Mr. Dayton to Mr. Seward

No. 382.]

Sir: Your despatches from No. 427 to No. 431, both inclusive, have been duly received.

Another confederate vessel, formerly the Victor, of the English navy, now called by her captain the Rappahannock, has escaped from the English port of Sheerness and run into Calais. I communicated the fact to Mr. Drouyn de l’Huys last week, and he informed me that he immediately referred the case to the minister of marine, from whom he has not yet received an answer. Having since obtained additional information as to this vessel, I had a conversation with him on the subject yesterday, and at his request I have put that information in writing and sent it with copies of affidavits to-day. Of this communication I herewith send you a copy.

The copies of the affidavits made by Joseph Murray, Thomas Kelly and Wm. Wynn, which I enclose to Mr. Drouyn de l’Huys, have doubtless been already forwarded to you from London.

My despatch to Mr. Drouyn de l’Huys will apprise you of the present condition of the Rappahannock, now at Calais.

I learn that this vessel had for some reason been rejected by the British admiralty, and sold to a private purchaser, from whom she was bought by the confederates, and subjected to great changes and repairs.

Mr. Drouyn de l’Huys seems to be quite restive under this recent and [Page 4] constant use of the French ports by the confederates. He says it cannot have resulted from accident, but that it is intended to compromise this government. I told him that this was doubtless so, when he added that they would not be compromised; that they meant to remain neutral. He said that if there were any person to whom he could properly address himself he would give them to understand that their action upon this subject was disagreeable.

I have apprised the captain of the United States ship Kearsarge of the condition of things in the ports of France, and I have requested Mr. Sprague, our consul at Gibraltar, to inform the captain of the St. Louis as to the Rappahannock, &c.

The confederates have more difficulties in procuring crews for their vessels than they contemplated.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward Secretary of State, &c., &c., &c.

Mr. Dayton to Mr. Drouyn de l’Huys

Monsieur le Ministre: A ship called by her captain the Rappahannock, and purchased for the confederates of the south, has made her escape from the British port of Sheerness without papers, and run into the port of Calais. She claims, I am informed, that she is driven in to repair her machinery, rigging, &c.

The facts as communicated to me are certain:

1. That she has been bought and fitted up by the confederates to cruise against and destroy our commerce.

2. That, anticipating or fearing detention, she escaped in an unfinished condition from the port of Sheerness, England, and has come over to Calais to complete her equipment, &c.

3. That a number of young Americans (some twelve or fourteen, I think) have been awaiting at Calais the arrival of this vessel to go aboard of her as officers or crew, and that upon a signal from the vessel they made an attempt by a ruse to accomplish their purpose. This shows that the vessel did not come in as pretended, “en reláche force.”

4. Our consular agent writes me that it is quite evident the vessel left the English port suddenly and unexpectedly, with the mechanics employed on her yet on board; that considerable reparations and changes are yet to be made upon her; that her rigging is incomplete, and the ropes and pulleys are yet scattered over her decks. He informed me also that it is understood the captain had said he had applied or would apply to the minister of marine for permission to take out and entirely repair her boilers.

5. I enclose likewise copies of two affidavits sent to me from the United States legation at London, proving that this vessel left the English port to go to Calais; that she was then incomplete; that she waits at the port of Calais for her crew, and that she is, as her captain says, a confederate privateer.

It is quite evident that this vessel occupies a position which differs from either the Florida or the Georgia. She has left her port on the other side of the channel, voluntarily, without papers, and run directly across to a neighboring port, within which she hopes to be protected until her equipment is completed and her officers and crew ready.

On this statement of facts no argument is necessary to show that permission [Page 5] from the French authorities to carry out her purpose would be a violation of neutrality.

May I beg the attention of your excellency therefore, immediately to this question.

I have the honor to be your excellency’s very obedient servant,


His Excellency Mr. Drouyn de l’Huys, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Paris,