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last update Friday, 15-Nov-2019 11:03:12 PST


McLean Research Associates is dedicated to presenting little known facts about the US Navy in the Civil War, presentations on a myriad of astronomical topics,STEM workshops, and letterboxing.

In commemoration of the 155 years since the Civil War - or more appropriately in the vernacular of the day - The War of the Slaveholders' Rebellion - we are featuring a quote and picture of the day from the Naval Records

Period Picture
Gun crew of the USS Pocohontas
Mon Dec 12 1864

Igmacio De Avellar Barloza Da Silva, Imperial Legation of Brazil writesd SECSTATE from Washington, DC "The undersigned, chargê d'affaires ad interim of his Majesty the Emperor of Brazil, has just received orders from his Government to address himself without delay to that of the United States of North America about an act of most transcendent gravity done on the morning of the 7th day of October last in the port of the capital of the province of Bahia by the war steamer Wachusett, belonging to the Navy of the Union, an act which involves a manifest violation of the territorial jurisdiction of the Empire and an offense to its honor and sovereignty.
    On the 4th day of the month referred to there entered that port where already had been lying for some days the Wachusett - the Confederate steamer Florida, for the purpose, declared by her commander to the president of the province, to supply herself with alimentary provisions and coal, and to repair some tubes of her machinery.
    The president, proceeding in accordance with the policy of neutrality which the Empire resolved to adopt on the question in which unfortunately these States are involved, and in conformity with the instructions in this respect issued by the Imperial Government on the 23d of June of the year last past, assented to the application of the commander of the Florida, and fixed the term of forty-eight hours for taking in supplies, and fixing, in dependence on the final examination by the engineer of the arsenal, the determination of the residue of the time which, peradventure, should be deemed indispensable for the completion of the repairs.
    The same authority at once took, with the greatest impartiality, all the measures necessary to avoid any conflict between the two hostile steamers.
    The Florida was placed under cover of the batteries of the Brazilian corvette D[oña] Januaria, on the inshore side, at the request of her commander, who, reposing on the faith with which, without doubt, the chief authority of the province could not fail to inspire him, considered himself sheltered from any attack of his adversary, and in this confidence not only stayed a night on shore, but gave liberty to a great part of the crew of his vessel.
    It behooves me to say that as soon as the Confederate steamer entered the port of Bahia the American consul, Wilson, addressed to the president a dispatch claiming that the Florida should not be admitted to free pratique, and that on the contrary she should be detained, alleging for this that that vessel had, in concert with the Alabama, violated the neutrality of the Empire by making captures in 1863 near the island of Fernando de Noronha.
    Such exaggerated pretentions formed on facts not proven, which had already been the subject of discussion between the Imperial Government and the legation of the United States, could not be even listened to.
    If the President should have refused the hospitality solicited by the commander of the Florida he would have infringed not only the duties of neutrality of the Empire, but also those of humanity, considering that that steamer, coming from Teneriffe, had been sixty-one days at sea, was unprovided with food, and with machinery in the worst condition.
    Afterwards, the president having stated to the same consul that he hoped from his honor and loyalty toward a friendly nation that he would settle with the commander of the Wachusett that he should respect the neutrality and sovereignty of the Empire, he was answered affirmatively, the consul pledging his word of honor.
    Things were in this condition, the time of forty-eight hours being to expire at 1 o'clock of the afternoon of the 7th, when, about dawn of that day, the commander of the steamer Wachusett, suddenly leaving his anchorage, passed through the Brazilian vessels of war and approached the Florida.
    On passing across the bows of the Brazilian corvette D[oña] Januaria he was hailed from on board that he must anchor, but as he did not attend to this intimation, and continued to approach the Florida, at the same time firing a gun and some musketry, the commander of the naval division of the Empire stationed in those waters sent an officer to board the Wachusett and inform her commander that the ships of the division and the forts would open fire upon her if she should attack the Florida. The Brazilian officer was not allowed to make fast to the Wachusett, but the officer of the deck hailed him, saying in reply that he accepted the intimation given, that he would do nothing more, and that he was going to return to his anchorage. The commander of the Brazilian division then thought proper to ratify his intimation by firing a gun, upon which a complete silence followed between the two ships, Wachusett and Florida.
    At the time this act was passing, the corvette D[oña] Januaria, on board which the commander of division had hoisted his flag, lay head to flood, the steamer Florida anchored bb (side by side) of her and quite close to the shore, and between her and the corvette the Wachusett stopped her wheels.
    The commander of division then observing, notwithstanding the darkness of the night, that the Wachusett, from the position in which she was, kept moving onward and was passing ahead of the corvette, on a course eb, became convinced that in fact she was steering for her anchorage, thus complying with the promise made; but a few moments afterwards, perceiving that the Florida was in motion, the commander discovered that the Wachusett was taking her off in tow by means of a long cable.
