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THE PIRATES SEMMES AND MAFFIT.
off Mobile harbor, flying the British flag and pennants. The blockading squadron there was in charge of Commander George H. Preble, who had been specially instructed not to give offense to foreign nations while enforcing the blockade. He believed the Oreto to be a British vessel, and while deliberating a few minutes as to what he should do, she passed out of range of his guns, and entered the harbor with a rich freight. For his seeming remissness Commander Preble was summarily dismissed from the service without a hearing--an act which subsequent events seemed to show was cruel injustice. Late in December the Oreto escaped from Mobile, fully armed for a piratical cruise, under the command of John Newland Maffit, son of a celebrated Irish Methodist preacher of that name. Maffit had been in the naval service of the Republic, but had abandoned his flag, and now went out to plunder his countrymen on the high seas "without authority.” The name of the
” Oreto was changed to that of Florida. Her career will be noticed hereafter.
The most famous of all these pirate ships built in England for the conspirators was the Alabama, made for the use of Semmes, the commander of the Sumter. As in the case of the Oreto, Mr. Adams called the attention of the British Government to the matter,
but every effort to induce it to interpose its authority, in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Queen's proclamation of neutrality,' was fruitless. The Tuscarora watched her, but in vain. She was allowed to depart, with ample assistance, and under false pretenses she was supplied with cannon and other materials of war by an English merchant vessel, in a Portuguese harbor of the Western Islands. When all was in readiness, Captain Semmes and other officers of the Sumter were brought to her by a British steamer, and she left for Cardiff, to coal. Semmes took formal command, mustered his crew,
and read his commission, duly signed and sealed by the Confederate “Secretary of the Navy.” A copy of that commission, in blank, is given on the following page."
JOHN NEWLAND MAFFIT.
1 See note 1, page 556, volume I.
? See page 567, volume I. 3 This is from a photograph by Ferranti, of Liverpool, taken in the summer of 1864.
• That copy is a perfect fac-simile of the original, a little less than one-third the size. The original was engraved n England, and printed on elegant vellum, and it was much superior in material and execution to the commissions issued by our own Navy Department. The space within the wreath, on the trophy vignette at the bottom, was the place of the seal.
CONFEDERATE NAVAL COMMISSION.
With orders from the Conspirators “to sink, burn, and destroy every thing which flies the ensign of the so-called United States of America," · Semmes went forth on the ocean in the Alabama to achieve fame as one of
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CONFEDERATE NAVAL COMMISSION.
the most eminent sea-robbers noted in history, and succeeded. His vessel had neither register nor record, no regular ship's papers, no evidence of transfer; and no vessel captured by her was ever sent into any port for adjudication. All the forms of law of civilized nations for the protection of BARBARISM AND CIVILIZATION ILLUSTRATED.
private rights, and all the regulations of public justice which discriminate the legalized naval vessel from the pirate, were disregarded. Although she was a British vessel, manned chiefly by British subjects from a British
port, armed with British cannon, and provided with coal and other supplies from British soil, she had no acknowledged flag nor recognized nationality, nor any accessible port to which she might send her prizes, nor any legal tribunal to adjudge her captures. She was an outlaw, roving the seas as an enemy of mankind, for plunder and destruction, and her commander was a pirate, whose career as such was as cowardly as it was criminal. For a year and a half, while carefully avoiding contact with our National vessels of war, he illuminated the seas with blazing merchant-ships. During the last ninety days of 1862, he destroyed by fire no less than twenty-eight helpless vessels. The subseqnent career of the Alabama will be considered hereafter.
While this British ship was upon the sea, commissioned for destruction, a notable American ship was also on the sea, but for a widely different purpose. The blockade caused a lack of the cotton supply in England, and the greatly advanced price of that article made the manufacturers either run their mills only a part of each day, or shut them up altogether. This caused wide-spread distress among the poorly remunerated operatives in those mills, on which, in Lancashire alone, nearly a million of stomachs depended for food. Starvation invaded that region, and a most pitiful cry of distress came over
the sea. The just indignation of the loyal Americans, because of the conduct of the ruling classes of Great Britain, and especially because of the conduct of the Government in the matter of the pirate-ships, was quenched by the emotions of common humanity, and the citizens of New York alone, whose merchants suffered most by the piracies, contributed more than one hundred thousand dollars for the relief of starving English families.
They loaded the ship George Griswold THE GEORGE GRISWOLD, 1
with food, and sent her out on an errand of mercy, while at the same time they were compelled to send with her a Government war-vessel to protect her from the torch of the pirate, which had been lighted at the altar of mammon by British hands! The loyal
| This was the appearance of the ship while she was a-loading at her wharf on the East River. High up on her rigging was a piece of canvas, on which were the words, “ CONTRIBUTIONS For Lancashire. Fertgut FEEK."
VICKSBURG AND ITS IMPORTANCE.
Americans forgive their British brethren for their unkindness in the hour of trial, but all the waters of the Atlantic cannot wash out the stain.
Let us now turn again to a consideration of military events, whose theater of action, at the close of 1862, was nearly coextensive with the area of the slave-labor States. Up to that time the loyal States had furnished for the war, wholly by volunteering, more than one million two hundred thousand men, of whom, on the 1st of January, 1863, about seven hundred thousand were in the service. Sickness, casualties in the field, the expiration of terms of enlistment, discharges for physical disability, and desertions, had greatly thinned the original regiments.'
