr. Jefferson Davis’s signature at the bottom of it, that I had shown to Captain Hillyer of the Cadmus—unasked, however, as no doubts had been raised as to the verity of the character of my ship. I then read to his Excellency an extract or two from the letter of instructions, which had been sent me by the Secretary of the Navy, directing me to pay all proper respect to the territory, and property of neutrals. I next read the proclamations of England and France, acknowledging us to be in the possession of belligerent rights, and said to his Excellency, that although I had not seen the proclamation of Brazil, I presumed she had followed the lead of the European powers—to which he assented. I then “rested my case,” as the lawyers say, seeing, by the expression of his Excellency’s countenance, that every lick had told, and that I had nothing now to fear. “But, what about coal being contraband of war,” said his Excellency, at this stage of the proceeding. “The United States Consul, in the protest addressed to me, a copy of which I sent you, yesterday, by Captain Pinto, and the Chief of Police, states that you had not been permitted to coal, in any of the ports, which you have hitherto visited.” The reader will recollect, that, at the British Island of Trinidad, the question of my being permitted to coal had been submitted to the “law officers of the Crown.” The newspaper, at that place, had published a copy of the opinion of these officers, and also a copy of the decision of the [Pg 214]Governor, thereupon. Having brought a copy of this paper, in my pocket, for the occasion, I now rejoined to his Excellency: “The United States Consul has made you a false statement. I have coaled, already, in the colonies of no less than three Powers—Spain, Holland, and England”—and drawing from my pocket the newspaper, and handing it to him, I continued, “and your Excellency will find, in this paper, the decision of the English authorities, upon the point in question—that is to say, that coal is not contraband of war, and may be supplied by neutrals to belligerents.” Captain Pinto, to whom his Excellency handed the paper, read aloud the decision, putting it into very good Portuguese, as he went along, and when he had finished the reading, his Excellency turned again to me, and said: “I have no longer any doubts on the question. You can have free access to the markets, and purchase whatsoever you may desire—munitions of war alone excepted.” I have been thus particular in describing these proceedings to the reader, to show him with what sleuth-hound perseverance I was followed up, by these small consuls, taken from the political kennel in the Northern States, who never hesitated to use the most unblushing falsehoods, if they thought these would serve their purposes better than the truth. The official portion of my interview with the President being ended, I ventured upon some general remarks with regard to the unnatural, and wicked war which was being waged upon us, and soon afterward took my leave.

In an hour after I had left the President’s quarters, my paymaster had contracted for a supply of coal, and lighters were being prepared to take it on board. The sailors were now permitted to visit the shore, in detachments, “on liberty,” and the officers wandered about, in twos and threes, wherever inclination prompted. We soon found that wherever we moved, we were objects of much curiosity, the people frequently turning to stare at us; but we were always treated with respect. Nothing was thought, or talked of, during our stay, but the American war. The Provincial Congress was in session, and several of its members boarded at the hotel Porto. I found them intelligent, well-informed men. There were political parties here, as elsewhere, of course; among others[Pg 215] as might be expected, in a slave-holding country, there was an abolition party, and this party sympathized with the North. It was very small, however, for it was quite evident, from the popular demonstrations, that the great mass of the people were with us. This state of the public feeling not only rendered our stay, very pleasant, but facilitated us in getting off our supplies. Invitations to the houses of the citizens were frequent, and we had free access to all the clubs, and other places of public resort.

I must not omit to mention here, a very agreeable fellow-countryman, whom we met in Maranham—Mr. J. Wetson, from Texas. He had been several years in Brazil. His profession was that of a steam-engineer, and mill-wright. This worthy young mechanic, full of love, and enthusiasm for his section, loaned the paymaster two thousand dollars, on a bill against the Secretary of the Navy; and during the whole of our stay, his rooms were the head-quarters of my younger officers, where he dispensed to them true Southern hospitality. We were gratified to find him a great favorite with the townspeople, and we took leave of him with regret.

Maranham lies in latitude 2° S. and we visited it, during the dry season; the sun having carried the equatorial cloud-ring, which gives it rain, farther north. We had perpetual sunshine, during our stay, but the heat was tempered by the trade-wind, which blew sometimes half a gale, so that we did not feel it oppressive. Toward night the sea-breeze would moderate, and the most heavenly of bright skies, and most balmy of atmospheres would envelop the landscape. At this witching hour, the beauties of Maranham made their appearance, at the street-doors, and at open windows, and the tinkle of the guitar and the gentle hum of conversation would be heard. Later in the night, there would arise from different parts of the town—somewhat removed from the haunts of the upper-tendom—the rumbling, and jingling of the tambourine, and the merry notes of the violin, as the national fandango was danced, with a vigor, and at the same time with a poetry of motion unknown to colder climes. The wine flowed freely on these occasions, and not unfrequently the red knife of the assassin found the heart’s blood of a rival in love; for there[Pg 216] are other climes besides those of which the poet sang, where

“The rage of the vulture, the love of the turtle
Now melt into sorrow, now madden to crime.”

The trade of Maranham is mostly monopolized by Portugal, France, and Spain, though there is some little carried on with the United States—an occasional ship from New York, or Boston, bringing a cargo of flour, cheap but gaudy furniture, clocks, and domestic cottons, and other Yankee staples, and notions. The shop-keepers are mostly French and Germans. An excellent staple of cotton is produced in the province of Maranham.

On the 15th of September, the Sumter was ready for sea, having been refitted, and repainted, besides being coaled, and provisioned; and there being, as usual, according to rumor, a couple of enemy’s ships waiting for her outside, we received a pilot on board, and getting up steam, took leave of Maranham, carrying with us many kindly recollections of the hospitality of the people. We swept the sea horizon, with our glasses, as we approached the bar, but the enemy’s cruisers were nowhere to be seen, and at three P. M., we were again in blue water; our little craft rising, and falling gently, to the undulations of the sea, as she ploughed her way through it.

The question now was, in what direction should we steer? I was within striking distance of the cruising-ground, for which I had set out—Cape St. Roque; but we had been so long delayed, that we should reach it, if we proceeded thither at all, at a most unpropitious season—the sailing, and steaming qualities of the Sumter considered. The trade-winds were sweeping round the Cape, blowing half a gale, on the wings of which the dullest ship would be able to run away from us, if we trusted to sail, alone; and steam, in the present state of my exchequer, was out of the question. I had paid $17.50 per ton for the coal I had taken in, at Maranham, and but for the timely loan of Mr. Wetson, should have exhausted my treasury entirely. The trade-winds would continue to blow, with equal force, until some time in December; they would then moderate, and from that time, onward, until March, we might expect more gentle weather. This, then, was the only[Pg 217] season, in which the Sumter could operate off the Cape, to advantage.

On the other hand, the calm belt of the equator lay before me—its southern edge, at this season of the year, being in latitude of about 5° N. All the homeward-bound trade of the enemy passed through this calm belt, or used to pass through it before the war, at a well-known crossing. At that crossing, there would be a calm sea, light, and variable winds, and rain. In such weather, I could lie in wait for my prey, under sail, and, if surprise, and stratagem did not effect my purpose, I could, when a sail appeared, get up steam and chase and capture, without the expenditure of much fuel. In this way, with the coal I had on board, I could prolong my cruise, probably, for a couple of months. I did not hesitate long, therefore, between the two schemes. I turned my ship’s head to the northward, and eastward, for the calm belt, and before sunset, we had run the coast of Brazil out of sight.

We recrossed the equator, the next day. In five days more, the sun would have reached the equator, when we should have had the grand spectacle, at noon, of being able to sweep him, with our instruments, entirely around the horizon, with his lower limb just touching it, at all points. We could nearly do this, as it was, and so rapidly did he dip, at noon, that we were obliged to watch him, with constant vigilance, to ascertain the precise moment of twelve o’clock.

September 17th.—The sea is of a deep, indigo blue, and we have a bright, and exceedingly transparent atmosphere, with a fresh breeze from the south-east. At half-past eleven A. M., we let the steam go down, uncoupled the propeller, and put the ship under sail. Observed at noon, in latitude 2° 19′ N.; longitude, 41° 29′.

For the next few days, we encountered a remarkable easterly current—the current, in this part of the ocean, being almost constantly to the westward. This current—which we were now stemming, for we were sailing toward the north-west—retarded us, as much as fifty miles, in a single day! So remarkable did the phenomenon appear, that if I had noticed it, for but a single day, I should have been inclined to think that I had made some mistake in my observations, or that there was some[Pg 218] error in my instrument, but we noticed it, day after day, for four or five days.

Contemporaneously with this phenomenon, another, and even more wonderful one appeared. This was a succession of tide-rips, so remarkable, that they deserve special description.

The Sumter lay nearly stationary, during the whole of these phenomena—the easterly current setting her back, nearly as much as she gained under sail. She was in the average latitude of 5° N., and average longitude of 42° W. For the first three days, the rips appeared with wonderful regularity—there being an interval of just twelve hours between them. They approached us from the south, and travelled toward the north. At first, only a line of foam would be seen, on the distant horizon, approaching the ship very rapidly. As it came nearer, an almost perpendicular wall of water, extending east and west, as far as the eye could reach, would be seen, the top of the wall boiling and foaming, like a breaker rolling over a rocky bottom. As the ridge approached nearer and nearer, it assumed the form of a series of rough billows, jostling against, and struggling with each other, producing a scene of the utmost confusion, the noise resembling that of a distant cataract. Reaching the ship, these billows would strike her with such force, as to send their spray to the deck, and cause her to roll and pitch, as though she were amid breakers. The phenomenon was, indeed, that of breakers, only the cause was not apparent—there being no shoal water to account for it. The Sumter sometimes rolled so violently in these breakers, when broadside to, that we were obliged to keep her off her course, several points, to bring the sea on her quarter, and thus mitigate the effect. The belt of rips would not be broad, and as it travelled very rapidly—fifteen or twenty miles the hour—the ship would not be long within its influence. In the course of three quarters of an hour, it would disappear, entirely, on the distant northern horizon. So curious was the whole phenomenon, that the sailors, as well as the officers, assembled, as if by common consent, to witness it. “There come the tide rips!” some would exclaim, and, in a moment there would be a demand for the telescopes, and a rush to the ship’s side, to witness the curious spectacle. These rips have frequently been[Pg 219] noticed by navigators, and discussed by philosophers, but, hitherto, no satisfactory explanation has been given of them. They are like the bores, at the mouths of great rivers; as at the mouth of the Amazon, in the western hemisphere, and of the Ganges, in the eastern; great breathings, or convulsions of the sea, the causes of which elude our research. These bores sometimes come in, in great perpendicular walls, sweeping everything before them, and causing immense destruction of life, and property. I was, at first, inclined to attribute these tide rips to the lunar influence, as they appeared twice in twenty-four hours, like the tides, and each time near the passing of the meridian, by the moon; but, in a few days, they varied their times of appearance, and came on quite irregularly, sometimes with an interval of five or six hours, only. And then the tidal wave, for it is evidently this, and not a current, should be from east to west, if it were due to lunar influence; and we have seen that it travelled from south to north. Nor could I connect it with the easterly current that was prevailing—for it travelled at right angles to the current, and not with, or against it. It was, evidently, due to some pretty uniform law, as it always travelled in the same direction.

We reached the calm belt, on the 24th of September, for, on this day, having lost the south-east trade, we had light and baffling winds from the south-west, and rain-clouds began to muster overhead. On the next day, the weather being in its normal condition of cloud, the welcome cry of “sail ho!” came resounding from the mast-head, with a more prolonged, and musical cadence than usual—the look-out, with the rest of the crew, having become tired of the inactivity of the last few days. All was bustle, immediately, about the decks; and in half an hour, with the sails snugly furled, and the ship under steam, we were in hot pursuit. The stranger was a brigantine, and was standing to the north-west, pursuing the usual crossing of the calm belt, as best he might, in the light winds, that were blowing, sometimes this way, sometimes that. We came up with him quite rapidly, there being scarcely a ripple on the surface of the smooth sea, to impede our progress, and when we had come sufficiently near to enable him to make it out, distinctly, we showed him the enemy’s flag. He was [Pg 220]evidently prepared with his own flag, for, in less than a minute, the lazy breeze was toying and playing with it, and presently blew it out sufficiently, to enable us to make out the well-known and welcome stars and stripes. We hove him to, by “hail,” and hauling down the false colors, and hoisting our own, we sent a boat on board of him, and captured him. He proved to be the Joseph Parke, of Boston, last from Pernambuco, and six days out, in ballast. The Parke had been unable to procure a return cargo; the merchants of Pernambuco having heard of the arrival of the Sumter, at Maranham, in rather uncomfortable proximity.

We transferred the crew of the captured vessel to the Sumter, replacing it with a prize crew, and got on board from her such articles of provisions, cordage, and sails as we required; but instead of burning her, we transformed her, for the present, into a scout vessel, to assist us in discovering other prizes. I sent Lieutenant Evans on board to command her, and gave him a couple of midshipmen, as watch officers. The following was his commission:—

Sir:—You will take charge of the prize-brig Joseph Parke, and cruise in company with this vessel, until further orders. During the day, you will keep from seven to eight miles, to the westward, and to windward, and keep a bright look-out, from your top-gallant yard, for sails—signalling to us, such as you may descry. Toward evening, every day, you will draw in toward this vessel, so as to be within three, or four miles of her, at dark; and, during the night you will keep close company with her, to guard against the possibility of separation. Should you, however, be separated from her, by any accident, you will make the best of your way to latitude 8° N., and longitude 45° W., where you will await her a reasonable time. Should you not join her again, you will make the best of your way to some port in the Confederate States.”

In obedience to these instructions, the Parke drew off to her station, and letting our fires go down on board the Sumter, we put her under sail, again. Long before night, the excitement of the chase and capture had died away, and things had resumed their wonted course. The two ships hovered about the “crossing,” for several days, keeping a bright look-out, but nothing more appeared; and on the 29th of September, the Parke having been called alongside, by signal, her prize crew[Pg 221] was taken out, and the ship burned, after having been made a target, for a few hours, for the practice of the crew. It was evidently no longer of any use to bother ourselves about the crossing of the calm-belt, for, instead of falling in with a constant stream of the enemy’s ships, returning home, from different parts of the world, we had been cruising in it, some ten days, and had sighted but a single sail! We had kept ourselves between the parallels of 2° 30′ N., and 9° 30′ N., and between the meridians of 41° 30′ W., and 47° 30′ W.; and if the reader have any curiosity on the subject, by referring to the map, he will perceive, that the north-western diagonal of the quadrilateral figure, formed by these parallels, and meridians, is the direct course between Cape St. Roque, and New York. But the wary sea-birds had, evidently, all taken the alarm, and winged their way, home, by other routes. I was the more convinced of this, by an intercepted letter which I captured in the letter-bag of the Parke, which was written by the master of the ship, Asteroid, to his owner, and which ran as follows:—

“The Asteroid arrived off this port [Pernambuco], last evening, seventy-five days from Baker’s Island, and came to anchor in the outer roads, this morning. I found yours of August 9th, and noted the contents, which, I must say, have made me rather blue. I think you had better insure, even at the extra premium, as the Asteroid is not a clipper, and will be a bon prize for the Southerners. I shall sail this evening [September 16th, three days before the Joseph Parke] and take a new route, for Hampton Roads.”

The Asteroid escaped us, as no doubt many more had done, by avoiding the “beaten track,” and taking a new road home; thus verifying, in a very pointed manner, the old adage, that “the longest way round is the shortest way home.”

We now made sail for the West India Islands, designing, after a short cruise among them, to run into the French island of Martinique, and coal. We still kept along on the beaten track of homeward-bound ships, but with little expectation of making any prizes, and for some days overhauled none but neutral ships. Many of these had cargoes for the United States, but not having the same motive to avoid me, that the enemy’s ships had, they were content to travel the usual highway. Although many of them had enemy’s property, on board,[Pg 222] they were perfectly safe from molestation—the Confederate States’ Government having adopted, as the reader has seen, in its Act declaring, that, by the conduct of the enemy, a state of war existed, the liberal principle, that “Free ships make free goods.”

Among the neutrals overhauled by us, was an English brig called the Spartan, from Rio Janeiro, for St. Thomas, in the West Indies. We had an exciting chase after this fellow. We pursued him, under United States colors, and as the wind was blowing fresh, and the chase was a “stern-chase,” it proved, as usual, to be a long one, although the Sumter was doing her best, under both steam and sail. John Bull evidently mistook us for the Yankee we pretended to be, and seemed determined to prevent us from overhauling him, if possible. His brig, as we soon discovered, had light heels, and he made the best possible use of them, by giving her every inch of canvas he could spread. Still, we gained on him, and as we came sufficiently near, we gave him a blank cartridge, to make him show his colors, and heave to. He showed his colors—the English red—but refused to heave to. The unprofessional reader may be informed, that when a merchant-ship is under full sail, and especially when she is running before a fresh breeze, as the Spartan was, it puts her to no little inconvenience, to come to the wind. She has to take in her sails, one by one, owing to her being short-handed, and “the clewing up,” and “hauling down” occupy some minutes. The captain of the Spartan was loth to subject himself to this inconvenience, especially at the command of the hated Yankee. Coming up a little nearer, we now fired a shotted gun at him, taking care not to strike him, but throwing the shot so near as to give him the benefit of its rather ominous music, as it whistled past. As soon as the smoke from the gun, which obscured him for a moment, rolled away before the breeze, we could see him starting his “sheets,” and “halliards,” and pretty soon the saucy little Spartan rounded to, with her main top-sail to the mast. The reader may be curious to know, why I had been so persistent in heaving to a neutral. The answer is, that I was not sure she was neutral. The jaunty little brig looked rather more American, than English, in all but the flag that was flying[Pg 223] at her peak. She had not only the grace and beauty of hull that characterize our American-built ships, but the long, tapering spars on which American ship-masters especially pride themselves. She did, indeed, prove to be American, in a certain sense, as we found her to hail from Halifax, in Nova Scotia. The master of the Spartan was in an ill-humor when my boarding-officer jumped on board of him. It was difficult to extract a civil answer from him. “What is the news?” said the boarding-officer. “Capital news!” replied the master; “you Yankees are getting whipped like h—ll; you beat the Derby boys at the Manassas races.” “But what’s the news from Rio?” now inquired the supposed Yankee boarding-officer. “Well, there’s good news from that quarter too—all the Yankee ships are laid up, for want of freights.” “You are rather hard upon us, my friend,” now rejoined the boarding-officer; “why should you take such an interest in the Confederate cause?” “Simply, because there is a little man fighting against an overgrown bully, and I like pluck.”

The Spartan being bound to St. Thomas, and we ourselves intending to go, soon, into the West Indies, it was highly important that we should preserve our incognito, to which end, I had charged the boarding-officer, to represent his ship as a Federal cruiser, in search of the Sumter. The boarding-officer having done this, found the master of the Spartan complimentary to the last; for as he was stepping over the brig’s side, into his boat, the master said, “I hope you will find the Sumter, but I rather think you will hunt for her, as the man did for the tax-collector, hoping all the time he mightn’t find him.”

The weather now, again, became calm, and we had “cat’s-paws” from all the points of the compass. The breeze, with which we had chased the Spartan, was a mere spasmodic effort of Nature, for we were still in the calm-belt, or, as the sailors expressively call it, the “doldrums.” For the next few days, it rained almost incessantly, the heavily charged clouds sometimes settling so low, as scarcely to sweep clear of our mast-heads. It did not simply rain; the water fell in torrents, and the lightning flashed, and the thunder rolled, with a magnificence and grandeur that were truly wonderful to witness. In the intervals of these drenching rains, the clouds, like so many[Pg 224] half-wrung sponges, would lift themselves, and move about with great rapidity, in every direction—now toward, and now from, each other—convolving, in the most curious disorder, as though they were so many huge, black serpents, writhing and twisting in the powerful grasp of some invisible hand. Anon, a water-spout would appear upon the scene, with its inverted cone, sometimes travelling rapidly, but more frequently at rest. At times, so ominous, and threatening would be the aspect of the heavens, with its armies of black clouds in battle-array, its forked lightning, and crashing thunder, the perfect stillness of the atmosphere, and the rapid flight of scared water-fowl, that a hurricane would seem imminent, until we would cast our eyes upon the barometer, standing unmoved, at near the marking of thirty inches, amid all the signs, and portents around it. In half an hour, sometimes, all this paraphernalia of clouds would break in twain, and retreat, in opposite directions, to the horizon, and the sun would throw down a flood of golden light, and scalding heat upon our decks; on which would be paddling about the half-drowned sailors. The first lieutenant took advantage of these rains, to fill, anew, his water-tanks, “tenting” his awnings, during the heaviest of the showers, and catching more water than he needed; and the sailors had another such jubilee of washing, as they had had, when we were running along the Venezuelan coast.

Sunday, September 29th.—Beautiful, clear morning, with a gentle breeze from the south-east, and a smooth sea. At eleven A. M., mustered the crew, and inspected the ship. Latitude, 6° 55′ N.; longitude, 45° 08′ W. Evening set in, squally, and rainy. Running along to the north-west, under topsails.

October 2d.—This morning, when I took my seat, at the breakfast-table, I was surprised to find a very tempting-looking dish of fried fish set out before me, and upon inquiring of my faithful steward, John, (a Malayan, who had taken the place of Ned,) to what good fortune he was indebted, for the prize, his little black eyes twinkled, as he said, “Him jump aboard, last night!” Upon further inquiry, I found that it was a small sword-fish, that had honored us with a visit; the active little creature having leaped no less than fifteen feet, to reach the deck of the Sumter. It was lucky that its keen spear did[Pg 225] not come in contact with any of the crew during the leap—a loss of life might have been the consequence. The full-grown sword-fish has been known to pierce a ship’s bottom, floor-timber and all, with its most formidable weapon.

October 4th.—Weather clear, and beautiful, with trade-clouds, white and fleecy, and a light breeze from the eastward. The bosom of the gently heaving sea is scarcely ruffled. Schools of fish are playing around us, and the sailors have just hauled, on board, a large shark, which they have caught with hook and line. The sailor has a great antipathy to the shark, regarding him as his hereditary enemy. Accordingly, the monster receives no mercy when he falls into Jack’s hands. See how Jack is tormenting him now! and how fiercely the monster is snapping, and grinding his teeth together, and beating the deck with his powerful tail, as though he would crush in the planks. He is tenacious of life, and will be a long time in dying, and, during all this time, Jack will be cutting, and slashing him, without mercy, with his long sheath-knife. The comparatively calm sea is covered, in every direction, for miles, with a golden or straw-colored dust. Whence comes it? We are four hundred miles from any land! It has, doubtless, been dropped by the trade-winds, as they have been neutralized over our heads, in this calm belt of the equator, and, in a future page, we shall have further occasion to refer to it. We have observed, to-day, in latitude 8°; the longitude being 46° 58′.

October 11th.—Morning clear and calm, after a couple of days of tempestuous weather, during which the barometer settled a little. Toward noon it clouded up again, and there were squally appearances in the south-east. The phenomenon of the tide-rips has reappeared. Malay John was in luck, again, this morning, a covey of flying-fish having fallen on the deck, last night, during the storm. He has served me a plate full of them for breakfast. The largest of them are about the size of a half-grown Potomac herring, and they are somewhat similar in taste—being a delicate, but not highly flavored fish.

October 14th.—At noon, to-day, we plotted precisely upon the diagonal between St. Roque and New York; our latitude being 8° 31′, and longitude 45° 56′. We now made more sail,[Pg 226] and on the 17th of October we had reached the latitude of 11° 37′. From this time, until the 22d, we had a constant series of bad weather, the barometer settling to 29.80, and the wind blowing half a gale, most of the time. Sometimes the wind would go all around the compass, and the weather would change half a dozen times, in twenty-four hours. On the last-mentioned day, the weather became again settled, and being now in latitude 14°, we had passed out of the calm belt, and began to receive the first breathings of the north-east trade-wind.

On the 24th, we chased and hove to a French brig, called La Mouche Noire, from Nantes, bound for Martinique. She had been out forty-two days, had no newspapers on board, and had no news to communicate. We boarded her under the United States flag, and when the boarding-officer apologized to the master for the trouble we had given him, in heaving him to, in the exercise of our belligerent right of search, he said, with an admirable naiveté, he had heard the United States were at war, but he did not recollect with whom! Admirable Frenchman! wonderful simplicity, to care nothing about newspapers, and to know nothing about wars!

On the 25th, we overhauled that rara avis in mare, a Prussian ship. The 27th was Sunday; we had a gentle breeze from the north-east, with a smooth sea, and were enjoying the fine morning, with our awnings spread, scarcely expecting to be disturbed, when the cry of “Sail ho!” again rang from the mast-head. We had been making preparations for Sunday muster; Jack having already taken down from its hiding-place his Sunday hat, and adjusted its ribbons, and now being in the act of “overhauling” his bag, for the “mustering-shirt and trousers.” All these preparations were at once suspended, the firemen were ordered below, there was a passing to and fro of engineers, and in a few minutes more the welcome black smoke came pouring out of the Sumter’s chimney. Bounding away over the sea, we soon began to raise the strange sail from the deck. She was a fore-and-aft schooner of that peculiar model and rig already described as belonging to the New Englander, and nobody else, and we felt certain, at once, that we had flushed the enemy. The little craft was [Pg 227]“close-hauled,” or, may be, she had the wind a point free, which was her best point of sailing, had the whitest kind of cotton canvas, and carried very taunt gaff-topsails. We found her exceedingly fast, and came up with her very slowly. The chase commenced at nine A. M., and it was three P. M. before we were near enough to heave her to with the accustomed blank cartridge. At the report of our gun—the Confederate States flag being at our peak—the little craft, which had probably been in an agony of apprehension, for some hours past, saw that her fate was sealed, and without further ado, put her helm down, lowered her foresail, hauled down her flying-jib, drew her jib-sheet over to windward—and was hove to; the stars and stripes streaming out from her main-topmast head. Upon being boarded, she proved to be the Daniel Trowbridge, of New Haven, Connecticut, last from New York, and bound to Demerara, in British Guiana.

This was a most opportune capture for us, for the little craft was laden with an assorted cargo of provisions, and our own provisions had been nearly exhausted. With true Yankee thrift, she had economized even the available space on her deck, and had a number of sheep, geese, and pigs, on board, for the Demerara market. Another sail being discovered, almost at the moment of this capture, we hastily threw a prize crew on board the Trowbridge, and directing her to follow us, sped off in pursuit of the newly discovered sail. It was dark before we came up with this second chase. She proved to be an English brigantine, from Nova Scotia, for Demerara. We now stood back to rejoin our prize, and banking our fires, and hoisting a light at the peak, the better to enable the prize to keep sight of us, during the night, we lay to, until daylight. The next day, and the day after, were busy days, on board the Sumter, for we devoted both of them, to getting on board provisions, from the prize. The weather proved propitious, the breeze being gentle, and the sea smooth. We hoisted out the Tallapoosa—our launch—and employed her, and the quarter-boats—the gig included, for war admits of little ceremony—in transporting barrels, bales, boxes, and every other conceivable kind of package, to the Sumter. The paymaster was in ecstasy, for, upon examination, he found the Trowbridge’s cargo[Pg 228] to be all that he could desire—the beef, pork, canvased hams, ship-bread, fancy crackers, cheese, flour, everything being of the very best quality. We were, indeed, under many obligations to our Connecticut friends. To get at the cargo, we were obliged to throw overboard many articles, that we had no use for, and treated old Ocean to a gayly painted fleet of Connecticut woodenware, buckets, foot-tubs, bath-tubs, wash-tubs, churns. We found the sheep, pigs, and poultry in excellent condition; and sending the butcher on board each evening, we caused those innocents to be slaughtered, in sufficient numbers to supply all hands. Jack was in his glory. He had passed suddenly, from mouldy and worm-eaten bread, and the toughest and leanest of “old horse,” to the enjoyment of all these luxuries. My Malayan steward’s eyes fairly danced, as he stowed away in the cabin lockers, sundry cans of preserved meats, lobster, milk, and fruits. John was a real artist, in his line, and knew the value of such things; and as he busied himself, arranging his luxuries, on the different shelves, I could hear him muttering to himself, “Dem Connecticut mans, bery good mans—me wish we find him often.” We laid in, from the Trowbridge, full five months’ provisions, and getting on board, from her, besides, as much of the live stock, as we could manage to take care of, we delivered her to the flames, on the morning of the 30th of October. On the same day, we chased, and boarded the Danish brig, Una, from Copenhagen, bound to Santa Cruz. Being sixty-six days out, she had no news to communicate. We showed her the United States colors, and when she arrived, at Santa Cruz, she reported that she had fallen in with a Federal cruiser. The brig Spartan, which we boarded, a few pages back, made the same report, at St. Thomas; so that the enemy’s cruisers, that were in pursuit of us, had not, as yet, the least idea that we had returned to the West Indies.

For the next few days, we chased and overhauled a number of ships, but they were all neutral. The enemy’s West India trade seemed to have disappeared almost entirely. Many of his ships had been laid up, in alarm, in his own ports, and a number of others had found it more to their advantage, to enter the public service, as transports. The Federal Government had already entered upon that career of corrupt, and reckless[Pg 229] expenditure which has resulted in the most gigantic national debt of modern times. The entire value of a ship was often paid to her owners, for a charter-party, of a few months only; the quartermasters, commissaries, and other public swindlers frequently dividing the spoils, with the lucky ship-owners. Many indifferent vessels were sold to the Federal Navy Department, at double, and treble their value, and agencies to purchase such ships were conferred, by the Secretary, upon relatives, and other inexperienced favorites. The corruptions of the war, soon made the war popular, with the great mass of the people. As has been remarked, in a former page, many of these nouveau-riche men, whose love of country, and hatred of “rebels” boiled over, in proportion as their pockets became filled, had offered to sell themselves, and all they possessed, to the writer, when he was in the New England States, as a Confederate States agent. Powder-mills, manufactories of arms and accoutrements, foundries for the casting and boring of cannon, machines for rifling cannon—all were put at his disposal, by patriotic Yankees, on the very eve of the war—for a consideration.

November 2d.—Morning, heavy clouds, with rain, breaking away partially, toward noon, and giving us some fitful sunshine. Sail ho! at early dawn. Got up steam, and chased, and at 7 A. M. came up with, and sent a boat on board of the English brigantine, Falcon, from Halifax, for Barbadoes. Banked fires. Latitude 16° 32′; longitude 56° 55′. Wore ship to the northward, at meridian. Received some newspapers, by the Falcon, from which we learn, that the enemy’s cruiser Keystone State, which, when last heard from, was at Barbadoes, had gone to Trinidad, in pursuit of us. At Trinidad, she lost the trail, and, instead of pursuing us to Paramaribo, and Maranham, turned back to the westward. We learn from the same papers, that the enemy’s steam-frigate, Powhatan, Lieutenant Porter, with more sagacity, pursued us to Maranham, arriving just one week after our departure. At a subsequent date, Lieutenant—now Admiral—Porter’s official report fell into my hands, and, plotting his track, I found that, on one occasion, we had been within forty miles of each other; almost near enough, on a still day, to see each other’s smoke.

[Pg 230]November 3d.—Weather fine, with a smooth sea, and a light breeze from the north-east. A sail being reported from the mast-head, we got up steam, and chased, and upon coming near enough to make out the chase, found her to be a large steamer. We approached her, very warily, of course, until it was discovered that she was English, when we altered our course, and banked fires. Our live-stock still gives us fresh provisions, and the abundant supply of Irish potatoes, that we received on board, at the same time, is beginning to have a very beneficial effect, upon the health of the crew—some scorbutic symptoms having previously appeared.

Nov. 5th.—Weather fine, with the wind light from the eastward, and a smooth sea. At daylight, a sail was descried in the north-east, to which we immediately gave chase. Coming up with her, about nine A. M., we sent a boat on board of her. She proved to be the English brigantine, Rothsay, from Berbice, on the coast of Guiana, bound for Liverpool. Whilst we had been pursuing the Rothsay, a second sail had been reported. We now pursued this second sail, and, coming up with her, found her to be a French brigantine, called Le Pauvre Orphelin, from St. Pierre (in France) bound for Martinique. We had scarcely turned away from the Orphelin, before a third sail was announced. This latter sail was a large ship, standing, close-hauled, to the N. N. W., and we chased her rather reluctantly, as she led us away from our intended course. She, too, proved to be neutral, being the Plover, from Barbadoes, for London. The Sumter being, by this time out of breath, and no more sails being reported, we let the steam go down, and gave her a little rest. We observed, to-day, in latitude 17° 10′ N.; the longitude being 59° 06′ W. We had shown the United States colors to all these ships to preserve our incognito, as long as possible. We found them all impatient, at being “hove to,” and no doubt many curses escaped, sotto voce, against the d—d Yankee, as our boats shoved off, from their sides. We observed that none of them saluted the venerable “old flag,” which was flying at our peak, whereas, whenever we had shown the Confederate flag to neutrals, down went, at once, the neutral flag, in compliment—showing the estimate, which generous [Pg 231]seamen, the world over, put upon this ruthless war, which the strong were waging against the weak.

The 6th of November passed without incident. On the 7th, we overhauled three more neutral ships—the English schooner Weymouth, from Weymouth, in Nova Scotia, for Martinique; an English barque, which we refrained from boarding, as there was no mistaking her bluff English bows, and stump top-gallant masts; and a French brig, called the Fleur de Bois, last from Martinique, and bound for Bordeaux. In the afternoon of the same day, we made the islands, first of Marie Galante, and then of Guadeloupe, and the Saints. At ten P. M., we doubled the north end of the island of Dominica, and, banking our fires, ran off some thirty or forty miles to the south-west, to throw ourselves in the track of the enemy’s vessels, homeward bound from the Windward Islands. The next day, after overhauling an English brigantine, from Demerara, for Yarmouth, we got up steam, and ran for the island of Martinique approaching the town of St. Pierre near enough, by eight P. M., to hear the evening gun-fire. A number of small schooners and sail-boats were plying along the coast, and as night threw her mantle over the scene, the twinkling lights of the town appeared, one by one, until there was quite an illumination, relieved by the sombre back-ground of the mountain. The Sumter, as was usual with her, when she had no work in hand, lay off, and on, under sail, all night. The next morning at daylight, we again got up steam, and drawing in with the coast, ran along down it, near enough to enjoy its beautiful scenery, with its waving palms, fields of sugar-cane, and picturesque country houses, until we reached the quiet little town of Fort de France, where we anchored.

 

 


[Pg 232]

CHAPTER XIX.

THE SUMTER AT MARTINIQUE—PROCEEDS FROM FORT DE FRANCE TO ST. PIERRE—IS AN OBJECT OF MUCH CURIOSITY WITH THE ISLANDERS—NEWS OF THE ARREST OF MESSRS. MASON AND SLIDELL, ON BOARD THE BRITISH MAIL STEAMER, THE TRENT—MR. SEWARD’S EXTRAORDINARY COURSE ON THE OCCASION.

 

The Sumter having sailed from Maranham, on the 15th of September, and arrived at Martinique, on the 9th of November, had been nearly two months at sea, during all of which time, she had been actively cruising in the track of the enemy’s commerce. She had overhauled a great many vessels, but, for reasons already explained, most of these were neutral. But the damage which she did the enemy’s commerce, must not be estimated by the amount of property actually destroyed. She had caused consternation, and alarm among the enemy’s ship-masters, and they were making, as we have seen, long and circuitous voyages, to avoid her. Insurance had risen to a high rate, and, for want of freights, the enemy’s ships—such of them, at least, as could not purchase those lucrative contracts from the Government, of which I have spoken in a former page—were beginning to be tied up, at his wharves, where they must rot, unless they could be sold, at a sacrifice, to neutrals. As a consequence, the little Sumter was denounced, without stint, by the Yankee press. She was called a “pirate,” and other hard names, and the most summary vengeance was denounced against her commander, and all who served under him. Venal scribblers asserted all kinds of falsehoods concerning him, and the elegant pages of “Journals of Civilization” pandered to the taste of the “b’hoys,” in the work-shops, by publishing malicious caricatures of him. Even the Federal Government denounced him, in grave state papers; Mr.[Pg 233] Welles, the Federal Secretary of the Navy, forgetting his international law, if he ever knew any, and the courtesies, and proprieties of official speech, and taking up in his “annual reports,” the refrain of “pirate.” This was all very natural, however. Men will cry aloud, when they are in pain, and, on such occasions, above all others, they will be very apt to use the language that is most natural to them—be it gentle, or ungentle. Unfortunately for the Great Republic, political power has descended so low, that the public officer, however high his station, must, of necessity, be little better than the b’hoy, from whom he receives his power of attorney. When mobs rule, gentlemen must retire to private life. Accordingly, the Commander of the Sumter, who had witnessed the facile descensus of which he has spoken, was not at all surprised, when he received a batch of late Northern newspapers, at seeing himself called hard names—whether by the mob or officials. Knowing his late fellow-citizens well, he knew that it was of no use for them to

“Strive to expel strong nature, ’tis in vain;
With redoubled force, she will return again.”

Immediately after anchoring, in Fort de France, I sent a lieutenant on shore, to call on the Governor, report our arrival, and ask for the usual hospitalities of the port,—these hospitalities being, as the reader is aware, such as Goldsmith described as welcoming him at his inn, the more cheerfully rendered, for being paid for. I directed my lieutenant to use rather the language of demand—courteously, of course—than of petition, for I had seen the French proclamation of neutrality, and knew that I was entitled, under the orders of the Emperor, to the same treatment, that a Federal cruiser might receive. I called, the next day, on the Governor myself. I found him a very affable, and agreeable gentleman. He was a rear admiral, in the French Navy, and bore the aristocratic name of Condé. Having observed a large supply of excellent coal in the government dock-yard, as I pulled in to the landing, I proposed to his Excellency that he should supply me from that source, upon my paying cost, and expenses. He declined doing this, but said that I might have free access to[Pg 234] the market, for this and other supplies. Mentioning that I had a number of prisoners on board, he at once gave me permission to land them, provided the United States Consul, who lived at St. Pierre, the commercial metropolis of the island, would consent to become responsible for their maintenance during their stay in the island. There being no difference of opinion between the Governor and myself, as to our respective rights and duties, our business-matters were soon arranged, and an agreeable chat of half an hour ensued, on general topics, when I withdrew, much pleased with my visit.

Returning on board the Sumter, I dispatched the paymaster to St. Pierre—there was a small passenger-steamer plying between the two ports—to contract for coal and some articles of clothing for the crew. Of provisions we had plenty, as the reader has seen. Lieutenant Chapman accompanied him, and I sent up, also, the masters of the two captured ships, that were on board, that they might see their Consul and arrange for their release.

The next day was Sunday, and I went on shore, with Mr. Guerin, a French gentleman, who had been educated in the United States, and who had called on board to see me, to the Governor’s mass. In this burning climate the church-hours are early, and we found ourselves comfortably seated in our pews as early as eight o’clock. The building was spacious and well ventilated. The Governor and his staff entered punctually at the hour, as did, also, a detachment of troops—the latter taking their stations, in double lines, in the main aisle. A military band gave us excellent sacred music from the choir. The whole service was concluded in three-quarters of an hour. The whites and blacks occupied pews promiscuously, as at Paramaribo, though there was no social admixture of races visible. I mean to say that the pews were mixed, though the people were not—each pew was all white or all black; the mulattoes, and others of mixed blood, being counted as blacks. I returned on board for “muster,” which took place at the usual hour of eleven o’clock. Already the ship was full of visitors, and I was struck with the absorbed attention with which they witnessed the calling of the names of the crew, and the reading of the articles of war by the[Pg 235] clerk. They were evidently not prepared for so interesting a spectacle. The officers were all dressed in bright and new uniforms of navy blue—we had not yet been put in gray along with the army—the gorgeous epaulettes of the lieutenants flashing in the sun, and the midshipmen rejoicing in their gold-embroidered anchors and stars. The men attracted no less attention than the officers, with their lithe and active forms and bronzed countenances, heavy, well-kept beards, and whitest of duck frocks and trousers. One of my visitors, turning to me, after the muster was over, said, pleasantly, in allusion to the denunciations of us by the Yankee newspapers, which he had been reading, “Ces hommes sont des pirates bien polis, Monsieur Capitaine.”

In the afternoon, one watch of the crew was permitted to visit the shore, on liberty. To each seaman was given a sovereign, for pocket-money. They waked up the echoes of the quaint old town, drank dry all the grog-shops, fagged out the fiddlers, with the constant music that was demanded of them, and “turned up Jack” generally; coming off, the next morning, looking rather solemn and seedy, and not quite so polis as when the Frenchman had seen them the day before. The United States Consul having come down from St. Pierre to receive his imprisoned countrymen, himself, I caused them all—except three of them, who had signed articles for service on board the Sumter—to be parolled and sent on shore to him. Before landing them, I caused them to be mustered on the quarter-deck, and questioned them, in person, as to the treatment they had received on board—addressing myself, especially, to the two masters. They replied, without exception, that they had been well treated, and thanked me for my kindness. From the next batch of Northern newspapers I captured, I learned that some of these fellows had been telling wonderful stories, about the hardships they had endured on board the “pirate” Sumter. It will not be very difficult for the reader, if he have any knowledge of the sailor-character, to imagine how these falsehoods had been wheedled out of them. The whole country of the enemy was on the qui vive for excitement. The Yankee was more greedy for news than the old Athenian. The war had been a god-send for newspaperdom. The more extraordinary[Pg 236] were the stories that were told by the venal and corrupt newspapers, the more greedily were they devoured by the craving and prurient multitude. The consequence was, a race between the newspaper reporters after the sensational, without the least regard to the truth. The moment a sailor landed, who had been a prisoner on board the Sumter, he was surrounded by these vampires of the press, who drank him and greenbacked him until parturition was comparatively easy. The next morning, the cry of “News from the Pirate Sumter” rang sharp and clear upon the streets, from the throats of the newsboys, and Jack found himself a hero and in print! He had actually been on board the “pirate,” and escaped to tell the tale! More drinks, and more greenbacks now followed from his admiring countrymen. Your old salt has an eye to fun, as well as drinks, and when it was noised about, among the sailors, that some cock-and-a-bull story or other, about the Sumter, was as good as “fractional” for drinks, the thing ran like wildfire, and every sailor who landed, thereafter, from that famous craft, made his way straight to a newspaper office, in quest of a reporter, drinks, and greenbacks. Such is the stuff out of which a good deal of the Yankee histories of the late war will be made.

My paymaster, and lieutenant returned, in good time, from St. Pierre, and reported that they had found an abundance of excellent coal, at reasonable rates, in the market, but that the Collector of the Customs had interposed, to prevent it from being sold to them. Knowing that this officer had acted without authority, I addressed a note to the Governor, reminding him of the conversation we had had the day before, and asking him for the necessary order to overrule the action of his subordinate. My messenger brought back with him the following reply:—

Fort de France, November 12, 1861.

To the Captain:—

I have the honor to send you the enclosed letter, which I ask you to hand to the Collector of Customs, at St. Pierre, in which I request him to permit you to embark freely, as much coal as you wish to purchase, in the market. * * *

With the expression of my highest regard for the Captain,

Maussion de Condé.

[Pg 237]I remained a few days longer, at Fort de France, for the convenience of watering ship, from the public reservoir, and to enable the rest of my crew to have their run on shore. Unless Jack has his periodical frolic, he is very apt to become moody, and discontented; and my sailors had now been cooped up, in their ship, a couple of months. This giving of “liberty” to them is a little troublesome, to be sure, as some of them will come off drunk, and noisy, and others, overstaying their time, have to be hunted up, in the grog-shops, and other sailor haunts, and brought off by force. My men behaved tolerably well, on the present occasion. No complaint came to me from the shore, though a good many “bills,” for “nights’ lodgings,” and “drinks,” followed them on board. Poor Jack! how strong upon him is the thirst for drink! We had an illustration of this, whilst we were lying at Fort de France. It was about nine P. M., and I was below in my cabin, making preparations to retire. Presently, I heard a plunge into the water, a hail, and almost simultaneously, a shot fired from one of the sentinels’ rifles. The boatswain’s-mate’s whistle now sounded, as a boat “was called away,” and a rapid shuffling of feet was heard overhead, as the boat was being lowered. Upon reaching the deck, I found that one of the firemen, who had come off from “liberty,” a little tight, had jumped overboard, and, in defiance of the hail, and shot of the sentinel, struck out, lustily, for the shore. The moon was shining brightly, and an amusing scene now occurred. The boat was in hot pursuit, and soon came upon the swimmer; but the latter, who dived like a duck, had no notion of being taken. As the boat would come up with him, and “back all,” for the purpose of picking him up, he would dive under her bottom, and presently would be seen, either abeam, or astern, “striking out,” like a good fellow, again. By the time the boat could turn, and get headway once more, the swimmer would have some yards the start of her, and when she again came up with him, the same tactics would follow. The crew, hearing what was going on, had all turned out of their hammocks, and come on deck to witness the fun; and fun it really was for some minutes, as the doubling, and diving, and twisting, and turning went on—the boat now being sure she had him, and now sure she hadn’t. The[Pg 238] fellow finally escaped, and probably a more chop-fallen boat’s crew never returned alongside of a ship, than was the Sumter’s that night. An officer was now sent on shore in pursuit of the fugitive. He had no difficulty in finding him. In half an hour after the performance of his clever feat, the fireman was lying—dead drunk—in one of the cabarets, in the sailor quarter of the town. He had had no intention of deserting, but had braved the sentinel’s bullet, the shark—which abounds in these waters—and discipline—all for the sake of a glass of grog!

Our time was made remarkably pleasant, during our stay; the inhabitants showing us every mark of respect and politeness, and the officers of the garrison, and of a couple of small French vessels of war, in the port, extending to us the courtesies of their clubs, and mess-rooms. I declined all invitations, myself, but my officers frequently dined on shore; and on the evening before our departure, they returned the hospitalities of their friends, by an elegant supper in the ward-room, at which the festivities were kept up to a late hour. Riding, and breakfast-parties, in the country, were frequent, and bright eyes, peeping out of pretty French bonnets, shone benignantly upon my young “pirates.” The war was frequently the topic of conversation, when such expressions as “les barbares du Nord!” would escape, not unmusically, from the prettiest of pouting lips. I passed several agreeable evenings, at the hospitable mansion of my friend, Mr. Guerin, the ladies of whose family were accomplished musicians. The sailor is, above all others of his sex, susceptible of female influences. The difference arises, naturally, out of his mode of life, which removes him so often, and so long, from the affections, and refinements of home. After roughing it, for months, upon the deep, in contact only with coarse male creatures, how delightful I found it to sink into a luxurious seat, by the side of a pretty woman, and listen to the sweet notes of her guitar, accompanied by the sweeter notes, still, of her voice, as she warbled, rather than sang some lay of the sea.

