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Chapter 20:

  • Arrival at St. Pierre of the enemy's steam-sloop Iroquois
  • -- how she Violates the neutrality of the port -- arrival of the French steamer-of-war Acheron -- the Iroquois blockades the Sumtercorrespondence with the Governor -- escape of the Sumter.

Many rumors were now afloat as to the prospective presence, at Martinique, of the enemy's ships of war. It was known that the enemy's steam-sloop, Iroquois, Captain James S. Palmer, had been at the island of Trinidad, on the second of the then current month of November, whence she had returned to St. Thomas—this neutral island being unscrupulously used by the enemy, as a regular naval station, at which there was always at anchor one or more of his ships of war, and where he had a coal-depot. St. Thomas was a free port, and an important centre of trade, both for the West India Islands and the Spanish Main, and had the advantage, besides, of being a general rendezvous of the mail-steamers that plied in those seas. One of these steamers, bound to St. Thomas, had touched at Martinique, soon after the Sumter's arrival there, and, as a matter of course, we might expect the presence of the enemy very soon. I used every possible diligence to avoid being blockaded by the enemy, and twenty-four hours more would have enabled me to accomplish my purpose, but the Fates would have it otherwise; for at about two P. M., on the very next day after the delightful evening's stroll described in the last chapter, the Iroquois appeared off the north end of the island. She had purposely approached the island on the side opposite to that on which the town of St. Pierre lies, the better to keep herself out of sight, until the last moment; and when she did come in sight, it was ludicrous to [253] witness her appearance. Her commander's idea seemingly was, that the moment the Sumter caught sight of him, she would, if he were recognized, immediately attempt to escape. Hence it was necessary to surprise her; and to this end, he had made some most ludicrous attempts to disguise his ship. The Danish colors were flying from his peak, his yards were hanging, some this way, some that, and his guns had all been run in, and his ports closed. But the finely proportioned, taunt, saucy-looking Iroquois, looked no more like a merchant-ship, for this disguise, than a gay Lothario would look like a saint, by donning a cassock. The very disguise only made the cheat more apparent. We caught sight of the enemy first. He was crawling slowly from behind the land, which had hidden him from view, and we could see a number of curious human forms, above his rail, bending eagerly in our direction. The quarter-deck, in particular, was filled with officers, and we were near enough to see that some of these had telescopes in their hands, with which they were scanning the shipping in the harbor. We had a small Confederate States flag flying, and it was amusing to witness the movements on board the Iroquois, the moment this was discovered. A rapid passing to and fro of officers was observable, as if orders were being carried, in a great hurry, and the steamer, which had been hitherto cautiously creeping along, as a stealthy tiger might be supposed to skirt a jungle, in which he had scented, but not yet seen a human victim, sprang forward under a full head of steam. At the same moment, down came the Danish and up went the United States flag. ‘There she comes, with a bone in her mouth!’ said the old quartermaster on the look-out; and, no doubt, Captain Palmer thought to see, every moment, the little Sumter flying from her anchors. But the Sumter went on coaling, and receiving on board some rum and sugar, as though no enemy were in sight, and at nine P. M. was ready for sea. The men were given their hammocks, as usual, and I turned in, myself, at my usual hour, not dreaming that the Iroquois would cut up such antics during the night as she did.

