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Attempted Sale of the Federal fleet. [from the New Orleans, la , Picayune, Sunday, December 11, 1904.

Remarkable episode in the operations on the Mississippi.

Desertion of Lieutenant D. W. Glenney, U. S. N., in 1863.

Planned to deliver part of the gunboat fleet to the Confederate Officials—Scheme came to Naught—Glenney's escape to Mexico.

The attempted sale by Lieutenant Daniel W. Glenney, of the United States Navy, of a portion of the gunboat fleet in the Missippi river to the Confederate authorities, in May, 1863, has not been heretofore fully given to the public. The correspondence which follows gives all details which are attainable.

On the 7th of May, 1863, John J. Pettus, Governor of Mississippi, addressed a letter from Jackson to Hon. Jefferson Davis, as follows:

Mr. President,—Allow me to consult you on a matter we deem of great interest.

A private citizen, unconnected with the army, some four weeks ago conceived the plan of buying out a considerable portion of the enemy's gunboat fleet. He consulted the Hon. Jacob Thompson in the premises, by whom he was urged to open the negotiations through a suitable agent, with an assurance that the government would approve and indorse the project. The gentleman then procured a shrewd political man, of character and property, whose proximity to the fleet gave him unusual facilities for success. The negotiations have now become so far perfected that we are informed six boats, all north of Vicksburg and south of Memphis, can be had for a consideration not exceeding one-half or two-thirds original cost. The boats will be delivered at the mouth of White river, with all their equipments and armaments. The condition of success now is the government's indorsement and the money with which to pay. Confederate money will not answer the purpose; it must be either specie or sterling exchange. It will require about $1,000,000 to complete the purchase. It must be done at the [59] earliest practicable moment. I need not advert to the advantages to our cause of such an arrangement. We could capture north of Vicksburg ten times the value of the boats.

In connection with the scheme is another of scarcely less importance, brought to my notice by the same gentleman, and intrusted to the same agent. The post of Helena, the richest in stores of any on this continent, perhaps, ordnance, etc., can be bought out at one-tenth its value, with which the Department of General E. K. Smith could be furnished with arms, etc. If you approve the plan please include Helena with the boats, and give us, by telegraph, a knowledge of your indorsement in words, say, plan approved. General Pemberton, the Confederate Treasurer, Mr. Dellow and others might be ordered in general terms to confer with me and furnish all facilities to accomplish an understood purpose. There must not be delay or all may be frustrated. We ought not, of course, be restricted much as to reasonable sums of money. General Parsons, of Missouri, with a good command, is now encamped a few miles west of Helena, and could co-operate with the boats on the river in the bloodless capture of Helena.

Awaiting your earliest advices, and begging to urge your prompt action, I beg to subscribe.

President Davis on the back of this letter wrote: ‘Confidential letter of Governor Pettus.’

The record shows nothing farther of the proposed transaction until June 24, when a dispatch from Governor Pettus was sent to Mr. Davis. This dispatch shows that Mr. Mallory, the Secretary of the Navy, had not approved of the plan, and that Mr. Davis had forwarded a copy of it to Governor Pettus.

To this letter Governor Pettus replied:

To the President. The plan submitted to you in my letter 7th of May, is embarrassed and may fail by reasons of instructions given by Secretary of the Navy.

No allusion made to Helena.

In these instructions, if possible, give to General Johnston a wide discretion in use of this fund embracing the purchase of boats, destruction of transports and securing Helena.

General Johnston and I are more familiar with circumstances surrounding the matter than Secretary Mallory. We are willing to take the responsibility of the disbursement. The details of the [60] transaction cannot be wisely prescribed by the Secretary without a more thorough knowledge of all the circumstances.