In these delightful tropical climates, night is turned into day. The sun, beating down his fierce rays upon heated walls and streets, drives all but the busy merchant and the laborer[Pg 239] in-doors during the day. Windows are raised, blinds closed and all the members of the household, not compelled to exertion, betake themselves to their fauteuils, and luxurious hammocks. Dinner is partaken of at five or six o’clock, in the afternoon. When the sun goes down, and the shades of evening begin to fall, and the first gentle stirring of the trees and shrubbery, by the land breeze begins to awaken the katydid, and the myriads of other insects, which have been dozing in the heat, the human world is also awakened. The lazy beauty now arises from her couch, and seeking her bath-room, and tire-woman, begins to prepare for the duties of the day. She is coiffed, and arranged for conquest, and sallies forth to the Place d’Armes, to listen to the music of the military bands, if there be no other special entertainment on hand. The Place d’Armes of Fort de France is charmingly situated, on the very margin of the bay, where, in the intervals of the music, or of the hum of conversation, the ripple of the tide beats time, as it breaks upon the smooth, pebbly beach. Ships are anchored in front, and far away to the left, rises a range of blue, and misty hills, which are pointed out to the stranger, as the birth-place of the Empress Josephine. The statue of the Empress also adorns the grounds, and the inhabitants are fond of referring to her history. I was quite surprised at the throng that the quiet little town of Fort de France was capable of turning out, upon the Place d’Armes; and even more at the quality, than the quantity of the throng. What with military and naval officers, in their gay uniforms, the multitudes of well-dressed men and women, the ecclesiastics in the habits of their several orders, the flower-girls, the venders of fruits, sherbets, and ice-creams—for the universal Yankee has invaded the colony with his ice-ships—and the delightful music of the bands, it would be difficult to find a more delightful place, in which to while away an hour.

Whilst we were still at Fort de France, a rather startling piece of intelligence reached us. A vessel came in, from St. Thomas, and brought the news, that the English mail-steamer, Trent, had arrived there from Havana, and reported that Messrs. Mason and Slidell had been forcibly taken out of her, by the United States steamer, San Jacinto, Captain Wilkes. A few[Pg 240] days afterward, I received a French newspaper, giving a detailed account of the affair. It was indeed a very extraordinary proceeding, and could not fail to attract much attention. I had known friend Wilkes, in former years, and gave him credit for more sagacity, than this act of his seemed to indicate. “A little learning is a dangerous thing,” and the Federal Captain had read, it would seem, just enough of international law to get himself into trouble, instead of keeping himself out of it. He had read of “contraband persons,” and of “enemy’s despatches,” and how it was prohibited to neutrals, to carry either; but he had failed to take notice of a very important distinction, to wit, that the neutral vessel, on the present occasion, was bound from one neutral port to another; and that, as between neutral ports, there is no such thing as contraband of war; for the simple reason that contraband of war is a person, or thing, going to, or from an enemy’s country. I was glad to hear this news, of course. The Great Republic would have to stand up to its work, and Great Britain would be no less bound to demand a retraxit. If things came to a deadlock, we might have an ally, in the war, sooner than we expected. It would be a curious revolution of the wheel of fortune I thought, to have John Bull helping us to beat the Yankee, on a point—to wit, the right of self-government—on which we had helped the Yankee to beat Bull, less than a century before. I will ask the reader’s permission, to dispose of this little quarrel between Bull and the Yankee, to avoid the necessity of again recurring to it; although at the expense of a slight anachronism.

When the news of Wilkes’ exploit reached the United States, the b’hoys went into ecstasies. Such a shouting, and throwing up of caps had never been heard of before. The multitude, who were, of course, incapable of reasoning upon the act, only knew that England had been bearded and insulted; but that was enough. Their national antipathies, and their ridiculous self-conceit had both been pandered to. The newspapers were filled with laudatory editorials, and “plate,” and “resolutions,” were showered upon unfortunate friend Wilkes, without mercy. If he had been an American Nelson, returning from an American Nile, or Trafalgar, he could not have[Pg 241] been received with more honor. State legislatures bowed down before him, and even the American Congress—the House of Representatives; the Senate had not quite lost its wits—gave him a vote of thanks. It was not, perhaps, so much to be wondered at, that the multitude should go mad, with joy, for multitudes, everywhere, are composed of unreasoning animals, but men, who should have known better, permitted themselves to be carried away by the popular hallucination. The Executive Government approved of Captain Wilkes’ conduct—the Secretary of the Navy, whose insane hatred of England was quite remarkable, making haste to write the Captain a congratulatory letter. But an awful collapse was at hand. Mr. Seward, as though he already heard the ominous rumbling of the distant English thunder, which was, anon, to break over his head, in tones that would startle him, on the 30th of November—the outrage had been committed on the 7th,—wrote, as follows, to his faithful sentinel, at the Court of London, Mr. Charles Francis Adams.

“We have done nothing, on the subject, to anticipate the discussion, and we have not furnished you with any explanation. We adhere to that course now, because we think it more prudent, that the ground taken by the British Government should be first made known to us, here. It is proper, however, that you should know one fact, in the case, without indicating that we attach much importance to it, namely, that in the capture of Messrs. Mason and Slidell, on board a British vessel, Captain Wilkes having acted without any instructions from the Government, the subject is therefore free from the embarrassment, which might have resulted, if the act had been especially directed by us.”

If no “explanation” had been thought of by Mr. Seward, up to this time, it was high time that he was getting one ready, for, on the same day, on which the above despatch was written, Lord John Russell, then charged with the duties of the foreign office, in England, under the administration of Lord Palmerston, wrote as follows, to Lord Lyons, his Minister at Washington:

“Her Majesty’s Government, bearing in mind the friendly relations which have long subsisted between Great Britain, and the United States, are willing to believe, that the United States naval officer who committed the aggression, was not acting in compliance with any authority from his Government, or that, if he conceived himself to be so authorized, he greatly misunderstood the[Pg 242] instructions, which he had received. For the Government of the United States must be fully aware, that the British Government could not allow such an affront to the national honor, to pass without full reparation, and her Majesty’s Government are unwilling to believe that it could be the deliberate intention of the Government of the United States, unnecessarily to force into discussion, between the two Governments, a question of so grave a character, and with regard to which, the whole British nation would be sure to entertain such unanimity of feeling. Her Majesty’s Government, therefore, trust that, when this matter shall have been brought under the consideration of the Government of the United States, that Government will, of its own accord, offer to the British Government such redress as alone, could satisfy the British nation, namely, the liberation, of the four gentlemen [the two Secretaries of Legation were also captured], and their delivery to your lordship, in order that they may again be placed under British protection, and a suitable apology for the aggression, which has been committed. Should these terms not be offered, by Mr. Seward, you will propose them to him.”

Mr. Seward had no notion of proposing any terms to Lord Lyons. The shouts of the b’hoys had scarcely yet ceased to ring in his ears, and it would be an awkward step to take. Besides, he could have no terms to offer, for the Government had, in fact, approved of Captain Wilkes’ act, through its Secretary of the Navy. The back door, which Mr. Seward intimated to Mr. Adams was open for retreat, when he told him, that Captain Wilkes’ act had not been authorized by the Government, was not honorably open, for the act had afterward been approved by the Government, and this amounted to the same thing. Later on the same day on which Earl Russell wrote his despatch to Lord Lyons he added a postscript to it, as follows:—

“In my previous despatch of this date, I have instructed you, by command of her Majesty, to make certain demands of the Government of the United States. Should Mr. Seward ask for delay, in order that this grave and painful matter should be deliberately considered, you will consent to a delay, not exceeding seven days. If, at the end of that time, no answer is given, or if any other answer is given, except that of a compliance with the demands of her Majesty’s Government, your lordship is instructed to leave Washington, with all the members of your legation, bringing with you the archives of the legation, and to repair immediately to London. If, however, you should be of opinion that the requirements of her[Pg 243] Majesty’s Government are substantially complied with, you may report the facts to her Majesty’s Government, for their consideration, and remain at your post, until you receive further orders.”

This was indeed bringing matters to a focus. Mr. Seward was required to liberate the prisoners, and make an apology, and that within seven days. This was putting it rather offensively. It is bad enough to make a man apologize, especially, if he has been “blowing” a short while before, but to tell him that he must do it at once, that was, indeed, rubbing the humiliation in. And then, where was the Congress, and the Massachusetts legislature, and Mr. Secretary Welles, and all the “plate,” and all the “resolutions”? Posterity will wonder, when it comes to read the elaborate, and lengthy despatch, which Mr. Seward prepared on this occasion, how it was possible for him to prepare it in seven days. But it will wonder still more, after having patiently waded through it, to find how little it contains. I cannot deny myself the pleasure of giving a few of its choicest paragraphs to the reader. Do not start! gentle reader, the paragraphs will be short; but short as they are, you shall have the gist of this seven days’ labor, of the American diplomatist. David wrote seven penitential psalms. I wonder if Lord John Russell had a little fun in his eye, when he gave Mr. Seward just seven days for his penitential performance. But to the paragraphs. Mr. Seward is addressing himself, the reader will observe, to Lord Lyons. After stating the case, he proceeds:—

“Your lordship will now perceive, that the case before us, instead of presenting a merely flagrant act of violence, on the part of Captain Wilkes, as might well be inferred, from the incomplete statement of it, that went up to the British Government, was undertaken as a simple, legal, and customary belligerent proceeding, by Captain Wilkes, to arrest and capture a neutral vessel, engaged in carrying contraband of war, for the uses and benefit of the insurgents.”

This point was so utterly untenable, that it is astonishing that Mr. Seward should have thought of defending it. If it were defensible, he ought not to have given up the prisoners, or made an apology; for the law is clear, that contraband of[Pg 244] war may be seized, and taken out of a neutral vessel, on the high seas. It was not because contraband of war had been taken out of one of their vessels, that Great Britain demanded an apology, but because persons, and things, not contraband of war, under the circumstances under which they were found, had been taken out. If the Trent had been overhauled in the act of sailing from one of the Confederate ports, blockaded or not blockaded, with Messrs. Mason and Slidell, and their despatches on board, and the San Jancinto had taken them out of her, permitting the ship to proceed on her voyage, Great Britain would never have thought of complaining—waiving, for the sake of the present argument, the diplomatic character of the passengers. And why would she not have complained? Simply, because one of her ships had been found with contraband of war, on board, and the least penalty, namely, the seizure of the contraband, that the laws of war imposed upon her, had been exacted. But her ship the Trent, neither having sailed from, or being bound for a Confederate port, it matters not whom, or what she might have on board, the question of contraband could not arise, at all; for, as we have seen, it is of the essence of contraband, that the person, or thing should be going to, or from an enemy’s port. Wilkes’ act being utterly and entirely indefensible, the Federal Government should have saved its honor, the moment the affair came to its notice, by a frank disavowal of it. But, as we have seen, the b’hoys had shouted; Mr. Welles had spoken approvingly; Congress had resolved that their officer was deserving of thanks, and even Mr. Seward, himself, had gloried over the capture of “rebels,” and “traitors;” the said “rebels,” and “traitors” having frequently, in former years, snubbed, and humbled him in the Senate of the United States. Hence the indecent language, in which he now spoke of them. The reader, having seen that Mr. Seward justified Captain Wilkes’ conduct, as a “simple, legal, and customary belligerent proceeding, to arrest and capture a neutral vessel engaged in carrying contraband of war, for the use and benefit of the insurgents,” he will be curious to know, on what ground it was, that Mr. Seward based his apology. This ground was curious enough. It was, not that Captain Wilkes had gone too far, but that he had not gone far[Pg 245] enough. If, said he, Captain Wilkes had taken the Trent into port, for adjudication, instead of letting her go, his justification would be complete, and there would be no apology to make. Adjudication presupposes something to adjudicate; but if there was no contraband of war, on board the Trent, what was there to adjudicate? The British Government did not complain, that the question had not been presented for adjudication to the proper prize tribunals, but that their vessel had been boarded, and outraged, without there being any grounds for adjudication, at all. If the Trent had been taken into port, a prize-court must have liberated the prisoners. It would then, if not before, have been apparent, that there was no ground for the seizure. The act still remaining to be atoned for, what was there to be gained, by sending the vessel in? It is not denied that, as a rule, neutrals are entitled to have their vessels, when captured, sent in for adjudication, but Mr. Seward knew, very well, that no question of this nature had arisen, between the British Government and himself, and he was only trifling with the common sense of mankind, when he endeavored to turn the issue in this direction.

One cannot help sympathizing with a diplomatist, who being required to eat a certain amount of dirt, gags at it, so painfully, and yet pretends, all the while, that he really likes it, as Mr. Seward does in the following paragraph:—

“I have not been unaware that, in examining this question, I have fallen into an argument, for what seems to be the British side of it, against my own country [what a deal of humiliation it would have saved his country, if he had fallen into this train of argument, before the dirt-pie had been presented to him]. But I am relieved from all embarrassment, on that subject. I had hardly fallen into that line of argument, when I discovered, that I was really defending and maintaining, not an exclusively British interest, but an old, honored, and cherished American cause, not upon British authorities, but upon principles that constitute a large portion of the distinctive policy, by which the United States have developed the resources of a continent, and thus becoming a considerable maritime power, have won the respect and confidence of many nations.”

Like an adroit circus-man, the venerable Federal Secretary of State has now gotten upon the backs of two ponies. He continues:—

[Pg 246]“These principles were laid down, for us, by James Madison, in 1804; when Secretary of State, in the administration of Thomas Jefferson, in instructions given to James Monroe, our minister to England.”

These instructions had relation to the old dispute, between the two Governments, about the impressment of seamen from American ships, and were as follows:—

“Whenever property found in a neutral vessel is supposed to be liable, on any ground, to capture and condemnation, the rule in all cases, is, that the question shall not be decided by the captor, but be carried before a legal tribunal, where a regular trial may be had, and where the captor himself is liable for damages, for an abuse of his power. Can it be reasonable then, or just, that a belligerent commander, who is thus restricted, and thus responsible, in a case of mere property, of trivial amount, should be permitted, without recurring to any tribunal, whatever, to examine the crew of a neutral vessel, to decide the important question of their respective allegiances, and to carry that decision into execution, by forcing every individual, he may choose, into a service abhorrent to his feelings, cutting him off from his most tender connections, exposing his mind and person to the most humiliating discipline, and his life, itself, to the greatest danger. Reason, justice, and humanity unite in protesting against so extravagant a proceeding.”

Mr. Seward after thus quoting, continues:—

“If I decide this case in favor of my own Government, I must disavow its most cherished principles, and reverse, and forever abandon its essential policy. The country cannot afford the sacrifice. If I maintain these principles, and adhere to that policy, I must surrender the case itself. It will be seen, therefore, that this Government could not deny the justice of the claim presented to us, in this respect, upon its merits. We are asked to do to the British nation, just what we have always insisted, all nations ought to do to us.”

That is “coming down with the corn,” now, handsomely, but in view of the antecedents of the question, and of the “seven days’” pressure under which Mr. Seward’s despatch was written, one cannot help pitying Mr. Seward. We not only pity him, but he absolutely surprises us by the fertility of his imagination, in discovering any resemblance between the Madison precedent, and the case he had in hand. The British Government was not insisting that Mr. Seward should send the Trent in for adjudication. It did not mean that there should be any adjudication about the matter, except such as it[Pg 247] had itself already passed upon the case. Had it not said to its minister, at Washington, “If, at the end of that time, no answer is given, or, if any other answer is given, except that of a compliance with the demands of her Majesty’s Government, your lordship is instructed to leave Washington, &c.”? To be logical, Mr. Seward should have said, “Our officer having made a mistake, by doing a right thing, in a wrong way, namely, by seizing contraband of war, on board a neutral ship, without sending the ship in, for adjudication, we will send the prisoners back to the Trent, if you will send the Trent into one of our ports for adjudication.” But Mr. Seward knew better than to say any such thing, for the simple reason, that this was not the thing which was demanded of him, although he had written a lengthy despatch to prove that it was.

I was in Europe when Mr. Seward’s despatch arrived there. Every one was astonished, both at the paper, and the act of humiliation performed by it. The act needed not to be humiliating. A great wrong had been done a neutral. It could be neither justified, nor palliated. A statesman, at the head of the Federal State Department, would have made haste to atone for it, before any demand for reparation could be made. To pander to a vitiated public taste, and gain a little temporary eclat, by appearing to beard the British lion, hoping that the lion would submit, in silence to the indignity, Mr. Seward committed one of those blunders which was equivalent to a great crime, since it humiliated an entire people, and put on record against them one of those damaging pages that historians cannot, if they would, forget. The following were the closing lines of this famous despatch:—

“The four persons in question are now held in military custody, at Fort Warren, in the State of Massachusetts. They will be cheerfully liberated. Your lordship will please indicate a time, and place, for receiving them.”

When I read this paragraph, I experienced two sensations—one, of disappointment at the loss of an ally, with whose aid we would be sure to gain the independence for which we were struggling, and one, of mortification, that an American nation had been so greatly humbled, before an European Power; for though the Federal States were my[Pg 248] enemies, as between them and foreign nations, I could not but feel something like family attachment. Whilst I would humble them, and whip them into a sense of justice and decent behavior, myself, I was loth to see strangers kick them, and themselves submit to the kicking.

So very one-sided was the question, which Mr. Seward had permitted himself to argue, with so much zeal, and so little discrimination, that all the principal nations of Europe rallied, as if by common consent, to the side of Great Britain. Russia, France, Spain, and other Powers, all took the same view of the case that Earl Russell had done, and made haste, through their respective ministers at Washington, so to express themselves. I will let France speak for them all. The reasons which influenced the action of the French Government are thus assigned:—

“The desire to contribute to prevent a conflict, perhaps imminent, between two Powers, for which the French Government is animated with sentiments equally friendly, and the duty to uphold, for the purpose of placing the right of its own flag under shelter from any attack, certain principles essential to the security of neutrals, have, after mature reflection, convinced it, that it could not, under the circumstances, remain entirely silent.”

The French Minister for Foreign Affairs then goes on to examine the arguments which could be set up in defence of the Federal Captain, concluding as follows:—

“There remains, therefore, to invoke, in explanation of their capture, only the pretext that they were the bearers of official despatches from the enemy; but this is the moment to recall a circumstance, that governs all this affair, and which renders the conduct of the American cruiser unjustifiable. The Trent was not destined to a point belonging to one of the belligerents. She was carrying to a neutral country her cargo and her passengers; and moreover, it was in a neutral port that they were taken. The Cabinet at Washington could not, without striking a blow at principles, which all neutral nations are alike interested in holding in respect, nor without taking the attitude of contradiction to its own course, up to this time, give its approbation to the proceedings of the commander of the San Jacinto. In this state of things, it evidently should not, according to our views, hesitate about the determination to be taken.”

[Pg 249]The excuse which I have to offer to the reader, for permitting so much of my space to be occupied with this “affair,” is, that it deeply interested every Confederate States naval officer, afloat at the time. I, myself, made several passages, in neutral vessels, between neutral ports, and might have been captured with as much propriety, even when passing from Dover to Calais, as Messrs. Mason and Slidell had been.

On the 13th of November, my water-tanks being full, and my crew having all returned from “liberty”—none of them having shown any disposition to desert—we got up steam, and proceeded to the town of St. Pierre, for the purpose of coaling; arriving at the early hour of 8 A. M., and anchoring at the man-of-war anchorage, south of the town. I immediately dispatched a lieutenant to call on the military commandant, accompanied by the paymaster, to make the necessary arrangements for coaling. St. Pierre was quite a different place, from the quiet old town we had left. A number of merchant-ships were anchored in the harbor, and there was quite an air of stir, and thrift, about the quays. Busy commerce was carrying on her exchanges, and with commerce there is always life. There were not so many idle people here, to be awakened from their noon-tide slumbers, by the katydid, as in Fort de France. A number of visitors came off, at once, to see us; rumor having preceded us, and blown the trumpet of our fame, much more than we deserved. Among the rest, there were several custom-house officers, but if these had any office of espionage to perform, they performed it, so delicately, as not to give offence. Indeed they took pains to explain to us, that they had only come on board out of civility, and as a mere matter of curiosity. I never permit myself to be out-done in politeness, and treated them with all consideration.

The Collector of the Customs gave prompt obedience to the Governor’s despatch—commanding him not to throw any obstacle in the way of our coaling—by withdrawing the interdict of sale which he had put upon the coal-merchants; and the paymaster returning, after a short absence, with news that he had made satisfactory arrangements with the said merchants, the ship was warped up to the coal-depot, and some thirty tons[Pg 250] of coal received, on board, the same afternoon. This was very satisfactory progress. We sent down the fore-yard, for repairs, and the engineer finding some good machinists on shore, with more facilities in the way of shop, and tools, than he had expected, took some of his own jobs, of which there are always more or less, in a steamer, on shore.

As the sun dipped his broad red disk into the sea, I landed with my clerk, and we took a delightful evening stroll, along one of the country roads, leading to the northern end of the island, and winding, occasionally, within a stone’s throw of the beach. The air was soft, and filled with perfume, and we were much interested in inspecting the low-roofed and red-tiled country houses, and their half-naked inmates, of all colors, that presented themselves, from time to time, as we strolled on. We were here, as we had been in Maranham, objects of much curiosity, and the curiosity was evinced in the same way, respectfully. Wherever we stopped for water—for walking in this sultry climate produces constant thirst—the coolest “monkeys”—a sort of porous jug, or jar—and calabashes, were handed us, often accompanied by fruits and an invitation to be seated. Fields of sugar-cane stretched away on either hand, and an elaborate cultivation seemed everywhere to prevail. The island of Martinique is mountainous, and all mountainous countries are beautiful, where vegetation abounds. Within the tropics, when the soil is good, vegetation runs riot in very wantonness; and so it did here. The eye was constantly charmed with a great variety of shade and forest trees, of new and beautiful foliage, and with shrubs, and flowers, without number, ever forming new combinations, and new groups, as the road meandered now through a plane, and now through a rocky ravine, up whose precipitous sides a goat could scarcely clamber.

“As the shades of eve came slowly down,
The hills were clothed with deeper brown,”

and the twinkle of the lantern at the Sumter’s peak denoting that her Captain was out of the ship, caught my eye, at one of the turnings of the road, and reminded me, that we had wandered far enough. We retraced our steps just in time to escape a shower, and sat down, upon our arrival on board, to[Pg 251] the evening’s repast, which John had prepared for us, with appetites much invigorated by the exercise. We found the market-place, situated near the ship, both upon landing and returning, filled with a curious throng, gazing eagerly upon the Sumter. This throng seemed never to abate during our stay—it was the first thing seen in the morning, and the last thing at night. The next morning, John brought me off a French newspaper; for St. Pierre is sufficiently large, and prosperous, to indulge in a tri-weekly. With true island marvel, a column was devoted to the Sumter, predicating of her, many curious exploits, and cunning devices by means of which she had escaped from the enemy, of which the little craft had never heard, and affirming, as a fact beyond dispute, that her Commander was a Frenchman, he having served, in former years, as a lieutenant on board of the French brig-of-war Mercure! I felt duly grateful for the compliment, for a compliment indeed it was, to be claimed as a Frenchman, by a Frenchman—the little foible of Gallic vanity considered.

 

 


[Pg 252]

CHAPTER XX.

ARRIVAL AT ST. PIERRE OF THE ENEMY’S STEAM-SLOOP IROQUOIS—HOW SHE VIOLATES THE NEUTRALITY OF THE PORT—ARRIVAL OF THE FRENCH STEAMER-OF-WAR ACHERON—THE IROQUOIS BLOCKADES THE SUMTER—CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE GOVERNOR—ESCAPE OF THE SUMTER.

 

Many rumors were now afloat as to the prospective presence, at Martinique, of the enemy’s ships of war. It was known that the enemy’s steam-sloop, Iroquois, Captain James S. Palmer, had been at the island of Trinidad, on the second of the then current month of November, whence she had returned to St. Thomas—this neutral island being unscrupulously used by the enemy, as a regular naval station, at which there was always at anchor one or more of his ships of war, and where he had a coal-depot. St. Thomas was a free port, and an important centre of trade, both for the West India Islands and the Spanish Main, and had the advantage, besides, of being a general rendezvous of the mail-steamers that plied in those seas. One of these steamers, bound to St. Thomas, had touched at Martinique, soon after the Sumter’s arrival there, and, as a matter of course, we might expect the presence of the enemy very soon. I used every possible diligence to avoid being blockaded by the enemy, and twenty-four hours more would have enabled me to accomplish my purpose, but the Fates would have it otherwise; for at about two P. M., on the very next day after the delightful evening’s stroll described in the last chapter, the Iroquois appeared off the north end of the island. She had purposely approached the island on the side opposite to that on which the town of St. Pierre lies, the better to keep herself out of sight, until the last moment; and when she did come in sight, it was ludicrous to[Pg 253] witness her appearance. Her commander’s idea seemingly was, that the moment the Sumter caught sight of him, she would, if he were recognized, immediately attempt to escape. Hence it was necessary to surprise her; and to this end, he had made some most ludicrous attempts to disguise his ship. The Danish colors were flying from his peak, his yards were hanging, some this way, some that, and his guns had all been run in, and his ports closed. But the finely proportioned, taunt, saucy-looking Iroquois, looked no more like a merchant-ship, for this disguise, than a gay Lothario would look like a saint, by donning a cassock. The very disguise only made the cheat more apparent. We caught sight of the enemy first. He was crawling slowly from behind the land, which had hidden him from view, and we could see a number of curious human forms, above his rail, bending eagerly in our direction. The quarter-deck, in particular, was filled with officers, and we were near enough to see that some of these had telescopes in their hands, with which they were scanning the shipping in the harbor. We had a small Confederate States flag flying, and it was amusing to witness the movements on board the Iroquois, the moment this was discovered. A rapid passing to and fro of officers was observable, as if orders were being carried, in a great hurry, and the steamer, which had been hitherto cautiously creeping along, as a stealthy tiger might be supposed to skirt a jungle, in which he had scented, but not yet seen a human victim, sprang forward under a full head of steam. At the same moment, down came the Danish and up went the United States flag. “There she comes, with a bone in her mouth!” said the old quartermaster on the look-out; and, no doubt, Captain Palmer thought to see, every moment, the little Sumter flying from her anchors. But the Sumter went on coaling, and receiving on board some rum and sugar, as though no enemy were in sight, and at nine P. M. was ready for sea. The men were given their hammocks, as usual, and I turned in, myself, at my usual hour, not dreaming that the Iroquois would cut up such antics during the night as she did.

During the afternoon, she had run into the harbor,—without anchoring, however,—and sent a boat on shore to communicate, probably, with her consul, and receive any intelligence[Pg 254] he might have to communicate. She then steamed off, seaward, a mile, or two, and moved to and fro, in front of the port until dark. At half-past one o’clock, the officer of the deck came down in great haste, to say, that the Iroquois had again entered the harbor, and was steaming directly for us. I ordered him to get the men immediately to their quarters, and followed him on deck, as soon as I could throw on a necessary garment or two. In a very few minutes, the battery had been cast loose, the decks lighted, and the other preparations usual for battle made. It was moonlight, and the movements of the enemy could be distinctly seen. He came along, under low steam, but, so steadily, and aiming so directly for us, that I could not doubt it was his intention to board us. The men were called to “repel boarders;” and for a moment or two, a pin might have been heard to drop, on the Sumter’s deck, so silent was the harbor, and so still was the scene on board both ships. Presently, however, a couple of strokes on the enemy’s steam gong were heard, and, in a moment more, he sheered a little, and lay off our quarter, motionless. It was as though a great sea-monster had crawled in under cover of the night, and was eying its prey, and licking its chops, in anticipation of a delicious repast. After a few minutes of apparent hesitation, and doubt, the gong was again struck, and the leviathan—for such the Iroquois appeared alongside the little Sumter—moving in a slow, and graceful curve, turned, and went back whence it came. This operation, much to my astonishment, was repeated several times during the night. Captain Palmer was evidently in great tribulation. He had found the hated “pirate” at last—so called by his own Secretary of the Navy, and by his own Secretary of State. Captain Wilkes had just set him a glorious example of a disregard of neutral rights; and the seven days’ penitential psalms had not yet been ordered to be written. If a ship might be violated, why not territory? Besides, the press, the press! a rabid, and infuriate press was thundering in the ears of the luckless Federal Captain. Honors were before him, terrors behind him! But there loomed up, high above the Sumter, the mountains of the French island of Martinique. Nations, like individuals, sometimes know whom to kick—though they have occasionally to[Pg 255] take the kicking back, as we have just seen. It might do, doubtless thought Captain Palmer, to kick some small power, but France! there was the rub. If the Sumter were only in Bahia, where the Florida afterward was, how easily and securely the kicking might be done? A gallant captain, with a heavy ship, might run into her, cut her down to the water’s edge, fire into her crew, struggling in the water, killing, and wounding, and drowning a great many of them, and bear off his prize in triumph! And then, Mr. Seward, if he should be called upon, not by Brazil alone, but by the sentiment of all mankind, to make restitution of the ship, could he not have her run into, by accident, in Hampton Roads, and sunk; and would not this be another feather in his diplomatic cap—Yankee feather though it might be? What is a diplomat fit for, unless he can be a little cunning, upon occasion? The b’hoys will shout for him, if history does not. The reader need no longer wonder at the “backing and filling” of the Iroquois, around the little Sumter; or at the sleepless night passed by Captain Palmer.

The next morning, the Governor having heard of what had been done; how the neutral waters of France had been violated by manœuvre and by menace, though the actual attack had been withheld, sent up from Fort de France the steamer-of-war Acheron, Captain Duchatel, with orders to Captain Palmer, either to anchor, if he desired to enter the harbor, or to withdraw beyond the marine league, if it was his object to blockade the Sumter; annexing to his anchoring, if he should choose this alternative, the condition imposed by the laws of nations, of giving the Sumter twenty-four hours the start, in case she should desire to proceed to sea. Soon after the Acheron came to anchor, the Iroquois herself ran in and anchored. The French boat then communicated with her, when she immediately hove up her anchor again! She had committed herself to the twenty-four hours’ rule the moment she dropped her anchor; but being ignorant of the rule, she had not hesitated to get her anchor again, the moment that she was informed of it, and to claim that she was not bound by her mistake. I did not insist upon the point. The Iroquois now withdrew beyond the marine league, by day, but, by night,[Pg 256] invariably crept in, a mile or two nearer, fearing that she might lose sight of me, and that I might thus be enabled to escape. She kept up a constant communication, too, with the shore, both by means of her own boats, and those from the shore, in violation of the restraints imposed upon her by the laws of nations—these laws requiring, that if she would communicate, she must anchor; when, of course, the twenty-four hours’ rule would attach. I had written a letter to the Governor, informing him of the conduct of Captain Palmer, on the first night after his arrival, and claiming the neutral protection to which I was entitled. His Excellency having replied to this letter, through Captain Duchatel, in a manner but little satisfactory to me. I addressed him, through that officer, the following, in rejoinder:—

Confederate States Steamer Sumter,
St. Pierre, November 22, 1861.

Sir:—I have had the honor to receive your letter of yesterday, in which you communicate to me the views of the Governor of Martinique, relative to the protection of my right of asylum, in the waters of this island; and I regret to say, that those views do not appear to me to come up to the requirements of the international code. The Governor says, that “it does not enter into his intentions, to exercise toward the Iroquois, either by night, or by day, so active a surveillance as you [I] desire”; and you tell me, that I ought to have “confidence in the strict execution of a promise, made by a commander in the military marine of the American Union, so long as he has not shown to me the evidence that this engagement has not been scrupulously fulfilled.” It would appear from these expressions, that the only protection I am to receive against the blockade of the enemy, is a simple promise exacted by you, from that enemy, that he will keep himself without the marine league, the Governor, in the meantime, exercising no watch, by night or by day, to see whether this promise is complied with. In addition to the violations of neutrality reported by me, yesterday, I have, this morning, to report, that one of my officers being on shore, in the northern environs of the town, last night, between eight and nine o’clock, saw two boats, each pulling eight oars, the men dressed in dark blue clothing, with the caps usually worn by the sailors of the Federal Navy, pulling quietly in toward the beach; and that he distinctly heard a conversation, in English, between them—one of them saying to the other, “Look Harry! there she is, I see her,”—in allusion, doubtless, to this ship. These boats are neither more nor less than scout, or sentinel boats, sent to watch the movements, within neutral waters, of their enemy. Now, with all due deference to his Excellency, I cannot see the difference between the [Pg 257]violation of the neutrality of these waters, by the enemy’s boats, and by his ship; and if no surveillance is to be exercised, either by night or by day, I am receiving very much such protection as the wolf would accord to the lamb.

It is an act of war for the enemy to approach me, with his boats, for the purpose of reconnoissance, or watch, and especially during the night, and I have the same right to demand that he keep his boats beyond the marine league, as that he keep his ship, at that distance. Nor am I willing to rely upon his promise, that he will not infringe my rights, in this particular. If France owes me protection, it is her duty to accord it to me, herself, and not remit me to the good faith, or bad faith, of my enemy; in other words, I respectfully suggest, that it is her duty, to exercise surveillance over her own waters, both “by night, and by day,” when one belligerent is blockading another, in those waters. I have, therefore, respectfully to request, that you will keep a watch, by means of guard boats, at both points of the harbor, to prevent a repetition of the hostile act, which was committed against me last night; or if you will not do this, that you will permit me to arm boats, and capture the enemy, when so approaching me. It would seem quite plain, either that I should be protected, or be permitted to protect myself. Further: it is in plain violation of neutrality for the enemy to be in daily communication with the shore, whether by means of his own boats, or boats from the shore. If he needs supplies, it is his duty to come in for them; and if he comes in, he must anchor; and if he anchors, he must accept the condition of remaining twenty-four hours after my departure. It is a mere subterfuge for him to remain in the offing, and supply himself with all he needs, besides reconnoitring, me closely, by means of his boats, and I protest against this act also. I trust you will excuse me, for having occupied so much of your time, by so lengthy a communication, but I deem it my duty to place myself right, upon the record, in this matter. I shall seize an early opportunity to sail from these waters, and if I shall be brought to a bloody conflict, with an enemy, of twice my force, by means of signals given to him, in the waters of France, either by his own boats, or others, I wish my Government to know, that I protested against the unfriendly ground assumed by the Governor of Martinique, that ‘it does not enter into his intentions, to exercise toward the Iroquois, either by night, or by day, so active a surveillance as you [I] desire.’

Mr. Duchatel, commanding H. I. F. M.’s steamer Acheron.

As the lawyers say, “I took nothing by my motion,” with Governor Condé. The United States were strong at sea, and the Confederate States weak, and this difference was sufficient to insure the ruling against me of all but the plainest points, about which there could be no dispute, either of principle, or of fact. Whilst the Governor would probably have protected[Pg 258] me, by force, if necessary, against an actual assault, by the Iroquois, he had not the moral courage to risk the ire of his master, by offending the Great Republic, on a point about which there could be any question.

The Iroquois was very much in earnest in endeavoring to capture me, and Captain Palmer spent many sleepless nights, and labored very zealously to accomplish his object; notwithstanding which, when my escape became known to his countrymen, he had all Yankeeland down on him. It was charged, among other things, by one indignant Yankee captain, that Palmer and myself had been school-mates, and that treachery had done the work. I must do my late opponent the justice to say, that he did all that vigilance and skill could do, and a great deal more, than the laws of war authorized him to do. He made a free use of the neutral territory, and of his own merchant-ships that were within its waters. He had left St. Thomas in a great hurry, upon getting news of the Sumter, without waiting to coal. In a day or two after his arrival at St. Pierre, he chartered a Yankee schooner, and sent her to St. Thomas, for a supply of coal; and taking virtual possession of another—a small lumber schooner, from Maine, that lay discharging her cargo, a short distance from the Sumter—he used her as a signal, and look-out ship. Sending his pilot on shore, he arranged with the Yankee master—one of your long, lean, slab-sided fellows, that looked like the planks he handled—a set of signals, by which the Sumter was to be circumvented.

The anchorage of St. Pierre is a wide, open bay, with an exit around half the points of the compass. The Iroquois, as she kept watch and ward over the Sumter, generally lay off the centre of this sheet of water. As the Sumter might run out either north of her, or south of her, it was highly important that the Iroquois should know, as promptly as possible, which of the passages the little craft intended to take. To this end, the signals were arranged. Certain lights were to be exhibited, in certain positions, on board the Yankee schooner, to indicate to her consort, that the Sumter was under way, and the course she was running. I knew nothing, positively, of this arrangement. I only knew that the pilot[Pg 259] of the Iroquois had frequently been seen on board the Yankee. To the mind of a seaman, the rest followed, as a matter of course. I could not know what the precise signals were, but I knew what signals I should require to be made to me, if I were in Captain Palmer’s place. As the sequel will prove, I judged correctly.

I now communicated my suspicions to the Governor, and requested him to have a guard stationed near the schooner, to prevent this contemplated breach of neutrality. But the Governor paid no more attention to this complaint, than to the others I had made. It was quite evident that I must expect to take care of myself, without the exercise of any surveillance, “by night or by day,” by Monsieur Condé. This being the case, I bethought myself of turning the enemy’s signals to my own account, and the reader will see, by and by, how this was accomplished.

In the meantime, the plot was thickening, and becoming very interesting, as well to the islanders, as to ourselves. Not only was the town agog, but the simple country people, having heard what was going on, and that a naval combat was expected, came in, in great numbers, to see the show. The crowd increased, daily, in the market-place, and it was wonderful to witness the patience of these people. They would come down to the beach, and gaze at us for hours, together, seeming never to grow weary of the sight. Two parties were formed, the Sumter party, and the Iroquois party; the former composed of the whites, with a small sprinkling of blacks; the latter of the blacks, with a small sprinkling of whites. The Governor, himself, came up from Fort de France, in a little sail-schooner of war, which he used as a yacht. The Mayor, and sundry councilmen, came off to see me, and talk over the crisis. The young men boarded me in scores, and volunteered to help me whip the barbare. I had no thought of fighting, but of running; but of course I did not tell them so—I should have lost the French nationality, they had conferred upon me.

The Iroquois had arrived, on the 14th of November. It was now the 23d, and I had waited all this time, for a dark night; the moon not only persisting in shining, but the stars looking,[Pg 260] we thought, unusually bright. Venus was still three hours high, at sunset, and looked provokingly beautiful, and brilliant, shedding as much light as a miniature moon. To-night—the 23d—the moon would not rise until seven minutes past eleven, and this would be ample time, in which to escape, or be captured. I had some anxiety about the weather, however, independently of the phase of the moon, as in this climate of the gods, there is no such thing as a dark night, if the sky be clear. The morning of the 23d of November dawned provokingly clear. It clouded a little toward noon, but, long before sunset, the clouds had blown off, and the afternoon became as bright, and beautiful, as the most ardent lover of nature in her smiling moods, could desire. But time pressed, and it was absolutely necessary to be moving. Messengers had been sent hither, and thither, by the enemy, to hunt up a reinforcement of gun-boats, and if several of these should arrive, escape would be almost out of the question. Fortune had favored us, thus far, but we must now help ourselves. The Iroquois was not only twice as heavy as the Sumter, in men, and metal, as the reader has seen, but she had as much as two or three knots, the hour, the speed of her. We must escape, if at all, unseen of the enemy, and as the latter drew close in with the harbor, every night, in fraud of the promise he had made, and in violation of the laws of war, this would be difficult to do. Running all these reasons rapidly through my mind, I resolved to make the attempt, without further delay.

I gave orders to the first lieutenant, to see that every person belonging to the ship was on board, at sundown, and directed him to make all the necessary preparations for getting his anchor, and putting the ship under steam, at eight P. M.—the hour of gun-fire; the gun at the garrison to be the signal for moving. The ship was put in her best sailing trim, by removing some barrels of wet provisions aft, on the quarter-deck; useless spars were sent down from aloft, and the sails all “mended,” that is, snugly furled. Every man was assigned his station, and the crew were all to be at quarters, a few minutes before the appointed hour of moving. I well recollect the tout ensemble of that scene. The waters of the bay were of glassy smoothness.[Pg 261] The sun had gone down in a sky so clear, that there was not a cloud to make a bank of violets, or a golden pyramid of. Twilight had come and gone; the insects were in full chorus—we were lying within a hundred yards of the shore—and night, friendly, and at the same time unfriendly, had thrown no more than a semi-transparent mantle over the face of nature.

The market-place, as though it had some secret sympathy with what was to happen, was more densely thronged than ever, the hum of voices being quite audible. The muffled windlass on board the Sumter was quietly heaving up her anchor. It is already up, and the “cat hooked,” and the men “walking away with the cat.” The engineer is standing, lever in hand, ready to start the engine, and a seaman, with an uplifted axe, is standing near the taffarel, to cut the sternfast. One minute more and the gun will fire! Every one is listening eagerly for the sound. The Iroquois is quite visible, through our glasses, watching for the Sumter, like the spider for the fly. A flash! and the almost simultaneous boom of the eight o’clock gun, and, without one word being uttered on board the Sumter, the axe descends upon the fast, the engineer’s lever is turned, and the ship bounds forward, under a full head of steam.

A prolonged, and deafening cheer at once arose from the assembled multitude, in the market-place. Skilful and trusty helmsmen, under the direction of the “master,” bring the Sumter’s head around to the south, where they hold it, so steadily, that she does not swerve a hair’s breadth. There is not a light visible on board. The lantern in the captain’s cabin has a jacket on it, and even the binnacle is screened, so that no one but the old quartermaster at the “con” can see the light, or the compass. The French steamer-of-war, Acheron, lay almost directly in our course, and, as we bounded past her, nearly grazing her guns, officers and men rushed to the side, and in momentary forgetfulness of their neutrality, waved hats and hands at us. As the reader may suppose, I had stationed a quick-sighted and active young officer, to look out for the signals, which I knew the Yankee schooner was to make. This young officer now came running aft to me, and said, “I see them, sir! I see them!—look, sir, there are two red lights, one[Pg 262] above the other, at the Yankee schooner’s mast-head.” Sure enough, there were the lights; and I knew as well as the exhibitor of them, what they meant to say to the Iroquois, viz.: “Look out for the Sumter, she is under way, standing south!”

I ran a few hundred yards farther, on my present course, and then stopped. The island of Martinique is mountainous, and near the south end of the town, where I now was, the mountains run abruptly into the sea, and cast quite a shadow upon the waters, for some distance out. I had the advantage of operating within this shadow. I now directed my glass toward the Iroquois. I have said that Captain Palmer was anxious to catch me, and judging by the speed which the Iroquois was now making, toward the south, in obedience to her signals, his anxiety had not been at all abated by his patient watching of nine days. I now did, what poor Reynard sometimes does, when he is hard pressed by the hounds—I doubled. Whilst the Iroquois was driving, like mad, under all steam, for the south, wondering, no doubt, at every step, what the d—l had become of the Sumter, this little craft was doing her level-best, for the north end of the island. It is safe to say, that, the next morning, the two vessels were one hundred and fifty miles apart! Poor Palmer! he, no doubt, looked haggard and careworn, when his steward handed him his dressing-gown, and called him for breakfast on the 24th of November; the yell of Actæon’s hounds must have sounded awfully distinct in his ears. I was duly thankful to the slab-sided lumberman, and to Governor Condé—the one for violating, and the other for permitting the violation of the neutral waters of France—the signals were of vast service to me.

Various little contre-temps occurred on board the Sumter, on this night’s run. We were obliged to stop some fifteen or twenty precious minutes, opposite the very town, as we were retracing our steps to the northward, to permit the engineer to cool the bearings of his shaft, which had become heated by a little eccentricity of movement. And poor D., a hitherto-favorite quartermaster, lost his prestige, entirely, with the crew, on this night. D. had been famous for his sharp sight. It was, indeed, wonderful. When nobody else in the ship could “make out” a distant sail, D. was always sent aloft, glass in hand, to[Pg 263] tell us all about her. As a matter of course, when the question came to be discussed, as to who the look-out should be, on the occasion of running by the enemy, I thought of D. He was, accordingly, stationed on the forecastle, with the best night-glass in the ship. Poor D.! if he saw one Iroquois, that night, he must have seen fifty. Once, he reported her lying right “athwart our fore-foot,” and I even stopped the engine, on his report, and went forward, myself, to look for her. She was nowhere to be seen. Now she was bearing down upon our bow, and now upon our quarter. I was obliged to degrade him, in the first ten minutes of the run; and, from that time, onward, he never heard the last of the Iroquois. The young foretop-men, in particular, whose duty it was to take the regular look-out aloft, and who had become jealous of his being sent up to their stations, so often, to make out sails, which they could give no account of, were never tired of poking fun at him, and asking him about the Iroquois.

 


KELLY, PIET & CO. PUBLISHERS  LITH BY A. HOEN & CO. BALTO.
Larger Image

The Sumter running the Blockade of St. Pierre, Martinique,
by the enemy’s ship, “Iroquois” on the 23d Nov. 1861.

 

The first half hour’s run was a very anxious one for us, as the reader may suppose. We could not know, of course, at what moment the Iroquois, becoming sensible of her error, might retrace her steps. It was a marvel, indeed, that she had not seen us. Our chimney was vomiting forth dense volumes of black smoke, that ought to have betrayed us, even if our hull had been invisible. I was quite relieved, therefore, as I saw the lights of the town fading, gradually, in the distance, and no pursuer near; and when a friendly rain squall overtook us, and enveloping us in its folds, travelled along with us, for some distance, I felt assured that our run had been a success. Coming up with the south end of the island of Dominica, we hauled in for the coast, and ran along it, at a distance of four or five miles. It was now half-past eleven, and the moon had risen. The sea continued smooth, and nothing could exceed the beauty of that night-scene, as we ran along this picturesque coast. The chief feature of the landscape was its weird-like expression, and aspect of most profound repose. Mountain, hill, and valley lay slumbering in the moonlight; no living thing, except ourselves, and now and then, a coasting vessel close in with the land, that seemed also to be asleep, being seen. Even the town of Rousseau, whose white walls we could[Pg 264] see shimmering in the moonlight, seemed more like a city of the dead, than of the living. Not a solitary light twinkled from a window. To add to the illusion, wreaths of mist lay upon the mountain-sides, and overhung the valleys, almost as white, and solemn looking as winding-sheets.

We came up with the north end of Dominica, at about two A. M., and a notable change now took place, in the weather. Dense, black clouds rolled up, from every direction, and amid the crashing, and rattling of thunder, and rapid, and blinding lightning, the rain began to fall in torrents. I desired to double the north end of the island, and to enable me to do this, I endeavored, in sea phrase, to “hold on to the land.” The weather was so thick, and dark, at times, that we could scarcely see the length of the ship, and we were obliged often to slow down, and even stop the engine. For an hour or two, we literally groped our way, like a blind man; an occasional flash of lightning being our only guide. Presently the water began to whiten, and we were startled to find that we were running on shore, in Prince Rupert’s Bay, instead of having doubled the end of the island, as we had supposed. We hauled out in a hurry. It was broad daylight, before we were through the passage, when we were struck by a strong northeaster, blowing almost a gale. I now drew aft the try-sail sheets, and heading the ship to the N. N. W., went below and turned in, after, as the reader has seen, an eventful night. The sailor has one advantage over the soldier. He has always a dry hammock, and a comfortable roof over his head; and the reader may imagine how I enjoyed both of these luxuries, as stripping off my wet clothing, I consigned my weary head to my pillow, and permitted myself to be sung to sleep by the lullaby chanted by the storm.

We learned from the Yankee papers, subsequently captured, that the Dacotah, one of the enemy’s fast steam-sloops, of the class of the Iroquois, arrived at St. Pierre, the day after we “left”—time enough to condole with her consort, on the untoward event. In due time, Captain Palmer was deprived of his command—the Naval Department of the Federal Government obeying the insane clamors of the “unwashed,” as often as heads were called for.