During the afternoon, she had run into the harbor,—without anchoring, however,—and sent a boat on shore to communicate, probably, with her consul, and receive any intelligence [254] he might have to communicate. She then steamed off, seaward, a mile, or two, and moved to and fro, in front of the port until dark. At half-past 1 o'clock, the officer of the deck came down in great haste, to say, that the Iroquois had again entered the harbor, and was steaming directly for us. I ordered him to get the men immediately to their quarters, and followed him on deck, as soon as I could throw on a necessary garment or two. In a very few minutes, the battery had been cast loose, the decks lighted, and the other preparations usual for battle made. It was moonlight, and the movements of the enemy could be distinctly seen. He came along, under low steam, but, so steadily, and aiming so directly for us, that I could not doubt it was his intention to board us. The men were called to ‘repel boarders;’ and for a moment or two, a pin might have been heard to drop, on the Sumter's deck, so silent was the harbor, and so still was the scene on board both ships. Presently, however, a couple of strokes on the enemy's steam gong were heard, and, in a moment more, he sheered a little, and lay off our quarter, motionless. It was as though a great sea-monster had crawled in under cover of the night, and was eying its prey, and licking its chops, in anticipation of a delicious repast. After a few minutes of apparent hesitation, and doubt, the gong was again struck, and the leviathan— for such the Iroquois appeared alongside the little Sumter— moving in a slow, and graceful curve, turned, and went back whence it came. This operation, much to my astonishment, was repeated several times during the night. Captain Palmer was evidently in great tribulation. He had found the hated ‘pirate’ at last—so called by his own Secretary of the Navy, and by his own Secretary of State. Captain Wilkes had just set him a glorious example of a disregard of neutral rights; and the seven days penitential psalms had not yet been ordered to be written. If a ship might be violated, why not territory? Besides, the press, the press! a rabid, and infuriate press was thundering in the ears of the luckless Federal Captain. Honors were before him, terrors behind him! But there loomed up, high above the Sumter, the mountains of the French island of Martinique. Nations, like individuals, sometimes know whom to kick—though they have occasionally to [255] take the kicking back, as we have just seen. It might do, doubtless thought Captain Palmer, to kick some small power, but France! there was the rub. If the Sumter were only in Bahia, where the Florida afterward was, how easily and securely the kicking might be done? A gallant captain, with a heavy ship, might run into her, cut her down to the water's edge, fire into her crew, struggling in the water, killing, and wounding, and drowning a great many of them, and bear off his prize in triumph! And then, Mr. Seward, if he should be called upon, not by Brazil alone, but by the sentiment of all mankind, to make restitution of the ship, could he not have her run into, by accident, in Hampton Roads, and sunk; and would not this be another feather in his diplomatic cap— Yankee feather though it might be? What is a diplomat fit for, unless he can be a little cunning, upon occasion? The b'hoys will shout for him, if history does not. The reader need no longer wonder at the ‘backing and filling’ of the Iroquois, around the little Sumter; or at the sleepless night passed by Captain Palmer.

The next morning, the Governor having heard of what had been done; how the neutral waters of France had been violated by manoeuvre and by menace, though the actual attack had been withheld, sent up from Fort de France the steamer-of-war Acheron, Captain Duchatel, with orders to Captain Palmer, either to anchor, if he desired to enter the harbor, or to withdraw beyond the marine league, if it was his object to blockade the Sumter; annexing to his anchoring, if he should choose this alternative, the condition imposed by the laws of nations, of giving the Sumter twenty-four hours the start, in case she should desire to proceed to sea. Soon after the Acheron came to anchor, the Iroquois herself ran in and anchored. The French boat then communicated with her, when she immediately hove up her anchor again! She had committed herself to the twenty-four hours rule the moment she dropped her anchor; but being ignorant of the rule, she had not hesitated to get her anchor again, the moment that she was informed of it, and to claim that she was not bound by her mis take. I did not insist upon the point. The Iroquois now withdrew beyond the marine league, by day, but, by night, [256] invariably crept in, a mile or two nearer, fearing that she might lose sight of me, and that I might thus be enabled to escape. She kept up a constant communication, too, with the shore, both by means of her own boats, and those from the shore, in violation of the restraints imposed upon her by the laws of nations—these laws requiring, that if she would communicate, she must anchor; when, of course, the twenty-four hours rule would attach. I had written a letter to the Governor, informing him of the conduct of Captain Palmer, on the first night after his arrival, and claiming the neutral protection to which I was entitled. His Excellency having replied to this letter, through Captain Duchatel, in a manner but little satisfactory to me. I addressed him, through that officer, the following, in rejoinder:—

