How this intrepid officer Defied superior numbers.
Two against the Stonewall.
and the Sacramento
feared to give her Battle—Captain Craven
, U. S. N., Court-Martialed for Cowardice.
Died in Rome, Italy
, October 26, 1899, Captain Thomas Jefferson Page
, in the 92d year of his age.
, or as he was more familiarly known, Commodore Page
, was born at ‘Shelley
,’ Gloucester county
, and his boyhood was spent there.
In 1827 he was appointed a cadet at the United States
Naval Academy by President John Quincy Adams
, in recognition of the services of his paternal and maternal grandfathers, Governor John Page
and Thomas Nelson
, Governor, of Yorktown
, he being the son of Mann Page and Betsy Nelson
The United States
Naval Academy was then a receiving ship stationed in the harbor of New York
, and young Page was graduated with the honors of a class of forty-five members.
He was then commissioned a midshipman, and made several notable cruises.
One of these was on the old Dolphin
to Asiatic waters.
All of the officers and many of the crew were stricken down with fever, until Midshipman Page
was the ranking officer.
He assumed command and brought the ship to a home port, and was rewarded by Congress raising his rank.
was but 18 years old at that time, but even at this early age was noted for his valor and cool judgment.
Jefferson Page passed through all grades and was commissioned a commander in 1855.
In 1861, however, he left the United States Navy and received a commission as Commodore
in the C. S. N. He
was also made a colonel of heavy artillery in the C. S. A., and was in command of the station at Gloucester Point
, and later at Chaffin's Bluff.
He was however, relieved from duty in the army and sent as special agent of the Confederacy
countries to purchase ships for the navy.
After the war he went to London
, and later went to South America
, where he and his son engaged in cattle raising on an extensive scale.
In this connection is an interesting story.
In the early fifties he surveyed the Paraguay
de la Plata
His services were recognized by the Argentine government, which offered to commission him commander-in-chief of the navy of that country.
This honor, however, he declined, but on his returning to that country after the war, and being in reduced circumstances, he at once became a popular hero, and financial aid was given him without stint.
His son had already settled there, and they engaged in stock raising.
He, by this means, amassed a considerable fortune, and then migrated to Florence, Italy
Here his daughter became the Countess
, but on the death of the Count
, they removed to Rome
, where the home of the venerable couple, CommodorePage
and Mrs. Jefferson Page
, became the Mecca of Americans
who visited that city.
For a score of years Commodore Page
was blind, but retained the full possession of his mental faculties.
Besides his service at sea, Commodore Page
surveyed and made soundings for the old Fire Island Channel, New York harbor, and for some years was stationed at the Naval Observatory
A widow, a daughter (the Countess
), Professor Frederick Page
, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., and Philip Page, of Buenos Ayres
, South America
, sons, survive him. He also has many relatives who reside in this State.
The Page homestead at ‘Shelley
’ is now occupied by his grand-nephew, Richard Page.
The death of Captain Page
recalls to the minds of those who knew him many thrilling incidents in connection with his life.
As Mr. Virginius Newton
was one of the officers of the Stonewall
, commanded by Captain Thomas Jefferson Page
, a representative of The Times
saw him yesterday evening.
gave the following account of the history of the Stonewall
In January, 1865, I was serving on board the Confederate frigate Rappahannock
, lying in the harbor of Calias, France
, detained by the French Government
under some technicality.
In the early part of January I was detached from this command and ordered to proceed to London
, where I joined the blockade-runner City of Richmond
, under command of Captain Hunter Davidson
We sailed for the coast of France
and anchored in a nook of Quiberon Bay
I knew nothing of what the general purpose of our movement was or the purposes of the Confederate
Naval Department in other quarters.
We lay in Quiberon Bay
until the evening of the next day, the 24th of January, when a steamer came in sight and hailed us. We found it was the Confederate States
, built in France
, rejected by Denmark
, and sold in Copenhagen
by her builders to the Confederate States
Captain Thomas Jefferson Page
and Lieutenant R. R. Carter
, of Shirley, Va.
