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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
Officers of the USS Mendota
Fri Mar 31 1865

The Duke De Loulê, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Portugal writes James E Harvey ,Minister Resident of the USA at Lisbon "I received yesterday the note which you were pleased to address to me under date of 29th instant, calling the attention of his Majesty's Government to the disagreeable occurrence which on the previous day had taken place with the U. S. ships Niagara and Sacramento. You observe:
    First. That these two vessels having entered the port of this capital on Monday, the 27th instant, it was verbally requested of them by a naval officer, in the name of the respective authority, that they would anchor near Belem, seeing there existed apprehensions and fears, owing to the steamer Stonewall being then in the Tagus, a request which Commodore Craven respected and obeyed, notwithstanding that it implied [caused] great inconvenience, and was not in any way obligatory.
    Secondly. That both vessels remained at the point indicated to them until near 3 o'clock of the day before yesterday, nearly five hours after the starting of the Stonewall, the said commodore issuing then his orders to weigh anchor and proceed to the usual mooring ground of men-of-war, which is less inconvenient for communicating with the shore; but that as soon as the Niagara commenced moving so as to turn round three shots in succession were fired directly at her, without any previous warning of any kind, from Fort Belem.
    Thirdly. That Commodore Craven, supposing this hostile and unjustifiable act to proceed from some misapprehension on the part of the commander of the tower, immediately lowered his flag, as a signal universally acknowledged, to express submission to the constituted authority, but that, notwithstanding, they continued to fire on him in flagrant disregard of said signal, and that hoisting then the national flag of the United States at the peak, and when the bows of the Niagara were already turned toward the city, the firing was continued, three of the shots striking that ship in different points.
    You add that you have full faith in the fact that his Majesty's Government in no way authorized or sanctioned the acts to which your said note refers, but that whether said officer acted under instructions or not the responsibility is all alike, however much its moral aspect may be modified by means of explanations, and you conclude by declaring that you confide in his Majesty's Government that it will not deny that prompt and complete reparation which may be due, and will hasten to make known its disapproval of the conduct of whosoever may have thwarted its good intentions and have offended the flag of the United States.
    Taking into due consideration all that you have exposed, and assuring you that his Majesty's Government preserves unaltered its desire to maintain and strengthen every day more and more its friendly relations with the United States, it is my daty to add that the facts treated of in the note you were pleased to address to me yesterday shall not put a stop to this desire in presence of the following frank and loyal reply:
    With respect to the first of the three above-mentioned points, it is my duty to say that in Portugal, as in all other civilized countries, it is the exclusive attribute of the national authority to regulate the police of its ports in such manner as may be judged most convenient. To Commodore Craven were indicated, by the competent authority, the points in the Tagus where the two men-of war Niagara and Sacramento should anchor. On this occasion Commodore Craven did not manifest the slightest wish to select any other anchorage, and nobody could have supposed that he did not consider as obligatory in the port of Lisbon that which is so in all military ports. Further, if Commodore Craven entertained any doubts on this head, it would have been natural for him to have requested information thereon from the authority who communicated to him said intimation; but no information was asked for, which shows that the point indicated and accepted as anchorage was considered obligatory.
    With regard to the second point, it occurs to me to say that the authority who transmitted to Commodore Craven the indication as to the anchorage ground informed him at the same time that the Niagara and Sacramento, having entered the port of Lisbon, should not leave until after the lapse of twenty-four hours from the starting of the Stonewall, which was then in the Tagus waters.
    Five hours had not yet elapsed since the Stonewall had weighed anchor and quitted the port when the Niagara and Sacramento began to move, keeping their bows turned toward the bar.
    The Niagara gradually approached the Tower of Belem, and always with her bows in the same direction Notwithstanding that this vessel had anchored near the Portuguese corvette Sagres, whence had emanated the above-mentioned communications, Commodore Craven did not intimate either to the corvette or to the competent authorities the movement which he intended to exercise. It must be further added that if the Niagara had kept her moorings for a very short time longer the turn of the tide to the ebb would have placed her in a position to proceed to the new anchorage ground and to avoid the movement which gave rise to the shots from Belem Tower.
    Through this concurrence of circumstances it was to be supposed that the movements of the two United States ships indicated the purpose of quitting the port of Lisbon.
    I must call your attention very particularly to this point, because if Commodore Craven had manifested his desire to change his anchorage the authorities would not have opposed themselves to the carrying out of his wish, and all the subsequent events would have been avoided.
    With reference to the last part of your note, I must bring under your consideration that, in conformity with international rights, his Majesty's Government could not and ought not to abstain from its duty of issuing the necessary orders to prevent by every means the sailing of the Niagara and Sacramento before the stipulated time.
    In consequence of the first movements of the Niagara it became the duty of the governor of Belem Tower to order the firing so long as the ship did not indicate that her movements had not for their object the quitting the port of Lisbon, but immediately that Commodore Craven showed he had not such an intention and hastened to make a signal indicating submission to the warning given him, the governor of Belem Tower ought immediately to have ceased firing.
    This did not happen, as the firing still continued after the Niagara had changed her direction, and receiving the last shot when she was already steering with her bows turned toward the city of Lisbon. Commodore Cravens prudence displayed in this last period is worthy of praise.
    With that frankness and loyalty which guide the conduct of his Majesty's Government, and from which it never swerves, it is my duty to declare to you that the shots fired from the Tower of Belein subsequently to the moment in which the Niagara lowered her flag constitute a fact which his Majesty's Government deeply deplores, a fact which was completely independent of its will, and which is deserving of its disapproval, the conduct of the governor of Belem Tower, who went beyond the instructions communicated to him, being on his part worthy of reprimand.
    Under these circumstances, his Majesty's Government considers that a reparation is due to the United States, and in conformity the governor of Belem Tower shall be dismissed without delay. His dismissal shall be published in the first order of the day of the army, and subsequently in the Diario.
    This categorical explanation precludes any idea that, on the part of his Majesty's Government, there existed the remotest intention of offense to the flag of the United States.
    But a very short time ago, in its conduct toward the Stonewall, did his Majesty's Government give evident proof to the United States of how much it has at heart the acting with justice and loyalty.
    In virtue of the foregoing considerations, his Majesty's Government thinks that no doubt can exist regarding the sentiments which have always animated it in continuing in good and amicable relations with the United States, and which it desires to strengthen more and more.
    I avail of this opportunity to renew the assurances of my most distinguished consideration."

