No. 720.
Mr. Hall to Mr. Davis.

No. 297.]

Sir: Referring to dispatches Nos. 294 and 295 of 5th instant, relative to the capture of the steamer Virginius by the Spanish man-of-war Tornado, I now inclose further particulars, taken from the daily journals.

The accounts differ as to her proximity, at the time, to the coast of Jamaica. That given by the “Voz de Cuba” states that the capture was effected more than twelve miles from said coast. Other published accounts give the distance, at the time, as eight and twenty miles, while the “Diario de la Marina,” as if foreseeing the gravity of the question, asserts that the chase of the Virginius was commenced in Spanish waters, and the capture effected on the high seas at twenty-three miles from the coast of Jamaica and about sixty from Cuba.

I inclose the substance of a communication received from the United States vice-consul at Santiago de Cuba, which appears to corroborate another opinion, that the Virginius, when captured, was in British waters. It is also stated by the Spanish accounts that the vessel had no [Page 1058] papers or clearance, but the consul at Santiago de Cuba supposes that the steamer was regularly cleared for Colon, (Aspinwall,) and had all her papers in order.

The Tornado with the Virginius arrived at Santiago de Cuba on the evening of the 1st instant, and next day at 9 o’clock a court-martial was convened, which appears to have finished its labors at 4 o’clock of the same day, and the sentences of the court transmitted in sealed covers to the captain-general and commandant-general of marine. On the morning of the 4th, and before the news of the capture had reached here, the following were shot: Bernabe Yarona, (a) Bembeta, O. Ryan, Pedro Cespedes, and Jesus del Sol.

There has been no direct telegraphic communication with Santiago de Cuba since 14th ultimo, consequently we must await further and fuller information by mail, the time occupied being usually four days.

I beg to call the attention of the Department to the fact that the consul at Santiago de Cuba desired to communicate by the cable with Kingston, Jamaica, and was not permitted by the authorities to do so.

I am, &c,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 297.]

From the “Diario,” extra, of the 7th instant.



* * * * * * *

The capture of the Virginius, the pursuit of which was commenced in Spanish waters, was effected on the high seas, twenty-three miles from the coast of Jamaica, and about sixty from that of Cuba.


Some details in regard to the capture of the Virginius:

By the steamer Cienf uegos, arrived last evening at Batabano, we have received, by the special messenger of the Voz de Cuba, the following particulars in regard to the capture of the filibustering steamer Virginius. This steamer arrived at Santiago de Cuba at 5 o’clock p.m. of the 1st instant, escorted by the national steamer Tornado and the merchant steamer Cantabro.

The Virginius was captured at 10 o’clock of the previous night, more than twelve miles from the coast of Jamaica. On the night of her arrival great enthusiasm prevailed in the town, and up to a late hour of the night the filibustering steamer was surrounded by a great number of boats, filled with persons attracted by curiosity, and some with music on board.

The Virginius had no papers nor clearance of any kind, and on being captured she raised the American flag, after making great efforts to escape from the Tornado.

Among the arms found on board are carbines of 18 shots.

At 9 o’clock of the next morning, 2d instant, the court-martial met on board the Tornado to try the pirates. It closed at 4 p.m. The sentences have been sent by the Cienfuegos, in sealed packages, directed to the captain-general and commandant-general of marine. Immediately after the closing of the court-martial all the pirates, with the exception of Bembeta, Jesus del Sol, and two others, were conducted to the public prison.

Just punishment.

According to a telegram received this moment, 8.30 p.m., Thursday, 6th instant, by his excellency the captain-general, on the morning of the 4th instant, Tuesday, the filibustering chiefs Bernabé Varona, alias Bembeta; Ryan; Pedro Cespedes, styled a brigadier, and Jesus del Sol were shot in Santiago de Cuba.

* * * * * * * *

[Page 1059]
[Inclosure 2 in No. 297.]