, boarded this vessel, at Copenhagen
and met the City of Richmond
in Quiberon Bay
on the day named—the 24th of January, 1865.
A heavy gale.
We kept in touch with the Stonewall
during this day, transferring stores, supplies, and a portion of our crew, until the next day at noon. We then got under way, and in the Bay of Biscay
encountered a heavy gale, when the Stonewall
became short of coal, and orders were given to the blockade-runner, City of Richmond
, to proceed to the island of Bermuda
, and there await the arrival of the Stonewall
then proceeded to the harbor of Ferrol, in Spain
, for the purpose of taking on coal.
Whilst there, the Federal
, under command of Captain T. T. Craven
, and the Sacramento
, a vessel of war of the United States navy, commanded by Captain Walke
, appeared off this port and anchored at Corunna
, nine miles distant, from whence they could watch the Stonewall
. The Niagara
was one of the fastest ships in the navy of the United States
, and carried a battery of ten 150-pound Parrott rifles, while the Sacramento
mounted two eleven-inch guns, two nine-inch guns, and one 60-pound rifle.
carried a 300-pound Armstrong rifle in her forward turret, and two 70-pound Armstrongs in her stern turret, that being her entire armament.
On March 24th, the Stonewall
steamed out of the harbor in plain sight of the enemy, but, to the surprise of Captain Page
had expected an engagement, they declined this challenge.
For the the failure on the part of Commodore Craven
to accept this gage of battle, he was brought to trial by court-martial, found guilty, and sentenced to two years suspension; but the Secretary of the Navy
annulled the sentence on the ground that it was not sufficiently severe for the offence.
On a revision of the proceedings, the court-martial made the same finding, which the Secretary
again set aside for the same reason, and Captain Craven
was restored to duty.
After this incident the Stonewall crossed
for the purpose of raising the blockade at Port Royal
and other seaports on the Atlantic coast
, but, on entering the harbor of Havana
for supplies, there learned of the conclusion of the war and the surrender of Lee
's army at Appomattox
The vessel was then bonded to the Captain-General
for the sum of $16,000, with which her officers and crew were paid off and discharged.
was subsequently surrendered to the United States government, and by that government sold to Japan
She was for some years in the naval service of Japan
, and finally sunk in a typhoon.
‘After leaving the Stonewall
, in April, 1865, in the harbor of Havana
, I proceeded to Mexico
, where I was engaged in engineering on the first line of railway in that country.
Returning to this country in the summer of 1866, I visited the Gosport Navy Yard
, at Norfolk
, and there, to my surprise, found the old Stonewall
in dock, refitting for her subsequent voyage around Cape Horn
and delivery to the Japanese authorities.’
Dr. Bennett Wood Green
, who was a surgeon on board the Stonewall
, recalled the career of the Confederate iron-clad ram at his home 504 east Grace street, last evening, and expressed the sadness which Captain Page
's death had caused him. He said: ‘Captain Page
, when I knew him on the Stonewall
, was past three-score years, but he was alive, energetic and brave.
His bright eye never faltered, and a more courageous office never trod the deck of a vessel.’
himself is no longer a young man, but he talked with great animation on the subject of the Stonewall
, which he said was quite a formidable vessel in her day. She was a ram, clad with four inches of iron, and armed with three Armstrong
guns—one 300-pounder and two 70-pounders.
The shipbuilding firm of Messrs. Arman
, at Bordeaux, France
, undertook the contract to build her for the Confederate government, Emperor Napoleon III, granting permission.
Before the vessel was completed, however, the Emperor
revoked the permission, and refused to allow the delivery of the vessel
to the Confederate States
However, the vessel was bought by Denmark
, which country was then at war with Austria
emerged from hostilities in a bankrupt condition, and the Stonewall
, which had never been paid for, was thrown back on the hands of the French
A plan was conceived by the Confederate
authorities to obtain possession of the vessel, which lay at Copenhagen
and Lieutenant Robert R. Carter
, a son of the late Hill Carter
, of Shirley
, who were in Europe
, were directed to proceed to Copenhagen
with the agent of the ship-builders, who was sent to take possession of the vessel.