The most important movement at the close of 1862 was that of the beginning of the second siege of Vicksburg, which resulted in its capture at the following midsummer, and which engaged the services of nearly all the troops westward of the Alleghanies, directly or indirectly, during several months. Though a city of only between four and five thousand inhabitants when the war broke out, the position of Vicksburg soon became one of the most important on the Mississippi River in a military point of view, while its peculiar topography made its conversion into a strong defensive post an easy matter. Port Hudson below (about twenty-five miles above Baton Rouge), another position of great natural strength, was now quite heavily fortified,
nd growing in defensive power every day. Between these fortified places, only, the Mississippi was free from the patrol of National warvessels. Here was now the only connecting link between the portions of the Confederacy separated by the Mississippi, and here
alone could the vast JEFFERSON DAVIS'S RESIDENCE.?
supplies of the grain and cattle growing regions of Western Louisiana and Texas be passed safely over the great river to Confederate armies, which, with those of the Nationals, were exhausting the regions eastward, between it and the mountain ranges that project into Georgia and Alabama. The importance of holding this connecting link firmly was felt by the Confederates, and when, in the autumn of 1862, Jefferson Davis visited his home within the bounds of that link, and was returning, he declared in a speech at Jackson that Vicksburg and Port Hudson must be held at all hazards. The Nationals, equally impressed with the importance of destroying that link, now bent all their energies to effect
1 The fearful waste of an army may be comprehended by considering the statement made by General Meade, in a reply to an address of welcome from the Mayor of Philadelphia, that from March, 1862, when the Army of the Potomac left its lines in front of Washington, to the close of 1963, not less than 100.000 men of that army had been killed or wounded
9 This is a view of Davis's mansion on his estate below Vicksburg, from a photograph by Joslyn, of that city. When it was taken, the front of the house over the colonnade bure the words, in large black letters, “THE House Jerp. Built.” The region was then in possession of the National forces, and Union soldiers occnpied
GRANT'S ADVANCE IN MISSISSIPPI.
it. At that time the Confederate forces at and near Vicksburg were under the command of General John C. Pemberton, a Pennsylvanian, who had lately been commissioned a lieutenant-general, and ranked both Van Dorn and Lovell.
We left the main forces of General Grant confronting the Confederates on the Tallahatcheé.' Grant's plan was for General Sherman, then at Memphis, to descend the river with troops in transports from that city, and from Helena, in Arkansas, and, with a gun-boat fleet, make an attack on Vicksburg. At the same time, General McClernand was to go down with troops from Cairo and re-enforce Sherman soon after his attack. Grant himself was to advance rapidly in the mean time upon the main body of the Confederate troops under Van Dorn, north and eastward of Vicksburg, and, if they should retreat to that place, follow them, and assist Sherman in the reduction of the post.
On the 4th of November Grant transferred his head-quarters from Jackson (Tennessee) to La Grange, a few miles west of Grand Junction, on the Memphis and Charleston railway. He had concentrated his forces for a vigorous movement in the direction of Vicksburg. On the 8th he sent out McPherson, with ten thousand infantry, and fifteen hundred cavalry under Colonel A. L. Lee, to drive a large body of Confederate cavalry from Lamar, · on the railway southward of him. It was accomplished, and the Confederates were gradually pushed back to Holly Springs, on the same railway.
It was now evident that the Confederates intended to hold the line of the Tallahatchee River, for there Pemberton had concentrated his forces and cast up fortifications. Grant at once prepared to dislodge them, and on the 20th of November he moved toward Holly Springs with his main body, Hamilton's division in the advance. In the mean time Generals A. P. Hovey and C. C. Washburne had crossed the Mississippie from Helena, landed at Delta, and moved in the direction of Grant's army. Their cavalry was distributed. That of Washburne pushed rapidly eastward to the Cold Water River, where they captured a Confederate camp. Moving swiftly down that stream and the Tallahatchee, they made a sweep by way of Preston, and struck the railway at Garner's Station, just north of Grenada, where the railways from Memphis and Grand Junction meet, and destroyed the road and bridges there. They then went northward to Oakland and Panola, on the Memphis road, and then struck across the country southeast to Coffeeville, on the Grand Junction road.
a Nov. 20,
the mansion and the plantation. Davis was the owner of a large number of slaves, and on his cstate were fonnd every implement einployed in slave-labor and its management in that rich cotton district. Ainong other things found there was a lash for beating the slaves, represented in the engraving, which Colonel
) James Grant Wilson, of General Banks's staff, sent to his home in Poughkeepsie. It is a terrible instrument for punishment. The lash is twenty-five inches in length and a little more than two inches in width, composed of five thicknesses of heavy leather, sewed together with saddler's thread in seven rows, making the whole half an inch thick. This lash is inserted in a handle made of hickory, a little more than a foot long, and fastened by three screws on each side. Sometimes these lashes had holes in them, an inch in diameter, into wbich the flesh of the victim would rise when the blow was inflicted. Such was the kind of scepter with which Capital was to rule Labor in the horrid empire of injustice within “ The Golden Circle" projected Davis and his fellow- ispirators, and for the establishment of which they attempted to destroy the Republic.
* See page 524.