Mr. Culver to Mr. Seward

No. 143.]

Sir: I have the honor to advise the department that on the 13th of November last I received a despatch from our vice-consul at Ciudad Bolivar, informing me that on the evening of the 18th October previous an attack had been made upon the steamer Apure, sailing under the flag of the United States, at Apurito, in the upper waters of the Orinoco, by an armed body of insurgents, and that the captain, J. W. Hammer, the second captain, J. Brissot. and P. D. Canfield, first engineer, all of them citizens of the United States, had been killed; that there was very great excitement in the valley of the Orinoco upon the matter, especially among the resident foreigners, as well as on the part of the consular body at Ciudad Bolivar.

I thereupon addressed a note to the minister of foreign affairs, a copy of which (marked A) I herewith enclose to you.

Knowing that the government here as well as the public press had received despatches with full details of the outrage, I was surprised at the entire silence of each. No allusion to it was made, and after a delay of some two weeks, and after intimating privately to the foreign secretary that it was a case where I had a right to expect a more prompt response, I received on the 27th November a reply to my note, a translation of which (marked B) I herewith transmit.

Very soon thereafter, I received from our vice-consul a copy in Spanish of the evidence taken before the judge of the first instance at Ciudad Bolivar; also a condensed statement of the facts, substantiated by that evidence as found by the consular body in that city, of which last, being in English, I forward you a copy (marked C.)

From this evidence, as stated by the consuls, it will be seen that Captain Hammer had with his other passengers taking on board for transportation up the river some fifty troops, under the command of the president of the State of Apure, and when he reached Apurito his steamer was in the night attacked by an armed body of insurgents from the shore, and the captain, his mate, and engineer, were killed.

The conduct of President Garcia and his official was most cowardly in not protecting the steamer, its officers, and passengers, while that of the party on shore was most fiendish. It is not pretended that a state of war existed, or any general or reorganized insurrection, but a sudden attempt of a few restless rebel chiefs (with which the country swarms) to overthrow the State government, and which they accomplished.

I have reason to know that the government received this evidence taken before the judge, and also the statement and protest (C) of the consular body, at the time that copies reached me, and yet up to this date not one word has been communicated to me upon the subject, other than the minister’s note (B) of the 25th November, while the government press in the capital, which is eager to publish all that transpires in Chili, Peru, and Mexico, has maintained a dogged silence as to this outrage.

The cause of all this, as I infer, and indeed I am so informed, is the apprehension that reclamations will be made. In the instructions given to the judge who held the investigation he was distinctly ordered “to bear in mind that the principal object in instituting the inquiry was to protect the nation from all injustice in any reclamations which perchance the representatives of the United States or England might make.” A very singular caution truly to give to a judicial tribunal whose honest and sole object one would suppose should be to elicit the truth, let its results affect whomsoever they might.

Perceiving, as I thought, a disposition to allow the matter to slumber in silence, on the 20th instant I addressed a second note to the minister of foreign affairs, a copy of which (marked D) I enclose herewith.

[Page 432]

Nothing further has been heard from the government, and from my knowledge of the way and manner in which these outrages are treated, I am prepared to expect that nothing further will be done, nor shall I ever hear anything further from the authorities touching it, except by dint of hard pressing. The whole matter will be left to slumber in silence, while others of our citizens will be invited to come with their capital and skill to help develop the resources of the country, and ultimately to share the fate of Captain Hammer.

In my opinion this is a clear case of wanton murder, and the villanous chiefs who conducted the attack ought to suffer the extreme penalties of the law; instead of which they are now at the head of the recognized government of the State of Apure.

Each of the three citizens killed on the occasion referred to has left a family that was dependent on him for support.

I ask the instructions of my government touching the matter.

I have the honor to be, with sentiments of highest respect, your obedient servant,


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


Mr. Culver to Mr. Seijas

SIR: The undersigned, minister resident of the United States, is pained to inform the government of Venezuela that he has this day received a despatch from the United States consulate at Ciudad Bolivar, under date of 2d instant, advising him as follows:

“It is my painful duty to inform you of one of the most atrocious acts that was ever committed in this country—nothing less than the most cruel assassination of the whole crew and officers of the American steamer Apure.

