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QUESTION AS TO REBEL PRIVATEERSMEN.
carry into effect, certain severe measures | Charleston and other ports, were ex. of retaliation, in case the privateers re- ceedingly annoying to the merchant cently captured were convicted and service in the Gulf of Mexico and ad. condemned as pirates, according to the jacent waters; but, as our government, declaration in Mr. Lincoln's proclama- with a speed up paralleled and astonish tion (see p. 21), when the trial came ing, created a navy, so as to render the on it was found to involve grave ques- blockade efficient, the privateers were tions of law, as well as expediency. soon deprived of places of refuge, and The trial lasted a week and the jury found many obstacles thrown in their disagreed. Learned jurists discussed way in the West India Islands. With the subject at large; it was even thought a few exceptions, as the Sumter, Nash. necessary to take notice of the matter ville, etc., the privateers were unable to in parliament; and finally, under all execute the terrible threats of destructhe embarrassments of the question, and tion, on the result of which they countthe certainty that numbers of our offi. ed so largely at the outbreak of the recers and men in the rebels' hands would bellion. Prizes were indeed made, be put to death in case the piratical marine insurance rose to a high point, privateersmen were hung, the govern- and it was feared that the Aspinwall ment abandoned the prosecution, and steamers, with the gold products of thenceforward treated them simply as California, would fall into the hands of prisoners of war.*
the privateers; but the results were The vessels fitted out by the rebels as not at all equal to the expectations and privateers were chiefly the coasting and hopes of the confederates. gulf steamers lying in the southern bar. Among the vessels seized by the reb. bors, which the blockade had rendered els in the southern ports, was the rev. useless for their usual purpose; several enue-cutter Aiken, which was taken revenue-cutters, the property of the possession of in Charleston harbor. United States, which had been seized Surnamed the Petrel, and fitted out as 1861. ... in the ports; a number of schoon- a privateer, she ran the blockade, and
ers and pilot-boats—a motley immediately, July 28th, fell in with feet, not exceeding some fifty in all, in what appeared to be a lumbering mer. the early months of the war. At first chantman, trying hard to make its es. their movements from New Orleans, cape. This was the United States fri.
gate St. Lawrence, then on a cruise letter and sent it by a special messenger to Washing. ton. It was addressed to President Lincoln, and stated order was of course obeyed, and several of our unfortunin plain terms that if the privateersmen were hung, ate officers were treated as felons of the lowest class, he should hang in return an equal number of officers until finally the government abandoned the ground it and men, prisoners at the time in his hands. On the at first had taken. 9th of November, after a man named Smith had been *“ Are the Southern Privateersmen Pirates ?” A letfound guilty of piracy, by the jury in Philadelphia, the ter to the Hon. Ira Harris ; by C. P. Daly, Judge of the rebel war department sent an order to Richmond, to Common Pleas, New York. This is a pamphlet of select by lot an officer of the highest rank, to be dealt thirteen pages, under date of December 21st, 1861, with as Smith might be by the United States authori- and may be consulted to advantage, to show the ground ties, and also thirteen others to be held in place of the taken by those who desired to see the privateersmen privateersmen then under trial in New York. The regarded as prisoners of war and not as pirates.
along the Atlantic coast in quest of pi- and two seamen were taken out and ratical craft of the enemy. To disguise five of the Davis's crew put on board. her real character, her port-holes were The colored steward, W. Tillman, was closed and her men kept carefully out left on the Waring, and the schooner's of sight. The commander of the Pe course was directed towards Charleston. trel, misled by the deception, bore down Tillman, terrified at the prospect of upon the innocent-looking vessel, eager being sold into slavery, in case he were to secure the prize. Presently a couple taken into port, resolved upon desperof shots from the Petrel were fired ate measures. Watching his opportuacross the bows of the St. Lawrence, nity, and with the aid of one of the followed by a discharge of canister seamen, he killed the prize captain and striking the rigging. The frigate di- mates, secured the other two men, and rectly after threw up her ports, and made directly for New York. After a opened fire upon the Petrel. The des devious voyage from within fifty truction was instantaneous. A shell miles of Charleston, and guessing their struck the galley, entered the hold, and way northwardly, they reached Sandy exploded, tearing the vessel fearfully, Hook on the 21st of July, and were and bringing her to a sinking condition. safely piloted into the harbor. Tillman Part of the crew threw themselves was awarded salvage for his resolute overboard, or sought refuge in the life conduct in saving the vessel. . boat, holding up a flag of surrender. On the 6th of July, the Jeff. Davis cap. The boats of the St. Lawrence were im- tured the schooner Enchantress, on her mediately lowered; and the survivors way to Cuba. Several men, with the col. were rescued and brought on board of ored cook, were put in charge of the ves. the frigate. Four of the privateer's sel to go to Charleston, where the cook crew thus perished with the sinking was expected to bring a good price. vessel, and thirty-six were captured and Not long after, they met the Albatross carried into Philadelphia.