[Pg 265]The day after our escape from Martinique was Sunday, and we made it, emphatically, a day of rest—even the Sunday muster being omitted, in consideration of the crew having been kept up nearly all the preceding night. I slept late, nothing having been seen to render it necessary to call me. When I came on deck, the weather still looked angry, with a dense bank of rain-clouds hanging over the islands we had left, and the stiff northeaster blowing as freshly as before. We were now running by the island of Deseada, distant about ten miles. At noon we observed in latitude 16° 12′, and, during the day, we showed the French colors to a French bark, running for Guadeloupe, and to a Swedish brig standing in for the islands. Being in the track of commerce, and the night being dark, we carried, for the first time, our side-lights, to guard against collision. It was a delightful sensation to breathe the free air of heaven, and to feel the roll of the sea once more; and as I sat that evening, in the midst of my officers, and smoked my accustomed cigar, I realized the sense of freedom, expressed by the poet, in the couplet,—

“Far as the breeze can bear, the billow foam,
Survey our empire, and behold our home!”

We had no occasion, here, to discuss jurisdictions, or talk about marine leagues; or be bothered by Iroquois, or bamboozled by French governors.

Monday, November 25th.—Morning clear, with trade-clouds and a fresh breeze. We are still holding on to our steam, and are pushing our way to the eastward; my intention being to cross the Atlantic, and see what can be accomplished in European waters. We may be able to exchange the Sumter for a better ship. At seven, this morning, we gave chase to a Yankee-looking hermaphrodite brig. We showed her the United States colors, and were disappointed to see her hoist the English red in reply. In the afternoon, a large ship was descried running down in our direction. When she approached sufficiently near, we hoisted again the United States colors, and hove her to with a gun. As she rounded to the wind, in obedience to the signal, the stars and stripes were run up to her peak. The wind was blowing quite fresh, but the master and his papers were soon brought on board, when it appeared[Pg 266] that our prize was the ship Montmorency, of Bath, Maine, from Newport, in Wales, and bound to St. Thomas, with a cargo of coal, for the English mail-steamers rendezvousing at that island. Her cargo being properly documented, as English property, we could not destroy her, but put her under a ransom bond, for her supposed value, and released her. We received on board from her, however, some cordage and paints; and Captain Brown was civil enough to send me on board, with his compliments, some bottles of port wine and a box of excellent cigars. The master and crew were parolled, not to serve against the Confederate States during the war, unless exchanged.

I began, now, to find that the Yankee masters, mates, and sailors rather liked being parolled; they would sometimes remind us of it, if they thought we were in danger of forgetting it. It saved them from being conscripted, unless the enemy was willing first to exchange them; and nothing went so hard with the enemy as to exchange a prisoner. With cold-blooded cruelty, the enemy had already counted his chances of success, as based upon the relative numbers of the two combatants, and found that, by killing a given number of our prisoners by long confinement—the same number of his being killed by us, by the same process—he could beat us! In pursuance of this diabolical policy, he threw every possible difficulty in the way of exchanges, and toward the latter part of the war put a stop to them nearly entirely. Our prisons were crowded with his captured soldiers. We were hard pressed for provisions, and found it difficult to feed them, and we were even destitute of medicines and hospital stores, owing to the barbarous nature of the war that was being made upon us. Not even a bottle of quinine or an ounce of calomel was allowed to cross the border, if the enemy could prevent it. With a full knowledge of these facts, he permitted his soldiers to sigh and weep away their lives in a hopeless captivity—coolly “calculating,” that one Confederate life was worth, when weighed in the balance of final success, from three to four of the lives of his own men!

The enemy, since the war, has become alarmed at the atrocity of his conduct, and at the judgment which posterity will be likely to pass upon it, and has set himself at work, to [Pg 267]falsify history, with his usual disregard of truth. Committees have been raised, in the Federal Congress, composed of unscrupulous partisans, whose sole object it was, to prepare the false material, with which to mislead the future historian. Perjured witnesses have been brought before these committees, and their testimony recorded as truth. To show the partisan nature of these committees, when it was moved by some member—Northern member, of course, for there are no Southern members, at this present writing, in the Rump Parliament—to extend the inquiry, so as to embrace the treatment of Southern prisoners, in Northern prisons, the amendment was rejected! It was not the truth, but falsehood that was wanted. Fortunately for the Southern people, there is one little record which it is impossible to obliterate. More men perished in Northern prisons, where food and medicines were abundant, than in Southern prisons, where they were deficient—and this, too, though the South held the greater number of prisoners. See report of Secretary Stanton.

 

 


[Pg 268]

CHAPTER XXI.

THE SUMTER PURSUES HER VOYAGE ACROSS THE ATLANTIC—CAPTURE AND BURNING OF THE ARCADE, VIGILANT, AND EBENEZER DODGE—A LEAKY SHIP, AND A GALE—AN ALARM OF FIRE.

 

The morning of the 26th of November dawned clear, with the wind more moderate, and a smoother sea. A ship of war being seen to windward, running down in our direction, we beat to quarters, and hoisted the U. S. colors. She was a heavy ship, but being a sailing vessel, we had nothing to fear, even if she should prove to be an enemy. Indeed, it would have been only sport for us, to fall in with one of the enemy’s old time sailing-frigates. Our agile little steamer, with her single long-range gun, could have knocked her into pie, as the printers say, before the majestic old thing could turn round. It was in the morning watch, when holystones and sand, and scrubbing-brushes and soap were the order of the hour, and we surprised the stranger, consequently, in her morning dishabille, for her rigging was filled with scrubbed hammocks, and a number of well-filled clothes-lines were stretched between her main and mizzen shrouds. She proved to be Spanish; and was steering apparently for the island of Cuba. We observed to-day in latitude 20° 7′; the longitude, as told by our faithful chronometer, being 57° 12′.

By the way, one of my amusements, now, was to wind and compare a number of chronometers, daily. The nautical instruments were almost the only things, except provisions, and clothing for the crew, that we could remove from our prizes. I never permitted any other species of property to be brought on board. We had no room for it, and could not have disposed of it, except by violating the laws of neutral nations, and converting our ship into a trader; neither one of which comported with the duties which I had in hand, viz., the rapid destruction[Pg 269] of the enemy’s commerce. I should have had no objection to receiving, on deposit, for safe keeping, any funds that I might have found on board the said prizes, but the beggarly Yankee masters never carried any. A few hundred dollars for ship’s expenses was all that was ever found, and sometimes not even this—the master having, generally, an order on his consignee, for what moneys he might need. I sometimes captured these orders, and a stray bill of exchange for a small amount, but of course I could make no use of them. The steamship has not only revolutionized commerce, and war, but exchanges. Long before the arrival of the tardy sailing-ship, at her destined port, with her ponderous cargo, the nimble mail-steamer deposits a duplicate of her invoice, and bill of lading, with the merchant to whom she is consigned; and when the ship has landed her cargo, the same, or another steamer, takes back a bill of exchange, for the payment of the freight.

The masters of my prizes frequently remonstrated against my capturing their chronometers; in some instances claiming them as their own individual property. When they would talk to me about private property, I would ask to whom their ships belonged—whether to a private person, or the Government? They at once saw the drift of the question, and there was an end of the argument. I was making war upon the enemy’s commerce—and especially upon the ship, the vehicle of commerce, and the means and appliances by which she was navigated. If her chronometers, sextants, telescopes, and charts were left in possession of the master, they would be transferred to, and used in the navigation of some other ship. The fact that these instruments belonged to other parties, than the ship-owners, could not make the least difference—ship and instruments were all private property, alike, and alike subject to capture. Silly newspaper editors have published a good deal of nonsense, mixed with a good deal of malice, on this subject. It is only their nonsense that I propose to correct—their abuse was something to be expected under the circumstances. Being dependent upon the patronage of ship-owners and ship-masters, for the prosperity of their papers, abuse of the Sumter, during the war, came as naturally to them, as whittling a stick.

[Pg 270]No prisoner of mine was ever disturbed in the possession of his strictly personal effects. Under this head were included his watch, and his jewelry, as well as his wardrobe. Every boarding-officer had orders to respect these, nor do I believe that the orders were ever violated. I will not detain the reader to contrast this conduct, with the shameful house-burnings, robberies, and pilferings, by both officers and men, that accompanied the march of the enemy’s armies, through the Southern States. It would be well for human nature, if the record made by these men, lost to every sense of manliness and shame, could be obliterated; but as the wicked deeds of men live after them, our common history, and our common race will long have to bear the disgrace of their acts.

Soon after passing the Spanish ship, sail ho! was cried from the mast-head, in a sharp, energetic voice, as though the look-out had, this time, scented real game. The chase was one of those well-known schooners, twice before described in these pages, as being unmistakable—hence the energy that had been thrown into the voice of the look-out. She soon came in sight from the deck, when we gave chase. In a couple of hours we had come up with, and hove her to, with a gun. She proved to be the Arcade, from Portland, Me., with a load of staves, bound to Guadeloupe, where she intended to exchange her staves for rum and sugar. The owner of the staves had not thought it worth while to certify, that his property was neutral, and so we had no difficulty with the papers. We had not made much of a prize. The little craft was sailed too economically to afford us even a spare barrel of provisions. The number of mouths on board were few, and the rations had been carefully adjusted to the mouths. And so, having nothing to transfer to the Sumter, except the master and crew, we applied the torch to her, in a very few minutes. The staves being well seasoned, she made a beautiful bonfire, and lighted us over the seas, some hours after dark.

During the night, the wind lulled, and became variable, and we hauled down the fore and aft sails, and brought the ship’s head to the north-east. The prize had no newspapers on board, but we learned from the master, that the great naval expedition, which the enemy had been sometime in preparing, and[Pg 271] about which there had been no little mystery, had at last struck at Port Royal, in South Carolina. An immense fleet of ships of war, with thirty-three transports, and an army of 15,000 men, had been sent to capture a couple of mud forts, armed with 24 and 32-pounders, and garrisoned with three or four hundred raw troops. Our next batch of newspapers from New York, brought us the despatches of Commodore Dupont, the commander of this expedition, exceeding in volume anything that Nelson or Collingwood had ever written. Plates, and diagrams showed how the approaches had been buoyed, and the order of battle was described, with minute prolixity. I cannot forbear giving to the reader, the names of the ships, that participated in this great naval victory, with their loss in killed and wounded, after an engagement that lasted four mortal hours. The ships were the Wabash, the Susquehanna, the Mohican, the Seminole, the Pawnee, the Unadilla, the Ottawa, the Pembina, the Isaac Smith, the Bienville, the Seneca, the Curlew, the Penguin, the Augusta, the R. B. Forbes, the Pocahontas, the Mercury, the Vandalia, and the Vixen—total 19. The killed were 8—not quite half a man apiece; and the seriously wounded 6!

November 27th.—Morning thick, with heavy clouds and rain, clearing as the day advanced. Afternoon clear, bright weather, with a deep blue sea, and the trade-wind blowing half a gale from the north-east. At six P. M., put all sail on the ship, and let the steam go down. We had already consumed half our fuel, and it became necessary to make the rest of our way to Europe under sail. Our boilers had been leaking for several days, and the engineer availed himself of the opportunity to repair them. The weather is sensibly changing in temperature. We are in latitude 22° 22′, and the thermometer has gone down to 78°—for the first time, in five months. We have crossed, to-day, the track of the homeward-bound ships, both from the Cape of Good Hope, and Cape Horn, but have seen no sail. We cannot delay to cruise in this track, as we have barely water enough, on board, to last us across the Atlantic.

November 28th.—Weather changeable, and squally—wind frequently shifting during the day, giving indications of our[Pg 272] approach to the northern limit Of the trade-wind, crossing which we shall pass into the variables.

November 29th.—Thick, ugly weather—this term ugly being very expressive in the seaman’s vocabulary. The wind is veering, as before, blowing half a gale, all the time, and a cold rain is pouring down, at intervals, causing the sailors to haul on their woollen jackets, and hunt up their long-neglected sou’westers. We observed in latitude 25° 51′ to-day; the longitude being 57° 36′.

November 30th.—The morning has dawned bright, and beautiful, with a perfectly clear sky. The boisterous wind of yesterday has disappeared, and we have nearly a calm—the sea wearing its darkest tint of azure. We are, in fact, in the calm-belt of Cancer, and having no fuel to spare, we must be content to creep through it under sail, as best we may. A sail has been reported from aloft. It is a long way off, and we forbear to chase.

December 1st.—Another beautiful, bright, morning, with a glassy sea, and a calm. This being the first of the month, the sailors are drawing their clothing, and “small stores” from the paymaster, under the supervision of the officers of the different divisions. The paymaster’s steward is the shopman, on the occasion, and he is “serving” a jacket to one, a shirt to another, and a pair of shoes to a third. His assortment is quite varied, for besides the requisite clothing, he has tobacco, and pepper, and mustard; needles, thimbles, tape, thread, and spool-cotton; ribbons, buttons, jack-knives, &c. Jack is not allowed to indulge in all these luxuries, ad lib. He is like a school-boy, under the care of his preceptor; he must have his wants approved by the officer of the division to which he belongs. To enable this officer to act understandingly, Jack spreads out his wardrobe before him, every month. If he is deficient a shirt, or a pair of trousers, he is permitted to draw them; if he has plenty, and still desires more, his extravagance is checked. These articles are all charged to him, at cost, with the addition of a small percentage, to save the Government from loss. When the monthly requisitions are all complete, they are taken to the Captain, for his approval, who occasionally runs his pencil through a third, or a fourth pound of tobacco, when[Pg 273] an inveterate old chewer, or smoker is using the weed to excess; he rarely interferes in other respects. On the present occasion, woollen garments are in demand; Jack, with a prudent forethought, preparing himself for the approaching change in the climate. Much of the clothing, which the sailor wears, is made up with his own hands. He is entirely independent of the other sex, in this respect, and soon becomes very expert with the needle.

The 3d of December brought us another prize. The wind was light from the south-east, and the stranger was standing in our direction. This was fortunate, as we might hope to capture him by stratagem, without the use of steam. The Sumter, when not under steam, and with her smoke-stack lowered, might be taken for a clumsy-looking bark. Throwing a spare sail over the lowered smoke-stack, to prevent it from betraying us, we hoisted the French flag, and stood on our course, apparently unconscious of the approaching stranger. We were running free, with the starboard studding-sails set, and when the stranger, who, by this time, had hoisted the United States colors, crossed our bows, we suddenly took in all the studding-sails, braced sharp up, tacked, and fired a gun, at the same moment. The stranger at once hauled up his courses, and backed his main-topsail. He was already under our guns. The clumsy appearance of the Sumter, and the French flag had deceived him. The prize proved to be the Vigilant, a fine new ship, from Bath, Maine, bound to the guano island of Sombrero, in the West Indies; some New Yorkers having made a lodgment on this barren little island, and being then engaged in working it for certain phosphates of lime, which they called mineral guano. We captured a rifled 9-pounder gun, with a supply of fixed ammunition, on board the Vigilant, and some small arms. We fired the ship at three P. M., and made sail on our course. The most welcome part of this capture was a large batch of New York newspapers, as late as the 21st of November. The Yankees of that ilk had heard of the blockade of the “Pirate Sumter,” by the Iroquois, but they hadn’t heard of Captain Palmer’s rueful breakfast on the morning of the 24th of November.

[Pg 274]These papers brought us a graphic description of the gallant ram exploit, of Commodore Hollins, of the Confederate Navy, at the mouth of the Mississippi, on the 12th of October. This exploit is remarkable as being the first practical application of the iron-clad ram to the purposes of war. Some ingenious steamboat-men, in New Orleans, with the consent of the Navy Department, had converted the hull of a steam-tug into an iron-clad, by means of bars of railroad iron fastened to the hull of the boat, and to a frame-work above the deck fitted to receive them; a stout iron prow being secured to the bow of the boat, several feet below the water-line. In this curious nondescript, which the enemy likened to a smoking mud-turtle, the gallant Commodore assaulted the enemy’s fleet, lying at the old anchorage of the Sumter, at the “Head of the Passes,” consisting of the Richmond, Vincennes, Preble, and Water Witch. The assault was made at four o’clock in the morning, and caused great consternation and alarm among the enemy. The Richmond, lying higher up the Pass than the other ships, was first assaulted—some of her planks being started, below the water-line, by the concussion of the ram, though the blow was broken by a coal-schooner, which, fortunately for her, was lying alongside. As the ram drew off, a broadside of the Richmond’s guns was fired into her, without effect. After this harmless broadside, the ships all got under way, in great haste, and fled down the Pass, the ram pursuing them, but Hollins was unable, from the effect of the current, and the speed of the fleeing ships, to get another blow at them. The Richmond and the Vincennes grounded, for a short time, on the bar, in their hurry to get out, but the former was soon got afloat again. In the confusion and panic of the moment, the Vincennes was abandoned by her captain, who left a slow match burning. Commodore Hollins, finding that nothing more could be accomplished, threw a few shells at the alarmed fleet, and withdrew. The Vincennes, not blowing up, and the enemy recovering from his panic, her captain was ordered to return to her, and she was finally saved with the rest of the fleet. This little experiment was the avant courier of a great change, in naval warfare—especially for harbor and coast defence. The enemy, with his abundant resources, greatly improved upon it, and his “monitor” system was the result.

[Pg 275]December 4th.—Weather clear, and becoming cool—thermometer, 76°. We have run some 140 miles to the eastward, during the last twenty-four hours, under sail, and as we are dragging our propeller through the water, I need not tell the reader what a smacking breeze we have had. It is delightful to be making so much easting, under sail, after having been buffeted so spitefully, by the east wind, for the last five months, whenever we have turned our head in that direction. Ten of the crew of the Vigilant are blacks, and as our ship is leaking so badly that the constant pumping is fagging to the crew, I have set the blacks at the pumps, with their own consent. The fact is, some of these fellows, who are runaway slaves, have already recognized “master,” and whenever I pass them, grin pleasantly, and show the whites of their eyes. They are agreeably disappointed, that they are not “drawn, hung, and quartered,” and rather enjoy the change to the Sumter, where they have plenty of time to bask in the sun, and the greasiest of pork and beans without stint. In arranging the Vigilant’s crew into messes, a white bean and a black bean have been placed, side by side, at the mess-cloth, my first lieutenant naturally concluding, that the white sailors of the Yankee ship would like to be near their colored brethren. Cæsar and Pompey, having an eye to fun, enjoy this arrangement hugely, and my own crew are not a little amused, as the boatswain pipes to dinner, to see the gravity with which the darkies take their seats by the side of their white comrades. This was the only mark of “citizenship,” however, which I bestowed upon these sons of Ham. I never regarded them as prisoners of war—always discharging them, when the other prisoners were discharged, without putting them under parole.

December 5th.—Weather thick and ugly—the wind hauling to the north, and blowing very fresh for a while. Reefed the topsails. At noon, the weather was so thick, that no observations could be had for fixing the position of the ship—latitude, by dead reckoning, 30° 19′; longitude 53° 02′. During the afternoon and night, it blew a gale from N. E. to E. N. E. Furled the mainsail, and set the reefed trysail instead; and the wind still increasing, before morning we hauled up and furled the foresail. For the next two or three days, we had a series of [Pg 276]easterly gales, compelling me to run somewhat farther north than I had intended. We carried very short sail, and most of the time we were shut down below—that is, such of the crew as were not on watch—with tarpaulin-covered hatches, and a cold, driving rain falling almost incessantly. What with the howling of the gale, as it tears through the rigging, the rolling and pitching of the ship, in the confused, irregular sea, and the jog, jog, jog of the pumps, through half the night, I have had but little rest.

December 8th.—This is an anniversary with me. On this day, fifteen years ago, the United States brig-of-war Somers, of which I was the commander, was capsized and sunk, off Vera Cruz, having half her crew, of 120 officers and men, drowned. It occurred during the Mexican war. I was left alone to blockade the port of Vera Cruz—Commodore Connor, the commander of the squadron, having gone with his other ships on an expedition to Tampico. There being every appearance of a norther on that eventful morning, I was still at my anchors, under Isla Verde, or Green Island, where I had sought refuge the preceding night. Suddenly a sail was reported, running down the northern coast, as though she would force the blockade. It would never do to permit this; and so the little Somers—these ten-gun brigs were called coffins in that day—was gotten under way, and under her topsails and courses, commenced beating up the coast, to intercept the stranger. I had gone below, for a moment, when the officer of the deck, coming to the companion-way, called to me, and said that “the water looked black and roughened ahead, as though more wind than usual was coming.” I sprang upon deck, and saw, at the first glance, that a norther was upon us. I immediately ordered everything clewed down and brailed up, but before the order could be executed, the gale came sweeping on with the fury of a whirlwind, and in less time than I have been describing the event, the little craft was thrown on her beam-ends, her masts and sails lying flat upon the surface of the sea, and the water pouring in at every hatchway and scuttle. I clambered to the weather side of the ship, and seeing that she must go down in a few minutes, set my first lieutenant at work to extricate the only boat that was available—the weather-quarter boat, all[Pg 277] the others being submerged—from her fastenings, to save as much life as possible. This was fortunately done, and the boat being put in charge of a midshipman, the non-combatant officers, as the surgeon and paymaster; the midshipmen, and such of the boys of the ship as could not swim, were permitted to get into her. So perfect was the discipline, though death, within the next ten minutes, stared every man in the face, that there was no rush for this boat. A large man was even ordered out of her, to make room for two lads, who could not swim, and he obeyed the order as a matter of course! This boat having shoved off from the sinking ship, the order was given, “Every man save himself, who can!” whereupon there was a simultaneous plunge into the now raging sea, of a hundred men and more, each struggling for his life. The ship sank out of sight in a moment afterward. We were in twenty fathoms of water. Divesting myself of all my clothing, except my shirt and drawers, I plunged into the sea with the rest, and, being a good swimmer, struck out for and reached a piece of grating, which had floated away from the ship as she went down. Swimming along, with one arm resting on this grating, I felt one of my feet touch something, and, at the same moment, heard a voice exclaiming, “It is I, Captain; it is Parker, the second lieutenant—give me a part of your grating, I am a good swimmer, and we shall get along the better together.” I, accordingly, shared my grating with Parker, and we both struck out, manfully, for the shore, distant no more than about a mile; but, unfortunately, the now raging gale was sweeping down parallel with the coast, and we were compelled to swim at right angles with the waves and the wind, if we would save ourselves; for once swept past the coast of the island, and the open sea lay before us, whence there was no rescue!

As we would rise upon the top of a wave, and get a view of the “promised land,” the reader may imagine how anxious our consultations were, as to whether we were gaining, or losing ground! In the meantime, the boat, which had shoved off from the ship, as described, had reached the island, half-swamped, and discharging her passengers, and freeing herself from water as soon as possible, pushed out again into the raging caldron of waters, under the gallant midshipman, who[Pg 278] had charge of her, in the endeavor to rescue some of the drowning crew. She came, by the merest accident, upon Parker and myself! We were hauled into her more dead than alive, and after she had picked up two, or three others—all that could now be seen—she again returned to the shore. My first lieutenant, Mr. G. L. Claiborne, was saved, as by a miracle, being dashed on shore—he having struck out, in the opposite direction, for the mainland—between two ledges of rock, separated only by a span of sand beach. If he had been driven upon the rocks, instead of the beach, he must have been instantly dashed in pieces. The reader will, perhaps, pardon me, for having remembered these eventful scenes of my life, as I wrote in my journal, on board the leaky little Sumter, amid the howling of another gale, theeighth day of December.”

On this eighth day of December, 1861, however, the record is very different, it being as follows: “At ten A. M. descried a sail from the deck, startlingly close to; so thick has been the weather. The stranger being a bark, taunt-rigged, with sky-sail poles, and under top-sails, we mistook him at first for a cruiser, and raised our smoke-stack, and started the fires in the furnaces. Having done this, we approached him somewhat cautiously, keeping the weather-gauge of him, and showed him the United States colors. He soon hoisted the same. Getting a nearer view of him, we now discovered him to be a whaler. The engineer at once discontinued his “firing up,” and the smoke-stack was again lowered, to its accustomed place. Upon being boarded, the bark proved to be the Eben. Dodge, twelve days out, from New Bedford, and bound on a whaling voyage to the Pacific Ocean. She had experienced a heavy gale, had sprung some of her spars, and was leaking badly—hence the easy sail she had been under. Although the sea was still very rough, and the weather lowering, we got on board from the prize, some water, and provisions, clothing, and small stores. The supply of pea-jackets, whalers’ boots, and flannel over-shirts, which our paymaster had been unable to procure in the West Indies, was particularly acceptable to us, battling, as we now were, with the gales of the North Atlantic, in the month of December. We brought[Pg 279] away from her, also, two of her fine whale-boats, so valuable in rough weather; making room for them on deck, by the side of the Sumter’s launch. The crew of the Dodge, consisting of twenty-two persons, made a considerable addition to our small community. We fired the prize at half-past six, P. M., as the shades of evening were closing in, and made sail on our course. The flames burned red and lurid in the murky atmosphere, like some Jack-o’-lantern; now appearing, and now disappearing, as the doomed ship rose upon the top, or descended into the abyss of the waves.

Having now forty-three prisoners on board, and there never being, at one time, so many of the Sumter’s crew on watch, it became necessary for me to think of precautions. It would be easy for forty-three courageous men, to rise upon a smaller number, sleeping carelessly about the decks, and wrest from them the command of the ship. Hitherto I had given the prisoners the run of the ship, putting no more restrictions upon them, than upon my own men, but this could no longer be. I therefore directed my first lieutenant to put one-half of the prisoners in single irons—that is, with manacles on the wrists only—alternately, for twenty-four hours at a time. The prisoners, themselves, seeing the necessity of this precaution, submitted cheerfully to the restraint—for as such only they viewed it—and not as an indignity.

We received another supply of late newspapers, by the Dodge. They were still filled with jubilations over Dupont’s great naval victory. We learned, too, that New England had been keeping, with more than usual piety and pomp, the great National festival of “Thanksgiving,” which the Puritan has substituted for the Christian Christmas. The pulpit thundered war and glory, the press dilated upon the wealth and resources of the Universal Yankee Nation, and hecatombs of fat pigs and turkeys fed the hungry multitudes—pulpit, press, pig, and turkey, all thanking God, that the Puritan is “not like unto other men.”

December 10th.—The weather remains still unsettled. The wind, during the last five or six days, has gone twice around the compass, never stopping in the west, but lingering in the east. The barometer has been in a constant state of fluctuation, and there will, doubtless, be a grand climax before the[Pg 280] atmosphere regains its equilibrium. These easterly winds are retarding our passage very much, and taxing our patience. Observed, to-day, in latitude 32° 39′; the longitude being 49° 57′.

The next day, the weather culminated, sure enough, in a gale. The barometer began to settle, in the morning watch, and dense black clouds, looking ragged and windy, soon obscured the sun, and spread an ominous pall over the entire heavens. I at once put the ship under easy sail; that is to say, clewed up everything but the topsails and trysails, and awaited the further progress of the storm. The wind was as yet light, but the barometer, which had stood at 29° 70′ at eight o’clock, had fallen to 29° 59′ by two P. M. The dense canopy of clouds now settled lower and lower, circumscribing more and more our horizon, and presently fitful gusts of wind would strike the sails, pressing the ship over a little. It was time to reef. All hands were turned up, and the close reefs were taken, both in topsails and trysails; the jib hauled down and stowed, and the top-gallant yards sent down from aloft. The squalls increasing in frequency and force, the gale became fully developed by three P. M. The wind, which we first took from about E. S. E., backed to the N. E., but did not remain long in that quarter, returning to east. It now began to blow furiously from this latter quarter, the squalls being accompanied by a driving, blinding rain; the barometer going down, ominously down, all the while.

As the night closed in, an awful scene presented itself. The aspect of the heavens was terrific. The black clouds overhead were advancing and retreating like squadrons of opposing armies, whilst loud peals of thunder, and blinding flashes of lightning that would now and then run down the conductor, and hiss as they leaped into the sea, added to the elemental strife. A streaming scud, which you could almost touch with your hand, was meanwhile hurrying past, screeching and screaming, like so many demons, as it rushed through the rigging. The sea was mountainous, and would now and then strike the little Sumter with such force as to make her tremble in every fibre of her frame. I had remained on deck during most of the first watch, looking anxiously on, to see what sort of weather we were going to make. The ship[Pg 281] behaved nobly, but I had no confidence in her strength. Her upper works, in particular, were very defective. Her bends, above the main deck, were composed of light pine stanchions and inch plank, somewhat strengthened in the bows. Seeing the fury of the gale, and that the barometer was still settling, I went below about midnight, and turned in to get a little rest, with many misgivings. I had scarcely fallen into an uneasy slumber, when an old quartermaster, looking himself like the demon of the storm, with his dishevelled hair and beard dripping water, and his eyes blinking in the light of his lantern, shook my cot, and said, “We’ve stove in the starboard bow-port, sir, and the gun-deck is all afloat with water!” Here was what I had feared; unless we could keep the water out of the between-decks, all the upper works, and the masts along with them, would be gone in a trice. I hurried at once to the scene of disaster, but before I could reach it, my energetic and skilful first lieutenant had already, by the aid of some planks and spare spars, erected a barricade that would be likely to answer our purpose.

The gale lulled somewhat in an hour or two afterward, and I now got some sleep. I was on deck again, however, at daylight. The same thick gloom overspread the heavens, the scud was flying as furiously, and as low as before, and the gale was raging as fiercely as ever. But we had one great comfort, and that was daylight. We could see the ship and the heavens—there was nothing else visible—and this alone divested the gale of half its terrors. At last, at six A. M., the barometer reached its lowest point, 29.32, which, in the latitude we were in, was a very low barometer. Any one who has watched a barometer under similar circumstances, will understand the satisfaction with which I saw the little tell-tale begin to rise. It whispered to me as intelligibly as if it had been a living thing, “the gale is broken!” We had been lying to, all this time, under a close-reefed main-topsail. We now bore up under a reefed foresail, and kept the ship on her course, east by south. She scudded as beautifully as she had lain to, darting ahead like an arrow, on the tops of the huge waves that followed her like so many hungry wolves, and shaking the foam and spray from her bows, as if in disdain and contempt of the lately howling storm.

[Pg 282]December 13th.—Weather clear, with passing clouds. Wind fresh from the south-west, but abating, with a rapidly rising barometer. The cyclone, for such evidently the late gale was, had a diameter of from three hundred and fifty to four hundred miles. We took it in its northern hemisphere—the gale travelling north. Hence it passed over us in nearly its entire diameter—the vortex at no great distance from us. Observed in latitude 33° 28′; the longitude being 47° 03′. Repairing damages. The ship leaks so badly as to require to be pumped out twice in each watch. During the heaviest of the gale, the masters and mates of the captured ships offered their services, like gallant men, to assist in taking care of the ship. We thanked them, but were sufficiently strong-handed ourselves.

December 14th.—We had an alarm of fire on the berth deck last night. The fire-bell, sounded suddenly in a sleeping city, has a startling effect upon the aroused sleepers, but he who has not heard it, can have no conception of the knell-like sound of the cry of fire! shouted from the lungs of an alarmed sailor on board a ship, hundreds of miles away from any land. It is the suddenness with which the idea of danger presents itself, quite as much as the extent of the danger, which intimidates. Hence the panics which often ensue, when a ship is discovered to be on fire. Ships of war, as a rule, are not the subjects of panics. Discipline keeps all the passions and emotions under control, as well those which arise from fear, as from lawlessness. We had no panic on board the Sumter, although appearances were sufficiently alarming for a few moments. A smoke was suddenly seen arising through one of the ventilators forward, in the dead hour of the night, when except the sentry’s lantern and the lamp in the binnacle, there should be no other fire in the ship. The midshipman of the watch, upon rushing below, found one of the prisoners’ mattresses on fire. The flames were soon smothered, and the whole danger was over before the ship’s crew were fairly aroused. Some prisoner, in violation of orders, had lighted his pipe for a smoke, after hours, and probably gone to sleep with it in his mouth. The prisoner could not be identified, but there were two sentinels on post, and these in due time paid the penalty of their neglect.

 

 


[Pg 283]

CHAPTER XXII.

VOYAGE ACROSS THE ATLANTIC PURSUED—CHRISTMAS-DAY ON BOARD THE SUMTER—CAPE FLY-AWAY, AND THE CURIOUS ILLUSION PRODUCED BY IT—THE SUMTER PASSES FROM THE DESERT PARTS OF THE SEA, INTO A TRACT OF COMMERCE ONCE MORE—BOARDS A LARGE FLEET OF SHIPS IN ONE DAY, BUT FINDS NO ENEMY AMONG THEM—ARRIVAL AT CADIZ.

 

The punishment administered to the two delinquent sentinels mentioned in the last chapter, had the most salutary effect. Seamen are very much like children, requiring the reins to be tightened upon them from time to time. I made it a rule on board the Sumter, that punishment should follow the offence, with promptitude, and certainty, rather than severity; and this excellent rule had already performed marvels, in the matter of disciplining my ship.

Sunday, December 15th.—A fine bright morning, with a moderate breeze from the north-west, and the weather just cool enough to be delightfully bracing. We mustered the crew this morning, and read the articles of war for the first time in three weeks, owing to the bad weather. I did not inspect the ship below, according to custom, the sea being still rough, and the water ankle-deep on the gun-deck in consequence. Our new prisoners always looked upon the muster ceremonies on board the Sumter, with curiosity, as though they were surprised to find so much order and discipline, and so much attention to dress and ceremony, on board the “pirate” of which they had read, and whose “cut” they had so often admired, in their truth-loving and truth-telling newspapers. The latitude, to-day, is 34°, and the longitude 42° 05′.

We were quite surprised to find so much bad weather in[Pg 284] the parallel, on which we were crossing the Atlantic. I had purposely chosen this parallel, that my little cock-boat of a ship might not be knocked in pieces, by the storms of the North Atlantic, and yet the reader has seen how roughly we have been handled. Nor were the fates more propitious for the next few days. Gale followed gale, with angry skies, and cloud and rain; there sometimes being lightning around the entire horizon, with now rolling, now crashing thunder. I had intended when I left the West Indies to touch at Fayal, in the Azores, for coal and water, but I found these islands so guarded and defended, by the Genius of the storm, that it would require several days of patience and toil, to enable me to reach an anchorage in one of them. I therefore determined to pass them, and haul up for the southern coast of Spain, running finally into Cadiz.

Christmas day was passed by us on the lonely sea, in as doleful a manner as can well be conceived. The weather is thus described in my journal. “Thermometer 63°; barometer 29.80. Heavy rain squalls—weather dirty, with lightning all around the horizon, indicating a change of wind at any moment. Under short sail during the night.” The only other record of the day was that we “spliced the main brace;” that is, gave Jack an extra glass of grog. Groups of idle sailors lay about the decks, “overhauling a range of their memories;” how they had spent the last Christmas-day, in some “Wapping,” or “Wide Water street,” with the brimming goblet in hand, and the merry music of the dance sounding in their ears. Nor were the memories of the officers idle. They clasped in fancy their loved ones, now sad and lonely, to their bosoms once more, and listened to the prattle of the little ones they had left behind. Not the least curious of the changes that had taken place since the last Christmas day, was the change in their own official positions. They were, most of them, on that day, afloat under the “old flag.” That flag now looked to them strange and foreign. They had some of their own countrymen on board; not, as of yore, as welcome visitors, but as prisoners. These, too, wore a changed aspect—enemy, instead of friend, being written upon their faces. The two “rival nations,” spoken of by De Tocqueville, stood face to face. Nature is[Pg 285] stronger than man. She will not permit her laws to be violated with impunity, and if this war does not separate these two nations, other wars will. If we succeed in preserving the principle of State sovereignty—the only principle which can save this whole country, North and South, from utter wreck and ruin—all will be well, whatever combinations of particular States may be made, from time to time. The States being free, liberty will be saved, and they will gravitate naturally, like unto like—the Puritan clinging to the Puritan, and the Cavalier to the Cavalier. But if this principle be overthrown, if the mad idea be carried out, that all the American people must be moulded into a common mass, and form one consolidated government, under the rule of a majority—for no constitution will then restrain them—Constitutional liberty will disappear, and no man can predict the future—except in so far, that it is impossible for the Puritan, and the Cavalier to live together in peace.

On the next day, we witnessed a curious natural illusion. The look-out called land ho! from the mast-head. The officer of the watch saw the land at the same time from the deck, and sent a midshipman below to inform me that we had made “high land, right ahead.” I came at once upon deck, and there, sure enough, was the land—a beautiful island, with its blue mountains, its plains, its wood-lands, its coast, all perfect. It was afternoon. The weather had been stormy, but had partially cleared. The sun was near his setting, and threw his departing rays full upon the newly discovered island, hanging over it, as a symbol that, for a time, there was to be a truce with the storm, a magnificent rainbow. So beautiful was the scene, and so perfect the illusion—there being no land within a couple of hundred miles of us—that all the crew had come on deck to witness it; and there was not one of them who would not have bet a month’s pay that what he looked upon was a reality.

The chief engineer was standing by me looking upon the supposed landscape, with perfect rapture. Lowering the telescope through which I had been viewing it, I said to him, “You see, now, Mr. F., how often men are deceived. You would no doubt swear that that is land.” “Why should I not,[Pg 286] sir?” said he. “Simply,” rejoined I, “because it is Cape Fly-away.” He turned and looked at me with astonishment, as though I were quizzing him, and said, “You surely do not mean to say, Captain, that that is not land; it is not possible that one’s senses can be so much deceived.” “Like yourself, I should have sworn it was land, if I did not know, from the position of the ship, that there is no land within a couple of hundred miles of us.” Reaching out his hand for my glass, I gave it to him, and as he viewed the island through it, I was much amused at his ejaculations of admiration, now at this beauty, and now at that. “Why,” said he, “there is the very coast, sand beach and all, with beautiful bays and indentations, as though inviting the Sumter to run in and anchor.” As the sun sank lower and lower, withdrawing now one ray, and now another, first the rainbow began to disappear, and then the lower strata of the island to grow a little gray, and then the upper, until, as the sun dipped, the whole gorgeous fabric, of mountain, woodland, plain, and coast, was converted into a leaden-colored cloud-bank. The engineer handing me my glass, said, “Captain, I will be a cautious witness hereafter, in a court of justice, when I am questioned as to a fact, which has only been revealed to me through a single sense.” “I see,” I replied, “that you are becoming a philosopher. Many metaphysicians have maintained that all nature is a mere phantasmagoria, so far as our senses are capable of informing us.”

For the last two weeks, we had been crossing a desert tract of the ocean, where a sail is seldom seen. We now began to approach one of the beaten highways, over which a constant stream of travel is passing—the road leading from the various ports of Europe to the equator and the coast of Brazil, and thence east and west, as may be the destination of the wayfarer.

December 28th.—A fine, bright day, with the wind light from the south-west. At daylight, “Sail ho!” came ringing from the mast-head. The sail crossing our bows, we took in our studding-sails, hauled up south-east, to intercept her, and got up steam. Our latitude being 35° 17′, and longitude 20° 53′, we were within striking distance of Cadiz or Gibraltar, and could afford now to use a little steam. The chase did[Pg 287] not reward us, however, as she proved to be English—being the ship Richibucto, from Liverpool, for Vera Cruz, laden with salt. We received from her some English newspapers, which gave us several items of interesting intelligence. All England was in mourning for the death of Prince Albert. The Trent affair was causing great excitement, and the Confederate States steamer Nashville, Captain Pegram, had arrived at Southampton, having burned a large Yankee ship, the Harvey Birch. This ship having been burned in the English Channel, much attention was attracted to the act; especially as the ship was tea-laden, and supposed to be worth near half a million of dollars.

The next day was rainy, with a light wind from the south-east. Only two sails were seen, and to neither of them did we give chase; but on the morning of the 30th of December, we fell in with a perfect stream of ships. “Sail ho!” was shouted at daylight from the mast-head, and repeated at short intervals, until as many as twenty-five were reported. We at once got up steam, and commenced chasing; but though we chased diligently, one ship after another, from eight o’clock in the morning until four in the afternoon, we did not overhaul a single ship of the enemy! We actually boarded sixteen sail, a number of others showing us their colors. The ships boarded were of the following nationalities:—Four Dutch, seven English, two French, one Swedish, one Prussian, one Hamburg. Here was quite a representation of the nations of Europe, and I amused myself taking the vote of these ships, according to our American fashion, upon the war. Their sentiments were elicited as follows:—I would first show them the United States colors, pretending to be a Federal cruiser; I would then haul down these colors, and show them the Confederate flag. The result was that but one ship—the Prussian—saluted the United States flag, and that all the other ships, with one or two exceptions, saluted the Confederate States flag. We were then beating the enemy, and the nations of the earth were worshipping success.

So large a fleet of ships—not being a convoy—so far out at sea, was quite a curiosity, and may serve to show the landsman how accurately we have mapped out, upon the ocean, the[Pg 288] principal highways of commerce. There were no mile-posts on the road these ships were travelling, it is true, but the road was none the less “blazed” out, for all that—the blazes being on the wind and current charts. The night succeeding this busy day set in cloudy and ugly, with a fresh breeze blowing from the eastward; and so continuous was the stream of ships, all sailing in the contrary direction from ourselves, that we had serious apprehensions of being run over. To guard against this, we set our side-lights, and stationed extra look-outs. Several ships passed us during the night, hurrying forward on the wings of the wind, at a rapid rate, and sometimes coming so close, in the darkness, as almost to make one’s hair stand on end. The next morning the weather became clear and beautiful, and the stream of ships had ceased.

The reader may be curious to know the explanation of this current of ships. It is simple enough. They were all Mediterranean ships. At the strait of Gibraltar there is a constant current setting into the Mediterranean. This current is of considerable strength, and the consequence is, that when the wind also sets into the strait—that is to say, when it is from the westward—it is impossible for a sailing-ship to get out of the strait into the Atlantic. She is obliged to come to anchor in the bay of Gibraltar, and wait for a change of wind. This is sometimes a long time in coming—the westerly winds continuing here, not unfrequently, two and three weeks at a time. As a matter of course, a large number of ships collect in the bay, waiting for an opportunity of exit. I have seen as many as a hundred sail at one time. In a few hours after a change of wind takes place, this immense fleet will all be under way, and such of them as are bound to the equator and the coast of Brazil, the United States, West Indies, and South America, will be found travelling the blazed road of which I have spoken; some taking the forks of the road, at their respective branching-off places, and others keeping the main track to the equator. Hence the exodus the reader has witnessed.

Perhaps the reader needs another explanation—how it was, that amid all that fleet of ships, there was not one Yankee. This explanation is almost as easy as the other. Commerce[Pg 289] is a sensitive plant, and at the rude touch of war it had contracted its branches. The enemy was fast losing his Mediterranean trade, under the operation of high premiums for war risks.

We began now to observe a notable change in the weather, as affected by the winds. Along the entire length of the American coast, the clear winds are the west winds, the rain-winds being the east winds. Here the rule is reversed; the west winds bringing us rains, and the east winds clear weather. The reason is quite obvious. The east winds, sweeping over the continent of Europe, have nearly all of their moisture wrung out of them before they reach the sea; hence the dryness of these winds, when they salute the mariner cruising along the European coasts. Starting now from the European seas as dry winds, they traverse a large extent of water before they reach the coasts of the United States. During the whole of this travel, these thirsty winds are drinking their fill from the sea, and by the time they reach Portland or Boston, they are heavily laden with moisture, which they now begin to let down again upon the land. Hence, those long, gloomy, rainy, rheumatic, easterly storms, that prevail along our coast in the fall and winter months. The reader has now only to take up the west wind, as it leaves the Pacific Ocean, as a wet wind, and follow it across the American continent, and see how dry the mountains wring it before it reaches the Atlantic, to see why it should bring us fair weather. The change was very curious to us at first, until we became a little used to it.

Another change was quite remarkable, and that was the great difference in temperature which we experienced with reference to latitude. Here we were, in midwinter, or near it, off the south coast of Spain, in latitude 36°, nearly that of Cape Henry at the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay, and unless the weather was wet, we had not felt the necessity of a pea-jacket. Whence this difference? The cause, or causes, whatever they are, must, of course, be local; for other things being equal, the heat should be the same, on the same parallel of latitude, all around the globe which we inhabit. Captain Matthew F. Maury, of the late Confederate States’ Navy, to whom all nations accord, as by common consent, the title of Philosopher[Pg 290] of the Seas, accounts for this difference of temperature in the following manner: “Modern ingenuity has suggested a beautiful mode of warming houses in winter. It is done by means of hot water. The furnace and the caldron are sometimes placed at a distance from the apartment to be warmed. It is so at the Observatory. In this case, pipes are used to conduct the heated water from the caldron under the Superintendent’s dwelling, over into one of the basement rooms of the Observatory, a distance of one hundred feet. These pipes are then flared out, so as to present a large cooling surface; after which they are united into one again, through which the water, being now cooled, returns of its own accord to the caldron. Thus, cool water is returning all the time, and flowing in at the bottom of the caldron, while hot water is continually flowing out at the top. The ventilation of the Observatory is so arranged that the circulation of the atmosphere through it is led from this basement room, where the pipes are, to all parts of the building; and in the process of this circulation, the warmth conveyed by the water to the basement, is taken thence by the air; and distributed all over the rooms.

“Now, to compare small things with great, we have, in the warm waters which are confined in the Gulf of Mexico, just such a heating apparatus for Great Britain, the North Atlantic, and Western Europe. The furnace is the torrid zone; the Mexican Gulf and Caribbean Sea are the caldrons; the Gulf Stream is the conducting-pipe. From the Grand Banks of New Foundland to the shores of Europe is the basement—the hot-air chambers—in which this pipe is flared out so as to present a large cooling surface. Here the circulation of the atmosphere is arranged by nature, and it is such that the warmth conveyed into this warm-air chamber of mid-ocean is taken up by the genial west winds, and dispensed in the most benign manner, throughout Great Britain and the west of Europe. The maximum temperature of the water-heated air-chamber of the Observatory, is about 90°. The maximum temperature of the Gulf Stream is 86°, or about 9° in excess of the ocean temperature due the latitude. Increasing its latitude, 10°, it loses but 2° of temperature; and after having run three thousand miles toward the north, it still preserves, even in winter, the heat of summer.

[Pg 291]“With this temperature it crosses the 40th degree of North latitude, and there, overflowing its liquid banks, it spreads itself out for thousands of square leagues over the cold waters around, and covers the ocean with a mantle of warmth that serves so much to mitigate in Europe, the rigors of winter. Moving now slowly, but dispensing its genial influences more freely, it finally meets the British Islands. By these it is divided, one part going into the polar basin of Spitzbergen, the other entering the Bay of Biscay, but each with a warmth considerably above the ocean temperature. Such an immense volume of heated water cannot fail to carry with it beyond the seas a mild and moist atmosphere. And this it is which so much softens climates there. We know not, except approximately in one or two places, what the depth or the under temperature of the Gulf Stream may be; but assuming the temperature and velocity, at the depth of two hundred fathoms to be those of the surface, and taking the well-known difference between the capacity of air, and of water for specific heat as the argument, a simple calculation will show that the quantity of heat discharged over the Atlantic from the waters of the Gulf Stream in a winter’s day would be sufficient to raise the whole column of atmosphere that rests upon France, and the British Islands from the freezing-point to summer heat. Every west wind that blows, crosses the stream on its way to Europe, and carries with it a portion of this heat to temper there the northern winds of winter. It is the influence of this stream upon climates, that makes Erin the ‘Emerald Isle of the Sea,’ and that clothes the shores of Albion in evergreen robes; while in the same latitude on this side, the coasts of Labrador are fast bound in fetters of ice.”