“The following is a list of the victims: Captain J. W. Hammer, general agent of Orinoco Steam Navigation Company, from Iowa; Captain J. Brissot, of Louisiana; and Philip Canfield, of New York, first engineer.:

“The crime was perpetrated at the town of Apurito, on the 19th of October, and has called forth the general indignation of all the inhabitants of this city, and is considered by the whole community as the most outrageous and unprovoked crime ever perpetrated, and should call the serious attention of the representatives of the different governments resident in Venezuela.”

The undersigned is further advised that all the victims of this murder were citizens of the United States, and each leaves a wife and children in Venezuela, in indigent circumstances.

As these murdered citizens were pursuing a legitimate commerce under the flag of their country in the waters of Venezuela, by and with the consent of its authorities, the undersigned cannot too strongly assure the minister of foreign affairs, that the government of the United States will expect that of Venezuela, first, to institute a prompt and effective investigation of the affair; and, second, bring to a sure, speedy, and condign punishment the guilty parties.

In the mean time the undersigned has directed his consul at Ciudad de Bolivar to take and forward to him the depositions of any and all witnesses whose evidence can throw any light on the atrocious crime.

The undersigned would respectfully ask to be advised by the government of Venezuela of any new or additional facts in the case, which may have come to its knowledge, and which it may deem proper to communicate.

The character and atrocity of the crime seem to the undersigned to be of a nature that it should not be allowed to rest for a day without a searching investigation.

The undersigned has a copy of an official note from the president of the State of Apure, to that of the State of Guayana, corroborating the statement of his consul, and which copy he will cheerfully furnish if desired by the government of Venezuela.

The undersigned has the honor to renew to Mr. Seijas the assurance of his distinguished consideration.


His Excellency Señor Rafael Seijas, Minister Foreign Affairs, &c., & c., & c.

[Page 433]



Mr. Seijas to Mr. Culver

Year second of the law and seven of federation.

The undersigned, minister of foreign affairs of the United States of Venezuela, had the honor to receive the note in which the minister resident of the United States of America communicates the intelligence which had been received from Ciudad Bolivar, concerning the assassination of the officers who manned the American steamer Apure.

The citizen first vice-president charged with the duties of the presidency of the republic has learned with profound regret of that crime, which has been undertaken against life, property, security, and the other interests which the association had confided to its agents.

The government is in possession of no reliable data concerning the affair, of which different relations are given, but which nevertheless represent it as having occurred in a fight between the forces commanded by the president of the State of Apure, and others, who had arrayed themselves against its authority.

In order to arrive at the truth about the affair, and to adopt the requisite measures, the -national executive on receiving Mr. Culver’s note gave orders that every possible means be taken to investigate the causes of those deaths, together with the attending circumstances; the results of all which shall be opportunely communicated to the legation.

The undersigned renews to Mr. Culver the assurance of his distinguished consideration.


E. D. Culver, Esq, Minister Resident, &c., & c., & c.


Proceedings of a meeting of consuls and foreign residents held at Ciudad Bolivar Venezuela, November 12, 1865.

Sir: You are respectfully invited to attend a meeting of the consuls and foreign residents in this city, to be held at the rooms of the Club del Comercio, on Sunday, 12th instant, at 12 o’clock, noon, for the purpose of taking such action as may then be deemed necessary in regard to: he recent unhappy occurrence at Apurito.

Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

JOHN DALTON, United States Consul.

In accordance with the above circular a general assemblage of the gentlemen invited took place at the appointed time, when, upon the motion of the British consul, seconded by the consul of the Hanseatic cities, John Dalton, esq., United States consul, was called to the chair; Doctor Louis Plassard, consul of France, appointed vice-president, and Mr. Joseph B. Austin, of New York, United States, appointed secretary.

The meeting being thus duly organized, after a few appropriate remarks by the president, the following preamble and resolutions were read by the secretary:

Whereas recent most calamitous events have impressed upon this community a profound sense of gloom and insecurity, while we have to lament the sacrifice of valuable lives, the exposure to damage or destruction of large amounts of property, and the obstruction of the only reliable channel of communication with the interior of the republic, it seems necessary that public attention should be directed to a plain statement of the facts attendant on the late outrage perpetrated at Apurito, and measures adopted to prevent a recurrence of similar indignities.

