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[102]

General Wilson, it will be observed, adopts this remarkable story from some source which he does not indicate otherwise than as “what appears to be good authority.” He does injustice both to its inventor and his readers, in failing to specify the authority, for it surpasses in reckless audacity of invention anything else that he has told us.1 To appreciate this, we must remember that the Shenandoah was at that time on the other side of the world. Indeed, if I mistake not, she had never been and never was, on or near the American coast. Cruising in remote seas, her commander was not informed of the fall of the Confederacy and close of the war until long afterward. It was late in the autumn of 1865 before she was surrendered by him to the Brittish authorities. Blockaded as the Confederate coast was, there could have been no reasonable hope that such orders as those described could reach her and be executed, within six or eight months at the least. And even if she had been within reach, an order to a ship of war to cruise “off the coast of Florida” --a coast of more than a thousand miles in extent, with all its ports in possession of the enemyto take off a party of fugitives at some point which could not possibly be designated beforehand, would have been too stupid a thing to have been done, or discussed even “in profound secrecy” by a government, the members of which have never been charged, even by their enemies, with total insanity.

Although the facts above stated with regard to the Shenandoah are well known, the following letter from a distinguished authority on Confederate naval history may serve to confirm them. The death of the illustrious author soon after it was written invests it with a painful interest:

Letter from Admiral Semmes.

Dear sir: You are quite right as to the locus in quo of the Shenandoah. She was either in the North Pacific or Indian ocean at the time of the surrender. The news of the final catastrophe to



1 From a subsequent remark of General Wilson, it seems likely that his only “authority” for some of his statements-perhaps for this, among others — is that of Pollard, who wrote a defamatory Life of Jefferson Davis. The book is so utterly worthless as “authority,” that the more intelligent and respectable, even of Mr. Davis' enemies, would blush to quote it.

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