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In commemoration of the 150 years since the Civil War - or more appropriately in the vernacular of the day - War of the Rebellion (Northern) - or War of Yankee Aggression (Southern) we are featuring a quote and picture of the day from the Naval Records


Period Picture
CAPT Melancton Smith, USN
Mon Oct 24 1864

S Brownlow Gray, Attorney General, Bermuda, writes Lt Governor Hamley, Bermuda "I have the honor to report to your excellency the proceedings connected with the case of the Roanoke from the time when it came officially into my hands.
    On Sunday the 9th instant your excellency judged it expedient to go to St. George in order that you might obtain prompt and accurate information on the spot about a case not only involving many novel and complicated questions, but assuming every hour some new feature of difficulty, and at your excellency's suggestion I accompanied you.
    On arriving we found that the police had in custody 22 men, 13 of whom had been arrested during the preceding night on landing from the Roanoke, then in the offing, and 9 others on Sunday morning as they were coming on shore from the same vessel, which was then seen to be on fire.
    It became necessary to determine at once what was to be done with the prisoners, and not being prepared at the moment to take the important step of advising their immediate release, I requested Mr. Hyland, the police magistrate and justice of the peace, to detain them on a charge of piracy until a hearing could take place.
    The next day (Monday) I again went to St. George, and the prisoners were brought before Mr. Hyland and another justice of the peace, and though they made at once an objection to the jurisdiction through their counsel, relying on their public character as commissioned officers of the Confederate States, the case was proceeded with so far as to obtain an outline of the capture from the chief officer and purser of the Roanoke, and of the rest of the prisoners from the chief police constable.
    The circumstances appeared to be as follows:
    The U. S. mail steamer Roanoke, with a crew of 50 men, all told, about 35 passengers, mails, and small cargo, left The Havannah for New York at 5 p. m. on the 29th September, 1864. She had been out five hours and was about 12 miles from the coast of Cuba when, it being the chief officers watch on deck, 2 or 3 passengers quitted a group near the pilot house, went up to the chief officer and presented revolvers, demanded his surrender to the Confederate States, and threatened to shoot him if he resisted.
    He surrendered, was put in irons and conveyed into the saloon, and in about fifteen or twenty minutes all the other ships officers having in a similar manner been surprised in their berths, were brought handcuffed into the saloon.
    No resistance was offered, and no attempt was made to recapture the vessel. The ships officers were paroled and their irons were removed every day and replaced every night on all except the captain and purser.
    The original crew continued under persuasion or compulsion to work the vessel under Mr. Braine, the leader of the capturing party.
    Braine himself, Mr. Little, and Mr. Parr were the chief captors, and they had gone on board as passengers while the Roanoke was underway in the harbor at The Havannah, only one of them (Mr. Braine) being furnished with the ticket required from passengers by the regulations, to obtain which a passport is necessary.
    They were received on board by the purser, to whom Braine handed his ticket, and who deposed that Braine had been a school fellow of his some eighteen years ago in Brooklyn; that from that time until he came on board he had never seen Braine, and that he recognized his features on seeing him again.
    The only person on board the Roanoke who showed any disposition to resist seems to have been the carpenter, and he was shot down and thrown overboard.
    Immediately after the capture Mr. Braine made for Bermuda with his prize, and arrived off the islands on the afternoon of the 4th instant, took a pilot, and after dark that evening came to anchor in Five Fathom Hole.
    Braine then went ashore to St. George, but returning to the Roanoke before daylight, got underway, and proceeding to sea, hove to out of sight from the land all that day.
    At daylight on Thursday the Roanoke again ran out to sea, and she hovered round the islands all that day, but stood in toward the land at night. She then fell in with a brig called the Village Girl, from which she received provisions and about twenty or thirty men, who had been engaged at St. George a day or two previously for service on board a Confederate vessel. The thirteen men first arrested by the police were of this party.
    During the next day (Friday, the 7th) the Roanoke hovered round these islands in company with the Village Girl and endeavored to take coal on board by means of the steamers boats. She received 10 or 15 tons.
