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FRIENDLY SPIRIT OF RUSSIA.
ment was very friendly, and in the will and earnest desire for our prospermain satisfactory. Mr. Dayton, our ity and national honor. A passage or minister, was received with cordiality, two from Prince Gortchacow's dis and M. Thouvenel, the foreign minis- patch to the Russian minister, July ter, expressed himself with especial 10th, 1861, may be quoted as illustrat frankness and good feeling. In allusion ing the Emperor's regard:-"For more to some opinions uttered by Mr. Day- than eighty years that it has existed, ton's predecessor, Mr. Seward wrote very the American Union owes its independ decidedly:-"The United States wait-ence, its towering rise, and its progress, ed patiently while their authority was to the concord of its members, consedefied in turbulent assemblies and in crated, under the auspices of its illusseditious preparations, willing to hope trious founder, by institutions which that mediation, offered on all sides, have been able to reconcile union with would conciliate and induce the dis- liberty. This union has been fruitful. affected parties to return to a better It has exhibited to the world the specmind. But the case is now altogether tacle of a prosperity without example changed. The insurgents have institu- in the annals of history.. Give ted revolution with open, flagrant, them (the government and others) the deadly war, to compel the United assurance that, in every event the States to acquiesce in the dismember- American nation may count upon the ment of the Union. Tell M. most cordial sympathy on the part of Thouvenel, with the highest considera- our august master during the impor tion and good feeling, that the thought tant crisis which it is passing through of a dissolution of this Union, peace- at present." ably or by force, has never entered into the mind of any candid statesman here, and it is high time that it be dismissed by statesmen in Europe."
We need not enlarge upon the efforts of our ministers abroad, as well to dis abuse the public mind of ignorant pre possessions and incorrect views, as t express clearly the position and deter mination of the government. The were as successful as could be expected under the circumstances, and their zeal and ability were highly approved at
It is interesting, and for a time was surprising to our people, to note the outspoken, hearty sympathy of Russia in our affairs. We thought we had a right to expect offices of friendship from England and France, but had home. One point, however, deserves hardly counted on any special regard from Russia. In both cases we were disappointed; the former adopted a course as detrimental to our interests as was possible, short of open war; the latter gave us every assurance of good
of vessels with a hostile purpose in their harbors, and generally enjoining complete neutrality.
notice in this connection. Certain articles were agreed upon at Paris, in 1856, by the principal powers of Europe. The understanding between the contracting parties, Great Britain, Austria, France, Russia, Prussia, Sar dinia and Turkey, was :-1st, that privateering is abolished; 2d, that the
neutral flag covers enemy's goods, except contraband of war; 3d, that neutral goods, with the same exception, are not liable to capture under an enemy's flag; 4th, that blockades, to be binding, must be effective. The United States, Mr. Pierce then being president, did not accede to the propositions, desiring to have added a provision exempting the private property of belligerents from seizure on the high seas. On Mr. Lincoln becoming president, and in view of the importance of the matter at the present juncture, Mr. Seward opened the subject again, and offered to accept the original articles without the desired addition just named. Eugland and France favored the settlement of the subject; but it was kept in abeyance some two months, when, with great coolness, these governments declared, that whatever they might now do must be prospective, and not invalidate anything already done. That is, having recognized the belligerent position of the rebels, they were not going to do anything which might possibly interfere with the business of privateering, which Jefferson Davis was already engaged in. Mr. Seward, in calm but unmistakeable tone, put a quietus upon the whole matter, and gave foreign powers to understand, that he both knew and was prepared to maintain the rights and dignity of the United States.
Privateering, in the existing condition of affairs, was of course a matter of great moment to the rebels, as it afforded them the opportunity of doing immense mischief to our commerce. Davis, as we have seen (p 21), called
for persons to do this kind of work; and in a few months a large amount of property was destroyed.* At the beginning of June, the Savannah, a schooner of 54 tons, was fitted out as a privateer, having a single 18-pound pivot gun and a crew of 22 men. She managed to slip out of the harbor of Charleston, and started on a cruise after merchant vessels trafficking between Northern ports and Cuba. The next morning, she fell in with the brig Joseph, of Rockland, Maine, which was immediately taken possession of; in the afternoon, she fell in with the United States brig Perry, Lieutenant E. G. Parrott commanding. All attempts at escape proved useless, and about eight P.M. she was captured Lieut. Parrott reported his success to Flag Officer Stringham in the Minnesota, which was then blockading Charleston harbor. The Savannah was sent with a prize crew to New York, and her officers and crew were taken by the Minnesota to Hampton Roads, whence they were brought in the Harriet Lane to New York, and there placed in keeping of the United States marshal in close confinement in the city prison.+ A bill of indictment for robbery on the high seas was promptly found by the grand jury, and on the 23d of July, the prisoners, thirteen in number, were arraigned for trial, which was set down. for the October term.
As Jefferson Davis had threatened, early in July, and had taken steps to
The report of seizures of vessels, made by the
the rebels, at the close of 1861, was:-off the different ports, 13; in port, 30; steamers captured on the Mis
sissippi, 15; total, 58.
