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[601]

Chapter 45: the cruise of the Sumter and the havoc she committed.

  • Granting belligerent rights.
  • -- the policy of England and France. -- Semmes' reputation. -- the commissioning of the Sumter, the first Confederate ship-of-war. -- the Sumter runs the blockade of the Mississippi, pursued by the Brooklyn. -- Semmes displays the British ensign. -- the merchant-ship Golden Rocket captured and burned off Isle of Pines. -- a brilliant scene. -- capture of two brigantines; one escapes, the other taken into the harbor of Cienfuegos. -- capture of the Ben Dunning, Albert Adams, West wind, Louisa Killum, and Naiad. -- the prizes taken to Cienfuegos, and released by order of the Spanish authorities. -- Semmes' letter to the governor. -- the governor of Curacoa brought to terms by the explosion of a shell. -- capture of the Abby Bradford. -- Puerto Cabello, and what occurred there. -- the Abby Bradford recaptured by the U. S. Steamer Powhatan. -- capture of the Joseph Maxwell. -- President Lincoln's proclamation. -- the Sumter at the island of Trinidad. -- Semmes' absolute authority. -- order of the Confederate secretary of war. -- the Sumter at Cayenne and Paramaribo. -- the Powhatan in close pursuit. -- the Sumter thoroughly equips at Maranham. -- the governor's courtesy to Semmes. -- discourtesy shown to the officers of the u. S. Steamer Powhatan. -- the Joseph Parke captured and burned. -- capture of the schooner Daniel Trowbridge. -- the Sumter at Martinique. -- U. S. Steamer Iroquois Blockades the Sumter. -- the Sumter escapes. -- capture of the Arcadia, vigilant, and Ebenezer Dodge. -- the Sumter crosses the atlantic. -- arrival at Cadiz. -- ordered to leave. -- the ships Neapolitan and Investigator captured and burned. -- the Sumter at Gibraltar. -- crowded with visitors. -- the Sumter in trouble. -- correspondence between Semmes and the authorities. -- Semmes' paymaster arrested. -- the Sumter laid up and sold.


In granting belligerent rights to the Confederates, the United States Government not only yielded the claim that the secessionists were merely armed insurgents, but also yielded the right to the latter to fit out cruisers to prey on Northern commerce, for it was impossible to prescribe a mode of warfare for the Confederates to adopt. This view was also taken by the leading nations of Europe, who gave in many instances all the aid and comfort to the Confederate cruisers it was possible to extend. England permitted the Confederates to build and equip vessels in her ports and enlist English seamen, and they allowed the cruisers to roam at will over the ocean, plundering and destroying Federal merchant-ships.

Whether this policy of the British Government will be of any benefit to Great Britain in the end is doubtful, for, in case she should become involved in war, the same tactics, which were so effective against the United States, might be made even more disastrous to herself. The captures by these Confederate cruisers were finally paid for by the British Government, but such payments can only partially compensate the ship-owners or the country. The greatest damage, the interruption or destruction of trade, and the expense to which the United States Government was [602] put in pursuing the cruisers, was never taken into account. No one seemed to think of the encouragement this wholesale destruction of American commerce gave the Confederates, who depended as much on that circumstance to bring about a peace as they did upon their armies.

In recognizing these cruisers, Great Britain and France were encouraging a kind of predatory warfare unknown in recent days. The Confederates, leaving no ports into which to send their prizes. burned or sank them wherever taken, so that their course was marked by burning hulls and

Commander (afterwards Rear-Admiral) Raphael Semmes, C. S. Navy.

floating debris. Their Courts of Admiralty were on the high seas, and the commanding officers were tie judges whether to destroy vessel and cargo or to transfer the latter to their own holds. Whether portions of valuable cargoes were sold in neutral ports, for the purpose of procuring coal and other supplies, is a point not fully ascertained; but it is not likely that men in command of cruisers, whose legality was somewhat doubtful, should be over-scrupulous of the means by which to carry out their cherished objects.

Captain Raphael Semmes, in the Alabama, was perhaps the most vindictive of all the officers of the Confederate Navy, and it may not be uninteresting to give a sketch of his career.

While in the United States Navy, Semmes had little reputation as an officer. He had no particular taste for his profession, but had a fondness for literature and was a good talker and writer. He made a study of the law, and had he devoted himself to the legal profession would doubtless have been very successful. He was indolent and fond of his comfort, so that altogether his associates in the Navy gave him credit for very little energy.

What was, then, the astonishment of his old companions to find that Semmes was pursuing a course that required the greatest skill and vigor; for there never was a naval commander who in so short a time committed such depredations on an enemy's commerce, or who so successfully eluded the vessels sent in pursuit of him, up to the time of the sinking of the Alabama.

Semmes was the last man to have embarked in the business of destroying Northern commerce, for during his service in the war with Mexico he wrote an interesting book, giving an insight into the character of the Mexican people. At the time of his writing this book, the Mexican Government was discussing the project of issuing letters [603] of marque to vessels, authorizing them to prey upon the commerce of the United States. Lieutenant Semmes took the ground that all such cruisers should be treated as pirates, since they had no ports into which they could take captured vessels, but must destroy them on the high seas. The events of 1861-65 changed Semmes' opinions, and the convictions he so strongly maintained up to the year 1861 vanished when he was offered a vessel by which he could inflict damage on United States commerce. with the prospect of high reward in the future for his services in burning and sinking.

We wish, in our narrative, to be just to all parties, but we cannot justify Semmes' course, even although he may have had a shadow of international law to plead in his defence. He might have joined the Southern Army or Navy, as many others did, and fought to the utmost of his ability, and nothing would now be laid against him; but for a man born under the Stars and Stripes, and who had spent the greater part of his life to middle age in holding himself ready to defend the flag, to turn and bend all his energies to the destruction of Federal unarmed merchant vessels, there seems to be no justification. It would have been better to have left that part of the Confederate war operations to some of the enthusiastic merchant captains of the South who honestly believed in the secession theory, and were not bound by a solemn oath to support the Constitution and laws of the United States.

Commander Semmes asserted that he withdrew his oath of allegiance to the United States because he considered the Southern States had a right to dissolve partnership with those of the North. He believed the South to have had greater justification than had the United Colonies when they declared their independence of Great Britain. The South had no actual grievances. They wished to extend their slave system, which was objected to by the North, and by the election of a Republican President they were ruled out of power held for twenty years, and given to understand that there should be no further extension of slavery, which the vast majority of Northern people considered a blot on our escutcheon.

It was Semmes' duty as an officer of the Government to help put down insurrection in whatever quarter or in whatever shape it might appear, for armies and navies are intended for such purposes as well as for carrying on war with foreign enemies. What would become of any Government in Europe if, at the breaking out of an insurrection, the military forces should object to serving against their compatriots? An officer of the Army or Navy who has engaged to support the de facto Government of the country can lay no claim to allegiance to State or city, and if he violates his oath to support the Government he simply becomes a traitor and liable to the penalty of death. Commander Semmes could hardly have expected to draw fifty thousand dollars or more in pay from the United States Government--which is about the amount he received up to the date of his resignation — and then at the first speck of trouble go off and fight against it. His case is much worse than that of a private citizen whose interests are bound up in a particular locality, and who owes no special allegiance to the General Government except such as may be dictated by the impulses of patriotism.

Being a native of Maryland, Semmes had not even the excuse of siding with his State, for if he had he would have fought against the South. This difficulty he easily skips over by claiming to be a citizen of Alabama, yet he stigmatizes, as “traitors to their States” officers of Southern birth who remained loyal to the Union. Semmes has published what he doubtless considered a masterly argument in defence of his cause; but, although he speaks of Webster and Story with great contempt, he was hardly equal to either of them as a constitutional lawyer, and the secession fallacy has been so thoroughly exposed that we have no fears of another civil war based on State Rights theories.

Commander Semmes resigned his commission in the United States Navy on the 15th of February, 1861, and made the best of his way to the capitol of the Southern Confederacy, temporarily fixed at Montgomery, Alabama. On his arrival he put himself in communication with Mr. Conrad, Chairman of the Confederate States Naval Committee, and when President Davis reached the city, a few days afterwards, offered his services to the Confederate Government. They were at once accepted, and Semmes proceeded to Washington. after a visit to Richmond and Harper's Ferry, to ascertain the character of certain machinery at the latter place, in anticipation of the enlargement of the Tredagar Works at Richmond, for the South meant war from the beginning, in case of any attempt on the part of the Northern States to prevent them from carrying out their designs.

When the Confederate Government had been fairly organized, they found themselves badly supplied with materials from which to improvise a Navy, and Semmes here made himself useful, being the first to propose “a well-organized system of private armed ships called privateers.” Mr. Mallory, the Confederate Secretary of the Navy, readily agreed to all that Commander Semmes proposed; for the latter, being much the cleverer man of the two, provided [604] the Secretary with ideas which he was only too willing to accept.

A Board of Confederate naval officers assembled in New Orleans charged with the duty of procuring, as speedily as possible, some swift, light-armed steamers that could be used to prey upon Northern commerce; and the Federal Navy was in such a disorganized condition that the Confederate Government might well feel secure in sending out these light cruisers, for they would hardly meet with any interference until they had swept the whole Northern coast.

Several vessels were examined by the Board, among them was a 500-ton sea-steamer with a speed of ten knots, but with capacity for but five days coal, and with no accommodations for the crew required by a vessel-of-war. She was condemned by the Board, and the report sent to the Secretary of the Navy, who showed it to Commander Semmes. The latter at once exclaimed: “Give me that ship, I think I can make her answer the purpose.” The request was granted, and officers were at once detailed to accompany Semmes on his cruise for the destruction of Northern commerce.

