The dashing Sumter —— how she Duped the Iroquois.
A letter from GibralvarodateJan. 20, gives a most interesting account of the dashing cruiser's doings in the Mediterranean:
You will have already heard by telegraph of the arrival of the Sumter
in this bay. On Friday night a message was received here saying that she had left Cadiz
, but that her course was not known.
As the wind was favorable for the passage of vessels through the Straits
to the westward, it was thought not unlikely that she would steam for Gibraltar
with the object of intercepting the many Federal merchantmen homeward bound.
On Saturday morning signal was made from the lookout on the summit of the rock that the Sumter
was six miles to the eastward, capturing two large Federal ships.
The news, as may be imagined, caused he greatest excitement, and every body rushed out to catch a glimpse of the privateer and her prey.
The seizure was accomplished simply enough; no defence could be made.
A boat's crew was sent on board, the Federal
flag hauled down, and the thing was done.
The cruiser was evidently used to her work.
No time was lost in searching the prize, the few valuable effects were removed, the match was lighted, and in another moment the blazing ship was fast drifting away with the current.
When evening closed the flames were still visible, darting upward in final flashes on the eastern horizon.
The first ship taken was laden with sulphur, consigned, as the master endeavored to make out, to Baring Brothers, but as Capt. Semmes
afterward remarked, sulphur being the principal ingredient of gunpowder, and its exportation from England
being just this time prohibited, it was considered as well to destroy it, especially as the master had no papers to show.
The other vessel taken, a large bark, proved to be laden with an English cargo, so she was released, and came in here yesterday.
In the evening of Saturday the Sumter
anchored in this bay. On Sunday I went on board, most anxious to see the celebrated craft that has led the Federal
navy a dance over so many miles of ocean.
When going alongside, I could scarcely believe that so poor a vessel could have escaped so many dangers.
She is a screw steamer, with three masts, a funnel strangely out of proportion to her size, and a tall, black hull, so high out of water that she gives you the idea of being insufficiently ballasted.
Four 32-pounders peeped from her sides, a large 8-inch pivot gun was on her main deck forward.
Before she was fitted for her present work she was a passenger ship, running between New Orleans and Havana
Her unsightly appearance arises from the alterations that have been in her decks.
In order to afford more accommodation, and give more cover to the engines and guns, a light, temporary flush deck has been built over what was originally the only deck of the ship.
This raises her an additional ten feet out of water, and at the same time dwarfs her masts and funnel.
She is crank and leaky.
Her engines are partially above the lower deck, and, with the object of preserving them from the effects of gunshot, they are surrounded by a cylindrical casing of six-inch wood, covered with half-inch iron bars — a very poor protection against an eight-inch shot.
Her officers and crew number ninety in all. The latter are a hardy, devil-me-care set of fellows, ready for any work — men who would stick at nothing — They are of all nations — even the Irish brogue was among them.
The commander, Captain Semmes
, is a reserved, determined looking man, whose left hand knows not what his right deeth.
He received me most courteously, and took me over his ship.
I expressed my astonishment at his escape from Martinique
, who, with great clearness, and with the assistance of a disgrace, he showed me how he had run the blockade, deluded the request, Capt
be surprised to learn that he was beaten at his own weapons.
The Confederates discovered the nature of the signals that were to be made from the shore when the ship got under weigh, and the trap was laid accordingly.
As the evening gun fired, the cable that held the Sumter
to the wharf was loosed, and she darted out under the shadow of the land, to the southward.
At the first turn of her screw the signal blue lights blazed from the shore, and at Iroquois
, at full steam, made for the southerly harbor to intercept her. Keeping near the land for a few miles, Capt. Semmes
suddenly put his ship about and ran in a northerly direction, while the Iroquois
continued her course and in three hours, the two vessels were many miles apart.
The French ship which, it will be remembered.
mentions as being left the harbor at the same time, which will be happy to learn, no other than the doubling back to the northward.