Mr. Wood to Mr. Seward

No. 187.]

Sir: Your dispatch, No. 103, of the 21st ultimo, was received yesterdays. From the despatches arid copies of letters received ere this, and those I now send, you may perhaps think I have more than anticipated my instructions. [Page 172] I am very glad to receive and communicate to this government your last despatch, as the director general of the ministry informed me, a few days since, that the court intrusted with the investigation of the affair of the Staerkodder had discovered “it had not sufficient jurisdiction” to make the examination I desired. I have but recently discovered that the Staerkodder was originally intended for the confederates, and I am credibly informed that the Mr. Puggard I have already mentioned, a Danish merchant in this city, the consignee or correspondent of the ship, and the man who procured her crew and liberty to leave the port under the Danish flag, and whose re-examination I have asked, advanced large sums of money for the building of the Staerkodder, knowing that this vessel was being built for the confederates. I have informed both the minister for foreign affairs and the director general of the ministry of this.

To prevent all laches I again send a copy of my note to the director general, of the 25th ultimo. From a translation of Mr. Blumhe’s note to me, enclosing copies, &c., of the contract with Arman, the French builder, and other papers, you will see what he says of the affair. I am still of the opinion that the Danish government was practised upon by the Frenchmen and one or more of its own subjects, and how far it will screen the latter remains to be seen.

I have the honor to remain your obedient servant,

BRADFORD R. WOOD, Minister Resident.

Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.

Mr. Wood to Mr. Blumhe

Sir: On the 25th and 28th ultimo, I respectively addressed notes to the director general of the ministry for foreign affairs and to his excellency the minister for foreign affairs in relation to the Staerkodder, and requesting an examination of the captain and some of the crew of that ship, as well as of Mr. Puggard, who, I have since learned, advanced money to build that ship when orignally intended for the so-called confederate insurgents. In a recent conversation with Mr. Vedel, the director general of the ministry, I expressed my fears that the crew of the Staerkodder would be dispersed before any examination of them could be had on the points I had presented. I am now informed that one Bolling, an engineer on board of the Staerkodder, will soon leave Copenhagen, he being engaged on a steamer running between Cursoe and Keil. I am also informed of some difficulty in the constitution of the court before which the examination is being held to obtain the investigation I have requested. I shall very much regret should there be no examination of the men I have designated.

With renewed assurances of high consideration, I remain your excellency’s obedient servant,

BRADFORD R. WOOD, Minister Resident.

His Excellency Mr. Blumhe, Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Wood to Mr. Blumhe

Sir: I have this day received a despatch from the Secretary of State of the United States, in which, speaking on the condition that the facts reported are true, I am instructed to inform the Danish government, “That the government of the United States cannot be expected to submit uncomplainingly to the apprehended invasion of piratical vessels, coming from European ports, and that it is expected that Denmark will do whatever is necessary to prevent this, if the responsibility shall be traced to the government or to the subjects of his Majesty, the King of Denmark.” I am also instructed to ask an explanation of his Majesty’s government, and in doing so to inquire how it happened that, if his Majesty’s government intended [Page 173] to divest itself of responsibility, it caused or suffered the Staerkodder to go into Houat, an unarmed place, not within the surveillance of the French government, instead of Bordeaux. I am also instructed to say, “That the government of the United States deems the time to have come when the maritime powers of Europe ought to withhold all protection and shelter from enemies of the United States who proceed from countries with which they are at peace.”

With renewed assurances of high consideration, I remain your excellency’s obedient servant,

BRADFORD R. WOOD, Minister Resident.

His Excellency Mr. Blumhe, Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Wood to Mr. Vedel

Dear Sir: From information I have received to-day, I have no doubt that the Danish captain of the Staerkodder knew the destination of that ship when she left Copenhagen, and that an examination of some of the crew will implicate him. I think it can be shown, beyond a doubt, that he knew the ship belonged to the confederates when he went into or when he left Nieu Dieppe. I have reason to believe that Mr. Puggard also knew the character of the ship. If this should prove true, and the Danish captain has used the Danish flag as a cloak, does it not only require his arrest and punishment, but also a request from the Danish government to the Spanish government not to consummate the fraud, but to retain the Staerkodder or Stonewall in the Spanish port, where she now is? I will see you at the earliest convenience, and fully explain.

