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Doc. 204. experience of Lieut. Worden


Release of the First prisoner of war.

Lieutenant John P. Worden, of the United States Navy, who was arrested by the rebels at Montgomery, in April, 1861, is a resident of Duchess County, in the State of New York. He graduated at Philadelphia, Pa., and has been twenty-eight years in the navy. He was the first prisoner of war, and his arrest created considerable excitement at the time.

Lieut. Worden left Washington on the 7th of April, 1861, as bearer of despatches to Captain Adams, of the frigate Sabine, in command of the fleet at Pensacola. The fleet had previously been sent to Fort Pickens, with two companies of artillery, for the purpose of reinforcing the fort when so ordered, and the despatches carried by Mr. Worden contained orders to that effect.

Lieut. Worden arrived at Pensacola by way of Richmond and Montgomery, on the 11th, having committed the despatches to memory, and torn them up for fear of arrest and search, owing to the excited state of the country. Arriving at Pensacola he obtained an interview with General Bragg, the rebel commander, and obtained a pass to visit Captain Adams, stating, in reply to an interrogatory, that he had a verbal communication from Secretary Cameron to the captain. Owing to a gale which was blowing at the time, Lieutenant Worden did not visit Captain Adams until the following day, when he delivered his orders and received a written reply in return, acknowledging the receipt of the despatches, and stating that they should be executed, together with other verbal information for the Government. Fort Pickens was reinforced by Captain Vodges that night. Lieutenant Worden took the cars at eight P. M. on the 12th on his return, and on the morning of the 13th, when within about five miles of Montgomery, five officers of the rebel army came in and arrested him, taking him to the office of the Adjutant-General at Montgomery.

A cabinet meeting was held to decide upon his case, and during the day he was remanded to the custody of a deputy marshal, in whose rooms he remained until the 15th, when he was removed to the county jail. Lieutenant Worden could get no reply to a request to know the grounds of his arrest, but learned verbally [443] that General Bragg, in order to exonerate himself for permitting Lieutenant Worden's visit to Captain Adams, stated that the Lieutenant had violated his word of honor; a charge, however, which Mr. Worden emphatically denies — no such pledge having been given.

Lieutenant Worden also heard it stated that there was an agreement between Capt. Adams and Gen. Bragg that no attempt should be made to reinforce or take the fort without previous notice to the other party, and that Gen. Bragg accused Captain Adams of violating the agreement.

The excitement in Pensacola and Montgomery can easily be imagined, when it is known that General Bragg had collected a force of one thousand men, and made all preparations to attack the fort on the night when the reinforcements were thrown in. He then ordered the arrest of Mr. Worden.

Lieut. Worden was well treated during his imprisonment, and was allowed such provisions as he chose to purchase, receiving all the attention he could expect in his situation. <*> While the seat of Government remained at Montgomery, he received visits from Captain Ingraham, and a large number of other officers, with whom he had been acquainted in the service. Every effort was made on their part to obtain his release or parole. He remained in prison until the 13th of November, and was in regular communication with his friends and family until mail communication was cut off. All letters, excepting some of those from his family, were opened and read before he received them. He had access to the daily papers in Montgomery, and occasionally received papers from Richmond.

The tone of the papers, and of persons with whom he conversed, were arrogant and confidant even to boasting, until the arrival of intelligence of the attack and capture of Beaufort by the Federal forces. This news fell like a wet blanket upon all their hopes. They made no secret of denouncing the rebel Government for not making a better defence. declaring there was no safety to the cities on the coast, and that no dependence whatever could be placed upon the fortifications. A tone of despair seemed to prevail, and the people were loud in their denunciations of a Government which gave them no security, nor intelligence of the actual condition of affairs, and the result of operations.

On the 13th of November Quartermaster Calhoun informed him that he had received a despatch ordering his release on parole, to go to Richmond to carry out a proposition for an exchange.

Lieut. Worden left Montgomery on the 14th, having given his parole not to divulge any thing which he might learn while in transit, to the disadvantage of the rebel Government. This parole was of no disadvantage to the National Government, from the fact that he saw nothing.

He arrived at Richmond on Sunday evening, November 17th, having been detained one day by failure to connect, and stopped at the Exchange Hotel, which was filled with army officers. He obtained an interview with the Adjutant-General, and Acting Secretary of War Benjamin, and left early on Monday morning for Norfolk, and the following day went on board the frigate Minnesota, at Hampton Roads.

After the fight at Santa Rosa Island, Major Vogdes and twenty-two of Wilson's men were confined in jail with him, from whom he learned further of the actual condition of Fort Pickens. He has no doubt that Fort Pickens can easily reduce the batteries and fortifications in the vicinity, as well as Fort McRae.

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