Mon Oct 31 1864|
LCDR James Parker, USS Maumee, writes SECNAV from New Bedford "I have the honor to report the arrival of this vessel here yesterday at 11 a. m.
I started from Hampton Roads without being able to fill up with coal. The gale of Friday and Saturday last detained me, and I had to put in here for coal instead of at Portland, as my orders contemplate.
The gale damaged the vessel somewhat, but the damage has since been repaired.
I have been engaged in coaling, which at midnight this p. m. is not yet completed, but will be by daylight.
On my way here I heard nothing of the pirate Tallahassee, nor have I here heard of her, and have nothing more than the first newspaper statements that were published as to her escape from Wilmington some ten days since.
I noticed a telegram in this evenings paper to the effect that the gunboat Mobile had been spoken Thursday last by a vessel that has arrived at New York, the Mobile being in chase of the Tallahassee. I spoke a vessel on Thursday and requested to be reported. The captain probably misunderstood the name.
I telegraphed my arrival yesterday to the Department, and stated that I should sail this evening for Halifax unless otherwise directed by the Department. No reply having been received, I shall accordingly sail for that port as soon as coaled, probably before 8 a. m. to-morrow.
I have the honor to transmit a copy of Admiral Porters instructions to me."
CMDR Thomas T Craven, USS Niagra, writes SECNAV from Antwerp, "For the information of the Department I have the honor to enclose copies of a letter from the U. S. legation at London, marked A, and a circular letter from our consul at Liverpool, marked B.
These letters were received through the hands of Pierre Sisco, esq. (our consular agent at Dover), while I was at anchor off Newhaven [England], examining the cargo of the Spanish steamer Cicerone, on the 12th instant, and of course too late to enable me to do anything toward intercepting the Laurel.
On the 8th instant I dropped down to Flushing with the intention of going thence to London to consult with Mr. Adams and our consul, Mr. Morse, but, as I was about leaving the ship the officer of the deck reported to me that a large steamer, bark-rigged, flying Spanish colors, was coming down the river, and in the course of a few minutes my executive officer informed me that Acting Master Wood had heard a Mr. Andre remark a few evenings previously that the Spanish steamer Cicerone, then lying at Antwerp, had received a turret and plating on board for an ironclad intended for the rebels. By this time the steamer had passed us and was well outside the harbor. I immediately ordered the Niagara to be got underway, and sent a telegram to Captain Walke, of the Sacramento, to try and head the Spaniard off in the Strait of Dover. Although she had 7 or 8 miles the start of me, I caught up with the chase off the North Foreland in about eight hours, and as we were then on neutral ground, I continued on,keeping her in sight astern until the following morning, and when we were about 8 miles to the southward and west of Beachy Head I brought her to. After a diligent search, which lasted sixty-four hours, we could discover no clew upon which to warrant her further detention, and upon the receipt of the telegram from our consul at Antwerp, in reply to a dispatch which I had sent to Mr. Adams, copies of which, marked respectively, C and D, are herewith enclosed, I immediately discharged the Cicerone and then proceeded down to the Channel Islands, where I made a thorough but fruitless search for the Laurel.
On the 17th instant I left the ship at Dover and went to London, hoping to obtain such information from Mr. Adams as would give some clew to the present rendezvous of the rebels. I called at the legation three different times, only to find that Mr. Adams was out of town but would be in to-morrow. I saw Mr. Morse twice but he could give no satisfactory intelligence. Mr. Morse appears to be the most interested and active agent we have out here, constantly on the watch and always informing me of such reports as he is enabled to gather through his agents of the rebels movements.
After an absence of nearly three weeks I returned to this port on the 27th instant.
In view of being driven by the ice from the Scheldt in the course of a very few weeks, I would respectfully ask where I am to resort for a harbor during the coming winter.
I would also like to be informed of the wishes of the Department as to the extent and direction of my cruising ground."
Benjamin Moran, secretary of the US legation, London, writes CMDR Craven "The Florida was fallen in with on the 13th of September in latitude 6° 3' N., longitude 24° 42' W. She was in company with a steamer supposed to be the Electric Spark. She had a large number of men on board. Her crew had been and were in a state of mutiny, and she was evidently awaiting supplies and ammunition. From intercepted letters from her it is conjectured she may be coming this way, but there is nothing certain. Mr. Dudley thinks she may soon be here.
