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the want of vessels, and the other the want of some place where prizes could be carried for condemnation. It was soon ascertained, however, that a number of vessels, mostly those taken from the Government, and others belonging to Northern owners, which happened to be in Southern ports at the outbreak of the rebellion, were at the command of the Confederates, and were being fitted for cruising. A number of them ran the blockade and proceeded to prey upon commerce. Among these was the Aiken, a revenue cutter, which had been surrendered by its commander to the Charleston authorities, just previous to the fall of Sumter. She was refitted, and, under the name of Petrel, ran the blockade in July, and, mistaking the frigate St. Lawrence for a merchant vessel, ran towards her, and when within range was crushed by a single broadside. The Calhoun was a side-wheel steamer of one thousand and fifty-eight tons, carrying one twenty-four-pound gun and two eighteen-pound Dahlgrens. She was commanded by George N. Hollins, formerly of the United States navy, and made numerous captures. The steamer W. H. Webb, formerly a New York towboat of six hundred and fifty tons, and the Dixie, a schooner of one hundred and fifty tons, were also busy. The Jeff. Davis, Captain Coxsetter, ran north as far as the Nantucket Shoals, making prizes on her way, but was soon after lost at St. Augustine, Florida. The Bonita, a New York brig, the Sallie, a schooner, formerly the Virginia, of Brookhaven, and others, committed serious depredations upon Northern commerce. Many of the prizes captured by these vessels were carried into Southern ports and condemned in the prize-courts.
When the Confederate authorities had proposed to issue letters of marque, little attention was paid to the matter, under the supposition that they had neither the facilities to equip vessels nor the power to break the blockade. The prompt appearance of the vessels on the ocean compelled the European powers immediately to define their positions in relation to them. The ground taken was, as in the case of recognizing the blockade, to regard both parties as belligerents, and to apply the same rules to the vessels of each. On the 1st of June the English Government issued a proclamation containing the following clause :
"In order to give full effect to this principle (neutrality), her Majesty has been pleased to interdict the armed ships, and also the privateers of both parties, from carrying prizes made by them into the ports, harbors, and roadsteads, or waters of the United Kingdom, or any of her Majesty's colonies or possessions abroad."
The French Government decreed that no vessel of war or privateer of either party should be allowed to remain in a French port more than twenty-four hours, and forbidding any sale of goods belonging to prizes. The Spanish Government issued a similar decree.
These regulations much circumscribed the Confederate action; but at Havana it was notified:
"Vessels bearing the Confederate flag are allowed to enter Cuban ports under their own flags, to discharge and take away cargoes, and do all other things of business necessity, with the same privileges as favored nations, but without recognition of the new nationality."
The two most important of the Confederate war-vessels were the
Sumter and the Nashville, because of the extent of their operations and their long-continued impunity. The former was originally called the Marquis de la Habana, and had belonged to the Mexican General Miramon. She had been captured off Vera Cruz, March 5th, 1860, by the United States sloop-of-war Saratoga, for refusing to show her colors and firing into the latter when hailed; and being carried to New Orleans, she was subsequently taken possession of by the Confederate Government, and fitted for sea under command of Raphael Semmes. Her appearance, when her smoke-stack was lowered, which was often the case for the purpose of disguise, was that of a clumsily rigged bark. On the morning of the 30th of June she left the Mississippi, vainly pursued by the United States steamer Brooklyn. She made a number of prizes and sent them in to Cienfuegos, but they were not allowed to remain. The Sumter coaled at that port, however, and sailed on July 7th. She continued in the West Indies making prizes, and coaling in the different ports, pursued by the United States steamer Powhatan from port to port, until November, when she ran into Martinique for supplies, which the Government refused, but permitted her to buy them of the English merchants of St. Pierre. While she lay there the United States gunboat Iroquois, Captain Palmer, made her appearance. The local government, however, interposed, to prevent any infraction of belligerent rights, and detained the Iroquois until twenty-four hours after the departure of the Sumter. She then crossed the ocean, and ultimately arrived at Tangiers, Africa, where some of her officers were seized by the American consul, and sent bome.