Semmes was certainly the very man the Confederates wanted for the occasion. He manifested no doubts of success with the vessel, and seemed to have no fear of the consequences. The inertness he had displayed while in the United States Navy had disappearad; he had become a new man. “The labors and associations of a lifetime had been inscribed in a volume that had been closed, and a new book, whose pages were as yet all blank, had been opened.” Semmes' volume, we might also add, though containing matter sufficient for a dozen books, embraced not an account of one act of bravery or generosity, but only records of burning, sinking, and destroying, worthy of the buccaneers.

Semmes was appointed to command the Sumter with the rank of commander, the same rank that he had held in the United States Navy, for the Confederates were slow in conferring increased rank until sure that their officers had earned a reward. The following order from Mr. Mallory was sent to Semmes the day after his interview with that gentlemen:

Confederate States of America, Navy Department, Montgomery, April 18, 1861.
Sir — You are hereby detached from duty as Chief of the Light-house Bureau, and will proceed to New Orleans and take command of the steamer Sumter--named in honor of our recent victory over Fort Sumter. The following officers have been ordered to report to you for duty: Lieutenants John M. Kell, R. T. Chapman, J. M. Stribling and William T. Evans; Paymaster Henry Myers: Surgeon Francis L. Galt; Midshipmen Wm. A. Hicks, Richard F. Armstrong, Albert G. Hudgins, John F. Holden and Joseph D. Wilson.

I am respectfully, your obedient servant,

S. R. Mallory, Secretary of the Navy.

On the 22d of April, Semmes took command of his vessel in New Orleans. The Sumter was simply a coasting steamer, cumbered with upper cabins, and with apparently none of the attributes of a ship-of-war. Who would imagine that so much harm lurked in that frail vessel? though her graceful lines and jaunty air pleased her commander, who seemed to have had a vivid idea of the destruction he could accomplish with this little craft.

Frenchmen are popularly supposed to be prone to revolution, and the enthusiasm of the French population of Louisiana had been early excited at the idea of the secession of the Southern States. Almost immediately, preparations were made by unauthorized persons to prey upon United States commerce, and several vessels were captured and taken to New Orleans. The Federal Government became alarmed at the probable consequences of a wholesale system of privateering, and President Lincoln at once issued his Proclamation.

As soon as it became evident that hostilities had broken out between the United States and the seceding members of the Union, European Governments, with singular unanimity, declared their neutrality between the contending parties, and their intention to treat both alike; viz., that neither United States nor Confederate cruisers should take their prizes into neutral ports. At first sight, this looked like a concession to the United States, as it excluded Confederate prizes from European ports; but it was really the other way, since it recognized the Confederates as belligerents. Commander Semmes was shrewd enough to know what this arrangement portended, and such was his confidence that he made a requisition before sailing simply for the modest amount of ten thousand dollars, saying, “This will suffice until I have the opportunity of replenishing my military chest from the enemy.” How readily he adopted that word “enemy,” when scarcely three months from the service of the Government that had fostered him for thirty-six years! We may be too sentimental on this point, but, no doubt, our feelings will be shared by many of our readers.

There was no end to Semmes' trials and disappointments in his task of fitting out the Sumter, and the patience and energy he exhibited were worthy of a better cause. On June 3d, 1861, the ship was put in commission, and her commander gazed proudly on the Stars and Bars floating from her peak. Having received his sailing orders, [605] Semmes dropped down to the forts preparatory to getting to sea past the blockading vessels at the mouths of the Mississippi — the Powhatan. Lieutenant D. D. Porter, at Southwest Pass, and the Brooklyn, Commander Charles H. Poor, at Pass à l'outre. Semmes' sailing orders were brief and to the purpose. He was to burn, sink and destroy. within the limits prescribed by the laws of nations, and with due attention to the laws of humanity. After long watching and waiting, Semmes made his escape to sea by the Pass à l'outre, while the Brooklyn was absent from that mouth of the river in chase of a vessel some eight miles to westward. As soon as the black smoke of the Sumter was seen coming down the river, the Brooklyn started to return to her anchorage, and had nearly the same distance as the Sumter to run before reaching the bar, but the latter vessel had the advantage of a four-knot current in her favor, while the Brooklyn had the current against her.

The Sumter with a skillful pilot passed the bar while the Brooklyn was three and a half miles distant from it, and out of gun-shot. The engineers and firemen of both vessels did their whole duty, and thick volumes of smoke poured from the chimneys. The Sumter went off at the rate of nine and a half knots. while the Brooklyn, to assist her speed, set every sail that would draw. The Sumter also set her sails, bracing them up sharp on the starboard-tack.

The Brooklyn was at this time a little on the weather quarter of the Sumter, and as Semmes knew he could lay closer to the wind than his pursuer, having the advantage of larger fore-and-aft sail, he resolved to hold his wind so closely as to compel the Brooklyn to furl her sails, although this would carry him athwart her bows and bring him perhaps a little nearer for the next half-hour or so. A rain squall now enveloped the two vessels, hiding them from each other; but as the squall passed away and the sloop-of-war reappeared, she seemed to Semmes to be much nearer, and he began to think his chance of escape very dubious. As Semmes stood looking at the Brooklyn coming on astern, he could not but admire the majesty of her appearance, with her broad flaring bow and clean, beautiful run, with her masts and yards as taunt and square as can only be seen in a ship-of-war. The Stars and Stripes appeared from time to time under the lee of the spanker, and with a glass a crowd of officers could be seen on the quarter-deck apparently watching the efforts of the Sumter to escape.

As the Brooklyn still gained on the Confederate vessel, Semmes ordered the paymaster to prepare to throw his iron chest and all its contents overboard, an incident which shows what gloomy forebodings must have possessed him when he was ready to sacrifice the precious treasure which was to aid him in his career of destruction. Coming from fresh into salt water had caused the Sumter's boilers to “foam,” which circumstance prevented her for a while from getting up as good a supply of steam as would otherwise have been the case; but at the crisis of the chase the foaming ceased, and the engineer reported the engine working beautifully. At the same time, the breeze freshened and favored the Sumter; and what was more, the latter was eating the Brooklyn out of the wind, yet the latter vessel did not fire a gun.

Semmes naturally supposed that as soon as the Brooklyn fell in his wake she would furl her sails, and this shortly came to pass, and for the first time Semmes began to breathe a little easy. He had feared that, instead of pursuing a career of destruction, he would be taken prisoner and tried for violating the President's proclamation, while his little cruiser would be turned into a Yankee blockader. But Semmes' good fortune — or perhaps we might rather say his evil fortune — decreed otherwise. The Brooklyn was under sail to royals when suddenly every sail in the ship was clewed up at once, the yards came down together and the men laid out to furl. In less than three minutes every stitch of canvas had vanished. If the crew of the Brooklyn had had any visions of prize-money, they evaporated a few minutes after this beautiful evolution which even the Confederate officers admired. In their hearts they could not help being proud of the skill and discipline of “the Old Navy,” and comparing the seamen of the service they had abandoned with the heterogeneous crew of the Sumter, that they had not yet time to discipline.

It seems strange to us, as it did to Semmes, that this beautiful evolution of the Brooklyn was not followed by a ricochet-shot from the bow gun of that ship, for the Confederates evidently thought themselves within range; but not a shot was fired during the pursuit. This was perhaps one of the most exciting chases of the war. Semmes knew perfectly well the exact speed of the Brooklyn, which was about the same as that of the Sumter, and believed if he could hold his own until dark that he could elude his enemy after nightfall; but lie never expected the Brooklyn to abandon the chase as long as the Sumter remained in sight.

When the sloop of-war furled her sails the Sumter began to draw slightly [606] ahead, as steam was crowded on her boilers almost to the bursting point. Then the engineer reported the journals as heating so much that the brasses would soon melt. That meant capture, and all waited for the first shot from the Brooklyn, announcing that their fate was sealed. No shot came, and the Sumter still gained, if only a trifle. Just then the Brooklyn put her helm a-starboard, went around in the opposite direction and abandoned the chase, returning to Pass à l'outre, where there was no longer anything to blockade, as the bird had flown; while the Sumter slowed her engines until the journals cooled down, and her crew gave three cheers for the Confederate flag. The shades of night soon hid the vessel from any possible pursuit.

Many were the criticisms on the escape of the Sumter, which, as they may do injustice, we will not here repeat. Naval officers, as a rule, are disposed to give credit for skill and gallantry from whatever quarter it may come, and all agreed that Semmes' escape in the Sumter was a bold and dashing adventure.

Great latitude had been given Semmes in his instructions, and his plan was to make a cruise upon the coast of Cuba, destroy all American shipping he could meet with in that quarter, coal at some convenient point, and finally proceed to Brazil. Accordingly, the Sumter steamed along the coast of Cuba, in the direct track of vessels bound for the Gulf, and while between the coast and the Isle of Pines two sail were reported in sight, both standing in the same direction with the Confederate. When within signal distance, the British ensign was displayed by the latter, and the nearest vessel proving to be a Spanish brig, was permitted to proceed. The other. though she showed no colors, was soon discovered to be an American, and a shot was fired — the first that was fired afloat by ex-naval officers at an American vessel. The “hateful” Stars and Stripes were soon run up to the stranger's peak, but it awoke no sentiment of remorse or regret in the bosoms of the Sumter's officers. Every noble sentiment was sacrificed to a wild idea which was mistaken for duty.

It is impossible for us to understand the feeling of joy and exultation that was evinced at the capture of the first American merchant ship, unarmed and helpless. This first prize, Semmes records, was from the “Black Republican State of Maine,” and when her flag was hoisted — the flag which Semmes had been educated to venerate, but which now seemed the very incarnation of all that was hateful — the Sumter showed at her peak the emblem of the Confederacy, a flag which might easily have been mistaken for that of Hayti or the Society Islands, whose cruisers if met upon the high seas would be naturally objects of suspicion. To Semmes, the Stars and Stripes appeared to look abashed in the presence of the latest symbol of Southern sovereignty, “as a burglar might be supposed to feel who had been caught in the act of looking into a gentleman's house.” Some of our readers may differ in opinion with the gallant captain and think that the master of the merchant vessel had a right to be astonished in finding a cruiser, which he supposed to be policing the seas, turn out a marauder. Semmes avers that he felt some pity for the captain of the merchantman, but this sentiment was not in sufficient quantity to delay his doom.