The steamer Apure, a boat regularly engaged in the navigation and transportation of passengers and freight upon the rivers Orinoco and Apure, between the ports of Ciudad Bolivar, in the State of Guayana, and the Nutrias, in the State of Zamora, each State being a constituent portion of the republic of Venezuela, the steamer operating under a special charter from the republic of Venezuela to the corporation known as the Orinoco Steam Navigation Company, said corporation being located and established in the city of New York, in the United States of America; her captain, John W. Hammer, being the general agent of the said corporation, and himself, Julius de Brissot, first officer, Philip D. Caufield, first engineer, and Jacob Stackpole, third enginer, being citizens of the United States of America, and Daniel Rink, second engineer, a subject of her Britannic Majesty. The said steamer, being engaged [Page 434] in making one of her regular commercial voyages, conveying passengers and freight between the above-named and intermediate ports, did, on the 16th day of October, 1865, in the usual course of such voyage, make her regular call at the, port of San Fernando de Apure, the capital of the State of Apure, in the republic of Venezuela.

At this place General Juan B. Garcia, the president of the State of Apure, demanded transportation for himself, seven officers, and fifty-one soldiers, with their military material, to be taken at the usual rates of passage and freight stipulated for in the charter of the said corporation, and to be landed at any point which he might direct within the limits of the said State of Apure, assurance being given that it was merely intended as a corps of observation, no insurgent enemies having established themselves at any point upon the route of the steamer. Under these representations and circumstances the officers, men, and military material were embarked, and on the 17th of October the steamer proceeded upon her voyage up the Apure river.

At about seven o’clock on the evening of the 18th of October the steamer reached the port of Apurito, in the said State of Apure, one of her regular stopping places, and at which passengers and freight were to be landed. The captain, not suspecting any danger, and as it was quite dark and considered imprudent to run at nights with the existing stage of water in the river, ordered the boat to be tied up until daylight, which was accordingly done, hawsers being made fast to trees on shore from the forward and after parts of the main deck, together with the chain cable from the bow; the forward and amid-ship gang-planks run ashore, and preparations commenced for landing cargo. At this moment General Garcia ordered thirty men to be disembarked, and while this was being done, most of them having landed, and a few remaining on the gang-planks, a heavy and sustained firing was suddenly opened upon the steamer from a force of insurgents ambushed upon the shore. Immediately upon the commencement of the firing, the military officers ran to cover, leaving their men, who, retreating, clustered about the gang-planks, whereupon the steamer’s first officer, Mr. de Brissot, while engaged in pushing them ashore that he might clear the decks and cast off the fastenings of the steamer, was struck in the head by a ball from the shore party and severely wounded. He passed up the saloon deck, and while urging General Garcia to go down to the main deck and take command of his men, as their officers had all disappeared, and he, Brissot, wished to cast the boat loose and save the lives and property on board, received a second shot in the breast from the shore party, and fell dead. At about the same time portions of the steam-pipes on the main deck having been cut by balls, and it being necessary to start the water into the boilers, as the boat was exposed to great danger of blowing up, the third engineer, Mr. Stackpole, while engaged in these duties, exposed to a heavy fire from the shore, received a ball through his right arm. The greatest confusion now reigned on the main deck; the military officers having generally secreted themselves, the soldiers took to such cover as they could find, keeping up a desultory fire on the enemy ashore, while the volleys from the shore were heavy and constant, being mainly directed to the saloon deck, where it must have been well known none but passengers and non-combatants would be placed. A party from the shore, also, held the forecastle of the steamer, rendering it impossible to east off the chain cable. The only persons on board remaining at their posts of duty seem to have been the captain and first and third engineers, who were upon their regular watch at the engines. Somewhere between the hours of 10 p. m. and midnight Captain Hammer, finding that it was hopeless to expect any action to be taken by the military officers on board, and deeply solicitous in regard to the lives and property intrusted to his charge, decided to go on shore and endeavor to prevail on the officers of the insurgents to suspend firing. This resolution he carried out with the most salf-sacrificing gallantry, landing in the midst of the firing from both parties, and having met one of the insurgent officers, was proceeding up the bank, having taken his arm, and engaged in earnest conversation, when he fell dead, pierced by a ball through the body.