The proposed purchase of the stores, etc., at Helena thus failed, but as to the negotiations for the purchase of the United States gunboat Rattler and the results, the following correspondence will explain:

U. S. S. Rattler. September 5, 1864.
Sir,—It is with deep regret that I make the following report:

Receiving information that two Confederate officers were stopping at the house of one Mr. James, which is a short distance above this vessel, on the bank of the river, I resolved to make an effort to capture them. On the night of the 4th inst., at about 8 o'clock, an officer left the vessel in the cutter, with twenty-two men, and landed on the shore abreast of the vessel. Two negroes, who were left in charge of the boat were attacked by the enemy and killed. The officer in charge of the expedition had nearly accomplished his mission, when, hearing the discharge of musketry, he immediately started for this vessel, and suddenly fell into an ambuscade of about 600 of the enemy; my men, being completely surrounded, were obliged to surrender. The guns of this vessel covered the parties during the whole time, but it was not prudent to fire, as we were in danger of killing our own men. In the meantime the enemy had manned the cutter and proceeded to capture this vessel and when more alongside became intimidated and started with all speed down the river. In the meantime I had slipped cable, but it was useless to chase the boat, as it had become lost to us in the darkness. I headed slowly up the river, keeping close to the bank, and was so fortunate as to pick up my officer and two of the men, who had escaped after they had surrendered to the enemy.

I am painfully conscious I have been the victim of negro duplicity, by trusting in their apparently truthful stories, which has been the cause of this unfortunate disaster. I have no excuse to offer in vindication of myself, and if I have erred it has been with the intention of benefiting the good cause we are all mutually engaged in. I recovered twenty white men by the dispatch boat, who were the ones captured.

In conclusion, I would respectfully state that to-morrow I shall endeavor to recover my men, even if I am obliged to give myself in [61] ransom for them. I should undoubtedly have been with them now if illness had not prevented my so doing. I am very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,

Daniel W. Glenney, Acting Master, Commanding. Lieutenant commander Thomas O. Selfridge, Commanding U. S. S. Vindicator and Fifth District.
P. S.—The thirteen boxes of tobacco which I captured I shall send to Cairo by the dispatch boat.

U. S. S. Rattler, September 6, 1864.
Sir,—In my dispatch to you of the 5th inst., I gave an account of the capture of a number of men by the enemy, under the command of one Colonel Isaac F. Harrison.

Yesterday I proceeded to the camp of the enemy, had an interview with the commanding officer, and procured release on their parole of honor not to bear arms against the Confederate authorities until properly exchanged.

I am, very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,

Daniel W. Glenney, Acting Master, Commanding. Lieutenant commander Thomas O. Selfridge, Commanding U. S. S. Vindicator and Fifth District.
P. S.—I would respectfully mention that three Colt's navy revolvers and seventeen Enfield rifles were captured.


U. S. S. Vindicator, Fifth District, September 1, 1864
Sir—Your surprise at the capture of the Rattler's men will not be greater than mine upon Captain Glenney presenting himself to me last evening. Surprised as much at the intelligence of the affair as that he should leave his vessel without permission and come down to me.

Some weeks ago Captain Glenney went out back of St. Joseph, with a party from the Benton, and narrowly escaped capture. When I learned of it I told him positively that I wished him to confine himself to the vessel, and not to send parties ashore.

It would seem to me a plan laid to entrap him, the story of the negroes that there were to be officers at Mr. James' house that [62] evening, and the improbabilty of there being such a large force close to the banks of the river at that time of night without reason. Unhappily, their plans worked very well. The party sent ashore were raw recruits and in charge only of an engineer, that escaped.

The strangest part of the story is that the enemy went off in the Rattler's cutter to capture her. They were only discovered when within musket range, and, but for an accident would have been on board of her. Captain Glenney states that he immediately slipped, but lost sight of her, and she escaped. As the night was bright starlight, it would seem to show that there must have been great excitement on the Rattler.

Captain Glenney the next day went some twenty miles in the country, unattended, to seek an interview with Colonel Harrison, who finally consented to release them on parole.

Upon after consideration, I will keep those paroled men on the Rattler until I can learn if there is any immediate chance of effecting their exchange.

If not, I will send them up the first opportunity.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Thos. O. Selfridge, Lieutenant-Commander. rear-Admiral David D. Porter, Commanding Mississippi Squadron.