The master of the vessel, a mild, amiable-looking man, when he found into what hands he had fallen, merely expressed his surprise at the appearance of the Confederate flag in Cuban waters. The name of the prize was the Golden Rocket, an appropriate one, for she would go off in a blaze, and be remembered in history as the first illegal prize made by a Confederate vessel-of-war — for Semmes had no more right to capture her than he had to seize the Spanish vessel he first encountered. Semmes at the time was simply an insurgent like Lopez, the Cuban “fillibuster,” who was garotted in the plaza at Havana, (because belligerent rights had not been accorded him,) and he was under the ban of proclamation.

By sunset the wind had died away, and the night came on of such pitchy darkness as would seem emblematical of the deed about to be committed. The crew of the Golden Rocket, and everything on board the vessel needed by the Sumter, had been transferred to that vessel. The boat which had been sent on the errand of destruction pulled out of sight, and neither ship nor boat could be seen by the watchers who crowded the decks of the Sumter, although but a few yards distant. Suddenly one of the crew of the Sumter exclaimed, “She is on fire!”

The decks of the doomed vessel were of pine, the seams caulked with oakum and payed with pitch, while her forecastle was stored with paints and oil, therefore tile flames leaped at once into the darkness. The boarding officer had done his work like an adept, and applied the torch in several parts of the ship, and the flames rushed up through three apertures, lighting up the scene as plainly as if the drama had been enacted on the stage of a theatre. The masts and hull of the Sumter were reflected on the mirror-like sea, and the dense columns of smoke ascending to the skies seemed like a grand funeral pyre. The rush of air into the hold of the burning ship added [607] every moment new fury to the flames, which now ascended to the trucks, raging like a mighty furnace in full blast. The ship had been laid to with her maintopsail to the mast, and all her light canvass was flying loose about the yards, the headsails hanging from the booms, and the forked tongues of flame ran rapidly up the shrouds and from the tops to the light sails fluttering in the breeze. A topgallantsail or royal all on fire would now fly off from the yard and settle upon the surface of the sea like some fiery albatross, then followed yards in flames till the sea was lighted up by a hundred floating lamps. At one time the intricate network of cordage was traced as with a pencil of fire upon the black sky. Then the masts went by the board, the mainmast being the last to fall with a crash, as when in the northern forest it fell by the stroke of the woodman. Numbers of sea-birds flew round the burning ship, their discordant cries contributing to the horror of the scene; but at length the fire

Confederate steam-cruiser Sumter.

burned down, the vengeance of man was satisfied, and the Sumter moved away by the light of the expiring flames in pursuit of other prey.

Of all men in the Southern Confederacy Semmes was perhaps the best qualified to carry out the designs of his employers on the commerce of the United States. The burning of the Golden Rocket was like the first glass of liquor taken by the drunkard. Burning ships became a passion, and if ever a man had the bump of destructiveness on his cranium that man was Raphael Semmes. He slept peacefully that night in the thought that he had performed a meritorious action, one that would inure to the cause of Southern liberty fighting against the Northern people, who after twenty years of Southern domination had dared to elect a President to suit themselves.

According to the Law of Nations the Sumter was not a vessel of war. When the South had belligerent rights accorded them by the United States the case was different. As we have said before, the captain of the Golden Rocket took the destruction of his ship philosophically, although, apart from any monetary considerations, it must have been hard to see her set on fire and consumed before his eyes without power to raise a hand to save her; but one consolation the master had, the ship was insured, and the loss fell on the underwriters.

But what became of the “old flag” ? It was marked with the date of capture, latitude and longitude, etc., and consigned to a bag in charge of the Signal Quartermaster to keep company ere long with numerous other copies of the Stars and Stripes that accumulated under Semmes' auspices ere his career was brought to a close by the guns of the Kearsarge. As Semmes writes: “I committed to the keeping of the guardian spirits of that famous battle-ground a great many bags full of ‘old flags,’ to be stowed away in the caves of the sea as mementoes that a nation once lived whose naval officers loved liberty more than the false memorial of it under which they had once served, and who were capable, when it became ‘Hate's polluted rag,’ of tearing it down.” Yet who can doubt that Commander Semmes, in case the Confederate Navy officers had been reinstated in the Federal service, would have been among the first to resume his station under that “polluted rag,” again to forswear his allegiance, if it suited his convenience so to do.

The day following the destruction of the Golden Rocket was the 4th of July, an anniversary which had ever been venerated by all true Americans; but it was not celebrated on board the Sumter, because associated so intimately with the “old flag,” which, in the opinion of Commander Semmes and his followers, had all at once become a sham and a deceit. It was also, in the opinion of these persons connected “with the wholesale robberies which had been committed on Southern property, and with the vilification and abuse which had been heaped upon their persons by their late copartners for a generation or more.” What generosity could be expected by his foes from an intelligent man holding such sentiments as these?

At daylight next morning two sail were reported in sight ahead, which proved to be two American brigantines. The Sumter hoisted the Confederate flag, ran alongside and captured the vessels, both of which were loaded with sugar and molasses belonging to neutrals, and both bound from Trinidad de Cuba to English ports. These vessels Semmes did not venture to burn, but taking them in tow he steamed for [608] Cienfuegos, in order to test the disposition of the Spanish authorities towards the Confederacy. France and England had issued proclamations forbidding the introduction of prizes to their ports, but Spain had not yet spoken, and Semmes hoped the Spanish officials might have different views. The vessels together being more than the Sumter could tow, the prize-master of the Cuba was ordered to cast off and follow; but when the former got out of sight, the master and crew of the Cuba overpowered the prize-crew, recaptured the vessel, and eluding their captors, finally reached their destination.

On arriving off the harbor of Cienfuegos two more sail were descried from the Sumter, standing off the land. Two more American brigantines were captured — the Ben Dunning of Maine, and the Albert Adams of Massachusetts. They had left the port of Cienfuegos three hours before, and their cargoes of sugar were documented as Spanish property. Prize-crews were thrown on board, and the prize-masters directed to stand in for Cienfuegos light-house and lay — to until morning.

Thus in the space of three days, Semmes had captured five prizes heavily laden. His crew had become quite enamored of the service, which just suited these worthy successors of Lafitte, who were mostly from the city of New Orleans, which could then boast of possessing the worst class of seamen in the country. Without doubt, there were a number of persons on board the Sumter who acknowledged no allegiance to any nation, and whose love of plunder would incite them to any disreputable deed. To such men the American flag conyeyed no sentiment any more than did the flag of the Confederacy. Under the latter they might hope to plunder, and, no doubt, shipped with this expectation. If they were disappointed, it was because there was an innate love of discipline among their officers which forbade their entering on a course which might ultimately subject them to severe penalties. The crew were as eager in pursuit of vessels as dogs in chase of game, but they were too ignorant to know that burning and destroying could bring them no profit.

As daylight broke with all the beauty of a tropical morning, and the prizes moved sluggishly waiting for the sea-breeze. three American vessels in tow of a steam-tug were seen coming out of the harbor. Here was a piece of good fortune! Semmes had reckoned on carrying three prizes into Cienfuegos; here were three more, but he could not molest them in neutral waters — a little management was necessary. The neutral belt extended a marine league from the shore, so Semmes hoisted a Spanish jack for a pilot, giving orders to disarrange the yards, etc., that the Sumter might look as much like a merchant vessel as possible. To still further carry out the deceit, most of the crew were sent below and the Spanish ensign hoisted. These were the very tactics adopted by Lafitte, the Barratarian, in the early part of this century, which would indicate that Semmes had taken a leaf from his book.

The prize-masters showed themselves adepts in following the methods of their commander and hoisted the American flag at the fore of their respective prize-vessels for a pilot also. This deceived the people on board the vessels coming out, and they proceeded on their way in tow of the tug until they were well off the land, when they cast off and made all sail to enable them to get a good offing before the sea-breeze set in.

As soon as the tug had cast off from the vessels she proceeded to the steamer to ask if the captain wanted a pilot, for even the Spaniards had been deceived by Semmes' ruse. The Confederate commander replied in the affirmative, but said to the pilot: “I am waiting a little to take back those ships you have just towed out.” Diablo! exclaimed the Spaniard; “how can that be? they are North Americans bound to Boston and New York.” “That is just what I want,” said Semmes. “We are Confederates, at war with the North Americans.” “Ah!” said the pilot, turning picaroon at the first sign of plunder, “That is good; give her the steam quick, captain!” Here was a scoundrel, who had just piloted these vessels to sea and received his pay, ready to pounce upon them and take them back again for another fee. Nothing could better please that sort of man than this game of semi-piracy. Probably he was a descendant of some of those pirates who infested the Spanish West Indies in 1824-26, murdering the crews of American merchant vessels, plundering their cargoes, and then destroying the vessels.

Semmes was determined not to lay himself liable for violating any neutrality laws; he was too conscientious for that. He said to the impatient pilot, “Wait awhile, I must not fail in respect to Her Majesty the Queen of Spain and the Captain-General. I must wait until these vessels are beyond their jurisdiction, one league from shore.” So when the American vessels were supposed to be beyond the imaginary line, the Sumter was let loose like a tiger on its prey. A booming gun and the hoisting of the Confederate flag soon disclosed the Sumter's character, and in a short time the three vessels were prizes to the Confederate steamer and joined the others off Cienfuegos. When the sea-breeze set in, [609] Semmes stood into the harbor, followed by his six prizes, much to the astonishment of those who had seen the West Wind of Rhode Island, the Louisa Killum of Massachusetts, and the Naiad of New York, sail but a few hours before on their legitimate business.

