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Chapter 56: commerce-destroyers.-their inception, remarkable career, and ending.

  • The Florida (Oreto), Clarence, Tacony, Alexandria, Georgia (Japan), Rappahannock, Nashville, Shenandoah (sea King), Tuscaloosa, Chickamauga (Edith), Tallahassee (Atlanta), Olustee, Chameleon, etc.
  • -- cutting out of the U. S. Revenue steamer Caleb Cushing from the harbor of Portland, me. -- capture of the Florida on the coast of Brazil. -- an apology to the Brazilian government. -- Captain Collins' punishment. -- the Florida sunk in Hampton Roads. -- destruction of the whaling fishery in the Arctic ocean. -- neutrality laws violated by foreign governments. -- scenes on board the Confederate cruisers. -- actual losses inflicted by the Alabama and Shenandoah. -- criticisms, remarks, etc., etc.

We have told the story of the Sumter and Alabama, and partly that of the Florida, which latter, after her escape from the Federal squadron off Pensacola, particularly the R. R. Cuyler, in January, 1863, commenced the business of destruction for which she was fitted out.

In her first attempts at destruction the Florida was not particularly fortunate, for in the course of ten days Captain Maffitt only succeeded in destroying three small vessels. He then put into Nassau, where, it will be remembered, the Florida, formerly the Oreto, had been seized by the authorities and her case brought before the courts for violation of the Enlistment Act. The merchant to whom the vessel was consigned swore that the Oreto was a bona fide merchant vessel, while at that very moment her guns and munitions of war were on board another vessel in the harbor. When the ship returned to Nassau in July, under the name of the Florida, her appearance at first caused considerable confusion among the witnesses and officials, for it was evident that a flagrant breach of the British Foreign Enlistment Act had been committed.

However, this circumstance did not seriously influence the British authorities at Nassau. Maffitt had entered a bona fide Confederate port, and now that he was again in Nassau, with a regular commission, a good crew, and the Confederate flag at his peak, he received an ovation. The officials allowed the Florida thirty-six hours to remain in port and take coal and whatever else she might require, although the orders of the Home Government limited the supply of coal to what was supposed to be necessary to enable a Confederate cruiser to reach one of the ports of the Confederacy.

From Nassau the Florida proceeded to Barbadoes, where she received on board one hundred tons of coal, in further violation of the orders of the Home Government, which provided that a second supply of coal should not be allowed within three months. Doubtless, the instructions were similar to those issued by Earl John Russell to the British Minister at Washington in the case of the Trent,--one set to be shown to the American Secretary of State, and a second [814] stating the real intentions of the Government. There seemed to be the same desire at Barbadoes as elsewhere to see American commerce destroyed, and, with such a feeling in existence, the chances for the escape of Federal merchant vessels were much diminished.

The Florida did not commit such havoc as the Alabama, for in the space of five months she captured but fifteen vessels, which were all destroyed in the usual style of the Confederate cruisers. Her cruising-ground extended from the latitude of New York to the southward of Bahia, in Brazil.

In the vicinity of Fernando Noronha, Maffitt picked up a vessel called the Lapwing, loaded with coal, and, by converting her into a tender, was enabled to supply himself with fuel as long as he wished to remain on the station.

On the 6th of May the brig Clarence was captured off the coast of Brazil, armed by Maffitt with some light guns, and placed in command of Lieutenant Charles W. Read, formerly a midshipman in the U. S. Navy--and another Confederate State's vessel-of-war was created in the shortest possible time, with orders to burn, sink and destroy; although it was doubtful if Maffitt's authority to commission vessels would have been recognized in case he should have fallen in with a superior force.

Lieutenant Read was bold and full of resources, seeming to disdain all danger. He shaped his course for the coast of the United States, and by the 10th of June had captured five vessels, four of which were destroyed. The fifth was the schooner Tacony, and this vessel, being better suited to his purpose than the Clarence. Read burned the latter, after transferring her crew, guns and stores to the Tacony.

During the next fortnight the Tacony made ten prizes. Here was a Confederate cruiser right upon the coast, burning and sinking coasting vessels with impunity, for not a single United States vessel was to be seen. This was a new style of warfare inaugurated by the Confederacy, without the least expense to them and without any of the difficulties of violating the British Foreign Enlistment Act, or hoodwinking colonial authorities to procure necessary supplies. As to the pay of officers and men, as that was probably made in Confederate money, the expense was nothing.

Read soon tired of the Tacony. His ideas enlarged as his vessel grew plethoric with spoils, and his prolific brain was at work devising new schemes for Federal discomfiture. The last of his prizes, a vessel called the Archer, captured off the capes of Virginia, seemed preferable to the Tacony, and he accordingly made her into a cruiser and burned the latter. Had Lieutenant Read kept off shore he would doubtless have made the Archer's name as famous as that of her predecessor; but, not satisfied with destroying peaceable merchantmen, he longed for higher distinction, for Read had in him the stuff to make a gallant naval commander.

