No. 731.
Mr. Nunes to Mr. Davis.

No. 5.]

Sir: I have the honor to inform you that the American steamer Virginius, which entered at this consulate on the 10th. day of July last, after a stay of three months and thirteen days cleared on the 23d ultimo for Port Limon, Costa Rica. On the morning of the 5th instant I received a brief telegram from E. G. Schmitt, esq., vice-consul at Santiago de Cuba, (see inclosure No. 1,) informing me that the Virginius had been captured and taken thence, (to Santiago;) also requesting her nationality, and “if cleared under American papers.” I replied by telegram, (see inclosure No. 2,) stating that the Virginius had produced American papers at this consulate, and that she had been entered and cleared as American. On the morning of the 7th, at 8 a.m, I received a note from the colonial secretary, (see inclosure No. 3,) informing me that his excellency the governor of Jamacia had telegraphed the British consul at Santiago, suggesting a strong demand for “suspension of execution, at least pending a formal trial, in the case of all who claimed to be British subjects.”

Her Majesty’s steamer of war Niobe had been previously dispatched, on the evening of the 6th instant, for Santiago, for the purpose of protecting British subjects on board of the Virginius. At 10 a.m. on the 7th I telegraphed Mr. Schmitt, (a copy inclosed, see inclosure No. 4,) informing him that the Niobe had left, and requested him to ask the commander to protect American interests connected with the Virginius, in absence of any United States war-steamers. At 12 m. on the 7th I telegraphed Commander Cushing, of the United States steamer Wyoming, at Aspinwall, (see inclosure No. 5,) giving him such facts as I was in possession of; also informing him that Americans might require protection at Santiago. The Department will observe that I left it entirely to the discretion of Commander Cushing whether he would proceed to Cuba or not. On the 8th, more information was received in Kingston as to shooting of certain Americans in Santiago. I immediately telegraphed Commander Cushing (see inclosure No. 6) to that effect, also informing him that information was of such a character as to point to the necessity of American steamers of war being at Santiago. On the afternoon of the same day, the eighth, a telegram passed through this consulate, (see inclosure No. 7,) from Commander Cushing to vice-consul at Santiago, inquiring if the Virginius was captured on the high seas, and if the lives of the captain and American crew were threatened; also soliciting more facts. Having in my possession the information required by Conpnander Cushing, I telegraphed them to him, (see inclosure No. 8,) at the same time transmitting his telegram through to Santiago.

On the morning of Sunday, the 9th, the consul’s reply to Commander Cushing was received, (see inclosure No. 9,) but too late to be forwarded by the Aspinwall cable, and it did not go forward until 10 a.m. on Monday, the 10th. On sending the telegram to Commander Cushing, I telegraphed to Mr. Schmitt, at Santiago, informing him that his telegram to Commander Cushing had not been transmitted until 10 a.m. on that morning, and requesting further particulars for transmission, (see inclosure 10.) To that he (Mr. Schmitt) replied, (see inclosure No. 11,) informing me that he had no more particulars to transmit since his last telegram. On the same evening (the 10th) I received a telegram from [Page 1074] Commander Cushing, (see inclosure No. 12,) instructing me that he was coaling, and would leave that evening or early next morning.

On the morning of the 11th I received per French mail-steamer Desirade a communication from Mr. Schtnitt, (see inclosure No. 13,) giving particulars of the matter, and suggesting that I might telegraph to St. Thomas for a United States steamer of war, which I immediately did. (See inclosure No. 14.) To that I received a reply on the same day, (the 11th,) informing me that there were none there or in the neighborhood. (See inclosure No. 15.)

I answered Mr. Schmitt on the 13th by Her Majesty’s steamer Wood-lark, which left here for Santiago on that evening.

The United States steamer Wyoming arrived here yesterday afternoon from Aspinwall for coals, on her way to Santiago. Upon her arrival I telegraphed Mr. Schmitt. She took on her supply of coals and left again for Santiago at 10.30 a.m. this morning.

Capt. Joshua N. Rowe, of the American schooner Village Belle, of Savannah, Ga., had informed me that he had been boarded by the Spanish steamer of war Tornado on the 31st October, and that he had not lost sight of her during the day, and again saw her and another steamer chasing a steamer answering to the description given him of the Virginius, and that he was then forty miles from Santiago, steering for Jamaica—that was at sundown—and should the foremost vessel have been captured at 10 p.m. on the night of the same day she could not have been less than seventy miles from the coast of Cuba. I informed Commander Cushing, who thought it important that Captain Rowe should make a sworn statement, which I have taken, and inclose a copy herewith. (See inclosure No. 16.)