During the night General Garcia was re-enforced by about 60 men, who reached the steamer in canoes, but they all retreated to the same cover with those on board, and no attempt was made to attack the party on shore. About half-past two o’clock on the morning of the 19th the fire from the shore having slackened somewhat, Mr. Caufield, first engineer, succeeded in inducing General Garcia to order the boat to be cast loose. He accordingly offered a reward of $100 to any one accomplishing the service, and one of his officers with one of the passengers finally effected it, both being severely wounded, one since dead. The steamer drifted out into the stream, and came to anchor about a quarter of a mile below the scene of action. About 6 o’clock in the morning Mr. Caufield went ashore in the steamer’s yawl, found the captain’s body, and made arrangements for having it properly interred, when he returned to the boat. At 7 o’clock General Garcia embarked his men in canoes, and abandoned the steamer, the excellent shelter they had found being established by the fact that though over one hundred men had been exposed to an almost uninterrupted fire at close quarters for more than seven hours, but one was killed and only six wounded. When the boat had reached a safe position they laid on their oars, gave three cheers and retreated down the river. Mr. Caufield again went on shore after the departure of General Garcia, had an interview with the insurgent leaders, General Sosa and Juan Santos Mendez, found that no objection would be made to the steamer’s landing, and upon returning on board the landing was made, passengers and freight discharged, the funeral of the captain and first officer [Page 435] properly attended by their surviving comrades, and upon the evening of the 19th the steamer proceeded on her voyage to Nutrias.

In view, therefore, of this recital of facts the undersigned, consuls of foreign powers, merchants engaged in business in Ciudad Bolivar and with the interior ports, and strangers temporarily resident in this portion of the republic, enter their solemn protest, in the name of humanity and international right, against such wanton sacrifice of valuable lives, such exposure to deadly peril of innocent passengers, women and children, such reckless disregard of the rights of neutral property, and such interruption to trade, commerce, and enterprises of internal improvement. Uniting, therefore, unanimously in the following resolutions:

Resolved, That in the death of Captain John W. Hammer, for sixteen years so intimately associated with this great enterprise of steam communication with the interior, a man so energetic in purpose, so gentle and generous in disposition, and so honorable and disinterested in all his transactions, this community has experienced an irreparable loss, and each of us, individually, a valued and tried friend. That while we mourn his loss, there is alleviation in the consideration of the noble courage and intense devotion to duty evidenced in that closing scene of his life, when, mindful only of the interests of the defenceless, he fell in the endeavor to secure their safety.

Resolved, That our sincere sympathies be tendered to Mrs. Hammer and Mrs. de Brissot, with their families, in view of this overwhelming affliction which has so suddenly fallen upon them.

Resolved, That the thanks of the merchants of this city, and the passengers on board the steamer Apure, are due and are hereby tendered to Mr. Caufield, first engineer, and Mr. Stackpole, third engineer, for their courageous attention to duty throughout that perilous night; as also to Mr. Salom, the secretary of the steamer, for his unwearied exertions and attention to the commercial interests so unexpectedly devolving upon him in the resumption and prosecution of the voyage of the steamer.

Resolved, That a copy of this preamble and these resolutions be presented to his excellency General José L. Arismendi, with the thanks of this meeting for his prompt and energetic measures towards a thorough examination into the details of this outrage, coupled with the assurance that confidence is placed in his determination and ability to establish security, maintain order and administer justice throughout the boundaries of his presidency of Guayana.

Resolved, That copies shall also be presented to the consuls of foreign states here represented, with the request that they be forwarded to their respective governments.

Resolved, That the same shall be published in the Spanish language in the daily papers of this city.

JOHN DALTON, U. S. Consul, President.

L. PLASSARD, Vice-Consul of France, Vice-President.


H. KROHN, Consul of the Hanseatic Cities.

H. COCRLAENDER, Vice-Consul of Denmark.

ANTO. BATALLA, Vice-Consul of Spain.