Semmes was treated at Cienfuegos with all due courtesy, and hobnobbed with the Captain of the Port, who had at first fired upon him with musketry, not knowing what flag he sailed under; but when Semmes assured him that he did not come to sack the town like the buccaneers of old, the official took him to his heart. He had but a vague idea of the locality of the Southern Confederacy, and probably never suspected that the North American expeditions against the island were mostly fitted out from the Southern States--the fair haven of fillibusters.

Semmes wrote a specious letter to the Governor of Cienfuegos, a timid old man, who knew as little of international law as his friend the pilot. This letter may not agree with the opinions of our standard authorities on international law, but the originality of its views should preserve it from oblivion. Unfortunately for the en-enterprising sea-lawyer, the letter had exactly the contrary effect to what he had expected. The Spanish officials saw plainly that their harbors were about to be made the receptacles for prizes, and the Spanish Government, following the example of England and France, issued a proclamation that no prizes should be brought into their ports. Therefore, as soon as the Queen's proclamation was received, the Captain-General ordered all the prizes to be restored to their legitimate owners. Spain was not going to lose her best customer, nor be liable to a suit for damages from the United States after the civil war was over.

The commander of the Sumter naturally felt despondent over this decision of the Spanish authorities, and it may have influenced him somewhat in his subsequent career, when he burned and sank without much thought whether he was acting according to international law or not. The following is the letter to the Governor referred to above:

Confederate States Steamer Sumter, Island of Cuba, July 6, 1861.
Sir — I have the honor to inform you of my arrival at the port of Cienfuegos with seven prizes of war. These vessels are the brigantines Cuba, Machias, Ben Dunning, Albert Adams, and Naiad, and barks West Wind and Louisa Killum, property of citizens of the United States; which States, as your Excellency is aware, are waging an aggressive and unjust war upon the Confederate States, which I have the honor with this ship under my command to represent.

I have sought a port of Cuba with these prizes, with the expectation that Spain will extend to the cruisers of the Confederate States the same friendly reception that, in similar circumstances, she would extend to the cruisers of the enemy; in other words, that she will permit me to leave the captured vessels within her jurisdiction until they can be adjudicated by a Court of Admiralty of the Confederate States. As a people maintaining a Government de facto, and not only holding the enemy in check, but gaining advantages over him, we are entitled to all the rights of belligerents, and I confidently rely upon the friendly disposition of Spain, who is our near neighbor in the most important of her colonial possessions, to receive us with equal and even-handed justice, if not with the sympathy which our identity of interests and policy, with regard to an important social and industrial institution, are so well calculated to inspire. A rule which would exclude our prizes from her ports during the war, although it should be applied in terms equally to the enemy, would not, I respectfully suggest, be an equitable or just rule. The basis of such rule, as indeed of all the conduct of a neutral during war, is equal and impartial justice to all the belligerents, without inclining to the side of either; and this should be a substantial and practical justice, and not exit in terms merely, which may be deceptive. Now, a little reflection will, I think, show your Excellency, that the rule in question, in the exclusion of prizes of both belligerents from neutral ports, cannot be applied in the present war, without operating with great injustice to the Confederate States. It is well known to your Excellency that the United States are a manufacturing and commercial people, while the Confederate States are an agricultural people. The consequence of this dissimilarity of pursuits was that, at the breaking out of the war, the former had within their limits and control almost all the naval force of the old Government. This naval force they have dishonestly seized and turned against the Confederate States, regardless of the just claims of the latter to a large proportion of it, as tax-payers, out of whose contributions to the common treasury it was created. The United States, by this disseizin of the property of the Confederate States, are enabled in the first months of the war to blockade all the ports of the latter States. In this condition of things observe the practical working of the rule I am discussing, whatever may be the seeming fairness of its terms.

It will be admitted that we have equal belligerent rights with the enemy. One of the most important of these rights in a war against a commercial people is that which I have just exercised, of capturing his property on the high seas. But how are the Confederate States to enjoy, to its full extent, the benefit of this right if their cruisers are not permitted to enter neutral ports with their prizes, and retain them there, in safe custody, until they can be condemned and disposed of? They cannot send them into their own ports, for the reason already mentioned, namely, that those ports are hermetically sealed by the agency of their own ships, forcibly wrested from them. If they cannot send them into neutral ports, where are they to send them? Nowhere. Except for the purpose of destruction, therefore, their right of capture would be entirely defeated by the adoption of the rule in question, while the opposite belligerent would not be inconvenienced by it at all, as all his own ports are open to him. I take it for granted that Spain will not think of acting upon so unjust and unequal a rule.

But another question arises, indeed, has already arisen, in the cases of some of the very captures which I have brought into port. The cargoes of several of the vessels are claimed, as appears by certificates from among the papers, as Spanish property. This fact, cannot, of course, be verified, except by a judicial proceeding, in the Prize Courts [610] of the Confederate States. But if the prizes cannot be sent either into the ports of the Confederate States or into neutral ports, how can this verification be made? Further — supposing there to be no dispute about the title to the cargo, how is it to be unladen and delivered to the neutral claimant unless the captured ship can make a port? Indeed, one of the motives which influenced me in making a Spanish colonial port was the fact that these cargoes were claimed by Spanish subjects, whom I was desirous of putting to as little inconvenience as possible, in the unlading and reception of their property, should it be restored to them by a decree of the Confederate Courts. It will be for your Excellency to consider and act upon these grave questions, touching alike the interests of both our Governments.

I have the honor to be, &c., &c.


Semmes remarks:

I did not expect much to grow immediately out of the above communication. Indeed, as the reader will probably surmise, I had written it more for the eye of the Spanish Premier than for that of the Governor of a small provincial town who had no diplomatic power and whom I knew to be timid, as are all the subordinate officers of absolute Governments. I presumed that the Governor would telegraph it to the Captain General at Havana, and that the latter would hold the subject in abeyance until he could hear from the home Government.

Nor was I disappointed in this expectation, for Lieutenant Chapman returned from Cienfuegos the next morning. and brought me intelligence to this effect.

To dispose of the question raised, without the necessity of again returning to them, the reader is informed that Spain, in due time, followed the lead of England and France in the matter of excluding prizes from her ports; and that my prizes were delivered — to whom do you think, reader? You will naturally say to myself, or my duly appointed agent, with instructions to take them out of the Spanish port. This was the result to be logically expected. The Captain-General had received them, in trust, as it were, to abide the decision of his Government. If that decision should be in favor of receiving the prizes of both belligerents, well; if not, I expected to be notified to take them away. But nothing was further, it seems, from the intention of the Captain-General than this simple and just proceeding; for, as soon as the Queen's proclamation was received, he deliberately handed back all my prizes to their original owners!

But the Confederates were not without comfort. Sympathizers flocked to them from the town on their landing. The houses of the principal citizens were open to the officers, and the night was made merry by the popping of champagne corks. Yet Commander Semmes was not happy, though he regretted less the loss of his prizes than his failure to convince the Spanish authorities that he was a great expounder of the law of nations. Meanwhile the natives wondered where all the United States gun-boats were, that this Confederate hawk should be permitted thus to flutter the Yankee dovecotes. The reader will, no doubt, share their astonishment at the failure of the Navy Department to protect Federal commerce in the Caribbean Sea as well as in other quarters. The fact is, every passage to that sea ought to have been guarded as soon as it was known the Sumter had escaped, and she should have been followed up until captured or driven from the ocean.

Commander Semmes having appointed a prize-agent to take charge of his prizes until they could be taken to a Southern port for adjudication before a Court of Admiralty, and obtained a supply of coal and provisions from his neutral friends at Cienfuegos, departed from that port on the 8th of July with the intention of proceeding via Barbadoes to Cape St. Roque, in the great line of travel for vessels bound from the East Indies to the United States or Europe. Owing to the strength of the trade-winds his coal ran short. and lie made sail for the Dutch island of Curacoa, and on the 16th the Sumter entered the port of St. Anne — the capital town of this little colony. The American consul did all he could to persuade the Governor that the Sumter was not a legitimate vessel-of-war, and that officer, therefore, forbade the ship's entering the port, saying that he had received recent orders from Holland to that effect. Semmes was, however, well aware that these colonial magnates were generally men of little character or intelligence, so he sent one of his brightest officers on shore with the following letter to the Governor:

Confederate States Steamer Sumter. Off St. Anne's, Curacoa, July 17, 1861.
His Excellency Governor Crol:
I was surprised to receive by the pilot, this morning, a message from your Excellency, to the effect that this ship would not be permitted to enter the harbor unless she was in distress, as your Excellency had received orders from your Government not to admit vessels-of-war of the Confederate States of America to the hospitality of the ports under your Excellency's command. I most respectfully suggest that there must be some mistake here, and I have sent to you the bearer, Lieutenant Chapman, of the Confederate States Navy, for the purpose of explanation. Your Excellency must be under some misapprehension as to the character of this vessel. She is a ship-of-war duly commissioned by the Government of the Confederate States, which States have been recognized as belligerents, in the present war, by all the leading powers of Europe, viz.: Great Britain, France, Spain, etc., as your Excellency must be aware.

It is true, that these Powers have prohibited both belligerents, alike, from bringing prizes into their several jurisdictions; but no one of them has made a distinction, either between the respective prizes, or the cruisers themselves, of the two belligerents — the cruisers of both Governments, unaccompanied by prizes, being admitted to the hospitalities of the ports of all these great Powers on terms of perfect equality. In the face of these facts, am I to understand from your Excellency that Holland has adopted a different rule, and that she not only excludes the prizes, but the ships-of-war themselves, of the Confederate States? And this at the same time that she admits the cruisers of the United States; thus departing from her neutrality, in this war, ignoring the Confederate States as belligerents and aiding and abetting their enemy? [611]

If this be the position which Holland has assumed in this contest, I pray your Excellency to be kind enough to say as much to me in writing.