Substance of a communication received from the United States consulate at Santiago de Cuba, dated November 2, 1873:

On the evening of the 1st instant, at 5 o’clock, the Spanish war-steamer Tornado entered this port convoying the steamer Virginius as a prize, which was captured at sea with 165 Cubans and foreigners, among them Colonel Ryan, Yarona, (alias Bern-beta,) Jesus del Sol, Ramon Cespedes, a brother of the President, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, one of his sons, a brother of Quesada, and several other chiefs.

The reports first received regarding this capture state that the Tornado was under full sail and but little steam when she sighted the Virginius, but all steam possible was made, and the Tornado headed at full speed for the Virginius. This vessel, finding she was pursued, turned to starboard to run away, and commenced to throw overboard a great many boxes to assist her flight, but was overhauled and surrendered without firing a shot.

This morning, better informed, I learn that on the 30th the governor received a telegram from the Spanish consul at Kingston, to the effect that the Virginius was near Morrant Bay, Jamaica. His excellency had an interview with the commander of the Tornado, which had arrived that morning, and which, in consequence, sailed four hours after.

On the 31st October the Virginius was discovered by the Tornado at 2 o’clock p.m., and captured at 10 p.m., four gun-shots and a shell having been fired at her from the Tornado. As soon as the Virginius stopped she hoisted the flag of the United States. The officers sent oh board at 10 o’clock at night had the American colors taken down and the Spanish flag hoisted, although the papers and dispatch of the Virginius, in due form, for Colon, were presented to him. Before midnight all the operation of transferring prize-crew, &c, was effected, and the two vessels sailed for Santiago de Cuba, arriving the next day at half past 5 p.m., after eighteen hours of steam sailing, which tends to prove the rumor that the commander of the Tornado had stated, in conversation, that an hour later the Virginius would have saved herself, because she could have entered some port of Jamaica, and leads to the suspicion that the steamer may have been captured in the waters and on the coast of Jamaica, with her papers in order, and duly dispatched for Colon.

It is also rumored that no arms or baggage were found on board, as everything had been thrown overboard, an operation that could not be seen from the Tornado, as it took place at night. It is also rumored that Governor Burriel applied to the marine to have all the prisoners delivered over to him, with the exception of the captain and crew of the Virginius, who are to be sent to Havana at the disposal of the general of marine; and further, that he declared that within twenty-four hours afterward the prisoners delivered to him would be tried and executed here to avoid all complication with the exterior, that is, foreign interference.

In order to be fully informed on this subject, I sent this (Sunday) morning, at 9 o’clock, a telegram to the United States consul at Kingston, thus: “Steamer Virginius captured and brought here. What is her nationality, if cleared under American papers?” But my telegram was objected to and detained by Governor Burriel. I then addressed communications to his excellency, and to the agent of the cable, Robert Mason, esq., copies of which I inclose. I have as yet received no reply from Governor Burriel.

As I have not as yet received any communication from the authorities regarding the captain, crew, or the American citizens there may be on board, I shall feel much obliged if you will inform me how to act in this case.

Great excitement prevails throughout the city, and parties, music, and receptions abound.

Doubting that you may not receive the original, on account of the way they are trying to manage this affair, I send you a duplicate of my letter through the kindness of the French consul.

I am, sir, &c,


Copies referred to in the foregoing:

Sir: It becomes my duty to report to you that this morning, at 9 o’clock precisely, I addressed a telegram to consul of the United States of America, Kingston, Jamaica, which, being detained since half an hour by his excellency the governor of this department, Don Juan N. Burriel, and having asked the cause at the said office, have been [Page 1060] told in reply that the governor declined that it should he sent through by the submarine cable.

Will you be kind enough to inform me if it is understood between the Spanish government and the cable company that the government here has the right to detain or send official dispatches at their pleasure?

I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient servant,


Robert Mason, Esq.,
Acting Agent of the Submarine Cable, Santiago de Cuba.

Sir: I have had the honor to receive your official dispatch of this day’s date, informing me that you had this morning sent to this office a telegram directed to the United States consul at Jamaica, which had been detained by order of his excellency the governor, and inquiring whether his excellency has the right to detain official dispatches at his pleasure.