To pursue Captain Maury’s theory a little farther: the flow of tepid waters does not cease at the Bay of Biscay, but continues along the coasts of Spain and Portugal, thence along the coast of Africa, past Madeira and the Canaries, to the Cape de Verdes; where it joins the great equatorial current flowing westward, with which it returns again into the Gulf of Mexico. The Sumter, being between Madeira and the coast of Spain, was within its influence. One word before I part with my friend Maury. In common with thousands of mariners all[Pg 292] over the world, I owe him a debt of gratitude, for his gigantic labors in the scientific fields of our profession; for the sailor may claim the philosophy of the seas as a part of his profession. A knowledge of the winds and the waves, and the laws which govern their motions is as necessary to the seaman as is the art of handling his ship, and to no man so much as to Maury is he indebted for a knowledge of these laws. Other distinguished co-laborers, as Reid, Redfield, Espy, have contributed to the science, but none in so eminent a degree. They dealt in specialties—as, for instance, the storm—but he has grasped the whole science of meteorology—dealing as well in the meteorology of the water, if I may use the expression, as in that of the atmosphere.

A Tennesseean by birth, he did not hesitate when the hour came, “that tried men’s souls.” Poor, and with a large family, he gave up the comfortable position of Superintendent of the National Observatory, which he held under the Federal Government, and cast his fortunes with the people of his State. He had not the courage to be a traitor, and sell himself for gold. The State of Tennessee gave him birth; she carried him into the Federal Union, and she brought him out of it. Scarcely any man who withdrew from the old service has been so vindictively, and furiously assailed as Maury. The nationalists of the North,—and I mean by nationalists, the whole body of the Northern people, who ignored the rights of the States, and claimed that the Federal Government was paramount,—had taken especial pride in Maury and his labors. He, as well as the country at large, belonged to them. They petted and caressed him, and pitted him against the philosophers of the world, with true Yankee conceit. They had the biggest country, and the cleverest men in the world, and Maury was one of these.

But Maury, resisting all these blandishments, showed, to their horror, when the hour of trial came, that he was a Southern gentleman, and not a Puritan. The change of sentiment was instantaneous and ludicrous. Their self-conceit had received an awful blow, and there is no wound so damaging as that which has been given to self-conceit. Almost everything else may be forgiven, but this never can. Maury became[Pg 293] at once a “rebel” and a “traitor,” and everything else that was vile. He was not even a philosopher any longer, but a humbug and a cheat. In science, as in other pursuits, there are rivalries and jealousies. The writer of these pages, having been stationed at the seat of the Federal Government for a year or two preceding the war, was witness of some of the rivalries and jealousies of Maury, on the part of certain small philosophers, who thought the world had not done justice to themselves. These now opened upon the dethroned monarch of the seas, as live asses will kick at dead lions, and there was no end to the partisan abuse that was heaped upon the late Chief of the National Observatory.

Maury had been a Federal naval officer, as well as philosopher, and some of his late confrères of the Federal service, who, in former years, had picked up intellectual crumbs from the table of the philosopher, and were content to move in orbits at a very respectful distance from him; now, raised by capricious fortune to place, joined in the malignant outcry against him. Philosopher of the Seas! Thou mayest afford to smile at these vain attempts to humble thee. Science, which can never be appreciated by small natures, has no nationality. Thou art a citizen of the world, and thy historic fame does not depend upon the vile traducers of whom I have spoken. These creatures, in the course of a few short years, will rot in unknown graves; thy fame will be immortal! Thou hast revealed to us the secrets of the depths of the ocean, traced its currents, discoursed to us of its storms and its calms, and taught us which of its roads to travel, and which to avoid. Every mariner, for countless ages to come, as he takes down his chart, to shape his course across the seas, will think of thee! He will think of thee as he casts his lead into the deep sea; he will think of thee, as he draws a bucket of water from it, to examine its animalculæ; he will think of thee as he sees the storm gathering thick and ominous; he will think of thee as he approaches the calm-belts, and especially the calm-belt of the equator, with its mysterious cloud-ring; he will think of thee as he is scudding before the “brave west winds” of the Southern hemisphere; in short, there is no phenomenon of the sea that will not recall to him thine image.[Pg 294] This is the living monument which thou hast constructed for thyself; and which all the rage of the Puritan cannot shake.

December 31st.—The last day of the year, as though it would atone to us for some of the bad weather its previous days had given us, is charming. There is not a cloud, as big as a man’s hat, anywhere to be seen, and the air is so elastic that it is a positive pleasure to breathe it. The temperature is just cool enough to be comfortable, though the wind is from the north. At daylight, a couple of sail were reported from aloft, but, as they were at a great distance, and out of our course, we did not chase. Indeed, we have become quite discouraged since our experience of yesterday. A third sail was seen at noon, also at a great distance. These are probably the laggards of the great Mediterranean wind-bound fleet. We observed, to-day, in latitude 35° 22′; the longitude being 16° 27′. It becoming quite calm at eight P. M., I put the ship under steam; being about 490 miles from Cadiz.

January 1st, 1862.—Nearly calm; wind light from the south-west, and sky partially overcast. The sea is smooth, and we are making nine knots, the hour. We made an excellent run during the past night, and are approaching the Spanish coast very rapidly. Nothing seen during the day. At nine P. M. a sail passed us, a gleam of whose light we caught for a moment in the darkness. The light being lost almost as soon as seen, we did not attempt to chase. Latitude 35° 53′; longitude 13° 14′.

On the next day we overhauled a French, and a Spanish ship. It had been my intention, when leaving Martinique, to cruise a few days off Cadiz, before entering the port, and for this purpose I had reserved a three days’ supply of fuel; but, unfortunately, the day before our arrival we took another gale of wind, which shook us so severely, that the ship’s leak increased very rapidly; the engineer reporting that it was as much as he could do to keep her free, with the bilge pumps, under short steam. The leak was evidently through the sleeve of the propeller, and was becoming alarming. I therefore abandoned the idea of cruising, and ran directly for the land. Night set in before anything could be seen, but having every confidence in my chronometers, I ran without any hesitation[Pg 295] for the Light, although we had been forty-one days at sea, without testing our instruments by a sight of land. We made the light—a fine Fresnel, with a red flash—during the mid-watch, and soon afterward got soundings. We now slowed down the engine, and ran in by the lead, until we judged ourselves four or five miles distant from the light, when we hove to. The next morning revealed Cadiz, fraught with so many ancient, and modern memories, in all its glory, though the weather was gloomy and the clouds dripping rain.

“Fair Cadiz, rising o’er the dark blue sea!”

as Byron calls thee, thou art indeed lovely! with thy white Moresque-looking houses, and gayly curtained balconies, thy church-domes which carry us back in architecture a thousand years, and thy harbor thronged with shipping. Once the Gades of the Phœnician, now the Cadiz of the nineteenth century, thou art perhaps the only living city that can run thy record back so far into the past.

We fired a gun, and hoisted a jack for a pilot, and one boarding us soon afterward, we steamed into the harbor. The Confederate States’ flag was flying from our peak, and we could see that there were many curious telescopes turned upon us, as we passed successively the forts and the different quays lined with shipping. As the harbor opened upon us, a magnificent spectacle presented itself. On our left was the somewhat distant coast of Andalusia, whose name is synonymous with all that is lovely in scenery, or beautiful in woman. One almost fancies as he looks upon it, that he hears the amorous tinkle of the guitar, and inhales the fragrance of the orange grove. Seville is its chief city, and who has not read the couplet,

Quien no ha visto Sevilla
No ha visto maravilla
,”

which may be rendered into the vernacular thus:

“He who hath not Seville seen,
Hath not seen wonders, I ween.”

The landscape, still green in mid-winter, was dotted with villas and villages, all white, contrasting prettily with the groves in which they were embowered. Casting the eye forward, it[Pg 296] rested upon the picturesque hills of the far-famed wine district of Xeres, with its vineyards, wine-presses, and pack-mules. Some famous old wine estates were pointed out to us by the pilot.

We ran through a fleet of shipping before reaching our anchorage off the main quay, the latter lined on both sides with market-boats; and as much more shipping lay beyond us. I was, indeed, quite surprised to find the harbor, which is spacious, so thronged. It spoke well for the reviving industry of Spain. With a little fancy one might imagine her still the mistress of the “Indies,” and that these were her galleons come to pour the mineral treasures of half a world in her lap. All nations were represented, though the Spanish flag predominated. Wearing this flag there were many fine specimens of naval architecture—especially lines of steamships plying between Cadiz, the West Indies, and South America. A number of the merchant-ships of different nations hoisted their flags in honor of the Sumter as she passed; and one Yankee ship—there being three or four of them in the harbor—hoisted hers, as much as to say, “You see we are not afraid to show it.”

 

 


[Pg 297]

CHAPTER XXIII

ANNOYANCE OF THE SPANISH OFFICIALS—SHORT CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE UNITED STATES CONSUL—THE TELEGRAPH PUT IN OPERATION BY THE OFFICIALS BETWEEN CADIZ AND MADRID—THE SUMTER IS ORDERED TO LEAVE IN TWENTY-FOUR HOURS—DECLINES OBEDIENCE TO THE ORDER—PRISONERS LANDED, AND SHIP DOCKED AFTER MUCH ADO—DESERTERS—SUMTER LEAVES CADIZ.

 

The Spanish officials began to annoy us even before we let go our anchor—a health officer boarding us, and telling us that he should have to quarantine us for three days, unless we could show him a clean bill of health. We told him that our health was clean enough, but that we had no bill to establish the fact, whereupon he went on shore to consult his superiors. I sent by him, the following communication to the United States Consul, whose name was Eggleston:—

Confederate States Steamer Sumter,
Cadiz, January 4, 1862.

Sir:—I have the honor to inform you, that I have on board this ship forty-three prisoners of war—late the crews of a ship, a bark, and a schooner, property of citizens of the United States, burned by me on the high seas. These men having elected to be discharged on parole, I am ready to deliver them to you.

Mr. Eggleston, proving to be quite a diplomat, refused to give me my official title, in replying to my note; and of course, I could have no further communication with him. In the afternoon, the Health Officer again came off to inform us that the important questions, of the cleanness of our health, and the discharge of our prisoners, had been telegraphed to Madrid, and that we might soon expect a reply from her Majesty, the Queen.

[Pg 298]The next morning I received, by the hands of the same officer, a peremptory order, from the Military Governor, to proceed to sea, within twenty-four hours! I sat down and wrote him the following reply:—

Confederate States Steamer Sumter,
Cadiz, January 5, 1862.

Sir:—I have had the honor to receive through the health officer of the port, an order purporting to come from the Government of Spain, directing me to proceed to sea within twenty-four hours. I am greatly surprised at this unfriendly order. Although my Government has not yet been formally recognized by Spain, as a de jure government, it has been declared to be possessed of the rights of a belligerent, in the war in which it is engaged, and it is the duty of Spain to extend to my ship the same hospitality that she would extend to a ship of war of the opposite belligerent. It can make no difference that one of the belligerents is a de jure nation, and the other a de facto nation, since it is only war rights, or such as pertain to belligerents, which we are discussing.

I am aware of the rule adopted by Spain, in common with the other great powers, prohibiting belligerents from bringing their prizes into her ports, but this rule I have not violated. I have entered the harbor of Cadiz, with my single ship, and I demand only the hospitality to which I am entitled by the laws of nations—the Confederate States being one of the de facto nations of the earth, by Spain’s own acknowledgment, as before stated.

I am sorry to be obliged to add, that my ship is in a crippled condition. She is damaged in her hull, is leaking badly, is unseaworthy, and will require to be docked and repaired before it will be possible for her to proceed to sea. I am therefore constrained, by the force of circumstances, most respectfully to decline obedience to the order which I have received, until the necessary repairs can be made.

Further:—I have on board forty-three prisoners, confined within a small space greatly to their discomfort, and simple humanity would seem to dictate, that I should be permitted to hand them over to the care of their Consul on shore, without unnecessary delay.

Again, the telegraphic wires were put in operation, and my reply to the Military Commandant went up to Madrid. In a few hours a reply came down, giving me permission to land my prisoners, and to remain a sufficient time to put the necessary repairs upon my ship. In the meantime the most offensive espionage was exercised toward me. A guard-boat was anchored near by, which overhauled all shore-boats which passed between the Sumter and the shore; and on the evening[Pg 299] of my arrival, a Spanish frigate came down from the dock-yard, and anchored near my ship. There are no private docks in Cadiz, and I was obliged, therefore, to go into one of the government docks for repairs. Charles Dickens has given us an amusing account of an English Circumlocution Office, but English red tape dwindles into insignificance by the side of Spanish red tape. Getting into the hands of the Spanish officials was like getting into a Chancery suit. I thought I should never get out. The Military Commandant referred me to the Captain of the Port, and the Captain of the Port referred me back to the Military Commandant; until finally they both together referred me to the Admiral of the Dock-Yard; to whom I should have been referred at first. In the meantime, engineers and sub-engineers, and other officials whose titles it were tedious to enumerate, came on board, to measure the length of the ship and the breadth of the ship, calculate her tonnage, inspect her boilers, examine into the quantity of water she made during the twenty-four hours, and to determine generally whether we were really in the condition we had represented ourselves to be in, or whether we were deceiving her Majesty and the Minister of the Universal Yankee Nation at Madrid, for some sinister purpose.

The permission came for me, at length, to go into dock, and landing our prisoners, we got up steam and proceeded to Carraca, where the docks lie, distant some eight miles east of the city. The Navy Yard at Carraca is an important building-yard; it lies at the head of the bay of Cadiz, and is approached by a long, narrow, and somewhat tortuous channel, well buoyed. The waters are deep and still, and the Yard is, in every other respect, admirably situated. It reminded us much, in its general aspect and surroundings, of the Norfolk Navy Yard, in Virginia. We were not long delayed in entering the dock. A ship which had occupied the basin assigned to us—there were several of them—was just being let out as we approached, and in the course of an hour afterward, the Sumter was high and dry; so rapidly had the operation been performed. We examined her bottom with much curiosity, after the thumping she had had on the bar at Maranham, and were gratified to find that she had received no material damage. A small portion[Pg 300] of her copper had been rubbed off, and one of her planks indented, rather than fractured. She was as sound and tight as a bottle, in every part of her, except in her propeller sleeve. It was here where the leak had been, as we had conjectured.

To the delight both of the Spanish officials, who were exceedingly anxious to get rid of us, lest we should compromise them in some way with the Great Republic, of whom they seemed to be exceedingly afraid, and ourselves, we found that the needed repairs would be slight. The boilers were a good deal out of condition, it is true, but as they were capable of bearing a low pressure of steam, sufficient to take us to sea, the officials would not listen to my proposals to repair them. I had one or two interviews, whilst I lay here, with the Dock-Admiral, whom I found to be a very different man from the Military Commandant. He was a polite and refined gentleman, expressed much sympathy for our people, and regretted that his orders were such that he could not make my repairs more thorough. He expressed some surprise at the backdown of the Federal Government, in the Trent affair, the news of which had just arrived, and said that he had fully reckoned upon our having Great Britain as an ally in the war. “Great Britain seems, herself, to have been of this opinion,” said he, “as she has withdrawn all her ships of war from the Mediterranean station, for service on the American coast, and sent ten thousand troops to Canada.”

From the moment my ship entered within the precinct of the Spanish Navy Yard, the very d—l seemed to have broken loose among my crew. With rare exceptions, a common sailor has no sense of nationality. He commences his sea-going career at so tender an age, is so constantly at sea, and sails under so many different flags, that he becomes eminently a citizen of the world. Although I had sailed out of a Southern port, I had not half a dozen Southern-born men among the rank and file of my crew. They were mostly foreigners—English and Irish preponderating. I had two or three Yankees on board, who had pretended to be very good Southern men, but who, having failed to reap the rich harvest of prize-money, which they had proposed to themselves, were now about to develop their true characters. Some of my[Pg 301] boats’ crews had visited the shore on duty, and whilst their boats were lying at the pier waiting for the officers to transact their business, the tempter had come along. Sundry Jack-Tars, emissaries of the diplomatic Mr. Eggleston, the Federal Consul, had rolled along down the pier, hitching up their trousers, and replenishing their tobacco quids as they came along. “Cadiz is a nice place,” said they to my boats’ crews, “with plenty of grog, and lots of fun. We have gotten tired of our ships, and are living at free quarters at the Consul’s. Come with us, and let us have a jolly good time together.” And they did come, or rather go, for, on one single night, nine of my rascals deserted. This was whilst we were still in dock. Being let out of dock, we dropped down to the city, and being afloat again, we were enabled to prevent a general stampede, by the exercise of firmness and vigilance. I directed an officer to be sent in each boat, whenever one should have occasion to communicate with the shore, armed with a revolver, and with orders to shoot down any one who should attempt to desert. Two or three other sailors slipped away, notwithstanding these precautions, but there the matter ended. Hearing that my deserters were harbored by the United States Consul, I addressed the following letter on the subject to the Governor of the city:—

Confederate States Steamer Sumter,
Cadiz, January 16, 1862.

Sir:—I have the honor to inform you, that whilst my ship was in dock at Carraca, nine of my seamen deserted, and I am informed that they are sheltered and protected by the United States Consul. I respectfully request that you will cause these men to be delivered up to me; and to disembarrass this demand of any difficulty that may seem to attend it, permit me to make the following observations.

1st. In the first place, my Government has been acknowledged as a de facto government by Spain, and as such it is entitled to all the rights of a belligerent, in its war with the Government of the United States.

2d. All the rights and privileges, therefore, which would attach to the flag of the United States, should one of the ships of that country enter this harbor, equally attach to the flag of the Confederate States, mere ceremonial excepted.

3d. It has been and is the uniform custom of all nations to arrest, upon request, and to hand over to their proper officers, deserters from ships of war, and this without stopping to inquire into the nationality of the deserter.

[Pg 302]4th. If this be the practice in peace, much more necessary does such a practice become in war, since otherwise the operations of war might be tolerated in a neutral territory, as will be seen from my next position.

5th. Without a violation of neutrality, an enemy’s consul in a neutral territory cannot be permitted to entice away seamen, from a ship of the opposite belligerent, or to shelter or protect the same: for if he be permitted to do this, then his domicil becomes an enemy’s camp in a neutral territory.

6th. With reference to the question in hand, I respectfully submit that the only facts, which your Excellency can take cognizance of, are that these deserters entered the waters of Spain under my flag, and that they formed a part of my crew. The inquiry cannot pass a step beyond, and Spain cannot undertake to decide, as between the United States Consul and myself, to which of us the deserters in question more properly belong. In other words, she has no right to look into any plea set up by a deserter, that he is a citizen of the United States, and not of the Confederate States.

7th. I might, perhaps, admit, that if a Spanish subject, serving under my flag, should escape to the shore, and should satisfy the authorities that he was held by force, either without contract, or in violation of contract, he might be set at liberty, but such is not the present case. The nationality of the deserters not being Spanish, Spain cannot, as I said before, inquire into it. To recapitulate: the case which I present is simply this. Several of the crew serving on board this ship, under voluntary contracts, have deserted, and taken refuge in the Consulate of the United States. To deprive me of the power, with the assistance of the police, to recapture them, would in effect convert the Consulate into a camp, and enable the Consul to exercise the rights of a belligerent in neutral territory. He might cripple me as effectually by this indirect means, as if he were to assault me by means of an armed expedition.

I took precisely what I expected by this remonstrance, that is to say, nothing. I was fighting here, as I had been in so many other places, against odds—the odds being the stationed agents, spies, and pimps of a recognized government. Our Southern movement, in the eyes of Spain, was a mere political revolution, and like all absolute governments, she had no sympathy with revolutionists. It was on this principle that the Czar of Russia had fraternized so warmly with the Federal President.

Another difficulty now awaited the Sumter. I had run the blockade of New Orleans, as the reader has seen, with a very slim exchequer; that exchequer was now exhausted, and we had no means with which to purchase coal. I had telegraphed[Pg 303] to Mr. Yancey, in London, immediately upon my arrival, for funds, but none, as yet, had reached me, although I had been here two weeks. In the meantime, the authorities, under the perpetual goading of the United States Chargé in Madrid, Mr. Perry, and of Mr. Consul Eggleston, were becoming very restive, and were constantly sending me invitations to go to sea. Before I had turned out on the morning of the 17th of January, an aide-de-camp of the Governor came on board, to bring me a peremptory order from his chief, to depart within six hours. I went on shore, for the first time, to have an official interview with the blockhead. I found him, contrary to all Spanish rule, a large, thick-set, bull-necked fellow, with whom, I saw at the first glance, it would be of but little use to reason. I endeavored to make him understand the nature of the case; how it was that a steamer could no more go to sea without fuel, than a sailing-ship without a mast; but he was inexorable. He was, in short, one of those dunder-headed military men, who never look, or care to look, beyond the orders of their superiors. The most that he would undertake to do, was to telegraph to Madrid my statement, that I was out of fuel, but expected momentarily to be supplied with funds to purchase it. He added, however, “but if no reply comes within the six hours, you must go to sea.” I had retained enough coal on board from my last cruise, to run me around to Gibraltar—a run of a few hours only—and I now resolved to have nothing more to do with Spain, or her surly officials.

I returned on board, without further delay, and gave orders to get up steam, and make all the other necessary preparations for sea. As we were weighing our anchor, an aide-de-camp of the Governor came off in great haste to say, that his Excellency had heard from Madrid in reply to his telegram, and that her Majesty had graciously given me permission to remain another twenty-four hours; but that at the end of that time I must depart without fail. The aide-de-camp added that his Excellency, seeing that we were getting up steam, had sent him off to communicate the intelligence to me verbally, in advance of the official communication of it by letter, which he was preparing. I directed the aide to say to his chief that he needn’t bother himself with the preparation of any letter, as I should[Pg 304] not avail myself of her Majesty’s gracious permission—she having been a little too ungracious in meting out the hours to me. He departed, and we got under way. As we passed abreast of the Government House, a boat shoved off in a great hurry, and came pulling out to us, with a man standing up in the bow, shaking a letter at us with great vehemence. It was the letter the aide-de-camp had spoken of. We paid no attention whatever to the signal, and the boat finding, after some vigorous pulling, that she could not overtake us, turned back. In half an hour afterward, we were outside the Cadiz bar, and had discharged the pilot.

This was the second Spanish experiment we had made in the Sumter. I never afterward troubled her Majesty, either in her home ports, or those of any of her colonies. I had learned by experience that all the weak powers were timid, and henceforth, I rarely entered any but an English or a French port. We should have had, during all this controversy, a Commissioner at the Court of Madrid, one having been dispatched thither at the same time that Mr. Yancey was sent to London, and Mr. Mann to Brussels, but if there was one there, I did not receive a line from him. The Federal Chargé seemed to have had it all his own way. There is no proposition of international law clearer, than that a disabled belligerent cruiser—and a steamer without coal is disabled—cannot be expelled from a neutral port, and yet the Sumter was, in fact, expelled from Cadiz. As remarked some pages back, the Demos, and the Carpet-bagger will revenge us in good time.

We did enjoy some good things in the harbor of Cadiz, however. One was a superb dinner, given us at the principal hotel by an English admirer, and another was the market. The latter is unexcelled in any part of the world. Fine beef and mutton from Andalusia, fish from the sea, and fruits and wines from all parts of Spain, were present in profusion. Although we were in midwinter, there were a variety of vegetables, and luscious oranges and bananas that had ripened in the open air—all produced by the agency of that Mexican Gulf heating-apparatus, of which we spoke through the lips of Professor Maury, a few pages back. Before leaving Cadiz I saw the first annual report of the Federal Secretary of the[Pg 305] Navy since the breaking out of the war. Old gentleman Welles was eloquent, and denunciatory when he came to speak of the Sumter. The vessel was a “pirate,” and her commander everything that was odious. The latter “was courageously capturing unarmed merchant-ships, and cowardly fleeing from the Federal steamers sent in pursuit of him.” There were six of these ships in full hue and cry after the little Sumter, any one of which could have hoisted her in upon deck. At the same time that these denunciations were hurled against the Captain of the Sumter, gallant naval officers, wearing Mr. Welles’ shoulder-straps, and commanding Mr. Welles’ ships, were capturing little coasting-schooners laden with firewood, plundering the houses and hen-roosts of non-combatant citizens along the Southern coast, destroying salt-works, and intercepting medicines going in to our hospitals. But I must be charitable. Mr. Welles was but rehearsing the lesson which he had learned from Mr. Seward. What could he know about “pirates” and the laws of nations, who had been one half of his life editing a small newspaper, in a small town in Connecticut, and the other half “serving out” to Jack his frocks and trousers, and weighing out to him his sugar and tea, as Chief of the Bureau of Provisions and Clothing? It was late in life before the old gentleman, on the rising tide of the Demos, had been promoted, and allowance must be made for the defects of his early training.

 

 


[Pg 306]

CHAPTER XXIV.

THE SUMTER OFF CADIZ—THE PILLARS OF HERCULES—GIBRALTAR—CAPTURE OF THE ENEMY’S SHIPS NEAPOLITAN AND INVESTIGATOR—A CONFLAGRATION BETWEEN EUROPE AND AFRICA—THE SUMTER ANCHORS IN THE HARBOR OF GIBRALTAR—THE ROCK; THE TOWN; THE MILITARY; THE REVIEW AND THE ALAMEDA.

 

The afternoon was bright and beautiful as the Sumter, emerging from the harbor of Cadiz, felt once more the familiar heave of the sea. There was no sail in sight over the vast expanse of waters, except a few small coasting-craft, and yet what fleets had floated on the bosom of these romantic waters! The names of Nelson, Collingwood, Jervis, and others, came thronging upon the memory. Cape St. Vincent and Trafalgar were both in the vicinity. The sun, as he approached his setting, was lighting up a scene of beauty, peace, and tranquillity, and it was difficult to conjure those other scenes of the storm, and the flying ships, and the belching cannon, so inseparably connected with those great names.

It was too late to attempt the run to Gibraltar that night, with the hope of arriving at a seasonable hour, and so we “held on,” in nautical phrase, to the light—that beautiful red flash which I have before described—until midnight, when we gave the ship her steam, and turned her head in the direction of the famous Strait, or Gut, as the sailors sometimes less euphoniously call it. The weather, in the meantime, had changed, the wind had died entirely away, and the sea was calm, but rifts of cloud were passing over the moon, indicating an upper current in the higher atmosphere, that might portend storm or rain on the morrow. We steamed along the[Pg 307] bold Spanish coast, at a distance of only a few miles, and entered the Strait before daylight, passing the Tarifa light at about five A. M.

The Pillars of Hercules, that for so many centuries bounded the voyages of the ancient mariners, rose abruptly and majestically on either hand of us, softened and beautified by the moonlight. We had the Strait all to ourselves, there being no sail visible. The Genius of the ancient time seemed to hover over the scene, so solemn and mysterious did everything appear. But no! the Genius of the ancient time could not be there, for the quiet waters were broken by the prow of the steamship, from a hemisphere of which the Genius had not conceived. And that steamship, what flag did she bear? A flag that neither Phœnician, nor Carthaginian, nor Roman had dreamed of. It had arisen amid the wreck and ruin of a new empire, that had decayed before its time, was floating above a thousand dead nationalities, and was struggling, as the polished Greek had struggled, long centuries before, against the “long-haired” barbarian of the North, who was repeating history by overrunning the fair lands of the South.

We made the light at Gibraltar just as the day was dawning, and, hurried on by the current, moved rapidly up the Strait. Several sail that were coming down the Mediterranean became plainly visible from the deck as the twilight developed into day. We could not think of running into Gibraltar before overhauling these sails; we might, perchance, find an enemy among them, and so we altered our course and gave chase; as so many barks, ancient and modern, heathen, Christian, and Moor had done before us, in this famous old Strait. The telescope soon revealed the secret of the nationality of two of the sails; they being, as plainly as symmetry and beauty of outline, the taper and grace of spars, and whiteness of canvas—produced upon our own cotton-fields—could speak, American. To these, therefore, we directed our attention. It was a couple of hours before we came up with the first of these ships. She was standing over toward the African side of the Strait, though still distant from the land, some six or seven miles. We hoisted our own colors, and fired the usual gun. She hauled up her courses, and backed her maintopsail at[Pg 308] once, and in a moment more, we could see the brightest of stars and stripes fluttering in the breeze, and glittering, in very joyousness, as it were, in the rays of the morning’s sun; for the captain of the prize had evidently treated himself to a new ensign. The cat ran close enough to parley with the mouse, before she put her paw upon it. The bark, for such the prize was, proved to be the Neapolitan, of Kingston, Mass., from Messina, in the island of Sicily, bound for Boston, with a cargo of fruit, dried and fresh, and fifty tons of sulphur. She had been freshly painted, with that old robber, the bald eagle, surrounded by stars, gilded on her stern; her decks looked white and sweet after the morning’s ablution which she had just undergone; her sails were well hoisted, and her sheets well home; in short, she was a picture to look at, and the cat looked at her, as a cat only can look at a sleek mouse. And then only to think, that the sly little mouse, looking so pretty and so innocent, should have so much of that villanous material called sulphur in its little pouch!

The master stated in his deposition, that the entire cargo belonged to the British house of Baring Bros., it being consigned to an agent of theirs in Boston. The object of so wording the deposition was, of course, to save the cargo as neutral property, but as I happened to know that the Boston house of the Barings, instead of being an agent merely, was a partner of the London house, the master took nothing by his deposition. Besides, if there had been no doubt as to the British ownership, sulphur going to an enemy’s country is contraband of war; and in this case the contraband of war was not only condemnable of itself, but it tainted all the rest of the cargo, which belonged to the same owner. The master, who was as strongly marked in his Puritan nationality, as the Israelite is in the seed of Abraham, feeling himself securely intrenched behind the Baring Bros., was a little surprised when I told him that I should burn his ship, and began to expostulate. But I had no time for parley, for there was another ship demanding my attention; and so, transferring the prisoners from the doomed ship to the Sumter, as speedily as possible, the Neapolitan was burned; burned in the sight of Europe and Africa, with the turbaned Moor looking upon the conflagration,[Pg 309] on one hand, and the garrison of Gibraltar and the Spaniard on the other. Previously to applying the torch, we took a small liberty with some of the excellent fruit of the Barings, transferring a number of drums of figs, boxes of raisins and oranges, to the cooks and stewards of the different messes.

We now steamed off in pursuit of the other sail. This second sail proved also to be American, as we had supposed. She was the bark Investigator, of Searsport, Maine, from one of the small ports of Spain, bound for Newport, in Wales, with a cargo of iron ore. The cargo being properly documented as British property, we could not destroy her, but were compelled to release her under ransom bond. The capturing and disposing of these two ships had occupied us several hours, during which the in-draught of the Strait had set us some miles to the eastward of the Rock. We now, at half-past two P. M., turned our head in the direction of Gibraltar, and gave the ship all steam. By this time the portent of last night had been verified, and we had an overcast sky, with a strong northwester blowing in our teeth. With the wind and current both ahead, we had quite a struggle to gain the anchorage.

It was half-past seven P. M., or some time after dark, that we finally passed under the shadow of the historical rock, with the brilliant light on Europa Point throwing its beams upon our deck; and it was a few minutes past eight o’clock, or evening gun-fire, when we ran up to the man-of-war anchorage, and came to. We had no occasion to tell the people of Gibraltar who we were. They were familiar with our Cadiz troubles, and had been expecting us for some days; and accordingly, when the signal-man on the top of the Rock announced the appearance of a Confederate States’ steamer in the Strait, every one knew that it was the Sumter. And when, a short time afterward, it was announced that the little steamer was in chase of a Yankee, the excitement became intense. Half the town rushed to Europa Point and the signal-station, to watch the chase and the capture; and when the flames were seen ascending from the doomed Neapolitan, sketch-books and pencils were produced, and all the artists in the crowd went busily to work to sketch the extraordinary spectacle; extraordinary in any age, but still more extraordinary in this.

[Pg 310]Here were two civilized nations at war, at the door of a third, and that third nation, instead of mitigating and softening, as much as possible, the barbarities of war, had, by her timidity, caution, or unfriendliness, whichever to the reader may seem more probable, ordered, directed, and decreed that one of the parties should burn all the ships of the other that it should capture! The spectacle of the burning ship which the inhabitants of Gibraltar had witnessed from the top of their renowned rock, was indirectly the work of their own Government. Why might not this Federal ship, when captured, have been taken into Gibraltar, there to await the disposition which a prize-court should make of her, instead of being burned? Because Great Britain would not permit it. Why might she not have been taken into some other neutral port, for this purpose? Because all the world had followed the lead of Great Britain, the chief maritime power of the earth. Great Britain knew when she issued her orders in council, prohibiting both the belligerents in the American war, from bringing their prizes into her ports, precisely what would be the effect of those orders. She knew that the stronger belligerent would shut out the weaker belligerent from his own ports, by means of a blockade. She knew that if she denied this weaker belligerent access to her ports, with his prizes, all the other nations of the earth would follow her lead. And she knew that if this same weaker belligerent should have no ports whatever into which to carry his prizes, he must burn them. Hence the spectacle her people had witnessed from the top of her rock of Gibraltar.

In a few minutes after anchoring, we were boarded by a boat from the English frigate, which had the guard for the day. The officer made us the usual “tender of service” from the Port Admiral. We sent a boat ourselves to report our arrival on board the health ship, and to inquire if there would be any quarantine; and after a long day of excitement and fatigue,—for I had not turned in since I left the Cadiz light, the night before—I sought my berth, and slept soundly, neither dreaming of Moor or Christian, Yankee or Confederate. John spread me the next morning a sumptuous breakfast, and brought me off glowing accounts of the Gibraltar market, filled[Pg 311] with all the delicacies both of Spain and Morocco. The prize which we had liberated on ransom-bond, followed us in, and was anchored not far from us. There was another large American ship at anchor.

At an early hour a number of English officers, of the garrison and navy, and citizens called on board to see us; and at ten o’clock I went on board the frigate whose boat had boarded us the previous night, to return the commanding naval officer’s visit. He was not living on board, but at his quarters on shore, whither I proceeded at two P. M. Landing at the Navy Yard, an orderly conducted me thence to his neat little cottage, perched half way up the rock, and embowered by shade trees, in the most charming little nook possible. I found Captain—now Rear-Admiral—Sir Frederic Warden a very clever specimen of an English naval officer; and we had a pleasant conversation of half an hour together. Having lost one of my anchors, I asked the loan of one from him until I could supply myself in the market. He replied that he had every disposition to oblige me, but that he must first submit the question to the “law officers of the Crown.” I said to him playfully, “these ‘law officers of the Crown’ of yours must be sturdy fellows, for they have some heavy burdens to carry; when I was at Trinidad the Governor put a whole cargo of coal on their shoulders, and now you propose to saddle them with an anchor!” He said pleasantly, in return, “I have not the least doubt of the propriety of your request, but we must walk according to rule, you know.” The next morning, bright and early, a boat came alongside, bringing me an anchor.

From Captain Warden’s, I proceeded to the residence of the Governor and Military Commander of the Rock, Sir William J. Codrington, K. C. B. His house was in the centre of the town, and I had a very pleasant walk through shaded avenues and streets, thronged with a gayly dressed population, every third man of which was a soldier, to reach it. The same orderly still accompanied me. I was in uniform, and all the sentinels saluted me as I passed; and I may as well mention here, that during the whole of my stay at this military and naval station, my officers and myself received all the honors and courtesies due to our rank. No distinction whatever was drawn, that I[Pg 312] am aware of, between the Sumter, and any of the enemy’s ships of war that visited the station, except in the matter of the national salute. Our flag not being yet recognized, except for belligerent purposes, this honor was withheld. We dined at the officers’ messes, and they dined on board our ship; the club and reading rooms were thrown open to us, and both military and citizens were particular in inviting us to partake of all the festivities that took place during our stay.

My conductor, the orderly, stopped before a large stone mansion on the principal street, where there was a sentinel walking in front of the door, and in a few minutes I was led to a suite of large, airy, well-furnished rooms on the second floor, to await his Excellency. It was Sunday, and he had just returned from church. He entered, however, almost immediately. I had seen him a hundred times, in the portraits of half the English generals I had ever looked upon, so peculiarly was he English and military. He was a polite gentleman of the old school, though not a very old man, his age being not more than about fifty-five. Governor Codrington was a son of the Admiral of the same name, who, as the commander-in-chief of the combined English, French, and Russian fleets, had gained so signal a victory over the Turkish fleet, in the Mediterranean, in 1827, which resulted in the independence of Greece, and the transfer of Prince Otho of Bavaria to the throne of that country. His rank was that of a lieutenant-general in the British army. I reported my arrival to his Excellency, and stated that my object in visiting Gibraltar was to repair, and coal my ship, and that I should expect to have the same facilities extended to me, that he would extend to an enemy’s cruiser under similar circumstances. He assented at once to my proposition, saying that her Majesty was exceedingly anxious to preserve a strict neutrality in our unhappy war, without leaning to the one side or the other. “There is one thing, however,” continued he, “that I must exact of you during your stay, and that is, that you will not make Gibraltar, a station, from which to watch for the approach of your enemy, and sally out in pursuit of him.” I replied, “Certainly not; no belligerent has the right to make this use of the territory of a neutral. Your own distinguished admiralty[Pg 313] judge, Sir William Scott, settled this point half a century and more ago, and his decisions are implicitly followed in the American States.”

The Governor gave me permission to land my prisoners, and they were paroled and sent on shore the same afternoon. We could do nothing in the way of preparing the Sumter for another cruise, until our funds should arrive, and these did not reach us until the 3d of February, when Mr. Mason, who had by this time relieved Mr. Yancey, as our Commissioner at the Court of London, telegraphed me that I could draw on the house of Frazer, Trenholm & Co., of Liverpool, for the sum I needed. In the mean time, we had made ourselves very much at home at Gibraltar, quite an intimacy springing up between the naval and military officers and ourselves; whereas, as far as we could learn, the Yankee officers of the several Federal ships of war, which by this time had arrived, were kept at arm’s-length, no other than the customary official courtesies being extended to them. We certainly did not meet any of them at the “club,” or other public places. I had visited Gibraltar when a young officer in the “old service,” and I had often read, and laughed over Marryatt’s humorous description of the “Mess” of the garrison in his day; how, after one of their roistering dinners, the naval officers who had been present, would be wheeled down to the “sally-port,” where their boats were waiting to take them on board their ships, on wheel-barrows—the following colloquy taking place between the sally-port sentinel (it being now some hours after dark), and the wheeler of the wheel-barrow. Sentinel:—“Who comes there?” Wheeler of wheel-barrow:—“Officer drunk on a wheel-barrow!” Sentinel:—“Pass Officer drunk on a wheel-barrow.”

The wheel-barrow days had passed, in the general improvement which had taken place in military and naval habits, but in other respects, I did not find the “Mess” much changed. The military “Mess” of a regiment is like the king; it never dies. There is a constant change of persons, but the “Mess” is ever the same, with its history of this “field,” and of that; its traditions, and its anecdotes. Every person who has been in England knows how emphatically dinner is an institution[Pg 314] with the English people; with its orthodox hour, the punctual attendance of the guests, the scrupulous attention they pay to dress, and the quantity of wine which they are capable of putting under their vests, without losing sight of the gentlemanly proprieties.

It is still more an institution, if possible, with the garrisons of the colonies. There they do the thing in a business-like way, and the reader will perhaps be curious to know how the young fellows stand such constant wear and tear upon their constitutions. It is done in the simplest manner possible. After a late carouse over night, during which these fellows would drink two bottles to my young men’s one, the latter would get up next morning on board the Sumter feeling seedy, and dry, and go on shore in quest of “hock and soda-water.” Meeting their late companions, they would be surprised to see them looking so fresh and rosy, with an air so jaunty, and a step so elastic. The secret, upon explanation, would prove to be, that the debauchee of the night was the early bird of the morning. Whilst my officers were still lying in uneasy slumbers, with Queen Mab playing pranks with their imaginations, the officer of the “Mess” would be up, have taken his cold shower-bath, have mounted his “hunter,” sometimes with, and sometimes without dogs, and would be off scouring the country, and drinking in the fresh morning air, miles away. Not a fume of the liquor of the overnight’s debauch would be left by the time the rider got back to breakfast.

On the day after my visit to the Governor, Colonel Freemantle, of the Coldstream Guards, the Governor’s aide-de-camp and military secretary, came off to call on me on behalf of the Governor, and to read to me a memorandum, which the latter had made of my conversation with him. There were but two points in this memorandum:—“First: It is agreed that the Sumter shall have free access to the work-shops and markets, to make necessary repairs and supply herself with necessary articles, contraband of war excepted. Secondly: The Sumter shall not make Gibraltar a station, from which to sally out from the Strait, for the purposes of war.” I assented to the correctness of the conversation as recorded, and there the official portion of the interview ended. I could not but be amused here, as I had been at other places, at the exceeding scrupulousness[Pg 315] of the authorities, lest they should compromise themselves in some way with the belligerents.

I found Colonel Freemantle to be an ardent Confederate, expressing himself without any reserve, and lauding in the highest terms our people and cause. He had many questions to ask me, which I took great pleasure in answering, and our interview ended by a very cordial invitation from him to visit, in his company, the curiosities of the Rock. This is the same Colonel Freemantle, who afterward visited our Southern States during the war, and made the acquaintance of some of our principal military men; writing and publishing a very interesting account of his tour. I met him afterward in London, more of a Confederate than ever. Freemantle was not an exception. The army and navy of Great Britain were with us, almost to a man, and many a hearty denunciation have I heard from British military and naval lips, of the coldness and selfishness of the Palmerston-Russell government.

Gibraltar, being a station for several steam-lines, was quite a thoroughfare of travel. The mixed character of its resident population, too, was quite curious. All the nations of the earth seemed to have assembled upon the Rock, for the purposes of traffic, and as each nationality preserved its costume and its language, the quay, market-place, streets and shops presented a picture witnessed in few, if in any other towns of the globe. The attractions for traffic were twofold: first, Gibraltar was a free port, and, secondly, there were seven thousand troops stationed there. The consequence was, that Christian, Moor, and Turk, Jew and Gentile, had assembled here from all the four quarters of the earth, bringing with them their respective commodities. The London tailor had his shop alongside that of the Moor or Turk, and if, after having been measured for a coat, to be made of cloth a few days only from a Manchester loom, you desired Moorish slippers, or otto of roses, or Turkish embroidery, you had only to step into the next door.

Even the shopmen and products of the far East were there; a few days of travel only sufficing to bring from India, China, and Japan, the turbaned and sandalled Hindoo, the close-shaved and long-queued Chinaman, and the small-statured, deep-brown[Pg 316] Japanese, with their curious stuffs and wares, wrought with as much ingenuity as taste. The market was indeed a curiosity. Its beef and mutton, both of which are very fine, are brought from the opposite Morocco coast, to and from which small steamers ply regularly. But it is the fruits and vegetables that more especially astonish the beholder. Here the horn of plenty seems literally to have been emptied. The south of Spain, and Morocco, both fine agricultural countries, have one of those genial climates which enables them to produce all the known fruits and vegetables of the earth. Whatever you desire, that you can have, whether it be the apple, the pear, or the cherry of the North, or the orange, the banana, or the date of the South. The Spaniards and Moors are the chief market people.

Nor must we forget the fishermen, with their picturesque boats, rigged with their long, graceful latteen yards and pointed sails, that come in laden with the contributions of the sea from the shores of half a dozen kingdoms. Fleets of these little craft crowd the quay day and night, and there is a perfect Babel of voices in their vicinity, as the chaffering goes on for the disposal of their precious freight, much of it still “alive and kicking.” By the way, one of the curiosities of this quay, whilst the Sumter lay in Gibraltar, was the frequent proximity of the Confederate and the Federal flag. When landing I often ran my boat into the quay-steps, alongside of a boat from a Federal ship of war; the Kearsarge and the Tuscarora taking turns in watching my movements—one of them being generally anchored in the Bay of Gibraltar, and the other in the Bay of Algeziras, a Spanish anchorage opposite. No breach of the peace ever occurred; the sailors of the two services seemed rather inclined to fraternize. They would have fought each other like devils outside of the marine league, but the neutral port was a powerful sedative, and made them temporarily friends. They talked, and laughed and smoked, and peeled oranges together, as though there was no war going on. But the sailor is a cosmopolite, as remarked a few pages back, and these boats’ crews could probably have been exchanged, without much detriment to each other’s flag.

Sunday, January 26th.—A charming, balmy day, after the[Pg 317] several days of storm and rain that we have had. At ten A. M., I went on shore to the Catholic church. The military attendance, especially of the rank and file, was very large. I should judge that, at least, two thirds of the troops stationed here are Irish, and there is no distinction, that I can discover, made between creeds. Each soldier attends whatever church he pleases. It is but a few years back, that no officer could serve in the British army without subscribing to the Thirty-Nine Articles—the creed of the “Established Church.” After church, I took a stroll “up the Rock,” and was astonished to find so much arable soil on its surface. The Rock runs north and south. Its western face is an inclined plane, lying at an angle of about thirty degrees with the sea-level. Ascending gradually from the water, it rises to the height of fifteen hundred feet. From this height, a plummet-line let down from its eastern face would reach the sea without obstruction, so perpendicular is the Rock in this direction. This face is of solid rock.

On the western face, up which I was now walking, is situated near the base, and extending up about half a mile, the town. The town is walled, and after you have passed through a massive gateway in the southern wall, you are in the country. As you approach the Rock from the sea, it matters not from what direction, you get the idea that it is nothing but a barren rock. I now found it diversified with fields, full of clover and fragrant grasses, long, well-shaded avenues, of sufficiently gentle ascent for carriage-drives, beautifully laid-out pleasure-grounds, and well-cultivated gardens. The parade-ground is a level space just outside the southern wall, of sufficient capacity for the manœuvre and review of five thousand men; and rising just south of this is the Alameda, consisting of a series of parterres of flowers, with shade-trees and shrubbery, among which wind a number of serpentine walks. Here seats are arranged for visitors, from which the exercise of the troops in the parade-ground below may be conveniently witnessed. A colossal statue of General Elliot, who defended the Rock in the famous siege that was laid to it in the middle of the last century by the Spaniards, is here erected.

The review of the troops, which takes place, I believe,[Pg 318] monthly, is par excellence, the grand spectacle of Gibraltar. I had the good fortune to witness one of these reviews, and the spectacle dwells vividly, still, in my imagination. Drill of the soldiers, singly, and in squads, is the chief labor of the garrison. Skilful drill-sergeants, for the most part young, active, intelligent men, having the port and bearing of gentlemen, are constantly at work, morning and afternoon, breaking in the raw material as it arrives, and rendering it fit to be moulded into the common mass. Company officers move their companies, to and fro, unceasingly, lest the men should forget what the drill-sergeant has taught them. Battalion and regimental drills occur less frequently.