Confederate States steamer Sumter, St. Pierre, November 22, 1861.
Sir:—I have had the honor to receive your letter of yesterday, in which you communicate to me the views of the Governor of Martinique, relative to the protection of my right of asylum, in the waters of this island; and I regret to say, that those views do not appear to me to come up to the requirements of the international code. The Governor says, that ‘it does not enter into his intentions, to exercise toward the Iroquois, either by night, or by day, so active a surveillance as you [I] desire’; and you tell me, that I ought to have ‘confidence in the strict execution of a promise, made by a commander in the military marine of the American Union, so long as he has not shown to me the evidence that this engagement has not been scrupulously fulfilled.’ It would appear from these expressions, that the only protection I am to receive against the blockade of the enemy, is a simple promise exacted by you, from that enemy, that he will keep himself without the marine league, the Governor, in the meantime, exercising no watch, by night or by day, to see whether this promise is complied with. In addition to the violations of neutrality reported by me, yesterday, I have, this morning, to report, that one of my officers being on shore, in the northern environs of the town, last night, between eight and nine o'clock, saw two boats, each pulling eight oars, the men dressed in dark blue clothing, with the caps usually worn by the sailors of the Federal Navy, pulling quietly in toward the beach; and that he distinctly heard a conversation, in English, between them—one of them saying to the other, ‘Look Harry! there she is, I see her,’— in allusion, doubtless, to this ship. These boats are neither more nor less than scout, or sentinel boats, sent to watch the movements, within neutral waters, of their enemy. Now, with all due deference to his Excellency, I cannot see the difference between the violation [257] of the neutrality of these waters, by the enemy's boats, and by his ship; and if no surveillance is to be exercised, either by night or by day, I am receiving very much such protection as the wolf would accord to the lamb.

It is an act of war for the enemy to approach me, with his boats, for the purpose of reconnoissance, or watch, and especially during the night, and I have the same right to demand that he keep his boats beyond the marine league, as that he keep his ship, at that distance. Nor am I willing to rely upon his promise, that he will not infringe my rights, in this particular. If France owes me protection, it is her duty to accord it to me, herself, and not remit me to the good faith, or bad faith, of my enemy; in other words, I respectfully suggest, that it is her duty, to exercise surveillance over her own waters, both ‘by night, and by day,’ when one belligerent is blockading another, in those waters. I have, therefore, respectfully to request, that you will keep a watch, by means of guard boats, at both points of the harbor, to prevent a repetition of the hostile act, which was committed against me last night; or if you will not do this, that you will permit me to arm boats, and capture the enemy, when so approaching me. It would seem quite plain, either that I should be protected, or be permitted to protect myself. Further: it is in plain violation of neutrality for the enemy to be in daily communication with the shore, whether by means of his own boats, or boats from the shore. If he needs supplies, it is his duty to come in for them; and if he comes in, he must anchor; and if he anchors, he must accept the condition of remaining twentyfour hours after my departure. It is a mere subterfuge for him to remain in the offing, and supply himself with all he needs, besides reconnoitring, me closely, by means of his boats, and I protest against this act also. I trust you will excuse me, for having occupied so much of your time, by so lengthy a communication, but I deem it my duty to place myself right, upon the record, in this matter. I shall seize an early opportunity to sail from these waters, and if I shall be brought to a bloody conflict, with an enemy, of twice my force, by means of signals given to him, in the waters of France, either by his own boats, or others, I wish my Government to know, that I protested against the unfriendly ground assumed by the Governor of Martinique, that “it does not enter into his intentions, to exercise toward the Iroquois, either by night, or by day, so active a surveillance as you [I] desire.”

Mr. Duchatel, commanding H. I. F. M's steamer Acheron.

As the lawyers say, ‘I took nothing by my motion,’ with Governor Conde. The United States were strong at sea, and the Confederate States weak, and this difference was sufficient to insure the ruling against me of all but the plainest points, about which there could be no dispute, either of principle, or of fact. Whilst the Governor would probably have protected [258] me, by force, if necessary, against an actual assault, by the Iroquois, he had not the moral courage to risk the ire of his master, by offending the Great Republic, on a point about which there could be any question.

The Iroquois was very much in earnest in endeavoring to capture me, and Captain Palmer spent many sleepless nights, and labored very zealously to accomplish his object; notwithstanding which, when my escape became known to his countrymen, he had all Yankeeland down on him. It was charged, among other things, by one indignant Yankee captain, that Palmer and myself had been school-mates, and that treachery had done the work. I must do my late opponent the justice to say, that he did all that vigilance and skill could do, and a great deal more, than the laws of war authorized him to do. He made a free use of the neutral territory, and of his own merchant-ships that were within its waters. He had left St. Thomas in a great hurry, upon getting news of the Sumter, without waiting to coal. In a day or two after his arrival at St. Pierre, he chartered a Yankee schooner, and sent her to St. Thomas, for a supply of coal; and taking virtual possession of another—a small lumber schooner, from Maine, that lay discharging her cargo, a short distance from the Sumter—he used her as a signal, and look-out ship. Sending his pilot on shore, he arranged with the Yankee master—one of your long, lean, slab-sided fellows, that looked like the planks he handled—a set of signals, by which the Sumter was to be circumvented.