The Department will see that I have used my best endeavors for the protection of American lives in this matter, and I trust my action herein will give satisfaction to the Department. The charges for telegrams I will include in my quarterly miscellaneous-expense account, or make a special account for them, as the Department thinks fit.

Any other information that I may receive relative to the Virginius I will immediately transmit.

I have the honor, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 5.]

Mr. Schmitt to Mr. Nunes.

Steamer Virginius capture I; brought here. What is her nationality if cleared under American papers?

[Inclosure 2 in No. 5.]

Mr. Nunes to Mr. Young.

Virginius produced American papers at this consulate; entered and cleared at consulate as American.

[Inclosure 3 in No. 5.]

Mr. Young to Mr. Nunes.

Sir: With reference to the reported capture of the steanship Virginius the governor desires me to acquaint you that he has caused the following message to be sent to the British consul at Santiago de Cuba:

“Governor of Jamaica does not believe, unless judicial condemnation has taken [Page 1075] place, that Virginius is a pirate. If not a pirate the shooting of any British subjects for being on board cannot be lawful. British subjects may have been shipped here as crew or passengers, and, as Virginius was not armed, and carried from Jamaica no warlike munitions, they may have been ignorant that the vessel was not peacefully bound for Limon Bay, for which port she cleared. Governor suggests a strong demand for suspension of execution at least, pending a formal trial, in the case of all who claim to be British subjects.”

I have the honor, &c,

[Inclosure 4 in No. 5.]

Mr. Nunes to Mr. Schmitt.

English war-steamer Niobe left for Santiago last night 7 o’clock. In absence of American steamer ask her captain to protect American interests connected with Virginius.

[Inclosure 5 in No. 5.]

Mr. Nunes to Captain Cushing.

Intelligence has been repeived consignee that American steamer Virginius was captured on the high seas by the Tornado on the 31st ultimo. Ryan, an American, shot; others expected to be similarly treated. Niobe left here last night to protect British subjects. I learn there is no American war-vessel in Santiago, and therefore inform you, as it appears necessary to me that American lives might require protection. Consul Santiago telegraphed me, 5th, Virginius captured, carried there; requested nationality. Please reply.

[Inclosure 6 in No. 5.]

Mr. Nunes to Captain Cushing.

Americans taken in the Virginius have been shot at Santiago; consul was not permitted to see them; strong letters have passed; telegrams are subject to strict scrutiny; but information is of such character as to point to the necessity of American steamers; of war being at Santiago.

[Inclosure 7 in No. 5.]

Captain Cushing to Mr. Schmitt.

Was the Virginius captured in Cuban waters or on the high seas? Are the lives of the captain and American crew threatened? Have you telegraphed to the United States Government? I want more facts.

[Inclosure 8 in No. 5.]

Mr. Nunes to Captain Cushing.

Your telegram to consul Santiago seen by me. By schooner from Santiago I learn Virginius captured in neutral waters. Americans positively have been shot.

[Page 1076]
[Inclosure 9 in No. 5.]

Mr. Schmitt to Captain Gushing.

Virginius captured on high seas, 31st October, ten o’clock night; brought here 1st November, five o’clock, evening.

Four shot on 4th. Yesterday Captain Fry and thirty-six others, mostly crew. Twelve this morning. No telegraphic communication with the States or Havana. Wrote consul-general; no reply yet. No American war-vessels about.

[Inclosure 10 in No. 5]

Mr. Nunes to Mr. Schmitt.

Your telegram of Saturday to Cushing received Sunday, too late for Colon cable. It goes forward at 10 this morning. Supply further particulars for transmission with former telegram. Do so at once.

[Inclosure 11 in No. 5.]

Mr. Schmitt to Mr. Nunes.

No communications received from home, nor particulars since last.

[Inclosure 12 in No, 5.]

Captain Cushing to Mr. Nunes.

Am now coaling; will leave to-night or early to-morrow morning for Santiago.

[Inclosure 13 in No. 5.]

Mr. Schmitt to Mr. Nunes.

