Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

CHAP. I.

the war ships to wait for a new supply; while General Sherman on landing found the conquest so extensive as to require all his force and facilities. He said:

We had no idea, in preparing the expedition of such immense success. We found to our surprise that, instead of having difficult work to get one harbor, after one harbor was obtained we had a half a dozen important harbors at once. Such a panic was created among the enemy by the fall of Port Royal that they deserted the whole coast from the North Edisto to Warsaw Sound. This threw into our possession not only the harbor of Port Royal, Sherman, but the magnificent harbor of St. Helena, and the har. Report of bors of North Edisto, South Edisto, Tybee Roads, Warsaw Sound, and Ossabaw Sound. . . There is a network of waters, an inland water communication, running all the way from Charleston to Savannah.

tho Committee on

the Conduct of the

War.

The Fernandina expedition was therefore deferred, and the army bent its energies to the erection of suitable forts to protect the territory and harbors which had been gained. It was indeed a magnificent acquisition. Port Royal was the finest harbor on the Southern coast, deep enough for the largest vessels, roomy enough to hold the navies of the world; twenty miles from Savannah, thirty miles from Charleston - nearly midway between them. This was, if not the territorial, at least the agricultural heart of South Carolina; the famous Sea-Island region, which grows the best cotton in the world; the seat of fine plantations, of aristocratic families, of idyllic Southern homes, the pride and the delight of a society upheld by slavery; hospitable mansions, embowered in gardens of roses, oleanders, and oranges, terminating picturesquely long and venerable live-oak avenues. Near

CHAP. I. by was Beaufort, the salubrious pleasure-town of

the wealthy planters, where the aspiring statesmen of South Carolina had plotted treason and rebellion for a generation. Instead of realizing the dreams of splendor and power which led them astray, this grim visitation of the “ Lincoln gunboats” was their first fruit of the war they had kindled; every white inhabitant in flight; every homestead deserted, and the slaves wandering idly over the abandoned plantations, or pillaging in unrestrained license among the furniture, clothing, and trinkets which lay scattered and desecrated in the once proud homes of their masters.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

TAR

1861.

THE public mind would probably have dwelt Chap. IL

with more impatience and dissatisfaction upon the inaction of the armies, but for an event which turned all thoughts with deep solicitude into an entirely different channel. This was what is known as the Trent affair, which seriously threatened to embroil the nation in a war with Great Britain. The Confederate Government had appointed two new envoys to proceed to Europe and renew its application for recognition, which former diplomatic agents had failed to obtain. For this duty ex-Senator James M. Mason of Virginia and ex-Senator John Slidell of Louisiana were selected, on account of their political prominence, as well as their recognized ability. On the blockaderunner Theodora, they, with their secretaries and families, succeeded in eluding the Union cruisers round Charleston, and in reaching Havana, Cuba. Deeming themselves beyond danger of capture, they made no concealment of their presence or mission, but endeavored rather to “magnify their office.” The British consul showed them marked attention, and they sought to be presented officially to the Captain-General of Cuba; but that wary function

1861.

CHAP. II. ary explained that he received them only as “ dis

tinguished gentlemen.” They took passage on board the British mail steamer Trent for St. Thomas, intending there to take the regular packet to England.

Captain Charles Wilkes, commanding the United States war steamer San Jacinto, just returned from an African cruise, heard of the circumstance, and, going to Havana, fully informed himself of the details of their intended route. The Trent, he learned, was to leave Havana on the 7th of November. That day found him stationed in the old Bahama channel, near the northern coast of Cuba, where he had reason to believe she would pass. At about noon of the 8th the lookout announced the approach of the Trent, and when she was sufficiently near, the San Jacinto fired a round-shot across her course, and displayed the American colors. The British steamer did not seem disposed to accept the warning and failed to slacken her speed, whereupon Captain Wilkes ordered a shell to be fired across her bows, which at once brought her to. Lieutenant D. M. Fairfax, with two officers and a guard of marines, left the San Jacinto and rowed to the mail steamer; the lieutenant mounted to the deck alone, leaving his officers and men in the boat. He was shown to the quarter-deck, where he met Captain Moir of the Trent, and, informing him who he was, asked to see his passenger-list. Captain Moir declined to show it. Lieutenant Fairfax then told him of his information that the rebel commissioners were on board and that he must satisfy himself on that point before allowing the steamer to proceed. The envoys and their

CHAP. II.

secretaries came up, and, hearing their names mentioned, asked if they were wanted. Lieutenant Fairfax then made known in full the purport of his orders and the object of his visit, to seize the Confederate officials.

The altercation called a considerable number of passengers around the group. All of them manifested open secession sympathy, and some indulged in abusive language so loud and demonstrative that the lieutenant's two officers, and six or eight armed men from the boat, without being called, mounted to the lieutenant's assistance. In these unfriendly demonstrations the mail agent of the Trent, one Commander Williams, a retired British naval officer, made himself especially conspicuous with the declaration that he was the “Queen's representative," and with various threats of the consequences of the affair. The captain of the Trent firmly but quietly refused all compliance or search, and the envoys and their secretaries protested against arrest, whereupon Lieutenant Fairfax sent one of his officers back to the San Jacinto for additional force. In perhaps half an hour the second boat returned from the San Jacinto with some twentyfour additional men. Lieutenant Fairfax now proceeded to execute his orders without actual violence, and with all the politeness possible under the circumstances. Mason and Slidell, and their secretaries, foreseeing the inevitable, had retired to their state-rooms to pack their luggage; thither it was necessary to follow them, and there the presence of the families of Slidell and Eustis created some slight confusion, and a few armed marines entered the cabin, but were sent back.

« AnteriorContinuar »