Technically the two Confederate officers were passengers when the Stonewall
sailed from Copenhagen
The plans of the Confederates
contemplated the juncture of another vessel, carrying a crew of fighters, with the Stonewall
, off the west coast of France
The City of Richmond
, a trading vessel, owned by the Crenshaws, of this city, was then at London
and other officers, together with a crew of 100, boarded the City of Richmond
, which proceeded to the west coast of France
, reaching Quiberon bay
arrived a day later, and her crew of Danes were put off on the French
coast, their places being taken by the crew shipped on the City of Richmond
Proceeding south, the Confederate vessel, officered, manned and armed, ran into the bay on the coast of Spain
, at the head of which was a navy yard at Ferrol
, and at the mouth of which the town of Corunna
While the Stonewall
was at Ferrol
, the Federal
war vessels, the Niagara
, under command of Commodore Thomas T. Craven
, put into the bay. Leaving ahead of the Stonewall
, the two Federal boats cruised about the mouth of the bay, off Corunna
, until the Confederate vessel came out. Undoubtedly the Federal
commander had intended to give battle, but his heart failed him. Captain Page
, on the contrary, beat back and forth in front of the silent enemy, challenging combat.
There was no response.
Several days later the Stonewall
went into the harbor of Lisbon
, and on emerging found Craven
's vessels again.
In view of his refusal to fight off Corunna
, the presence of Commodore Craven
was regarded as purely accidental and unintentional.
The enemy's boats were prepared for fight—port holes open and men at quarters.
ordered his vessel cleared for action, too. He then proceeded leisurely past the two Federal vessels, his three guns keeping silent those of the enemy.
Incidentally, Dr. Green
told of the court martialing of Commodore Craven
, referred to above by Mr. Newton
, shortly after the incident at Lisbon
, started across the Atlantic
, intending to touch at Bermuda
High winds, however, carried the vessel out of her course, and she finally anchored at Nassau
early in May.
Here the officers and crew were plunged into inexpressible sadness, hearing there for the first time that President Davis
was in chains, President Lincoln
had been assassinated, General Lee
had surrendered at Appomattox
, and the whole Confederate government had been crushed.
It was with a sad heart that Captain Page
headed for Havana
, where he hoped to obtain from the Confederate
agent at that place money with which to pay off his men. The agent professed to have no funds.
In despair Captain Page
called on the Spanish Captain-General
, to whom he told his story.
listened with evident sympathy, and when Captain Page
offered to leave his ship and her belongings in the Spanish
official's custody as a pledge for $15,000 necessary to pay off the men, the Captain-General
said: ‘Why, I will let you have a hundred thousand dollars.’
refused, however, to take more than the sum he had named.
abandoned ship on May 20, 1865.
Subsequently the vessel passed into the possession of the United States government, which sold her to the Japanese government.
made the long journey to the Orient, but shortly afterwards foundered off the coast of Japan
in a gale.
Of the officers on the Stonewall
, three are now living—Dr. Green
and Mr. Virginius Newton
, of this city, and the master, W. W. Wilkinson
, whose home is at Charleston, S. C.
The meeting of the City of Richmond
and the Stonewall
, is thus told by Lieutenant Hunter Davidson
, who had charge of the crew of the City of Richmond
, in a letter dated February 6, 1865, and printed in ‘The Secret Service of the Confederate States
‘I left Cherbourg
18th January, and carried out instructions on the way to Quiberon
, where we found a snug anchorage on the 20th, and laid quietly, permitting no communication with the shore until the morning of the 24th at 10 o'clock, when the Stonewall
hove in sight, to the rapturous delight of all who were in the secret.’
After explaining the reasons why the Stonewall
did not receive the quantity of coal intended for her, and which should have been sent out from St. Nazaire, he proceeds thus:
“She” (the Stonewall
) ‘was in a filthy condition, and required more labor to clean her than to get the stores on board and towed afterwards.
The weather was very bad and wet, too and prevented us from lying alongside.
