Mr. Seward to Mr. Adams.

No. 1639.]

Sir: I enclose herewith, for your information, an anthenticated copy of an affidavit which was communicated to this department by William Skiddy, esq., of Stamford, Connecticut, upon the subject of the letter of Sir James Elphinstone to the London Standard. Mr. Skiddy participated in the transaction referred to therein, and by his own statement destroyed the applicability of the precedent to Waddell’s conduct.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


Charles Francis Adams, Esq., &c., &c., &c.


Sir: I have received your letter of December 13th. instant, in reference to my communication made to the Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, which contained an extract from the Herald, to the effect that Sir James Elphinstone had written to the London Standard, stating that a precedent existed for the course of the Shenandoah in the conduct of the United States sloop-of-war Hornet in the year 1815—(given in James’s History of the War.) I was, as then ranked, a midshipman master’s mate on hoard the Hornet at that time, (equivalent to an ensign now,) and believe myself to be the only surviving officer—the rebel Admiral French Forrest excepted. We sailed from New York about the 22d of January, 1815. Two or three days after, we boarded a Portuguese brig in the Gulf Stream, but a dark night and increasing gale from the northwest obliged the boat and crew to return, and we were nearly lost before reaching the ship. This brig had been a long time at sea, and could not give us any news. I was the boarding officer. We had parted company with the Peacock and Tom Bowling. Nothing further transpired until about a month afterwards, when in latitude of the Cape de Verde islands we boarded a French merchant brig from Bordeaux bound to the West Indies. I was the boarding officer, and conducted the captain on board the Hornet. Captain Biddle not speaking French, I was his interpreter, and the conversation was all carried on through me, and at its close I put the French captain on board his brig. We saw no other vessel until the 23d of March, 1815, when in the morning we made the island of Tristan d’Acunha, in latitude 37° 6' south, and longitude 12° west. As we were getting ready to land, we discovered a sail standing for us. We laid off and on until after 1 p. m., when the action commenced, and in twenty-two minutes after his Majesty’s sloop-of-war Penguin, nineteen guns, was a prize to the United States sloop Hornet. The Penguin was but a few days from the Cape of Good Hope, and without news of a peaceable nature. On the contrary, she told us that an English frigate was not far off cruising for American vessels. About a month after this, April 27th, 28th, or 29th, in latitude 38° 30', longitude 33° east, we were chased, and under the fire of a British seventy-four, (Cornwallis,) but escaped by throwing our guns overboard. Thus disabled we steered for St. Salvador, where we arrived about the last of June, when and where we first heard of a cessation of hostilities. On receiving this news Captain Biddle steered for home, and we arrived in New York the latter part of July.

I have the honor to remain your obedient servant,

WILLIAM SKIDDY, Late Naval Constructor for United States Mail Steamships.

Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.


State of Connecticut, County of Fairfield, ss:

Be it remembered, that on this 20th day of December, A. D. 1865, before me, William H. Holly, a notary public in and for said State, residing in Stamford, in said county, duly commissioned and sworn, personally appeared William Skiddy, who subscribed to the foregoing letter directed to the Hon. William H. Seward, and made solemn oath to the matter therein contained as true and correct.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my official seal the day and year above stated.


WILLIAM H. HOLLY, Notary Public.
[Page 39]

[From the Herald.]

alleged precedents for waddell’s course.

Sir James Elphinstone writes to the London Standard on the subject of the Shenandoah, and furnishes an extract from James’s Naval History to prove the depredations of that vessel, alter the termination of the war, are not without a precedent. At the close of the war between Great Britain and the United States, the American sloop Hornet captured his Majesty’s sloop-of-war Penguin, after a desperate engagement. The captain of the Hornet had previously been informed by a neutral of the cessation of hostilities, but he disregarded the notice, taking the Penguin, and proceeded in company with an American sloop, the Peacock, to the East Indies, in order to have their share of the prizes yet to be made. The Hornet became disabled and returned, but the Peacock entered into an engagement with an East India Company’s vessel, named the Nautilus, and the latter was compelled to surrender. In these engagements lives were sacrificed, and the affair naturally made a great sensation at the time. Sir James Elphinstone refers to the incidents now, because they may assist in the discussion which will inevitably ensue upon the surrender of the Shenandoah.