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[796] minutes to twelve o'clock the lookout aloft sang out “Sail ho!” Lieutenant K. Randolph Breese, who had the deck, hailed the lookout, and asked for her direction. “Off the port bow, sir,” came back the reply. The “San Jacinto” was then heading north, and presently the black smoke of a steamer was descried from our decks. When the crew was piped to dinner, the mess-cloths were deserted, and nearly everybody remained on deck, watching the smoke, until out of the base of the ascending blackness came the spars, presently the hull and full shape, of the steamship Trent. Until that moment, probably, no one on board of the ship knew what the object of our waiting was; but as soon as the Trent hove in sight, and her identity was decided, there was no doubt of our mission. Then Captain Wilkes called Lieutenant Fairfax into the cabin, and gave him his instructions, of which the following is a copy:

United States steamer
San Jacinto, at sea, November 8th, 1861.
Sir :--You will have the second and third cutters of this ship fully manned and armed, and be in all respects prepared to board the steamer Trent, now hove-to under our guns.

On boarding her, you will demand the papers of the steamer, her clearance from Havana, with the list of passengers and crew.

Should Mr. Mason, Mr. Slidell, Mr. Eustis, and Mr. McFarland be on board, you will make them prisoners, and send them on board this ship immediately, and take possession of the Trent as a prize.

I do not deem it will be necessary to use force; that the prisoners will have the good sense to avoid any necessity for using it; but if they should, they must be made to understand that it is their own fault. They must be brought on board. All trunks, cases, packages, and bags belonging to them you will take possession of; and send on board the ship. Any dispatches found on the persons of the prisoners, or in possession of those on board the steamer, will be taken possession of also, examined, and retained if necessary.

I have understood that the families of these gentlemen may be with them. If not I beg you will offer them, in my name, a passage in this ship to the United States, and that all the attention and comforts we can command are tendered them, and will be placed at their service.

In the event of their acceptance, should there be anything which the captain of the steamer can spare to increase the comforts, in the way of necessaries or stores, of which a war vessel is deficient, you will please to procure them. The amount will be paid by the paymaster.

Lieutenant James A. Greer will take charge of the third cutter, which accompanies you, and assist you in these duties. I trust that all those under your command, in executing this important and delicate duty, will conduct themselves with all the delicacy and kindness which become the character of our naval service.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Charles Wilkes, Captain. Lieutenant D. M. Fairfax, U. S. N., Executive Officer San Jacinto.

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