It was, therefore, hard to work satisfactorily.
However, on the 28th January, early, the barometer rising and the weather promising well, the Stonewall
and this vessel left the bay and soon ran out of sight of land, going nine and ten knots, for San Miguel
It blew a gale at times, with as heavy a sea as I have ever seen.
would often ship immense seas, they seeming at all times to cover her from knighthead to taffrail, but yet she never seemed to be injuriously affected by them, but would keep her course very steadily.
On the morning of the 30th January, after a most uneasy night, we became separated about five miles, this ship having forged ahead, and being afraid to run off in such a heavy sea. About noon, however, it moderated for awhile, and the barometer rising steadily, we kept away and ran down to her, signalling, “How do you do?”
Answer, “All right.”
This was so satisfactory that I signalled, “Shall I go on?”
Answer, “Am very short of coal, and I must make a port, Ferrol
Signalled, “Shall I follow you?”
Answer, “Suit your convenience about following.”
then added that the detention of his ship had already caused the loss of one moon for running the blockade, and considering the necessity there was of his getting to Bermuda
quickly in order to save the next moon, and considering also that it did not appear necessary to the safety of the enterprise that he should remain any longer in company with the Stonewall
, he determined to part company, and signalled ‘Adieu,’ which was answered with ‘Many thanks,’ and then he says: ‘At 1:30 we parted company, and at 3: 30 lost sight of her, she still heading the sea to the northward and westward, facing the gale under easy steam, no doubt waiting for the weather to moderate before running down on the cost of Spain
also wrote from Isle of d'houat, near Quiberon
, giving a full account of his tedious delays and the disappointment he felt at not getting a full supply of coal, but he did not like to wait for the return of the coal-tender from St. Nazaire.
He advised me that he had taken charge of the ram on behalf of the Confederate government, and that M. Arman
's agent, who was with him, had complied with all engagements satisfactorily, and was therefore entitled
to receive the stipulated commission for his services.
crew were discharged and sent to St. Nazaire, and the ram was chartered and commissioned in due form as the Confederate ship Stonewall
In the heavy weather after leaving Quiberon Bay
, the Stonewall
made a good deal of water, and it was thought that she must have sprung a leak some where, but owing to the crowded state of the ship, a satisfactory examination could not be made.
This apparent defect was an additional reason for making a harbor, and when the gale moderated, Page bore up and ran into Corunna
, and the day after arrival there, he took the Stonewall
across the bay to Farrol, ‘where all facilities were politely tendered by the officers of the Natal arsenal.’
The Stonewall at Ferrol.
The first advice of the Stonewall
was without date, but she arrived there about February 2d, and Page soon began to lighten the ship by discharging some of her heavy weight into ‘a good dry hulk,’ which the naval authorities had kindly put at her disposal, with the purpose of finding the leak.
It appears, however, from his correspondence, that the facilities granted him upon his first application were quickly withdrawn.
Writing to me, under date of February 7th, he says: ‘To-day there came off an officer to inform me that in consequence of the protest of the American
minister the permission to repair damages had been suspended, and added, however, that the commander told him that his case was under consideration at Madrid
, and that he thought that all would be right in a few days.
In the end permission was given to make all necessary repairs, but many difficulties were met with, the authorities appearing to be very desirous to hurry the ship off, yet not willing to turn her out of port in an incomplete state.’
On the 10th of February, Page wrote that the United States
, Captain Thomas Craven
, had arrived, and a few days after the United States
joined the Niagara
, and both vessels anchored at Corunna
, about nine miles distance, from whence they could watch the Stonewall
. Their presence, Page said, gave the Spanish
authorities much uneasiness.
It was now manifest that the Stonewall's
movements were known.
The two United States
ships at Corunna
would either attack her when she attempted to leave Ferrol
, or they would follow her across the Atlantic
Besides, this advice of her being at sea would be sent to New York, and preparations would be made by United States
naval authorities to give her a warm reception.
