Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rebel Ships Out Of London.

The fight of diplomatic diplomacy was a losing battle in our fight to stop the confederates from purchasing ship from foreign nations, as with the case of the British. The confederates were burying and having war ships built for them. Even thought the British knew what was going on their hands were tied mostly in part because of the foreign enlistment act laws. Many of these ships were purchased by rebel agents through ships owners and ship builders, who had a British registry, in that way they could sail any were in the English waters undisturbed. Most of these ship were disguised as merchant ships and it’s crew of Englishmen. These ships sailed from port to port getting refitted as war ships, but still under disguise. When the ship had been refitted and was ready for ammunition and guns, they would leave port, and just as they were to sail the title of the ship was transferred to the Confederate Navy. In some cases the owners would sail on trial runs with the ship and when out on the open sea they would transferred the title to the Confederate Navy, and no laws were broken, it was a losing battle.

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.

The Amphion.

The Amphion was a fifty-gun screw steamer, which was brought by some owner or rebel agents from Her Majesty’s service, she was sold on the believe she was for the purpose of breaking up, but it is said that she was given a few repairs and a temporary or jury masts put in as to get ready for sea. At this time the Amphion was still fitted as a ship of war. The Amphion was at dock at Victoria, London and rumors around the docks was the owner had intended on taken the ship to other locality with less attention. The United States was getting concerned, as the ship had no registry and there seemed to be no intent on the owners doing so the United States asked for the ship to be investigated.

In investigating the British found she was completely unmanned and dismasted, it was found the owners intent was to use her as a emigrant vessel. However those in the know on the docks state the ship was still fitted as a ship of war and was been ready for a trial trip but it would be some time before she was ready for the open sea.

The Amphion left port on April 2, 1864, it was thought she may make for Denmark. The British told the United States that the Amphion had broken no violations of the foreigon enlistment act and there was little they could do at this time. This was met with much disapproval on the part of the United States but little could be done as it was stated the owners had broken no British laws.

The Hawk.

The Hawk is a new and strongly built iron screw steamer, of about eight hundred tons burden, and was built by Messrs. Henderson, Coleman & Co., at Renfrew, on the Clyde. She was examined while on the stocks by Captain Bullock, of the so-called confederate navy, and then purchased by Thomas Sterling Begbie, of London, as I have not the slightest doubt, either for the so-called Confederate States.

The steamer Hawk, was to have left the Clyde, and her destination was alleged to be London but there has been no announced arrival here. In April of 1864. information, that was regard as entirely reliable, was that a steam vessel built by Henderson’s at Renfrew on the Clyde, and now at their yard, called the hawk, is being secretly fitted out as a privateer for the insurgents, to make war against the government of the United States. The information is that she is being fitted out under the superintendence of Captain James D. Bullock, the well known agent in this country of the so-called southern confederacy. About three weeks ago this man Bullock went up to Glasgow and inspected this vessel; since then they have put down another deck over the one she had when launched strengthened her timbers, put up hammocks to accommodate a crew of over one hundred men, and erected cabins for some twelve officers; that the coal bunkers are so arranged around the boilers as to protect them front shot or shell; in a word, that she is being fitted up for war and not commercial purposes, and is to be armed and used by the insurgents against the government of the United States. She has her engines in, sails set, and will be ready for sea in a week or ten days. There is no evidence, and it is impossible to obtain any, as they are conducting all their operations with great caution and secrecy.

The Hawk left Renfrew for London April 16, 1864. She touched at Greenock and took in a few men, and then came on towards London. After a passage of three days, during which she made about ten and a half knots per hour, she arrived near the mouth of the Thames, where she remained in some obscure place about three weeks. place
Why she was detained there so long, whether to complete her equipment and fittings or merely detained for orders, it is at present is unknown. She next came up to Gray’s Thurrock, a short distance this side of Gravesend, and from thence into Victoria docks, London, where she remained at anchor, unconnected with the shore except by row-boats, until June 13, when she was taken out in great haste, and brought to an anchor off Woolwich.

