Doc. 165.-the escape of the Sumter.
Sumter escaped us, and that, too, by our own injudicious management. Now, as there is the greatest probability that this steamer, manned, as she is, by a band of cutthroats, will capture, rob, and sink, or burn some of our merchant vessels, laden with valuable cargoes, I imagine it will be nothing more than fair if the manner of her escape is put upon record in your journal; so here goes: At daybreak on the morning of Sunday, the lookout discovered a vessel in the offing, acting very suspiciously, and leading us to believe that she would run the blockade if an opportunity was given her. We duly got under way and went in pursuit of her. She kept standing off, and led us a merry chase of some fifteen miles from our anchorage; but finally overhauling her, we found her to be an English bark in ballast from some port in Spain, and bound for New Orleans. We warned her not to attempt to enter. During this chase it was reported to our Captain that, taking advantage of our absence from Pass l'outre, a steamer was making its way down the river with terrific speed. Instead of continuing to follow the confounded old bark, upon the reception of such important intelligence, we should have ignored her presence, and, instantly putting about, hastened back to the river with all possible speed, for it had been universally known for a long time that the secession man-of-war steamer Sumter was lying at the head of the Pass, awaiting an opportunity to pass us and escape, that she might be at large upon the high seas, to plunder and murder indiscriminately. But no! our Captain did not seem to discern the necessity of such an action, but kept our vessel steaming on until, overtaking the bark, he simply ordered her off, as stated above. 'Tis true in doing this we were performing our duty to the very letter; but it was of minor importance when compared to the interception of a vessel notoriously a pirate. When we returned, it was reported to us that the Sumter had already succeeded in crossing the bar, and at this moment our Captain, as if awakening from sleep, ordered us to carry all the steam possible and crowd on all sail, and start in pursuit of the fugitive. This order had hardly been carried into effect when a terrible squall came up, and it continued with such severity for a while we could not see the length of our ship ahead of us. For fear of grounding we lessened our speed, and eventually stopped altogether, remaining so until the squall had passed. Much to our chagrin we then saw the Sumter a very great distance ahead of us, and going through the water like a witch; we continued the chase, but she slowly increased the distance between us, it being a dead calm after the squall, and we could not use our sails. Had our vessel been in as good a condition as she was at the commencement of this cruise, instead of the miserable state she is now in, we could have caught her easily under steam alone. Still we kept on, and at four P. M. we were gladdened by the wind coming around fair, and freshening every moment. We made all sail, until the masts cracked and groaned under their burden, and we were rewarded by the fact that we were rapidly gaining upon the Sumter, which caused us to feel elated, as we argued it would be a “nice job” if we could succeed in trapping the pirate. Suddenly, at this juncture of affairs and the very turning point in our favor, Captain Poor ordered the ship to put about, to abandon the chase, and return to our anchorage. Amazement was depicted upon the countenance of every man on board, and as a matter of course the greatest and most bitter indignation prevailed because of this action. It was so uncalled for, so inexplicable, that wonder and scorn were the predominant feelings manifested. Again, it, was the opinion of every man on board our ship that it was our imperative duty to follow this pirate to the lower regions, if necessary for her capture, and let the blockade go, for the damage this one piratical vessel will do to our commerce, if let alone, will be incalculable. The Sumter, it is reported, carries nine guns of large calibre, some two hundred men, and is very fast. She is the propeller Habana, her name afterwards changed to Alfonzo, built in 1857 by Messrs. C. H. & W. M. Crump, of Philadelphia. Her dimensions are as follows: Length, on deck, one hundred and eighty feet; breadth of beam, thirty feet; depth of hold, ten feet; draught of water, nine feet six inches; five hundred tons burthen. Thus it will be observed that with the large crew and heavy guns she is reported to have, she will prove a most formidable privateer. Our very discreet Captain (that is, he thinks himself such, but a great many others do not) disregarded all advice from his officers, and, intrenching himself behind his official position, would not venture an explanation or an excuse for his action, but deliberately returns to the blockade, and lets the pirate run, to destroy millions of dollars' worth of property; whereas the raising of the blockade for a few days would have amounted, comparatively, to nothing. And further, it was only after the repeated requests and urgings of all the officers that Capt.  Poor concluded to send notice to the flag-officer of the squadron at Pensacola, informing him of the escape of the Sumter. I repeat it, that had it not been for the repeated urgings of our officers, we would have gone back to our old anchorage, from which place there is no manner nor chance of communication with Pensacola. However, after the representation of the officers in question, a boat was sent up to the gunboat Massachusetts, despatching her to the flag-officer with the information of the Sumter's escape. We learned subsequently that the Niagara had gone in pursuit of her; we hope soon to overhaul her; yet, in the mean time, I repeat, she may capture millions of dollars' worth of property, sink and burn at pleasure, and all this must be suffered, owing to Capt. Poor's very poor judgment in the matter.
--Baltimore American, August 5.