The leak was discovered to be in consequence of defective construction in the rudder casing, and this, together with other injuries caused by the rough handling the ship had encountered during the tempestuous voyage from Copenhagen
, satisfied Page that the repairs would detain her several weeks at Ferrol
He took also into consideration the latest news from America
, which appeared to indicate that the South
could not resist much longer.
Finally he determined to go to Paris
for consultation, and he directed Carter
meanwhile to push on with the repairs.
While Page was absent, the Niagara
and the Sacramento
ran across the bay from Corunna
and anchored at Ferrol
In a letter reporting the incident, Carter
said: ‘We, of course, got ready for accidents, and, in lighting fire, sparks flew from the funnel.’
In a few minutes a barge from the navy yard, with an officer of rank, came alongside, asking if we meant to attack the Niagara.
replied that we had no such intentions, but proposed to defend ourselves from an attempt to repeat the affair at Bahia
He said: ‘This is not Brazil
requests that you will let your fires go out, arid warns you against an attempt to break the peace.’
Two guard boats were also stationed near us, and remained there every night while the Niagara
was in port.
However, we kept steam all night and the chain was unshackled, so as to get the ram pointed fair in case the Niagara
moved our way.
It was decided, after consultation with the Confederate
commissioners, that in spite of the gloomy prospects across the Atlantic
, no possible effort that could be made from Europe
should be abandoned.
Page, therefore, returned to Ferrol
with the purpose to pursue his enterprise, which, I may say, in brief phrase, was to go to Bermuda
to get some additional advance stores and a few picked men from the Florida
, waiting there for him, another attempt to strike a blow at Port Royal
, which was then supposed to be the base of General Sherman
's advance through South Carolina
Vexatious delays detained the Stonewall
until March 24, when Page got to sea.
The United States
had manifested every purpose to follow and attack the Stonewall
when she left Ferrol
was a large, powerful frigate, mounting ten 150-pounder Parrot rifled guns, and the Sacramento
was a corvette, very heavily armed for her class, the principal pieces being two 11-inch
and two 9-inch guns.
was also a ship of great speed, and could easily have kept clear of the Stonewall's
was protected by 43-inch armors, and mounted on one 300-pounder and two 70-pounders Armstrong guns, but she was a small ship and low in the water, and the Niagara's
battery could have commanded her decks.
Page, being quite sure that he would be followed out and attacked as soon as he had passed the line of Spanish jurisdiction, cleared for the action before getting under weigh in full sight of the two United States
The upper spars, to the lower masts, were struck and stowed on deck, and the boats were detached from the davits.
In this trim the Stonewall
steamed out of Ferrol
on the morning of March 24, 1865, accompanied by a large Spanish steam frigate.
A: about three miles from the shore the frigate fired a gun and returned to Ferrol
then stood off and on all the remainder of the day with her colors flying in plain view of the two United States
vessels which remained at anchor.
, in his letter, says: ‘We could see the officers standing in the Niagara's
top using spy-glasses.’
At dark the Stonewall
stood close on to the entrance of the harbor, and then, being satisfied that the enemy did not intend to come out and fight, Page bore away and steamed down the coast to Lisbon
, where he arrived in due course, the Niagara
arriving about thirty-six hours after him.
Commenting upon the failure of the Niagara
to follow the Stonewall
and attack her, Page wrote me from Lisbon
as follows: ‘This will doubtless seem as inexplicable to you as it is to me and all of us. To suppose that these two heavily armed menof-war were afraid of the Stonewall
is to me incredible, yet the fact of their conduct was such as I have stated to you Finding that they declined coming out, there was no course for me but to pursue my voyage.’
Captain Thomas Craven
, who commanded the Niagara
, was not the officer who is mentioned in another chapter as the commander of the United States
, and who had a correspondence with the Governor
in respect to the Confederate ship Sumpter
Captain Thomas Craven
was an elder brother of the latter named officer.
His conduct in making so much parade of a purpose stopped
, and the subsequent failure to accept her invitation to come out and engage her was a good deal criticised at the time.
I have no means of knowing what explanation of his conduct he made to his own government, and I should be sorry to repeat any of the gossip of the period which might cast a slur upon his courage.