The anchorage of St. Pierre is a wide, open bay, with an exit around half the points of the compass. The Iroquois, as she kept watch and ward over the Sumter, generally lay off the centre of this sheet of water. As the Sumter might run out either north of her, or south of her, it was highly important that the Iroquois should know, as promptly as possible, which of the passages the little craft intended to take. To this end, the signals were arranged. Certain lights were to be exhibited, in certain positions, on board the Yankee schooner, to indicate to her consort, that the Sumter was under way, and the course she was running. I knew nothing, positively, of this arrangement. I only knew that the pilot [259] of the Iroquois had frequently been seen on board the Yankee. To the mind of a seaman, the rest followed, as a matter of course. I could not know what the precise signals were, but I knew what signals I should require to be made to me, if I were in Captain Palmer's place. As the sequel will prove, I judged correctly.

I now communicated my suspicions to the Governor, and requested him to have a guard stationed near the schooner, to prevent this contemplated breach of neutrality. But the Governor paid no more attention to this complaint, than to the others I had made. It was quite evident that I must expect to take care of myself, without the exercise of any surveillance, ‘by night or by day,’ by Monsieur Conde. This being the case, I bethought myself of turning the enemy's signals to my own account, and the reader will see, by and by, how this was accomplished.

In the meantime, the plot was thickening, and becoming very interesting, as well to the islanders, as to ourselves. Not only was the town agog, but the simple country people, having heard what was going on, and that a naval combat was expected, came in, in great numbers, to see the show. The crowd increased, daily, in the market-place, and it was wonderful to witness the patience of these people. They would come down to the beach, and gaze at us for hours, together, seeming never to grow weary of the sight. Two parties were formed, the Sumter party, and the Iroquois party; the former composed of the whites, with a small sprinkling of blacks; the latter of the blacks, with a small sprinkling of whites. The Governor, himself, came up from Fort de France, in a little sail-schooner of war, which he used as a yacht. The Mayor, and sundry councilmen, came off to see me, and talk over the crisis. The young men boarded me in scores, and volunteered to help me whip the barbare. I had no thought of fighting, but of running; but of course I did not tell them so —I should have lost the French nationality, they had conferred upon me.

The Iroquois had arrived, on the 14th of November. It was now the 23d, and I had waited all this time, for a dark night; the moon not only persisting in shining, but the stars looking, [260] we thought, unusually bright. Venus was still three hours high, at sunset, and looked provokingly beautiful, and brilliant, shedding as much light as a miniature moon. To-night —the 23d—the moon would not rise until seven minutes past eleven, and this would be ample time, in which to escape, or be captured. I had some anxiety about the weather, however, independently of the phase of the moon, as in this climate of the gods, there is no such thing as a dark night, if the sky be clear. The morning of the 23d of November dawned provokingly clear. It clouded a little toward noon, but, long before sunset, the clouds had blown off, and the afternoon became as bright, and beautiful, as the most ardent lover of nature in her smiling moods, could desire. But time pressed, and it was absolutely necessary to be moving. Messengers had been sent hither, and thither, by the enemy, to hunt up a reinforcement of gun-boats, and if several of these should arrive, escape would be almost out of the question. Fortune had favored us, thus far, but we must now help ourselves. The Iroquois was not only twice as heavy as the Sumter, in men, and metal, as the reader has seen, but she had as much as two or three knots, the hour, the speed of her. We must escape, if at all, unseen of the enemy, and as the latter drew close in with the harbor, every night, in fraud of the promise he had made, and in violation of the laws of war, this would be difficult to do. Running all these reasons rapidly through my mind, I resolved to make the attempt, without further delay.