    At night she again ran in toward land, and by a preconcerted signal fell in with the Danish brigantine Mathilde, Pieper master, which had just left St. George, ostensibly for Halifax, and to her were transferred the passengers, officers, and crew of the Roanoke, with their baggage.
    The Mathilde came to anchor in Five Fathom Hole and sent these people ashore, and then proceeded to Halifax, having on board, it is supposed, the specie captured in the Roanoke, amounting to some $20,000.
    The agent or consignee of this vessel (the Mathilde) who also was the charterer for the voyage to Halifax, was the Mr. Johnson above mentioned as being one of the persons who visited the Roanoke in company with Major or Mr. Black. Johnson went from this [place] to Halifax in the Mathilde.
    On Saturday the captors resolved to burn their prize, and that night they sent ashore the men who had been engaged at St. George to work her, and on Sunday morning they set fire to the ship, and abandoning her, landed at St. George.
    Their reasons for this are said to have been the impossibility of getting on board at sea sufficient coal to run her into Wilmington, and the intelligence they received here of the increased severity of the blockade.
    This brings us down to the time of their arrest. The men who landed during Saturday night were known to have been engaged at St. George for service, and those who came on shore on Sunday morning were in general heavily armed, one man having three 6-barreled revolvers concealed about him, another carrying two similar weapons, and the rest one each.
    Some of these firearms were loaded and capped, but those carried by Mr. Braines own party had by his orders been discharged before they reached the shore.
    All the people belonging to the Roanoke, except the carpenter, appeared to have been well treated by their captors.
    The cigars, which formed the chief part of the cargo, were brought on shore in large quantities by the men who landed, and not being duly entered, were seized by the revenue officers, some in the possession of Braine and his companions, others concealed on board a blockade-running steamer in harbor consigned to Mr. Black, and others again in obscure nooks and cellars, and in empty tents in and about St. George.
    The proceedings before the magistrates lasted three days. On the second and third of these days I was represented, with your excellencys sanction, by Mr. Richard Darrell, a barrister here, it being impossible for me to attend personally and the solicitor-general having been retained for the prisoners.
    On the third day of the enquiry the warrant or commission and the instructions on which Mr. Braine and his comrades relied as giving to their capture a warlike in lieu of a piratical character were satisfactorily proved to be genuine and all the prisoners were thereupon at once discharged.
    Before leaving the court Mr. Braine expressed to Mr. Darrell his gratification at the respect which he had shown to the commission which he (Mr. Braine) carried.
    It is sufficiently plain that, under these circumstances, the charge of piracy could not be sustained, but it seems to be equally clear that a systematic violation of the foreign-enlistment act has been carried on in these islands, though as yet I have not obtained sufficient legal testimony to support the charge.
    Independently, however, of any breach of the letter of that act which may or may not be brought home to any individual, there are points in and connected with this enterprise to which your excellency will no doubt think it right to call the special attention of her Majesty's Government.
    Mr. Braine's warrant as acting master in the C. S. Navy and his orders to capture the Roanoke were dated at Richmond, where he seems to have been then, the 26th May, 1864. Very soon after he was in Bermuda, and there is strong reason to believe that it was here that he organized the plan which was consummated on the 29th September.
    The capture having been effected, it was to Bermuda that he repaired with his prize, and here he communicated personally with people on shore on the night of the 4th October, and for three succeeding days and nights he hovered on our coasts, sometimes, under cover of darkness, availing himself of our anchorages, and receiving provisions and men from these islands by means of the Village Girl.
    It was to our shores he sent his prisoners, and when from adverse circumstances compelled to abandon his prize, it was here that he and his companions in arms sought an asylum for themselves and a depository or hiding place for their booty.
    Lastly, if rumor may be credited, on being discharged from custody they celebrated their escape with wine and noisy conviviality, openly boasting to their guests that very soon their exploit would be repeated."