His reputation in the United States navy, while I held a commission in that service, was such as to place him above any suspicion.
He was certainly an able and efficient officer, and I mention the incident with the Stonewall
as an historical fact, and without the slightest purpose to cast an imputation upon his memory.
, Page was made to feel that he was the representative of the losing cause.
He was permitted to get a supply of coal, but it was manifested that the authorities wished him clear of the port.
He got away as soon as possible, proceeding to Santa Cruz
, in the Island of Tereriffe
, replenished his fuel there, and thence stood down into the northeast trades.
On April 25th he hauled up for Bermuda
, but encountered northwest winds and heavy head swells immediately after leaving the trade winds, and being in rather short supply of coal, he shaped his course for Nassau
, arriving there May 6th.
he proceeded to Havana
At the time of Page
's arrival at Havana
, the war was practically at an end. In a few days he learned of General Lee
's surrender, and soon after of the capture of Mr. Davis
Manifestly he could not venture upon offensive operation.
The small amount of funds he took from Ferrol
, the Confederate
agent, could do nothing for him in that way. The position was perplexing and quite exceptional.
As a last resource, negotiations were opened with the Cuban authorities for the surrender of the ship to them if they would advance money necessary to pay off the crew.
When it was known through a resident merchant that the Captain-General
was willing to make the necessary advance and take the ship, Carter
was sent to state the requirements and get the money, and his brief report of the interview is as follows:
After five minutes conversation the Captain-General
asked for the sum we required.
I said ‘$16,000.’
He said, ‘say $100,000.’
I replied that my orders were to ask for $16,000. He then turned to an official at a desk and bid him write, continued asking questions, and then the document was handed to him for perusal.
He looked at him and said: ‘Shall we make it $50,000?’
But I obeyed orders, and $16,000 was ordered to be paid.
Upon the receipt of the money, Page paid off the crew to May 19, 1865, and delivered the Stonewall
into the hands of the Captain-General
In July, 1865, she was delivered to the government of the United States
, and the conditions of the surrender are set out in the annexed correspondence between the Spanish Minister
and Mr. Seward
, the United States Secretary of State
She was subsequently sold by the United States
to the government of Japan
It may be thought by those who are inclined to be severely critical that in the arrangements for despatching the City, of Richmond
, some liberty was taken with the municipal law of England
, and that there was some violation of her neutral territory.
Scarcely anyone, however, will maintain that the shipment of arms by the steamer was illegal; and the officers and men from Calais
were unarmed in plain clothes, were not above an hour from English soil and merely passed across a minute portion of English territory as ordinary travellers.
If it is possible to construe those movements as an offence, it cannot be said that Her Majesty's Government was in any degree chargeable with neglect because neither the customs nor the police authorities could have known of the purpose in advance, and could not therefore have made any arrangements to stop it, even if the state of the law would have justified interference.
, however, the conditions were wholly different.
A Confederate man-of-war was lying at that port.
She was in a dock near the railway station, and could be seen by every passenger en route from London
in the daily mail trains.
Officers in the Confederate
uniform walked her quarter deck, the Confederate
flag was hoisted and struck morning and evening, and all the routine and etiquette was preserved on board of her that is commonly practiced in national ships lying in the dockyards of their own countries.
Her presence was permitted by the French
authorities, and she was openly used as a depot ship, because no disguise was possible.
Men were collected on board of her and afterwards distributed to the Florida
and other vessels, as on previous occasions, and she was used in the same manner to supply the wants of the Stonewall
. If there was any violation of French neutrality, it was done with the tacit consent of the Imperial
authorities, and without greater concealment than is practiced in all well regulated business transactions.
No information was asked, and none was offered.
The United States
urgently pressed at Geneva
the charge that Great Britain
had been both lax in her neutral duties and partial towards the Confederate States
, and commended the rigid exactness of France
The foregoing are some of the facts which may serve to illustrate the true attitude of those two neutral powers, and may help those who are still interested in the subject to determine the foundation upon which the ‘Alabama
Claims’ were based.