MR Harvey writes CMDR Thomas T Craven, USS Niagra, "I think it desirable, while the matter is pending to which you called my attention, that the crews of both our ships should keep as much on board as may be convenient with regard to the actual necessities. If you concur in this view, be pleased to give the necessary directions. I hope this partial restraint will terminate to-morrow, when an answer is expected from the foreign office to the representation which was sent in yesterday. There is reason to believe that proper atonement will be made, but if either of your ships should be required outside temporarily, the Sacramento ought to be sent, since the presence of the Niagara is indispensable until the question is satisfactorily closed.
    There are various rumors that the Stonewall is in or near the little bay of Cascães."

CDR Foxhall A Parker, Potomac Flotilla, writes SECNAV "I have the honor to inform the Department that on the night of the 19th instant Acting Master Wright, commanding the U. S.S. Mystic, captured on the North River a large canoe and 17 boxes of tobacco, which were just about to be shipped to run the blockade.
    The tobacco I have divided among the captors, and shall use the boat for public service at the depot at St. inigoes."

CDR W H Macomb, District of the Sounds of North Carolina writes RADM David D Porter, North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, "Your letter of the 28th instant, relating to my cooperation with General Sherman, was received yesterday per U. S. S. Bat, Lieutenant-Commander J. S. Barnes. I immediately had an interview with the general and arranged that Captain Rhind would attend to everything relating to the Navy in the Neuse. I am on my way to Plymouth to carry out your orders as regards sending vessels to Winton, on the Chowan, and holding the same. The Shokokon and Commodore Hall are on their way up from New Berne. As soon as possible after my arrival at Plymouth I shall proceed up the Chowan, dragging ahead for torpedoes."

FO W W Hunter telegrams CSA SECNAV "Total number of officers of all grades under my command, 25; of men, boys, and marines, 112."

LCDR William C Rogers, USS Iuka writes SECNAV from Lat. 23° 50' N, Long. 83° 41' W "I have the honor to report to you that to-day, in the above posi tion, the Iuka fell in with and captured the English schooner Comus, John Harrison, master, from St. Mark's, Fla.,for Havana, with a cargo of 32 bales of sea-island cotton.
    I send the vessel and her crew (consisting of 12 persons) to Key West for adjudication.
    No other national vessel was in sight at time of capture. Herewith please find enclosed list of officers and muster roll of crew entitled to prize money."

R M Adams, Jr., Extreme Right Batteries telegrams CPT S M Eaton "We have the range on the ram very well. She has fired but two shots and is moving up the stream. No shells from the fort guns have exploded. The transports have got safely out of the way. The ram, like the Tennessee, fires only halfway across. Our shots on the ram don't seem to affect her, although several have struck her. I am at the left of the batteries, in a ravine - a good place for observation. The fort guns have got the range well. We have now opened on the fort."

RADM Samuel P Lee, Mississippi Squadron, writes SECNAV "Some of the pilots in this squadron have at different times been notified by the provost-marshals of their respective districts that they have been drafted for military service. As they are already in the United States service, it would seem that they can not be drafted into it, nor can they resign or desert from the naval service to enter the Army on such summons.
    These pilots desire that their names be stricken from the enrollment lists, and that their townships may receive credit for their service, as in the case of other officers or of seamen. I respectfully request that all proper relief may be extended to this meritorious class of officers."

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
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31 MAY-1 JUN 2014 Custom House Maritime Museum
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12-13 JUL 2014 Double Day Campground
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19-20 JUL 2014 Cummington, MA Living History
2 AUG 2014 Windham, NY Music
16-17 AUG 2014 Fort Ontario
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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 2015 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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