The following is from a letter dated at Madeira the 19th October, or twelve days ago, and no doubt relates to the Sea King and Laurel:
A large steamer appeared off the bay yesterday and exchanged signals with a blockade runner at anchor, the latter getting up steam at once and following her to the southward, and it is generally reported that she is a Confederate cruiser, and that the blockader which had been lying here some days had her armament on board.
Hoping you have recovered your health, and asking you to remember me to Dr. Potter and Lieutenants Bigelow and Phoenix,"
CDR N Collins, USS Wachusett, telegrams SECNAV from St. Thomas, "I have the honor to report the arrival here of this ship, with the rebel steamer Florida in company. The Florida, with fifty-eight men and twelve officers, was captured about 3 o'clock on the morning of the 7th of October instant in the Bay of San Salvador, Brazil, by the officers and crew of this vessel, without loss of life. Five of her officers, including her commander, and the remainder of her crew were on shore. The Florida had her mizzenmast and main yard carried away and her bulwarks cut down. This vessel sustained no injury. A detailed report will be handed to you by Paymaster W. W. Williams." His written report is: "The following is a detailed report of the capture of the rebel steamer Florida in the Bay of San Salvador, Brazil, by the officers and crew of this vessel, without loss of life:
At 3 o'clock on the morning of the 7th day of October instant we slipped our cable and steered for the Florida, about five-eighths of a mile distant. An unforeseen circumstance prevented us from striking her as intended. We, however, struck her on the starboard quarter, cutting down her bulwarks and carrying away her mizzenmast and main yard. This ship was not injured.
Immediately upon striking we backed off, believing she would sink from the effects of the blow.
In backing clear we received a few pistol shots from the Florida, which were returned with a volley, and, contrary to my orders, two of my broadside guns were fired, when she surrendered.
In the absence of Captain Morris, who was on shore, Lieutenant Thomas K. Porter, formerly of the U. S. Navy, came on board and surrendered the Florida with fifty-eight men and twelve officers, making at the same time an oral protest against the capture.
Five of the Florida's officers, including her commander and the remainder of her crew, were on shore.
We took a hawser to the Florida and towed her to sea. In contemplating the attack on the Florida in the bay I thought it probable the Brazilian authorities would forbear to interfere, as they had done at Fernando de Noronha when the rebel steamer Alabama was permitted to take into the anchorage three American ships, and to take coal from the Cora Louisa I Hatch within musket shot of the fort, and afterwards, within easy range of their guns, to set on fire those unarmed vessels.
I regret, however, to state that they fired three shotted guns at us while we were towing the Florida out.
Fortunately, we received no damage. After daylight a Brazilian sloop of war, in tow of a paddle gunboat, was discovered following us. With the aid of sail on both vessels we gradually increased our distance from them.
We had three men slightly wounded; one only of the three is now on the sick report.
I enclose a list of the prisoners. Those who have a star opposite their names were formerly in the U. S. Navy.
This vessel is ready for service. The Florida will require repairs of machinery, a new mizzenmast, etc.
The officers and crew manifested the best spirit. They have my thanks for their hearty cooperation, in which I beg to include Thomas F. Wilson, esq., U. S. consul at Bahia, who volunteered for any duty."
LCDR L A Beardslee, US Prize Steamer Florida writes CDR Collins "I am greatly disappointed and mortified to learn from Mr. Barclay that my conduct in command of this vessel has not met with your approbation, and also that you charge me with an offense which would constitute a direct disobedience to your orders.
As regards the general carrying out of the duty, I would state that since the arrival of this vessel at the port of Bahia my undivided attention has been directed, first, toward her capture, and secondly, for her safe-keeping. We have but few men in comparison with the Wachusett, who with about 160 persons, guards about 40 prisoners. We, with 33, guard 20 prisoners on their own ship. We can do it and have done it, but it has required sleepless vigilance. I have not taken off my clothes (except in daytime to bathe) since I assumed charge of this vessel, nor have I been to bed since that time, the 7th of October. I have been constant in my endeavors to put the ship in order and keep her so. I regret very much that I have been unable to escape being found fault with.