I gave orders to the first lieutenant, to see that every person belonging to the ship was on board, at sundown, and directed him to make all the necessary preparations for getting his anchor, and putting the ship under steam, at eight P. M.—the hour of gun-fire; the gun at the garrison to be the signal for moving. The ship was put in her best sailing trim, by removing some barrels of wet provisions aft, on the quarter-deck; useless spars were sent down from aloft, and the sails all ‘mended,’ that is, snugly furled. Every man was assigned his station, and the crew were all to be at quarters, a few minutes before the appointed hour of moving. I well recollect the tout ensemble of that scene. The waters of the bay were of glassy smoothness. [261] The sun had gone down in a sky so clear, that there was not a cloud to make a bank of violets, or a golden pyramid of. Twilight had come and gone; the insects were in full chorus— we were lying within a hundred yards of the shore—and night, friendly, and at the same time unfriendly, had thrown no more than a semi-transparent mantle over the face of nature.

The market-place, as though it had some secret sympathy with what was to happen, was more densely thronged than ever, the hum of voices being quite audible. The muffled windlass on board the Sumter was quietly heaving up her anchor. It is already up, and the ‘cat hooked,’ and the men ‘walking away with the cat.’ The engineer is standing, lever in hand, ready to start the engine, and a seaman, with an uplifted axe, is standing near the taffarel, to cut the sternfast. One minute more and the gun will fire! Every one is listening eagerly for the sound. The Iroquois is quite visible, through our glasses, watching for the Sumter, like the spider for the fly. A flash! and the almost simultaneous boom of the eight o'clock gun, and, without one word being uttered on board the Sumter, the axe descends upon the fast, the engineer's lever is turned, and the ship bounds forward, under a full head of steam.

A prolonged, and deafening cheer at once arose from the assembled multitude, in the market-place. Skilful and trusty helmsmen, under the direction of the ‘master,’ bring the Sumter's head around to the south, where they hold it, so steadily, that she does not swerve a hair's breadth. There is not a light visible on board. The lantern in the captain's cabin has a jacket on it, and even the binnacle is screened, so that no one but the old quartermaster at the ‘con’ can see the light, or the compass. The French steamer-of-war, Acheron, lay almost directly in our course, and, as we bounded past her, nearly grazing her guns, officers and men rushed to the side, and in momentary forgetfulness of their neutrality, waved hats and hands at us. As the reader may suppose, I had stationed a quick-sighted and active young officer, to look out for the signals, which I knew the Yankee schooner was to make. This young officer now came running aft to me, and said, ‘I see them, sir! I see them!—look, sir, there are two red lights, one [262] above the other, at the Yankee schooner's mast-head.’ Sure enough, there were the lights; and I knew as well as the exhibitor of them, what they meant to say to the Iroquois, viz.: ‘Look out for the Sumter, she is under way, standing south 1’

I ran a few hundred yards farther, on my present course, and then stopped. The island of Martinique is mountainous, and near the south end of the town, where I now was, the mountains run abruptly into the sea, and cast quite a shadow upon the waters, for some distance out. I had the advantage of operating within this shadow. I now directed my glass toward the Iroquois. I have said that Captain Palmer was anxious to catch me, and judging by the speed which the Iroquois was now making, toward the south, in obedience to her signals, his anxiety had not been at all abated by his patient watching of nine days. I now did, what poor Reynard sometimes does, when he is hard pressed by the hounds—I doubled. Whilst the Iroquois was driving, like mad, under all steam, for the south, wondering, no doubt, at every step, what the d—I had become of the Sumter, this little craft was doing her levelbest, for the north end of the island. It is safe to say, that, the next morning, the two vessels were one hundred and fifty miles apart! Poor Palmer! he, no doubt, looked haggard and careworn, when his steward handed him his dressinggown, and called him for breakfast on the 24th of November; the yell of Actaeon's hounds must have sounded awfully distinct in his ears. I was duly thankful to the slab-sided lumberman, and to Governor Conde—the one for violating, and the other for permitting the violation of the neutral waters of France—the signals were of vast service to me.

