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[From the Richmond (Va.) Dispatch, December 15, 1895.]



Why the Daring Expedition Failed.

The following letter from Captain R. D. Minor, Confederate States navy, to Admiral Buchanan, giving the experience of the expedition for the rescue of the Confederate prisoners on Johnson's Island, is taken from advance sheets of "Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion," so called:


MY DEAR SIR,-Enclosed I send you the express company's receipt for a package of cloth, forwarded several days since to your address, at Mobile. Before leaving the Confederacy in October last I wrote to say good-by, and with the hope that before my return you would have heard of our success abroad, but the fortunes of war were against us, and all the consolation we have is the consciousness that we did our best, and that our efforts have been appreciated. You will pardon the prosy story I am about to tell you of our expedition, but, as it were one designed to do much good to our poor fellows at the North, and through their release to be of great benefit to our country, I have thought that it would be interesting to you to know something of its details.

Early in February of last year Lieutenant William H. Murdaugh, of the navy, conceived the plan of a raid on the northern lakes, based on the capture by surprise of the United States steamship Michigan, the only man-of-war on those waters, and, on mentioning his views to Lieutenant Robert R. Carter and myself, I need not tell you how cordially we entered into them, and endeavored by every means in our power to carry them into execution; but it was only after repeated efforts that the Government was induced to take any active part in promoting the expedition, though Mr. Mallory, the Secretary of Navy, was in favor of it from the inception of the plan; but

money, or rather the want of it, seemed to be the cause of delay, which, however, being eventually provided to the amount of $25,000, we, together with Lieutenant Walter R. Butt, one of our ward-room mess on board of the old Merrimac, were at last ordered to hold ourselves in readiness to proceed on the duty assigned us, when suddenly the order was changed, it having been decided in Cabinet council that our operations on the lakes might embarrass our relations with England, and thus prevent the completion of the iron-clad and other vessels building for us in the private ship-yards of that country. So the plan was foiled at the last moment, and, as we learned, by order of his Excellency, President Davis, who was apprehensive on the score of foreign complications. With the expedition thus broken up, Murdaugh, disheartened, sought other duty, and he, Carter, and Butt were ordered abroad, leaving me here on my regular ordnance duty, as only representative of a scheme whose prospects were so inviting and so brilliant. Late in the spring, I believe it was, that our enemies made Johnson's Island, in the Bay of Sandusky, O., a depot for our officers, their prisoners, and after the surrender of the Post of Arkansas, Vicksburg, and Port Hudson, some 1,500 or 2,000 were imprisoned there, whom it became an object to release, as the balance was, and still is, strongly against us. With this view I found myself one day, in August last, closeted with Mr. Seddon, Secretary of War, and Mr. Mallory, who asked me to give my views on the contents of a letter, a part of which Mr. Seddon read to me, containing a proposition for the release of our poor fellows.


As a cruise on the lakes in the Michigan, and the destruction of the enemy's very valuable commerce, has been my study for months past, I assented at once to the plan, and remarked that "I need not inform you, gentlemen, how much pleasure it would give me to be engaged upon such duty." Well, sir, nearly a month of precious time passed away without my hearing another word on the subject, when one day I was sent for by Mr. Mallory, who told me to organize an expedition, select the officers, make all the necessary preparations, and then concluded by offering me the command of it, which, however, I waived in favor of my friend, John Wilkinson (who was in a manner somewhat committed to the plan by the letter which I have mentioned as being shown to me by Mr. Seddon, the Secretary of War), with this proviso, however, that on our arrival in Canada,

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in the event of adopting two lines of operations, I was to have one of them as my command.

As soon as it was definitely settled that the expedition was to go (for the President said it was better to fail than not to make the attempt, as it had been vaguely talked of in Montreal), our preparations were made. Thirty-five thousand dollars in gold, or its equivalent, was placed at our disposal by the Navy Department, and a cargo of cotton, which was subsequently sold at Halifax for $76,000 (gold) by the War Department-in all some $111,000 in gold, as the sinews of the expedition. The officers selected John Wilkinson, lieutenant commanding; myself, Lieutenant B. P. Loyall, Lieutenant A. G. Hudgins, Lieutenant G. W. Gift, Lieutenant J. M. Gardner, Lieutenant B. P. (F. M.) Roby, Lieutenant M. P. Goodwyn, Lieutenant Otey Bradford, Acting-Master W. B. Ball (colonel of Fifteenth Virginia Cavalry), Acting-Master William Finney, ActingMaster (H.) W. Perrin, Lieutenant Patrick McCarrick, Acting-Master Henry Wilkinson, Chief-Engineer (J.) Charles Schroeder, FirstAssistant-Engineer H. X. Wright, Second-Assistant-Engineer Tucker, Assistant-Paymaster (P. M.) DeLeon, Assistant-Surgeon (William) Sheppardson, gunners Gormley and Waters, John Tabb, a man named Leggett, who subsequently left us at Halifax. Of course our plan was kept secret, only Wilkinson, Loyall, and myself knowing its objects, and we did not attempt to contradict the report that we were going to England, where many of the officers and our friends on shore supposed we were bound.