The charge that on the night of the 29th October this vessel was run 20 miles to the southward I most positively deny and shall be prepared to prove to the contrary. Just before sunset I steamed to a position far enough to windward to be safe for the night, and at 6 p. m., or a few minutes after, hove to under topsails, head to the southward and eastward. At this time the Wachusett's light was plainly visible, and our distance, by bearings and estimation, was about 5 miles. In this position we remained, changing nothing but the fore-topsail, which I clewed down to prevent forging ahead. Our drift was measured frequently, and was about one-half knot to southward and westward. During the whole time we never lost sight of your light or the island of St. Barts [Bartholomew], and were not over 9 miles from that island at the time you spoke us. Mr. Barclay, myself, the quartermaster, Ebson, who was at the wheel, and several others are ready to testify to this before a court. As this charge is highly injurious to me, I most respectfully request that you will either withdraw it or bring the matter before a court of enquiry, to see if it can be sustained, so soon as we arrive in the United States. I feel very confident that a court bringing out all of the facts connected with the Florida since the day she arrived at Bahia will find little to censure In my conduct, unless the capture itself be declared wrong.
I am farther informed by Mr. Barclay that on the night of the 29th instant you contemplated throwing a shell at this vessel from your 100-pounder rifle. Should the Wachusett at any time begin firing at this United States steamer I should most certainly be led to the belief that the Confederates aboard of the Wachusett had captured the vessel and that my duty to my country called upon me to destroy her. I shall most certainly return a shell from the Wachusett with both broadsides of this ship, which are in readiness, and if I shall have made a mistake none of us probably will live to rectify it, as I shall sink this ship, if I can not the Wachusett. I can not conceive of any circumstances that will prevent our communicating b your signals, and should the rebels unfortunately take the Wachusett, it will be my duty to that they do not get this ship back too.
I regret excessively that any misunderstanding has occurred, for my utmost endeavors have been to fully cooperate with you."
CAPT J F Green, SOPA Charleston writes RADM Jonathan Dahlgren, South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, "I have respectfully to report that the blockade runner which was run aground off Moultrie on the night of the 22d instant by the picket launches was the Flora, with an assorted cargo, which was mostly lost, according to an intercepted rebel telegraphic dispatch.
The proceedings of the outside blockade to intercept her are stated in the accompanying reports of Commander Patterson and commanding officers of vessels who saw her on her passage in.
The Mingoe, the fleetest vessel on the blockade, failed to fire a gun or to slip her cable to go in pursuit of her.
The inside picket launches discovered her in good season and opened fire on, and causing her to run aground on the southern bank of Maffi'ts Channel; up to this time everything was well done by the inside blockade.
Immediately after she grounded, Acting Master Ricker proceeded to the Patapsco and informed Lieutenant-Commander Madigan, commanding the advance picket monitor, of the fact of the steamer being aground. She remained aground until daylight unmolested, when the advanced monitors opened fire upon her and were soon after followed by the batteries on Morris Island.
I endeavored to have her set on fire, but failed to accomplish it, owing chiefly to the shallow and rough water on the bar where she was grounded. I also directed that an attempt should be made to capture a rebel boat which, I learned from an intercepted rebel dispatch forwarded to me by Brigadier-General Scammon, intended visiting the wreck on the night of the 25th instant. This project also failed.
From the best information I can obtain, I am of the opinion that Mr. Gifford did his whole duty in a highly creditable manner, and that if he had had the cooperation of five or six men like himself more would probably have been accomplished.
I would not recommend any further investigation of the proceedings of the inside blockade, as this was the first experience of the parties in an affair of this kind, and I have no doubt they will do better on the recurrence of a similar opportunity.
I also enclose herewith reports from Lieutenant-Commanders Madigan and Barrett. Lieutenant-Commander Lewis omitted, previous to his departure from this anchorage, to forward to me his report agreeably to my directions, and I would suggest that he may be directed to forward it to you." Dahlgren adds to it "It is very important that the rebels should not [know] that we intercept their telegrams"
CAPT A M Pennock, Mississippi Squadron, telegrams SECNAV "I have just received the following telegram from General Thomas, at Nashville:
Have seen your telegram of 29th to General Webster. Enemy in strong force before Decatur, and also threatening to cross about Florence. Am moving corps to oppose him, and will be much obliged to you if you will aid me by sending as many gunboats up the Tennessee as you can spare, and as far as Eastport, if water will admit. Forrest can not long remain at Jefferson after I get a force on the Tennessee.
I have sent up all the boats that are available. Unfortunately the river is too low for ironclads. The rest of the squadron are patrolling the river from Columbus to Donaldsonville, to prevent reinforcements crossing over to Hoods army. The two ironclads expected from Farraguts squadron, in exchange for the two supplied him from this squadron, are much needed."