    Surprised at such an extraordinary attempt, the commander immediately set about stopping this and redressing at the same time, as - behooved him, the offense thus done to the dignity and sovereignty of the Empire. But availing himself of the darkness of the night, and of other circumstances, the commander of the Wachusett succeeded in carrying his prize over the bar and escaping the just punishment he deserves.
    The consul, Wilson, preferred to abandon his post, withdrawing on board the Wachusett. The Government of his Majesty, as soon as it had official information of the event, addressed to the legation of the United States at Rio de Janeiro a note, in which, giving a succinct exposition of the fact, it declared that it had no hesitation in believing it would hasten to give to it all proper assurances that the Government of the Union would attend to the just reclamation of the Empire as promptly and fully as the gravity of the case demanded.
    In correspondence with the expectative note, the worthy representative of the United States was prompt in sending his reply, in which he declares he is convinced that his Government will give to that of the Empire the reparation which is due to it.
    Such are the facts to which the undersigned has received orders to call to the attention of the Hon. William H Seward, Secretary of State of the United States.
    The principles of international law which regulate this matter, and in respect of which there is not the least divergence among the most distinguished publicists, are common and known to all. The undersigned would fail to recognize the high intelligence of the Hon. Mr. Seward if perchance, he should enter in this respect into fuller developments.
    He limits himself then, only to recall a memorable example in which these principles, invariably sustained by the United States, had entire application.
    In 1793, the great Washington, then being President of the United States, and the illustrious Jefferson, Secretary of State, the French frigate L'Embuscade captured the English ship Grange in Delaware Bay, thus violating the neutrality and the territorial sovereignty of the United States. The American Government remonstrated energetically against this violation, and required from the Government of the French Republic not only the immediate delivery of the captured vessel, but also the complete liberation of all the persons found on board.
    This reclamation was promptly satisfied. Much more grave, certainly, is the occurrence in the port of the province of Bahia, which makes the subject of the present note. By the special circumstances which preceded and attended it this act has no parallel in the annals of modern maritime wars.
    The commander of the Wachusett not only gravely offended the territorial immunities of the Empire, passing beyond the laws of war by attacking treacherously during the night a defenseless ship, whose crew, much reduced because more than sixty men were on shore with the commander, and several officers reposed, unwary, beneath the shadow of the protection which the neutrality of the Empire guaranteed to them.
    And so open was the violation, so manifest the offense, that the enlightened American press was almost unanimous in condemnation of the inexcusable proceeding of Commander Collins.
    On this occasion, reminding the United States, whose antecedents are well known and noted in history by the energetic defense of and respect for neutral rights, of these unshaken principles, the undersigned can not consider the event which occurred at Bahia otherwise than as the individual act of the commander of the Wachusett, not authorized or approved by his Government, and that it will consequently give to the Government of his Majesty the Emperor the explanations and reparation which, in conformity with international law, are due to a power which maintains friendly and pacific relations with the United States.
    The just reclamation of the Imperial Government being thus presented, the undersigned awaits the reply of the Hon. Mr. Seward, and, fully confiding in his exalted wisdom and in the justice of the Government of the United States, he has not, even for a moment, doubted but that it will be as satisfactory as the incontestable right which aids the Empire and the vast gravity of the offense which was done to it may require.
    The undersigned avails of this opportunity of having the honor to reiterate to the Hon. William H. Seward the protestations of his most distinguished consideration."

RADM David D Porter, North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, writes LCDR H A Adams, Jr. Fleet Ordnance Officer, "When the gale is over and setting to a steady northwester you will start the ordnance vessels so that the wind will carry them as far as Beaufort, N. C.
    Don't fail in getting them off at the right time. Take any tugs you can find to tow them to where they can make sail."

RADM Jonathan Dahlgren, South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, writes CDR J Blakely Creighton, SOPA Tulifinny River "The communication with the army of General Sherman elsewhere obliges me to withdraw the Pawnee and Sonoma, which leaves you as senior officer in Broad River, with the Mingoe in the Tulifinny and the Pontiac at Boyd's Creek.
    You also have two tugs for communication and other purposes. This change you will at once make known to General Hatch, and say it is made by agreement with General Foster.
    Do all in your power to assist the army, and if Boyd's Neck is evacuated, the Pontiac will join you unless otherwise ordered.
    Communicate with Commander Reynolds for supplies of coal and provisions, if you should need them."

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. We also have several presentations on astronomy for all age groups

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