Mr. Nunes to Mr. Davis.
Kingston, Jamaica, Nov. 15, 1873. (Received Dec. 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.,