The Nashville ran the blockade on the night of October 26th, and excited much attention by the rumor that she carried out Messrs. Slidell and Mason, the Confederate commissioners to Europe. This rumor was, however, a blind to cover the actual departure of the commissioners in the Theodora. The Nashville was a side-wheel steamer of one thousand two hundred and twenty tons, belonging to the New York and Charleston line of steamers, and was of great speed. She had a crew of eighty men, and carried two long twelve-pound rifled cannon, and was commanded by Captain Pegram, formerly of the United States navy. She arrived at Bermuda in three and a half days, where she coaled from private sources, the Government refusing supplies. On the 5th of November she sailed for England. On the 19th of November she fell in with and captured the ship Harvey Birch, Captain Nelson, from Havre for New York, three days out. The captain and crew were taken as prisoners of war, and the ship, a vessel of one thousand four hundred tons, was destroyed by fire. She then proceeded to Southampton, where the prisoners were set at liberty with all their effects. The Nashville remained a long time in the English port to refit, being pursued thither and watched by the United States steamer Tuscarora. They were both ultimately ordered to leave the port, to prevent an infraction of the neutrality laws, the Tuscarora being compelled to give the Nashville a start of twenty-four hours.
As the Federal navy increased in strength, the number of privateers
became less, and their depredations almost altogether ceased. There remained, however, the question of the mode of treatment for those captured. On the 3d of June, the crew (twenty men) of the schooner Savannah were captured by the United States brig Perry, and carried into New York, in irons, to await trial for piracy. William Smith, one of the crew of the Jeff. Davis privateer, had also been captured and sent to Philadelphia for trial. These two trials took place on the same day, viz., October 22d. Soon after their capture, July 6th, Jefferson Davis sent a dispatch to President Lincoln, stating, that should any of those prisoners be executed, he would retaliate, man for man, and he proposed to exchange these prisoners. The seaman of the Jeff. Davis was tried before Judges Grier and Cadwallader, who charged the jury to the effect, that he could not be regarded as a privateer, because he acted under a government that had not been recognized."
The law in relation to piracy had been laid down in Boston, May 16th, by Judge Sprague in a charge to the grand-jury. He cited the laws of Congress of 1790, 1820, 1825, 1846, and 1847, as to what constitutes the general crime of piracy. These laws were based on the power of Congress to define and punish piracy. But he was of opinion that the power to regulate commerce afforded basis for additional penal enactments. These laws, being constitutionally made by Congress, cannot be impaired by the acts of any State or States. No man breaking these laws under State authority can escape the consequences. But if States band together and make war, their authority to commence privateering cannot be recognized by the judiciary, until the Government has conceded to them belligerent rights. As long as the Government refuses to do this, the judiciary can only regard the acts of the individuals as piracy. The judge held further, that if a citizen of the United States should commit depredations upon its commerce, under a commission even from France or England, he would be dealt with as a pirate under the act of 1790; and citizens of foreign countries which have treaties with the United States, such as are alluded to by the law of 1847, may be deemed pirates, if they, under a commission from any foreign Government, cruise against the United States. The charge of Judge Grier sustained these views, and Smith was convicted of piracy.
The trial of the Savannah crew, of whom eight were foreigners, was had before Judges Nelson and Shipman, in New York. Judge Nelson charged, that a pirate, by the law of nations, was one that cruised against the vessels of all nations; as the prisoners only cruised against one, the United States, their crime fell short of piracy; but still, under the act of 1820, they were pirates. The commission of Jefferson Davis could not be set up or defended, because the United States did not recognize such authority. Again, a pirate was one whe depredated for private gain; if this motive was wanting, in respect to the prisoners, their crime was not piracy. The jury could not agree, and a new trial was ordered. The views of all the judges seemed to centre in one point, viz., that the judiciary had no recourse but to condemn them under the act, inasmuch as their acts were piracy under existing laws, and the authority on which the men acted was not
recognized by the Government. Meantime, pending these trials, the Confederate Government ordered the selection of a number of men from the Richmond prisons, by lot, to be dealt with in the same manner as the privateers should be dealt with. The choice fell on Colonel Corcoran, of the New York Sixty-ninth regiment, and others captured at Bull Run. The Federal Government, under these circumstances, delayed the execution of these prisoners.
While these events were taking place, R. B. Forbes and others, of Boston, applied for authority to arm the propella Pembroke, about to sail for China, as a privateer. The Secretary replied, that the power to do so might be found under the act of August 5th, 1861, empowering the President to authorize "commanders of any suitable vessels to subdue, seize," &c. It does not appear, however, that any vessels were armed under that authority.