LT Charles A French, USS Mo, writes SECNAV from Portland ME "I have the honor to report that in obedience to the orders of the Department I left Hampton Roads on September 2 to cruise on and in the vicinity of the Banks of Newfoundland for the protection of our fishing fleet. I took a track parallel to the gulf, between it and the coast, thinking thereby my chances better for intercepting rebel cruisers than by keeping farther offshore. Owing, however, to almost continual head winds and gales, I did not arrive on the bank till the 18th. I then proceeded to the Virgin Rocks, knowing this vicinity to be the usual fishing ground, but after cruising several days and finding no vessels I cruised farther to the southward and eastward.
    On the 27th I found two vessels in latitude 44° 40' [N.], longitude 49° 30' [W.]. I communicated and learned that most of the fleet had returned home, but that some six or eight sail remained and were on the bank farther to the southward. I accordingly proceeded, and on the 28th found them in latitude 44° 10' [N.], longitude 49° 40' [W.]. They also confirmed the statement made by the others, and informed me that a majority of these were to leave about the 1st of October; also that a few vessels might be found on the banks westward. They had not seen or heard of any pirates in this vicinity, but had a report of one having been seen off the Nova Scotia coast on September 8. After cruising on this bank two weeks, commnnicating with all vessels when practicable, and having traversed it well over, I determined to cruise the balance of my time on the banks contiguous to the westward, viz, Green, St. Peter's [Pierre], and Quereau [Banquereau]. Upon the latter I expected to find a few vessels, but I cruised the bank well over and found none. I decided upon my return to pass near to the coast of Nova Scotia, thinking this might afford some protection to fishermen who are at this season returning from Bay of Chiloa [Bay of Clialenrs],and a better position to intercept rebel cruisers. I accordingly passsed to the northward of Sable Island, sighted Cape Canso, and followed the coast at a distance of from 15 to about 40 miles till up with Cape Sable at its western end, keeping a sharp lookout for suspicious vessels, and from thence I proceeded to this port, where I arrived to-day. The Departments instructions relative to the ship's disguise were carried out as far as possible. I had screens prepared for the guns, and when they were run in she would have had the appearance of a merchantman until close aboard.
    I beg to add that I made every effort to obtain information and for the interception of cruisers by keeping in the track most frequented, but regret that I could not have met with the success I desired. During the cruise I have spoken and boarded twenty-four vessels, and have sailed, per log, 4,186 miles."

SECNAV telegrams LT French "Proceed with the Mo to Boston."

CDR George ransom, USS Grand Gulf, writes SECNAV "I have the honor to report that, in obedience to an order from Rear-Admiral H. Paulding of this date, I now proceed to convoy the California steamer Ocean Queen to Aspinwall and back.
    I enclose herewith a complete descriptive muster roll of the crew and a separate list of the officers of this vessel."

RADM David D Porter, North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, writes LCDR S P Quackenbush, USS Pequot "You will proceed without delay to a point on the coast where you will be likely to find the Vicksburg, looking out in the meantime for blockade runners.
    You will take on board as a passenger Commander Rolando, and put him on board the Keystone State, somewhere in latitude 33° 15', longitude 75° 50'.
    Lieutenant-Commander Braine will relieve you in the command of the Pequot, after which you will return by first opportunity and report to the Department."

RADM Jonathan Dahlgren, South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, writes SECNAV " Deserters recently arrived from Savannah report that a torpedo boat has just been finished at that place and immediately sent to Mobile by railroad, which it may be well to know there.
    Also that the Union prisoners have been removed 18 miles from Savannah."

RADM S K Stribling, East Gulf Blockading Squadron, writes LCDR C H WELLS, USS Galena, "My order to you of the 21st to proceed to St. Mark's is hereby revoked, and you will, in obedience to my order of the 18th instant, proceed without delay with the Galena under your command to Philadelphia for repairs, reporting your arrival to the Secretary of the Navy and the commandant of the yard."