When the Governor had read this communication, he summoned all the civil and military dignitaries of the colony, and it took a lot of thinking, talking. smoking and drinking to get the matter fairly imbedded in their brains, the Confederate officer in the meanwhile making friends with the citizens, and helping them with their drinking, which seems to have been their main employment.

After waiting an hour or two, Semmes thought he would go to quarters and fire a few shells at a target; but it so happened that one of the shells passed across a window of the room where the council was in session — the Sumter was not more than fifty yards from the mouth of the narrow harbor — and exploding, shook the little town as if by an earthquake. Up flew the windows of the council-room, and out popped the heads of the dignitaries. It was decided nem. con. that the Confederacy should be recognized, and the Sumter allowed to enter the port, which she did shortly afterwards. Nothing could exceed the enthusiasm with which the Sumter was received at Curacoa. Semmes and his officers were the heroes of the hour. The ten thousand dollars with which he had started seemed inexhaustible.

Everything needed was supplied to the ship without a question, and Semmes was everywhere honored as the representative of the great Southern Confederacy, although few people had the least idea what that was.

While at St. Anne's Semmes missed a great opportunity. President Castro, one of the South American adventurers, requested his assistance to reinstate him in the presidential chair of Venezuela; but the Confederate officer declined to play the part of a Warwick. Castro claimed to be President de jure, but Semmes professed to scorn all Governments except those that were de facto.

After remaining a week at St. Anne's and accomplishing all he wanted, Semmes bade adieu to his kind friends and steamed out of the harbor on the 24th of July. Curacoa lies but a short distance from the coast of Venezuela. and as both the ports of La Guayra and Puerto Cabello have consider able trade with the United States, Semmes determined to look in upon them. When about thirty miles off the coast, a sail was sighted on the lee bow standing obliquely towards the Sumter. Chase was given, and in a short time a large schooner was taken. She proved to be the Abby Bradford, of New York, bound to Puerto Cabello. The schooner had left New York before the Sumter's escape was known in the North, hence the old captain was more than surprised when he found that he had fallen into the clutches of the Southern Confederacy.

Porto Cabello being but a short distance under his lee, Semmes determined to try his hand with Castro's opponent, the de facto President of Venezuela. He thought surely some arrangement could be made with the South American republics, which were too weak to be worth the notice of the stronger Powers. What right had they to be putting on the airs of nations and talk about acknowledging other people who had never themselves been acknowledged by Spain? In this instance Semmes reckoned without his host, for he found at least one Government that had some respect left for the great republic of North America.

Semmes arrived off Puerto Cabello after night-fall, and the next morning, making the ship and crew as much like those of a man-of-war as circumstances would permit, he steamed into the harbor, the prize-vessel following under sail. The Sumter had hoisted the Confederate flag early in the morning, and the Venezuelan colors were hoisted from the fort in response. The town looked like some old Moorish establishment transported to the New World, and its most prominent inhabitants appeared to be turkey-buzzards, which reminded the Confederate commander of the sacred birds he had met so often in the Queen City of the Confederacy. His hopes increased as he noted the similarity between Puerto Cabello and the city that had first given a stimulus to his career of adventure. He saw at once what an advantage it would be if the President would admit his prizes, for in the course of a few months he could make the harbor busier than it had ever been. He even thought he could have given a new impulse to the revolutions and make the people rich enough to indulge in a pronunciamento once a week.

It never appears to have occurred to the romantic adventurer that his own beloved Confederacy might one day become like a South American republic, ruled by unprincipled adventurers, or a prey to anarchy.

No one seemed to notice the Sumter after she anchored. Semmes carefully scanned the features of the “castle,” its three or four guns, worthless for any purpose beyond firing a salute, and compared it with his trim battery of shell-guns. He was satisfied with the comparison and immediately wrote the Governor of the town a letter, which he sent ashore by one of his officers. This missive was to the following effect:

Confederate States Steamer Sumter, Puerto Cabello, July 26, 1861.
His Excellency the Governor:
I have the honor to inform your Excellency of my arrival at this place, in this ship under my command, [612] with the prize schooner Abby Bradford in company, captured by me about seventy miles to the northward and eastward. The Abby Bradford is the property of citizens of the United States, with which States, as your Excellency is aware, the Confederate States, which I have the honor to represent, are at war, and the cargo would appear to belong also to citizens of the United States, who have shipped it on consignment to a house in Puerto Cabello.

Should any claim, however, be given for the cargo, or any part of it, the question of ownership can only be decided by the prize-courts of the Confederate States. In the meantime I have the honor to request that your Excellency will permit me to leave this prize vessel, with her cargo, in the port of Puerto Cabello, until the question of prize can be adjudicated by the proper tribunals of my country. This will be a convenience to all parties; as well to any citizens of Venezuela who may have an interest in the cargo as to the captors who have also valuable interests to protect.

In making this request, I do not propose that the Venezuela Government shall depart from a strict neutrality between the belligerents, as the same rule it applies to us it can give the other party the benefit of also. In other words, with the most scrupulous regard for her neutrality, she may permit both belligerents to bring their prizes into her waters, and of this neither belligerent could complain, since whatever justice is extended to its enemy is extended also to itself. * * * * Thus your Excellency sees that, under the rule of exclusion, the enemy could enjoy his right of capture to its full extent — all his own ports being open to him — whilst the cruisers of the Confederate States could enjoy it sub modo only, that is, for the purpose of destroying their prizes. A rule which would produce such unequal results as this, is not a just rule (although it might in terms be extended to both parties), and as equality and justice are of the essence of neutrality, I take it for granted that Venezuela will not adopt it.

On the other hand, the rule admitting both parties, alike, with their prizes into your ports, until the prize-courts of the respective countries could have time to adjudicate the cases, would work equal and exact justice to both; and this is all that the Confederate States demand.

With reference to the present case, as the cargo consists chiefly of provisions, which are perishable, I would ask leave to sell them at public auction, for the benefit of “whom it may concern,” depositing the proceeds with a suitable prize agent until the decision of the court can be known. With regard to the vessel, I request that she may remain in the custody of the same agent until condemned and sold.


Although his Excellency of Puerto Cabello probably knew very little of international law, the American consul at the port was sufficiently well posted, and he at once advised the Governor what course to pursue. The inhabitants were dependent upon their trade with New England and New York for the supply of their necessities, and, of course, the Governor was naturally in favor of his friends rather than a doubtful-looking stranger. So he sent a reply, with “God and liberty” on the seal, simply informing the Confederate commander that he had not the necessary funcion to answer him diplomatically, but would lay his communication before the supreme Government; meanwhile he desired the Sumter to leave Puerto Cabello, and take the Abby Bradford with her.

Had Commander Semmes erected a target, and burst a few shells over it just outside the harbor, it might have had some effect;there was no room inside for such practice, and a shell bursting near the town or fort would have been too much for Spanish pride, and a stray shot from the dilapidated castle might have gone through the Sumter's unprotected machinery, and ended her career by enabling the Federal gun-boats to overtake her; therefore Semmes prudently refrained from any attempt to show the power of the Confederacy.

After reading the Governor's letter, to which he paid no attention, Semmes sent his Paymaster on shore, and purchased such articles as he required. The Governor, after an inspection of his artillery and a consultation with the military commandant, made up his mind that it would be best not to coerce any ship belonging to the Southern Confederacy, for fear that these modern representatives of Drake and Morgan might follow the example of their illustrious predecessors if interfered with, and left Semmes to do pretty much as he pleased.

The Abby Bradford was sent in charge of a prize-crew to New Orleans, to report her arrival to Commodore Rousseau, delivering to him the prize-papers, seals unbroken, etc. The vessel reached Barrataria Bay, but was recaptured by the Powhatan, Lieutenant D. D. Porter, and restored to her owners. Semmes did not burn the Abby Bradford, because, as he says, “I only resorted to that practice when it became evident there was nothing else to do.”

As soon as Lieutenant Porter ascertained from the crew of the Abby Bradford the whereabouts of the Sumter, he obtained the permission of Flag-officer McKean, and started in pursuit of the Confederate vessel, following her from port to port to the coast of Brazil, and thence to the equator, from which point Semmes shaped his course, so that his trail was lost.

After having dispatched the Bradford, Semmes put to sea, and was no sooner outside the harbor than an American vessel was sighted. In less than an hour the Sumter came up with the bark Joseph Maxwell, of Philadelphia. Half her cargo was the property of a neutral doing business in Puerto Cabello; and here again Semmes was in a dilemma. Leaving the bark outside the marine league, Semmes returned in the Sumter to Puerto Cabello and sent another letter to the Governor informing him of the capture he had made, and inquiring if some arrangement could not be had for the protection of the neutral [613] half-owner's interests — in other words, to ascertain if the prize, in which a citizen of Venezuela was interested, would not be permitted to enter the harbor and remain until she could be adjudicated.

Much to the surprise of Semmes, the Governor in his reply commanded the representative of the Southern Confederacy to deliver the Maxwell over to him until the courts of Venezuela could determine whether or not she had been captured within the marine league!

In the words of Commander Semmes, “This insolence was refreshing — I scarcely knew whether to laugh or be angry.” The Sumter was then lying close under the guns of the fort, which were manned by some half-naked soldiers. Semmes beat to quarters and cast loose his guns, not knowing but the Governor might attempt to prevent his going to sea again, and with his crew standing at their quarters steamed out of the harbor, without opposition from his Excellency, who was only too happy to be rid of him.