While she lay in the Thames and London docks, no person was allowed to go on board without permission from her first officer, who is a Lieutenant Knox, of the so-called confederate navy. The only boatman in attendance to take off persons who wished to go on board appears to have been carefully instructed in his duty, and to have performed it satisfactorily to his employers. He first asked the name of the visitor, where he belonged, the nature of his business with the steamer, why he wished to go on board, &c., &c. he would then go off to the vessel and report the case to Lieutenant Knox and receive his instructions whether to take the person on board or not. This Lieutenant Knox was, the first officer in the rebel steamer Eugenie when she was driven on shore, and captain of the Robert E. Lee when she was captured. Both of these steamers belonged to the insurgents or their government. Lieutenant Knox made application for an examination, and I think was examined for a captaincy in the British mercantile service, so that he might act as master in taking out from English ports confederate steamers. But failing, if he appeared for examination, to obtain a commission as captain in the British merchant service, he has gone first officer on the Hawk, with the understanding, it is said, that he shall command her when she leaves Bermuda.

Although many circumstances connected with her show that she is to be a confederate belligerent ship, yet while in this port and passing through the formalities necessary to be observed on going to sea, those who controlled her were careful to keep within the letter of the law, though it is not probable that they succeeded in disguising her true character. She has an English register, in which Thomas Sterling Begbie, a London merchant, is named as sole owner. Her crew was shipped at the Sailor’s Home in this city, a government slipping office. They shipped for the run out; received one month’s advanced wages, with a promise of two months’ wages in addition on arriving out. She cleared under the protection of English papers and the English flag, and is bound, it is given out, for Bermuda, an English island.

From the fact that she was purchased, equipped, and fitted under the directions of Captain Bullock; that after the purchase she was changed so as to accommodate wardroom officers aft and warrant officers and over one hundred men forward of the engines; that she was greatly stiffened in the upper deck to enable her to bear tire recoil of guns when discharged; that arrangements have been made for protecting her engines and boiler against shot; that tire greatest secrecy and caution were observed in regard to her while in this port; and that a lieutenant in tire rebel navy is acting as her first officer, and from many other facts and circumstances known it is satisfied that she belongs to the so-called confederate government, and that said government intends to use her for purposes of war, or for committing depredations against the commerce of time United States. There is a possibility that she may go to some continental port to receive her armament and men, or take them in at sea. But should she go to Bermuda.

The Hawk left for Bermuda on the 13th June, 1864, with Lieutenant Knox of the rebel navy, as chief officer, and a Mr. Archer of said navy as the real engineer-in-chief, though a Mr. C. Hoskin, of 12 York street, East Stepney, was nominally so. The Hawk staid at Bermuda between five and six mouths, entirely idle, and some three. weeks ago returned to Liverpool, and about a week ago to the port of London. Mr. Archer, a chief engineer in the rebel service, who went out in her in June last to Bermuda, remained on board or attached to her all the time she lay doing nothing in port, which was nearly six months, and returned in her to Liverpool.

This vessel was undoubtedly fitted and intended for a privateer, but what kept her so long lying idle at Bermuda we know not, unless if it be true that her builders or owners were under bonds not to let her pass into belligerent hands. It was informed, on authority which in such matters has rarely erred, that she will yet go out as a privateer, and that very soon, too. It is now said she will be sold, and got out in some way at once, but she stands to-day registered in the name of Thomas Sterling Begbie, and was mortgaged on the 12th December last to Mr. William Boyle, Bartholomew Road, Kentishtown, for £20,000.

Again The British found no Foreign enlistments act laws that were broken.

The city of Richmond.

