On the 8th of November, 1861, the capture of John Slidell
and J. M. Mason
, the commissioners of the Southern Confederacy to England
, was effected.
It was the first considerable feat of the Federal
navy, and, two weeks afterward, when the United States
steamer “San Jacinto
” landed her prisoners in Boston
, the daring action of Captain Wilkes
became the prevailing topic of the day, and superseded in interest the questions that grew out of Forts Henry
, and the battles and the strategic movements of our army on land.
The writer was an eye-witness of the seizure and release of the British steamer Trent
, and the capture of Slidell
, and their secretaries, George Eustis
and J. E. McFarland
I have never seen, even in the official reports of Captain Wilkes
and his officers, an account that does justice to the facts in all their relations, although it is the generally admitted fact that, at the time, there was less exaggeration in the publications of the Northern
papers than in the English
The foreign publications were the letters of the officers of the Trent
, Captain Moir
, commanding, his purser, and Commander Williams
, of the Royal
Navy Reserve, who chanced to be a fellow-passenger of the voyaging emissaries.
In Captain Moir
's report to Lord Palmerston, the Premier
, he says that Captain Wilkes
sent an order (which he did not) to him to bring his ship close under the guns of the American sloop-of-war.
These matters of detail, however, are, perhaps, not essential, only inasmuch as the truth thereof may put in its proper light the conduct of the officers of the “San Jacinto
The “San Jacinto
” had cruised during the fall months on the west coast of Africa
, bearing a roving commission, and keeping a bright lookout for the privateer “Sumter
The cruise had not resulted in anything of practical benefit, either in the way of prize-money to the crew or service to the government, and the 1st of October beheld her steering for the Spanish Main
, with her crew and officers in fine spirits and eager for adventure.
Touching at Cienfuegos
, news was received that Mason
had passed out of Charleston
in the blockade-runner Theodora
, and had reached