Mr. Webb to Mr.
Legation of the United States,
Rio de Janeiro,
May 7, 1863.
Sir: The English steamer brought me despatches
from our consul at Pernambuco, copies of which I enclose, marked 1 and
2. These came to hand by the second delivery on Monday evening.
* * * * * * * * *
Before retiring to rest, I addressed to the Marquis d’Abrantes the
despatch marked No. 3; and after it had been copied, on Tuesday morning,
I took it in person to the foreign office. I saw the under secretary,
who informed me that the president of Pernambuco had reported to the
government the proceedings of the Alabama at Fernando de Noronha, and
that I would, probably, find the Marquis at the chamber of deputies. I
accordingly drove to the chamber, where, after great delay, I
ascertained that he had gone to his residence on Botofoga bay, some four
miles distant, complaining of indisposition.
* * * * * * * * *
We met at four o’clock, and after listening to my representations, in the
course of which I pointed out the animus of the
English consul, in furnishing our consul with a copy of his report from
the officers of the Oneida, which was calculated to excite ill blood
between the United States and Brazil, he heartily expressed his regret
at what had occurred, and his determination to have written me a note in
anticipation of receiving one from me; in which note he intended to
express the determination of the government to remove and otherwise
punish the offending governor of Fernando de Noronha. I expressed my
satisfaction at this; and said, I had refused to comply with the request
of the under secretary to leave the despatch at the foreign office,
because I anticipated the willingness of the government to act without
prompting, in which case I could abstain from giving him the despatch,
and, therefore, had opened it myself, and obtained his consent to read
it to him in advance, in order that I might withdraw it in case he was
prepared to take the initiative; and I, accordingly, offered to retain
my despatch and assume that I had not written it. He said “No; your
despatch makes no claim at present, but leaves the whole question to the
justice of Brazil; a compliment which we appreciate, and I will lay it
before his Majesty the Emperor.”
I then informed him that it was my intention to have returned to
Petropolis on that day. And as it was not possible to return until I had
received an official communication from him on this subject, and
forwarded it to you, I indulged the hope that he would give me his reply
to my despatch at his earliest convenience. He assured me it should be
in my possession last evening. It failed to arrive, however, and at 9
o’clock this (Thursday) morning I was again at his house on Botofoga
bay, determined to have an interview with him before he went to his
office or the senate, or chamber of deputies, where he is in attendance
daily, there being a kind of ministerial crisis pending, and it being
the right and duty of ministers to speak in both houses in defence of
He laughed at my pertinacity in persisting in having his reply in
possession at once, and promised it for this evening.
It was whispered to me that a Brazilian coasting steamer arrived last
evening from Pernambuco, with two days later news, which was the cause
of my not getting a despatch last night. I know not how this may affect
the question; but if the facts on investigation turn out as represented,
I have not a doubt in regard to the action of the imperial
Thursday, 4 o’clock p. m.
I received the promised despatch at 1.35 p, m., instead of 11 a. m., and
immediately came to the city and had it translated by the consul’s
clerk, and enclose it herewith, marked No. 4. You will perceive it
covers the whole ground, and that the officer in command has been
removed, in consequence of an investigation into the affair, made by the
president of the province of Pernambuco. It is only just to the imperial
government to bear in mind, that previous to any such formal
investigation, and upon the mere, prima facie
aspect of the case, and general rumor, the commandant’s removal was
determined upon and reported to me.
I shall, of course, address a letter to the government immediately on my
return to Petropolis, acknowledging the receipt of the Marquis
d’Abrantes’s despatch, and thanking him for the promptness which the
imperial government has exhibited in punishing one of its officials for
his neglect of duty, and I hope in due time to receive from you a
despatch on this subject, to be sent to the foreign office.
* * * * * * * * *
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, &c.
Mr. Adamson to Mr. Webb
United States Consulate,
April 27, 1863.
Sir: I am under the very painful necessity
of announcing to you the destruction, by the pirate Alabama, of six
The very short time between this and the sailing of the English mail
packet will prevent me from giving you the full particulars. I can
only say now, that the Brazilian schooner Sergipano arrived here
yesterday from the island of Fernando de Noronha, with 61 persons on
board as passengers, being the officers and crews of the schooner
Kingfisher, of Fairhaven, ship [Page 1262] Nora, of Boston, ship Charles Hill, of Boston, and
ship Louisa Hatch, of Rockland, Maine. The crews of these vessels
are under my protection.
The schooner Kingfisher was a whaling vessel of 121 tons burden. She
was captured by the Alabama on the 23d of March off Fernando de
The ship Nora was captured on the 25th of March, latitude 1° 23'
north, longitude 26° 30' west.
The ship Charles Hill was captured at the same time and place.
The Louisa Hatch was taken on the 4th of April, latitude 3° 13'
south, longitude 26° 18' west. The first vessel had about thirty
barrels of oil on board.