The proclamation of the President in relation to treating privateers as pirates created much sensation in England, and on May 16th a debate on the question took place in the House of Lords. The Earl of Derby said that privateers were not pirates by the law of nations, and no one nation could make it so. "He knew the United States treated the privateers as mere rebels, and liable to the penalties of treason. That was not the doctrine in this country, because we have declared that they have belligerent rights. The Northern States could not claim belligerent rights for themselves, and deal with the other parties as rebels." Lord Brougham said, "it was very clear that privateering was not piracy." Lord Kingsdown said the United States dealt with the privateers as rebels. "He believed the enforcement of that doctrine would be an act of barbarity which would produce an outery throughout the civilized world." The English Government, however, took no active steps in the matter, and the question soon resolved itself into one respecting the exchange of prisoners.
The question of exchange of prisoners early forced itself upon the notice of the Government, which had the undoubted right to punish those captured as traitors, taken in the act of levying war upon the Government. To pursue this course, however, would provoke retribution, and would cause the war to degenerate into a savage contest. On the other hand, the Government hesitated to systematize the exchange of prisoners according to the laws of war, lest it might be construed into an acknowledgment of the belligerent rights of the Confederate States. The necessity of exchange became, however, urgent. The friends of those who were languishing in Southern prisons were kept anxious by the rumors of barbarities there committed, and were clamorous that something should be done for their relief. By effecting an exchange of prisoners, no rights of sovereignty are conceded. There is a well-defined distinction recognized by the United States Courts, between necessary intercourse and admission of rights. By exchanging prisoners nothing is conceded but what is patent to the world, viz, that active war exists, and that it should be conducted by a Christian people according to the usages of civilized nations.
Previous to the battle of Bull Run, the number of prisoners on
either side was not large. By that disaster a large number of Northern troops became prisoners. It was then that the threat of retaliation was held out in respect to the privateers. In view of this fact, the question of punishment could no longer be entertained. The Confederates had, from time to time, released prisoners on parole, and, in an informal manner, numbers were from time to time discharged on either side. On the 3d of September, a formal interchange of prisoners took place between General Pillow and Colonel Wallace. This was followed, on the 12th of October, by a proposition from General Polk, commanding at Columbus, Kentucky, to General Grant, to exchange prisoners according to the terms of the exchange between General Pillow and Colonel Wallace. General Grant did not think proper to comply, on the ground that he recognized no "Southern Confederacy." On the 23d of October, General McClernand, understanding the necessities of the case, sent Colonel Buford to General Polk, offering to release three Confederate prisoners. General Polk wished to make a general arrangement, but Colonel Buford having no authority, General Polk released, unconditionally, sixteen Union prisoners on this occasion. The treaty made by Fremont with Price, on the first of November, provided for the exchange of prisoners, in terms as follows:
"And the parties so named are hereby authorized, whenever applied to for that purpose, to negotiate for the exchange of any and all persons who may hereafter be taken prisoners of war and released on parole; such exchanges to be made upon the plan heretofore approved and acted upon, to wit, grade for grade, or two officers of lower grade as an equivalent in rank for one of a higher grade, as shall be thought just and equitable."
This was repudiated by General Hunter on the 7th of November. Early in 1862 commissioners were appointed by the Federal Government to proceed to the Confederate States, and examine into the condition of the Union prisoners. They were refused admission, but succeeded in entering upon negotiations which ultimately led to the adoption of a regular cartel.
Improved Efficiency of the Navy.-Expeditions.-Port Royal.-The Fleet.-The Assault.-Troops Landed.-Proclamation.-Stone Fleet.-Ship Island.-General Butler-Proclamation of General Phelps.-Burnside's Expedition.-Fort Pickens. -Galveston.-Combat on the Mississippi.-Effectiveness of the Blockade.
WE have seen in a former chapter, in relation to the tactical aspect of the present war, that the South, occupying a central position, and the North the circumference of the theatre of operations, it was necessary to close the circle by occupying the leading points of the seacoast with strong detachments. This operation was long delayed through the want of a sufficient number of available vessels in the navy, at a time when a large number were required to maintain an efficient blockade over an extended coast line. As soon, however, as a