The career of the Archer was short. The news of a privateer on the coast of New England was spread far and wide. Several gun-boats were cruising up and down the coast in search ot Maffitt, who was reported off Nova Scotia; but their commanders do not seem to have been aware of Read and his peculiar performances.

In the latter part of June, two days after the Archer had been commissioned as a cruiser, Read determined to cut out the revenue-cutter Caleb Cushing, from the harbor of Portland, Maine. In this design he was successful; the vessel was surprised by the boats of the Archer and carried by boarding. The people on shore hastily manned and armed several steamers, and followed the Caleb Cushing to sea. As Read saw that he must be overtaken, and that he could make no successful resistance. he set fire to the Cushing and attempted to escape in his boats, but was captured and imprisoned in Fort Warren.

This was a remarkable raid and showed great gallantry on the part of Lieutenant Read, although the presence of a single Federal gun-boat, under an intelligent captain, would have nipped the whole scheme in the bud. As it was, Read's capture was due to the courage of private citizens, who did not know what force the Confederates had outside to back them. After the affair was settled, gun-boats flocked in from the North Atlantic Squadron in pursuit of the raiders, but too late to be of use.

After the Florida's cruise on the coast of Brazil. she refitted and coaled at Bermuda, and thence sailed for Brest, where she was docked and thoroughly repaired. Maffitt was relieved by Captain Joseph N. Barney, who was in turn succeeded by Captain Charles M. Morris. The Florida remained nearly six months at Brest, sailed from that port in February, 1864, and, after cruising for three months against American commerce, put in again at Bermuda, where Captain Morris was allowed to take in coal and provisions. The Captain announced his intention of proceeding to Mobile. but, instead of doing so, made a cruise of three months on the coast of the United States against Federal merchant vessels, proceeding thence to Teneriffe, and on the 5th of October, 1864, he arrived at Bahia.

For a wonder, the U. S. S. Wachusett happened to be in Bahia when the Florida entered the port and anchored a mile distant. while a Brazilian corvette, in anticipation [815] of a difficulty between the vessels, took position near the Florida. The latter vessel had received permission from the authorities to remain in port forty-eight hours to repair and coal ship, which was twenty-four hours longer than the usual time allowed these vessels; although Captain Semmes had been allowed to do pretty much as he pleased by the Governor of Bahia, and also by the Governor of Fernando de Noronha.

American officers in pursuit of Confederate cruisers were kept in constant excitement by hearing of excesses committed by these “sea-rovers,” as the latter were sometimes called, and were greatly disappointed at not falling in with them, although there was not one chance in a hundred of their doing so. The Northern press had also indulged in strictures on the Federal Navy for not overtaking the Confederate cruisers, while the Southern newspapers sneered at the Yankee officers, whom they asserted were afraid to meet the Confederate vessels for fear of being captured. All this had its effect, and Commander Napoleon Collins, of the Wachusett, determined that the Florida should not do any more damage if he could prevent it. Collins thought of the violation of neutrality, and dared all the consequences, including the probable loss of his commission.

About 2 A. M. the Wachusett got underway, crossed the bow of the Brazilian corvette, and steered directly for the Florida, with the intention of running her down and sinking her; but, instead of striking the Confederate ship in the gangway as was intended, the Wachusett crashed into the Florida on her starboard quarter, cutting down her bulwarks and carrying away her mainyard and mizzenmast. The crew of the Florida seized what arms they could lay hold of in the confusion, and fired into the Wachusett, wounding three of her crew; but, the latter vessel pouring in a volley of small arms and discharging two broadside guns at the Confederate ship, the latter surrendered. Sixty-nine officers and men were captured, but Captain Morris and many of his officers and crew were on shore. The Florida was then towed out to sea, the Brazilian man-of-war offering no opposition, except that an officer was sent to inform Collins that, if he persisted in his attack on the Florida, the fort and vessels would open fire on him, and one gun was subsequently fired by the corvette. It was afterwards claimed by the Brazilians that Commander Collins had promised to desist from his purpose of capturing the Florida; but this seems to be merely an excuse to account for their supineness in taking no steps to prevent the Wachusett from towing the Florida out of the harbor. The fact is, the Brazilians had no intention of proceeding to extremities, fully realizing that the corvette was no match for the Wachusett.

That the capture of the Florida was a deliberate violation of the rights of neutrals no one can deny, and it placed the United States Government in a very awkward position. It would have been much better for Commander Collins to have waited outside for the coming of the Florida, even at the risk of her escaping, than to have so grossly affronted a nation whose Emperor sympathized with the Union cause. Commander Collins' action was entirely independent of instructions, and he was willing to run the risk of losing his commission in order to put a stop to the Florida's career.

