File No. 812.00/11988.

Admiral Fletcher to the Secretary of the Navy.


Mayo reports:

General Zaragoza has sent me official letter expressing regrets over arrest of boat’s crew, stating was due to ignorance of officer; but with reference to other stipulations has asked twenty-four hours delay, on account poor communication, to consult his Government. Request being reasonable was granted.




Written reports of arrest of boat’s crew just received from Mayo and all details are in agreement with the cable dispatch of April 9, 5 p.m. He states that at twelve o’clock a German came on board and reported that the crew of the Dolphin’s whaleboat and paymaster in charge, who had gone ashore for gasoline, had been arrested by a squad of Federal soldiers. Lieutenant Commander Earle was at once dispatched officially to demand release of these men from General Zaragoza and to ask for explanation. The boat’s crew and paymaster were released about 1.30 and returned to the ship. Upon hearing the report of Lieutenant Commander Earle, a letter was sent to Zaragoza by Captain Moffett, in uniform and sidearms. Written reports by Earle, Paymaster Copp, Commander Moffett, German from whom gasoline was purchased, and members of boat’s crew, were received, and all agree upon details. Earle reports he was accompanied by Consul Miller and the man from whom the gasoline was purchased. The General, as soon as he learned the facts, immediately dispatched orders to have the paymaster and the men released, and stated that he was sincerely sorry for the occurrence; that the officer in command was ignorant of the first laws of war and was carrying out his instructions to allow no boats whatever at that warehouse dock. Earle told the General that we had no means of knowing there was any objection to going to that dock, which was inside the Federal lines. The General again apologized, and upon returning Earle found that the whaleboat and crew had already been released.

Earle further states in substance that the crew were loading the boat with gasoline and had about eight cases left. Two men were in the boat. An officer in charge of a squad of ten soldiers, all well armed, arrived on the scene and told the paymaster he and the men were under arrest and to come with him. The officer ordered the men in the boat to come out. The men did not come out of the boat and the soldiers then started towards the boat with determined gestures and they again directed the men to leave the boat. Seeing this the paymaster ordered the men to come out. At this time the United States colors were flying from the staff in the bow and the stern of the whaleboat. The soldiers formed in a squad around the non and the paymaster and marched them about five minutes walk, [Page 452]crossing a railroad track which apparently marked the Federal line of defense. At this point an officer of high rank was met and after questioning the lieutenant he seemed angry and directed all hands to return to the boat, where they were told to complete the loading. The boat was not allowed to leave, however, until another officer came up, who shook hands with the paymaster and apologized profusely and allowed the boat to go. The time between the arrest and release was about one hour. The paymaster states his protests and explanations as to his identity arid rights were unheeded by the officer [and adds] “On our return, after being allowed to finish loading, we were not allowed to return [to the ship] until the arrival of an officer with the following message:

The General sends his excuses and informs you that he has been misinformed and that you can return to your ship.

Admiral Mayo states in his report:

The arrest of this officer and these men, some of whom were taken from a United States boat flying the United States flag, and the marching of these men through the streets publicly, under armed guard, was, I consider, such a humiliating and gross insult to them and to the flag of the United States that such public apology and reparation as I ask for in my letter to General Zaragoza should be insisted upon.

I am of the opinion that there is ample justification for the demands made by Mayo and that the taking of men from a naval boat flying the American flag is an hostile act which can not be excused by a plea of ignorance on the part of a commissioned Mexican officer. Undue delay in complying with demand to salute American flag only intensifies situation, and retaliatory measures, even to the seizing of a Mexican gunboat, would not be excessive under the circumstances.