of the U. S. Navy, and attempting to The Jeff. Davis, early in June, ap. deceive her, the negro jumped overpeared on the north-eastern coast, and board, and gave information which led running in as near as the Nantucket to the vessel being retaken, and the shoals, made on her cruise, prizes esti- freedom of the cook preserved. Some mated at some $225,000. She was weeks later, Sunday morning, August formerly the slaver Echo, a full-rigged 18th, the Jeff. Davis was wrecked, in brig, with a crew of 260 men and six attempting to cross the bar at the enguris, and in general appearance not trance to the port of St. Augustine, lik ly to alarm a vessel at first sight. Florida. Her heavy guns were thrown On the 4th of July, when about one overboard in the effort to relieve her hundred and fifty iniles from Sandy and save the supplies which she had Hook, she captured the schooner J. G. captured. The crew, however, escaped, Waring, on a voyage from New York and were congratulated on their dash. to Montevideo. The captain, mates, |ing success amongst the Yankees.
MASON AND SLIDELL CAPTURED.
It is not necessary to enter into de- met with indifferent success abroad. tails of the operations attempted by the As it was evident that the hopes of the rebels in regard to privateering. For new “confederacy” were based largely reasons above given, added to the ener- upon foreign recognition and assistance, getic action of our government compel. the leaders in revolution knew that ling neutrality, as far as possible, on the every effort must be made to secure part of foreign nations, the rebels met these at the earliest moment. Consewith only partial success. The cruises quently, as the present agents of some of the privateers, like the Sum- in Europe had virtually failed, ter, Nashville, and others, were remark. a fresh attempt was set on foot, under able, and will be noted on a subsequent the sanction of the rebel Congress, and page. The actual loss to our merchants the prime mover in the whole matter, from the depredations of privateers was Jefferson Davis. Two persons, J. M. undoubtedly great, and more or less Mason and John Slidell, both in former severely felt; but the chief evil result days members of the United States was deeper and more lasting than the Senate, and well known to be ardent, destruction of property alone could pro- thorough-going secessionists and haters duce. The course pursued by the Eng. of the Union, were selected for the new lish government, professing the strictest and difficult work to be performed, and neutrality, and being on terms of amity were charged with the imposing comwith our country, was such, nevertheless, mission of ambassadors from the “ Conas to bring conviction to our people, federate States of America” to England that that government was not unwilling and France. The arrogance and pre. to permit, under the thinnest disguise, sumption of Mason, on the one hand, vessels to be built in English shipyards, and the bold, unscrupulous character of and fitted out to a large extent in Eng. Slidell, on the other, gave to their apland, to serve in rebel hands as priva pointment, and the mission they had teers, and prey upon the commerce of undertaken, more than usual importthe United States. The loyal people ance. The government resolved, if pos. of our country entertained strong feel.sible, to intercept thern, and prevent ings of resentment against England for their reaching Europe. A strict watch what had taken place, and, at a later was ordered, and several vessels detail. date, questions of grave importance ed to keep a sharp look out for the new came up for settlement.
agents in revolution. Mason and SliAlthough it is a little in advance of dell, however, with their secretaries and other parts of our narrative, we may a number of others, took the small here, most conveniently, give the record | steamer Theodora, and about midnight, of an affair which, at the time, made October 11th, escaped the blockade at great noise, and seemed likely to involve Charleston, and made their way safely a serious collision with Great Britain. Ito Nassau, New Providence. Thence, On a previous page (see p. 66), we have the Theodora carried the party to Cuba, noted that the rebel commissioners had | where they waited for the regular West
India steamer in order to proceed to a proper force in waiting; be conduct. England. None of the vessels sent outed himself as an officer and a gentleman by government were fortunate enough through a very unpleasant scene, min. to meet with the persons of whom they gled with expressions of decided hoswere in search ; it was reserved for a tility on the part of the officers and ship returning from the coast of Africa others on the English vessel; and to accomplish the capture of these dan. Messrs. Mason and Slidell, with their gerous rebels.
