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[183] was unbecoming the head of a government. To have executed it upon a helpless prisoner, would have been a crime intensified by its cowardice. Happily for the United States, the threat was not executed, but the failure to carry out the declared purpose was coupled with humilitation, because it was the result of a notice to retaliate as fully as might need be to stop such a barbarous practice. To yield to the notice thus served was a practical admission by the United States government that the Confederacy had become a power among the nations.

On June 3, 1861, the little schooner Savannah, previously a pilot boat in Charleston harbor and sailing under a commission issued by authority of the Confederate States, was captured by the United States brig Perry. The crew were placed in irons and sent to New York. It appeared, from statements made without contradiction, that they were not treated as prisoners of war, whereupon a letter was addressed by me to President Lincoln, dated July 6, stating explicitly that “painful as will be the necessity, this Government will deal out to the prisoners held by it the same treatment and the same fate as shall be experienced by those captured on the Savannah; and, if driven to the terrible necessity of retaliation by your execution of any of the officers or crew of the Savannah, that retaliation will be extended so far as shall be requisite to secure the abandonment of a practice unknown to the warfare of civilized man, and so barbarous as to disgrace the nation which shall be guilty of inaugurating it.” A reply was promised to this letter, but none came. Still later in the year the privateer Jefferson Davis was captured, the captain and crew brought into Philadelphia, and the captain tried and found guilty of piracy and threatened with death. Immediately I instructed General Winder, at Richmond, to select one prisoner of the highest rank, to be confined in a cell appropriated to convicted felons, and treated in all respects as if convicted, and to be held for execution in the same manner as might be adopted for the execution of the prisoner of war in Philadelphia. He was further instructed to select thirteen other prisoners of the highest rank, to be held in the same manner as hostages for the thirteen prisoners held in New York for trial as pirates. By this course the infamous attempt made by the United States Government to commit judicial murder on prisoners of war was arrested.

The attention of the British House of Lords was also attracted to the proclamation of President Lincoln threatening the officers and crews of privateers with the punishment of piracy. It led to a discussion,



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