In reply I beg to inform you that, according to the concession to the company, the government has an absolute right of censure, and of impeding and preventing the sending of such messages as it objects to.

While regretting, then, the delay suffered by your message, I can in no way avoid the same or accept any responsibility therefor, and must consider the question at issue as between your Government and that of Spain, and entirely separate from the responsibilities of the company.

I have the honor to be your most obedient and humble servant,

Acting Agent.

E. G. Schmitt, Esq.,
United States Vice-Consul, Santiago de Cuba.

[Inclosure in No. 297.]

List of persons captured in the steamer Virginius; crew not included:

  • Bernabé Varona (a) Bembeta.
  • Pedro Cespedes.
  • Arturo Mola.
  • José Diaz.
  • Francisco de Porras.
  • Juan Marrero.
  • José Madéo.
  • Raimundo Pardo.
  • Francisco Gonzalez.
  • José Pelaez.
  • Leonardo Alvarez.
  • Julio Arango.
  • José Hernandez.
  • Nicolas Ramirez.
  • Ignacio Quintin Beltran.
  • Perfecto Bello.
  • Benito Glodes.
  • Lewis Sanchez.
  • Nicolas Ruiz.
  • Juan Alvarado.
  • José Boite.
  • Ricardo Turjillo.
  • Ramon Calvo.
  • Augustin Varona.
  • Silverio Salas.
  • Domingo Salazar.
  • Pedro Pajain.
  • Manuel Padron.
  • Alandro Cruz Estrada.
  • Alfredo Lopez.
  • José Ignacio Lamar.
  • Andrés Villa.
  • Andrés Acosta.
  • Francisco Castillo.
  • Benjamin Olazara.
  • Salvador Penedo.
  • Enrique Castellanos.
  • Rafael Pacheco.
  • Alejandro Calvo.
  • Canute Guerra.
  • Jesus del Sol.
  • Camilo Sanz.
  • Leon Bernal.
  • Emilio Garcia.
  • Gil Montero.
  • Rafael Cabrera.
  • Amador Rosello.
  • Ignacio W. Tapia.
  • Manuel A. Silverio.
  • Santiago Rivera.
  • Antonio Gomez.
  • Andre’s Echevarria.
  • Luis Martinez.
  • José Maren.
  • Pedro Sariol.
  • Pedro Saez.
  • Miguel Saya.
  • Severo Mendive.
  • Felix Fernandez.
  • Juan Soto.
  • Manuel Perez.
  • José Otero.
  • José Antonio Ramos.
  • Ramon Barrios.
  • Ignacio Valdés.
  • José Santisteban.
  • Felix Morejon.
  • Francisco Pacheco.
  • Evaristo Sungunegui.
  • Ramon Gonzalez.
  • Antonio Cbacon.
  • Franciseo Rivero.
  • Sireno Otaro.
  • Cárlos Pacheco.
  • Antonio Padilla.
  • Enrique Canals.
  • Indalecio Trujillo.
  • Domingo Diaz.
  • Cárlos Gonzalez.
  • Ozcar Varona.
  • Justo Consuegra.
  • Patricio Martinez.
  • Enrique Ayala.
  • Manuel Saumel.
  • Domingo Rodriguez.
  • Luis Rebollo.
  • Arturo Rivero
  • Cárlos Manin.
  • William S. Vails.
  • Ramon R. D. Armas.
  • Manuel Menenses.
  • Joseph A. Smith.
  • General Ryan.
  • Philips Abecaler.
  • William Curtis.
  • Samuel Hall.
  • S. Gray.
  • Sidney Robertson.
  • George Winters.
  • William Marshall.
  • Evan Pento.
  • George Burke.
  • Leopoldo Rizo.

As is easy to perceive, neither Santa Rosa nor Quesada figures in this list, which leads us to suppose that there are in it many fictitious names of persons of more importance.

Neither are the names of the crew included. The list comprises names only of the passengers who came to swell the ranks of the insurrection.

From the “Voz de Cuba,” (extra.)