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[795] Havana. This was on the 23d of October, and orders were at once given to coal ship. The order was executed with dispatch, and on the 23th of the same month the “San Jacinto” was again in blue water shaping a course for Havana. I am afraid that the honor of suggesting the capture of Mason and Slidell must be awarded to our boatswain, J. P. Grace. On the evening of October 27th, this officer, while pacing the lee side of the quarter-deck with another warrant officer, said, in a tone which we distinctly heard in the wardroom, that the two chaps themselves ought to be overhauled wherever they might be, and the ship that did it would get honor that would compensate for the absence of prize-money won during the past four months. Two days afterward we passed under the frowning guns of Moro Castle and anchored in Havana harbor. No person except the officers were permitted ashore, and it was required that they should not appear in uniform. It was street talk at the time that Mason and Slidell had made the hardest part of their journey when they passed through the blockading squadron off Charleston, and the opinion prevailed that they were safe from interference from the United States. All but Captain Wilkes accepted this view of the case, and he retained his views within himself. Having frequent occasion to visit his cabin I saw that he was deeply engaged in the perusal of international law books, from which he was taking copious notes. On November 1st, Lieutenant J. A, Greer, navigating officer, brought word to the ship that Mason and Slidell, with their secretaries and families, were booked for England by the steamer Trent to St. Thomas, and thence by the regular West India packet to Southampton. The next day we went to sea, touching at Key West on the 3d. On the 4th we returned to the Cuban coast, and cruising along the northern shore awaited further information as to the movements of the Confederate representatives from Consul General Schufeldt. It was not received, and orders were given to bear away to the narrow channel of old Bahama, through which the Trent must necessarily pass on her way to St. Thomas. The point selected could not have been chosen to better advantage. Between the coral keys the distance across the channel was but fifteen miles, and no ship could pass without being seen by our topsail-yard lookout. Early on the morning of the 8th the ship was cleared for action.

If the Trent had left Havana on the 17th, she was due at the point where we were waiting on the 8th. The distance was but two hundred and forty miles, and the wind, blowing a full sail breeze from the southwest, should place the Trent under our guns by noon. The calculations were made with exactness, for at twenty

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