U. S. S. Rattler, Mississipi river, November 4, 1864.
Sir,—It becomes my duty to inform you of the desertion of the executive officer of this vessel, Acting-Ensign E. P. Nellis, and of the escape of Acting-Master D. W. Glenney. Sentries were placed at each door of the room in which Acting-Master Glenney was confined, and all precautions taken as usual.

They probably left the vessel between the hours of II and 12 P. M., in a skiff which was on the guard; The officer of deck, Acting-Ensign H. E. Church, reports that he was relieved by Mr. Nellis. I am,

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

N. B. Willets, Acting Master, Commanding. Lieutenant-commander R. L. May, Commanding Fifth District Mississippi Squadron.


U. S. S. Pittsburg, off Rodney, November 5, 1864.
Sir,—The inclosed letter has just been handed me by Acting Second-Assistant Engineer W. H. Mitchell, of this vessel, who says it was handed to him by one of the men of the Rattler, some ten days since while she was laying alongside of this vessel, with the quest that he (Mr. Mitchell) would send it on shore for him. Mr. Mitchell did not send it on shore, as he knew it was contrary to do so without my permission, and as he knew that I had some letters returned to Captain Glenney a few days before, which were addressed to the same person, he thought it not while to ask me. After the Vindicator passed down this P. M., from which vessel we learned of the desertion of Captain Glenney, Mr. Mitchell opened the letter and seeing the nature of the contents, immediately brought it to me. The person to whom the letter is addressed is a young lady living in the town of Rodney, and as near as I have been able to learn, is no relation whatever of Captain G's.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. R. Hoel, Acting Volunteer-Lieutenant, Commanding. Lieutenant commander R. L. May, United States Navy, Commanding Fifth District Mississippi Squadron.

The letter alluded to by Mr. Hoel reads as follows:

U. S. S. Rattler, Wednesday morning, 10 o'clock.
My Dearest Cousin,—Once more I have the pleasure of beholding the pleasant hills of your little town, but, alas, it is a mournful one, for I am still in durance vile, and with no prospect of an immediate release.

The insult that has been put upon me by the servant of an imbecile government has sunk deep into my heart. I now live for one purpose, and that is deep, bitter revenge, I will sacrifice home, kindred, aye, my dearest friends, to accomplish my aim. Like a snake I will sting when least expected, and my name shall be a terror to every Yankee. The haunts of old ocean are too familiar to me to fear their fast cruisers, for will not my bonny barque be equally as swift? Do not reproach me, dear cousin, and abhor me for my intentions, but you wish me to be all confidence with you, or else you would not know my future intentions. There are other [64] brave hearts that will sail under my orders, who are now serving under Federal Government. You, who are the only being that I claim as a friend, will not, I hope, despise me. Do not call me a traitor; remember that I have been true and faithful to the Federals till they wrongfully abused me, and I will protest against them forever. We have come here for the purpose of getting coal, but as there is none here, we shall proceed on to Natchez.

I shall expect to get a nice letter from you on my return. Tear this letter up as soon as you have read it. Did you get my letter I sent by hand?

Hoping that we may meet again, I remain as ever, Your affectionate cousin,

P. S.—Please excuse that bad-looking blot. (Envelope addressed: ‘Miss Minnie Wilcox (or Wilcore) Rodney, Miss.’)

United States Mississippi Squadron, flagship Black Hawk, Mount city, November 18, 1864.
Sir,—Referring to my No. 2, of 2d inst., I inclose a copy of a communication dated 7th inst., from Lieutenant-Commander R. L. May, with inclosures, as therein stated, reporting the desertion of Acting-Master G. W. Glenney, late commanding the Rattler, and Acting-Ensign E. P. Nellis, of the same vessel, on the 4th inst.

The Department's letter of the 8th inst., giving instructions as to the disposition to be made of Acting-Master Glenny's case, was received on the 12th inst.