The Federal Government at once disavowed Collins' action, and made ample apology, which the Government of Brazil accepted, only stipulating that the Florida and those captured in her should be sent back to Bahia Mr. Secretary Seward did all in his power to make amends for the mistake which had been committed, denouncing it as “an unauthorized, unlawful and indefensible exercise of the naval force of the United States within a foreign country, in defiance of its established and duly recognized Government.” The fact of Mr. Seward's disapproval was quite enough to make Mr. Secretary Welles give his sympathy to Commander Collins. and, although the Secretary did not express himself openly, there is little doubt that he would have been glad if all the Confederate cruisers could have been disposed of in the same manner.

Collins' action, indeed, met with the popular approval, and it would have been a difficult matter to have convicted him had he been brought to trial before a court-martial. The little regard that had been shown by neutral nations, during the civil war, to their obligations, and their favoring the Confederate cruisers, had awakened great indignation in the Northern States, so that the community was little disposed to censure Collins' action in the case of the Florida.

Commander Collins made little effort to defend his course. In his report to the Secretary of the Navy, he says: “I thought it probable that the Brazilian authorities would forbear to interfere, as they had done at Fernando de Noronha, where the Confederate steamer Alabama was permitted to take into the anchorage three American ships, and to take coal from the Cora Hatch within musket-shot of the fort, and afterwards, within easy range of their guns, to set on fire those unarmed vessels. I regret, however, to state, that they fired three shotted guns at us while we were towing the Florida out.” Whatever action [816] the Brazilians may have taken, it seems to have been extremely mild under the circumstances, for they had certainly a right to compel the Wachusett to relinquish her prize if they had had sufficient force to back their demand. The only punishment inflicted on Commander Collins was an order to take the Florida back to Brazil with all his prisoners, and deliver the vessel to the Brazilian Government intact. For this purpose the Florida was sent to Admiral Porter, at Hampton Roads, that she might be properly prepared for sea.

The expedition against Fort Fisher was then fitting out, and the Roads were crowded with vessels of every description. While the Florida was lying in the stream an army transport came in collision with her, but did her no damage. It was reported that the collision was intentional, and to avoid further accident Admiral Porter directed the Florida to be stripped of everything valuable, her guns taken out and the vessel moored securely head and stern at Newport News, just at the spot where the Cumberland was sunk in very deep water. An engineer was placed on board in charge, with two men to assist him in looking after the water-cocks; but, strangely enough, although the Florida was to all appearances water-tight when she reached Newport News, she sank that night at two o'clock in ten fathoms, and there she lay for some years after the war. This was about the best thing that could have happened to the Florida, for the Northern people would not have been satisfied to see her sent back to Brazil to continue her depredations on their commerce, and it would have been a most humiliating duty for Commander Collins to perform. When the sinking of the vessel was reported to Admiral Porter, he merely said, “Better so” ; while the Secretary of State and Secretary of the Navy never asked any questions about the matter, being too well satisfied to get the elephant off their hands.

In 1863, after the appearance of the Alabama and the Florida, many attempts were made by the Confederate agents abroad to get cruisers to sea, but these attempts were not always successful, as the British Government was beginning to realize the impolicy of neglecting so completely their neutral obligations, and Mr. Adams, the American minister, lost no opportunity of calling attention to the numerous violations of the Foreign Enlistment Act which were taking place. In consequence of the determined stand taken by Mr. Adams, several iron-clads building by Laird & Co. were seized. The Alexandria was released in England, but was subsequently libelled at Nassau, where the courts, having learned something from the case of the Florida, detained her until the end of the war.

Notwithstanding all the watchfulness of the American minister, the Georgia and Rappahannock got to sea in 1863. The career of the latter was brief. She had been a dispatch vessel in the Royal Navy, and was sold by the British Government to persons acting for the Confederacy. She was refitted at Sheerness under the direction of employees of the Royal Dock Yard; but the Government proposing to inspect her, in order to avoid detention she hastily put to sea with but a small portion of her crew on board, and these had been enlisted by the connivance of the Government official who aided in getting the vessel off. The Rappahannock was commissioned as a Confederate vessel-of-war in the British Channel, and was seized by a French gun-boat off Calais.

The Georgia, a screw-steamer of seven hundred tons, was launched on the Clyde, and put to sea in April, 1863. A British merchant was her ostensible owner, and her guns and munitions of war were put on board the vessel off Morlaix. The case of this vessel was no greater violation of the neutrality laws than that of others; but the British Government, wishing perhaps to show that it would be neutral in 1863 if it had not been in 1861, instituted proceedings against the persons concerned in sending the Georgia to sea, and upon conviction they were each sentenced to pay the enormous fine of fifty pounds, a penalty not likely to deter British subjects from violating the Foreign Enlistment Act.

