Tuesday, November 15, 2011

William Henry Nelson Master Mariner.

I, William Henry Nelson, of the city of New York, in the United States of American master mariner, do solemnly, sincerely and truly swear that I sailed from the said city of New York on the 20th day of September last as master of and in the ship Harvey Birch, of New York a ship owned and registered in New York in conformity with the laws of the United Staes, bound for the port of Havre de Grace, in France with a cargo consisting of wheat. About the 9th day of October I arrived at Havre and having discharged the cargo of my ship and ballasted her I sailed in her again for the portof New York on the 16th day of NOvember, first having received the register crew list, articles and all papers belonging to the ship in proper form from the U. S. consul there.

On the morning of Tuesday, the 19th instant the ship then being in about latitude 49 06 north, longitude 9 52 west, a steamer was made out bearing for the Harvey Birch which on getting nearer was found to be an armed vessle and hoisted at the peak the flag of the so-called Confederate States, and when within hailing distance a person on board who I learned was the captain hailed my ship saying, "Haul down your colors and heave the ship to" - the ensign of the United States being at this time flying at the peak of my vessle; this order was complied with and I then received the order, "Lower yoru boat and come on board," which I also complied with, taking my ship's papers with me.

After arriving on board the steamer I was introduced by the first lieutenant by name Fauntleroy, to Captain Pegram as commander of the C. S. steamer Nashville, to whom I produced all the papers of my ship for examination to show that I was engaged in legal trade. Captain pegram took the ship's papers-he did not return them and still holds them-and then told me that he should hold me a prisoner of war by authority of the Confederate States. He then told me I might go on board my ship, and I was ordered to send my crew on board the steamer as quickly as possible. I returned to my ship and at once made preparations to leave her, but orders were repeatedly given from the steamer to hurry up and sufficient time was not given to enable either myself or my crew to get our effects out of the ship.

The second lieutenant with other officers came on board the ship and took charge of her, and orders were given to seize fresh stores,&., and in cosequence thereof all the fresh meat, poultry, pigs, eggs, and butter were taken out and put on board the steamer and especially it was ordered that all the oil, tea, coffee, and sugar should be put on boared the steamer, which was done. When all this had been accomplished the crew left the ship by order of the second lieutenant, I being last on board, leaving the second lieutenant and his boat's crew in charge of the ship.

After arriving on board the steamer we saw that the Harvey Birch was in flames and the second lieutenant returned on board the steamer with his boat which was secured, but the ship's quarter boats which had been used in communicating were cast adrift. Captain Pegram now said, "Now, as it is all over we will give her a gun," or words to that effect, and a gun was discharged at the ship but without apparently hitting her.

The steamer then was put on an easterly course, the crew of the ship having previously been put in there signed at the request of the captain a document stating that we would not take up arms against them while in their custody, he having said that I and my officers should have our liberty on board when we had signed it. I was frequently told that an oath would be exacted of us "not to take up arms against the Confederate States" before I could be liberated but I was liberated without any such being taken.

The steamer steamed up the English Channel and arrived at Southampton at about 8 a. m. on the 21st instant and came to anchor in the river. Captain Pegram then told me that I and my crew were at liberty and might go ashore, but he refused to put us ashore and I therefore employed a steam-tug at my own expense and landed my crew in Southampton docks between 9 and 10 a. m. and they were taken charge of by the U. S. consul there. Repeatedly while on board the steamer in conversation with the officers I was told that she was not fitted out as a vessel of war; that she was on a special mission to England but naval officers were in command of her.

I was told byone of the crew that the crew originally signed articles at Charleston, S. C., to go to Liverpool but that before sailing the officers were al changed and new articles were brought on board which the crew were compelled to sign by threats of force. I was also infomred that the crew was composed of English and Irish and Colonel Peyton, a person who came from Charleston in her, informed me that her officers were coming here to alter the vessel and to have her converted into a man-of-war and to take command of two other vessels now fitting out in Great Britain as men-of-war.

The chronometer and barometer belonging to the Harvey Birch were taken by Captain Pegram who refuses to deliver them up. The Harvey Birch was a ship six years old and of 1,482 tons register. Before we lost sight of the ship her masts had gone over the side and her hull was burnt to the water's edge.


Sworn before me, in the consulate of the United States at London, this 22nd day of November, 1861.

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