The side-wheel steamer City of Richmond, which left this port this afternoon, or rather the dock, has created some suspicion, principally on account of her sale “to foreigners, and her transfer to Edward Lister Golbourne, of Trenmore, county of Chester. This steamer was built at Cubittown for the Great Eastern Railway Company, and was completed in June last. She is six hundred and fourteen tons gross, and was transferred entire to the above Golbourne on the 24th of December last, only two days after her sale “ to foreigners. Her crew were shipped regularly at the Sailors Home. It was understand she has not much cargo on board, but a large amount of stores. Herr master’s name is William Scott. What is fear is that she will be used as a supply-ship to some privateer, and will be detained down the river to receive the privateers men who are kept here to be sent to their ship.

The City of Richmond was called Ovalon while owned by the Railway Company, and her name was changed when she was “sold to foreigners, on the 22d of December, 1864. It was learning where the privateers men would be sent. They were sent by railroad to Greenhythe, and were put on board the steamer City of Richmond. This vessel cleared for Bermuda, and as there was she sailed or went out of dock, any authority indorsed on her register authorizing her captain to sell her, and as she then stood registered in the name of E. L. Golbourne, the probabilities are that she is taking men and stores, possibly munitions of war also, to Some privateers. The orders given to the men for £10 each were drawn by Richard W. Curtis, understood to be a purser in the rebel naval service, and were drawn on H. P. Maples, No. 4 Arthur street cast, London Bridge, and are dated London, January 9, 1865.

Forty seamen and officers left Calais at midnight on Tuesday night last, as passengers on the steamer Velocity for London. The men did not come to Loudon, but were put on board the rebel steamer City of Richmond somewhere down the river. When those who controlled the City of Richmond at Greenhythe saw that their movements were kept under observation, the steamer was got under way and left behind nine or ten of the London privateers men, who went down to the train which took down the men who succeeded in getting on board. Thirty-six men, all of whom are said to have served on board either the Alabama, Georgia, or Florida, are known to have gone on board at Greenhythe. These with the forty men and rebel naval officers from Calais who joined her down the river, make seventy Six men on board the City of Richmond, which she is taking out of this country to some rebel privateer. The men who left this port are mostly English subjects, and have been in the rebel privateering service. There is no doubt whatever that the seventy-six passengers, except the officers on board the City of Richmond, have been engaged in this country for a rebel privateer.

Again The British found no Foreign enlistments act laws that were broken.



The following two depositions tells a lot about the Ajax and the Hercules.

Deposition of John Melley.

1, John Melley, of Glasgow, seaman, being duly sworn, depose and say: In the month of January last past, being in want of a ship, saw Captain Adams, of the steamer Ajax, at the Sailors’ home, in Glasgow he told me she was a tug or tow-boat going to Nassau, and that he would like me to go. I signed the articles for a voyage to Nassau for three pounds ten shillings per mouth. Two days afterwards, on a Friday, I went on board of her, lying at anchor, about two miles from Greenoek—the tail of the bank. She sailed that same night about 12 or 1 o’clock. We arrived at Kingston, Ireland, the next morning. I left the vessel at Kingston and returned to Glasgow. Captain Adams was in command. The crew consisted of eight sailors, twelve firemen, and three engineers. There was one person on board who was formerly the captain of the confederate steamer Fingal, who was to have command of the Ajax as soon as Captain Adams left. I discovered as soon as I got on board of her, and before she sailed, that she was intended for a war vessel.

She was fitted up for one in every particular. in the fore part of the vessel eighty-four berths fitted up for the accommodation of the men. There were also mess tables for the same number of men, arranged so as to serve up the same as on a war vessel. I have served on board of a war vessel, and know something of there construction. I saw two gun-breeches on board. There were five buckets also. The next morning after we sailed I went to the captain and told him I was not going to be shanghied. he replied, that I was not going to be shanghied. I told him this vessel, the Ajax, was a southern privateer, and that I believed she had her guns and ammunition on board. He would hardly give me any satisfaction, but said it was not so. I told him the captain of the Fingal was on board to take charge of her. He made no reply to this, except that he himself was captain now.