These are the labors of the garrison; now comes the pastime, viz., the monthly drill, when the Governor turns out, and inspects the troops. All is agog, on the Rock of Gibraltar, on review days. There is no end to the pipe-claying, and brushing, and burnishing, in the different barracks, on the morning of this day. The officers get out their new uniforms, and horses are groomed with more than ordinary care. The citizens turn out, as well as the military, and all the beauty and fashion of the town are collected on the Alameda. On the occasion of the review which I witnessed, the troops—nearly all young, fine-looking men—presented, indeed, a splendid appearance. All the corps of the British army were there, represented save only the cavalry; and they were moved hither and thither, at will; long lines of them now being tied into what seemed the most inextricable knots, and now untied again, with an ease, grace, and skill, which called forth my constant admiration.

But it was not so much the movements of the military that attracted my attention, as the tout ensemble of the crowd. The eye wandered over almost all the nationalities of the earth, in their holiday costumes. The red fez cap of the Greek, the white turban of the Moor and Turk, and the hat of the Christian, all waved in a common sea of male humanity, and, when the eye turned to the female portion of the crowd, there was confusion worse confounded, for the fashions of Paris and London, Athens and Constantinople, the isles and the continents, all were there! What with the waving plumes of the[Pg 319] generals, the galloping hither and thither of aides and orderlies, the flashing of the polished barrel of the rifle in the sun, the music of the splendid bands, and the swaying and surging of the civic multitude which I have attempted to describe, the scene was fairly beyond description. A man might dream of it, but could not describe it.

 

 


[Pg 320]

CHAPTER XXV.

THE SUMTER STILL AT GIBRALTAR—SHIP CROWDED WITH VISITORS—A RIDE OVER THE ROCK WITH COLONEL FREEMANTLE—THE “GALLERIES” AND OTHER SUBTERRANEAN WONDERS—A DIZZY HEIGHT, AND THE QUEEN OF SPAIN’S CHAIR—THE MONKEYS AND THE “NEUTRAL GROUND.”

 

The stream of visitors to the Sumter continued for some days after our arrival. Almost every steamer from England brought more or less tourists and curiosity-hunters, and these did us the honor to visit us, and frequently to say kind words of sympathy and encouragement. Among others, the Duke of Beaufort and Sir John Inglis visited us, and examined our ship with much curiosity. The latter, who had earned for himself the title of the “hero of Lucknow,” in that most memorable and barbarous of all sieges, was on his way to the Ionian Islands, of which he had recently been appointed Governor.

January 23d.—Weather clear and pleasant. We received a visit from Captain Warden to-day, in return for the visit I had made him upon my arrival. He came off in full uniform, to show us that his visit was meant to be official, as well as personal. Nothing would have pleased the gallant captain better, than to have been able to salute the Confederate States’ flag, and welcome our new republic among the family of nations. We discussed a point of international law while he was on board. He desired, he said, to call my attention to the well-known rule that, in case of the meeting of two opposite belligerents in the same neutral port, twenty-four hours must intervene between their departure. I assented readily to this rule. It had been acted upon, I told him, by the Governor of Martinique, when I was in that island—the[Pg 321] enemy’s sloop Iroquois having been compelled to cruise in the offing for fear of its application to her. I remarked, however, that it was useless for us to discuss the rule here, as the enemy’s ships had adroitly taken measures to evade it. “How is that?” he inquired. “Why, simply,” I replied, “by stationing one of his ships in Gibraltar, and another in Algeziras. If I go to sea from Gibraltar, the Algeziras ship follows me, and if I go to sea from Algeziras, the Gibraltar ship follows me.” “True,” rejoined the captain, “I did not think of that.” “I cannot say,” continued I, “that I complain of this. It is one of those chances in war which perhaps nine men in ten would take advantage of; and then these Federal captains cannot afford to be over-scrupulous; they have an angry mob at their heels, shouting, in their fury and ignorance, ‘Pirate! pirate!’”

The Southampton steamer brought us late news, to-day, from London. We are becoming somewhat apprehensive for the safety of Messrs. Mason and Slidell, who, having embarked on board the British steam-sloop Rinaldo, at Provincetown, Mass., on the 2d inst., bound to Halifax, distant only a few hundred miles, had not been heard from as late as the 10th inst. A heavy gale followed their embarcation. I received a letter, to-day, too, from Mr. Yancey. He writes despondently as to the action of the European powers. They are cold, distrustful, and cautious, and he has no hope of an early recognition. I am pained to remark here, that this distinguished statesman died soon after his return to the United States. He was one of the able men of the South, who, like Patrick Henry, and John C. Calhoun, seemed to be gifted with the spirit of prophecy; or, rather, to speak more correctly, his superior mental powers, and knowledge of men and of governments, enabled him, like his great predecessors, to arrive at conclusions, natural and easy enough to himself, but which, viewed in the light of subsequent events, seemed like prophecy to his less gifted countrymen. Mr. Yancey much resembled Patrick Henry in the simplicity and honesty of his character, and in the fervidness and power of his eloquence.

January 30th.—A fine, clear day, with the wind from the eastward. Having received a note last evening, from Colonel[Pg 322] Freemantle, informing me that horses would be in readiness for us, this morning, at the Government House, to visit the fortifications, I went on shore the first thing after breakfast, and finding the Colonel in readiness, we mounted, and accompanied by an orderly to take care of our horses, rode at a brisk pace out of the western gate, and commenced our tour of inspection. Arriving at the entrance of the famous “galleries” situated about half-way up the Rock, we dismounted, and dived into the bowels of mother Earth.

The Spaniards have been celebrated above all other people for fortifications. They have left monuments of their patience, diligence, and skill all over the world, wherever they have obtained a foothold. The only other people who have ever equalled them, in this particular, though in a somewhat different way, are the people of these Northern States, during the late war. No Spaniard was ever half so diligent in his handling of stone, and mortar, as was the Yankee soldier in throwing up his “earth-work.” His industry in this regard was truly wonderful. If the Confederate soldier ever gave him half an hour’s breathing-time, he was safe. With pick and spade he would burrow in the ground like a rabbit. When the time comes for that New-Zealander, foretold by Macaulay, to sit on the ruins of London bridge, and wonder what people had passed away, leaving such gigantic ruins behind them, we would recommend him to come over to these States, and view the miles of hillocks that the industrious Yankee moles threw up during our late war; and speculate upon the genus of the animal gifted with such wonderful instincts.

But to return to our tour of inspection. The famous underground “galleries” of the Rock of Gibraltar, are huge tunnels, blasted and bored, foot by foot, in the living rock, sufficiently wide and deep to admit of the placing, and working of heavy artillery. They are from one third of a mile, to half a mile in length, and there are three tiers of them, rising one above the other; the embrasures or port-holes of which resemble, when viewed from a distance, those of an old-time two-decker. Besides these galleries for the artillery, there have also been excavated in the solid rock, ample magazines, and store and provision rooms, and tanks for the reception of water. These[Pg 323] receptacles are kept constantly well supplied with munitions, both de guerre, and de bouche, so that if the garrison should be driven from the fortifications below, it could retreat to this citadel, close the massive doors behind them, and withstand a siege.

We passed through all the galleries, ascending from one to the other, through a long, rough-hewn stairway—the Colonel frequently stopping, and explaining to me the history of some particular nook or battlement—until we finally emerged into the open air through a port-hole, or doorway at the very top of the Rock, and stood upon a narrow footway or platform, looking down a sheer precipice of fifteen hundred feet, upon the sea breaking in miniature waves at the base of the Rock. There was no rail to guard one from the precipice below, and I could but wonder at the nonchalance with which the Colonel stepped out upon this narrow ledge, and walked some yards to get a view of the distant coast of Spain, expecting me to follow him. I did follow him, but I planted my feet very firmly and carefully, feeling all the while some such emptiness in the region of the “bread-basket,” as Marryatt describes Peter Simple to have experienced when the first shot whistled past that young gentleman in his first naval engagement.

The object of the Colonel, in this flank movement, was to show me a famous height some distance inland, called the “Queen of Spain’s Chair,” and to relate to me the legend in connection with it. The Rock of Gibraltar has always been the darling of Spain. It has been twice wrested from her, once by the Moors, and once by the English. She regained it from the Moors, when she drove them out of her Southern provinces, after an occupation of eight hundred years! Some of the remains of the old Moorish castles are still visible. Afterward, an English naval captain, returning from some expedition up the Mediterranean, in which he had been unsuccessful, stormed and captured the Rock with a handful of sailors. Spain, mortified beyond measure, at the result, made strenuous efforts to recover it. In 1752 she bent all her energies in this direction, and fitted out large expeditions, by land and by sea, for the purpose. The Queen came down from Madrid to witness the siege, and causing her tent to be pitched[Pg 324] near the “Chair,” vowed she would never leave it, until she saw the flag of Spain floating once more from the coveted battlements. But General Elliot, with only a small garrison, beat back the immense armaments, and the Spaniards were compelled to raise the siege. But the poor Queen of Spain! what was to become of her, and her vow? English gallantry came to her relief. The Spanish flag was raised for a single day from the Rock, to enable the Queen to descend from her chair! The reader will judge whether this legend was worth the emptiness in the “bread-basket” which I had experienced, in order to get at it.

Descending back through the galleries, to where we had left our horses, we remounted, and following a zigzag path, filled with loose stones, and running occasionally along the edges of precipices, down which we should have been instantly dashed in pieces, if our sure-footed animals had stumbled, we reached the signal-station. On the very apex of the rock, nature seemed to have prepared a little plateau, of a few yards square, as if for the very purpose for which it was occupied—that of over-looking the approaches from every direction, to the famous Rock. A neat little box of a house, with a signal-mast and yard, and a small plot of ground, about as large as a pocket-handkerchief, used as a garden, occupied the whole space. Europe, and Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic were all visible from this eyry. The day was clear, and we could see to great distances. There were ships in the east coming down the Mediterranean, and ships in the west coming through the famous Strait; they all looked like mere specks. Fleets that might shake nations with their thunder, would be here mere cock-boats. The country is mountainous on both sides of the Strait, and these mountains now lay sleeping in the sunshine, covered with a thin, gauzy veil, blue and mysterious, and wearing that air of enchantment which distance always lends to bold scenery.

“We had a fine view of your ship, the other day,” said the signal-man to me, “when you were chasing the Yankee. The latter was hereaway, when you set fire to her”—pointing in the direction. “Are there many Yankee ships passing the Rock now?” I inquired. “No. Very few since the war [Pg 325]commenced.” “It would not pay me, then, to cruise in these seas?” “Scarcely.”

As we turned to go to our horses, we were attracted by the appearance of three large apes, that had come out of their lodging-place in the Rock, to sun themselves. These apes are one of the curiosities of the Rock, and many journeys have been made in vain to the signal-station, to see them. The Colonel had never seen them before, himself, and the signal-man congratulated us both on our good fortune. “Those are three old widows,” said he, “the only near neighbors I have, and we are very friendly; but as you are strangers, you must not move if you would have a good look at them, or they will run away.” He then gave us the history of his neighbors. Years ago there was quite a colony of these counterfeit presentments of human nature on the Rock, but the whole colony has disappeared except these three. “When I first came to the signal-station,” continued our informant, “these three old widows were gay, and dashing young damsels, with plenty of sweethearts, but unfortunately for them, there were more males than females, and a war ensued in the colony in consequence. First one of the young males would disappear, and then another, until I at last noticed that there were only four of the whole colony left: one very large old male, and these three females. Peace now ensued, and the old fellow lived apparently very happily with his wives, but no children were born to him, and finally he died, leaving these three disconsolate widows, who have since grown old—you can see that they are quite gray—to mourn his loss.” And they did indeed look sad and disconsolate enough. They eyed us very curiously, and when we moved toward our horses, they scampered off. They subsist upon wild dates, and a few other wild fruits that grow upon the Rock.

We passed down the mountain-side to the south end of the Rock, where we exchanged salutations with the General and Mrs. Codrington, who had come out to superintend some repairs upon a country house which they had at this end; and reaching the town, I began to congratulate myself that my long and fatiguing visit of inspection was drawing to a close. Not so, however. These Englishmen are a sort of cross between[Pg 326] the Centaur and the North American Indian. They can ride you, or walk you to death, whichever you please; and so Freemantle said to me, “Now, Captain, we will just take a little gallop out past the ‘neutral ground,’ and then I think I will have shown you all the curiosities.” The “neutral ground” was about three miles distant, and “a gallop” out and back, would be six miles! Imagine a sailor who had not been on horseback before, for six months; who had been riding for half a day one of those accursed English horses, with their long stride, and swinging trot, throwing a man up, and catching him again, as if he were a trap-ball; who was galled, and sore, and jaded, having such a proposition made to him! It was worse than taking me out on that narrow ledge of rock fifteen hundred feet above the sea, to look at the Queen of Spain’s Chair. But I could not retreat. How could an American, who had been talking of his big country, its long rivers, the immense distances traversed by its railroads and steam-boats, and the capacity for endurance of its people in the present war, knock under to an Englishman, and a Coldstream Guardsman at that, on this very question of endurance? And so we rode to the “neutral ground.”

This is a narrow strip of territory, accurately set off by metes and bounds, on the isthmus that separates the Rock from the Spanish territory. As its name implies, neither party claims jurisdiction over it. On one side are posted the English sentinels, and on the other, the Spanish; and the all’s-well! of the one mingles strangely, at night, with the alerta! of the other. We frequently heard them both on board the Sumter, when the night was still. I got back to my ship just in time for a six o’clock dinner, astonished John by drinking an extra glass of sherry, and could hardly walk for a week afterward.

A day or two after my visit to the Rock, I received a visit from a Spanish naval lieutenant, sent over, as he stated, by the Admiral from Algeziras, to remonstrate with me against the burning of the ship Neapolitan within Spanish jurisdiction. The reader who has read the description of the burning of that ship, will be as much astonished as I was at this visit. The Spanish Government owns the fortress of Ceuta, on the[Pg 327] African shore opposite Gibraltar, and by virtue of this ownership claims, as it would appear, jurisdiction for a marine league at sea, in the neighborhood of the fortress. It was claimed that the Neapolitan had been captured within this league. The lieutenant having thus stated his case, I demanded to know on what testimony the Admiral relied, to establish the fact of the burning within the league. He replied that the United States Consul at Gibraltar had made the statement to the Admiral. Here was the “cat out of the bag” again; another United States Consul had turned up, with his intrigues and false statements. The nice little piece of diplomacy had probably been helped on, too, by the commanders of the Federal ships of war, that had made Algeziras a rendezvous, since I had been anchored in the Bay of Gibraltar. When the Spanish officer had done stating his case, I said to him:—“I do not recognize the right of your Admiral to raise any question with me, as to my capture of the Neapolitan. The capture of that ship is an accomplished fact, and if any injury has been done thereby to Spain, the Spanish Government can complain of it to the Government of the Confederate States. It has passed beyond the stage, when the Admiral and I could manage it, and has become an affair entirely between our two Governments.”

This was all the official answer I had to make, and the lieutenant, whose bearing was that of an intelligent gentleman, assented to the correctness of my position. I then said to him:—“But aside from the official aspect of the case, I desire to show you, that your Admiral has had his credulity played upon by his informant, the Consul, and whatever other parties may have approached him on this subject. They have made false statements to him. It is not only well known to hundreds of citizens of the Rock, who were eye-witnesses of the burning of the Neapolitan, that that vessel was burned at a distance of from six to seven miles from the African coast, but I have the testimony of the master of the captured vessel himself, to the same effect.” I then sent for my clerk, whom I directed to produce and read the deposition of the master, which, according to custom, we had taken immediately upon effecting the capture. In that deposition, after[Pg 328] having been duly sworn, the master had stated that the capture was made about five miles from Europa Point, the southern extremity of the Rock of Gibraltar. The Strait is about fourteen miles wide at this point, which would put the ship, when captured, nine miles from Ceuta! The lieutenant, at the conclusion of the reading, raised both hands, and with an expressive smile, ejaculated, “Es possible?” “Yes,” I replied, “all things are possible to Federal Consuls, and other Federal pimps and spies, when the Sumter and Yankee ships are concerned.”

 

 


[Pg 329]

CHAPTER XXVI.

THE SUMTER IN TROUBLE—FINDS IT IMPOSSIBLE TO COAL, BY REASON OF A COMBINATION AGAINST HER, HEADED BY THE FEDERAL CONSUL—APPLIES TO THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT FOR COAL, BUT IS REFUSED—SENDS HER PAYMASTER AND EX-CONSUL TUNSTALL TO CADIZ—THEY ARE ARRESTED AND IMPRISONED AT TANGIER—CORRESPONDENCE ON THE SUBJECT—THE SUMTER LAID UP AND SOLD.

 

The Sumter’s boilers were very much out of condition when she arrived at Gibraltar, and we had hoped, from the fact that Gibraltar was a touching-point for several lines of steamers, that we should find here, machine and boiler shops sufficiently extensive to enable us to have a new set of boilers made. We were disappointed in this; and so were compelled to patch up the old boilers as best we could, hoping that when our funds should arrive, we might be enabled to coal, and run around to London or Liverpool, where we would find all the facilities we could desire. My funds arrived, as before stated, on the 3d of February, and I at once set about supplying myself with coal. I sent my first lieutenant and paymaster on shore, and afterward my engineer, to purchase it, authorizing them to pay more than the market-price, if it should be necessary. The reader will judge of my surprise when these officers returned, and informed me that they found the market closed against them, and that it was impossible to purchase a pound of coal in any direction!

It has been seen, in the course of these pages, how often I have had occasion to complain of the conduct of the Federal Consuls, and one can scarcely conceive the trouble and annoyance which these well-drilled officials of Mr. Seward gave[Pg 330] me. I could not, of course, have complained, if their bearing toward me had been simply that of open enemies. This was to be expected. But they descended to bribery, trickery, and fraud, and to all the other arts of petty intrigue, so unworthy of an honorable enemy. Our Southern people can scarcely conceive how little our non-commercial Southern States were known, in the marts of traffic and trade of the world. Beyond a few of our principal ports, whence our staple of cotton was shipped to Europe, our nomenclature even was unknown to the mass of mere traders. The Yankee Consul and the Yankee shipmaster were everywhere. Yankee ships carried out cargoes of cotton, and Yankee ships brought back the goods which were purchased with the proceeds. All the American trade with Europe was Yankee trade—a ship here and there excepted. Commercial men, everywhere, were thus more or less connected with the enemy; and trade being the breath of their nostrils, it is not wonderful that I found them inimical to me. With rare exceptions, they had no trade to lose with the South, and much to lose with the North; and this was the string played upon by the Federal Consuls. If a neutral merchant showed any inclination to supply the Sumter with anything she needed, a runner was forthwith sent round to him by the Federal Consul, to threaten him with the loss of his American—i. e. Yankee—trade, unless he desisted.

Such was the game now being played in Gibraltar, to prevent the Sumter from coaling. The same Federal Consul, who, as the reader has seen a few pages back, stated in an official letter to the Spanish Admiral, that the Neapolitan had been captured within the marine league of the Spanish-African coast, whilst the captain of the same ship had sworn positively that she was distant from it, nine miles, was now bribing and threatening the coal-dealers of Gibraltar, to prevent them from supplying me with coal. Whilst I was pondering my dilemma, I was agreeably surprised, one morning, to receive a visit from an English shipmaster, whose ship had just arrived with some coal on board. He was willing, he said, to supply me, naming his price, which I at once agreed to give him. I congratulated myself that I had at last found an independent Englishman, who had no fear of the loss of Yankee[Pg 331] trade, and expressed as much to him. “If there is anything,” said he, “of which I am proud, it is just that thing, that I am an independent man.” It was arranged that I should get up steam, and go alongside of him the next day. In the meantime, however, “a change came o’er the spirit” of the Englishman’s dream. He visited the shore. What took place there, we do not know; but the next morning, whilst I was weighing my anchor to go alongside of him, according to agreement, a boat came from the ship of my “independent” friend to say, that I could not have the coal, unless I would pay him double the price agreed upon! He, too, had fallen into the hands of the enemy. The steam was blown off, and the anchor not weighed.

Finding that I could do nothing with the merchants, I had recourse to the Government. There was some coal in the Dock-Yard, and I addressed the following note to my friend, Captain Warden, to see if he would not supply me:—

Confederate States Steamer Sumter,
February 10, 1862.

Sir:—I have the honor to inform you, that I have made every effort to procure a supply of coal, without success. The British and other merchants of Gibraltar, instigated I learn by the United States Consul, have entered into the unneutral combination of declining to supply the Sumter with coal on any terms. Under these circumstances I trust the Government of her Majesty will find no difficulty in supplying me. By the recent letter of Earl Russell—31st of January, 1862—it is not inconsistent with neutrality, for a belligerent to supply himself with coal in a British port. In other words, this article has been pronounced, like provisions, innoxious; and this being the case, it can make no difference whether it be supplied by the Government or an individual (the Government being reimbursed the expense), and this even though the market were open to me. Much more then may the Government supply me with an innocent article, the market not being open to me. Suppose I had come into port destitute of provisions, and the same illegal combination had shut me out from the market, would the British Government permit my crew to starve? Or suppose I had been a sailing-ship, and had come in dismasted from the effects of a recent gale, and the dock-yard of her Majesty was the only place where I could be refitted, would you deny me a mast? The laws of nations are positive on this last point, and it would be your duty to allow me to refit in the public dock. And if you would not, under the circumstances stated, deny me a mast, on what principle will you deny me coal—the latter being as necessary to a steamer as a mast to a sailing-ship, and both being alike innoxious?

[Pg 332]The true criterion is, not whether the Government or an individual may supply the article, but whether the article itself be noxious or innoxious. The Government may not supply me with powder—why? Not because I may have recourse to the market, but because the article itself is interdicted. A case in point occurred when I was in Cadiz recently. My ship was admitted into a Government dock, and there repaired. The reasons were, first, the repairs, themselves, were such as were authorized by the laws of nations; and secondly, there were no private docks in Cadiz. So here, the article is innocent, and there is none in the market—or rather none accessible to me, which is the same thing. Why, then, may not the Government supply me? In conclusion, I respectfully request that you will supply me with 150 tons of coal, for which I will pay the cash; or, if you prefer it, I will deposit the money with an agent, who can have no difficulty, I suppose, in purchasing the same quantity of the material from some of the coal-hulks, and returning it to her Majesty’s dock-yard.

This application was telegraphed to the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in London, and after the lapse of a week—for it took the “law-officers of the Crown” a week, it seems, to decide the question—was denied. On the same day on which I wrote the above letter, I performed the very pleasant duty of paying to the Spanish Consul at Gibraltar, on account of the authorities at Cadiz, the amount of the bill which the dock-yard officers at Caracca had rendered me, for docking my ship. The dock-yard Admiral had behaved very handsomely about it. I was entirely destitute of funds. He docked my ship, with a knowledge of this fact, and was kind enough to say that I might pay at my convenience. I take pleasure in recording this conduct on the part of a Spanish gentleman, who held a high position in the Spanish Navy, as a set-off to the coarse and unfriendly conduct of the Military Governor of Cadiz, of whom I have before spoken.

Failing with the British Government, as I had done with the merchants of Gibraltar, to obtain a supply of coal, I next dispatched my paymaster for Cadiz, with instructions to purchase in that port, and ship the article around to me. A Mr. Tunstall, who had been the United States Consul at Cadiz, before the war, was then in Gibraltar, and at his request, I sent him along with the paymaster. They embarked on board a small French steamer plying between some of the Mediterranean ports, and Cadiz. Tangier, a small Moorish[Pg 333] town on the opposite side of the Strait of Gibraltar, lies in the route, and the steamer stopped there for a few hours to land and receive passengers, and to put off, and take on freight. Messrs. Myers and Tunstall, during this delay, went up into the town, to take a walk, and as they were returning, were set upon by a guard of Moorish soldiers, and made prisoners! Upon demanding an explanation, they were informed that they had been arrested upon a requisition of the United States Consul, resident in that town.

By special treaties between the Christian powers, and the Moorish and other non-Christian powers on the borders of the Mediterranean, it is provided that the consuls of the different Christian powers shall have jurisdiction, both civil and criminal, over their respective citizens. It was under such a treaty between the United States and Morocco, that the United States Consul had demanded the arrest of Messrs. Myers and Tunstall, as citizens of the United States, alleging that they had committed high crimes against the said States, on the high seas! The ignorant Moorish officials knew nothing, and cared nothing, about the laws of nations; nor did they puzzle their small brains with what was going on, on the American continent. All they knew was, that one “Christian dog,” had demanded other “Christian dogs,” as his prisoners, and troops were sent to the Consul, to enable him to make the arrest as a matter of course.

The Consul, hoping to recommend himself to the mad populace of the United States, who were just then denouncing the Sumter as a “pirate,” and howling for the blood of all embarked on board of her,—with as little brains as their Moorish allies,—acted like the brute he was, took the prisoners to his consular residence, ironed them heavily, and kept them in close confinement! He guarded them as he would the apple of his eye, for had he not a prize which might make him Consul for life at Tangier? Alas for human hopes! I have since learned that he was kicked out of his place, to make room for another Sans Culotte, even more hungry, and more “truly loil” than himself.

Intelligence of the rich prizes which he had made, having been conveyed by the Consul, to the commanding United[Pg 334] States naval officer, in the Bay of Algeziras, which bay had by this time become a regular naval station of the enemy, that officer, instead of releasing the prisoners at once, as he should have done, on every principle of honor, if not out of regard for the laws of nations, which he was bound to respect and obey, sent the sailing bark Ino, one of his armed vessels, to Tangier, which received the prisoners on board, and brought them over to Algeziras—the doughty Consul accompanying them.

There was great rejoicing on board the Yankee ships of war, in that Spanish port, when the Consul and his prisoners arrived. They had blockaded the Sumter in the Mississippi, they had blockaded her in Martinique, they had chased her hither and thither; Wilkes, Porter, and Palmer, had all been in pursuit of her, but they had all been baffled. At last, the little Tangier Consul appears upon the scene, and waylaying, not the Sumter, but her paymaster, unarmed, and unsuspicious of Yankee fraud, and Yankee trickery, captures him in the streets of a Moorish town, and hurries him over to Algeziras, ironed like a felon, and delivers him to Captain Craven, of the United States Navy, who receives the prisoner, irons and all, and applauds the act!

In a day or two, after the Consul’s trophies had been duly exhibited in the Bay of Algeziras; after the rejoicings were over, and lengthy despatches had been written, announcing the capture to the Washington Government, the Ino sets sail for Cadiz, and there transfers her prisoners to a merchant-ship, called the Harvest Home, bound for the goodly port of Boston.

The prisoners were gentlemen,—one of them had been an officer of the Federal Navy, and the other a Consul,—but this did not deter the master of the Yankee merchant-ship from practising upon them the cruelty and malignity of a cowardly nature. His first act was to shave the heads of his prisoners, and his second, to put them in close confinement, still ironed, though there was no possibility of their escape. The captain of the Ino, or of the Harvest Home, I am not sure which,—they may settle it between them,—robbed my paymaster of his watch, so as not to be behindhand with their countrymen on the land, who were just then beginning to practise the art of watch and spoon stealing, in which, under the lead of [Pg 335]illustrious chiefs, they soon afterward became adepts. I blush, as an American, to be called upon to record such transactions. It were well for the American name, if they could be buried a thousand fathoms deep, and along with them the perpetrators.

At first, a rumor only of the capture and imprisonment of my paymaster, and his companion, reached me. It appeared so extraordinary, that I could not credit it. And even if it were true, I took it for granted, that the silly act of the Federal Consul would be set aside by the commander of the Federal naval forces, in the Mediterranean. The rumor soon ripened, however, into a fact, and the illusion which I had labored under as to the course of the Federal naval officer, was almost as speedily dispelled. I had judged him by the old standard, the standard which had prevailed when I myself knew something of the personnel of the United States Navy. But old things had passed away, and new things had come to take their places. A violent, revolutionary faction had possessed itself of the once honored Government of the United States, and, as is the case in all revolutions, coarse and vulgar men had risen to the surface, thrusting the more gentle classes into the background. The Army and the Navy were soon brought under the influence of these coarser and ruder men, and the necessary consequence ensued—the Army and the Navy themselves became coarser and ruder. Some few fine natures resisted the unholy influences, but the mass of them went, as masses will always go, with the current.

As soon as the misfortunes of my agents were known to me, I resorted to all the means within my reach, to endeavor to effect their release, but in vain, as they were carried to Boston, and there imprisoned. I first addressed a note to General Codrington, the Governor of Gibraltar, requesting him to intercede with her Britannic Majesty’s Chargé, at the Court of Morocco, for their release. This latter gentleman, whose name was Hay, resided at Tangier, where the Court of Morocco then was, and was said to have great influence with it; indeed, to be all-powerful. I then wrote to the Morocco Government direct, and also to Mr. Hay. I give so much of this correspondence below as is necessary to inform the reader of the facts and circumstances of the case, and of the conduct of the several functionaries to whom I addressed myself.

[Pg 336] Confederate States Steamer Sumter,
Bay of Gibraltar, February 22, 1862.

Sir:—I have the honor to ask the good offices of his Excellency, the Governor of Gibraltar [this letter was addressed to the Colonial Secretary, who conducted all the Governor’s official correspondence], in a matter purely my own. On Wednesday last, I dispatched from this port, in a French passenger-steamer for Cadiz, on business connected with this ship, my paymaster, Mr. Henry Myers, and Mr. T. T. Tunstall, a citizen of the Confederate States, and ex-United States Consul at Cadiz. The steamer having stopped on her way, at Tangier, and these gentlemen having gone on shore for a walk during her temporary delay there, they were seized by the authorities, at the instigation of the United States Consul, and imprisoned.

A note from Paymaster Myers informs me that they are both heavily ironed, and otherwise treated in a barbarous manner. * * * An occurrence of this kind could not have happened, of course, in a civilized community. The political ignorance of the Moorish Government has been shamefully practised upon by the unscrupulous Consul. I understand that the British Government has a diplomatic agent resident at Tangier, and a word from that gentleman would, no doubt, set the matter right, and insure the release of the unfortunate prisoners. And it is to interest this gentleman in this humane task, that I address myself to his Excellency. May I not ask the favor of his Excellency, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, to address Mr. Hay a note on the subject, explaining to him the facts, and asking his interposition? If any official scruples present themselves, the thing might be done in his character of a private gentleman. The Moorish Government could not hesitate a moment, if it understood correctly the facts, and principles of the case; to wit: that the principal powers of Europe have recognized the Confederate States, as belligerents, in their war against the United States, and consequently that the act of making war against these States, by the citizens of the Confederate States, is not an offence, political, or otherwise, of which a neutral can take cognizance, &c.

Governor Codrington did kindly and humanely interest himself, and write to Mr. Hay, but his letter produced no effect. In reply to my own note to Mr. Hay, that gentleman wrote me as follows:—

“You must be aware, that her Majesty’s Government have decided on observing a strict neutrality, in the present conflict between the Northern and Southern States; it is therefore incumbent on her Majesty’s officers, to avoid anything like undue interference in any questions affecting the interests of either party, which do not concern the British Government; and though I do not refuse to accede to your request, to deliver the letter to the Moorish authorities, I think it my duty to signify, distinctly, to the latter, my intention[Pg 337] to abstain from expressing an opinion regarding the course to be pursued by Morocco, on the subject of your letter.”

In reply to this letter of Mr. Hay, I addressed him the following:—

Confederate States Steamer Sumter,
Gibraltar, February 25, 1862.

Sir:—I have had the honor to receive your letter of yesterday’s date, in reply to mine of the 23d inst., informing me that “You [I] must be aware that her Britannic Majesty’s Government have decided on observing a strict neutrality, in the present conflict between the Northern and Southern States; it is therefore incumbent on her Majesty’s officers to avoid anything like undue interference in any questions affecting the interests of either party, which do not concern the British Government; and though I do not refuse to accede to your request, to deliver the letter to the Moorish authorities, I think it my duty to signify distinctly to the latter my intention to refrain from expressing an opinion regarding the course to be pursued by Morocco on the subject-matter of your letter.”

Whilst I thank you for the courtesy of delivering my letter, as requested, I must be permitted to express to you my disappointment at the course which you have prescribed to yourself, of refraining from expressing any opinion to the Moorish Government, of the legality or illegality of its act, lest you should be charged with undue interference.

I had supposed that the “Trent affair,” of so recent occurrence, had settled, not only the right, but the duty of the civilized nations of the earth to “interfere,” in a friendly manner, to prevent wars between nations. It cannot have escaped your observation, that the course pursued by Europe in that affair, is precisely analogous to that which I have requested of you. In that affair a quarrel arose between the United States, one of the belligerents in the existing war, and Great Britain, a neutral in that war; and instead of “refraining” from offering advice, all Europe made haste to volunteer it to both parties. The United States were told by France, by Russia, by Spain, and other Powers, that their act was illegal, and that they could, without a sacrifice of honor, grant the reparation demanded by Great Britain. Neither the nation giving the advice nor the nation advised, supposed for a moment that there was a breach of neutrality in this proceeding; on the contrary, it was the general verdict of mankind, that the course pursued was not only legal, but eminently humane and proper, as tending to allay excitement, and prevent the effusion of blood.

If you will run a parallel between the Trent case, and the case in hand, you will find it difficult, I think, to sustain the reason you have assigned for your forbearance. In that case, the quarrel was between a neutral, and a belligerent, as in this case. In that case, citizens of a belligerent State were unlawfully arrested [Pg 338]on the high seas, in a neutral ship, by the opposite belligerent, and imprisoned. In this case, citizens of a belligerent State have been unlawfully arrested by a neutral, in neutral territory, and imprisoned. Does the fact that the offence was committed in the former case, by a belligerent against a neutral, and in the latter case, by a neutral against a belligerent, make any difference in the application of the principle we are discussing? And if so, in what does the difference consist? If A strikes B, is it lawful to interfere to preserve the peace, and if B strikes A, is it unlawful to interfere for the same purpose? Can the circumstance, that the prisoners seized by the one belligerent, in the Trent affair, were citizens of the other belligerent, alter the application of the principle? The difference, if any, is in favor of the present case, for whilst the belligerent in the former case was compelled to release its enemies, whom, under proper conditions it would have had the right to capture, in the latter case I requested you to advise a neutral to release prisoners, who were not the enemies of the neutral, and whom the neutral could have no right to capture under any circumstances whatever.

Upon further inquiry, I learn that my first impression, that the two gentlemen in question had been arrested under some claim of extradition, was not exactly correct. It seems that they were arrested by Moorish soldiery, upon the requisition of the United States Consul, who claimed to exercise jurisdiction over them, as citizens of the United States, under a provision of a treaty common between what are called the non-civilized and the civilized nations. This state of facts does not alter, in any degree, the reasoning applicable to the case. If Morocco adopts the status given to the Confederate States by Europe, she must remain neutral between the two belligerents, not undertaking to judge of the nationality of the citizens of either of them, or to decide any other question growing out of the war, which does not concern her own interests. She has no right, therefore, to adjudge a citizen of the Confederate States, to be a citizen of the United States; and not having this right, herself, she cannot convey it by treaty to the United States, to be exercised by their Consul in Tangier.

I trust that you will not understand, that I have written in a tone of remonstrance, or complaint. I have no ground on which to demand anything of you. The friendly offices of nations, like those of individuals, must be spontaneous; and if in the present instance, you have not deemed yourself at liberty to offer a word of friendly advice, to a Barbarian Government which has evidently erred through ignorance of its rights and duties, in favor of unfortunate citizens of a Government, in amity with your own, and whose people are connected with your people by so many ties of consanguinity and interest, I have no word of remonstrance to offer. You are the best judge of your own actions.

I never received any reply to this letter from Mr. Hay. The fact that the prisoners were permitted to be delivered up to the enemy,[Pg 339] as before stated, is conclusive that he was as good as his word, and “signified distinctly” to the Moorish Government, that he should refrain from giving it any advice on the subject—which, of course, under the circumstances, was tantamount to advising it to do what it did. If he had contented himself with handing in my protest to the Moorish authorities, without any remark whatever, his conduct would not have been so objectionable, but when he made it a point to inform them, as he took pains to tell me he would, that he had no advice to offer them, this was saying to them in effect, “I have no objection to offer to your course;” for it must be borne in mind, that Mr. Hay was a great favorite with the Government to which he was accredited, and was in the constant habit of giving it advice on every and all occasions. The consuls of the different powers resident in Tangier behaved no better than Mr. Hay. A serious commotion among the Christian residents took place, upon the arrest and imprisonment of Messrs. Myers and Tunstall, which would probably have resulted in their release by the Government, but for the interference of these consuls, headed by Mr. Hay. They advised their respective countrymen to disperse, and “refraining distinctly,” each and all of them, from giving a word of advice to the perplexed authorities, though implored by the Moors themselves to do so, the latter construed the whole course of Hay and the consuls to mean, that they must comply with the Federal Consul’s demand, and hand over the prisoners to him.

The news of this arrest and imprisonment created great excitement in most of the Christian capitals, particularly in London. A formal call was made in the British Parliament, upon the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, for an official statement of the facts; but it being rumored and believed, soon afterward, in London, that the prisoners had been released, no steps were taken by the British Government, if any were contemplated, until it was too late. Mr. Mason, our Commissioner in London, interested himself at once in the matter, but was deceived like the rest, by the rumor. The following extract from a letter written by me to him on the 19th of March will show how the British Government had been bamboozled by some one, although there was a continuous line of telegraph between London and Gibraltar:—

[Pg 340]“I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 8th inst. informing me that, as late as the 7th of March, the English Government was under the impression that Paymaster Myers and Mr. Tunstall, had been released from imprisonment; and requesting me to telegraph you, if the contrary should be the fact. This lack of information on the part of the Under Secretary of State is somewhat remarkable, as no rumor has prevailed here, at any time, that these gentlemen had been liberated. On the contrary, the sloop-of-war Ino, of the enemy, came into this Bay—Spanish side—on the 28th of February, with the prisoners on board, and sailed with them the next day. On the 6th of March, the Ino transferred the prisoners to the enemy’s merchant-ship, Harvest Home, off Cadiz, which sailed immediately for Boston. You will perceive, from the narration of these facts, that it was unnecessary to telegraph to you, as the prisoners, though they had not been released, had been placed beyond the reach of the British Government through its Chargé at Tangier—even if you could have induced that Government to interfere, which I very much doubt.

“You have, of course, been informed through the press, that the Moorish Government was anxious to liberate the prisoners, but that it was bullied into acquiescence, by the truculent Federal Consul, who was backed by a force of forty armed men, landed from the Ino, and who threatened to haul down his flag, and quit the country, if his demand was not complied with. A word of advice given, unofficially even, by Mr. Hay, or some one of the consuls present, would have been an act of kindness to the ignorant Moors, in keeping them out of a scrape, as well as to ourselves. As the case now stands, we shall be obliged, as soon as we shall have gotten rid of this Yankee war, to settle accounts with his Majesty of Morocco.”

One more letter, and the reader will have full information of this Tangier difficulty. Myers and Tunstall had embarked, as has been stated, under the French flag, and I wrote to Mr. Slidell in Paris, requesting him to call the attention of the French Government to this fact. Having received from him in reply a note informing me that he had done so, I wrote him again as follows:—

“I have had the honor to receive your note of the 8th of March, informing me that you had referred the subject of the capture of Messrs. Myers and Tunstall to Mons. Thouvenal, the French Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, but that the impression prevailed in Paris that those gentlemen had been liberated. With regard to the latter fact, you will, of course, have been undeceived before this. The prisoners will probably be in Fort Warren, before this reaches you. The French Consul-General at Tangier must have kept his Government badly informed on the subject, since the latter[Pg 341] supposed, as late as the 8th inst., that the prisoners had been liberated.

“I trust that you will be able to make something out of the case. It is one in which all the Christian powers are interested. If this precedent is to stand, a French or an English subject may be seized, to-morrow, upon the simple requisition of a consul, and handed over to his enemy. And then, as I stated to you, in my first letter, is not the honor of the French flag involved? It is admitted that, as between civilized states, this question of the flag would not arise, the parties having disembarked. But a different set of rules has been applied to the dealings of the Christian powers, with the non-Christian, as is shown by this very arrest, under a claim of jurisdiction by a consul. A Frenchman in Morocco is, by treaty, under the protection of the French Consular flag. If he commits an offence, he is tried and punished by his Consul, regardless of the fact that he is literally within the jurisdiction of Morocco. And these concessions have been demanded by the Christian nations, for the security of their subjects.

“A French citizen, on board a French merchant-ship, lying in the waters of Morocco, would be subject to the same rule. Should, now, a French traveller, landing in Morocco, in itinere, only, from a French ship, be subject to a different rule? and if so, on what principle? And if a Frenchman would be protected under these circumstances—protected because of the flag which has brought him hither, and not because he is a Frenchman, simply, why may not Messrs. Myers and Tunstall claim French protection? Though they were on the soil of Morocco, when arrested, they were there, in itinere, under the French flag, which not only exterritorialized the ship, over which it floated, but every one who belonged to the ship, whether on ship-board or on shore, for the time being.

“But what appears to me most extraordinary in this case, is the apathy, or rather the fear of their own governments, which was manifested by the representatives of the Christian powers, on the occasion of the arrest. A friend of mine, the Captain of an English steam-frigate, on this station, visited Tangier, with his ship, a day or two only after the occurrence, and he informs me that the Moorish authorities were sorely perplexed, during the pendency of the affair, and that they implored the counsel and assistance of the representatives of the Christian powers, to enable them to solve the difficulty, but that not one word of advice was tendered.” * * *

I was sorry to lose my very efficient paymaster, but there was no remedy. He was incarcerated for a while, after his arrival in Boston, but was treated as a prisoner of war, and was finally released on parole. The Secretary of the Federal Navy directed his stolen watch to be returned to him which is worthy of record, as being something exceptional,[Pg 342] but I have never learned whether any punishment was inflicted upon the party committing the theft. Probably not, as by this time, entire Federal armies had become demoralized and taken to plundering.

The Sumter was now blockaded by three ships of the enemy, and it being impossible for me to coal, I resolved to lay her up, and proceed to London, and consult with my Government as to my future course. I might possibly have had coal shipped to me from London, or some other English port, but this would have involved expense and delay, and it was exceedingly doubtful besides, whether I could elude the vigilance of so many blockading ships, in a slow ship, with crippled boilers. In her best days, the Sumter had been a very inefficient ship, being always anchored, as it were, in the deep sea, by her propeller, whenever she was out of coal. A fast ship, propelled entirely by sail-power, would have been better.

When I look back now, I am astonished to find what a struggle it cost me to get my own consent to lay up this old ship. As inexplicable as the feeling is, I had really become attached to her, and felt as if I would be parting forever with a valued friend. She had run me safely through two vigilant blockades, had weathered many storms, and rolled me to sleep in many calms. Her cabin was my bed-room and my study, both in one, her quarter-deck was my promenade, and her masts, spars, and sails, my playthings. I had handled her in all kinds of weather, watching her every motion in difficult situations, as a man watches the yielding and cracking ice over which he is making a perilous passage. She had fine qualities as a sea-boat, being as buoyant, active, and dry as a duck, in the heaviest gales, and these are the qualities which a seaman most admires.

And then, there are other chords of feeling touched in the sailor’s heart, at the end of a cruise, besides the parting with his ship. The commander of a ship is more or less in the position of a father of a family. He necessarily forms an attachment for those who have served under him, and especially for such as have developed honorable qualities, and high abilities, and I had a number on board the Sumter who had developed both. I only regretted that they had not a wider field for the[Pg 343] exercise of their abilities. I had officers serving with me, as lieutenants, who were equal to any naval command, whatever. But, unfortunately for them, our poor, hard-pressed Confederate States had no navy worth speaking of; and owing to the timidity, caution, and fear of neutrals, found it impossible to improvise one. And then, when men have been drenched, and wind-beaten in the same storm, have stood on the deck of the same frail little ship, with only a plank between them and eternity, and watched her battling with the elements, which threaten every moment to overwhelm her, there is a feeling of brotherhood that springs up between them, that it is difficult for a landsman to conceive.

There was another, and if possible, stronger chord which bound us together. In the olden time, when the Christian warrior went forth to battle with the Saracen, for the cross, each knight was the sworn brother of the other. They not only slept in the same tents, endured the same hardships, and encountered the same risks, but their faith bound them together with hooks of steel. Without irreverence be it spoken, we of the Southern States had, too, our faith. The Saracen had invaded our beloved land, and was laying it waste with fire and sword. We were battling for our honor, our homes, and our property; in short, for everything that was dear to the human heart. Yea, we were battling for our blood and our race, for it had been developed, even at this early stage of the war, that it was the design of the Northern hordes that were swarming down upon us, not only to liberate the slave, but to enable him to put his foot upon the neck of his late master, and thus bastardize, if possible, his posterity. The blood of the white man in our veins could not but curdle at the contemplation of an atrocity which nothing but the brain of a demon could have engendered.

Besides my officers, I had many worthy men among my crew, who had stood by me in every emergency, and who looked forward with sorrowful countenances, to the approaching separation. The reader has been introduced to my Malayan steward, John, on several occasions. John’s black, lustrous eyes filled with ill-concealed tears, more than once, during the last days of the Sumter, as he smoothed the pillow of my cot[Pg 344] with a hand as tender as that of a woman, or handed me the choicest dishes at meals.

I had governed my crew with a rigid hand, never overlooking an offence, but I had, at the same time, always been mindful of justice, and I was gratified to find, both on the part of officers and men, an apparent forgetfulness of the little jars and discords which always grow out of the effort to enforce discipline, it matters not how suavely and justly the effort may be made.

Being more or less cut off from communication with the Navy Department, I deemed it but respectful and proper to consult with our Commissioner in London, Mr. Mason, and to obtain his consent before finally laying up the Sumter. Mr. Mason agreed with me entirely in my views, and telegraphed me to this effect on the 7th of April. The next few days were busy days on board the Sumter. Upon the capture of Paymaster Myers, I had appointed Lieutenant J. M. Stribling Acting Paymaster, and I now set this officer at work, closing the accounts of the ship and paying off the officers and men. The officers were formally detached from the command, as fast as paid off, and they embarked for London, on their way to another ship, or to the Confederate States, as circumstances might determine; and the men, with snug little sums in their pockets, were landed, and as is usually the case with sailors, soon dispersed to the four quarters of the globe; each carrying with him the material for yarn-spinning for the balance of his life.

By the 11th of April we had completed all our preparations for turning over the ship to the midshipman who was to have charge of her, and in two or three days afterward, accompanied by Mr. Kell, my first lieutenant, and several other of my officers, I embarked on board the mail-steamer for Southampton. The following is an extract from the last letter that was written to the Secretary of the Navy from on board the Sumter:—

“I now have the honor to report to you, that I have discharged and paid off, in full, all the crew, numbering fifty, with the exception of the ten men detailed to remain by the ship, as servants, and to form a boat’s crew for the officer left in charge. I have placed[Pg 345] Midshipman R. F. Armstrong, assisted by Acting Master’s Mate I. T. Hester, in charge of the ship, with provisions and funds for ten or twelve months, and I have directed all the other officers to return to the Confederate States, and report themselves to the Department. I will myself proceed to London, and after conferring with Mr. Mason, make the best of my way home. I trust the Department will see, in what I have done, an anxious desire to advance the best interests of our country, and that it will justify the responsibility, which, in the best exercise of my judgment, I felt it my duty to assume, in the difficult circumstances by which I was surrounded and embarrassed. Enclosed is a copy of my order to Midshipman Armstrong, and a list of the officers and men left on board the ship.”