The second was from Liverpool, bound to Calcutta, with 1,520 tons
The third was from Liverpool for Montevideo, with 999 tons salt; and
the fourth was from Cardiff, bound for Point de Galle, Ceylon, laden
with 1,033 tons of coals for the P. & O. & Co.
The pirate stripped the vessels of their small stores, chronometers,
&c., took all the money from the captain, about 280 tons of coal
from the Louisa Hatch, and then burned the vessels.
From the 10th to the 16th of April the Alabama was in the port of the
island of Fernando de Noronha; during this time, viz., on the 15th
of April, the Alabama captured in Brazilian waters two other
American vessels, viz: the brig Kate Corning, of Westport, and the
Lafayette, of New Bedford. These vessels were touching for supplies.
The Alabama went out and seized them, within two miles of the shore.
The pirate set fire to and destroyed the Lafayette immediately. He
towed the Kate Corning to the anchorage, which constitutes the only
harbor of the island, and, about four days after, took her out in
company with the Louisa Hatch and burned both, and this within two
miles of the shore.
Comment is quite unnecessary. It is impossible to say what
complications may arise from these circumstances, and I would,
therefore, be happy to receive any advice you may have to offer.
I remain, with the highest regard, your obedient servant,
THOMAS ADAMSON, Jr., Consul.
James Watson Webb, Esq., &c., &c., &c.
April 27, 1863.
The Alabama.—We have just had news of this
famous privateer by a vessel from Fernando de Noronha, off this
coast. She has captured and burned the following federal ships:
Kingfisher, Thomas E. Lambert, on 23d March; ship Charles Hill,
Percival, on 25th March; ship Nora, C. E. Adams, on the same day;
ship Lewis Hatch, Wm. Grant. This last ship was proceeding from
Cardiff to Point Galle, consigned to a French company with coals.
The brigantine Kate and the bark Lafayette were taken on the
It seems that the captain (Semmes) and the governor of Fernando were
mutually polite—exchanging visits, and driving out together. The
captain bought everything of which he stood in need, and landed his
prisoners. The Kate and the Lafayette were taken on the 17th, close
to the island. The masters of these vessels, suspecting nothing, had
taken their boats ashore to water, and from the shore witnessed the
burning of their ships. They say that the governor protested against
this act being committed in Brazilian waters.
Sixty-two prisoners have been landed here, (Pernambuco,) and
forty-four were remaining on the island. Eleven Englishmen had
entered for the privateer.
The foremost men of the captured vessels were put in irons whilst on
board the privateer, and lost whatever money they may have had, but
were allowed to retain all articles of use, as watches, rings,
&c. The masters were allowed to give their parole, hut, in
reference to property, fared in the same way as the rest of the
Mr. Thomas F. Wilson to Mr. Webb
Consulate of the United
April 29, 1863.
Sir: I have this moment learned that the
pirate Alabama is off the coast of Brazil, north of Pernambuco,
destroying American merchantmen.
Through the politeness of the British consul, of this city, I have
been allowed to copy the report furnished him by the officers of the
British mail steamer from Southampton, which I herewith enclose you
for your information. You will, perhaps, have been furnished by our
consul at Pernambuco with the particulars of these recent exploits;
but fearing that by some accident you may not have received such
information; I lay before you all I have on the subject.
In haste, yours, most respectfully,
Mr. Webb to the Marquis d’Abrantes
Legation of the United
States, Hotel dos Estrangeiros,
Rio de Janeiro,
May 4, 1863.
The undersigned, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary for
the United States, has the honor to inform his excellency, the
Marquis d’Abrantes, counsellor to his Imperial Majesty the Emperor
of Brazil, minister and secretary of state for foreign affairs, that
he has, this evening, received from the consul of the United States
at Pernambuco a despatch dated April 21, from which the following
“I am under the painful necessity of announcing to you the
destruction by the pirate Alabama of six American vessels. The very
short time between this and the sailing of the English mail packet
will prevent my giving you the full particulars. I can only say now
that the Brazilian schooner Sergipano arrived here yesterday from
the island of Fernando de Noronha, with 61 persons on board as
passengers, being the officers and crews of the schooner Kingfisher,
of Fairhaven, ship Nora, of Boston, ship Charles Hill, of Boston,
and ship Louisa Hatch, of Rockland, Maine.”
* * * * * * * * *
“From the 10th to the 16th of April the Alabama was in the port of
the island of Fernando de Noronha, during which time, viz., on the
15th of April, the pirate captured in Brazilian
waters two other American vessels, viz: the brig Kate
Corning, of Westport, and the Lafayette, of New Bedford. These
vessels were touching at Fernando de Noronha for supplies. The
Alabama went out and seized them within two miles of the shore. The
pirate set fire to and destroyed the Lafayette immediately. He towed
the Kate Corning to the anchorage, which constitutes the only harbor
to the island, and, a few [Page 1264] days after, took her out in company with the Louisa Hatch and
burned both, and this within two miles of the shore.”