Sir: Doubtless you are aware of all that the Virginius, Captain Fry, crew, and passengers have gone through; they have been captured at eighteen miles to Morant Bay, at 10 o’clock, night, 31st October, brought here 1st November, 5 o’clock, evening; confined, that nobody could communicate with them; some one hundred and odd were brought to prison; captain and crew kept on board the Spanish man-of-war; trials were going on, as also condemnation, without admitting that they were very desirous to see their consuls, which they were always refused; no letters came to hand of any of them, only a few moments before the Captain Fry and crew being shot.

I would have been glad if his excellency the governor had let my telegram to you through on the 2d Inst.; but refused, objected, and detained the same until the 4th, evening, as you might have had chance to send same abroad, inquiring either at Aspinwall or St. Thomas of any American United States steamship of war, as I supposed you have done with Wyoming, procuring to be furnished with all information, which I have telegraphed to Captain Cushing, and hope to see him soon here, as we have had no communication with to Havana and the United States of America only by steamer, and that three of the regular mail-steamers been lost. Since only last Wednesday we came by the south to two a week. One of them arrived last night, and did not bring any letter from consul-general in answer to the event communicated on the 2d; probably by the boat to arrive the 12th will certainly hear and receive instructions, (as I have been acting to my own knowledge and what my good friends informed me of.) I was introduced to jail by the request of Captain Fry at 2 o’clock, 7th inst. Took his declaration and protest. Virginius was captured on high seas, and will certainly create great difficulties to the Spanish government, which they deserved. Captain kept all energy to the last; was shot, and died like a brave marine. Alfaro and great many others same. I do not wish that this be published in any newspapers

Among the letters handed to me at the time of the execution and after, herewith one for you from Fry, and another for Preseott. He has also wrote to the President of the United States of America, and several of his friends. I was shamefully received by H. E., when having heard whilst O’Ryan in Capillo, night, asked to see me, called [Page 1077] to have permit to see him in jail, as he wanted to make his will, was refused, and had heard all his exasperated cries so as to he heard from the square. All of which, as also having set a guard of three soldiers at the door of my residence, where I keep the United States consulate office, half an hour previous before the cortege passed, as I live little below the prison, all what is communicated to consul-general Havana and Department of State.

I have the honor, &c,

[Inclosure 14 in No. 5.]

Mr. Nunes to Mr. Simmons.

Send war-steamer, if any at St. Thomas, immediately to Santiago; Virginius captured, high seas, 31st October; captain and crew executed 7th. Wyoming left Colon this morning for Santiago. Reply.

[Inclosure 15 in No. 5.]

Mr. Simmons to Mr. Nunes.

No war-steamers; nor in the neighborhood.

[Inclosure 16 in No. 5.]

Deposition of Joshua N. Rowe.

Joshua N. Rowe, of Rockland, Maine, after being duly sworn, deposes and says that he is master of the American schooner Village Belle, of Savannah, Georgia; that on the 27th day of October, A. D. 1873, he anchored at St. Iago de Cuba. The Spanish war-steamer Tornado anchored near his vessel. He sailed on the 30th. During the night it was calm, and up to 9 a.m. 31st October he had made about forty miles from St. Iago toward Port Antonio, Jamaica. At 9 a.m. 31st October was boarded by a boat from the Spanish war-steamer Tornado; inquired name of vessel, and left him, (meaning the vessel.) The Tornado steered toward the coast of Cuba, toward St. Iago. Deponent further declares that between three and four o’clock on afternoon of 31st October, Tornado still in sight, saw two other steamers. He then saw that all three steamers were steering toward the coast of Jamaica. The vessel ahead was a long low steamer, with two masts and two chimneys, and all on board the said vessel pronounced the one being chased to be the Virginius, from descriptions given them of the said Virginius, and deponent knows that the steamer astern of the one being chased to be the Spanish war-steamer Tornado

They passed within three miles of deponent’s vessel, so that he distinctly discerned one steamer ahead and two in chase. Deponent declares that the watch on deck reported that they had seen steamers returning to the coast of Cuba between two and three in the morning of the 1st November, which he thinks were the same steamers that passed him at sundown steering for the coast of Jamaica. Deponent further declares that, from his knowledge of navigation, if the steamer ahead was captured at 10 p.m. in the night she could not have been less than seventy miles from the cost of Cuba.

The deponent makes this declaration to the best of his knowledge and belief.

Master Schooner Village Belle.