Monday, December 10, 2007

Men of the CSS Rappahannock.

A lot is known about the CSS Rappahannock a former British Gunboat called the HMS Victor, but very little is known about the men that were to make her seaworthy again and those who were to sail her. These men were promised high pay only to find out they would get less. These men were lied to, they were lead to believe they were signing aboard the Victor only to find it had been renamed the Rappahannock and was going to sail for the Confederate states. They were going to run the blockades and be privateers they would get prize money from their plunder. Many of the British men don’t want to fight the Union States and stated they were discontented and said they would not stand by her and asked to be signed off, in which the captain said, “If I was at sea I would show you what being discontented was.,” but not being at sea they would be signed off, however some men were not allowed off the ship and were put in Irons. When the Victor was sold she was registered as the Scylla then renamed the Rappahannock.

In the beginning the British Government paid little notice to their old gunboat Victor which had just been sold and was now in Sheerness under the name of Scylla, then they begin to notice suspicious activity around her and there were rumors that she was being fitted to be a blockade-runner for the Confederates and were only signing on Englishman. The British Government decided to hold her in port. But the captain got wind of the order and on a night in November she slipped out of port and headed for Calais which was under the French rule.

When she left port her name was painted off her stern, she had been calked all over except her lower deck which took ten days. Before she left port the Majesty’s ship Cumberland came along side and had her lower masts put in from the Cumberland. Then some of her stores, rigging and provision were put on board, as well as coal one hundred and fifty tones. There was two casks of water put on board. When she left Sheerness for Calais she had six boilers but only five could be used, on their run two others boilers broke down so she had three useless boilers the high and low port and the high starboard boiler. It would take one thousand four hundred new tubes to get them back to order. The magazine was in good condition, and the eye bolts to work her broadside guns were in. Her lower masts were not wedged and her standings rigging was on and set but not ratted down. She had no sails bent when she left port. She was ready to sling hammocks for a hundred and fifty men. The men that know ships knew she was not seaworthy.

When she reached Calais she began to sign on men they were to be Englishmen only they were brought in from all over England Sheerness, Dover and London. They were lied to given drinks and would get so drunk they had no idea what they were signing on. Those who new would sign on and was ready to sail but there were others that would not sign and would be sent back with little or no pay for the work they had done. Some men were put in Irons and held others were told if they didn’t sign they would be kill. Many would jump ship. Those that made it off ship were arrested by the French as they were aiding the Rebels. When the French later learned that the Scylla now named the Rappahannock was going to off load Guns off a French ship to be put on the ship she was held in port till the end of the war.

Note. The information on this page comes from the records of the 41st. Congress called, Enforcement of Neutrality, Rebel operations from Canada Vol. II. No. 1395.
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The names below are of the men that worked her and sailed on her, these are their stories.

Joseph Murry was at the time residing at 22. Lower Berner’s street, Commercial road east and Thomas Kelly was residing at 13. Ellen street Back Church Lane. they were told they were heading for a ship lying in the down’s. Her names was the Scylla and was heading on a voyage to St. Thomas or Jamaica for twelve months at a pay of three pounds and fifteen shillings. After boarding it was under stood new arrangements were to be made and new articles signed. When they got to Calais they were taken aboard the now named Rappahannock, but the captain was not happy as he didn’t want any men coming aboard in the harbor. They were taken to the captain who said, “You men know what you are engaged to do. You are now on your own hook, and what ever plunder you can make at sea the better for you, you are now privateers you are going to fight for money, as I fight for glory.” After hearing this many became discontented and ask to be signed off. After many conversations with the master he signed off twenty-one of them. On December 1, 1863, they were sent back to London.

Henry Barraclough of King’s Head alley, Sheerness was a fireman and boiler maker, along with him was James Tucker also of King's alley, Sheerness. Theye was taken before a Mr. Ramsey who told them they would be shipped out as a fireman at eight pounds a month, for a trial trip that would not exceed fourteen days. But he was told it may take only three days, they was then told if they didn’t like the ship or the new articles they would be sent home. they was told to see the cook and could have anything to eat on board. they found there were Hammocks, Blankets, and bedding, provided for the crew. their opinion was it was the best ship they had worked on even though the boilers were out of repair.