A brief summary of the services of the Sumter, and of what became of her, may not be uninteresting to the reader, who has followed her thus far, in her wanderings. She cruised six months, leaving out the time during which she was blockaded in Gibraltar. She captured seventeen ships, as follows: the Golden Rocket, Cuba, Machias, Ben. Dunning, Albert Adams, Naiad, Louisa Kilham, West Wind, Abby Bradford, Joseph Maxwell, Joseph Parke, D. Trowbridge, Montmorency, Arcade, Vigilant, Eben Dodge, Neapolitan, and Investigator. It is impossible to estimate the damage done to the enemy’s commerce. The property actually destroyed formed a very small proportion of it. The fact alone of the Sumter being upon the seas, during these six months, gave such an alarm to neutral and belligerent shippers, that the enemy’s carrying-trade began to be paralyzed, and already his ships were being laid up, or sold under neutral flags—some of these sales being bona fide, and others fraudulent. In addition to this, the enemy kept five or six of his best ships of war constantly in pursuit of her, which necessarily weakened his blockade, for which, at this time, he was much pressed for ships. The expense to my Government of running the ship was next to nothing, being only $28,000, or about the price of one of the least valuable of her prizes. The Sumter was sold in the course of a month or two after being laid up, and being put under the English flag as a merchant-ship, made one voyage to the coast of the Confederate States, as a blockade-runner, entering the port of Charleston. Her new owner changed her name to that of Gibraltar. She was lost afterward in the North Sea, and her bones lie interred not far from those of the Alabama.

 

 


[Pg 346]

CHAPTER XXVII.

AUTHOR LEAVES GIBRALTAR, AND ARRIVES IN LONDON—MR. MASON—CONFEDERATE NAVAL NEWS—SOJOURN IN LONDON—AUTHOR EMBARKS ON BOARD THE STEAMER MELITA, FOR NASSAU—SOJOURN IN NASSAU—NEW ORDERS FROM THE NAVY DEPARTMENT—AUTHOR RETURNS TO LIVERPOOL—THE ALABAMA GONE.

 

We had been long enough in Gibraltar to make many warm friends, and some of these came on board the mail-steamer in which we had taken passage to take leave of us; among others, Captain Lambert, R. N., in command of her Majesty’s steam frigate, the Scylla, to whom I am much indebted, for warm sympathy, and many acts of kindness. The captain was the son of Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Lambert, whose hospitality I had enjoyed, for a single night, many years before, under peculiar circumstances. When the United States brig Somers was capsized and sunk, off Vera Cruz, and half her crew drowned, as briefly described some pages back, Sir Charles Lambert, then a captain, was in command of the sailing frigate Endymion, and it was on board that ship that I was carried, more dead than alive, on the evening of the fatal disaster. I recollect distinctly the plight in which I ascended the side of this English frigate. Like a waif which had been picked up from the sea, I had nothing on me but shirt and trousers, and these, as well as my hair, were dripping water. I had lost my ship only an hour or two before, and had witnessed the drowning of many helpless men, who had struggled in vain for their lives. My heart was oppressed with the weight of my misfortune, and my strength nearly exhausted. Sir Charles received me at the foot of the ladder, as I descended to the deck of his[Pg 347] ship, as tenderly, and with as much genuine sympathy and compassion, as if I had been his own son, and taking me into his cabin, had my wants duly cared for. There are said to be secret chords of sympathy binding men together in spite of themselves. I know not how this may be, but I felt drawn toward the son of my benefactor, even before I knew him to be his son. I take this public mode of expressing to both father and son my thanks for the many obligations under which they have placed me.

As the swift and powerful steamer on which we were embarked, moved silently, but rapidly out of the harbor, in the evening twilight, I took a last, lingering look at the little Sumter. Her once peopled decks were now almost deserted, only a disconsolate old sailor or two being seen moving about on them, and the little ship herself, with her black hull, and black mast-heads and yards, the latter of which had been stripped of their sails, looked as if she had clad herself in mourning for our departure.

A pleasant passage of a few days carried us rapidly past the coasts of Spain, Portugal, and a portion of France, into the British Channel, and on the sixth day, we found ourselves in Southampton, which I was afterward destined to revisit, under such different circumstances. On the same night I slept in that great Babel, London. I remained in this city during the month of May, enjoying in a high degree, as the reader may suppose, the relaxation and ease consequent upon so great a change in my mode of life. There were no more enemies or gales of wind to disturb my slumbers; no intrusive officers to come into my bed-room at unseasonable hours, to report sails or land discovered, and no half drowned old quartermasters to poke their midnight lanterns into my face, and tell me, that the bow-ports were stove in, and the ship half full of water! If the storm raged without and the windows rattled, I took no notice of it, unless it was to turn over in my bed, and feel all the more comfortable, for my sense of security.

Kell and myself took rooms together, in Euston Square; our windows looking out, even at this early season, upon well-grown and fragrant grasses, trees in leaf, and flowers in bloom, all in the latitude of 52° N.—thanks, as formerly remarked, to[Pg 348] our American Gulf Stream. I called at once upon Mr. Mason, whom I had often seen in his seat in the Senate of the United States, as a Senator from the grand old State of Virginia, but whom I had never known personally. I found him a genial Virginia gentleman, with much bon hommie, and a great favorite with everybody. In his company I saw much of the society of the English capital, and soon became satisfied that Mr. Davis could not have intrusted the affairs of the Confederacy, to better hands. English hearts had warmed toward him, and his name was the sesame to open all English doors. I soon learned from him the status of Confederate States’ naval affairs, on the European side of the Atlantic. The gun-boat Oreto, afterward the Florida, had sailed for Nassau, in the Bahamas, and the new ship being built by the Messrs. Laird at Birkenhead, was well on her way to completion. Other contracts were in hand, but nothing tangible had as yet been accomplished under them.

I had also interviews with Commander North, and Commander Bullock, agents of the Confederate States Navy Department, for the building and equipping of ships, in these waters. It being evident that there was nothing available for me, I determined to lose no time in returning to the Confederacy, and it was soon arranged that I should depart in the steamer Melita, an English steamer preparing to take a cargo of arms, ammunition, and clothing to Nassau. This ship belonged to the Messrs. Isaac, brothers, large blockade runners, who kindly tendered free passages to myself, and to my first lieutenant, and surgeon, who were to accompany me.

I trust the reader will pardon me—as I hope the family itself will if I intrude upon its privacy—if I mention before leaving London, one of those old English households, immortalized by the inimitable pen of Washington Irving. One day whilst I was sitting quietly, after breakfast, in my rooms at Euston Square, running over the column of American news, in the “Times,” Commander North entered, and in company with him came a somewhat portly gentleman, with an unmistakable English face, and dressed in clerical garb—not over clerical either, for, but for his white cravat, and the cut of the collar of his coat, you would not have taken him for a clergyman[Pg 349] at all. Upon being presented, this gentleman said to me, pleasantly, “I have come to take the Captain of the Sumter prisoner, and carry him off to my house, to spend a few days with me.” I looked into the genial face of the speaker, and surrendered myself to him a captive at once. There was no mistaking the old-time English gentleman—though the gentleman himself was not past middle age—in the open countenance, and kindly expression of my new friend. Making some remarks to him about quiet, he said, “That is the very thing I propose to give you; you shall come to my house, stay as long as you please, go away when you please, and see nobody at all unless you please.” I dined with him, the next day, in company with a few Confederate and English friends, and spent several days at his house—the ladies president of which were his mother and maiden sister. I shall return hereafter to this house, as the reader will see. It became, in fact, my English home, and was but little less dear to me than my own home in America. The name of the Rev. Francis W. Tremlett, of the “Parsonage, in Belsize Park, near Hampstead, London,” dwells in my memory, and in that of every other Confederate who ever came in contact with him—and they are not few—like a household word.

We embarked on board the Melita in the latter part of May. The vessel had already dropped some distance down the Thames, and we went thither to join her by rail; one of the Messrs. Isaac accompanying us, to see us comfortably installed. The Melita was to make a bona fide voyage to Nassau, having no intention of running the blockade. I was particular to have this point settled beyond the possibility of dispute, so as to bring our capture, if the enemy should undertake it, within the precedent set by the Trent case. The Sumter having dared to capture and destroy Yankee ships upon the high seas, in defiance of President Lincoln’s proclamation, denouncing her as a “pirate,” had wounded the ridiculous vanity of the enemy past forgiveness, to say nothing of that other and sorer wound which resulted from the destruction of his property, and he was exceedingly anxious, in consequence, to get hold of me. I was resolved, therefore, that, if another zealous, but indiscreet Captain Wilkes should turn up, that another seven days of[Pg 350] penance and tribulation should be imposed upon Mr. Secretary of State Seward. We were not molested, however, and after a pleasant run of about twenty days we entered the harbor of Nassau, about 2 P. M. on the 13th of June, 1862.

On the same evening of our arrival, I was quartered, with my small staff, in the Victoria Hotel, then thronged with guests, Federal and Confederate; for the Yankee, in obedience to his instincts of traffic, had scented the prey from afar, and was here to turn an honest penny, by assisting the Confederates to run the blockade! “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good,” and Nassau was a living witness of this old adage. The island of New Providence, of which Nassau is the only town, is a barren limestone rock, producing only some coarse grass, a few stunted trees, a few pine-apples and oranges, and a great many sand-crabs and “fiddlers.” Before the war, it was the rendezvous of a few wreckers and fishermen. Commerce it had none, except such as might grow out of the sponge-trade, and the shipment of green turtle and conch-shells. The American war which has brought woe and wretchedness to so many of our States, was the wind which blew prosperity to Nassau.

It had already put on the air of a commercial city; its fine harbor being thronged with shipping, and its warehouses, wharves, and quays filled to repletion with merchandise. All was life, bustle, and activity. Ships were constantly arriving and depositing their cargoes, and light-draught steamers, Confederate and English, were as constantly reloading these cargoes, and running them into the ports of the Confederate States. The success which attended many of these little vessels is surprising. Some of them made their voyages, as regularly as mail packets, running, with impunity, through a whole fleet of the enemy’s steamers. Notwithstanding this success, however, the enemy was reaping a rich harvest, for many valuable prizes fell into his hands. It soon became a bone of contention among the Federal naval officers, which of them should be assigned to the lucrative commands of the blockading squadrons. The admiral of one of these squadrons would frequently awake, in the morning, and find himself richer, by ten, twenty, or thirty thousand dollars, by reason of[Pg 351] a capture made by some one of his subordinates, the night before. This was the “mess of pottage” for which so many unprincipled Southern men, in the Federal Navy, sold their “birthright.”

Some of these men are enjoying princely fortunes, but they have purchased these fortunes at the price of treason, and of blood, and by selling into bondage to the stranger, the people of their native States. Whilst poor old Virginia, for example, the “mother of States and statesmen,” is wearing the chains of a captive, and groaning under the tortures inflicted upon her, by her hereditary enemy, the Puritan, some of her sons are counting the “thirty pieces of silver” for which they sold her! “Pity ’tis, but pity ’tis, ’tis true.” These gentlemen may wrap themselves in as many folds of the “old flag” as they please, and talk as glibly as any Yankee, of the great Federal “nation” which has swallowed up the States, but future generations, if their ignoble names should descend so far down the stream of time, will unwind these folds from about them, as we have unwound from the mummy, its folds of fine linen, and expose the corruption and deformity beneath.

I found several Confederate naval officers at Nassau—among others Commander J. N. Maffitt, who had been assigned to the command of the Oreto, afterward to become famous as the Florida; and Commander G. T. Sinclair, who had been kind enough, as the reader may recollect, to send me my guns for the Sumter, from the Norfolk Navy Yard. Captain Sinclair was recently from the Confederate States, and had brought me a letter from Mr. Mallory, the Secretary of the Navy, which put a material change upon the face of affairs, so far as I was personally concerned. I was directed by this letter, to return to Europe, and assume command of the new ship which was being built on the Mersey, to be called the Alabama. My reply to this letter, dated at Nassau, on the 15th of June, will put the reader in possession of this new programme. It is as follows:—

Nassau, New Providence, June 15, 1862.

Sir:—I have the honor to inform you of my arrival here, on the 8th inst., in twenty days from London. I found here Lieutenants Maffitt and Sinclair, and have received your letter of May 29th, enclosing a copy of your despatch to me, of May 2d. As you may[Pg 352] conclude, from the fact of my being here, the original of the latter communication [assigning me to the command of the Alabama] has not reached me; nor indeed has any other communication from the Department, since I left the mouths of the Mississippi, in June, 1861. As you anticipated, it became necessary for me to lay the Sumter up, in consequence of my being hemmed in, by the enemy, in a place where it was impossible to put the necessary repairs upon my boilers, to enable me to take the sea again; and where, moreover, it was impossible, without long delay and expense, to obtain a supply of coal. * * * [Here follows a description of the laying up of the ship, which the reader has already seen.]

Upon my arrival in London, I found that the Oreto had been dispatched, some weeks before, to this place; and Commander Bullock having informed me that he had your order assigning him to the command of the second ship he was building [the Alabama], I had no alternative but to return to the Confederate States for orders. It is due to Commander Bullock to say, however, that he offered to place himself entirely under my instructions, and even to relinquish to me the command of the new ship; but I did not feel at liberty to interfere with your orders.

While in London, I ascertained that a number of steamers were being prepared to run the blockade, with arms and other supplies for the Confederate States, and, instead of dispatching my officers at once for these States, I left them to take charge of the ships mentioned, as they should be gotten ready for sea, and run them in to their several destinations—deeming this the best service they could render the Government, under the circumstances. I came hither, myself, accompanied by my first lieutenant and surgeon—Kell and Galt—a passenger in the British steamer Melita, whose cargo of arms and supplies is also destined for the Confederate States. It is fortunate that I made this arrangement, as many of my officers still remain in London, and I shall return thither in time to take most of them with me to the Alabama.

In obedience to your order, assigning me to the command of this ship, I will return by the first conveyance to England, where the joint energies of Commander Bullock and myself will be directed to the preparation of the ship for sea. I will take with me Lieutenant Kell, Surgeon Galt, and First Lieutenant of Marines Howell—Mr. Howell and Lieutenant Stribling having reached Nassau a few days before me, in the British steamer Bahama, laden with arms, clothing, and stores for the Confederacy. At the earnest entreaty of Lieutenant-Commanding Maffitt, I have consented to permit Lieutenant Stribling to remain with him, as his first lieutenant on board the Oreto (Florida)—the officers detailed for that vessel not yet having arrived. Mr. Stribling’s place on board the Alabama will be supplied by Midshipman Armstrong, promoted, whom I will recall from Gibraltar, where I left him in charge of the Sumter. It will, doubtless, be a matter of some delicacy, and tact, to get the Alabama safely out of British waters, without suspicion, as Mr. Adams, the Northern Envoy, and his numerous satellites in the[Pg 353] shape of consuls and paid agents, are exceedingly vigilant in their espionage.

We cannot, of course, think of arming her in a British port; this must be done at some concerted rendezvous, to which her battery, and a large portion of her crew must be sent, in a neutral merchant-vessel. The Alabama will be a fine ship, quite equal to encounter any of the enemy’s steam-sloops, of the class of the Iroquois, Tuscarora, and Dacotah, and I shall feel much more independent in her, upon the high seas, than I did in the little Sumter.

I think well of your suggestion of the East Indies, as a cruising ground, and I hope to be in the track of the enemy’s commerce, in those seas, as early as October or November next; when I shall, doubtless, be able to lay other rich “burnt offerings” upon the altar of our country’s liberties.

Lieutenant Sinclair having informed me that you said, in a conversation with him, that I might dispose of the Sumter, either by laying her up, or selling her, as my judgment might approve, I will, unless I receive contrary orders from you, dispose of her by sale, upon my arrival in Europe. As the war is likely to continue for two or three years yet, it would be a useless expense to keep a vessel so comparatively worthless, so long at her anchors. I will cause to be sent to the Alabama, the Sumter’s chronometers, and other nautical instruments and charts, and the remainder of her officers and crew.

In conclusion, permit me to thank you for this new proof of your confidence, and for your kind intention to nominate me as one of the “Captains,” under the new navy bill. I trust I shall prove myself worthy of these marks of your approbation.

I was delayed several very anxious weeks in Nassau, waiting for an opportunity to return to Europe. The Alabama, I knew, was nearly ready for sea, and it was all-important that she should be gotten out of British waters, as speedily as possible, because of the espionage to which I have referred. But there was no European-bound vessel in Nassau, and I was forced to wait. Lieutenant Sinclair having had a passage offered him, in an English steamer of war, as far as Halifax, availed himself of the invitation, intending to take the mail-steamer from Halifax for England. As he would probably arrive a week or two in advance of myself, I wrote to Captain Bullock by him, informing him of my having been appointed to the command of the Alabama, and requesting him to hurry that ship off to her rendezvous, without waiting for me. I could join her at her rendezvous. As the reader will hereafter see, this was done.

[Pg 354]I passed the time of my enforced delay at Nassau, as comfortably as possible. The hotel was spacious and airy, and the sea-breeze being pretty constant, we did not suffer much from the heat. I amused myself, watching from my windows, with the aid of an excellent glass, the movements of the blockade-runners. One of these vessels went out, and another returned, every two or three days; the returning vessel always bringing us late newspapers from the Confederacy. The fare of the hotel was excellent, particularly the fish and fruits, and the landlord was accommodating and obliging. With Maffitt, Kell, Galt, Stribling, and other Confederate officers, and some very pretty and musical Confederate ladies, whose husbands and brothers were engaged in the business of running the blockade, the time would have passed pleasantly enough, but for the anxiety which I felt about my future movements.

Maffitt, in particular, was the life of our household. He knew everybody, and everybody knew him, and he passed in and out of all the rooms, sans ceremonie, at all hours. Being a jaunty, handsome fellow, young enough, in appearance, to pass for the elder brother of his son, a midshipman who was to go with me to the Alabama, he was a great favorite with the ladies. He was equally at home, with men or women, it being all the same to him, whether he was wanted to play a game of billiards, take a hand at whist, or join in a duet with a young lady—except that he had the good taste always to prefer the lady. Social, gay, and convivial, he was much courted and flattered, and there was scarcely ever a dining or an evening party, at which he was not present. But this was the mere outside glitter of the metal. Beneath all this bagatelle and dolce far niente, Maffitt was a remarkable man. At the first blast of war, like a true Southerner—he was a North Carolinian by birth—he relinquished a fine property in the city of Washington, which was afterward confiscated by the enemy, resigned his commission in the Federal Navy, and came South, to tender his services to his native State. Unlike many other naval men, he had the capacity to understand the nature of the Government under which he lived, and the honesty to give his allegiance, in a cross-fire of allegiances, where his judgment told him it was due.

[Pg 355]He was a perfect master of his profession, not only in its practical, but in its more scientific branches, and could handle his ship like a toy. Brave, cool, and full of resource, he was equal to any and every emergency that could present itself in a sailor’s life. He made a brilliant cruise in the Florida, and became more famous as a skilful blockade-runner than any other man in the war. This man, whose character I have not at all overdrawn, was pursued by the Yankee, after his resignation, with a vindictiveness and malignity peculiarly Puritan—to his honor be it said. With Maury, Buchanan, and other men of that stamp, who have been denounced with equal bitterness, his fame will survive the filth thrown upon it by a people who seem to be incapable of understanding or appreciating noble qualities in an enemy, and devoid of any other standard by which to try men’s characters, than their own sectional prejudices. We should rather pity than contemn men who have shown, both during and since the war, so little magnanimity as our late enemies have done. The savage is full of prejudices, because he is full of ignorance. His intellectual horizon is necessarily limited; he sees but little, and judges only by what he sees. His own little world is the world, and he tries all the rest of mankind by that standard. Cruel in war, he is revengeful and implacable in peace. Better things are ordinarily expected of civilized men. Education and civilization generally dispel these savage traits. They refine and soften men, and implant in their bosoms the noble virtues of generosity and magnanimity. The New England Puritan seems to have been, so far as we may judge him by the traits which have been developed in him during and since the war, an exception to this rule. With all his pretensions to learning, and amid all the appliances of civilization by which he has surrounded himself, he is still the same old Plymouth Rock man, that his ancestor was, three centuries ago. He is the same gloomy, saturnine fanatic; he has the same impatience of other men’s opinions, and is the same vindictive tyrant that he was when he expelled Roger Williams from his dominions. The cockatrice’s egg has hatched a savage, in short, that refuses to be civilized.

The Oreto was in court whilst I was in Nassau; the Attorney-General[Pg 356] of the colony having libelled her for a breach of the British Foreign Enlistment Act. After a long and tedious trial, during which it was proved that she had left England unarmed, and unprovided with a warlike crew, she was released, very much to the gratification of my friend, Maffitt, who had been anxiously awaiting the result of the trial. This energetic officer throwing himself and Stribling on board of her, with such other officers and men as he could gather on short notice, ran the blockade of the enemy’s cruisers, the following night, and the next morning found himself on the high seas, with just five firemen, and fourteen deck hands! His hope was to get his armament on board, and after otherwise preparing his ship for sea, to recruit his crew from the neutral sailors always to be found on board the enemy’s merchant-ships.

Arriving at Green Key, the rendezvous, which had been concerted between himself, and our agent at Nassau, Mr. J. B. Lafitte, he was joined by a schooner, on board which his battery and stores had been shipped, and forthwith set himself at work to arm and equip his ship. So short-handed was he, that he was obliged to strip off his own coat, and in company with his officers and men, assist at the stay-tackles, in hoisting in his heavy guns. The work was especially laborious, under the ardent rays of an August sun, but they toiled on, and at the end of five days of incessant labor, which well-nigh exhausted all their energies, they were enabled to dismiss their tender, and steam out upon the ocean, and put their ship in commission. The English flag, which the Oreto had worn, was hauled down, and amid the cheers of the crews of the two vessels, the Confederate States flag was hoisted to the peak of the Florida.

A number of the men by this time, were unwell. Their sickness was attributed to the severity of the labor they had undergone, in the excessive heats that were prevailing. The Captain’s steward died, and was buried on the afternoon on which the ship was commissioned. At sunset of that day, Captain Maffitt called Lieutenant Stribling into his cabin, and imparted to him the startling intelligence that the yellow fever was on board! The sick, now constantly increasing in number, were separated from the well, and the quarter-deck became[Pg 357] a hospital. There being no surgeon on board, Maffitt was compelled to assume the duties of this officer, in addition to his own, already onerous. He devoted himself with untiring zeal to the welfare of his stricken crew, without intermission, by night or by day. On the fifth day after leaving Green Key, the Florida found herself off the little island of Anguila. By this time the epidemic had reduced her working crew to one fireman, and four deck hands.

It was now no longer possible to keep the sea, and Maffitt evading the blockade of the enemy—a happy chance having drawn them off in chase—ran his ship into the port of Cardenas, in the island of Cuba. Here he was received kindly by the authorities and citizens, but as the yellow fever was epidemic on shore, no medical aid could be obtained. Stribling was now dispatched to Havana for a surgeon, and to ship a few men, if possible. Helpless and sad, the suffering little crew awaited his return. One by one, the officers were attacked by the disease, until Maffitt was left almost alone, to nurse, and administer remedies to the patients. But things were not yet at their worst. On the 13th of August, Maffitt was himself attacked. On the afternoon of that day he sent for his clerk, and when the young gentleman had entered his cabin, said to him: “I’ve written directions in regard to the sick, and certain orders in relation to the vessel; also some private letters, which you will please take charge of.” Upon the clerk’s asking him why this was done, he informed him that “he had all the symptoms of yellow fever, and as he was already much broken down, he might not survive the attack.” He had made all the necessary preparations for his own treatment, giving minute written directions to those around him how to proceed, and immediately betook himself to his bed—the fever already flushing his cheeks, and parching his veins. There was now, indeed, nothing but wailing and woe on board the little Florida.

In two or three days Stribling returned from Havana, bringing with him twelve men; and on the day after his return, Dr. Barrett, of Georgia, hearing of their helpless condition, volunteered his services, and became surgeon of the ship. On the 22d, young Laurens, the captain’s son—whilst his father[Pg 358] was unconscious—breathed his last; black vomit having assailed him, in twenty-four hours after he had been taken down with the fever; so virulent had the disease now become. He was a fine, brave, promising lad, greatly beloved, and deeply regretted by all. On the 23d, the Third Assistant Engineer died. The sick were now sent to the hospital on shore, and nearly all of them died. Dr. Gilliard, surgeon of a Spanish gun-boat in the harbor, now visited the Captain, and was exceedingly kind to him. On the 24th, a consultation of physicians was held, and it was decided that Maffitt’s case was hopeless. But it so happened that the disease just then had reached its crisis, and a favorable change had taken place. The patient had not spoken for three days, and greatly to the surprise of all present, after one of the physicians had given his opinion, he opened his eyes, now beaming with intelligence, and said in a languid voice: “You are all mistaken—I have got too much to do, and have no time to die.”

He convalesced from that moment. On the 28th, Major Helm, our agent in Havana, telegraphed that, for certain reasons, the Captain-General desired that the Florida would come round to Havana, and remain until the health of her crew should be restored. The Captain-General probably feared that in an undefended port like Cardenas, some violence might be committed upon the Florida by the Federal cruisers, in violation of Spanish neutrality. Accordingly, on the 30th the Florida got under way, and proceeded for Havana, where she arrived the next day. The reader naturally wonders, no doubt, where the Federal cruisers were, all this time. Maffitt remained here only a day, finding it impossible, owing to the stringent orders of neutrality that were being enforced, to do anything in the way of increasing his crew, or refitting his ship. Getting his ship under way, again on the 1st of September, he now resolved to run into Mobile. At two P. M. on the 4th of that month Fort Morgan was made, when it was found that three of the enemy’s cruisers lay between the Florida and the bar. Maffitt was assisted on deck, being too weak yet to move without assistance. Having determined that his ship should not fall into the hands of the enemy, he had made suitable preparations for blowing her up, if it should become necessary. He now[Pg 359] hoisted the English ensign and pennant, and stood boldly on. His very boldness staggered the enemy. He must certainly be, they thought, an English gunboat. The Oneida, the flag-ship of Commander Preble, the commanding officer of the blockading squadron, attempted to throw herself in the Florida’s path, first having hailed her and commanded her to stop. But the latter held on her course so determinedly, that the former, to prevent being run down, was obliged to stop, herself, and reverse her engine.

Preble, now undeceived as to the possibility of the Florida’s being an Englishman, opened fire upon her, as did the other two ships. The Oneida’s broadside, delivered from a distance of a few yards only, cut away the Florida’s hammocks, smashed her boats, and shattered some of her spars. The three enemy’s vessels now grouped themselves around the daring little craft, and fired broadside after broadside at her, during the chase which ensued. One eleven-inch shell entering the Florida’s side, only a few inches above the water-line, passed entirely through her, before the fuse had time to explode it. If the enemy had been a little farther off, the Florida must have been torn in pieces by the explosion. Another shell entered the cabin. The fore-topmast and fore-gaff were shot away. In short, when it is recollected that she was nearly two hours under this tremendous fire, the wonder is that she escaped with a whole spar, or a whole timber.

Maffitt, meantime, had not cast loose a gun. He had no crew with which to man his battery. What few sailors he had, he had sent below, except only the man at the wheel, that they might be less exposed. But they were not safe, even here, for the shell which we have described as passing through the ship, took off one man’s head, and seven others were wounded by splinters. My ex-lieutenant of the Sumter, Stribling, merited, on this occasion, the praise I have bestowed on him, in drawing his portrait. He is described by an eye-witness to have been as cool and self-possessed, as if there had been no enemy within a hundred miles of him. To make a long story short, the gallant little Florida finally escaped her pursuers, and, in a shattered condition, ran in and anchored near Fort Morgan. As the reader may suppose, her English[Pg 360] flag was exchanged for her own stars and bars, as soon as the enemy opened upon her. This was the most daring and gallant running of a blockade that occurred during a war so fruitful of daring and gallant acts. After repairing and refitting his vessel, my gallant friend dashed again through the enemy’s fleet, now much increased in numbers, and commenced that career on the high seas, which has rendered his name one of the notable ones of the war. He lighted the seas with a track of fire, wherever he passed, and sent consternation and alarm among the enemy’s shipping. A correspondent of a Northern paper, writing from Havana, thus speaks of Maffitt and his craft:—

“The rebel man-of-war, privateer or pirate Florida, otherwise known as the Oreto, has safely arrived in this port, although she was chased up to the very walls of the Moro Castle by the Mobile blockading squadron, nine in number. The chase was a most exciting one, but, unfortunately, without the result so much to be desired.

“It appears that the pirate Maffitt came out of the port of Mobile with as much impudence as he entered it. The steamer seems to have been well punished with shot and shell from the Federal ships, and it is reported that she lost her first lieutenant, and sixteen men killed by a shell from one of the men-of-war.

********

“From reliable information, I am enabled to state, or, rather, I am convinced, that this vessel will sail for the East Indies in a few days. Our Government had better look out for her advent in those waters. Captain Maffitt is no ordinary character. He is vigorous, energetic, bold, quick, and dashing, and the sooner he is caught and hung, the better will it be for the interests of our commercial community. He is decidedly popular here, and you can scarcely imagine the anxiety evinced to get a glance at him.”

We may return now to the movements of the writer. After long waiting at Nassau, the Bahama, the steamer in which Stribling and Howell had come over from Hamburg, was ready to return, and I embarked on board of her, with my staff, and after a passage of some three weeks, landed in Liverpool, just in time to find that the bird had flown. The Alabama had steamed a few days before, for her rendezvous, where, in due time, we will follow her.

 

 


[Pg 361]

CHAPTER XXVIII.

A BRIEF RESUME OF THE HISTORY OF THE WAR, BETWEEN THE COMMISSIONING OF THE SUMTER AND THE COMMISSIONING OF THE ALABAMA—SECRETARY MALLORY, AND THE DIFFICULTIES BY WHICH HE WAS SURROUNDED—THE REORGANIZATION OF THE CONFEDERATE STATES NAVY.

 

Although, as before remarked, I design only to write a history of my own proceedings, during the late war, yet it will be necessary, to enable the reader to understand these proceedings correctly, to run a mere thread of the general history of the war along parallel with them. I have done this up to the date of commissioning the Sumter. It will now be necessary to take up the thread again, and bring it down to the commissioning of the Alabama. I shall do this very briefly, barely enumerating the principal military events, without attempting to describe them, and glancing very cursorily at the naval events.

We ran the blockade of the Mississippi, in the Sumter, as has been seen, on the 30th of June, 1861. In July of that year, the first great battle of Manassas was fought, to which allusion has already been made. This battle gave us great prestige in Europe, and contributed very much to the respect with which the little Sumter had been received by foreign powers. A long military pause now ensued. The enemy had been so astonished and staggered by this blow, that it took him some time to recover from its effects. He, however, turned it to useful account, and set himself at work with great patience, and diligence, at the same time, to collect and thoroughly drill new troops. The victory, on the other hand, had an unfavorable effect upon our own people, in giving them an[Pg 362] undue impression of their superiority over their enemy, and lulling them into supineness.

During the summer of 1861, two naval expeditions were fitted out, by the enemy, and sent to operate against our coast. The first of these expeditions, under command of Commodore Stringham, captured two hastily constructed, and imperfect earth-works at Hatteras Inlet on the coast of North Carolina, and made a lodgement on Pamlico Sound. The capture of these works, is no otherwise remarkable, in a naval point of view, than for the circumstance that a Confederate States naval officer fell into the hands of the enemy, for the first time during the war. Commodore Samuel Barron, of the Confederate States Navy, commanded the forts, and surrendered, after a gallant resistance, to the overwhelming force which assaulted him, on condition that he should be treated as a prisoner of war. The battle of Manassas had occurred to humble the pride, and appeal to the fears of the enemy, and the condition named by Barron was readily assented to. The other naval expedition, under command of Commodore Dupont, captured Port Royal, in South Carolina as mentioned in a former page. The “Trent Affair,” already described, came off in November, 1861, and Commodore Hollins’ attack upon the enemy’s fleet at the mouths of the Mississippi, in which he gave him such a scare, occurred, as already related, in October of the same year. This brings us to the close of the first year of the war.

The year 1862 was big with events, which we will, for the most part, merely string on our thread. The Confederates, in the beginning of the year, occupied a position at Bowling Green, in Kentucky, which was seemingly a strong position, with railroad communication, in their rear, with all parts of the South, but they could not hold it, for the simple reason, that the enemy, having command of the western rivers by means of his superior naval force, penetrated into their rear, and thus compelled a retreat. When the enemy, by means of his gun-boats, could send armies up the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers, to the heart of Tennessee and Alabama, it was folly to think of holding Bowling Green, with our limited forces. Our army fell back to Nashville, and even abandoned that city,[Pg 363] after the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson, which were captured by the Federal forces, in February, 1862.

The evacuation of all these points, one after another, and afterward the loss of Island No. 10, on the Mississippi, and New Madrid, were serious blows for us. But our disasters did not end here. The battle of Shiloh followed, in which we were defeated, and compelled to retreat, after we had, to all appearance, gained a victory almost complete on the first day of the fight. Naval disasters accompanied, or followed our disasters upon the land. Early in 1862, a naval expedition of the enemy, under the command of Commodore Goldsborough, entered Pamlico Sound, and captured Roanoke Island. Commodore Lynch, of the Confederate States Navy, with six or seven small, ill-armed gunboats, which had been improvised from light and frail river steamers, assisted in the defence of the island, but was obliged to withdraw before the superior forces of the enemy. The enemy, pursuing his advantages, followed Lynch’s retreating fleet to Elizabeth City, in North Carolina, where he captured or destroyed it.

The enemy was now not only in possession of the western waters—Vicksburg and Port Hudson alone obstructing his free navigation of the Mississippi as far down as New Orleans—but Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, in North Carolina, and the bay of Port Royal in South Carolina and Georgia, were open to him. To complete the circle of our disasters, New Orleans was captured by Farragut and Porter, in April—the small Confederate fleet under Commodore John K. Mitchell, making a gallant but disastrous defence, in which it was totally destroyed, with great loss of life of both officers and men.

Let us turn now to a more pleasing picture; for all was not disaster for the Confederates, during the year 1862. In March of that year, the memorable naval engagement occurred in Hampton Roads, between the Confederate States iron-clad steamer Virginia, and the enemy’s fleet, resulting in the destruction, by the Virginia, of two of the enemy’s wooden frigates. Great consternation and alarm were produced in the enemy’s fleet, and at Fortress Monroe, by Admiral Buchanan and his armored ship, as well there might be, for the ship was perfectly invulnerable, and but for her great draught of water,[Pg 364] might have destroyed or driven off the whole Federal fleet. Our people were greatly elated by this victory, coming as it did, in the midst of so many disasters. It attracted great attention in Europe, also, as being decisive of the fate of all the old-time wooden ships, which had, up to that period, composed the navies of the world. It so happened, that the Federals had completed the first of their Monitors, at this very time, and this little iron ship, arriving opportunely, engaged the Virginia on the second day of the fight. Like her great antagonist, she, too, was invulnerable, and the result was a drawn battle. From this time onward, the enemy multiplied his armored ships very rapidly, and it is scarcely too much to say, that he is almost wholly indebted to them, for his success in the war.

Another very creditable affair for the Confederates came off on the 15th of May. In the interval between the fight of the Virginia, with the enemy’s fleet in Hampton Roads, and the day last named, Norfolk had been evacuated, and the Virginia, which had passed under the command of Commodore Tatnall, was blown up. The consequence was that the James River was open to the navigation of the enemy. Taking advantage of this state of things, five of the enemy’s gunboats, two of which were iron-clad, ascended the river, with intent to reach, and shell Richmond, if practicable. They met with no serious obstruction, or any opposition, until they reached Drury’s Bluff. Here the river had been obstructed, and a Confederate earth-work erected. The earth-work was commanded by Captain Eben Farrand, of the Confederate States Navy, who had some sailors and marines under him. The Federal fleet having approached within 600 yards, opened fire upon the fort, which it kept up for the space of three hours. It was so roughly handled, however, by Farrand and his sailors, that at the end of that time, it was obliged to retire, with several of its vessels seriously damaged. No further attempt was made during the war, to reach Richmond by means of iron-clads; the dose which Farrand had given them was quite sufficient.

But the greatest of all the triumphs which crowned the Confederate arms during this year of 1862, were the celebrated campaigns of Stonewall Jackson, in the Shenandoah Valley,[Pg 365] and the seven days’ fighting before Richmond. I will barely string these events, as I pass along. Banks, Fremont, and Shields, of the enemy, were all operating in this valley, with forces greatly outnumbering those of Jackson. The latter, by a series of rapid and masterly movements, fell upon his enemies, one after the other, and defeated them all; Banks, in particular, who having been bred to civil life, was devoid of all military training, and apparently wanting, even, in that first and most common requisite of a soldier, courage, flying in disorder, and abandoning to his pursuer all the supplies and materiel of a large and well-appointed army. Such frantic efforts did he make to escape from Jackson, that he marched thirty-five miles in a single day; passing through the good old town of Winchester, which he had formerly occupied, with so many signs of trepidation and alarm, that the citizens received him and his troops, with shouts of derisive laughter!

The enemy, after his defeat at Manassas, put General McClellan in command of the Army of the Potomac, and the balance of the year 1861 was devoted, by this officer, to the collecting and drilling of troops. In the spring of 1862, he landed at Fortress Monroe, with a splendidly appointed army of 90,000 men, provided with 55 batteries of artillery, consisting of 350 field pieces. Magruder held him in check, for some time, with 11,000 men, which enabled the Confederate commanders to gather together their forces, for the defence of Richmond. He moved at length, was checked a while at Williamsburg, by Longstreet, but finally deployed his immense forces on the banks of the Chickahominy.

A series of battles now took place, commencing on the 30th of May, and extending through the month of June, which resulted in the raising of the siege, and the total rout and precipitate retreat of the Federal commander. I will barely enumerate these battles, as follows: Seven Pines; Mechanicsville and Beaver Dam; Gaines’ Mills; Savage Station; Frazer’s Farm; and Malvern Hill;—names sufficient alone to cover the Confederate cause with immortal glory, in the minds of all true men, as the highest qualities of courage, endurance, patriotism, and self-sacrifice, that any men could be capable of, were exhibited on those fields, destined to become classic in American annals.

[Pg 366]Following up the defeat of McClellan, by Johnston and Lee, Stonewall Jackson gained his splendid victory of the Second Manassas over Pope; defeating him with great loss, and driving him before him to the gates of Washington. Thus, notwithstanding our disasters in the West and South, an entirely new face had been put upon the war in Virginia. The enemy’s capital, instead of Richmond, was in danger, and McClellan was hastily withdrawn from Fortress Monroe, for its defence.

We must now pause, for we have brought the thread of the war down to the commissioning of the Alabama, and the reader will see with what forebodings, as well as hopes, we took the sea, in that ship. The war may be said now to have been at its height. Both the belligerents were thoroughly aroused, and a few blows, well struck, on the water, might be of great assistance. I resolved to attempt to strike these blows.

A few words, now, as to the status of the Confederate States Navy. As remarked in the opening of these memoirs, the Confederate States had no navy at the beginning of the war, and the South being almost entirely agricultural, with few or no ships, and but little external commerce, except such as was conducted in Northern bottoms, had but very indifferent means of creating one. Whilst the North was one busy hive of manufacturing industry, with its ship-yards and work-shops, resounding, by night and by day, with the busy strokes of the hammer, the adze, and the caulking-iron; whilst its steam-mills and foundries were vomiting forth their thick smoke from their furnaces, and deafening the ears of their workmen by the din of the trip-hammer and the whirr of the lathe; and whilst foreign material of every description was flowing into open ports, the South had neither ship-yards nor work-shops, steam-mills nor foundries, except on the most limited scale, and all her ports were as good as hermetically sealed, so far as the introduction of the heavy materials of which she stood in need was concerned.

It will be seen what a difficult task the Secretary of the Navy had before him, and how unjust are many of the censures that were cast upon him, by persons unconversant with naval affairs. Indeed, it is rather a matter of surprise, that so much was accomplished with our limited means. Work-shops[Pg 367] and foundries were improvised, wherever it was possible to establish them; but the great difficulty was the want of the requisite heavy machinery. We had not the means, in the entire Confederacy, of turning out a complete steam-engine, of any size, and many of our naval disasters are attributable to this deficiency. Well-constructed steamers, that did credit to the Navy Department and its agents, were forced to put to sea, and to move about upon our sounds and harbors, with engines disproportioned to their size, and incapable of driving them at a speed greater than five miles the hour.

The casting of cannon, and the manufacture of small arms, were also undertaken by the Secretary, under the direction of skilful officers, and prosecuted to considerable efficiency. But it took time to accomplish all these things. Before a ship could be constructed, it was necessary to hunt up the requisite timber, and transport it considerable distances. Her armor, if she was to be armored, was to be rolled also at a distance, and transported over long lines of railroad, piecemeal; her cordage was to be picked up at one place, and her sails and hammocks at another. I speak knowingly on this subject, as I had had experience of many of the difficulties I mention, in fitting out the Sumter in New Orleans. I was two months in preparing this small ship for sea, practising, all the while, every possible diligence and contrivance. The Secretary had other difficulties to contend with. By the time he had gotten many of his ship-yards well established, and ships well on their way to completion, the enemy would threaten the locus in quo, by land, and either compel him to attempt to remove everything movable, in great haste, and at great loss, or destroy it, to prevent it from falling into the hands of the enemy. Many fine ships were, in this way, burned on the very eve of completion.

It must be recollected, too, that in the early days of the war, we had no finances. These were to be improvised along with other things. I travelled to the North, on the mission which has been described in these pages, on money borrowed from a private banker. If we had had plenty of funds in the beginning of the war, it is possible that we might have accomplished more than we did, in Europe, in the matter of getting out[Pg 368] ships to prey upon the enemy’s commerce—that is, in the way of purchase, for it soon became evident, from the experience we had had, in building the Alabama, and other ships contracted for by the Navy Department, that we could not rely upon constructing them. The neutral powers became too watchful, and were too much afraid of the Federal power. When the Government did put the Secretary in funds, several months had elapsed, the war had begun, the coast was blockaded, and all the nations of Europe were on the alert.

With reference to the personnel of the Navy, a few words will describe the changes which had taken place in its organization, since I last referred to the subject. It will be recollected that it then consisted of but four captains, four commanders, and about thirty lieutenants, and that the writer was the junior, but one, of the four commanders. A considerable accession was made to the navy-list, as Virginia, North Carolina, and other States seceded, and joined their fortunes with those of their more impulsive sisters, the Cotton States. A number of old officers, past service, disdaining to eat the bread of ignoble pensioners upon the bounty of the Northern States, which were seeking to subjugate the States of their birth or adoption, came South, bringing with them nothing but their patriotism and their gray hairs. These all took rank, as has been remarked, according to the positions they had held in the old service. These old gentlemen, whilst they would have commanded, with great credit, fleets and squadrons of well-appointed and well-officered ships, were entirely unsuited for such service as the Confederacy could offer them. It became necessary, in consequence, to re-organize the Navy; and although this was not done until May, 1863, some months after the Alabama was commissioned, I will anticipate the subject here, to avoid the necessity of again referring to it. I had been promoted to the rank of captain in the Regular Navy, in the summer of 1862. The Act of May, 1863, established what was called the Provisional Navy; the object being, without interfering with the rank of the officers in the Regular Navy, to cull out from that navy-list, younger and more active men, and put them in the Provisional Navy, with increased rank. The Regular Navy became, thus, a kind of retired list, and the Secretary of the[Pg 369] Navy was enabled to accomplish his object of bringing forward younger officers for active service, without wounding the feelings of the older officers, by promoting their juniors over their heads, on the same list. As late as December, 1861, we had had no admirals in our Navy. On the 24th of that month, the Act organizing the Navy was so amended, as to authorize the appointment of four officers of this grade. There was but one of these admirals appointed, up to the time of which I am writing—Buchanan, who was promoted for his gallant fight in the Virginia, with the enemy’s fleet in Hampton Roads. Buchanan, being already an admiral in the Regular Navy, was now transferred to the Provisional Navy, with the same rank; and the captains’ list of this latter Navy was so arranged that Barron stood first on it, and myself second. I was thus, the third in rank in the Provisional Navy, soon after I hoisted my pennant on board the Alabama. In reviewing these matters, my only regret now is, that the older officers of whom I have spoken, and who made so many sacrifices for principle—sacrifices that have hastened several of them to the tomb, were not made admirals on the regular or retired list. The honors would have been barren, it is true, as no commands, commensurate with the rank, could have been given them, but the bestowal of the simple title would have been a compliment, no more than due to veterans, who had commanded squadrons in the old service, and who had abandoned all for the sake of their States. The reader is now in a condition to accompany me, whilst I describe to him the commissioning of the Alabama.

 

 


[Pg 370]

CHAPTER XXIX.

THE LEGALITY OF THE EQUIPMENT OF THE ALABAMA, AND A FEW PRECEDENTS FOR HER CAREER, DRAWN FROM THE HISTORY OF THE WAR OF 1776.

 

Before I read my commission on the quarter-deck of the Alabama, I desire to say a word or two as to the legality of her equipment, and to recall to the recollection of the reader a few of the incidents of the war of the Revolution of 1776, to show how inconsistent our Northern brethren have been, in the denunciations they have hurled against that ship. Mr. Seward, the Federal Secretary of State, and Mr. Charles Francis Adams, who was the United States Minister at the Court of St. James, during the late war between the States, have frequently lost their temper, when they have spoken of the Alabama, and denounced her as a “pirate.” In cooler moments, when they come to read over the intemperate despatches they have been betrayed into writing, they will probably be ashamed of them themselves; since these despatches not only contradict the truth of history, and set at defiance the laws of nations, but stultify themselves in important particulars.

Great stress has been laid, by both of these gentlemen, on the foreign origin of the Alabama, forgetting entirely, not only what was done by their ancestors in the war of 1776, but what was attempted to be done by Mr. Gideon Welles, their own Secretary of the Navy, in the year of grace 1861. I will refresh their memories on both these points, and first, as to the latter. Mr. Welles attempted to do, nothing more nor less than the Confederate States Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Mallory, did in the matter of building the Alabama—that is to say, he endeavored to build some Alabamas in England himself, but failed! This little episode in the history of the Federal Navy Department is curious, and worthy of being [Pg 371]preserved as a practical commentary on so much of the despatches of Messrs. Seward and Adams, as relates to the foreign origin of my ship. The facts were published soon after their occurrence, and have not been, and cannot be denied. They were given to the public by Mr. Laird, the gentleman who built the Alabama, and who was the party with whom the Federal Navy Department endeavored to treat.