The party consisted of twenty-two, all told, and on the 7th of October we left Smithville, N. C., on the Cape Fear river, in the blockade steamer R. E. Lee, with Wilkinson in command; and, after successfully running the gauntlet of the blockading squadron of river vessels (not, however, without getting a shell in our starboard bulwarks, which exploded on board, set the cotton on fire, wounded three men, and broke a small hoisting engine into smithereens), we arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia, where our arrival was at once telegraphed all over the country as being en route for England. Dividing the party, we left Halifax as soon as possible, taking two routes for Canada-one via St. John, New Brunswick, and thence up through the province via Frederick and Grand Falls to Riviere du Loup, on the St. Lawrence, to Quebec and Montreal; and the other via Pictou, through the Northumberland Strait to Bay of Chaleurs, via Gaspe, up the St. Lawrence to Quebec, and thence by railroad to Montreal, where we all met under assumed names about the 21st of October.


As it was of vital importance that the utmost secrecy should be observed, the officers were directed to take lodging in quiet boarding-houses, to avoid the hotels, not to recognize each other on the street, and not to be absent from their rooms for more than half an hour at a time. Finding Marshal (J. P.?) Kane and some of our friends in Montreal, we set to work to prepare and perfect our arrangements, the first object of the plan being to communicate with the prisoners on Johnson's Island, informing them that an attempt would be made to release them. This was effected through a lady from Baltimore, a Mrs. P. C. Martin, then residing with her husband and family in Montreal, and whose husband did all in his power to aid us in every way. She brought a letter from Baltimore, which General (J. J.) Archer, who with Major-General (I. R.) Trimble, was a prisoner at Johnson's Island, had sent there to Beverly Saunders, Esq., telling us to communicate with him through the personal columns of the New York Herald, which Wilkinson very promptly did, telling A. J. L. W. that his solicitude was fully appreciated, and that a few nights after the 4th of November a carriage would be at the door, when all seeming obstacles would be removed, and to be ready. The obstacles alluded to were the United States steamship Michigan and the prison guard. Our original plan was to go aboard one of the lake steamers at Windsor, opposite Detroit, as passengers, and when fairly out on the lake to play the old St. Nicholas game, and, by rising on the officers and crew, take possession and run her to Johnson's Island, trusting to the prisoners to overpower the guard, while we would be ready to receive them on board for transportation to the Canada shore; but, finding that the steamers seldom and at irregular interval stopped at Windsor, or at any point on the Canada side, we changed the plan at the suggestion of a Canadian named McQuaig, who was introduced to Kane by Mr. Hale, of Tennessee, as a good and reliable Southern sympathizer, engaged in running the blockade, and occupying a high commercial position in Canada. He entered into our views with enthusiasm, and we believe that up to the last moment he was heart and soul with us; but more of him directly. A reliable man was sent to Sandusky to ascertain the strength of the garrison, position of the guns, etc., and on his return we were delighted to hear that the United States steamship Michigan, under Jack Carter, was lying at anchor about two hundred yards from the island, with her guns (having six reported as

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mounted) bearing upon the prison; that there were but four hundred troops on the island, and no artillery save two small Howitzers, one of which was upon a ferry-boat plying between the island and the city.


Two small nine-pounders were quietly purchased, Colt furnished us with 100 navy revolvers, with an ample supply of pistol ammunition-of course, through several indirect channels; dumb-bells were substituted for cannon-balls, as it would have excited suspicion to have asked for such an article in Montreal; powder, bullets, slugs, butcher-knives, in lieu of cutlasses, and grapnels were obtained, and all preparations made to arm the escaped Confederate officers and soldiers who, to the number of 180, we were promised, could be induced to act with us in any way to benefit our cause; but when the time came for them to come forward, only thirty-two volunteered, and, with our party thus augmented to fifty-four, we determined to make the attempt on the Michigan on the following plan: From Ogdensburg, in New York, there is a line of screw steamers plying to Chicago, in the grain and provision trade, and as they return nearly empty to Chicago, and sometimes carry the Adams Express Company's safe, we decided to take deck-passage on board one of them, as mechanics and laborers bound to Chicago to work on the city water-works there, and with this view one of our clever privates, named Connelly, was sent over to Ogdensburg, who paid the passage-money for twenty-five of us in advance, to be taken on board at some point on the Welland canal, and, while doing so, he made an agreement to take as many more laborers as he could obtain, their passage being fixed at the same price, to which the New Yorker consented, and gave him the ticket to show to the captain of the boat. We were then to assemble at St. Catharines, on the canal, go on board the steamer (one of our men, apparently entirely unconnected with us, having charge of the guns, powder, pistols, etc., boxed up in casks, boxes, etc., and marked " Machinery, Chicago," going on board the same steamer with us), and when fairly out in Lake Erie, and well clear of British jurisdiction, we were to rise on the officers and crew, overpower them, seize the steamer, mount our two nine-pounders, arm the men, secure the prisoners, and push on for Sandusky, timing our arrival so as to reach the Michigan about daylight, collide with her as if by accident, board and carry her by the cutlass and pistol, and then,

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