Richard Spendiff of Brightman’s Courrt, Mile Town, Sheeress, signed on as a leading stoker. They offered him six pounds for the trial trip, but he wanted eight pounds. The captain asked if he would entered the Confederate service. He would give him ten pounds besides the eight pounds if he would sign the artice for twelve months. He was told she was to have eight guns and was to go the Down’s and then to north Ireland, but they might have to fight the American cruisers that were waiting out side the harbor and may have to fight and run. He having seventeen years in the navy he saw the ship was not fit for sea. Also signing on was two seamen by the names of Charles Bull and John Dewslip and Abraham Butler,Cook.

George Hill was a sail maker he was from Hythe, Kent, he was just off her Majesty steamer frigate Emerald, he was paid off two months ago. He remained on board the Scylla until November 24, 1863, when the ship suddenly left Sheerness and headed for Calais. When he reached Calais he was asked to sign a article at ten pound a month. He was told the ship was now a confederate man-of-war. He refused to sign the article and was given three pounds only to return home. He saw other men sign the article knowing what she was. The Scylla was but one-quarter rigged and not fit for sea.

James Nunn of No. 2., Union Row, Sheerness, able seamen joined the Scylla, when he joined he was told she was merchant ship and was to be fitted for the China opium trade. She was under the command of Captain Ramsay. Then on the night of November 24, 1863, she suddenly left Sheerness and the next day was in port at Calais. When she reach Calais she came under the command of Captain Campbell. He told him that the ship was now a man-of-war and asked him to sign a article but he refused. Before he left he saw forty men come to joined her, but all refused sign the exception were seven who stayed. He was given two pounds and ten shillings for one months pay. Captain Campbell detained his discharge and is now destitute and cannot find a ship because of Captain Campbell detaining his discharge.

Charles Newton of Sheerness, boarded the Scylla at Sheerness, he was being paid three shillings a day. On November 24, 1863, I went on board at six o’clock in the evening and commenced getting the wheel ready for going to sea. In the night she left Sheerness he was at the wheel. When she reached Calais the next day the captain wanted him to sign the article but he refused, as the wages were to low and he did not like the First Lieutenant. He know she was a Confederate man-of war as the colors were sent up just before she entered Calais harbor, before he left he was paid three shillings.

James Maloney of Sheerness, fireman, he went to work on November 10, 1863, at one guinea per week and food. Before leaving Sheerness he was working as a fireman and assisted in removing stores and about the deck until the day before she left he started working in the engine-room. On November 24, 1863, a man came on board and she was ordered away, and left Sheerness that night. She not fit to go to sea, the boilers requiring new tubing some had been put in at Sheerness, the rigging was not ratted down, she had no sails bent and everything was in disordered. A large number of new hammocks had been put onboard. The magazine and shell-room was in good condition, but nothing had been completed she was not sea ready. He was called before the captain on the second day she reached Sheerness and asked to sign on the man-of-war. He refused as he was promised eight pounds but the captain was only paying six pounds and two shillings. He received two pound and two shillings and left the ship. As he was boarding a steamer back to England he met the captain and was told to return to the Scylla and to go to work with the boiler-makers which he did for fourteen days but was only paid for eight.

George Bailey of Sheerness, along with Thomas Gifford, William Barber, William Mitchell, James Morley, Joseph Govel, William Ellis and Joseph Williams. They were workers in the boiler-shops in Sheerness they were promised leave of absence and thinking all arrangements had been made with the leading boiler-maker headed for Calais and the Rappahannock. When they reached the ship the chief engineer showed them their work. There were no tools to work with but were told some were comeing the next day some drifts came on board, that was all the tools they had to work with. There were one thousand four hundred tubes to be put in but first the old ones had to be taken out. After four days George Bailey became discontented and went back to Sheerness were he went before the leading boiler maker who said he know nothing about any arrangements and as they had been absence without leave and had been gone to long they would not be reinstated.

George White was from Liverpool and was a leading stoker, he went Sheerness where he boarded the Victor, while he was there the name was changed to the Scylla and was told she was a blockade-runner. After about fourteen days her masts were put in by her Majesty’s ship Cumberland then suddenly she was given orders to leave port. The next day she reached Calais. While at Sheerness he worked along side with J. Brooks and Maloney. Before leaving Sheerness he saw engine-stores put on board the consisted of gauge-cocks for the boilers and blocks and other things. These stores still had Government marks on them these were order to be put under the coal so the police would not see them. While at Calais he saw some deserters from the Formidable come on board and some discharges from the Cumberland. Some of these men were put in Irons if they attempted to leave ship as the French police would arrest them. The captain would get four pounds for each deserter returned.