CHRISTIANO VICENTINI, Consular Delegate of Italy.

DESTEIN, Vice-Consul of Brazil.

C. VANSELOW, Consul of Prussia.

ANTO. DALLA COSTA, Consul of Sweden and Norway.

ADOLP VINNEN, Consul of Hanover.

T. FELDHUSEN, Consul of Oldenburg.

M. PLESSMANN, Acting Vice-Consul of the Netherlands.

THEO. MONCH, Hamburg.

R GROSS, Bremen.


H. HOLST, Hamburg.

J. B. AUSTIN, New York, U. S.




H. SPRICK, Hanover.


OSCAR G. D. MONCH. Hamburg.


A. KOENITZER, England.

H. LARRIEU, France.

JOHN WULFF. New York, V. S.

F. UMLAUFF, Hamburg.

F. PRAHL, Lubeck.

H. HUGUENIN, Cassel.

THEO. ALDAG, Hamburg.



A. VAUDAIS, France.

ALEX. McCALLUM, Maine, V. S.

L. MORGAN DAVIS, Philadelphia, U. S.

J. M. PERFETTI, France.

A. BFRATTO, Italy.



C. A. SOULE, France.

On motion of the British consul, seconded by the consul of the Hanseatic Cities, the preamble and resolutions were unanimously adopted, and afterwards signed by the gentlemen present; whereupon Mr. Krohn moved the following:

Resolved, That the merchants and citizens of this place be requested to unite in a subscription for the erection of a monument upon the public esplanade of this city, to the memory of Captain John W. Hammer, and that a committee be appointed to collect subscriptions, procure from the authorities a suitable location, and attend to the purchase and erection of the memorial.

[Page 436]

This resolution having been passed unanimously, the chairman named Mr. Krohn, Mr. Antonio Dalla Costa, and Doctor Passard as members of the committee, and the meeting thereupon adjourned.

J. B. AUSTIN, Secretary.

Ciudad Bolivar, November 12,1865.


Mr. Culver to Mr. Seijas

Sir: It is near two months since the undersigned was assured by your excellency, in your note of the 25th of November last, that the government of Venezuela had ordered an investigation as to the cause of the death of Captain J. W. Hammer, and other citizens of the United States, at Apurito, on the Upper Orinoco.

The undersigned has been informed that such an investigation has been had at Ciudad de Bolivar, and the depositions touching the same taken before the judge of the first instance, and forwarded to Caracas; and the undersigned has waited with some surprise at the delay to be advised, as your excellency had assured him he should be, of the result of that investigation, and of the opinion and purposes of the government touching the same.

The undersigned has been pained to notice not only the entire silence of the press in this capital supposed to represent the views of the government, as to the facts and character of that outrage, but also the silence of the government itself.

The undersigned has seen, as he has no doubt the government has, the testimony taken on that investigation. No doubt can remain as to the character and atrocity of the outrage. These unoffendig citizens were plying their legitimate vocation in the waters of Venezuela under the invitation and promised protection of its authorities. They had violated no law, were parties to no plot or treason, and no crime or offence was imputed to them, when they were fired upon by an armed body of rebel forces, commanded by insurgent chiefs, and their lives wantonly sacrificed.

And as some weeks have transpired since the facts established on the investigation have been before the public and the government, the undersigned deems it his duty to inquire of the government whether it has ordered the arrest and trial of those chiefs; what action it has taken or purposes to take in the premises. The undersigned can hardly believe it possible that the authorities of Venezuela should allow this outrage to go unredressed; these murderers to go unwhipped of justice. What adds to the pain and solicitude of the undersigned is the report that comes to him that the insurrectionary party committing these murders has been recognized by the general government as the legitimate government party in the State of Apure.

The undersigned will wait with anxiety to be advised, in reply to this note, of the action and purpose of the government of Venezuela, to the end that he may communicate with his government; and in the mean time he renews to Mr. Srijas the assurance of his distinguished consideration.


His Excellency Señor Rafael Seijas, Minister of Foreign Affairs, &c., & c., & c.