As Semmes' conscience would not permit him to destroy neutral property, he sent the Maxwell with a prize-crew to Cienfuegos to join his other prizes, still clinging to the hope that Spain “would dare to be just, in the face of the truckling of England and of France.”

Semmes had been in the Caribbean Sea from the 3rd to the 27th of July, 1861, had captured ten prizes, and not a Federal gunboat had been heard of, although the United States Consul-General at Havana had been promptly informed of all his transactions at Cienfuegos. Five of the fast steamers purchased for the purpose of carrying stores to the several squadrons, well armed and manned, would have caught the Sumter ten days after her escape from Pass à l'outre, saving many thousand dollars worth of property and terminating Semmes' career. Although the Federal Navy Department displayed a great deal of energy throughout the war, it was lacking in forethought in regard to the matter of Confederate cruisers. The Department had probably no idea that the Confederates would exhibit so much energy in this direction, forgetting that men who embark in a desperate undertaking generally show far more activity than the power they are opposing, besides being less particular in the means employed to gain their ends.

The Federal Government should have sent swift vessels to all parts of the world as soon as it became evident that the Confederates had designs on its commerce. President Lincoln's proclamation declaring Confederate privateers “pirates” was unheeded by European Governments, and it must have been evident that the success of the Sumter would prompt the Confederates to send as many vessels as possible on the same errand. Had the Sumter been captured soon after her escape from the Mississippi River, there would probably have been no more Confederate cruisers, the Confederacy would have been deprived of its most energetic agent in this line of business, and the ocean commerce of the United States would have been uninterrupted.

After sending off the Maxwell, the Sumter pursued her course along the Spanish main and through the Caribbean Sea to the Port of Spain, in the Island of Trinidad. An English merchant vessel, passing out, paid the Sumter the honor of a salute by lowering her flag — a sign of hostility to the United States Government exhibited at that time by almost everything British.

The Governor of Trinidad had already received Queen Victoria's proclamation of neutrality, and when Commander Semmes called upon him his Excellency promptly informed the Confederate Commander that he should receive the sane hospitality that would be shown to a Federal cruiser — this hospitality consisted in extending to the Sumter every facility for prosecuting her operations against the commerce of the United States.

Semmes lost no time in coaling ship and laying in provisions. His trouble now was to get rid of his prisoners. The Maxwell's crew, in particular, were held as hostages until the case of the prisoners captured in the pilot-boat Savannah, who had been tried and condemned as pirates, was disposed of. Not until Semmes heard that the crew of the Savannah were treated as ordinary prisoners-of-war, did he conclude to discharge these merchant seamen, who had been made to understand from day to day what their fate would be if any of the Savannah's crew were executed. Fortunately, the Federal Government was not disposed to stain its record by any bloody reprisals, although a mistake was made in issuing a proclamation which it would not have been wise to enforce.

The feelings of the Maxwell's crew on hearing that they were to be discharged can be imagined, and even Semmes experienced relief when he found that it would not be necessary to hang unoffending non-combatants at the yard-arm. Semmes remarks in relation to this matter: “I would be stretching a point in undertaking retaliation of this serious character without instructions from my Government, but the case was pressing, and we of the Sumter were vitally interested in the issue. The commission of the Savannah, although she was only a privateer, was as lawful as our own, and judging by the abuse that had [614] already been heaped upon us by the Northern papers, we had no reason to expect any better treatment at the hands of the well-paid New York District Attorneys and well-packed New York juries.” It only required that Semmes should appear in this new role of executioner on the high seas to have insured him an immortality equal to that of Captain Kidd. He would have progressed but little further in making himself judge and jury to condemn innocent merchant seamen who had taken no part in the hostilities between the North and the South, than he had already in establishing a Court of Admiralty on the high seas, where all the rules of law and rights of property were set aside. As to any humanity shown his prisoners by turning them loose to shift for themselves in a foreign land, it was due solely to the inexpediency of keeping his ship full of Northerners that might some day rise and overpower his crew.

Commander Semmes had already received his cue from the Confederate authorities, but it would detract from his reputation for cleverness to believe that he imagined himself invested with authority to commit such an act as he had intimated, and we will be charitable enough to think that his expressions on the subject were simply gasconade.

When one of the men captured in the privateer “Jeff Davis” was convicted of piracy in the Philadelphia Court, the Confederate Government issued the following order, which Semmes took for his guide, apparently forgetting that, while his Government might incur the responsibility, he, not the one hundred thousandth part of that Government, had no more right to commit such an act than the commonest seaman in his vessel. The letter of Mr. Secretary Benjamin, which came so near causing murder to be done on the high seas, is herewith inserted, showing to what dreadful lengths the asperities of civil war will drive people. It may be hoped that in future wars men will not be condemned to death simply for being led astray by reckless leaders, and that retaliation may not be exercised against men who have borne an innocent part in the conflict:

Order of Mr. Benjamin to General Winder in charge of Federal prisoners.

Sir — You are hereby instructed to choose by lot from among the prisoners-of-war, of highest rank, one who is to be confined in a cell appropriated to convicted felons, and who is to be treated in all respects as if such convict, and to be held for execution, in the same manner as may be adopted by the enemy for the execution of the prisoner-of-war Smith recently condemned to death in Philadelphia.

You will also select thirteen other prisoners-of-war, the highest in rank of those captured by our forces, to be confined in cells, reserved for prisoners accused of infamous crimes, and will treat them as such, so long as the enemy shall continue so to treat the like number of prisoners-of-war captured by them at sea, and now held for trial in New York as pirates.

As these measures are intended to repress the infamous attempt now made by the enemy to commit judicial murder on prisoners-of-war, you will execute them strictly, as the mode best calculated to prevent the commission of so heinous a crime.


While the Sumter remained at Trinidad she was thronged with visitors; some were sympathizers with the Confederate cause, others were there from mere curiosity; but the officials generally held aloof for fear of compromising themselves if they took much interest in the Confederates. All Semmes cared for was to obtain a stock of coal and provisions, and these not being considered contraband of war were freely furnished. Semmes met with some opposition from the authorities, but he bore his trials with meekness, for he knew that the heavy guns commanding the harbor could soon be manned, and were too formidable to trifle with. Nor could he tell how soon a British man-of-war might come into port with orders for the Governor to detain the Sumter.

On the 25th of August the Sumter sailed from Trinidad bound for Maranham. So far, nothing had been heard of a United States vessel-of-war. The slow old frigate Powhatan was following on the track of the marauder, never missing a port at which the Sumter had stopped. But for defective boilers the Powhatan would have overtaken the Sumter at Maranham. It must have given the inhabitants of the places Semmes visited a poor idea of the power of the Federal Government, to see the Sumter roving at will, with no opposition.

In addition to his other tasks, Semmes undertook to play the part of a missionary, and teach the people among whom he went the difference between the Northern and Southern governments; the former an effete affair, without resources; the latter a young giant that was to carry everything before it. Of course, there were plenty of people to believe all this. They had seen the evidence of Northern commercial wealth in the number of vessels that had visited their ports, but they had no evidence of Federal military or naval power, which is, after all, what counts most with nations. In the Sumter they beheld an engine-of-war that could do much harm, and, although she was not a large vessel, yet they saw nothing opposed to her to repress her ill-doings. Had there been a fair-sized United States vessel-of-war at either of the ports the Sumter entered, the latter would have probably been refused a supply of coal.

The Sumter, owing to strong head-winds and currents, soon expended the [615] greater portion of her coal, and had then to resort to her sails; but on the 19th of August she made the harbor of Paramaribo and obtained a supply of coal and provisions, fraternizing with the officials of the town and with some French and Dutch officers, who seemed to recognize in the Sumter the germ of a Navy that was to supplant that of the United States. All this now seems like the merest mockery, and we can hardly realize how the representatives of old-established Governments could lend themselves to the schemes of the Confederates before they had the slightest evidence that the latter could maintain their position. It must have been a serious matter to admit the ships of long-established Governments into neutral ports for the purpose of obtaining coal with which to prey upon each other's commerce; but to admit a vessel of such doubtful character as the Sumter, with a flag never before seen, was certainly going to the utmost extreme. The secret of the matter was, probably, not so much sympathy with the South, as a general dislike to the institutions of the United States, which were a standing menace to the governments of the Old World. Had the United States been provided with a Navy proportioned to its wealth and resources, with ships stationed at every part of the world frequented by its commerce, the Confederates could not have kept the seas, for want of coal, and would soon have been obliged to abandon their cruising, even if their vessels escaped capture. The argument enforced by war vessels is better than diplomacy, which has not such support; and, although Mr. Seward had duly instructed all the diplomatic and consular representatives of the United States, these gentlemen could never satisfactorily answer tile question, “Why don't you send your Navy to repress the Sumter?”

The Sumter left Paramaribo on the 30th of August, the commanding officer giving the pilot to understand that he was bound to Barbadoes to look after the U. S. S. Keystone State, which vessel he had learned was in pursuit of him. Semmes had satisfied himself that the display of the Sumter and the Confederate flag in Cayenne and Paramaribo had had a most excellent effect on the fortunes of his young republic!

The Powhatan arrived off Surinam River only two or three days after the Sumter sailed. The pilot said she had caulked her ports in and sailed for Barbadoes; but Lieutenant Porter, feeling satisfied that Semmes was aiming to get on the track of American vessels bound round Cape St. Roque, and knowing that he would have to touch at Maranham for coal, lost no time, but stood in the direction of the latter port, sometimes under three boilers, sometimes under one only, the engineer's force working night and day patching the worn-out boilers.

This old representative ship of the United States Navy at times made not more than three knots an hour, scarcely enough to stem the current setting along the Brazilian coast.

