Imágenes de páginas

in past years, it appears that the regular Confederate cruisers destroyed one hundred and seventy-five vessels; and this number does not include the vessels captured and destroyed by Lieutenants-Commanding J. T. Wood and John Wilkinson in their short dashes out of Wilmington with the Tallahassee and Chickamanga.

But this was not the whole of the injury inflicted upon American commerce by the few Confederate cruisers. In the Case of the United States' presented to the Tribunal of Arbitration, some startling figures are given to illustrate the indirect damage. On p. 130 of the above-mentioned document it is stated that while in 1860 two-thirds of the commerce of New York were carried on in American bottoms, in 1863 three-fourths were carried on in foreign bottoms.'

foreign bottoms. On the same page there is an account of the number and tonnage of American vessels which were registered in the United Kingdom and in British North America (namely, transferred to the British flag) to avoid capture, from which I extract the following :

:-'In 1861, vessels 126, tonnage 71,673 ; in 1862, vessels 135, tonnage 64,578; in 1863, vessels 348, tonnage 252,579; in 1864, vessels 106, tonnage 92,052.'

I can conscientiously affirm that this destruction of private property, and diversion of legitimate commerce, was painful to those whose duty it was to direct and to inflict it. But the United States have always practised that mode of harassing an enemy; and Mr. Bolles says, in his article in reference to the proposed trial of Admiral Semmes, that they would do so again under like circumstances. It is greatly to be regretted that when the United States wrung the Treaty of Washington from Great Britain in 1871, and brought her Majesty's Government before a great International Court of Arbitration, the proposition to exempt private property from destruction at sea in future wars was not discussed and definitely determined. Unfortunately, that treaty and the important conclave of eminent statesmen and jurists at Geneva have settled nothing in respect to international law that has any binding force upon any Power except Great Britain and the United States, and upon them only for the specific purposes of the treaty, because her Majesty's Government not only agreed to be judged by rules manufactured for the occasion, and not applicable to neutral duties as commonly understood, but her Majesty's Ministers weakened, if they did not wholly destroy, their case in advance by imprudent speeches in public, and by indiscreet admissions, as well as by a strange and unstatesmanlike vacillation that gave their adversary in the case an advantage which was manifest to all who were interested in the proceedings and followed them with attention.

The career and fate of the Shenandoah after her surrender to the United States may be of some interest, although the former was not lustrous, and the latter was merely the lot common to many stately craft, whether historic or commonplace. Shortly after the surrender, Captain Freeman was ordered to take the ship to New York. It was winter, and the fierce westerly gales seemed unwilling to permit the transfer of the ex-Confederate craft to her late enemies without a rough protest. Captain Freeman appears to have made an earnest effort to fulfil his instructions. He fought against head winds and seas for some time, but finally returned with the ship to Liverpool, having lost some of the upper spars and the greater portion of the sails.

The Shenandoah was then put up for sale, and was finally bought for the Sultan of Zanzibar. She was fitted out with some show of luxury as to cabin fittings, and it was rumoured that she was to be used as a yacht, but, whether she proved to be too large and too expensive for the convenience of the Sultan and the resources of the Zanzibar exchequer or not, she was soon set again to the peaceful occupation for which she was originally built, and carried many a cargo of 'ivory, gum, coral, and coal' for his sable majesty, and weathered the blasts of many monsoons, until at last, in 1879, fourteen years after she struck the Confederate flag, the teak planks were torn from her bottom by a rough scrape on a coral reef, and her iron ribs were left to rust and crumble on a melancholy island in the Indian Ocean.*

One of the difficulties attending the enterprise for which the Shenandoah (or Sea King) was bought, arose from the necessity of providing a tender for her, which of course involved a large additional outlay, at a time when other necessities were pressing, and the financial agents were not over-well provided with funds. When it was determined to undertake the enterprise, prompt action was absolutely necessary to insure success, and all that could be done to secure an economical expenditure was to buy a good vessel for a tender that could be used as a blockade-runner, or would be likely to fetch something approximate to the cost afterwards.

These expectations were happily fulfilled by the Laurel. Lieutenant Ramsay carried out his instructions with intelligence and energy. After parting company with the Shenandoah off Madeira, he proceeded to Teneriffe, and landed there Captain Corbett and the crew of the Sea King. From Teneriffe, Ramsay proceeded to Nassau, and took the Laurel from that port into Charleston with a most valuable cargo of supplies, shipped by Mr. Heyleger, the Confederate agent at Nassau. Immediately after the arrival of the Laurel at Charleston, early in December, 1864, the Secretary of the Navy directed me to sell her when she came out; but upon further consultation with Lieutenant Ramsay, she was transferred to the Treasury Department at cost price. She was then loaded with cotton on account of the Treasury, and got safely through the blockade. While in Charleston the name of the Laurel was changed to the Confederate States. She was the subject of some correspondence between the United States Minister to England and her Majesty's Government, which appears to have ended with the following statement contained in a letter from Earl Russell to Mr. Adams, in March, 1865:— Her Majesty's Government are advised that although the proceedings of the steamer Confederate States, formerly Laurel, may have rendered her liable to capture on the high seas by the cruisers of the United States, she has not, so far as is known, committed any offence punishable by British law.'*

* An interesting leader appeared in the Daily Telegraph (London) on her career and final shipwreck at the time of her loss.

As the Laurel was transferred from one Department of the Government to the other, there arose no question of profit or loss; but, looking to the service she rendered to the Shenandoah, the freight she would have earned on the inward cargo to Charleston if it had been carried on private account, and her transfer at cost price, the transaction as regards the Navy Department resulted in a very substantial profit.f I cannot state whether the

* See • United States Case,' p. 123. + The blockade rates of freight were then about £50 per ton.

Laurel (Confederate States) made more than one voyage through the blockade. She belonged to another Department. I had no further control over her, and have never learned what became of her at the close of the war, which came to an end in a few months after her first departure from Charleston.

« AnteriorContinuar »