secretaries, Messrs. Eustis and Macfar. Captain Charles Wilkes, of the San land, were taken on board the AmeriJacinto, a first class screw steamer, can steamer. The families of Mr. mounting 13 guns, having learned at Slidell and Mr. Eustis preferring to re. Cienfuegos, in Cuba, that the Theodora main on the Trent, that vessel proceed. had run the blockade and reached ed on her voyage. Captain Wilkes Havana, resolved at once to secure the ran into Hampton Roads, on rebel “ambassadors” so soon as they set the 15th of November, and out for Europe. He reached Havana, reported immediately his doings to the October 31st, and found these gentle | authorities at Washington. The next men enjoying the hospitality of the day, he sailed for New York, and thence British consul and other sympathizing by order to Boston, where his prisoners friends, and waiting for the English were safely lodged in Fort Warren, steamer Trent, which was to leave November 24th. November 7th, for St. Thomas, and Captain Wilkes prepared an elabortranship her passengers there for South-ate dispatch, setting forth the grounds hampton. Acting on his own convic- on which he justified the seizure of tions of the legality of his contemplat: “ the embodiment of dispatches," as he ed act, Captain Wilkes made all need shrewdly termed Mason and Slidell ; ful preparation, and left port on the he also stated, that he would have 2d of November, to keep strict watch made a prize of the vessel, had it not for the Trent, and carry out his design been for an unwillingness to inconveof making prisoners of the men who nience the passengers on the Trent, w were engaged in treasonable practices were certainly innocent of any offence. against the government. The San Ja- “I concluded,” said the gallant captain, cinto took up a position in the old in bringing his dispatch to a close, “ to Babama channel, some 250 miles from sacrifice the interests of my officers and Havana, and about nine miles from the crew in the prize, and suffe light-house, Paredon del Grande, the steamer to proceed, after the necessary nearest point of Cuba at the time. detention to effect the transfer of these At noon, November 8th, the Trent commissioners, considering I had obmade her appearance; two shots were tained the important end I had in view, fired across her bows; and she was and which affected the interests of our speedily brought to by the San Jacinto. country and interrupted the action of Lieut. Fairfax was sent on board, with that of the confederatez. . ... I may
THE TRENT AFFAIR SETTLED.
add that, having assumed the responsi- the English government determined to bility, I am willing to abide the result.” demand peremptorily the restoration
Captain Wilkes was highly lauded by of Mason and Slidell to British pro. the press and the people generally, was tection. Earl Russell sent a special fêted by various public bodies, received messenger to Lord Lyons, Her Majesty's the special thanks of Secretary Welles minister at Washington, with a disof the navy department, and a vote of patch, dated Nov. 30th, denouncing thanks from Congress. Various legal | what had been done as an act of viol. authorities supported his action, and ence, which was an affront to the Bri. the country at large was assured of tish flag, and a violation of internanot only the legality, but the positive tional law ;" declaring that “ the merit of his conduct on this occasion. British government could not allow It was observable, however, that the such an affront to the national honor to president, in his message, early in pass without full reparation." Lord December, said nothing about the sub- Russell insisted on the giving up of ject, and Mr. Seward, secretary of Mason and Slidell and their secretaries, state, equally kept himself free from with “ a suitable apology for the ag. committment, until the news from Eng.gression which had been committed.” land should manifest the spirit in War preparations were begun at once, which that government was disposed the fleet in American waters was orto view the matter. The wisdom of dered to be largely increased, and in the secretary's course was soon after every way the spirit of the English abundantly verified. He wrote to Mr. government and people was aroused, in Adams, stating the facts as narrated, apparent expectation that war with the and also that Captain Wilkes had | United States was the only alternative. acted without instructions in what he Mr. Seward, who had been courte. had done; and expressed the hope ously addressed by the ministers of “ that the British government would France, Russia and Austria, deprecatconsider the subject in a friendly tem. ing the sustaining the action of Capt. per," being assured of the willingness Wilkes, communicated with Lord and best disposition of the United Lyons in the latter part of December. States so to consider it.
He went over the whole matter, cor. As was to be expected, the affair recting Earl Russell's dispatch as to produced no little excitement in Eng: the facts, and discussing at large the land, and the rebels and their friends principles and views which governed endeavored to make the most of it.* the United States in the course the The law officers of the crown pronoun-president had determined to pursue. ced Capt. Wilkes' act unjustifiable, and The final result at which Mr. Seward
* The English press fairly overflowed with abusive in on the other side of the water, see Duyckinck's denunciation of Captain Wilkes, Secretary Seward,“ War for the Union,” vol. ii., pp. 124-150. Mr. Rusand the “ Yankees " generally and in particular. For sell also in his “ Diary,” p. 573, infra, gives a lively a more full account of the seizure of the rebel commis account of the current opinions and talk of the day sioners, and the style and manner of abuse indulged on this subject.