With all the difficulties attending this pursuit, which Semmes calls Quixotic, the Powhatan had gained over fifteen hundred miles on the Sumter since she first started in pursuit; and had the former vessel been fit for sea the Confederate cruiser would have been easily overtaken, which shows the remissness of the Government in not dispatching a dozen fast vessels in pursuit, even if they had to be taken from blockade duty.

On the 6th of September the Sumter arrived in the Port of Maranham, and the Port Admiral sent a lieutenant to inquire of the commanding officer of the Confederate vessel what strange flag that was he carried at his peak, and was duly informed that it was the emblem of the Southern Confederacy. A cordial understanding was soon had with all the Brazilian authorities, including the Governor of the province, who was made to understand that there were now two United States instead of one, that the Northern government abhorred slavery and all that pertained to it. This statement struck a chord in the breast of the Governor, who, like most of the Brazilians at that time, was a strong advocate of the peculiar institution. So he took Semmes, his officers and men, at once to his heart, and welcomed them to Maranham. Yet Semmes and his officers were not invited to a grand ball given by his Excellency, as diplomatic etiquette forbade this without the permission of the Emperor. “The only feeling excited in us,” Semmes remarks, “by this official slight was of contempt for the silliness of the proceeding, a contempt heightened by the reflection that we were a race of Anglo-Saxons, proud of our lineage and proud of our strength (!) frowned upon by a set of half-breeds.”

Semmes was more anxious, however, to capture merchant vessels than to attend official gatherings. The day after the ball the Governor gave him an audience, and after Semmes had satisfied him that the Sumter was entitled to belligerent rights, granted permission for the ship to have everything desired except munitions of war, as if granting coal was not a far greater injury to United States commerce than all the munitions in the world without it.

If England had been the plaintiff, America [616] would not have permitted those vessels, with their imitation of the British flag, to obtain supplies to carry on their depredations against a country with whom they were on terms of friendship, and with whom they had treaties. All such vessels would have been excluded from their ports, or, if admitted, would be detained to prevent their doing mischief. Great Britain would not condone such an offence as giving aid and comfort to such cruisers would be. and would have had her war ships promptly on hand to demand reparation. Who is there that does not admire and applaud the policy of such a nation in protecting the interests of her citizens, although her operations may often seem to conflict with the maxims of writers on international natters?

The Federal Government was too slow in sending war vessels abroad to look out for its merchant marine, and depended on the poorly paid consuls at the different ports to oppose their feeble influence against a plausible person like Commander Semmes, who had as advisers men in the Confederate councils still more clever. These same men had deluded many States filled with intelligent people, and it would have been strange if they could not delude a few old Governors, especially when the latter were impressed with the idea that the Confederacy had England and France to back her, and would be acknowledged by all the Powers of Europe in less than six months.

In Maranham, during their stay, Commander Semmes and his officers were the lions of the hour, and brought a good deal of odium on the head of the United States consul, who did all in his power to prevent the Sumter from proceeding on her work of destruction. His small pay had prevented him attaining much social consideration, so that he had but little influence. Semmes' greatest objection to this gentleman was that he was a dentist, and forced to practice his profession to eke out a livelihood.

On the 15th of September Semmes left Maranham, his ship thoroughly equipped from keel to truck. For very good reasons, considering the character of his vessel, Semmes determined to steer to the northward and eastward and reach the calm belt north of Cape St. Roque, where he expected to fall in with a number of vessels bound from ports south of the equator.

Four days after the departure of the Sumter the Powhatan appeared off Maranham. This vessel had worked her way in a fog through the dangerous channel leading to the port, for the pilots had all been withdrawn from the outer anchorage and not even a fisherman was encountered. The Powhatan had but ten hours coal on board and was so light that her paddle-wheels had but little hold on the water. By careful navigation the outside of the harbor was reached and an insolent negro pilot was received on board — the same person that had taken the Sumter out. “How did you get through all the shoals?” he inquired. By the chart, “was the answer.” “I don't believe it,” he said. “You must have had the devil for a pilot. No ship of this size can come through those channels without a good pilot. Even the little Sumter struck coming in and came near leaving her bones among them.” “She is here, then?” said the commanding officer of the Powhatan. his eyes glistening with pleasure. The negro laughed and replied, impudently: “No, you can't catch her, she is miles away — she sailed four days ago.”

It was high-water when the Powhatan entered the harbor and came to anchor in five fathoms. The tide rises some fourteen feet and runs very strong on the ebb. Three hours after the Powhatan anchored she began rasping on the bottom and pounding against her anchor, and at low-water was hard and fast in the mud with three feet of copper out of water. This was evidently intentional on the part of the pilot, but fortunately no damage was done, and at high tide the ship was moved into deeper water. The hope of the pilot was undoubtedly that the ship would bring up on the bill of her anchor and knock a hole in her bottom.

The Stars and Stripes floated proudly at the peak of the Powhatan, but no official visited the ship. The paymaster was sent on shore to purchase coal, but could not procure any. The Powhatan, in the eyes of these people, represented the cause of slave emancipation. When application for coal was made to the agent of the British Mail Steamship Company, he charged at the rate of twenty-two dollars a ton, at least twice as much as it was worth. The offer was accepted; but the ship had scarcely commenced coaling when a black officer, with an aide of the same complexion, came on board and haughtily demanded in the name of the Governor that the Powhatan should stop taking in coal. He was told to go on shore and not to interfere with that which did not concern him. The coal barges were towed alongside the ship and a marine with loaded musket placed in each one.

That is all the communication the Powhatan had with Maranham, except that a Brazilian gentleman came on board and strongly protested against the Governor's acts; but he could effect nothing, as he was. on the wrong side in politics.

As soon as the Powhatan had coaled she departed in pursuit of the Sumter, [617] the commanding officer declining the services of a pilot for fear the good ship's bones might be left on some ugly reef.

The Sumter reached the calm belt on the 24th of September. The next day a sail was sighted; the Sumter pursued under steam showing the American flag. The stranger, thinking this a United States gun-boat, ran up the Stars and Stripes. The vessel proved to be the Joseph Parke, of Boston; a prize-crew was put on board and she was sent to the westward to act as a decoy to other vessels, and to report, by signal, all sails that hove in sight. A few days afterwards, as nothing appeared, the Parke was set on fire and destroyed, after removing all valuables. Vessels on the Brazilian coast had heard of the Sumter's escape and had taken a new route homeward consequently. Semmes gained little by cruising between the parallels of 2°.30′ and 9.30′ North and the Meridians 41°.30′ and 47°.30′ West. So he made his way back to the West Indies, while the Powhatan about the same time followed in his track.

On the 24th of October, the Sumter captured the schooner Daniel Trowbridge, of New Haven, loaded with everything a cruiser could desire, her deck even being filled with live stock. It took these cormorants two or three days to clear out this well-filled schooner, and as boat-load after boat-load was sent from the prize to the Sumter, Semmes gloated over the luxuries he was receiving. It does not seem to have occurred to him how much this resembled the achievements of old buccaneering days, when the sea-rovers overtook their victims and treated them in pretty much the same fashion, finally consigning their vessels to the flames. There is this to be said in Semmes' favor, that he did not make his prisoners walk the plank. Semmes is silent as to the fate of this vessel, from which he received five months provisions; but she was probably sunk, as it was not desirable to burn her when so many vessels were about.

Many vessels were now chased without any prizes being taken, most of them being the property of neutrals, and the Sumter at length, on the 9th of November, 1861, made Port de France, in the Island of Martinique, having been at sea nearly two months since leaving Maranham. Of late the Sumter had taken few prizes, but her career, as a whole, had been very destructive and caused premiums on insurance to assume formidable proportions.

At one time Semmes came very near being captured by the Powhatan. He remarks in his journal: “At Trinidad the Keystone State lost our trail, and, instead of pursuing us to Paramaribo and Maranham, turned back to the westward. We learn from the same papers that the enemy's steam-frigate Powhatan, Lieutenant Porter, with more sagacity, pursued us to Maranham, arriving there one week [four days] after our departure. At a subsequent date, Lieutenant (now Admiral) Porter's official account fell into my hands, and, plotting his track, I found that on one occasion we had been within forty miles of each other, almost near enough on a still day to see each other's smoke.” This was at the time when the Sumter burned the Joseph Parke near the equator.

Commander Semmes heard of the presence of the Iroquois, Commander James S. Palmer, in the Caribbean Sea, soon after his arrival at Martinique, and made haste to get away from that place before he should be blockaded by the Federal steamer. The Iroquois was superior in every respect to the Sumter, and Semmes had not the slightest idea of getting within range of her guns, if he could help it.

On November 13, the Sumter left Port de France and anchored off St. Pierre, and a day or two later the Iroquois appeared off the harbor, and sent a boat ashore to the United States consul, after which she steamed outside and kept up a steady blockade until the authorities at Martinique called Captain Palmer's attention to the fact that he was violating the sanctity of neutral waters, and requested him to retire beyond the marine league. The manoeuvring on the part of Semmes to get to sea, and of Palmer to prevent him, forms an interesting episode in the history of the war. Semmes, in the end, was too clever for Palmer, and one dark night the Sumter made her escape under full steam while the Iroquois was watching for her in another direction. It is a difficult thing for one steamer to prevent the passage of an other out of an open bay with head-lands three or four miles apart, as was conclusively proven in this instance.

Finding that the Federal cruisers were getting on his track, the commander of the Sumter determined to leave the Caribbean Sea and cross the Atlantic. On his way Semmes captured and destroyed the Arcadia, Vigilant and Ebenezer Dodge, making the total number of captures by the Sumter fourteen.