Various little contre-temps occurred on board the Sumter, on this night's run. We were obliged to stop some fifteen or twenty precious minutes, opposite the very town, as we were retracing our steps to the northward, to permit the engineer to cool the bearings of his shaft, which had become heated by a little eccentricity of movement. And poor D., a hitherto-favorite quartermaster, lost his prestige, entirely, with the crew, on this night. D. had been famous for his sharp sight. It was, indeed, wonderful. When nobody else in the ship could ‘make out’ a distant sail, D. was always sent aloft, glass in hand, to [263] tell us all about her. As a matter of course, when the question came to be discussed, as to who the look-out should be, on the occasion of running by the enemy, I thought of D. He was, accordingly, stationed on the forecastle, with the best night-glass in the ship. Poor D.! if he saw one Iroquois, that night, he must have seen fifty. Once, he reported her lying right ‘athwart our fore-foot,’ and I even stopped the engine, on his report, and went forward, myself, to look for her. She was nowhere to be seen. Now she was bearing down upon our bow, and now upon our quarter. I was obliged to degrade him, in the first ten minutes of the run; and, from that time, onward, he never heard the last of the Iroquois. The young foretop-men, in particular, whose duty it was to take the regular look-out aloft, and who had become jealous of his being sent up to their stations, so often, to make out sails, which they could give no account of, were never tired of poking fun at him, and asking him about the Iroquois.

The first half hour's run was a very anxious one for us, as the reader may suppose. We could not know, of course, at what moment the Iroquois, becoming sensible of her error, might retrace her steps. It was a marvel, indeed, that she had not seen us. Our chimney was vomiting forth dense volumes of black smoke, that ought to have betrayed us, even if our hull had been invisible. I was quite relieved, therefore, as I saw the lights of the town fading, gradually, in the distance, and no pursuer near; and when a friendly rain squall overtook us, and enveloping us in its folds, travelled along with us, for some distance, I felt assured that our run had been a success. Coming up with the south end of the island of Dominica, we hauled in for the coast, and ran along it, at a distance of four or five miles. It was now half-past 11, and the moon had risen. The sea continued smooth, and nothing could exceed the beauty of that night-scene, as we ran along this picturesque coast. The chief feature of the landscape was its weird-like expression, and aspect of most profound repose. Mountain, hill, and valley lay slumbering in the moonlight; no living thing except ourselves, and now and then, a coasting vessel close in with the land, that seemed also to be asleep, being seen. Even the town of Rousseau, whose white walls we could [264] see shimmering in the moonlight, seemed more like a city of the dead, than of the living. Not a solitary light twinkled from a window. To add to the illusion, wreaths of mist lay upon the mountain-sides, and overhung the valleys, almost as white, and solemn looking as winding-sheets.

We came up with the north end of Dominica, at about two A. M., and a notable change now took place, in the weather. Dense, black clouds rolled up, from every direction, and amid the crashing, and rattling of thunder, and rapid, and blinding lightning, the rain began to fall in torrents. I desired to double the north end of the island, and to enable me to do this, I endeavored, in sea phrase, to ‘hold on to the land.’ The weather was so thick, and dark, at times, that we could scarcely see the length of the ship, and we were obliged often to slow down, and even stop the engine. For an hour or two, we literally groped our way, like a blind man; an occasional flash of lightning being our only guide. Presently the water began to whiten, and we were startled to find that we were running on shore, in Prince Rupert's Bay, instead of having doubled the end of the island, as we had supposed. We hauled out in a hurry. It was broad daylight, before we were through the passage, when we were struck by a strong northeaster, blowing almost a gale. I now drew aft the try-sail sheets, and heading the ship to the N. N. W., went below and turned in, after, as the reader has seen, an eventful night. The sailor has one advantage over the soldier. He has always a dry hammock, and a comfortable roof over his head; and the reader may imagine how I enjoyed both of these luxuries, as stripping off my wet clothing, I consigned my weary head to my pillow, and permitted myself to be sung to sleep by the lullaby chanted by the storm.

We learned from the Yankee papers, subsequently captured, that the Dacotah, one of the enemy's fast steam-sloops, of the class of the Iroquois, arrived at St. Pierre, the day after we ‘left’—time enough to condole with her consort, on the untoward event. In due time, Captain Palmer was deprived of his command—the Naval Department of the Federal Government obeying the insane clamors of the ‘unwashed,’ as often as heads were called for. [265]