The career of the Georgia was not very exciting, although extending over a period of a year. The Sumter, Alabama and Florida had been beforehand with her, and there was little left for the gleaner. Fifteen millions of dollars worth of United States commerce had been swept from the ocean, and the American vessels had either sought protection under other flags, or were laid up in port until the war should be over. The Georgia, not being very successful in taking prizes, was finally taken to Liverpool, her crew discharged, and the vessel sold by Captain J. D. Bullock, agent of the Confederate Navy Department, to an English shipowner. This was a questionable transaction, and the transfer was, no doubt, made to prevent the seizure of the Georgia by the British authorities; for the latter, owing to the firm stand taken by Mr. Adams, had begun seriously to reflect on the probable consequences of further trespassing on the patience of the United States Government, as it was evident the collapse of the Confederacy was now not far off. [817]

In writing of the probability that Laird's rams would be permitted to get to sea, Mr. Adams remarks:

In the notes which I had the honor to address to your Lordship on the 11th of July and the 14th of August, I believe I stated the importance attached by my Government to the decision involved in this case, with sufficient distinctness. Since that date I have had the opportunity to receive from the United States a full approbation of their contents. At the same time I feel it my painful duty to make known to your Lordship, that in some respects it has fallen short in expressing the earnestness with which I have been in the interval directed to describe the grave nature of the situation in which both countries must be placed, in the event of an act of aggression committed against the Government and people of the United States by either of these formidable vessels.

This diplomatic remonstrance was easily understood by those who had tampered with the United States to the verge of war, and now that almost all of the American commerce left afloat had been transferred to the British flag, much to the advantage of Great Britain, they were unwilling to have that commerce depleted by hostilities with the United States, for the Federal Navy was now adding to its forces a class of steamers well adapted, in speed and armament, to repeat against Great Britain the tactics of the Confederate cruisers against the United States. It would have perhaps been better policy for the United States to have declared war with Great Britain than to have submitted longer to open violations of neutrality, for the former had little commerce to lose and could have swept the trade of the latter from the ocean.

When Mr. Adams heard that the Georgia was sold to a British merchant, he informed Commodore Thomas T. Craven, then in command of the U. S. S. Niagara, lying in the port of Antwerp, that he must endeavor to intercept and capture the converted Confederate. The Georgia was captured by Commodore Craven off Lisbon, was sent to Boston and condemned by the Admiralty Court, her alleged owner never receiving a penny of the £ 15,000 he had paid into the Confederate treasury as the price of the vessel.

The fate of the Nashville has already been mentioned. In January and February, 1863, several attempts were made to destroy her as she lay above Fort McAllister, on the Great Ogeechee River. On the 27th of February, 1863, she was set on fire and blown up by shells from the Monitor Montauk, Commander John L. Worden.

The Shenandoah, originally called the Sea King, was the last and the most dangerous of all the Confederate cruisers. She was a full-rigged ship of about eight hundred tons, with so-called auxiliary steam power, and very fast under either sail or steam, capable of making three hundred and twenty miles in twenty-four hours under favorable circumstances, which exceeded the speed of any vessel in the U. S. Navy.

On the 8th of October, 1864, the Sea King cleared from London for Bombay. As she was not equipped for war purposes, there was no question in regard to her; but the same day she sailed, the steamer Laurel cleared from Liverpool for Nassau, with several Confederate naval officers and a cargo of cases marked “Machinery,” but containing guns and their equipments. Near Madeira, the Sea King received her armament and stores from the Laurel, and was transferred by her master, who had a power of sale from her owner, to Commander James J. Waddell, of the Confederate Navy, who put her in commission as the Shenandoah.

The plans for the Shenandoah's operations had been carefully matured at Richmond by Commander Brooke, of the Confederate Navy, and were based upon the movements of the Pacific whaling fleet. The latter habitually cruised in the neighborhood of the Carolina Islands for sperm whale, going north to the Sea of Ochotsk for right whale, thence to Behring's Straits and the Arctic Ocean. Returning from the north, the whalers generally reached the Sandwich Islands in October or November for refreshment. The plan was for the Shenandoah to be at these various points simultaneously with the whaling fleet, and thus to sweep it from the sea. There was no longer much opportunity of injuring United States commerce in the ordinary channels of trade, for the Alabama and Florida had done their work pretty thoroughly, and a number of new and fast cruisers had been sent by the Federal Government to guard what remained. The new cruising-ground mapped out for the Shenandoah was, therefore, the most inviting field of operations now remaining for a Confederate cruiser.

The Shenandoah cruised three months in the Atlantic, taking several prizes, and then proceeded to Tristan d'acunha, where the crews of the captured vessels were landed. She next proceeded to Melbourne, where she was well received and allowed to repair and refit, take in all the coal required — in short, do anything that would assist her in her attempt to destroy the American whaling fleet. In violation of the Foreign Enlistment Act, Commander Waddell was here permitted to ship forty-three men as an addition to his crew; but the Australians had little respect for their obligations as neutrals. Their ruling sentiment was hatred to the United States Government and people. This was shown in the early mining days of 1852, when the British Government [818] gave American merchant vessels the privilege of trading on the Australian coast on the same terms as were accorded to those of Great Britain; but the colonists placed so many restrictions on United States vessels, steam-ships especially, that the latter were driven away.