Semmes had done as well for the Confederacy as possible, and the Confederate Government was well satisfied with his operations; but the crowning blow was yet to come, when Semmes, in a more efficient vessel, could still better illustrate the fact that a great commercial country, without a sufficient naval force, is at the mercy of any set of adventurers in case war should suddenly break out. Had the Sumter [618] started on such a crusade against British commerce, the seas would have swarmed with swift cruisers, and Semmes' career would have come to a sudden and inglorious termination. He showed a deal of cleverness in achieving so much for his Government, but he had few vessels in search of him, and only one of these was fast enough to overtake him if he was sighted.

From an English vessel that Semmes encountered he obtained newspapers that gave him interesting information. Among other things he learned that another Confederate cruiser called the Nashville, under the command of Lieutenant Pegram, had put to sea and had burned a large American merchant ship, the Harvey Birch, in the British Channel. She was loaded with tea and just from China. This news stimulated Semmes to fresh exertions, that he might replenish his coal and continue his pleasant employment of burning and sinking. Having been well received at Cienfuegos, he calculated on meeting similar treatment in other Spanish ports, and he now entered tie beautiful harbor of Cadiz with the most pleasing anticipations, so that for a moment he forgot the ravages he had committed on unoffending people who had taken no part in tile war against the South, and many of whom, for all he knew, might have sympathized with the secession cause. He showed a vindictiveness towards everything relating to the North which nobody thought to have existed in his character. Those who knew him as an officer of more than thirty years service in the United States Navy, supposed that he would feel some little compunction in pulling down the honored flag of the Union and consigning its ships to the flames; but, so far from this, Semmes exulted in every deed he committed, and showed himself in acts and language so rancorous against everything belonging to the North, that one would have supposed he had received the greatest injuries from the United States Government. We can understand that a man may be led by his sympathies and the persuasion of his friends to embark in a bad cause, but there should be enough of humanity in him to cause him to feel regret at deserting tile flag he had professed to love for so many years.

Semmes was not received at Cadiz with that consideration he thought lie had a right to expect, and after some correspondence with the authorities was ordered by a dispatch from Madrid to proceed to sea within twenty-four hours; but after consideration the Sumter was allowed to go into dock for repairs and Semmes was permitted to land his prisoners, who were making serious inroads on his provisions. He met with no encouragement at Cadiz. In the eyes of the Spaniards the secession movement was a mere political outbreak, in which Spain was not concerned.

Part of the Sumter's crew deserted while the vessel was in dock. Semmes' money had given out; he could not purchase coal. and every day he was urged by the authorities to depart. Having a small supply of coal remaining, Semmes determined to shake the dust of Cadiz from his feet, and that night he laid — to off the Straits of Gibralter. At daybreak several sail were sighted coming down the Mediterranean bound through the Straits. Semmes could not think of going into Gibraltar without first examining these vessels, as his predecessors. the Barbary corsairs, were wont to do on this very spot in days gone by. It was two hours before the Sumter came up with the first of these vessels. She was standing towards the African coast, though still distant from the land six or seven miles; yet who would have asked whether she was within the marine league or not? What did Semmes care for the guns at Ceuta? When near enough, the Confederate flag was displayed and the usual gun fired, when the American hove-to, much astonished at this summons; but he soon found himself in the hands of an enemy from whom there was no escape. The master of the vessel stated before the Admiralty Court sitting on board the Sumter that his ship belonged to the English house of Baring Brothers and was consigned to an agent in Boston; but, notwithstanding his expostulations, he was informed that his ship would be destroyed. The other vessel was approaching and Semmes had no time to parley. So the torch was applied to the beautiful bark Neapolitan, of Kingston, Massachusetts, and she with her valuable cargo was totally consumed. Commander Semmes' justification, to use his own expressions, was that “Gallant naval officers wearing Mr. Welles' shoulder-straps, and commanding Mr. Welles' slips, were capturing little coasting schooners laden with fire-wood, plundering the houses and hen-roosts of noncombatants along the Southern coast, destroying salt-works and intercepting medicines going to Confederate hospitals.” Is it strange that men who would tell such falsehoods as the above would burn the ships of non-combatants?

The Neapolitan was no sooner on fire than the Sumter started in pursuit of the other vessel, which proved to be the bark Investigator, of Searsport, Maine. The cargo being clearly the property of neutrals, the vessel, after giving a ransom-bond, was allowed to proceed on her course.

Commander Semmes had now to be somewhat careful of seizing neutral property, as [619] he was in civilized Europe and not among a set of “half-breeds” before whose council windows he could “flash his shells,” or hector a pack of feeble officials.

That night the Sumter lay in the “man-of-war anchorage” in Gibraltar Bay. It was not necessary to tell the inhabitants of Gibraltar what the Sumter was, for she had been expected. It was quite in keeping that Semmes should announce his arrival by burning a ship; but it would have been still more suited to his character if he had waited until night to illuminate the shores of Spain and Africa, and run into the anchorage, showing the Confederate flag by the lurid light of the flames.

Some of the officers of the garrison of Gibraltar, being ardent admirers of the Confederate cause, expressed themselves unreservedly. In other words, they disliked the United States, and would have been delighted to see the whole fabric of the Union broken to pieces.

The only restrictions placed upon the Sumter were that she should not make Gibraltar a station from which to sally out for war purposes, and should not receive on board any contraband of war. That is, she could purchase all the coal needed to enable her to commit depredations upon United States commerce, but could not replace what few blank cartridges had been expended in bringing vessels to, and the shells with which she had made a target of her prizes.

What would Great Britain have thought had Ireland thrown off her allegiance, and sent out vessels to destroy British commerce, if these vessels had been received in New York, and the authorities had allowed them to refit and repair and sent them on their way. When Washington was President, and Genet Minister from France to the United States, certain French privateers put into Philadelphia, and an attempt was made to refit them so that they might commit depredations on British commerce. The President issued an order prohibiting this, and on Minister Genet protesting against it, the President declined to receive him as tile representative of France. Yet the French had materially assisted us to gain our independence from Great Britain. The diplomatic correspondence of the civil war will show how different the conduct of the British Government. It might be advisable for Great Britain to proclaim her neutrality, but there was certainly no reason why she should give aid to those in rebellion against the United States. The limits of this work will not permit a lengthy discussion of this matter, however, and we can only chronicle the movements of the Confederate cruisers and the measures taken to check their career.

While the Sumter remained in Gibraltar she was crowded with visitors. People came from a distance to see the wonderful vessel that had strewn the ocean with blackened hulls The Duke of Beaufort and Sir John Inglis went on board and examined the ship — men whose ancestors had stigmatized Paul Jones as a pirate when, in the Bon Homme Richard, he left the whole English coast in terror, and sunk the Serapis, in a contest that will be forever memorable.

But in spite of the sympathy showered upon the Sumter and her interesting commander, the tide gradually turned, and Semmes wore out his welcome. Two Federal gun-boats were watching--one from Algesiras,the other at Gibraltar — neither of them violating any neutrality, or fraternizing with tile inhabitants of the shore, yet every movement was reported to the Governor of Gibraltar as a violation of neutrality. The escape of the Sumter had put Secretary Seward on his mettle, and he made the strongest protests against her being received or recognized as a belligerent, and even went so far as to denounce her as a pirate. The British Government began to consider the matter more carefully, and the idea doubtless suggested itself that England was establishing a precedent which might give her much trouble in case of future wars. Whatever the cause, the career of the Sumter terminated at Gibraltar. Semmes could raise no money, and the presence of the United States vessels had a strong moral influence against him. Semmes took up his old employment of writing letters, which were referred by the Governor to the authorities at home. When it was found that Semmes had no money to purchase coal, the sympathizers with secession became lukewarm, and as every one in Gibraltar was more or less under the influence of official authority, even the Army and Navy officers became cooler towards the officers of the Sumter. The calm bearing of the officers of the two United States vessels had its effect, they seemed to be of the right metal — the representatives of an old-established Government. The Sumter might be a lion for a time while the story of her exploits was still fresh in people's minds, but when two bona-fide ships-of-war appeared in pursuit of her, the glamour seemed to evaporate, and the bold cruiser was merely the fugitive from justice. The Sumter was like some young fellow entertained as a visitor, with two policemen watching the house ready to seize him when he came out.

To make matters still more unpleasant for Commander Semmes, Paymaster Myers of the Sumter was arrested at Tangier [620] on the opposite side of the Straits. Mr. Myers was on his way to Cadiz to negotiate for coal or money, and landed from the passenger steamer to walk about the town. The United States treaty with Morocco called for the surrender of all persons accused of offences against the United States; and the consul, having civil and criminal jurisdiction, had Mr. Myers and an ex-consul who was traveling with him arrested and placed in close confinement. They were then transferred to the U. S. naval vessel at Algesiras — much against the wishes of the commanding officer--by the consul, who demanded that these persons should be taken to the United States, charged with piracy on the high seas and aiding and abetting the same. The fact that officers of the Sumter could be arrested by the emissaries of a foreign Government put a still more dubious aspect on the Sumter's case. There was a flaw in the Sumter somewhere, and this episode was the feather that broke the camel's back.

We do not dwell with any satisfaction on the action of the consul at Tangier, who was doubtless prompted in his course by the instructions from the Department of State denouncing the Confederate cruisers as pirates. The paymaster of the Sumter was of little consequence one way or another, and whether he was a prisoner, or at large, made not much difference. Semmes tried in vain to procure the release of his officer, for the United States Government had considerable prestige, and was every day growing more powerful. Mr. Secretary Seward was assuming a determined tone to which foreign powers were forced to listen. After much correspondence the unlucky paymaster was released from confinement and placed on parole as a prisoner-of-war.

As it was impossible to get to sea, the Sumter was finally laid up at Gibraltar in charge of a midshipman, while Semmes and some of his officers, on the 15th of April, 1862, embarked on board the mail steamer for Southampton, in search of a better vessel with which to renew their depredations on United States commerce. The Sumter became a blockade-runner, and, after the war, terminated her career on some dangerous shoals in the China Sea and all her crew were lost.

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