Mr. Laird was a member of the British Parliament, and having been abused, without stint, as an aider and abettor of “pirates,” by the Northern newspapers, as soon as it became known that he was the builder of the Alabama, he made a speech in the House of Commons, in defence of himself, in the course of which he stated the fact I have charged, to wit: that Mr. Welles endeavored to make a contract with him, for building some Federal Alabamas. Here is so much of his speech as is necessary to establish the charge:—“In 1861,” said he, “just after the war broke out, a friend of mine, whom I have known for many years, was over here, and came to me with a view of getting vessels built in this country, for the American Government—the Northern Government. Its agent in this country made inquiries; plans and estimates were given to my friend, and transmitted to the Secretary of the American Navy. I will read an abstract from this gentleman’s letter, dated the 30th of July, 1861. It is written from Washington, and states:—‘Since my arrival here, I have had frequent interviews with our Department of Naval Affairs, and am happy to say that the Minister of the Navy is inclined to have an iron-plated ship built out of the country. This ship is designed for a specific purpose, to accomplish a definite object. I send you, herewith, a memorandum handed me last evening from the Department, with the request that I would send it to you, by steamer’s mail of to-morrow, and ask your immediate reply, stating if you will agree to build such a ship as desired, how soon, and for how much, with such plans and specifications as you may deem it best to send me.’ The extract from the memorandum states, that the ship is to be finished complete, with guns and everything appertaining. On the 14th of August, I received another letter from the same gentleman, from which the following is an [Pg 372]extract:—‘I have this morning a note from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, in which he says, “I hope your friends will tender for the two iron-plated steamers.”’ After this, the firm with which I was lately connected, having made contracts to a large extent with other persons, stated that they were not in a condition to undertake any orders to be done in so short a time. This was the reply:—‘I sent your last letter, received yesterday, to the Secretary of the Navy, who was very desirous to have you build the iron-plated or bomb-proof batteries, and I trust that he will yet decide to have you build one or more of the gun-boats.’

“I think, perhaps, in the present state of the law in America, I shall not be asked to give the name of my correspondent, but he is a gentleman of the highest respectability. If any honorable member wishes, I shall have no objection in handing the whole correspondence, with the original letters, into the hands of you, sir, [the Speaker of the House,] or of the First Minister of the Crown, in strict confidence, because there are communications in these letters, respecting the views of the American Government, which I certainly should not divulge, and which I have not mentioned or alluded to before. But, seeing the American Government are making so much work about other parties, whom they charge with violating or evading the law, when, in reality, they have not done so, I think it only fair to state these facts.”

It thus appears that the Government of the United States preceded us in the English market, having endeavored, a whole year before the Alabama was built, to contract with Mr. Laird for the building of iron-plated, and other ships, and that the only reason why the contract was not made, was, that Mr. Laird had taken already so much work in hand, that he could not take “any new orders, to be done in so short a time”—as that prescribed by Mr. Welles, for it seems that he was in a hurry. The explanation probably is, that we had offered Mr. Laird better terms than Mr. Welles, and this is the only reason why the Alabama was a Confederate, instead of a Federal ship! This speech of Mr. Laird caused no little merriment in the House of Commons, for, as before remarked, the Federal press, knowing nothing of these secret transactions[Pg 373] between Mr. Welles and Mr. Laird, had been denouncing the latter for building the Alabama, in the coarse and offensive language to which, by this time, it had become accustomed. The disclosures could not but be ludicrous.

To dispose, now, of Mr. Seward’s objection, that the Alabama was foreign-built. The reader will see, in a moment, that there is nothing in this objection, when he reflects that a ship of war, in the light in which we are considering her, is a personification, and not a mere material thing. If her personification be true, and unobjectionable, it matters not of what materials she may be composed, whence those materials may have been drawn, or where they may have been fashioned. It is the commission which a sovereign puts on board a ship, that causes her to personify the sovereign power, and it is obviously of no importance how the sovereign becomes possessed of the ship. It can make no difference to other nations, so far as her character of ship of war is concerned, whether she is fashioned out of the pines of Norway, or of Florida, or whether the copper on her bottom comes from Lake Superior or Peru; or, finally, whether Englishmen, or Frenchmen, or Americans shall have put her frame together, in either of their respective countries. Even if she be built, armed, and equipped in neutral territory, in plain violation of the neutral duty of that territory, she is purged of this offence, so far as her character of ship of war is concerned, the moment she reaches the high seas, and is commissioned.

To apply this reasoning to the Alabama. If it be true, as stated by Mr. Seward, that she was built in England, in violation of the neutrality of that country, this might have subjected her to detention by England, or it might have raised a question between the United States and England; but the ship, having once escaped, and been commissioned, her origin is necessarily lost sight of, and neither England nor any other country can afterward inquire into it. Indeed, there can be no principle of the laws of nations plainer than this, that when a ship is once commissioned by a sovereign power, no other power can look into the antecedents of the ship. From the moment that her commission is read on her quarter-deck, she becomes the personification of the sovereign power, and the[Pg 374] sovereign avows himself responsible for all her acts. No one of these acts can be impeached on the ground, that antecedently to her becoming a ship of war, she committed some offence against the laws of nations, or against the municipal law of some particular nation.

This point was settled years before our war, by the Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of the Santissima Trinidad. It was alleged that that ship had been fitted out in the United States, in violation of the neutrality laws—during a war between Spain and her colonies—and the question arose whether this invalidated her commission, as a ship of war. Mr. Justice Story delivered the opinion of the court, in the course of which he said:—

“In general, the commission of a public ship, signed by the proper authorities of the nation to which she belongs [the nation to which the Santissima Trinidad belonged, was the de facto nation of Buenos Ayres] is complete proof of her national character. A bill of sale is not necessary to be produced, nor will the courts of a foreign country inquire into the means by which the title to the property has been acquired. It would be to exert the right of examining into the validity of the acts of the foreign sovereign, and to sit in judgment upon them in cases where he has not conceded the jurisdiction, and where it would be inconsistent with his own supremacy. The commission, therefore, of a public ship, when duly authenticated, so far at least as foreign courts are concerned, imports absolute verity, and the title is not examinable. The property must be taken to be duly acquired, and cannot be controverted. This has been the settled practice between nations, and it is a rule founded in public convenience and policy, and cannot be broken in upon, without endangering the peace and repose, as well of neutral as of belligerent sovereigns.

“The commission in the present case is not expressed in the most unequivocal terms, but its fair import and interpretation must be deemed to apply to a public ship of the government. If we add to this, the corroborative testimony of our own, and the British Consul at Buenos Ayres, as well as that of private citizens, to the notoriety of her claim of a public character, and her admission into our own ports as a public ship, with the immunities and privileges belonging to such a ship, with the express approbation of our own Government, it does not seem too much to assert, whatever may be the private suspicion of a lurking American interest, that she must be judicially held to be a public ship of the country, whose commission she bears.”

This was a very strong case. The ship had not only been[Pg 375] fitted out in violation of the neutrality laws of the United States, but the court intimates that she might also be American owned; but whether she was or not, was a fact into which the court could not inquire, the commission, in the language of the court, importing “absolute verity.”

But it is not true, as we shall see hereafter, that the Alabama violated either the laws of nations, or the municipal law of England. The next question which presents itself for our consideration is, Was the Alabama properly commissioned by a sovereign power? No question has ever been raised as to the bona fides, or form of her commission. Mr. Seward even has not attacked these. Our question, then, will be reduced to this, Was she commissioned by a sovereign power? The answer to this question is, that a de facto government is sovereign, for all the purposes of war, and that the Confederate States were a de facto government; so acknowledged by the United States themselves, as well as by the other nations of the earth. The United States made this acknowledgment, the moment President Lincoln issued his proclamation declaring a blockade of the Southern ports; and they acted upon the doctrine that we were belligerents during the whole war, by treating with us for the exchange of prisoners of war.

This was no concession on their part. We had become strong enough to compel them to this course, in spite of themselves. In other words, we had become strong enough to make war, and when this is the case, let us see what Vattel says is the duty of the other party: “The sovereign indeed, never fails to bestow the appellation of ‘rebels’ on all such of his subjects as openly resist him; but when the latter have acquired sufficient strength to give him effectual opposition, and to oblige him to carry on the war against them, according to the established rules, he must necessarily submit to the use of the term ‘civil war.’ It is foreign to our purpose in this place, to weigh the reasons which may authorize and justify a civil war. We have elsewhere treated of cases in which subjects may resist their sovereign. Setting, therefore, the justice of the case wholly out of the question, it only remains for us to consider the maxims which ought to be observed in a civil war and to explain whether the sovereign is, on such [Pg 376]occasions, bound to conform to the established laws of war. A civil war breaks the bands of society and government, or at least suspends their force and effect; it produces in the nation two independent parties, which consider each other as enemies, and acknowledge no common judge. These two parties, therefore, must necessarily be considered as constituting, at least for a time, two separate bodies, two distinct societies. Though one of the parties may have been to blame in breaking the unity of the State, and resisting the lawful authority, they are not the less divided in fact. Besides, who shall judge them? Who shall pronounce on which side the right or wrong lies? On earth they have no common superior. They stand, therefore, in precisely the same predicament as two nations, who engage in a contest, and being unable to come to an agreement, have recourse to arms.” This was the law of nations as expounded by Vattel more than a century ago. He tells us that when even a revolt or rebellion has acquired sufficient magnitude and strength, to make “effectual opposition to the sovereign,” it is the duty of that sovereign to talk of “civil war,” and not of “rebellion,” and to cease to call his former subjects “rebels.” How much more was it the duty of the Northern States, in a war which was a war from the beginning, waged by States against States, with all the forms and solemnities of war, and with none of the characteristics of a secret revolt or rebellion, to treat us as belligerents, even if they denied the de jures of our movement? But even according to the law laid down by Vattel, the United States, and the Confederate States stood “precisely in the same predicament,” with regard to all the rights, duties, and obligations growing out of the war. That is to say, they were, quoad the war, the equals, one of the other, and whatever one of them might do, the other might do.

Hence it follows, that if the United States could build Alabamas, and capture the ships of her enemy, so could the Confederate States. And if Mr. Welles, the Federal Secretary of the Navy, could go into the ship-yards on the Mersey, and endeavor to contract for the delivery to him of a ship or ships of war, “to be finished complete,” in the words of Mr. Laird’s correspondent, “with guns, and everything appertaining,” it is difficult to perceive, why Mr. Mallory, the Secretary of the[Pg 377] Confederate States Navy, might not go into the same ship-yards, and contract for the delivery to him, of an incomplete ship, without any guns at all!

But further, with reference to the right of the Confederate States to be regarded as a de facto government, invested with all the rights of war. The Supreme Court of the enemy himself affirmed this right, early in the war. When the Federal naval officers—the Southern renegades, who have been before alluded to, among the rest—began to grow rich by the capture of blockade runners, it became necessary, of course, to condemn the prizes before they could get hold of their prize-money. Some of these cases went up to the Supreme Court, on writ of error, and I shall quote from a case, known as the “Prize Case,” reported in 2d Black, 635. This case was decided as early as the December Term, 1862, and Mr. Justice Greer delivered the opinion of the court. The question arose upon the capture of some English ships which had attempted to run the blockade. These ships could not be condemned, unless there was a lawful blockade, which they had attempted to break; and there could not be a lawful blockade, unless there was a war, and not a mere insurrection, as Mr. Seward, with puerile obstinacy, had so long maintained; and there could not be a war without, at least, two parties to it, both of whom must be belligerents; and it is of the essence of belligerency, as has been seen, that the parties belligerent should be equal, with reference to all the objects of the war. The vessels were claimed by the neutral owners, on Mr. Seward’s own ground, to wit: that the war, not being a war, but an insurrection, there could be no such thing as a blockade predicated of it. Mr. Justice Greer, in delivering the opinion of the court, among other things said: “It [the war] is not the less a civil war, with belligerent parties in hostile array, because it may be called an ‘insurrection’ by one side, and the insurgents be considered as rebels and traitors. It is not necessary that the independence of the revolted Province or State be acknowledged, in order to constitute it a party belligerent in a war, according to the laws of nations. Foreign nations acknowledge it as a war, by a declaration of neutrality. The condition of neutrality cannot exist, unless there be two belligerent parties. In the case of the Santissima Trinidad[Pg 378] (7 Wheaton, 337) this court says: ‘The Government of the United States has recognized the existence of a civil war between Spain and her colonies, and has avowed her determination to remain neutral between the parties. Each party is, therefore, deemed by us a belligerent, having, so far as concerns us, the sovereign rights of war.’”

The belligerent character of the Confederate States was thus acknowledged by the highest judicial tribunal of the United States, and the prizes were condemned to the captors; and a precedent is cited by the court, in which the United States recognized the right of the revolted Spanish colonies, such as Columbia, Buenos Ayres, and Mexico, who were then in consimili casu with the Confederate States, to build and equip Alabamas to prey upon Spanish commerce, not as a mere matter of power simply, but in the exercise of the “sovereign rights of war,” under the laws of nations.

With regard to the new American republics, thus acknowledged by the United States as belligerents, it will be recollected that one of the first acts of Mr. John Quincy Adams, when he became President of the United States, was to recommend the passage of a law authorizing him to send members to a Congress of all the American States, to be assembled at Panama. Under this law, members of that Congress were actually appointed—though they never proceeded to their destination—and Mr. Clay, then Secretary of State, and who had been among the foremost to advocate the recognition of the independence of the South American republics, prepared an elaborate and eloquent letter of instructions for their guidance, in which he dwelt upon the very principles I am now invoking. The republics, whose ambassadors it was thus proposed to meet, in an International Congress, were nothing more than de facto governments, like the Confederate States, the independence of neither one of them having been acknowledged, as yet, by Spain.

I may further mention, as a matter of historical notoriety, that it was a common practice for the cruisers of those young republics, to carry their prizes into the ports of the United States, and there have them condemned and sold. The Santissima Trinidad referred to in the case from the Supreme Court[Pg 379] above quoted, was one of these cruisers, with nothing more behind her than a de facto government, and she was held to be a belligerent, and to be possessed, as such, of all the “sovereign rights of war,” under the laws of nations. What renders these transactions the more remarkable, in the light of recent events, and in the face of the denunciations which have been hurled against the Alabama by the Federal Government, because of her foreign origin, is, that most of these cruisers were, in fact, American ships, not only built and equipped in the United States, but officered and manned by citizens of the Northern States, who had gone southward in quest of plunder! Many of these ships were fitted out on speculation, in the United States, and sailed from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, fully armed and equipped for war, with enlisted crews on board.

A case of this kind came under my own actual observation. I was serving as a midshipman on board the old sailing sloop-of-war Erie. We happened in at the Swedish Island of St. Bartholomew, in the West Indies, during the war between Buenos Ayres and Spain. We were on our way from New York to one of the South American ports, to land General William H. Harrison, afterward President of the United States, who had been appointed, by President John Quincy Adams, Minister to Colombia. In St. Bartholomew we found at anchor a Buenos Ayrean cruiser called the Federal. This was a Baltimore-built schooner—Baltimore in those days being famous above all the other American ports, for building fast vessels of this class. Her captain, and all her officers, and a large proportion of her crew, were Americans. This vessel, we ascertained, had boarded an American ship a few days before, and taken from on board of her a portion of her cargo, under the pretence that it was Spanish property. This being in our view a violation of the laws of nations (as whether the property was Spanish or not, we held that “free ships made free goods”), we resolved to commit one of those outrages against neutral rights which have become so common in our day, by seizing the cruiser. Admitting the act of the cruiser to have been wrongful, the argument, so far as her seizure by us was concerned, was all against us, and might have been contained in a[Pg 380] “nutshell;” but our captain, if he had ever read any international law, which was exceedingly doubtful, had read it, like Wilkes, wrong end foremost, and “went it blind,” being quite sure of popular applause from the b’hoys at home, and standing in no fear of consequences so far as Buenos Ayres was concerned, as she was so weak that the Great Republic might kick her with impunity.

We first demanded her of the Governor of the island, as a “pirate.” The Governor replied, that she was a commissioned ship, with a de facto government behind her, and that she could not, so long as she retained this character, be guilty of piracy. Further, that if she were a pirate, she was hostis humani generis, and Sweden, within whose waters she was, was as competent to deal with her, as the United States. He ended by informing us, that in whatever category the vessel might be placed, being in neutral jurisdiction, she could not be dealt with forcibly by the captain of the Erie, and notified us, that if we attempted it, he would fire upon us. The Federal was moored under the guns of the fortification which protected the harbor, and the following night, we fitted out a boat expedition, pulled in under cover of the darkness—the night being black and squally—and boarded her, and brought her out; the Governor being as good as his word, and firing upon us, though without effect, as soon as he discovered the movement. This was my first indoctrination in the laws of the sea! and the first occasion on which I ever heard a shot fired in anger. Sweden remonstrated, and the United States apologized, and there the matter ended. I have mentioned the incident to show, that the very cruisers which the Supreme Court of the United States was protecting by its decisions, were nothing more than American vessels, under belligerent flags, holding commissions under de facto governments.

But I have another precedent or two, to which to call the attention of the reader. It is a very useful practice for nations to pause occasionally, and look back upon their own history. It teaches them many lessons, which they would not otherwise learn. It shows them how to avoid inconsistencies, and prevents them from becoming dishonest as circumstances change. But, above all, it teaches them that man is a poor, weak [Pg 381]creature, selfish and corrupt, guided by the instincts and inspirations of the moment; and that his reason—that God-like attribute, which distinguishes him from the brute—is so fallible, that he rarely sees a truth, if that truth militate against his supposed interests. It makes all the difference in the world, whether a man’s bull gores his neighbor’s ox, or his neighbor’s bull gores his ox. The Yankee ship-owners and ship-masters cried out, in pain, as the Sumter and Alabama were capturing and destroying their ships, and called both of these cruisers “pirates.” I design now to show how the Yankee ship-owners and ship-masters, of a generation or two back, captured and burned English ships, and took great credit to themselves for their exploits, not dreaming that they were pirates.

The precedents which I design to cite will be drawn from the history of the war of 1776; it will be necessary, therefore to run a brief parallel between that war and the war of 1861, to show that the precedents established in the former are applicable to the circumstances of the latter. To lay aside, entirely, the question of the right of the Southern States to secede, and to put the war between the States on no higher ground than that between the Colonies and Great Britain, which was a mere rebellion, the following parallel appears:—The original thirteen Colonies, when they formed a part of the British Government, declared their independence of that Government. The Confederate States did the same against the United States. Great Britain made war upon the Colonies in consequence of this declaration; so did the United States against the Confederate States. The Colonies claimed and exercised the rights of war. So did the Confederate States. The Colonies, in the exercise of these rights, destroyed much of the commerce of Great Britain. So did the Confederate States, with regard to the United States. Both the Colonies and the Confederate States were de facto governments, when this property was destroyed. Now, it can obviously make no difference that the Colonies achieved their independence, and that the Confederate States failed to achieve theirs. If what the Colonies did was right, when they did it—that is to say, when they were still a de facto government—what the [Pg 382]Confederate States did must have been right for the same reason. The acknowledgment of the independence of the Colonies by the parent country, whilst it had the effect to make them so many nations of the earth, could add nothing to any rights they before possessed, as belligerents, for they did not derive these rights from their status de jure, but from their status de facto; nor did they derive them from Great Britain, but from the laws of nations. It follows, that if nothing could be added to these rights by the successful termination of the war, so nothing could be taken away from them, by its unsuccessful termination. The parallel thus appears perfect, in every particular, so far as belligerent rights are concerned, and, of course, it is only of these rights that we are now speaking.

With this introduction I proceed to produce the precedents. Mr. James Fenimore Cooper, the Naval Historian of the United States, is the author whom I shall quote, and his authority will certainly not be disputed north of the Potomac. One of the earliest cruises of the war of 1776, was made by Captain, afterward Commodore, John Paul Jones. This gentleman, in command of a vessel called the Providence, in the summer of 1776, made a foray among the British fishermen, on the Banks of Newfoundland, taking no less than twelve sail, and returning to Newport, in Rhode Island, at the end of his cruise, having made sixteen prizes in all. The Alabama never flew at such small game as this. Although she cruised, as the reader will see a little further on, for some time off these same Banks of Newfoundland, she never deprived a Yankee fisherman of his “catch of cod.”

Jones commanded a regular ship of war, but it was the privateers that were the most numerous and destructive. With reference to this class of vessels, the historian tells us that “Most of the Colonies had their respective cruisers at sea or on their own coasts, and the ocean literally began to swarm with privateers from all parts of the country, though New England took the lead in that species of warfare. Robert Morris, in one of his official letters, of a date later than that precise time, remarks that the passion for privateering was so strong in this particular part of the country, that even agriculture was abandoned in order to pursue it.”

[Pg 383]In another place, the historian tells us, that “As soon as the struggle commenced in earnest, the habits of the people, their aptitude for sea-service, and the advantages of both a public and private nature, that were to be obtained from successful cruising, induced thousands to turn their longing eyes to an element that promised so many flattering results. Nothing but the caution of Congress, which body was indisposed at first to act as if general warfare, instead of a redress of grievances, was its object, prevented a rushing toward the private cruisers, that would probably have given the commerce of England a heavier and more sudden blow than it had ever yet received. But a different policy was pursued, and the orders to capture, first issued, were confined to vessels bringing stores and supplies to the British forces in America. It was as late as November, 1775, before Massachusetts, the colony which was the seat of war, and which may be said to have taken the lead in the revolt, established Courts of Admiralty, and enacted laws for the encouragement of nautical enterprise.”

The reader observes, from the above passage, from the historian, how “circumstances alter cases.” The “nautical enterprise” here spoken of, is the same kind of nautical enterprise which has been charged, by virtuous Massachusetts, whose people were in such haste to grow rich by privateering, against the Alabama, as “piracy.” The rush was not, it seems, to the ships of war of the regular navy, to fight the battles of the country, but to the privateers, which promised so many “flattering results.” It took a little time to warm the Congress and the people up to their work, but when they were once fairly warmed, they took their jackets off and went at it with a will, as is the wont of us Americans.

Let us dip a little further into Mr. Cooper, and see what more, these staid New Englanders, who now have such a horror of “piracy,” did. “The proceedings in Congress,” he continues, “in reference to assailing British commerce, as has been seen, were reserved and cautious. War not being regularly declared, and accommodation far from hopeless, the year 1775 was suffered to pass away, without granting letters of marque and reprisal, for it was the interest of the nation to preserve as many friends in England as possible. As the breach widened, this forbearing[Pg 384] policy was abandoned, and the summer of 1776 let loose the nautical enterprise of the country upon British commerce. The effect was at first astounding. Never before had England found an enemy so destructive to her trade, and during the first two years of privateering that followed, something like eight hundred sail of merchantmen were captured. After this period, the efforts of the Americans necessarily lessened, while the precautions of the enemy increased. Still these enterprises proved destructive to the end of the war; and it is a proof of the efficiency of this class of cruisers to the last, that small privateers constantly sailed out of the English ports, with a view to make money by recapturing their own vessels; the trade of America at this time, offering but few inducements to such undertakings.

“Among the vessels employed [the historian tells us there were several hundred of them], the Halker, the Black Prince, the Pickering, the Wild Cat, the Vengeance, the Marlborough, in addition to those elsewhere named, were very conspicuous. The Marlborough is said to have made twenty-eight prizes in one cruise. Other vessels were scarcely less fortunate. Many sharp actions occurred, and quite as often to the advantage of the cruisers, as to that of the enemy. In repeated instances they escaped from British ships of war, under favorable circumstances, and there is no question that in a few cases they captured them. * * * The English West India trade, in particular, suffered largely by the private warfare of the day. Two and fifty sail, engaged in this branch of the commerce, are stated to have been captured as early as February, 1777. The whole number of captures made by the Americans in this contest, is not probably known, but six hundred and fifty prizes are said to have been gotten into port. Many others were ransomed, and some were destroyed at sea. There can be no minute accuracy in these statements, but the injury done to the commerce of Great Britain was enormous, and there can be no doubt, that the constant hazards it ran, had a direct influence in obtaining the acknowledgment of the independence of the United States of America, which great event took place on the 20th of January, 1783.”

We thus see how history repeats itself, and how prone men[Pg 385] are to forget history. The “rebel pirates” of the Colonies—for such they were, if we apply to them the polite nomenclature which became fashionable during our late war—less than a century ago, were capturing, burning, and otherwise destroying the commerce of Great Britain. The historian dwells upon the record with pleasure, as an evidence of the patriotism, and “nautical enterprise” of his countrymen; and this was but natural in the historian of a commercial people. But when the commerce of the same people becomes the object of capture, in a war far more justifiable, than the war of 1776, since it was waged by sovereign States, in defence of their very existence, and not a mere rebellion, the cry is changed. It is the wrong bull now which is goring the ox, and the Alabama and her consorts are committing unheard-of crimes and atrocities.

I call the reader’s particular attention to the fact, that some of the prizes of the Colonial cruisers were “destroyed at sea.” This same act when committed by the Sumter and Alabama was barbarous, atrocious! Now let me run a brief parallel between the times of Paul Jones, by whom some of this burning of British ships was done, and my own, to show how much less excuse Jones had for such conduct, than I. In Jones’ day, all the commerce of the world was conducted in sailing ships, and all the navies of the world were also composed of sailing ships. The consequence was, that there was no such thing known, as a stringent blockade; for the simple reason, that every gale of wind which arose, blew off the blockading ships from before the blockaded ports, and it was, sometimes, days before they could regain their stations. Besides, it is well known to readers of American history, that Great Britain did not, at any time during the Colonial war, attempt to blockade all the ports of the Colonies. With a coast-line—from the St. Croix to St. Mary’s in Georgia—of fifteen hundred miles, this would have been impossible, even with her great navy. The Colonial cruisers had, therefore, at all times during the entire war, some of their ports open into which to send their prizes. Still they “destroyed some of them at sea.”

Some ninety years now pass away, and a second, and a greater war ensues for American principles—this time [Pg 386]between the States themselves. In the meantime, the great and powerful steamship has made her appearance upon the scene, revolutionizing not only the commerce of the world, but the navies of the world. During the first months of the war, all the principal ports of the Confederacy were blockaded, and it was not long before every little nook and inlet was either in possession of the enemy, or had one or more ships watching it. These ships were not the old-time sailing ships, dependent upon the winds and the weather for efficiency—they were steamers, independent of both, having the ability “to hold on” to the blockaded port, both by day and by night, with a tenacity little less than that of fate. Though it was possible for fast steam blockade-runners, taking advantage of the darkness, sometimes to elude the vigilance of these patient watchers, it was utterly impossible for a sailing vessel to do so—and with a rare exception, here and there, all my prizes would be sailing ships. Not only were all the Confederate ports thus hermetically sealed to me, but the ports of neutrals had also been closed against me, as the reader has seen, by unfriendly proclamations and orders in council. In short, during my whole career upon the sea, I had not so much as a single port open to me, into which I could send a prize.

What was expected of me under these circumstances? I had shown every disposition, as the reader has seen, to avoid the necessity of burning my prizes. I had sent prizes, both into Cuba and Venezuela, with the hope that at least some of the nations of the earth would relent, and let me in; but the prizes were either handed over to the enemy, on some fraudulent pretext, or expelled. Unlike Jones, I had no alternative. There was nothing left for me but to destroy my prizes, and this course had been forced upon me, by the nations of the earth. How senseless and unjust, then, was the clamor raised against me on this subject; especially in the light of the precedents which the enemy himself had set me? Some senseless prints even went so far as to declare that it was in violation of the laws of war; but what is it that newspapers will not say, during such a contest as that through which we have passed, when reason is dethroned by the passions, and no longer sits in the judgment-seat? The right to destroy is as perfect, as the[Pg 387] right to sell, or make any other disposition of the captured ship. But has a captor the right to destroy before adjudication? the reader may ask. Certainly. The enemy has no right to adjudication at all. Courts of Admiralty are not established for him. He has, and can have no standing in such court. He cannot even enter an appearance there, either in person, or by attorney; and if he could, he would have nothing to show, for his very status as an enemy would be sufficient ground for condemning all the property he might claim. It is only neutrals who can claim adjudication, and it is for the benefit of these alone that Courts of Admiralty have been established. And if any neutrals have suffered in the late war, for want of adjudication, the fault is with their own government, and not with the Confederate cruisers, as the reader has just seen. To instance the Cienfuegos cases: what detriment could have arisen to Spain, if she had permitted my prizes to remain within her jurisdiction, in the custody of my own prize agent, until a prize court in New Orleans, or Mobile could have adjudicated them?

 

 


[Pg 388]

CHAPTER XXX.

THE EQUIPMENT OF THE ALABAMA ILLUSTRATED BY THAT OF SUNDRY COLONIAL CRUISERS, DURING THE WAR OF 1776—BENJAMIN FRANKLIN AND SILAS DEANE, AS CHIEFS OF A NAVAL BUREAU IN PARIS—THE SURPRISE, AND THE REVENGE—WICKES AND CONYNGHAM, AND PAUL JONES.

 

Mutato nomine
De te fabula narratur.

 

In the last chapter, I gave some account of the operations against British commerce, of certain ships of war and privateers, fitted out in the home ports of the enemy; but as stress has been laid, as we have already seen, upon the foreign origin of the Alabama, and it has been objected against her, that her captures were illegal, and piratical, on that account, it will be incumbent on me to show some cases on this point. The naval history of the enemy abounds in them, but I will content myself with adducing only a few, as specimens of the rest. I design to show that the United States have produced ships, the very counterparts of the Alabama, in every particular, foreign origin and all, and used them with destructive effect, against the commerce of their enemy. All readers of American history are familiar with the names of Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and John Adams, for these distinguished gentlemen played a very important part on the theatre of the American Revolution. As they had much to do with the naval affairs of the Colonies abroad, it is of them and their doings that I would now speak. They were all Northern men, were leaders, in their day, of Northern public opinion, and their memories are justly held in high estimation, both North and South. I shall vouch them for the legality of the[Pg 389] origin of the Alabama, as a ship of war, and justify by their acts, and out of their mouths, all the doings of that ship upon the high seas. I again have recourse to Fenimore Cooper. “The Reprisal was the first American man-of-war, that ever showed herself in the other hemisphere. She sailed from home not long after the Declaration of Independence, and appeared in France, in the autumn of 1776, bringing in with her several prizes, and having Dr. Franklin on board as a passenger.” It is well known that Silas Deane followed Dr. Franklin soon afterward, and it was not long before these two Commissioners, who were sent to Europe, to look after the interests of the Colonies, just as Messrs. Mason and Slidell were sent, in our day, to look after the welfare of the Confederate States, went to work.

Dr. Franklin, in particular, was a great favorite with the French people. He wore short breeches, with knee-buckles, and silk stockings, and had the portly air, and bearing of a philosopher. Having learned to fly kites when a boy, he had turned the thing to some account when he had gotten to be a man, and was also well known as the author of “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” a book full of axiomatic wisdom, and wise saws. He had a much better field before him, therefore, than Mr. John Slidell had. “Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis;” and Slidell found that the “philosophers” who had petted Franklin, and the fair women who had played with the tassels of his three-cornered hat, showered bouquets upon him, and talked prettily of the new doctrines of liberty that were just then coming in vogue, had all passed away. Neither philosophy, liberty, or knee-buckles were at all fashionable at the French Court when Slidell arrived there. In short, the people of France had found out that this thing of getting up a revolution for popular rights, however well it might suit other people, did not suit Frenchmen, and they were tired of the matter. They had, since Franklin’s day, cut off the head of Louis XVI., played at republics a while, pretty much as children play at card-houses, now setting them up, and now knocking them down again, and having gotten tired of the game, like good children had gone back quietly to their old form of despotism, under Napoleon III., and were content! The[Pg 390] sympathy which they had bestowed upon Franklin, and which was productive of so many good results, in our first revolution, had dried up in the second and greater revolution.

Having thus briefly introduced the Commissioners of the Colonies to the reader, let us again look into Cooper, to see what their business was in France, and how they performed it. “In order,” says this writer, “to complete the account of the proceedings of the American Commissioners in Paris, so far as they were connected with naval movements during the years 1776 and 1777, it is necessary to come next to the affair of Captain Conyngham, which, owing to some marked circumstances, made more noise than the cruises of the Reprisal and Lexington, though the first exploits of the latter were anterior as to time, and not of less consequence in their effects. While the Commissioners were directing the movements of Captain Wickes [we will come to these presently] in the manner that has been mentioned, they were not idle in other quarters. A small frigate was building at Nantes, on their account, and there will be occasion to speak of her hereafter, under the name of the Queen of France.

“Some time in the spring of 1777, an agent was sent to Dover by the American Commissioners, where he purchased a fine, fast-sailing, English-built cutter, and had her carried across to Dunkirk. Here she was privately equipped as a cruiser, and named the Surprise. To the command of this vessel, Captain Gustavus Conyngham was appointed, by filling up a blank commission from John Hancock, the President of Congress. This commission bore date, March 1st, 1777, and, it would seem, as fully entitled Mr. Conyngham to the rank of captain in the Navy, as any other that was ever issued by the same authority. Having obtained his officers and crew at Dunkirk, Captain Conyngham sailed on a cruise about the 1st of May, and on the 4th he took a brig called the Joseph,” &c.

Now, it is to be remarked, with reference to this passage, that the Alabama, though built in England, was not armed or equipped there, nor was her crew enlisted there; whilst the Surprise was not only “privately equipped as a cruiser,” at Dunkirk, a port of France, then at peace with England—for France had not yet joined the Colonies in the war—but she got[Pg 391] all her officers and crew there, many of whom were Frenchmen. And when she got up her anchor for a cruise, still lying in the waters of France, she was a perfectly armed and equipped ship of war. She could have engaged an enemy, immediately upon passing beyond the marine league, whereas the Alabama, when she left the Mersey, was entirely unarmed, and without an enlisted crew, and could have been taken possession of by an enemy’s cruiser as easily as any other merchant-ship. Mr. Seward insisted, with much vehemence, with the English Government, that the Alabama was not entitled to be regarded as a ship of war, but rather a “British pirate,” because she had never been in a Confederate port. His latest form of protest is found in a letter to Lord Stanley, the British Secretary for Foreign Affairs, of the date of January 12th, 1867, as follows:—

“Lord Stanley excuses the reception of the vessels complained of in British ports, subsequently to their fraudulent escapes and armament, on the ground that when the vessels appeared in these ports, they did so in the character of properly commissioned cruisers of the Government of the so-styled Confederate States, and that they received no more shelter, provisions, or facilities, than was due to them in that character. This position is taken by his lordship in full view of the facts that—with the exception of the Sumter and the Florida—none of the vessels named were ever found in any place where a lawful belligerent commission could either be conferred or received. It would appear, therefore, that, in the opinion of her Majesty’s Government, a British vessel, in order to acquire a belligerent character against the United States, had only to leave the British port where she was built, clandestinely, and to be fraudulently armed, equipped, and manned anywhere in Great Britain, or in any foreign country, or on the high seas; and in some foreign country, or upon the high seas, to set up and assume the title and privileges of a belligerent, without even entering the so-called Confederacy, or ever coming within any port of the United States. I must confess that, if a lawful belligerent character can be acquired in such a manner, then I am unable to determine by what different course of proceeding a vessel can become a pirate and an enemy to the peace of nations.”

Had Mr. Seward forgotten, when he wrote the above, the case of Dr. Franklin’s ship, the Surprise? It will be recollected, too, that Mr. Adams, the United States Minister at the Court of London, frequently protested, in his correspondence[Pg 392] with the English Foreign Office, against the Confederates being permitted to have “stationed agents,” at Liverpool, and elsewhere in the British dominions, conducting a “Naval Bureau.” Had he forgotten the “Naval Bureau” which was conducted in France, by Dr. Franklin and Silas Deane, who were “stationed agents” of the Colonies? How they built, and purchased, and equipped, and commissioned ships, all in neutral territory; even filling up blank commissions sent out to them by the Congress for the purpose?

But to continue with our precedents. The career of the Surprise was not a very long one. Having carried some prizes into a French port, in violation of a treaty then existing between France and Great Britain, providing that neither should permit the enemies of the other to bring their prizes into her ports, she was seized by the French authorities, and we hear no more of her. But we do hear more, and that immediately, from the Naval Bureau in Paris, under the guidance of Dr. Franklin and Silas Deane. As soon as the seizure of the Surprise became known to the Commissioners, they dispatched one of their agents, a Mr. Hodge, to Dunkirk, where he purchased another cutter, which was fitted with all dispatch, as a cruiser, as the Surprise had been. This second vessel was called the Revenge, and “Captain Conyngham and his people,” to use the words of the historian, were transferred to her. A new commission was given to Conyngham, dated on the 2d of May, 1777, filled up, as before, by the Commissioners, and he soon afterward proceeded to sea under it.

It will be seen with what indulgence, and even connivance the Commissioners were treated by the French authorities. The seizure of the Surprise was a mere blind, intended to satisfy England. The ship herself was suffered to pass out of view, but another ship was permitted to be equipped in her stead, and the officers and crew of the old ship were transferred to the new one, with little or no disguise, and the latter was suffered to depart on a cruise without molestation. Here was another ship, which had never been in any port of the Colonies, and which, according to Mr. Seward’s vocabulary, was a “pirate.” Let us see what she did. “The Revenge,” continues the historian, “proved exceedingly successful, making prizes[Pg 393] daily, and generally destroying them. Some of the more valuable, however, were ordered into Spain, where many arrived; their arrival proving of great moment to the agents of the American Government in Europe. It is even affirmed, that the money advanced to Mr. Adams [the Mr. Adams, here spoken of, was John Adams, afterward second President of the United States, the grandfather of Mr. Charles Francis Adams, Federal Minister to England during the war; and the antagonism in which the grandfather, and grandson are placed, in reference to the principles I am discussing, is one of the curious revolutions of history] for travelling expenses, when he arrived in Spain, a year or two later, was derived from this source.”

The Revenge now disappears from view, as the Surprise had done before her, and the historian takes up the Reprisal, the ship, as we have seen, which carried Dr. Franklin over to France. “The Reprisal, having refitted, soon sailed toward the Bay of Biscay, on another cruise. Here she captured several more vessels, and among the rest a King’s packet, that plied between Falmouth and Lisbon. When the cruise was up, Captain Wickes went into Nantes, taking his prizes with him. The complaints of the English now became louder, and the American Ministers were secretly admonished of the necessity of using greater reserve. The prizes were directed to quit France, though the Reprisal, being leaky, was suffered to remain in port, in order to refit. The former were taken into the offing, and sold, the state of the times rendering these informal proceedings necessary. Enormous losses to the captors were the consequences, while it is not improbable, that the gains of the purchasers had their influence in blinding the local authorities to the character of the transaction.”

Here we see not only a violation of neutrality, but a little bribery going on, these “rebel pirates” having an eye to the “flattering results,” spoken of by Mr. Cooper, some pages back. The historian proceeds. “The business appears to have been managed with dexterity, and the proceeds of the sales, such as they were, proved of great service to the agents of the Government, by enabling them to purchase other vessels.” We see how capitally those “stational agents,” Franklin and Deane,[Pg 394] were conducting that “Naval Bureau,” against the like of which, in our case, Mr. Adams had so warmly protested. I again quote: “In April, the Lexington arrived in France, and the old difficulties were renewed. But the Commissioners at Paris, who had been authorized to equip vessels, appoint officers, and do other matters to annoy the enemy, now planned a cruise that surpassed anything of the sort that had yet been attempted in Europe, under the American flag. Captain Wickes was directed to proceed to sea, with his own vessel and the Lexington, and to go directly off Ireland, in order to intercept a convoy of linen ships, that was expected to sail about that time. A cutter of ten guns called the Dolphin, that had been detained by the Commissioners, to carry despatches to America, was diverted from her original destination, and placed under the orders of Captain Wickes. The Dolphin was commanded by Lieutenant Nicholson, a brother of the senior captain, and a gentleman who subsequently died at the head of the service. Captain Wickes, in command of this light squadron, sailed from Nantes, about the commencement of June, going first into the Bay of Biscay, and afterward entirely around Ireland, sweeping the sea before him, of everything that was not of a force to render an attack hopeless. The linen ships were missed, but many vessels were taken or destroyed.

“The sensation produced among the British merchants, by the different cruises in the European sea, that have been recorded in this chapter, is stated in the diplomatic correspondence of the day to have been greater than that produced in the previous war by the squadron of the celebrated Thurot. Insurance rose to an enormous height, and in speaking of the cruise of Captain Wickes, in particular, Mr. Deane observes in one of his letters to Robert Morris, that it ‘effectually alarmed England, prevented the great fair at Chester, occasioned insurance to rise, and even deterred the English merchants from shipping in English bottoms, at any rate, so that, in a few weeks, forty sail of French ships were loading in the Thames, on freight, an instance never known before.’ In the same letter the Commissioner adds: ‘In a word, Conyngham, by his first and second bold expeditions, is become the terror[Pg 395] of all the eastern coasts of England and Scotland, and is more dreaded than Thurot was in the late war.’”

This same Captain Conyngham, afterward, while cruising on the American coast, fell into the hands of the enemy. He had, of course, become odious to the English people, and they had denounced him as a “pirate,” as our Northern people have denounced the writer of these pages. Conyngham was closely confined, and the English admiral, whose fleet was then stationed in the waters of New York, threatened to send him to England for trial. Let us see what steps the American Congress took in behalf of this “rebel pirate,” as soon as it heard of these proceedings. The subject having been brought to its notice, it directed its Secretary, Charles Thompson, to address a letter of remonstrance to the British admiral, threatening retaliation, if he dared to execute his threats. I quote from the journals of Congress:—

“In Congress assembled, July 1799.—A letter of the 17th instant, from Ann Conyngham, and a petition from a number of inhabitants of Philadelphia were read, representing that Captain Gustavus Conyngham, now a prisoner with the enemy, is closely confined, and ordered to be sent to England, and praying that measures may be taken for the security of his person: Ordered, That the same be referred to a committee of three. The members chosen, Mr. Morris, Mr. Dickinson, and Mr. Whipple. The committee to whom were referred the petition, and letter respecting Gustavus Conyngham, brought in a report; whereupon, Resolved, That the following letter from the Secretary of Congress, be written to the admiral, or other commanding officer of the fleet, or ships of his Britannic Majesty, lying in the harbor of New York, viz.:

“‘Sir, I am directed by the Congress of the United States of America to inform you, that they have received evidence that Gustavus Conyngham, a citizen of America, late commander of an armed vessel in the service of the said States, and taken on board of a private armed cutter, hath been treated in a manner contrary to the dictates of humanity, and the practice of Christian, civilized nations. I am ordered, in the name of Congress, to demand that good and sufficient reason be given for this conduct, or that the said Gustavus Conyngham be immediately released from his present rigorous, and ignominious confinement.

“‘With all due respect, I have the honor to be, Sir,

“‘Your most obedient and humble servant.’

Resolved, That, unless a satisfactory answer be received to the foregoing letter, on or before the 1st day of August next, the Marine Committee do immediately order to be confined, in close and safe custody, so many persons as they may think proper, in[Pg 396] order to abide the fate of the said Gustavus Conyngham. Ordered, That the above letter be immediately transmitted to New York, by the Board of War, and that copies of said letter and resolution be delivered to the wife of Conyngham, and the petitioners.

Monday, Dec. 13th, 1779.—A memorial of Christopher Hale was read, praying to be exchanged, and to have leave to go to New York, upon his parole, for a few days, to procure a person in his room. Resolved, That Mr. Hale be informed, that the prayer of his memorial cannot be granted, until Captain Conyngham is released, as it has been determined that he must abide the fate of that officer.”

Conyngham was afterward released. This is the way in which the ancestors of Mr. Seward, and Mr. Charles Francis Adams, took care of their “rebel pirates.”

There is one other point in the legal history of the Alabama, which it is necessary to notice, and to which I propose to adduce another of those awkward precedents, which I have exhumed from those musty old records, which our Northern brethren seem so thoroughly to have forgotten. It has been charged against the Alabama, that her crew was composed mostly of foreigners, and that this was another reason why she was not entitled to be considered as a Confederate States ship of war. Let us look a little into this charge. A sovereign is not only not obliged to account to other nations, for the manner in which he becomes possessed of his ships of war, as we have seen, but he cannot be questioned as to the nativity or naturalization of the persons serving on board of them. It could have been of no sort of consequence to any foreign officer, demanding to see my commission, whether I was a native of England, Germany, or France, or of any other foreign power. All that he could demand of me, in order to satisfy himself that I was entitled to exercise belligerent rights, was a sight of my commission as a Confederate States naval officer. Nationality is presumed in all such commissions, and the presumption cannot be inquired into. Mr. Justice Story, in the decision quoted a few pages back, says, as the reader will recollect, that the commission of a ship of war imports such “absolute verity,” that it cannot be inquired into, or contradicted. It is like proving a fact by a record. No other proof than the production of the record is required, or indeed permitted. The commission of the commander is the commission[Pg 397] of his ship. Neither the Sumter nor the Alabama had any other commission than my own, and the orders assigning me to them. If this be the law with regard to the commander of a ship, a fortiori, must it be the law with reference to the subordinate officers and crew.

The writers on international law, without exception, lay down the rule, that a sovereign may enlist foreigners to assist him in his wars; and that the men thus enlisted are entitled to all the protection of belligerents, equally with native citizens. The Swiss foreign legions, so well known in history, are notable illustrations of this doctrine; and no one has ever heard of a Swiss being hung because he served under a foreign flag. Vattel, who has the rare merit of having so thoroughly exhausted all these subjects, that he has left scarcely anything for those who have followed him to say, lays down the doctrine as follows: “Much has been said on the question whether the profession of a mercenary soldier be lawful or not,—whether individuals may, for money, or any other reward, engage to serve a foreign prince in his wars? This question does not appear to me to be very difficult to be solved. Those who enter into such engagements, without the express or tacit consent of their sovereign, offend against their duty as citizens. But if their sovereign leaves them at liberty to follow their inclination for a military life, they are perfectly free in that respect. [Modern nations, and especially the United States, have left their citizens free to expatriate themselves at pleasure.] Now, every free man may join whatever society he pleases, according as he finds it most to his advantage. He may make its cause his own, and espouse its quarrels. He becomes, in some measure, at least for a time, a member of the State in whose service he engages.” Again: “The sovereign has no right to compel foreigners; he must not even employ stratagem or artifice, in order to induce them to engage in a contract, which, like all others, should be founded on candor and good faith.”

But it was scarcely necessary to quote other authority, on that point, than the authority of the enemy himself. Mr. Secretary Seward knew, at the very time he was denouncing the Alabama as a “pirate,” because of her having, as he alleged, a British[Pg 398] crew on board, that his own Government was filling up its armies, and its navy, too, with hundreds of thousands of raw recruits from Belgium, Germany, and Ireland, and other countries. Nay, more, that by an act of the Federal Congress, these debased and ignorant men, drawn, for the most part, from the idle and thieving classes of their respective countries, were invested, ipso facto, upon enlistment, with all the functions and attributes of American citizens—the function of robbery more especially included! With reference to the conduct of the enemy in this particular, I deem it not amiss to introduce a short extract or two, from a speech made by Sir Hugh Cairnes, her Britannic Majesty’s Attorney-General, in the House of Commons, on the 12th of May, 1864. The discussion grew out of the case of the Confederate States steamer Georgia, which had recently returned to Liverpool, after a cruise. Among other questions discussed was whether the Georgia should be excluded from British ports, because of some alleged infraction on her part, of the British Foreign Enlistment Act. In speaking to this question, the Attorney-General, alluding to the insufficiency of the proof in the case, said:—

“The case of the Kearsarge was a case of this character. Beyond all question, a considerable amount of recruiting was carried on, at Cork, for the purposes of that ship, she being employed at the time, in our own waters, or very near them, in looking out for the enemy; and she was furnished with a large addition to her crew from Ireland. Upon that being represented to Mr. Adams, he said, as might have been expected, that it was entirely contrary to the wishes of his Government, and that there must be some mistake. The men were afterward relanded, and there can be no doubt that there had been a violation of our neutrality. Nevertheless, we admitted the Kearsarge afterward into English waters. We have not excluded her from our ports, and if we had, I think the Government of the United States would have considered that they had some cause of offence.