On the 18th February, 1865, the Shenandoah proceeded under sail to the vicinity of Behring's Straits, where a large number of whaling vessels were captured and destroyed. Until the 28th of June, the ocean was ablaze with burning ships, whose crews were subjected to very inhuman treatment. Waddell continued his operations for over two months after hostilities between the North and South had terminated, professing that he had no intimation of the surrender of the Confederate armies until the date above mentioned; but he must have known when he left Melbourne that the Confederate struggle for independence was practically at an end. When Waddell was assured that the Confederate Government had ceased to exist, instead of surrendering his vessel to the nearest United States authority as he should have done, he proceeded to Liverpool and delivered the Shenandoah to the British authorities.

This was the last scene in the terrible drama inaugurated by Semmes and finished by Waddell. The story of the Confederate cruisers carries with it a moral which should not be forgotten. The civil war is now remembered as a dreadful episode in our history, bringing death and misery to the North and South; but the ravages of the Confederate commerce-destroyers were inflicted upon men pursuing a peaceful avocation, and were thus of peculiar hardship.

The Confederates had in their proceedings some show of justification; but, as a mode of carrying on warfare, it was lacking in the chivalry upon which Southern officers peculiarly prided themselves. With one exception, we do not believe that a Southern officer, engaged in the business of destroying United States merchant vessels, ever boasted after the war of what he had done, or cared to dwell on events that were calculated to leave an unpleasant impression on the mind.

The destruction of United States commerce did not fulfill the object desired — to benefit the Confederate cause — on the contrary, it created great indignation, even among the peace party of the North, and caused Congress to make increased appropriations for the Navy. Indeed, but for that circumstance, it is not likely that the money allowed the Navy would have been more than enough to maintain the blockade of the Southern coast with such commercial vessels as the Navy Department could purchase. The lessons of the civil war will not be lost, if ever the United States is engaged in hostilities with either of the nations that assisted the Confederates in their raid on American commerce. It is true that Great Britain made the amende honorable, after years of discussion, in regard to her part of the business; but, by permitting Confederate cruisers to roam at will over the ocean, the British Government taught her future foes how much mischief could be done by three or four ordinary cruisers against her own commerce, which is spread all over the world, and on which her prestige as a nation so largely depends. Other nations will, doubtless, resort to the Alabama mode of warfare, so inexpensive, and so easily carried on, and calculated to do so much injury to the chief commercial nation of the world.

As the original Monitor changed the system of building vessels of war, so the plan inaugurated by Semmes has made an entire change in the class of vessels to be used as cruisers and commerce-destroyers. Such strenuous efforts are put forth by the naval powers in this direction, that there is little difference between them in respect to the perfection of their fast steamers. After years of idle speculation, the United States have at length entered into competition for the best vessels for general war purposes, and we are not likely to forget the lesson taught us by Captain Semmes, with his carefully-considered plan of operations.

Commerce-destroying has always been practiced during war, and, in spite of the protests of civilization and humanity, it seems likely it will be practiced in the future, since it is too strong a temptation to the weaker powers to permit it to be abolished. It furnishes also a strong inducement for adventurers to enlist in vessels-of-war, with the hope of excitement and prize-money; the latter, a stimulus which will always keep a navy manned in time of war. If it should ever happen that the commerce of the ocean should be allowed to pass unmolested by belligerents, and that ships-of-war simply be kept to enter into conflict with each other or with fortifications, war would become a comparatively uninteresting business, and might be lengthened out interminably, so that, in the long run, there would be nothing gained by the departure from the old system.

The question has never been settled in the popular mind as to whether the Confederate cruisers were properly constituted vessels-of-war. The fact that most of them were fitted out in defiance of the law of the country in which they were built, and that the aiders and abettors of the scheme were liable to a heavy penalty, would seem to be a bar against their regularity. The fact [819] that Great Britain subsequently paid for allowing her laws to be violated to the extent of jeopardizing the peace with a friendly nation, must be taken as additional evidence against the Confederate cruisers.

Great Britain, with propriety, might have sent out her ships-of-war and captured the Confederates on the high seas, or held them on entering her ports to refit. The inviolability which is supposed to surround a national vessel should not shield her for violation of the laws of a neutral nation, especially when she belongs to a government not recognized by any other. Otherwise there would soon be an end to law and order upon the ocean, and every little island that could man a steamer might claim belligerent rights, and prey upon the enemy's commerce after the manner of the Confederate cruisers.

That the success of those vessels was due to the inaction of the British Government cannot be doubted, for, if Great Britain had been mindful of her neutral obligations, she would have remonstrated so emphatically with the Confederate Government against the actions of their ships-of-war as would soon have put an end to the career of the latter.