The United States consul at Bahia, under date of 29th of April,
writes the undersigned as follows:
“I have this moment learned that the pirate Alabama is off the coast
of Brazil, north of Pernambuco, destroying American merchantmen.
Through the politeness of the British consul at this port, I have
been allowed to copy the report furnished him by the officers of the
British mail steamer from Southampton, which I herewith enclose for
The report alluded to, after confirming the capture and burning of
the American ships by the English piratical vessel called the
Alabama, which was built in an English port, with English capital,
manned and armed by Englishmen, and without ever having been in
American waters, either north or south, is now prowling about the
ocean and preying upon the unprotected commerce of a neutral and
friendly nation, proceeds to say:
“It seems that the captain (Semmes) and the governor of Fernando de
Noronha were mutually polite, exchanging visits, and riding and
driving out together. The captain bought everything of which he
stood in need, and landed his prisoners.”
“The Kate Corning and Lafayette were taken on the 17th, close to the
island. The masters of these vessels, suspecting nothing, had taken
their boats ashore to water, and from the shore witnessed the
burning of their ships.”
“Sixty-two prisoners have been landed here, (Pernambuco,) and
forty-four were remaining on the island. Eleven
Englishmen had entered for the privateer.”
The undersigned presumes that the government of Brazil has been
officially apprized of this outrage on the commerce of the United
States, in the waters of Brazil, by the English piratical vessel
called the Alabama, an outrage perpetrated, in fact, within one of
its harbors, as two of the vessels destroyed were actually at anchor
in what constitutes the harbor of Fernando de Noronha; and it would
appear from the information furnished, that the governor of that
island gave countenance and support to the pirate. He therefore
prefers relying upon the justice of Brazil for prompt redress in the
premises, to indulging in any comments upon this reported outrage on
American commerce, accompanied by a violation of international law;
and contents himself, for the moment, by calling the attention of
your excellency to the gross breach of neutrality, said to have been
perpetrated, by a high official of the imperial government.
In the hope that your excellency will favor the undersigned with a
reply to this communication in time to allow him to transmit it to
his government by the steamer of the 9th instant, he hastens to
avail himself of the present occasion to renew to your excellency
the assurance of his great personal respect and most distinguished
His Excellency the Marquis d’Abrantes,
The Marquis d’Abrantes to
Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, Rio de
May 7, 1863.
By official communication from the president of the province of
Pernambuco, the imperial government has been informed that on the
10th day of [Page 1265] last month
the steamer Alabama, belonging to the Confederate States of America,
came to anchor in the harbor of island Rata, near the island of
Fernando de Noronha.
A few days after, said steamer captured six whale ships of the
Federal States, and burnt two of them, after having taken possession
of their cargoes. The crews of these vessels were taken to Recife,
capital of the province, by a Brazilian vessel.
The president, being apprized of these facts, ordered immediately an
inquiry, all the persons composing the crews of the aforesaid
vessels being interrogated. The United States consul, also, made the
investigations that he thought necessary.
From these inquiries and investigations it is evident that the
captain of the Alabama went several times to the island of Fernando
de Noronha, accompanied by some of his men; that he communicated
with the commanding officer of the island; and he went ashore
several times, in order to supply the steamer with the articles
needed, and to land the crews of the captured vessels.
It is also evident that the capture and burning of the vessels took
place in the territorial waters of the empire; and, finally, that
the commander of the island neglected the duties of his position, as
he did not even protest against the proceedings of the captain of
In these circumstances, the president of the province, after having
conferred with the United States consul, dismissed the aforesaid
commander, and ordered proceedings to be commenced against him.
In this emergency, as there was no means at Pernambuco of stopping
the proceedings of the captain of the Alabama, the president
immediately solicited from the imperial government the convenient
measures, and protested solemnly against the proceedings of the said
captain, ordering him to leave the territorial waters of the empire
within twenty-four hours.
The government of his Majesty has approved of the proceedings of the
president of the province of Pernambuco in this emergency, and has
taken the necessary measures to repress the outrages of the captain
of the Alabama, in order that the neutrality which this empire ought
to observe, in this war, may be religiously maintained. Apprizing
Mr. James Watson Webb, envoy extraordinary and minister
plenipotentiary of the United States, of the facts already stated, I
flatter myself of having anticipated the desire that he undoubtedly
had of being minutely informed of this occurrence; and I also
congratulate myself that Mr. Webb will recognize in the proceedings
of the imperial government the exact observance of those principles
of neutrality to which I have already referred.
I reiterate to Mr. James Watson Webb the assurance of my high