“But it does not rest here. I see from the paper, that the Honorable Member for Horsham, wants information respecting the enlistment of British subjects for the Federal Army. Now, from all quarters reports reach us, which we cannot doubt to be substantially true, that agents for recruiting for the Federal Army, with, or without the concurrence of the Government, are in Ireland, and engage men under the pretext of employing them on railways and public works, but really with the intention of enlisting them, and that many of these men are so enlisted. In Canada and New Brunswick the[Pg 399] same practices prevail. Representations have been made to the United States Government respecting the cases of particular persons, who have been kidnapped into the service, and I feel bound to say that those representations have not met with that prompt and satisfactory attention we might have expected,” &c.

The reader thus perceives, that if the Alabama enlisted some foreigners to complete her crew, she was only following the example set her, by Mr. Seward himself; but there was this difference between the honorable Secretary of State and the writer. The former resorted to deceit, trickery, and fraud, whilst no man can say of the latter, that he inveigled him on board the Alabama.

I will now produce the precedent I spoke of, from those musty old records. It is drawn from the career of that remarkable sea-captain, to whom I have before referred, and with whose history every American is acquainted—I mean, John Paul Jones. The naval engagement, which conferred most honor upon Jones, was that between the Bon homme Richard, (named after Dr. Franklin’s “Poor Richard,” in the almanac, of which this Chief of the Naval Bureau in Paris was the author,) and the British ships Serapis and Countess of Scarborough. Mr. Cooper thus describes the crew of Jones’ ship, picked up at Dunkirk, or Nantes, or some of the other French ports:—

“To manage a vessel of this singular armament and doubtful construction, Commodore Jones was compelled to receive on board a crew of still more equivocal composition. A few Americans were found to fill the stations of sea officers, on the quarter deck, and forward, but the remainder of the people were a mixture of English, Irish, Scotch, Portuguese, Norwegians, Germans, Spaniards, Swedes, Italians, and Malays, with occasionally a man from one of the islands [meaning Sandwich Islands]. To keep this motley crew in order, 135 soldiers were put on board, under the command of some officers of inferior rank. These soldiers, or marines, were recruited at random, and were not much less singularly mixed as to countries, than the regular crew.”

I had something of a mixture on board the Alabama, but I think Jones decidedly beat me, in the number of nationalities he had the honor to command.

 

 


[Pg 400]

CHAPTER XXXI.

THE AUTHOR LEAVES LIVERPOOL TO JOIN THE ALABAMA—ARRIVAL AT TERCEIRA—DESCRIPTION OF THE ALABAMA—PREPARING HER FOR SEA—THE PORTUGUESE AUTHORITIES—THE COMMISSIONING OF THE SHIP—A PICTURE OF HER BIRTH AND DEATH—CAPTAIN BULLOCK RETURNS TO ENGLAND—AUTHOR ALONE ON THE HIGH SEAS.

 

Having cleared the way, in the last two chapters, for the cruise of the Alabama, by removing some of the legal rubbish with which Mr. Seward and Mr. Adams had sought to encumber her, we are in a condition to put the ship in commission. I was at last accounts in Liverpool, as the reader will recollect, having just arrived there in the steamer Bahama, from Nassau. The Alabama, then known as the “290,” had proceeded, a few days before, to her rendezvous, the island of Terceira, one of the group of the Azores. The name “290” may need a word of explanation. The newspapers of the enemy have falsely charged that the Alabama was built by 290 Englishmen, of “rebel” proclivities, and hence, they say, the name.

One Parson Boynton has written a book, which he calls the “History of the Navy,” but which is rather a biography of Mr. Secretary Welles, his Assistant Secretary Fox, and several ingenious mechanics. Judging by this attempt, parsons are rather bad hands to write histories. Speaking of the Alabama, this gentleman remarks: “Insultingly, this vessel was named ‘290,’ to show, by the large number that contributed to fit her out, how widespread was the English sympathy for the rebel cause. The Alabama was not regarded as a rebel vessel of war, but as a British pirate, or rather, perhaps, as an English man-of-war, sent forth under the veil of the rebel flag, to[Pg 401] sink and destroy our merchantmen.” It is thus seen, that this history repeats the stale newspaper slander. Of such stuff the Yankee histories of the war, generally, are made, especially such of them as are written by amateur parsons. The fact is, as the reader has seen, that the Alabama was built by the Messrs. Laird of Birkenhead, under a contract with the Confederate States, and was paid for out of the Confederate Treasury. She happened to be the 290th ship built by those gentlemen, and hence the name.

The Alabama had been built in perfect good faith by the Lairds. When she was contracted for, no question had been raised as to the right of a neutral to build, and sell to a belligerent such a ship. The reader has seen that the Federal Secretary of the Navy himself had endeavored, not only to build an Alabama, but iron-clads in England. But as the war progressed, the United States, foreseeing the damage which a few fast steamers might inflict on their commerce, took the alarm, and began to insist that neutrals should not supply us, even with unarmed ships. The laws of nations were clearly against them. Their own practice, in all former wars, in which they had been neutrals, was against them. And yet they maintained their ground so stoutly and defiantly, threatening war, if they were not listened to, that the neutral powers, and especially Great Britain, became very cautious. They were indeed bullied—for that is the word—into timidity. To show the good faith which the Lairds had practised throughout, I quote again from the speech made by the senior partner, in the House of Commons:—

“I can only say from all I know, and from all I have heard, that from the day the vessel was laid down, to her completion everything was open and above board, in this country. I also further say, that the officers of the Government had every facility afforded them for inspecting the ship, during the progress of building. When the officers came to the builders, they were shown the ship, and day after day, the customs officers were on board, as they were when she finally left, and they declared that there was nothing wrong. They only left her when the tug left, and they were obliged to declare, that she left Liverpool a perfectly legitimate transaction.”

Notwithstanding this practice of good faith, on our part, and our entire innocence of any breach of the laws of nations,[Pg 402] or of the British Foreign Enlistment Act, Lord John Russell had been intimidated to such an extent, that the ship came within an ace of being detained. But for the little ruse which we practised, of going on a trial-trip, with a party of ladies, and the customs officers, mentioned by Mr. Laird, on board, and not returning, but sending our guests back in a tug, there is no doubt that the Alabama would have been tied up, as the Oreto or Florida had been, in court. She must have been finally released, it is true, but the delay itself would have been of serious detriment to us.

After a few busy days in Liverpool, during which I was gathering my old officers of the Sumter around me, and making my financial arrangements for my cruise, with the house of Frazer, Trenholm & Co., I departed on the 13th of August, 1862, in the steamer Bahama, to join the Alabama. Captain James D. Bullock, of the Confederate States Navy, a Georgian, who had been bred in the old service, but who had retired from it some years before the war, to engage in the steam-packet service, accompanied me. Bullock had contracted for, and superintended the building of the Alabama, and was now going with me, to be present at the christening of his bantling. I am indebted to him, as well the Messrs. Laird, for a very perfect ship of her class.

She was of about 900 tons burden, 230 feet in length, 32 feet in breadth, 20 feet in depth, and drew, when provisioned and coaled for a cruise, 15 feet of water. Her model was of the most perfect symmetry, and she sat upon the water with the lightness and grace of a swan. She was barkentine rigged, with long lower masts, which enabled her to carry large fore-and-aft sails, as jibs and try-sails, which are of so much importance to a steamer, in so many emergencies. Her sticks were of the best yellow pine, that would bend in a gale, like a willow wand, without breaking, and her rigging was of the best of Swedish iron wire. The scantling of the vessel was light, compared with vessels of her class in the Federal Navy, but this was scarcely a disadvantage, as she was designed as a scourge of the enemy’s commerce, rather than for battle. She was to defend herself, simply, if defence should become necessary. Her engine was of three hundred horse-power, and she had[Pg 403] attached an apparatus for condensing, from the vapor of sea-water, all the fresh water that her crew might require. She was a perfect steamer and a perfect sailing-ship, at the same time, neither of her two modes of locomotion being at all dependent upon the other. The reader has seen that the Sumter, when her fuel was exhausted, was little better than a log on the water, because of her inability to hoist her propeller, which she was, in consequence, compelled to drag after her. The Alabama was so constructed, that in fifteen minutes, her propeller could be detached from the shaft, and lifted in a well contrived for the purpose, sufficiently high out of the water, not to be an impediment to her speed. When this was done, and her sails spread, she was, to all intents and purposes, a sailing-ship. On the other hand, when I desired to use her as a steamer, I had only to start the fires, lower the propeller, and if the wind was adverse, brace her yards to the wind, and the conversion was complete. The speed of the Alabama was always greatly over-rated by the enemy. She was ordinarily about a ten-knot ship. She was said to have made eleven knots and a half, on her trial trip, but we never afterward got it out of her. Under steam and sail both, we logged on one occasion, thirteen knots and a quarter, which was her utmost speed.

Her armament consisted of eight guns; six 32-pounders, in broadside, and two pivot-guns amidships; one on the forecastle, and the other abaft the main-mast—the former a 100-pounder rifled Blakeley, and the latter, a smooth-bore eight-inch. The Blakeley gun was so deficient in metal, compared with the weight of shot it threw, that, after the first few discharges, when it became a little heated, it was of comparatively small use to us, to such an extent were we obliged to reduce the charge of powder, on account of the recoil. The average crew of the Alabama, before the mast, was about 120 men; and she carried twenty-four officers, as follows: A Captain, four lieutenants, surgeon, paymaster, master, marine officer, four engineers, two midshipmen, and four master’s mates, a Captain’s clerk, boatswain, gunner, sailmaker, and carpenter. The cost of the ship, with everything complete, was two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

On the morning of our departure from Liverpool, the [Pg 404]Bahama had dropped some distance down the Mersey, and we joined her by tug. She had her steam up, and was ready to trip her anchor, the moment we arrived, and in a few minutes after getting on board, we were under way. The tug cheered us, as she turned to steam back to the city, and the cheer was answered lustily by our crew. We were a week on the passage from Liverpool to Terceira; our old friend, Captain Tessier, of the Bahama, with whom I had made the passage from Nassau to Liverpool, rendering our time very comfortable. On the morning of the 20th of August, we were on the look-out, at an early hour, for the land, and it was not long before we discovered the island, looking, at first, hazy and indistinct in the distance, but gradually assuming more form and consistency. After another hour’s steaming, Porto Praya, our place of rendezvous, became visible, with its white houses dotting the mountain side, and we now began to turn our glasses upon the harbor, with no little anxiety, to see if our ships—for a sailing-ship, with the Alabama’s battery and stores, had preceded her some days, and should now be with her—were all right. We first caught sight of their spars, and pretty soon, raising their hulls sufficiently for identification, we felt much relieved. Our secret had been well kept, and the enemy, notwithstanding his fine “smelling qualities,” had not scented the prey.

In the meantime, our own approach was watched with equal anxiety from the deck of the Alabama. We might be, for aught she knew, an enemy’s steamer coming in pursuit of her; and as the enemy was in the habit of kicking all the small powers, that had not the means of kicking back, a neutral port, belonging to effete old Portugal, would not afford her the least protection. At half-past eleven A. M., we steamed into the harbor, and let go our anchor. I had surveyed my new ship, as we approached, with no little interest, as she was to be not only my home, but my bride, as it were, for the next few years, and I was quite satisfied with her external appearance. She was, indeed, a beautiful thing to look upon. The store-ship was already alongside of her, and we could see that the busy work of transferring her cargo was going on. Captain Butcher, an intelligent young English seaman, who had[Pg 405] been bred in the mail-packet service, and who had taken the Alabama out from Liverpool, on that trial trip of hers, which has since become historical through the protests of Messrs. Seward and Adams, now came on board of us. He had had a rough and stormy passage from Liverpool, during which he had suffered some little damage, and consumed most of his coal. Considerable progress had been made, in receiving on board from the transport, the battery and stores, and a few days more would suffice to put the ship in a condition for defence.

The harbor of Porto Praya lies open to the eastward, and as the wind was now from that quarter, and blowing rather freshly, a considerable sea had been raised, which rendered it inconvenient, if not unsafe, for the transport and the Alabama to continue to lie alongside of each other; which was nevertheless necessary for the transfer of the remainder of the heavy guns. I therefore directed Captain Butcher to get up his anchors immediately, and follow me around to Angra Bay, on the west side of the island, where we should find a lee, and smooth water. This was done, and we arrived at Angra at four o’clock, on the same afternoon. Here the transshipment of the guns and stores was renewed, and here, for the first time, I visited the Alabama. I was as much pleased with her internal appearance, and arrangements, as I had been with her externally, but everything was in a very uninviting state of confusion, guns, gun-carriages, shot, and shell, barrels of beef and pork, and boxes and bales of paymaster’s, gunner’s, and boatswain’s stores lying promiscuously about the decks; sufficient time not having elapsed to have them stowed in their proper places. The crew, comprising about sixty persons, who had been picked up, promiscuously, about the streets of Liverpool, were as unpromising in appearance, as things about the decks. What with faces begrimed with coal dust, red shirts, and blue shirts, Scotch caps, and hats, brawny chests exposed, and stalwart arms naked to the elbows, they looked as little like the crew of a man-of-war, as one can well conceive. Still there was some physique among these fellows, and soap, and water, and clean shirts would make a wonderful difference in their appearance. As night approached, I relieved Captain[Pg 406] Butcher of his command, and removing my baggage on board, took possession of the cabin, in which I was to spend so many weary days, and watchful nights. I am a good sleeper, and slept soundly. This quality of sleeping well in the intervals of harassing business is a valuable one to the sailor, and I owe to it much of that physical ability, which enabled me to withstand the four years of excitement and toil, to which I was subjected during the war.

There are two harbors called Angra, in Terceira—East Angra, and West Angra. We were anchored in the latter, and the authorities notified us, the next morning, that we must move round to East Angra, that being the port of entry, and the proper place for the anchorage of merchant-ships. We were playing merchant-ship as yet, but had nothing to do, of course, with ports of entry or custom-houses; and as the day was fine, and there was a prospect of smooth water under the lee of the island, I got under way, and went to sea, the Bahama and the transport accompanying me. Steaming beyond the marine league, I hauled the transport alongside, and we got on board from her the remainder of our armament, and stores. The sea was not so smooth, as we had expected, and there was some little chafing between the ships, but we accomplished our object, without serious inconvenience. This occupied us all day, and after nightfall, we ran into East Angra, and anchored.

As we passed the fort, we were hailed vociferously, in very bad English, or Portuguese, we could not distinguish which. But though the words were unintelligible to us, the manner and tone of the hail were evidently meant to warn us off. Continuing our course, and paying no attention to the hail, the fort presently fired a shot over us; but we paid no attention to this either, and ran in and anchored—the bark accompanying us, but the Bahama hauling off, seaward, and lying off and on during the night. There was a small Portuguese schooner of war at anchor in the harbor, and about midnight, I was aroused from a deep sleep, into which I had fallen, after a long day of work and excitement, by an officer coming below, and informing me, very coolly, that the Portuguese man-of-war was firing into us! “The d—l she is,” said I;[Pg 407] “how many shots has she fired at us?” “Three, sir,” replied the officer. “Have any of them struck us?” “No, sir, none of them have struck us—they seem to be firing rather wild.” I knew very well, that the little craft would not dare to fire into us, though I thought it probable, that, after the fashion of the Chinese, who sound their gongs to scare away their enemies, she might be firing at us, to alarm us into going out of the harbor. I said therefore to the officer, “Let him fire away, I expect he won’t hurt you,” and turned over and went to sleep. In the morning, it was ascertained, that it was not the schooner at all, that had been firing, but a passing mail steamer which had run into the anchorage, and fired three signal guns, to awaken her sleeping passengers on shore—with whom she departed before daylight.

We were not further molested, from this time onward, but were permitted to remain and coal from the bark; though the custom-house officers, accompanied by the British Consul, paid us a visit, and insisted that we should suspend our operation of coaling, until we had entered the two ships at the custom-house. This I readily consented to do. I now called the Bahama in, by signal, and she ran in and anchored near us. Whilst the coaling was going forward, the carpenter, and gunner, with the assistance of the chief engineer, were busy putting down the circles or traverses for the pivot guns; and the boatswain and his gang were at work, fitting side and train tackles for the broadside guns. The reader can understand how anxious I was to complete all these arrangements. I was perfectly defenceless without them, and did not know at what moment an enemy’s ship might look in upon me. The harbor of East Angra, where we were now anchored, was quite open, but fortunately for us, the wind was light, and from the S. W., which gave us smooth water, and our work went on quite rapidly.

To cast an eye, for a moment, now, from the ship to the shore, I was charmed with the appearance of Terceira. Every square foot of the island seemed to be under the most elaborate cultivation, and snug farm-houses were dotted so thickly over the hill-sides, as to give the whole the appearance of a rambling village. The markets were most bountifully supplied[Pg 408] with excellent beef and mutton, and the various domestic fowls, fish, vegetables, and fruits. My steward brought off every morning in his basket, a most tempting assortment of the latter; for there were apples, plums, pears, figs, dates, oranges, and melons all in full bearing at Terceira. The little town of Angra, abreast of which we were anchored, was a perfect picture of a Portuguese-Moorish town, with its red-tiled roofs, sharp gables, and parti-colored verandas, and veranda curtains. And then the quiet, and love-in-a-cottage air which hovered over the whole scene, so far removed from the highways of the world’s commerce, and the world’s alarms, was charming to contemplate.

I had arrived on Wednesday, and on Saturday night, we had, by the dint of great labor and perseverance, drawn order out of chaos. The Alabama’s battery was on board, and in place, her stores had all been unpacked, and distributed to the different departments, and her coal-bunkers were again full. We only awaited the following morning to steam out upon the high seas, and formally put the ship in commission. Saturday had been dark and rainy, but we had still labored on through the rain. Sunday morning dawned bright and beautiful, which we hailed as a harbinger of future success. All hands were turned out at early daylight, and the first lieutenant, and the officer of the deck took the ship in hand, to prepare her for the coming ceremony. She was covered with coal dust and dirt and rubbish in every direction, for we had hitherto had no time to attend to appearances. But by dint of a few hours of scrubbing, inside and out, and of the use of that well-known domestic implement, the holy-stone, that works so many wonders with a dirty ship, she became sweet and clean, and when her awnings were snugly spread, her yards squared, and her rigging hauled taut, she looked like a bride, with the orange-wreath about her brows, ready to be led to the altar.

I had as yet no enlisted crew, and this thought gave me some anxiety. All the men on board the Alabama, as well as those who had come out with me, on board the Bahama, had been brought thus far, under articles of agreement that were to be no longer obligatory. Some of them had been shipped for one voyage, and some for another, but none of them for [Pg 409]service on board a Confederate cruiser. This was done to avoid a breach of the British Foreign Enlistment Act. They had, of course, been undeceived from the day of our departure from Liverpool. They knew that they were to be released from the contracts they had made, but I could not know how many of them would engage with me for the Alabama. It is true I had had a talk with some of the leaders of the crew, who had promised to go with me, and to influence others, but no creature can be more whimsical than a sailor, until you have bound him past recall, unless indeed it be a woman.

The ship having been properly prepared, we steamed out, on this bright Sunday morning, under a cloudless sky, with a gentle breeze from the southeast, scarcely ruffling the surface of the placid sea, and under the shadow of the smiling and picturesque island of Terceira, which nature seemed to have decked specially for the occasion, so charming did it appear, in its checkered dress of a lighter and darker green, composed of corn-fields and orange-groves, the flag of the new-born Confederate States was unfurled, for the first time, from the peak of the Alabama. The Bahama accompanied us. The ceremony was short but impressive. The officers were all in full uniform, and the crew neatly dressed, and I caused “all hands” to be summoned aft on the quarter-deck, and mounting a gun-carriage, I read the commission of Mr. Jefferson Davis, appointing me a captain in the Confederate States Navy, and the order of Mr. Stephen R. Mallory, the Secretary of the Navy, directing me to assume command of the Alabama. Following my example, the officers and crew had all uncovered their heads, in deference to the sovereign authority, as is customary on such occasions; and as they stood in respectful silence and listened with rapt attention to the reading, and to the short explanation of my object and purposes, in putting the ship in commission which followed, I was deeply impressed with the spectacle. Virginia, the grand old mother of many of the States, who afterward died so nobly; South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana, were all represented in the persons of my officers, and I had some of as fine specimens of the daring and adventurous seaman, as any ship of war could boast.

While the reading was going on, two small balls might[Pg 410] have been seen ascending slowly, one to the peak, and the other to the main-royal mast-head. These were the ensign and pennant of the future man-of-war. These balls were so arranged, that by a sudden jerk of the halliards by which they had been sent aloft, the flag and pennant would unfold themselves to the breeze. A curious observer would also have seen a quartermaster standing by the English colors, which we were still wearing, in readiness to strike them, a band of music on the quarter-deck, and a gunner (lock-string in hand) standing by the weather-bow gun. All these men had their eyes upon the reader; and when he had concluded, at a wave of his hand, the gun was fired, the change of flags took place, and the air was rent by a deafening cheer from officers and men; the band, at the same time, playing “Dixie,”—that soul-stirring national anthem of the new-born government. The Bahama also fired a gun and cheered the new flag. Thus, amid this peaceful scene of beauty, with all nature smiling upon the ceremony, was the Alabama christened; the name “290” disappearing with the English flag. This had all been done upon the high seas, more than a marine league from the land, where Mr. Jefferson Davis had as much jurisdiction as Mr. Abraham Lincoln. Who could look into the horoscope of this ship—who anticipate her career? Many of these brave fellows followed me unto the close.

From the cradle to the grave there is but a step; and that I may group in a single picture, the christening and the burial of the ship, let the reader imagine, now, some two years to have rolled over—and such a two years of carnage and blood, as the world had never before seen—and, strangely enough, another Sunday morning, equally bright and beautiful, to have dawned upon the Alabama. This is her funeral morning! At the hour when the church-goers in Paris and London were sending up their orisons to the Most High, the sound of cannon was heard in the British Channel, and the Alabama was engaged in her death-struggle. Cherbourg, where the Alabama had lain for some days previously, is connected with Paris by rail, and a large number of curious spectators had flocked down from the latter city to witness, as it proved, her interment. The sun rose, as before, in a cloudless sky, and the [Pg 411]sea-breeze has come in over the dancing waters, mild and balmy. It is the nineteenth day of June, 1864. The Alabama steams out to meet the Kearsarge in mortal combat, and before the sun has set, she has gone down beneath the green waters, and lies entombed by the side of many a gallant craft that had gone down before her in that famous old British Channel; where, from the time of the Norseman and the Danish sea-king, to our own day, so many naval combats have been fought, and so many of the laurel crowns of victory have been entwined around the brows of our naval ancestors. Many of the manly figures who had stood with uncovered heads, and listened with respectful silence to the christening, went down in the ship, and now lie buried with her, many fathoms deep, with no other funeral dirge than the roar of cannon, and the howling winds of the North Sea. Such were the birth and death of the ship, whose adventures I propose to sketch in the following pages.

My speech, I was glad to find, had produced considerable effect with the crew. I informed them, in the opening, that they were all released from the contracts under which they had come thus far, and that such of them as preferred to return to England could do so in the Bahama, without prejudice to their interests, as they would have a free passage back, and their pay would go on until they were discharged in Liverpool. I then gave them a brief account of the war, and told them how the Southern States, being sovereign and independent, had dissolved the league which had bound them to the Northern States, and how they were threatened with subjugation by their late confederates, who were the stronger. They would be fighting, I told them, the battles of the oppressed against the oppressor, and this consideration alone should be enough to nerve the arm of every generous sailor. Coming nearer home, for it could not be supposed that English, Dutch, Irish, French, Italian, and Spanish sailors could understand much about the rights or wrongs of nations, I explained to them the individual advantages which they might expect to reap from an enlistment with me. The cruise would be one of excitement and adventure. We had a fine ship under us; one that they might fall in love with, as they would with their [Pg 412]sweethearts about Wapping. We should visit many parts of the world, where they would have “liberty” given them on proper occasions; and we should, no doubt, destroy a great many of the enemy’s ships, in spite of the enemy’s cruisers. With regard to these last, though fighting was not to be our principal object, yet, if a favorable opportunity should offer of our laying ourselves alongside of a ship that was not too heavy for us, they would find me disposed to indulge them.

Finally I came to the finances, and like a skilful Secretary of the Treasury, I put the budget to them, in its very best aspect. As I spoke of good pay, and payment in gold, “hear! hear!” came up from several voices. I would give them, I said, about double the ordinary wages, to compensate them for the risks they would have to run, and I promised them, in case we should be successful, “lots of prize-money,” to be voted to them by the Confederate Congress, for the ships of the enemy that they would be obliged to destroy. When we “piped down,” that is to say, when the boatswain and his mates wound their “calls” three times, as a signal that the meeting was over, and the crew might disperse, I caused the word to be passed for all those who desired to sign the articles, to repair at once to the paymaster and sign. I was anxious to strike whilst the iron was hot. The Alabama had brought out from the Mersey about sixty men, and the Bahama had brought about thirty more. I got eighty of these ninety men, and felt very much relieved in consequence.

The democratic part of the proceedings closed, as soon as the articles were signed. The “public meeting” just described, was the first, and last ever held on board the Alabama, and no other stump speech was ever made to the crew. When I wanted a man to do anything after this, I did not talk to him about “nationalities,” or “liberties,” or “double wages,” but I gave him a rather sharp order, and if the order was not obeyed in “double-quick,” the delinquent found himself in limbo. Democracies may do very well for the land, but monarchies and pretty absolute monarchies at that, are the only successful governments for the sea. There was a great state of confusion on board the ship, of course, during the remainder of this day, and well into the night. Bullock and Butcher were[Pg 413] both on board assisting me, and we were all busy, as well as the paymaster and clerk, making out half-pay tickets for the sailors’ wives and sweethearts, drawing drafts for small amounts payable to relatives and dependants, in different parts of England, for such of the sailors as wanted them, and paying advance-wages to those who had no pay-tickets to leave, or remittances to make. I was gratified to find, that a large proportion of my men left half their pay behind them. “A man, who has children, hath given hostages to fortune,” and you are quite as sure of a sailor, who sends half his pay to his wife or sweetheart.

It was eleven P. M. before my friend Bullock was ready to return to the Bahama, on his way back to England. I took an affectionate leave of him. I had spent some days with him, at his quiet retreat, in the little village of Waterloo, near Liverpool, where I met his excellent wife, a charming Southern woman, with whom hospitality was a part of her religious faith. He was living in a very plain, simple style, though large sums of public money were passing through his hands, and he has had the honor to come out of the war poor. He paid out moneys in good faith, to the last, even when it was quite evident that the cause had gone under, and there would be no accounts to settle with an Auditor of the Treasury. I had not only had the pleasure of his society during a number of anxious days, but he had greatly assisted me, by his counsel and advice, given with that modesty and reserve which always mark true ability. As soon as the Bahama had steamed away, and left me alone, I turned my ship’s head to the north-east, set the fore-and-aft sails, and directed the engineer to let his fires go down. The wind had freshened considerably, and there was some sea on. I now turned into an unquiet cot, perfectly exhausted, after the labors of the day, and slept as comfortably as the rolling of the ship, and a strong smell of bilge-water would permit.

 

 


[Pg 414]

CHAPTER XXXII.

THE ALABAMA A SHIP OF WAR, AND NOT A PRIVATEER—SKETCH OF THE PERSONNEL OF THE SHIP—PUTTING THE SHIP IN ORDER FOR SERVICE—SAIL AND STEAM—THE CHARACTER OF THE SAILOR—THE FIRST BLOW STRUCK AT THE WHALE FISHERY—THE HABITAT AND HABITS OF THE WHALE—THE FIRST CAPTURE.

 

The reader has seen in the last chapter, that the Alabama is at length upon the high seas, as a commissioned ship of war of the Confederate States, her commission having been signed by Mr. Jefferson Davis, who had all the de facto right, and much more of the de jure right, to sign such a commission than John Hancock, who signed Paul Jones’ commission. The Alabama having been built by the Government of the Confederate States, and commissioned by these States, as a ship of war, was, in no sense of the word, a privateer, which is a private armed ship belonging to individuals, and fitted out for purposes of gain. And yet, throughout the whole war, and long after the war, when she was not called a “pirate” by the Northern press, she was called a privateer. Even high Government officials of the enemy so characterized her. Many of the newspapers erred through ignorance, but this misnomer was sheer malice, and very petty malice, too, on the part of those of them who were better informed, and on the part of the Government officials, all of whom, of course, knew better. Long after they had acknowledged the war, as a war, which carried with it an acknowledgment of the right of the Confederate States to fit out cruisers, they stultified themselves by calling her “pirate,” and “privateer.” They were afraid to speak the truth, in conformity with the facts, lest the [Pg 415]destruction of their property, for which they hoped ultimately to be paid, should seem to be admitted to have been done under the sanction of the laws of nations. They could as logically have called General Robert E. Lee a bandit, as myself a pirate; but logic was not the forte of the enemy, either during or since the late war.

Before we commence operations, a glance at the personnel of the ship may not be uninteresting. If the reader is to embark on the cruise with us, he will very naturally desire to know something of his future shipmates. Having made the cruise in the Sumter, he is, of course, acquainted with the officers of that ship, and if, after the fashion of the sailor, he has formed a liking for any of them, he will naturally be inclined to know what became of such of them as did not follow me to the Alabama. Of the lieutenants, only one of my old set followed me. Accident separated the rest from me, very much to my regret, and we afterward played different roles in the war. The reader has not forgotten Chapman, the second officer of the Sumter, who made such a sensation in Cienfuegos, among the fair sex, and who slept in such a sweet pair of sheets at the house of his friend, that he dreamed of them for weeks afterward. Chapman finished the cruise in the Sumter, serving everybody else pretty much as he served the Cienfuegos people, whenever he chanced to get ashore. He was always as ready “to tread one measure—take one cup of wine,” with a friend, as to hurl defiance at an enemy. He carried the garrison mess at Gibraltar by storm. There was no dinner-party without him. He talked war and strategy with the colonel, fox-hunted with the major, and thrumbed the light guitar, and sang delightful songs, in company with the young captains, and lieutenants, beneath the latticed windows of their lady-loves. It is astonishing, too, the progress he made in learning Spanish, which was attributable entirely to the lessons he took from some bright eyes, and musical tongues, in the neighboring village of San Roque, only a pleasant canter over into Spain, from Gibraltar. Chapman was, unfortunately, going from London to Nassau, in a blockade runner, while I was returning from the latter place to Liverpool, preparatory to joining the Alabama. It was thus[Pg 416] we missed each other; and the Alabama was on the wing so soon afterward, that it was impossible for him to catch her. He served in the Georgia, a while, under Captain William Lewis Maury, and, when that ship was laid up and sold, he returned to the Confederate States, and rendered gallant and efficient service, in the last days of the war, in doing what was possible for the defence of Wilmington, against the overwhelming fleet of Porter.

Stribling, the third of the Sumter, was assigned by me to Maffitt’s command, as already related. He died of yellow fever in Mobile, deeply regretted by the whole service.

Evans, the fourth of the Sumter, missed me as Chapman had done, and like Chapman, he took service on board the Georgia, and afterward returned to the Confederate States. He served in the naval batteries on the James River, until the evacuation of Richmond.

I took with me to the Alabama, as the reader has seen, my old and well-tried First Lieutenant, Kell. He became the first lieutenant of the new ship.

Lieutenant Richard F. Armstrong, of Georgia, whom, as the reader will recollect, I had left at Gibraltar, in charge of the Sumter, took Chapman’s place, and became second lieutenant. Armstrong was a young gentleman of intelligence and character, and had made good progress in his profession. He was a midshipman at the Naval School, at Annapolis, when the war broke out. Though still a mere boy, he resigned his appointment without hesitation, and came South. He had made the cruise with me in the Sumter, and been since promoted.

Midshipman Joseph D. Wilson, of Florida, also an élève of Annapolis, and who, like Armstrong, had made the cruise with me in the Sumter, and been promoted, took Stribling’s place, and became third lieutenant.

My fourth lieutenant in place of Evans was Mr. Arthur Sinclair, who, though not bred in the old service, belonged to one of the old naval families of Virginia, both his father and grandfather having been captains in the United States Navy. These two young gentlemen were also intelligent, and for the short time they had been at sea, well informed in their profession.

 

 


Larger Image

Kelly, Piet & Co. Baltimore

 

[Pg 417]My fifth lieutenant was Mr. John Low, of Georgia, a capital seaman, and excellent officer.

Galt, my old surgeon, had accompanied me, as the reader has seen, as did also First Lieutenant Howell, of the marines. Myers, the paymaster of the Sumter, was, unfortunately for me, in prison, in Fort Warren, when the Alabama was commissioned—the Federal authorities still gloating over the prize they had made, through the trickery of the Consul at Tangier, of one of the “pirate’s” officers. In his place I was forced to content myself with a man, as paymaster, who shall be nameless in these pages, since he afterward, upon being discharged by me, for his worthlessness, went over to the enemy, and became one of Mr. Adams’ hangers-on, and paid witnesses and spies about Liverpool, and the legation in London. As a preparatory step to embracing the Yankee cause, he married a mulatto woman, in Kingston, Jamaica, (though he had a wife living,) whom he swindled out of what little property she had, and then abandoned. I was quite amused, when I saw afterward, in the Liverpool and London papers, that this man, who was devoid of every virtue, and steeped to the lips in every vice, was giving testimony in the English courts, in the interest of the nation of “grand moral ideas.” This was the only recruit the enemy ever got from the ranks of my officers.

To complete the circle of the ward-room, I have only to mention Mr. Miles J. Freeman, the chief engineer of the Sumter, who was now filling the same place on board the Alabama, and with whom the reader is already acquainted; Dr. Llewellyn, an Englishman from Wiltshire, who having come out in the Alabama as surgeon when she was yet a merchant-ship, had been retained as assistant surgeon; and Acting Master Bullock, brother of the captain already named in these pages. My “steerage officers,” who are too numerous to be named individually, were a capital set of young men, as were the “forward officers.” Indeed, with the exception of the black sheep in the ward-room, with Federal propensities, to whom I have alluded, I had reason to be satisfied with my officers of all grades.

I must not forget to introduce to the reader one humble[Pg 418] individual of the Alabama’s crew. He was my steward, and my household would not be complete without him. When I was making the passage from Nassau to Liverpool, in the Bahama, I noticed a pale, rather delicate, and soft-mannered young man, who was acting as steward on board. He was an obedient, respectful, and attentive major-domo, but, unfortunately, was rather too much addicted to the use of the wine which he set on the table, every day, for the guests. Poor Bartelli—I thus designate him, because of his subsequent sad fate, which the reader will learn in due time—did not seem to have the power of self-restraint, especially under the treatment he received, which was not gentle. The captain was rough toward him, and the poor fellow seemed very much cowed and humbled, trembling when spoken to harshly. His very forlornness drew me toward him. He was an Italian, evidently of gentle blood, and as, with the Italians, drinking to intoxication is not an ineradicable vice, I felt confident that he could be reformed under proper treatment. And so, when we arrived at Terceira, I asked Bartelli how he would like to go with me, as steward, on board the Alabama. He seemed to be delighted with the proposal. “There is one understanding, however,” I said to him, “which you and I must have: you must never touch a drop of liquor, on board the ship, on duty. When you go on shore, ‘on liberty,’ if you choose to have a little frolic, that is your affair, provided, always, you come off sober. Is it a bargain?” “It is, Captain,” said he; “I promise you I will behave myself like a man, if you will take me with you.” The Captain of the Bahama had no objection, and Bartelli was duly installed as my steward. I found him, as I had expected, a capital servant. He was faithful, and became attached to me, and kept his promise, under strong temptation; for there was always in the cabin-lockers of the Alabama the best of wines and other liquors. He took care of my linen like a woman, washing it himself when we were at sea, and sending it to some careful laundress when in port. I shall, perhaps, astonish a great many husbands and heads of families, when I tell them, that every shirt-button was always in its place, and that I never had to call for needle and thread under difficulties! My mess affairs never gave me the least trouble. My table[Pg 419] was always well supplied, and when guests were expected, I could safely leave the arrangements to Bartelli; and then it was a pleasure to observe the air, and grace of manner and speech, with which he would receive my visitors and conduct them into the cabin. Poor Bartelli!

The day after the Bahama left us was cloudy, and cheerless in aspect, with a fresh wind and a rough sea. The ship was rolling and tumbling about, to the discomfort of every one, and confusion still reigned on board. Below decks everything was dirt and disorder. Nobody had as yet been berthed or messed, nor had any one been stationed at a gun or a rope. Spare shot-boxes and other heavy articles were fetching way, and the ship was leaking considerably through her upper works. She had been put together with rather green timber, and, having been caulked in England, in winter, her seams were beginning to gape beneath the ardent heats of a semi-tropical climate. I needed several days yet, to put things “to rights,” and mould the crew into a little shape. I withdrew, therefore, under easy sail, from the beaten tracks of commerce; and my first lieutenant went to work berthing, and messing, and quartering, and stationing his men. The gun-equipments were completed, and such little alterations made as were found necessary for the easy and efficient working of the battery, and the guns were sealed with blank cartridges, and put in a proper condition for being loaded promptly. We now devoted several days to the exercise of the crew, as well at general, as division, quarters. Some few of the guns’ crews had served in ships of war before, and proved capital drill-sergeants for the rest. The consequence was, that rapid progress was made, and the Alabama was soon in a condition to plume her wings for her flight. It only remained to caulk our upper works, and this occupied us but a day or two longer.

I was much gratified to find that my new ship proved to be a fine sailer, under canvas. This quality was of inestimable advantage to me, as it enabled me to do most of my work under sail. She carried but an eighteen days’ supply of fuel, and if I had been obliged, because of her dull sailing qualities, to chase every thing under steam, the reader can see how I should have been hampered in my movements. I should have[Pg 420] been half my time running into port for fuel. This would have disclosed my whereabouts so frequently to the enemy, that I should have been constantly in danger of capture, whereas I could now stretch into the most distant seas, and chase, capture, and destroy, perfectly independent of steam. I adopted the plan, therefore, of working under sail, in the very beginning of my cruise, and practised it unto the end. With the exception of half a dozen prizes, all my captures were made with my screw hoisted, and my ship under sail; and with but one exception, as the reader will see hereafter, I never had occasion to use steam to escape from an enemy.

This keeping of the sea, for three, and four months at a time, had another great advantage—it enabled me to keep my crew under better drill, and discipline, and, in every way, better in hand. Nothing demoralizes a crew so much as frequent visits to port. The sailor is as improvident, and incapable of self-government as a child. Indeed he is regarded by most nations as a ward of the state, and that sort of legislation is thrown around him, which is thrown around a ward in chancery. The moment a ship drops her anchor in a port, like the imprisoned bird, he begins to beat the bars of his cage, if he is not permitted to go on shore, and have his frolic; and when on shore, to carry our simile still further, he is like the bird let out of the cage. He gives a loose rein to his passions, and sometimes plunges so deeply into debauchery, that he renders himself unfit for duty, for days, and sometimes weeks, after he is hunted up and brought on board by the police, which is most frequently the manner in which his captain again gets possession of him. Such is the reckless intemperance into which some of the regular old salts plunge, that I have known them to go on shore, make their way straight to a sailor-boarding-house, which is frequently a dance-house, and always a grog-shop, give what money they have about them to the “landlord,” and tell him to keep them drunk as long as it will last, and when they have had the worth of it in a good, long, big drunk, to pick them up, and send them off to their ship! The very d—l is to pay, too, when a lot of drunken sailors is brought on board, as every first lieutenant knows. Frequently they have to be knocked down, disarmed[Pg 421] of the dangerous sheath-knives which they wear, and confined in irons until they are sober. When that takes place, Jack comes out of the “Brig,” his place of confinement, very much ashamed of himself; generally with a blackened eye or two, if not with a broken nose, and looking very seedy in the way of apparel, as the chances are that he has sold or exchanged the tidy suit in which he went on shore, for some ’long-shore toggery, the better to enable him to prolong that delightful drunk of his. It was quite enough to have such scenes as these repeated once in three or four months.

When I had put my ship in a tolerable state of defence, and given a little practice at the guns, to my crew, I turned her head toward her cruising ground. It so happened that this was not very far off. Following Porter’s example in the Pacific,—I mean the first Porter, the father of the present Admiral in the Federal Navy,—I resolved to strike a blow at the enemy’s whale-fishery, off the Azores. There is a curious and beautiful problem—that of Providence feeding the whale—connected with this fishery, which I doubt not will interest the reader, as it did the writer of these pages, when it first came under his notice. It is because of that problem, that the Azores are a whaling station. The food which attracts the whale to these islands is not produced in their vicinity, but is carried thither by the currents—the currents of the ocean performing the same functions for the finny tribe, that the atmosphere does for the plants. The fishes of the sea, in their kingdom beneath the waters, have thus their highways and byways, as well as the animals upon the land, and are always to be found congregated where their great food-bearers, the currents, make their deposits. Animalculæ, infusoria, small fishes, minute crustacea, and shell-fish found on the algæ, or floating sea-weed, sea-nettles, and other food, are produced in the more calm latitudes, where the waters are comparatively still, taken up by the currents, and transported to the more congenial feeding-grounds of the whales, and other fishes.

Much of this food is produced in the tepid waters of the sea, into which, it is well known, some descriptions of whales [Pg 422]cannot enter. The equatorial belt of waters surrounding the earth, between the tropics, whose temperature is generally 80° of Fahrenheit, is as a sea of fire to the “right” whale. It would be as certain death for this species of whale to attempt to cross these waters, as for a human being to plunge into a burning lake. The proof of this is that the “right” whale of the northern hemisphere is never found in the southern hemisphere, or e converso. It is a separate and distinct species of fish. See how beneficent, therefore, the arrangement is, by which the food for these monsters of the deep is transported from the tepid waters, into which they cannot enter in pursuit of it, to the cooler waters in which they delight to gambol. The Gulf Stream is the great food-carrier for the extra-tropical whales of the northern hemisphere. An intelligent sea-captain, writing to Superintendent Maury of the National Observatory, some years before the war, informed him, that in the Gulf Stream, off the coast of Florida, he fell in with “such a school of young sea-nettles, as had never before been heard of.” The sea was literally covered with them for many square leagues. He likened them, in appearance, to acorns floating on the water, but they were so thick as completely to cover the sea. He was bound to England, and was five or six days in sailing through them. In about sixty days afterward, on his return voyage, he fell in with the same school off the Azores, and here he was three or four days in passing them again. He recognized them as the same, for he had never before seen any quite like them; and on both occasions he frequently hauled up buckets full, and examined them. In their adventurous voyage of sixty days, during which they must have been tossed about in several gales of wind, these little marine animals had grown considerably, and already the whales had begun to devour them; for the school was now so much diminished in size, that the captain was enabled to sail through it, in three or four days, instead of the five or six which it had formerly taken him. We see, thus, that the fishes of the sea have their seed-time and harvest; that the same beneficent hand that decks the lilies of the field in garments more superb than those of Solomon, and feeds the young raven, seeds down the great equatorial belt of waters for the fishes; and that[Pg 423] when the harvest-time has come, he sends in his reapers and gleaners, the currents, which bind up the sheaves, and bear them off three thousand miles, to those denizens of the great deep, which, perhaps, but for this beautiful and beneficent arrangement, would die of inanition.

The whaling season ends at the Azores about the first of October, when the first winter gales begin to blow, and the food becomes scarce. The whales then migrate to other feeding-grounds, and the adventurous whaler follows them. As we were now, in the first days of September, on board the Alabama, the reader will see, that we had but a few weeks left, in which to accomplish our purpose of striking a blow at the enemy’s whale fishery. In the afternoon of September 4th, the weather being fine and clear, we made Pico and Fayal, and reducing sail to topsails, lay off and on during the night. The next day, the weather being cloudy, and the wind light from the eastward, we made our first prize, without the excitement of a chase. A ship having been discovered, lying to, with her foretopsail to the mast, we made sail for her, hoisting the United States colors, and approached her within boarding distance, that is to say, within a few hundred yards, without her moving tack or sheet. She had shown the United States colors in return, as we approached, and proved to be a whaler, with a huge whale, which she had recently struck, made fast alongside, and partially hoisted out of the water by her yard tackles. The surprise was perfect and complete, although eleven days had elapsed since the Alabama had been commissioned at a neighboring island, less than a hundred miles off.

The captured ship proved to be the Ocmulgee, of Edgartown, Massachusetts, whose master was a genuine specimen of the Yankee whaling skipper; long and lean, and as elastic, apparently, as the whalebone he dealt in. Nothing could exceed the blank stare of astonishment, that sat on his face, as the change of flags took place on board the Alabama. He had been engaged, up to the last moment, with his men, securing the rich spoil alongside. The whale was a fine “sperm,” and was a “big strike,” and had already been denuded of much of its blubber when we got alongside. He naturally concluded, he said, when he saw the United States colors at our peak, that[Pg 424] we were one of the new gunboats sent out by Mr. Welles to protect the whale fishery. It was indeed remarkable, that no protection should have been given to these men, by their Government. Unlike the ships of commerce, the whalers are obliged to congregate within small well-known spaces of ocean and remain there for weeks at a time, whilst the whaling season lasts. It was the most obvious thing in the world, that these vessels, thus clustered together, should attract the attention of the Confederate cruisers, and be struck at. There are not more than half a dozen principal whaling stations on the entire globe, and a ship, of size and force, at each, would have been sufficient protection. But the whalers, like the commerce of the United States generally, were abandoned to their fate. Mr. Welles did not seem capable of learning by experience even; for the Shenandoah repeated the successes of the Alabama, in the North Pacific, toward the close of the war. There were Federal steam gunboats, and an old sailing hulk cruising about in the China seas, but no one seemed to think of the whalers, until Waddel carried dismay and consternation among them.

It took us some time to remove the crew of the Ocmulgee, consisting of thirty-seven persons, to the Alabama. We also got on board from her some beef and pork, and small stores, and by the time we had done this, it was nine o’clock at night; too late to think of burning her, as a bonfire, by night, would flush the remainder of the game, which I knew to be in the vicinity; and I had now become too old a hunter to commit such an indiscretion. With a little management and caution, I might hope to uncover the birds, no faster than I could bag them. And so, hoisting a light at the peak of the prize, I permitted her to remain anchored to the whale, and we lay by her until the next morning, when we burned her; the smoke of the conflagration being, no doubt, mistaken by vessels at a distance, for that of some passing steamer.

To those curious in such matters, I may state that a large sperm whale will yield twenty-five barrels of oil from the head alone. The oil is found in its liquid state, and is baled ou