Although the Confederate Government claimed that their cruisers were ships-of-war, that assertion did not make them so; and the question arises, were they entitled to the privileges accorded such ships by the usages of nations? Their position was certainly anomalous, being recognized as belligerents, although the State to which they belonged had not been recognized by any Government. The only recognition accorded the Confederates by Great Britain was the Queen's proclamation of neutrality, forbidding either belligerent from taking prizes into British ports. It is difficult to understand how a nation can concede belligerent rights to another and recognize the seizure of neutral property — as did England and other powers-and yet maintain no official relations with her. The clearest and most convincing statement of this question is embraced in a work on “The blockade and the cruisers,” by Professor James R. Soley, U. S. N. A vast amount of indulgence was shown the Confederate cruisers in every stage of their proceedings, and it is not unlikely, if a similar state of affairs should ever again occur, that neutrals will find it necessary to draw the lines closer than heretofore, in order not to be liable to penalties which are apt to follow so liberal a course as was pursued towards the Confederates, during the American civil war, by certain European governments.

So many arguments have been advanced for and against the system adopted by the Confederate Government in fitting out cruisers, that it may not be amiss to inquire how far the said cruisers were justified in committing the havoc they inflicted on the merchant vessels of the United States. It is well for us to ascertain whether the acts of the Confederates came within the strict limitations of the law of nations, for, in case of war between any mother country and her colonies, the acts of these cruisers, if recognized as legal, would establish injurious precedents.

Every government owes it to its citizens to extend every possible safeguard around the commerce of the ocean, for it is the faith which merchants place in their governments to protect them at all hazards, which induces them to embark their property on the high seas; therefore, the different powers should combine to establish rules of action binding upon them all.

There were a dozen ways in which Great Britain might have prevented her neutrality laws from being violated. Had the authorities adhered to the terms of the Queen's proclamation, the Confederate cruisers could never have extended their operations beyond the coast of the United States, where their career would have speedily terminated after they had perhaps destroyed a few unimportant vessels. Having issued this proclamation, it was the duty of the British Government, not only to abstain from aiding in the destruction of United States commerce, but to order all Confederate cruisers to depart at once from colonial or home ports; and, in case of neglect to obey the order, the Confederates should have been summarily dealt with.

No government can afford to remain passive while its laws are being violated, for this would indicate either weakness or duplicity. If the Confederate vessels fitted out in England were sent from English ports in violation of English laws, they were not legally authorized to capture or destroy an enemy's commerce; and, if captured in their turn, the Confederate officers and men could very properly have been held for trial before the United States courts. That the Confederate cruisers were subject to capture by British vessels-of-war, for violation of British law, there can be little doubt. This would suggest that the proceedings of the Confederate cruisers were not strictly legal.

It was natural that the Confederate Government should take advantage of any flaw in British laws to enable them to get their vessels to sea; but it was due to British self-respect to be sure that those laws were not violated, and the British Government should therefore have emphatically remonstrated with the Confederate agents for their laxity in not closely respecting British [820] as well as international law. No better use could have been made of British cruisers-had one of these purchased vessels escaped from a British port — than to send them in pursuit of the offending vessels.

The Confederate cruisers were British vessels, subject to the laws of Great Britain, and were commissioned as ships-of-war on the high seas; and it was supposed that the high seas being common to all nations, their being so commissioned was justifiable. But this would not obliterate the former delinquency — the violation of British laws enacted to prevent the very course pursued by the Confederate agents. The first steps taken by these agents were so clearly illegal, that the consummation of their purpose could not be lawful, and the resultant consequences were so in violation of all law, that it is not strange the Federal Government could never be brought to look upon these vessels as legitimate cruisers.

To show the very dubious character of some of the Confederate cruisers, we will mention that it was not uncommon for them to run the blockade under the British flag, with British papers, taking in cargoes of goods and carrying out cotton, and then to figure for a time as vessels-of-war, varying their character to suit circumstances. Of course, such proceedings cannot be justified by any of the usages of war. We will quote a few cases mentioned by Professor Soley, who has taken great pains to ascertain the facts, and the reader will be struck with the absurdity of claiming for vessels so irregularly fitted out the character of properly constituted ships-of-war. We cannot call them pirates or privateers, but we do say that the Confederate cruisers were not regular ships-of-war, and were acting in violation of the laws of Great Britain as well as those of the United States.

The Japan, or Georgia, left the Clyde registered in the name of a British subject, and remained for nearly three months still registered in the name of her ostensible owner, although during this time she was engaged in hostilities against the Federal Government. A year later she returned to Liverpool, was dismantled and sold to a British subject, the bill of sale being signed by Captain James D. Bullock, of the Confederate Navy. The Rappahannock left Sheerness in haste as a merchant vessel, with workmen still on board, who were carried off against their will. She assumed the character of a Confederate cruiser while crossing the British Channel, and sought admission into the port of Calais as a ship-of-war in distress! The case of the Tuscaloosa, already mentioned, is too glaring to need discussion.