I have the honor to remain, very truly, your obedient servant,


Mr. Vedel, Director General of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.


Mr. Blumhe to Mr. Wood

Sir: In the note you have done me the honor to address to me the fourth of last month, you have called my attention to the circumstance that one or more vessels-of-war built in France, but bearing the Danish flag, have passed into the hands of the so-called Confederate States; and while entirely dismissing the supposition of any connivance whatever on the part of the government of the King in this transaction, you have asked of me some explanations upon certain points set forth in the appendix to your note.

Being sincerely desirous of removing any suspicion which could attach to the government of the King, under these circumstances, I have endeavored to collect all authentic information upon the negotiations which have taken place between the government of the King and Mr. Arman, shipbuilder of Bordeaux, relative to the iron-clad vessel Sphinx, alias Staerkodder, for it is evidently to this ship that your note alludes.

In sending you, sir, the enclosed documents, marked by letters A to F, I permit myself to accompany them with as succinct a narrative of the principal points as these portions admit of.

On the 31st day of March last, a contract was signed by which Mr. Arman engaged to deliver on the 10th of June, 1864, an iron-clad vessel of 300 horse-power, with guns and munitions. The vessel, which was already upon the stocks, was to be finished under the control of an officer of the Danish navy, who, in accordance with articles IX to XI of the contract, was charged with inspecting and accepting the vessel before she could leave Bordeaux to go to her destination. The conditions of the contract were not fulfilled by Mr. Arman. The ship was only finished on the 21st of October, and she neither realized the promises made as to her speed nor as to her draught of water.

The Danish officer, Mr. Shonheyder, consequently could not accept her. Nevertheless, Mr. Arman, hoping to succeed by a direct negotiation with the minister of marine, in causing the ship to be accepted, sent her the last of October to Copenhagen. The refusal of Mr. Shonheyder was, however, repeated to Mr. Arman during an interview which he had at Paris with the director of the ministry of marine, Mr. Eckildsen, and the Danish official added expressly that the ship having left Bordeaux without the authorization of the proper officer, she could only have been sent at his own risk and peril as well as at his own expense. The vessel, which arrived at Copenhagen in the middle of the month of November, was inspected here, but the minister of marine persisted in refusing to accept her; consequently the contract was annulled, and Mr. Arman understood expressly that the Danish government was freed from every obligation to him under the contract.

The ship must then return to France, but, from motives of economy, the builder had [Page 174] dismissed his captain and French crew upon the arrival of the vessel at Copenhagen. He thus found himself under the necessity of engaging here, through the intervention of his correspondent, a merchant of Copenhagen, a Danish merchant captain and a crew composed of Danish and Swedish sailors in order to carry the vessel back to Bordeaux; which rendered it necessary for him to ask a special permission of the department of customs, in order that the vessel, though French property, should be able to leave the port of Copenhagen under conditions so unusual. Being no longer able to demand assistance of French consuls in the ports where the severity of the season might, perhaps, force the ship to seek refuge, Mr. Arman likewise asked for a letter of recommendation to the Danish consuls as well as permission to make the voyage under Danish colors. This permission and this letter of recommendation were given to him, but I need not add that all the advances the captain should ask for in the ports were to remain entirely unconnected with the government of the King, and that it was expressly enjoined upon the Danish captain to strike the Danish flag as soon as he entered the port of Bordeaux.

I hope, sir, that these explanations will serve to answer the questions which you have addressed to me. They prove that the government of the King has been entirely unconnected with the transaction which appears to have taken place, and that it regrets it sincerely. I am engaged in taking some steps in order that, with the help of depositions made before the tribunal by persons belonging to the crew, there may be drawn up some “proces verbaux” upon everything which has taken place during the voyage of the vessel since her departure from Copenhagen, and I wait in order to send you this intelligence as soon as it reaches me.

Accept, sir, renewed assurances of my most distinguished consideration.


Mr. Wood, Minister Resident of the United States of America.