I have the honor to be, sir,

Very respectfully yours,

S. P. Lee, Acting Rear-Admiral, Commanding Mississippi Squadron. Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.

Natchez, November 7, 1864.
Captain French, of the transport Brown had a friend to visit him at Vicksburg (on his last trip down) who was a prisoner at some place back of Vicksburg. While confined one night in a room adjoining one occupied by rebel officers, he overheard them discussing [65] the case of Glenney. He learned that G. was to weaken his crew by allowing his men to be taken prisoners and then to be overpowered by men from shore. He agreed to cross the rebel army or allow it to cross, for which he was to receive $2,000 in money and one hundred bales of cotton.

It is said that he has received the money, but not the cotton.

Respectfully submitted,

R. L. May, Lieutenant-Commander, Commanding Fifth District Mississippi Squadron.

U. S. S. Rattler, October 18, 1864.
Friend Randolph,—Last evening the merchant steamer Joseph Pierce touched alongside of this vessel, and a gentleman who claimed to be your brother visited me. On account of existing circumstances, his wish could not be granted. He was kind enough to send me the following message, to-wit: that a rebel deserter was on board of the Benton, who could swear that I had communicated with the enemy and agreed to sell my vessel to them. God is conscious that I am innocent of anything wrong, and if I have done a wrong it has been from a desire to serve the good cause that we are all actually engaged in. My conscience, dear friend, is as clear as the noonday sun, but circumstantial evidence has at times proved stronger than positive proof, and such evidence undoubtedly may be brought against me.

I now wish to receive a favor from you, and you will eventually find that I am not unmindful of it. As soon as you receive this note, answer it by first boat up and tell me who the rebel is that you have. Whether he is an officer or a private, what is his name, when he did come aboard of you, and what the story is that he tells? Please be candid with me, and you will never regret it. Let me know what Mr. Lound's sentiments are.

I am very anxious to get information as speedily as possible, as I have a lawyer already engaged, who is in direct communication with me.

The events of the last few weeks have made me nearly brokenhearted. I have been treated unjustly, but I will not complain, convinced as I am that an impartial court will honorably acquit me of any wrong.

You will excuse me for not going into details at present, but at a [66] favorable opportunity I will tell you all. Hoping to hear from you soon, I will close, remaining, your friend,

Dan'l W. Glenney, U. S. Navy, off Hurricane Island.


U. S. S. Benton, Natchez, November 7, 1864.
Sir,—There is no doubt about the treachery of Acting Master Glenney. By the letter (marked A) it will be seen that he and his friend Nellis escaped from the steamer Rattler on the 4th instant. I learn that Glenney had much influence over Nellis, who was young and romantic. I did not know of their intimacy before, or I would have had Glenney brought to the Benton. I ordered him in close arrest when I first came down, and Captain Willets thought he could take care of them.

I forward two letters from Glenney (B and C) that present a remarkable contrast-one to an ensign of this ship (who handed it to the Captain at once, and one to a lady in Rodney), which is explained in Captain Hoel's letter marked ‘D.’

I have made a memorandum, ‘E,’ of a report from the captain of the Brown, which goes still further to show the perfidy of the traitor. Glenney was a seafaring man, having been mate of a ship out of New York.

On the 24th of October Mr. Nellis sent in his resignation as acting ensign, in order, as he says in his letter, to get the appointment of pilot below Vicksburg. Accompanying is a recommendation from the two pilots of the Forest Rose.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. L. May, Acting Rear Admiral.

S. P. Lee, Commanding Mississippi Squadron.
All that can be ascertained relative to the proposed purchase of the United States gunboat of the iron-clad fleet stationed between Natchez and Vicksburg during 1863-64 is that the boat was commanded by Captain Glenney, and was to have been sold for $50,000 gold. Arrangements were all agreed upon, but failed when the delivery was about to be made, through some misunderstanding [67] between Captain Glenney and the Confederate commander, Colonel J. F. Harrison, of the Third Louisiana cavalry. Glenney, as before shown, was put in irons, but made his escape, went to New Orleans, and was assisted by Confederates in that city to go to Mexico, and has not since been heard from.

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