Master G H Leinas, USS Gem of the Sea, writes RADM Stribling "I beg respectfully to report to you the capture of a sloop boat (no name) off Little Malco [Marco] by sloop Rosalie, tender to this vessel, Acting Ensign H. W. Wells in charge. Although clearing from Key West to go sponging and fishing on Florida Keys, and loaded with stores and ballast, she was found 100 miles north of her course, and she beating to the northward, and loaded with salt, shoes, and other articles. I have therefore sent her to Key West for adjudication."

LT R B Smith, USS Nita, writes SECNAV "I have the honor to report the capture of the schooner Unknown, under the following circumstances, viz:
    At 8:30 a. m. of this day, being off Clearwater Harbor in 4½ fathoms water, discovered a schooner at anchor close in to the land.
    Headed the ship for her, and soon discovered a boat containing two or three persons pulling toward the mainland. At the same time discovered a smoke arising from her, forward and aft.
    At 9:30 a. m. anchored near her, and sent two armed boats (furnished with water buckets) in charge of Acting Ensign P. Pease to board her. He soon subdued the fire. No person was found on board and no papers of any kind. An English ensign was the only thing found by which her nationalty could be judged. The crew escaped."

Chief Engineer William Rogers, writes LCDR G H Perkins, "I respectfully report that the propelling machinery is in good order, boilers and piping fair, at the present time. One more tooth has been broken out of the large spur gear in the forward turret, making two in all. When the portholes are pointed directly forward or aft, the broken teeth will come in contact with the pinion, and if there should be a heavy strain at the time more teeth will give way and the turret disabled. Spare gear should be procured at once for this place, the large spur pinion and large bevel gear. The large spur gear should, in my opinion, be made in halves. It can be put on with much less labor and time. There is no difficulty in so doing, and make the gear as strong and good in every respect as a whole one. The rim of the gear should be made much thicker - say twice the thickness - in order that single teeth may be put in when one breaks, which in many cases would save the necessity of taking the gear out.
    By a slight alteration in the valve motion I believe the turrets can be turned with much less steam; 50 pounds only, I should think, would be necessary. It can readily be seen how much better this would be than to be obliged to keep up 70 pounds, as now, to say nothing of the saving in coal."

CAPT S P Lee, USN, writes SECNAV "The Department's order of the 21st instant, directing me to assume command of the Mississippi Squadron, was received last evening.
    I suggest for the consideration of the Department the importance of having 1,000 marines or other soldiers, with a corresponding provision of fieldpieces and transportation, placed at my disposition for the purpose of capturing armed parties interrupting the navigation of the Western rivers."

Teachers and Educators - we have several Civil War presentations covering the US Navy throughout the Civil War which include our portable museum, Submarines, and key naval and land battles. Check out our Civil War section for more details.



Proud to be an organizational partner of Connecticut Civil War Commemoration sponsored by Central Connecticut State University.
DatesUpcoming Civil War Events
17 APR 2014
7:30 PM
Hebron Historical Society
Hebron CT
CAPT Percival Drayton, USN
What Did the Navy Do?
31 MAY-1 JUN 2014 Custom House Maritime Museum
Newburyport, MA
Living History
12-13 JUL 2014 Double Day Campground
Cooperstown, NY
Living History
19-20 JUL 2014 Cummington, MA Living History
2 AUG 2014 Windham, NY Music
16-17 AUG 2014 Fort Ontario
Oswego, NY
Living History, Battle
13-14 SEP 2014 Saratoga Spring, NY Living History
27-28 SEP 2014 Look Park Reenactment
Florence, MA
Living History,Battles
Important News
LCDR Ezra Seals is putting his reenacting schedule together for the 2012-2013 season. School teachers - see the Civil War pages for how you can add excitement to your classroom on this topic.
Want to know what the Navy was doing 150 years ago? Let us give you a briefing, much as would be given to the President or Congress, outlining what the 6 major squadrons and 1 flotilla were accomplishing.


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