Mr. Harvey to Mr. Seward

No. 316.]

Sir: Information from various sources and directions has reached this legation within the last ten days, all tending to show that several rebel cruisers are afloat in these and the neighboring waters, and that a serious hostile demonstration against our commerce is meditated. Copies of the notes and telegrams on this subject are communicated herewith, in the order that they were received.

The United States steamer Sacramento left here about a month ago for Cadiz, principally to take in stores deposited there, and at the same time to make some necessary repairs. As soon as I was made aware of the facts above stated, a telegram was sent to her commander, inquiring if the ship was ready for efficient service, and upon receiving an affirmative reply, he was requested to come here immediately. It is to be presumed he is now on his way to this port.

The United States steamer Niagara is supposed to be in one of the ports of Belgium or Holland, and as her services are not needed in that quarter but are imperatively required hereabouts, I deemed it proper to telegraph Mr. Sanford at Brussels yesterday, requesting him to give that information to Commodore Craven.

The steamer Ajax, referred to in Mr. Moran’s note, put into the Tagus on the 3d instant, owing to stress of weather. From inquiries made yesterday, I am led to believe that she is an intended blockade runner and not a cruiser.

The ram mentioned in Mr. Montagnie’s despatch has not yet appeared here.

Immediate steps will be taken in regard to the representations made by Mr. Bayman at Funchal, but it will be necessary to proceed with a certain degree of prudence, as this government, under any pressure, might be inclined to follow the example of the larger powers, and apply a rule to our vessels-of-war which, under existing circumstances, would be far more injurious to the public interest than the impertinent proceedings to which attention has been called.

My first endeavor and duty, in the midst of these complications, and with but a single ship-of-war at hand, must be to protect our exposed commerce, and, if possible, to punish the armed depredators.

I venture to suggest, as Lisbon is a much more available point than Cadiz for the information by which the movements of our ships-of-war in these waters must be to a great extent determined, that it would be a material economy of time and of money if the supplies intended for them were stored here, so as to be quite at hand in case of emergency. Whatever naval force can be spared for Europe should be so disposed in all respects as to give it the fullest vigor and efficiency. The want of systematic organization has been and is still seriously felt

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.

[Page 103]

Mr. Moran to Mr. Harvey

My Dear Sir: I write privately to say that there is a double screw propeller now in the harbor of Kingstown, Ireland, which is, no doubt, intended to be used as a rebel gunboat. She is called the Ajax, has but one funnel, painted white, and a black hull. She has iron beams, and is very strong. I cannot learn her tonnage. She has eighty berths, with tables to let down from the ceiling of saloons to accommodate that number of persons; and although she has no guns on board, she has ample room at the bows and stern for pivot guns; and though she has no portholes, her bulwarks are low enough for guns to range over them, and she is a three-decker. Her crew are all in a state of mutiny, and say she is going to Madeira. There are two or three rebel officers on board. She has two masts, but no yards, as she only uses mainsails. She has four boats swung on davits painted white. Her coal is in bags. Her engineer says she is to be used as a gunboat. If we should not stop her I will telegraph to you. She took arms and iron plating on board at Glasgow.

I give you these facts for your own use, so that you may have one of our vessels on the lookout for the Ajax about Madeira. The rebels recently sent away a large number of men from London on a screw steamer of theirs called the City of Richmond. She may be intended to meet the Ajax.

Ever truly,


Hon. J. E. Harvey.


Benjamin Moran, Esq., Legation of the United States, London:

Your letter has been received. You should notify Niagara, which is probably at Antwerp. Mr. Sanford, perhaps, knows her whereabouts.



American Minister, Lisbon:

Ram Olinde, built at Bordeaux, and transferred by Danes to rebels at Houat island, here; sailed for Lisbon on Saturday.



Captain Walke, war steamer Sacramento, Cadiz:

Have your repairs been completed, and is your ship ready for efficient service?



United States Minister, Lisbo:

Sacramento is ready for efficient service. Have answered by letter.



Captain Walke, war steamer Sacramento, Cadiz:

Your letter just received. Come here immediately.



Minister of the United States, Lisbon:

The confederate cruiser Shanandoah is in the harbor and asks for repairs. Notified our ships.

[Page 104]


Hon. H. S. Sanford, United States Minister, Brussels:

Inform Commodore Craven that several vessels, reported to be rebel cruisers, are hereabouts, and, unless restricted by orders, his services are urgently needed.



E. S. Eggleston, Consul of the United States, Cadiz:

Has Sacramento started? If not, tell Captain to come here immediately.

JAMES E. Harvey.

Mr. Bayman to Mr. Harvey

Sir: On the 3d instant the steamer Alice arrived, five days from Cork; burden, 450 tons; forty-seven men, all told; bound to Nassau; took 150 tons of coal, and sailed the 6th instant. This vessel came in under the rebel flag, afterwards lowered by order of the governor. I enclose copy of my correspondence upon the subject.

On the 28th instant the steamer Fannie arrived, ten days from Glasgow; 390 tons, fifty men, all told, two passengers; took 200 tons of coal, and sailed to-day. Also under the rebel flag, which was ordered to be lowered, as well as that of the steamer Confederate States, just arrived, thirteen days from Nassau, 279 tons, fifty crew, twelve passengers; reports in ballast, bound to Liverpool.

These three steamers are paddle-wheeled, painted white, and said to go 15 knots the hour.

Have had no correspondence with the government regarding the Fannie and Confederate States, as the policy pursued towards the rebel vessels will not be altered without orders from Lisbon.

If there be any vessels of war within reach of your telegram, it is well to let them know that this place is likely to be frequented by the rebel ships bound to and from Nassau.

I should state that the steam power of the Alice was 200 horse; the Fannie, 250; and Confederate States, 140.

I have the honor to remain, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


His Excellency James E. Harvey, United States Minister, Lisbon.