The officers detailed to go in the boats with Lieutenant Fairfax
received their instructions, and Captain Wilkes
walked forward to the mainmast, and gave the order “Beat to quarters.”
It was fifteen minutes after one o'clock when the boats were called away, Mr. Fairfax
in the second cutter, and Lieutenant Greer
commanding the third cutter.
Before the boats were shoved off, the Trent
had steamed well up toward the “San Jacinto
,” and was in mid-channel, when the gun on the topgallant forecastle, loaded with a round-shot, was fired in a line across the bows.
Immediately the red cross of St. George
went fluttering to her peak, but she kept on her course.
“Put a shell in that gun,” called out Captain Wilkes
, “and let it go across her bows, so she may not mistake our intention this time.”
The shell exploded about one hundred fathoms ahead of the steamer, and immediately her engines stopped, and she rounded — to within two hundred feet of the man-of-war, and under the muzzles of our broadside, that would have sunk her at the word “Fire!”
There was much confusion on the mail steamer, and the passengers could be seen running about the decks in the greatest state of excitement.
As our men were going into their boats, Captain Moir
, of the Trent
, hailed us. “What do you mean,” shouted he, “by stopping my ship?
and why do you do it with shotted guns, contrary to usage?”
sang out, in reply: “We are going to send a boat on board of you. Lay-to.”
At this instant the order to shove off was given to our boats, and the second and third cutters went dancing over the blue waves toward the Trent
pulled up to the port gangway, and Mr. Fairfax
went to the starboard side, and boarded the ship alone.
The first officer met him as he came up the side, and asked what he wanted.
“Are you the master of this ship, sir?”
“No, sir; first officer.”
“I would like to see the captain;” and Captain Moir
, at this instant, walked out of his cabin, and coming forward said, in angry tones: “How dare you come on board of my ship?
What right have you here?
This is an outrage the flag there (pointing to the red cross aloft) will make you pay for.”
bowed, and said: “I have instructions to effect the arrest of Messrs. Mason
, and their secretaries, Messrs. Eustis
I have information that they are on board, and I would like to see your passenger list.”
“For a damned impertinent, outrageous puppy, give me, or don't give me, a Yankee.
You go back to your ship, young man, and tell her skipper that you couldn't accomplish your mission, ”