Andrew McEune was from Liverpool and was a seamen. He signed on the Scylla for the wage of three pounds and fifteen shillings. He took a express train from Dover to Calais with thirty others. He went on board the ship then after two days some of the men made a disturbance and were sent ashore. The captain came and picked some of us out and the next morning I signed the articles and was to have a ten pound bounty. The captain said he would keep it in the strong chest for me, I have not received it yet. After the articles were signed we had joined the Confederate service, we were to receive prize money which was to be paid by the captain when the prize was taken. Are wages were to be four pounds and eight shillings per month. He was promised four shillings a day while in port besides his bounty and was to have leave every Saturday night. This he did not get and when he complained he was threatened to be put in Irons. When he got leave and ten France he left the ship and took a steamer back to Dover. When had left there were some men-of war men on board from the English service, some had deserted, two or three had there discharges paid.

William Hewson was from Plymouth and was a seamen and signed on the Scylla to run the blockade at the wage of three pounds and fifteen shillings per month. He went from London to Dover then to Calais. On his arrival he was not allowed on board for two hours. He was then called before the captain there he picked out several Englishmen. He promised William four shillings a day to assist to get the ship out, then the captain would give him the following Saturday a bounty of ten pounds. He signed the articles for four pounds and eight shillings per month. Which was to remain until he was rated as a gunner’s mate, then he was to have higher wages with prize money and other advantages. He stood by his ship but did not get any bounty only ten francs for five weeks. Seeing how things were going he made up his mind to leave. Suspecting his design to leave, the First Officer and Second Officer threatened him by putting a revolver in his mouth another to his eye. He know if he tried to leave he would be killed. He was put in the water-closet with another and held for five days it was not fit for dogs. When a last he got a twenty-four hour leave with ten francs, he immediately went to a steamer and headed back to Dover. He said when he left there was nine or more men from a man-of -war who were deserters from Sheerness. They would also desert from the Rappahannock if they could get off the ship.

Catharine Pratt was from Llewellyn street in the county of Lancaster and she is the wife of John Pratt of No. 9., Llewellyn street, Pratt was a fireman and in February he told her he was going to London to join a steamer bound for the west Indies. Then she learned from another wife that he went with others to the Rappahannock. She later got a letter from her husband saying he had signed on for not less then two years at sixteen pounds and nineteen shillings and had been given an advance of one months pay, and she was to go to the office on Chapel street in Liverpool. Where she would get paid, when she went there the cashier said she was on paper but couldn’t pay her as he had no orders from Paris to do so, and to come back on March 31, which she did and was again was turned away.

Catharine Dow of Llewellyn street Liverpool in the county of Lancaster, who is the wife of John Dow fireman. He had also had signed on the same time as John Pratt. Mrs. Dow also went with Mrs. Pratt and was told the same thing.

The men named below also told they stories if you see a name and would like to read it just let me know I will be happy to send it to you.

1. Robert Sadd of Essex.
2. Joseph Sullivan of London.
3. Edward Smith of Rotherhithe.
4. James Graham of Liverpool.
5. Charles Bennett of Plymouth.
6. Robert Dunn of Sheerness.
7. Thomas Monk of Portsmouth.
8. James Conner.
9. John Ford of Portsmouth.
10. Thomas Shrouder of Liverpool.
11. Samuel Garland of Liverpool.
12. Thomas Woods of Liverpool.
13. Charles Bollen of the Island of Gernsey.
14. Robert Russell of the Island of Gensey.
15. George Thompson of Sheerness.
16. Edwin Shaw of Sheerness.
17. William Hall of Sheerness.
18. Maurice Breen of Liverpool.
19. John Fleming of Liverpool.
20. Bernard Cassidy of Liverpool.
21. William Rawlinson of Liverpool.
22. John Davies of Liverpool.
23. Matthew McMullan of Liver pool.
24. John McClusky of Liverpool.
25. Patrick Bradley of Liverpool.