Under date of July 6th 1861, Davis wrote a
QUESTION AS TO REBEL PRIVATEERSMEN.
into effect, certain severe measures of retaliation, in case the privateers recently captured were convicted and condemned as pirates, according to the declaration in Mr. Lincoln's proclamation (see p. 21), when the trial came on it was found to involve grave questions of law, as well as expediency. The trial lasted a week and the jury disagreed. Learned jurists discussed the subject at large; it was even thought necessary to take notice of the matter in parliament; and finally, under all the embarrassments of the question, and the certainty that numbers of our officers and men in the rebels' hands would be put to death in case the piratical privateersmen were hung, the government abandoned the prosecution, and thenceforward treated them simply as prisoners of war.*
The vessels fitted out by the rebels as privateers were chiefly the coasting and gulf steamers lying in the southern harbors, which the blockade had rendered useless for their usual purpose; several revenue-cutters, the property of the United States, which had been seized in the ports; a number of schooners and pilot-boats-a motley fleet, not exceeding some fifty in all, in the early months of the war. At first their movements from New Orleans,
letter and sent it by a special messenger to Washing. ton. It was addressed to President Lincoln, and stated in plain terms that if the privateersmen were hung, he should hang in return an equal number of officers and men, prisoners at the time in his hands. On the 9th of November, after a man named Smith had been found guilty of piracy, by the jury in Philadelphia, the rebel war department sent an order to Richmond, to select by lot an officer of the highest rank, to be dealt with as Smith might be by the United States authorities, and also thirteen others to be held in place of the privateersmen then under trial in New York. The
Charleston and other ports, were ex ceedingly annoying to the merchant service in the Gulf of Mexico and adjacent waters; but, as our government, with a speed unparalleled and astonishing, created a navy, so as to render the blockade efficient, the privateers were soon deprived of places of refuge, and found many obstacles thrown in their way in the West India Islands. With a few exceptions, as the Sumter, Nashville, etc., the privateers were unable to execute the terrible threats of destruction, on the result of which they counted so largely at the outbreak of the rebellion. Prizes were indeed made, marine insurance rose to a high point, and it was feared that the Aspinwall steamers, with the gold products of California, would fall into the hands of the privateers; but the results were not at all equal to the expectations and hopes of the confederates.
Among the vessels seized by the rebels in the southern ports, was the rev enue-cutter Aiken, which was taken possession of in Charleston harbor. Surnamed the Petrel, and fitted out as a privateer, she ran the blockade, and immediately, July 28th, fell in with what appeared to be a lumbering mer chantman, trying hard to make its escape. This was the United States frigate St. Lawrence, then on a cruise
order was of course obeyed, and several of our unfortunate officers were treated as felons of the lowest class, until finally the government abandoned the ground it at first had taken.
"Are the Southern Privateersmen Pirates?" A letter to the Hon. Ira Harris; by C. P. Daly, Judge of the Common Pleas, New York. This is a pamphlet of thirteen pages, under date of December 21st, 1861, and may be consulted to advantage, to show the ground taken by those who desired to see the privateersmen 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 apon 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. The boats of the St. Lawrence were immediately lowered; and the survivors were rescued and brought on board of the frigate. Four of the privateer's crew thus perished with the sinking vessel, and thirty-six were captured and carried into Philadelphia.
On the 6th of July, the Jeff. Davis captured the schooner Enchantress, on her way to Cuba. Several men, with the col ored cook, were put in charge of the ves sel to go to Charleston, where the cook was expected to bring a good price. Not long after, they met the Albatross of the U. S. Navy, and attempting to deceive her, the negro jumped overboard, and gave information which led to the vessel being retaken, and the freedom of the cook preserved. Some weeks later, Sunday morning, August 18th, the Jeff. Davis was wrecked, in attempting to cross the bar at the entrance to the port of St. Augustine, Florida. Her heavy guns were thrown overboard in the effort to relieve her and save the supplies which she had captured. The crew, however, escaped, and were congratulated on their dash
The Jeff. Davis, early in June, ap. peared on the north-eastern coast, and running in as near as the Nantucket shoals, made on her cruise, prizes estimated at some $225,000. She was formerly the slaver Echo, a full-rigged brig, with a crew of 260 men and six guns, and in general appearance not likely to alarm a vessel at first sight. On the 4th of July, when about one hundred and fifty miles from Sandy Hook, she captured the schooner J. G. Waring, on a voyage from New York to Montevideo. The captain, mates, ing success amongst the Yankees.
MASON AND SLIDELL CAPTURED.
met with indifferent success abroad.
It is not necessary to enter into details of the operations attempted by the rebels in regard to privateering. For reasons above given, added to the energetic action of our government compel ling neutrality, as far as possible, on the part of foreign nations, the rebels met with only partial success. The cruises of some of the privateers, like the Sumter, 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 undoubtedly great, and more or less severely felt; but the chief evil result was deeper and more lasting than the destruction of property alone could produce. The course pursued by the English government, professing the strictest neutrality, and being on terms of amity with our country, was such, nevertheless, as to bring conviction to our people, that that government was not unwilling 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 ap land, to serve in rebel hands as priva-pointment, and the mission they had teers, and prey upon the commerce of undertaken, more than usual import the United States. The loyal people of our country entertained strong feelings of resentment against England for what had taken place, and, at a later date, questions of grave importance came up for settlement.
Although it is a little in advance of other parts of our narrative, we may here, most conveniently, give the record of an affair which, at the time, made great noise, and seemed likely to involve a serious collision with Great Britain. On a previous page (see p. 66), we have noted that the rebel commissioners had
Jefferson Davis. Two persons, J. M. Mason and John Slidell, both in former days members of the United States Senate, and well known to be ardent, thorough-going secessionists and haters of the Union, were selected for the new and difficult work to be performed, and were charged with the imposing commission of ambassadors from the "Confederate States of America" to England and France. The arrogance and pre
ance. The government resolved, if pos sible, to intercept them, and prevent their reaching Europe. A strict watch was ordered, and several vessels detail. ed to keep a sharp look out for the new agents in revolution. Mason and Slidell, however, with their secretaries and a number of others, took the small steamer Theodora, and about midnight, October 11th, escaped the blockade at Charleston, and made their way safely to Nassau, New Providence. Thence, the Theodora carried the party to Cuba, where they waited for the regular West