The captain of the Fingal kept himself concealed as much as he could. He is a southern man. After we got into Kingston we got on the rocks. I told the captain I would not go in the vessel, on account of her being a southern privateer. He denied this. I told, him she had guns and ammunition on board. He could not or did not deny this. I told him that if he did not let me go on shore and leave the vessel, that I would make a complaint to the American consul and to a magistrate, and have the vessel seized on the ground of her being a confederate privateer.. He then agreed that I might leave her and return back to Glasgow, winch I did. I have not the least doubt about her—time Ajax—being a war vessel for the confederates in America. All the men on board were satisfied that she was a privateer, and to be used for no other purpose. At the time I signed the articles I received from Captain Adams an advance for £3 and 10 shillings, payable by Patrick Henderson & Co., of Glasgow, ten days after the ship sailed. I knew the captain of the Fingal; saw him when in command of her at Savannah, Georgia.


Sworn and subscribed at Glasgow, before me, ‘this 6th day of February, 1865.

Deposition of George Smith.

I, George Smith, of Dumbarton, iron-ship builder, being duly sworn, do depose and say: I work in the ship-yard of P. Denny, of Dumbarton, and have worked there since the month of August last past. I worked on two steamers built by Mr. Denny—one called the Ajax, which sailed for Nassau some days ago, and on the Hercules, which is still at Dumbarton, and now nearly ready for sea. They are sister ships, were known in the yard as the twin screws, and built off of the same model. I am well acquainted with their construction and everything about them the frames are of angle-iron—very strong—stronger than I ever saw in vessels of their size. This frame-work is covered with iron plates, strongly and securely riveted to the frame-work. The inside has cement two inches thick, and on the inside of the cement a wood lining four inches in thickness. The cement does not come up to water-mark, but the wood lining comes up above this. The beams that support the upper deck are very close and strong for vessels of this size, strong enough to support gnus of almost any size.

The hull is in three watertight compartments. The forecastle is fitted up with twenty-two berths, and a mess table for this number of men, made so as to screw up to the ceiling. The middle compartment is fitted up with twenty-six berths none of them large enough to hold two persons with a similar mess table large enough to accommodate this number of persons, made to screw p to the ceiling. The after cabin is fitted up with twelve separate state-rooms. The bulwarks are low, a pivot gun could be fired right over them. The decks of the vessels are flush fore and aft. There is space on each vessel, near mid-ships, where pivot guns can be placed. There are also two portholes cut on each side of the vessels, making four portholes on each vessel, but so cut and concealed that they would not be observed by a casual inspection. They have hinges and are secured with bolts on the inside, and can be opened and used at any time. These portholes are suitable for guns.

I put on the hinges for those on the Hercules this very day. You cannot see them, the portholes, from the outside. From the best of my judgment these portholes are for guns. I cannot see that they can be used for any other purpose. Each steamer has one funnel and two masts. The fore masts are brig-rigged, the hindmost schooner-rigged. They are to carry very large sails. The screws are double, and driven by two engines. The boilers and engines are so constructed as to be protected from shot or shell by the coal-bunkers. There is an apartment under the fore peak, all iron, suitable for storing powder, and which has the appearance of a magazine, and suitable for that purpose. From the material used in the construction of the Ajax and Hercules, the strong manner they are built, and the peculiar construction and fittings, I should say that they are both adapted and have the appearance of being for war purpose, what are called and generally known as gunboats, and in my opinion are intended for gunboats and for war purposes. The general opinion of all the people, workmen in the yard, is that they are for war purposes, and they are called gunboats by them, this general appellation by which they were known in the yard. it is not known for whom they are being built by the men, but they suppose and think for the confederates in America.


Sworn and subscribed to before me, this 6th day of February, 1865.

One of her Majesty’s Justices of the peace for the County of Lanark.

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