Towards the close of the civil war the Confederate Navy List must have presented a curious aspect, for one day a vessel would figure as a blockade-runner under the British flag, and the next she was a Confederate cruiser; but, strange to say, the British colonial courts could not find any law for interfering with such vessels. The blockade-runner Edith escaped from Wilmington, N. C., one night in October, 1864, under the name of the Confederate States steamer Chickamauga. She was armed with a 64-pounder and a 32-pounder, and steering north along the coast destroyed several unfortunate vessels; when, her whereabouts becoming known, she was compelled to run the gauntlet into Wilmington again, and resumed her former character. What particular object it was proposed to accomplish by such proceedings as those of the Chickamauga is hard to conceive, for at that stage of the civil war a cruise against the coasting trade of the North could only show the desperate straits to which the Confederates were reduced, and was merely an attempt to keep up the semblance of a war on the ocean.

The Atlanta made two trips to Wilmington as a blockade-runner. She was then converted into a cruiser and named the Tallahassee. Under this name she left the Cape Fear River early in August, 1864. and on the 19th of that month arrived at Halifax, after capturing and destroying several vessels. Owing to the vigilance of the authorities, who in this instance were upon the alert to prevent a violation of the neutrality laws, the Tallahassee was unable to obtain coal or othersupplies, and was obliged to return to Wilmington. In November this vessel made another attempt, under the name of the Olustee, and took a few prizes, but, returning to Wilmington, assumed her old character of merchant vessel and blockade-runner. She received the appropriate name of Chameleon, and in December, 1864, went to sea under the command of Captain John Wilkinson, of the Confederate Navy, with the object of returning from Bermuda laden with provisions for the Confederate army. Although the Governor of Bermuda was duly apprised of the character of the Chameleon, he expressed himself as satisfied that she had been sufficiently whitewashed to be admitted as a merchant vessel. The cargo was sold, a supply of stores laid in, and the vessel returned to the Confederacy, only to find that Wilmington was in Federal hands. Wilkinson then tried to get into Charleston; but, failing in his attempt, he proceeded to Nassau, landed his cargo, and the vessel was taken to Liverpool and delivered to Fraser, Trenholm & Co., the Confederate agents; but as the British authorities [821] had now become very particular in regard to the proceedings of these nondescript vessels, the Chameleon was seized and ultimately surrendered to the United States Government.

It is only within a late period that we have ascertained anything of the inner life on board the Confederate cruisers, for Captain Semmes' voluminous narrative of the Sumter and Alabama does not by any means supply this want. The gallant captain represents his vessels as men-of-war, with most able officers and subordinate crews, where affairs were conducted in a manner to meet the approbation of the most hypercritical person. A lately published narrative of life on board the Alabama, written by one of the crew, represents things very differently from the rose-colored view of the commanding officer. According to this account, the usages of civilized nations were not observed by the crew of the Confederate cruiser, who were a riotous and abandoned set of men, who paid little heed to the rules and regulations of the vessel or the orders of their officers. This is not to be wondered at, when we consider that the men were shipped in illegal fashion and were most of them the lowest class of adventurers. We give a few quotations from this interesting article:

I was pleased to find that I had not an old shipmate aboard. The best man in the port-watch to which I belonged, was a Scotchman named Gill. He was about forty, very powerful, and could hold an ordinary man at arm's length clear off the deck. He was saturated with Calvinism, and could quote Scripture and sermons by the hour, but was, all the same, a daring, dangerous ruffian. According to his own account, he had been in numerous mutinies, in one case taking a Spanish brig, killing the officers, beaching her on the Des eada Key, in the Leeward Islands, and getting to Porto Rico in the launch with the plunder. This man's influence was bad, and he was the cause of much of the insubordination that took place on board. * * * * * * * * *

We were now taking prizes rapidly, being not over four hundred miles from New York, in the “rolling forties,” directly in the track of American commerce. The treatment of the prisoners was fairly good, and they were not ill-used on board, but the conduct of the boarding-crews was shameful; the officer in charge of the boat had no control over them, and they rushed below like a gang of pirates, breaking open the sailors' chests, and taking from the persons of the prisoners everything that took their fancy. I never saw them injure prisoners, or use their weapons, except to frighten their victims, but the wanton destruction of the clothes and effects of captured sailors was simply disgraceful. This sort of thing seriously affected the morale of the men, and, had we then met an enemy of equal force, but of the usual standard of man-of-war discipline, we should have made a very poor show. The prisoners were of all nationalities, but their officers all seemed to be Americans by birth, and were mostly a fine, gentlemanly lot. The old sea-dog element, so common among English shippers in the East, does not seem to exist among the American officers of the merchant marine; they might easily be mistaken for clerks or even professors. Not so the old sailor, in command of the ‘tea wagons’ and East Indian ships — their walk and lingo proclaimed them sailors, and nothing else. One of the mates of a whaling-ship we took and burned was a parson-like man, and preached and prayed to his fellows. He was long and lanky, and two of our roughs began to haze him, but they mistook their calling, and in two minutes were so mauled and man-handled that it was reported aft; but the first-officer said it served them right, much to the satisfaction of the honest man between decks. * * * * * *