The day after our escape from Martinique was Sunday, and we made it, emphatically, a day of rest—even the Sunday muster being omitted, in consideration of the crew having been kept up nearly all the preceding night. I slept late, nothing having been seen to render it necessary to call me. When I came on deck, the weather still looked angry, with a dense bank of rain-clouds hanging over the islands we had left, and the stiff northeaster blowing as freshly as before. We were now running by the island of Deseada, distant about ten miles. At noon we observed in latitude 16° 12′, and, during the day, we showed the French colors to a French bark, running for Guadeloupe, and to a Swedish brig standing in for the islands. Being in the track of commerce, and the night being dark, we carried, for the first time, our side-lights, to guard against collision. It was a delightful sensation to breathe the free air of heaven, and to feel the roll of the sea once more; and as I sat that evening, in the midst of my officers, and smoked my accustomed cigar, I realized the sense of freedom, expressed by the poet, in the couplet,—

Far as the breeze can bear, the billow foam,
Survey our empire, and behold our home!

We had no occasion, here, to discuss jurisdictions, or talk about marine leagues; or be bothered by Iroquois, or bamboozled by French governors.

Monday, November 25th.—Morning clear, with trade-clouds and a fresh breeze. We are still holding on to our steam, and are pushing our way to the eastward; my intention being to cross the Atlantic, and see what can be accomplished in European waters. We may be able to exchange the Sumter for a better ship. At seven, this morning, we gave chase to a Yankee-looking hermaphrodite brig. We showed her the United States colors, and were disappointed to see her hoist the English red in reply. In the afternoon, a large ship was descried running down in our direction. When she approached sufficiently near, we hoisted again the United States colors, and hove her to with a gun. As she rounded to the wind, in obedience to the signal, the stars and stripes were run up to her peak. The wind was blowing quite fresh, but the master and his papers were soon brought on board, when it appeared [266] that our prize was the ship Montmorency, of Bath, Maine, from Newport, in Wales, and bound to St. Thomas, with a cargo of coal, for the English mail-steamers rendezvousing at that island. Her cargo being properly documented, as English property, we could not destroy her, but put her under a ransom bond, for her supposed value, and released her. We received on board from her, however, some cordage and paints; and Captain Brown was civil enough to send me on board, with his compliments, some bottles of port wine and a box of excellent cigars. The master and crew were parolled, not to serve against the Confederate States during the war, unless exchanged.

I began, now, to find that the Yankee masters, mates, and sailors rather liked being parolled; they would sometimes remind us of it, if they thought we were in danger of forgetting it. It saved them from being conscripted, unless the enemy was willing first to exchange them; and nothing went so hard with the enemy as to exchange a prisoner. With cold-blooded cruelty, the enemy had already counted his chances of success, as based upon the relative numbers of the two combatants, and found that, by killing a given number of our prisoners by long confinement—the same number of his being killed by us, by the same process—he could beat us! In pursuance of this diabolical policy, he threw every possible difficulty in the way of exchanges, and toward the latter part of the war put a stop to them nearly entirely. Our prisons were crowded with his captured soldiers. We were hard pressed for provisions, and found it difficult to feed them, and we were even destitute of medicines and hospital stores, owing to the barbarous nature of the war that was being made upon us. Not even a bottle of quinine or an ounce of calomel was allowed to cross the border, if the enemy could prevent it. With a full knowledge of these facts, he permitted his soldiers to sigh and weep away their lives in a hopeless captivity—coolly ‘calculating,’ that one Confederate life was worth, when weighed in the balance of final success, from three to four of the lives of his own men!

The enemy, since the war, has become alarmed at the atrocity of his conduct, and at the judgment which posterity will be likely to pass upon it, and has set himself at work, to falsify [267] history, with his usual disregard of truth. Committees have been raised, in the Federal Congress, composed of unscrupulous partisans, whose sole object it was, to prepare the false material, with which to mislead the future historian. Perjured witnesses have been brought before these committees, and their testimony recorded as truth. To show the partisan nature of these committees, when it was moved by some member—Northern member, of course, for there are no Southern members, at this present writing, in the Rump Parliament— to extend the inquiry, so as to embrace the treatment of Southern prisoners, in Northern prisons, the amendment was rejected! It was not the truth, but falsehood that was wanted. Fortunately for the Southern people, there is one little record which it is impossible to obliterate. More men perished in Northern prisons, where food and medicines were abundant, than in Southern prisons, where they were deficient—and this, too, though the South held the greater number of prisoners. See report of Secretary Stanton.

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