November 18th (1862), we arrived at Martinique and had an “ovation” ; the exultation of the French over the disasters to Yankee commerce impressed me. A French corvette lying there gave a dinner to the officers. Gill licked two of the Frenchman's petty officers nearly to death, as his share of the entertainment, and our liberty was stopped in consequence. Forest swam on shore that night, and, eluding sharks and look-outs, was hauled into one of the berth-deck ports, with five gallons of the worst liquor I ever drank. It set the entire watch crazy. Forest kept comparatively sober, but old Gill bowsed up his jib until he could scarcely stand. Such an uproar I never heard; the lanterns were lit in defiance, and, when the watch was called, the officer of the deck was saluted with all manner of “skrim-shander.” The boatswain was knocked down and hurt by a blow from a belaying-pin, and everything loose was fired aft. The officers and marines with the sober portion of the crew now charged forward, and a terrible melee ensued. Gill knocked a gunner's-mate's jaw out of place, and was laid out by a capstan-bar, and finally the drunken men were secured. * * * * *

We now sailed for Jamaica, going into Port Royal, and had a pleasant time. Here something occurred that few knew of. An Irishman called King-post, from his build, being short and thick, was suspected of giving the officers information of the plans of Forest and his mates. He was closely watched and he knew it, but was on his guard. He took his liberty with the others, and, of course, got drunk. Seeing Gill and another man leading a third and going towards the suburbs, I followed, and made out the third man to be King-post. I missed them, and, as I knew that Gill was well acquainted with the port, I at once conjectured that he had seen me following them, and had changed his course. An hour after, both men came back and I joined them. I asked where the Irishman was. Gill looked at me with his hard gray eves, and significantly said: “I dunna know, laddie, but hell haud his tongue noo; and ye had better say naithing, yir a wise fallow!” King-post never came back and was supposed to have deserted; but, no doubt, he fell a victim to those two ruffians. The crew broke all bounds here, and nearly all the petty officers were disrated, much to their satisfaction, as they had no respect from the crew and were responsible for them to their officers. * * * * * * * It was a very common thing for the crew that boarded a prize to bring liquor back with them. Once some fifteen bottles of brandy were smuggled aboard, and all hands partook, As usual, there was a terrible time between decks. One petty officer was so badly hurt that it was thought he would die. Many of the men had grape-shot in a netted bag fastened to the wrist by a lanyard, and many a coward blow was given with these.

Whether such performances as those mentioned above were consistent with the discipline of a vessel-of-war, we must leave to the judgment of our naval readers.

It is difficult to reconcile the proceedings [822] of the Confederate cruisers with the precedents which have governed vessels-of-war in modern times, and their toleration by European governments must be due to the fact that the said governments believed the union of the States was finally dissolved, and that the fragments would have no power to exact reparation for damages. The present condition of our country shows what a mistaken idea prevailed abroad during the civil war.

What is now chiefly required by the United States is an adequate naval establishment such as will command the respect of European powers. Under such circumstances, we would never have to fear a recurrence of such dreadful scenes as were common on board the Confederate cruisers.

In the glamour attending the remarkable cruise of Semmes, Waddell, in the Shenandoah, has almost been lost sight of. Captain Semmes lost no opportunity of advertising himself through the vessels he bonded, through foreign vessels, or otherwise. His object was to show the people of Europe the dreadful havoc the Confederates were making on American commerce; and, although by this course he ran the risk of being followed and overtaken by the Federal cruisers, yet he was so adroit in his proceedings that he always managed to leave a cruising-ground before the United States Government could get a vessel there. Semmes frequented some of the best-known ports, where there was constant communication with England, so that the Britons were constantly informed of the effect of their policy in allowing Confederate cruisers to be fitted out in their harbors. At the same time this news was transmitted by British packets to the United States, having its effect there, but not exactly what Semmes wanted. Semmes pursued this course. without attempt at concealment, until his vessel was sunk by the Kearsarge.

Waddell, in the Shenandoah, pursued an entirely different course. He followed the line of the whale fisheries which was unfrequented by other vessels, and he carried on his work, with little chance of its being found out, until he had destroyed the entire whaling fleet. The actual losses inflicted by the Alabama--$6,547,609.86--was only about $60,000 greater than those inflicted by the Shenandoah, yet the latter was only in commission about one-half as long a time as the Alabama. Commander Waddell kept his movements concealed, and left no trace behind him by which he could be followed. He eluded the vigilance of the United States cruisers that were in pursuit of him, and, after lightening his vessel of a portion of her cargo, delivered her to the British authorities, and she was at last turned over to the United States Government. An account of the inner life on board the Shenandoah has never, to our knowledge, been published. although from the records of the Court of Alabama Claims we know the exact number of vessels Waddell captured and the damage committed; but, if ever an account of this cruise is published, even in the boastful spirit which characterizes so many Confederate narratives, it will no doubt be found equally interesting with the story of the Alabama, and quite as disreputable.

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