The Marquis de Montholon to Mr. Seward

Mr. Secretary of State: I have the honor to transmit herewith to your excellency copy of a report addressed to the vice-consul of his Majesty at Matamoras, by Captain G. Gautret, of the French merchant ship Le Verrier, shipwrecked on the 4th of February last in front of Bagdad, as also several papers annexed thereto, and which have relation to the pillage of that vessel by federal soldiers.

As you will see, Mr. Secretary of State, by the examination of these documents, Colonel Jones, who commanded the troops of the United States at Brazos Santiago, near the point where the ship wreck took place, had formally authorized Captain Gautret to proceed with saving effects from his vessel. In despite, nevertheless, of this permission, and of the orders which they must have had from their commanders, the federal soldiers had not feared to make attempts on the property and even the life of our countrymen. When the captain and crew of the Le Verrier, who at first had taken refuge on the shore, sought to return on board their ship to attempt to save the cargo, a hail-storm of bullets assailed the boats before they had time to effect any unloading. At the later time, when the sailors of the wrecked vessel attempted to collect the flotsam which the sea cast upon the shore, the federal soldiers, revolver in hand, would come down and take from them by actual force the merchandise they had been able to save, and our unfortunate countrymen were thus despoiled of all they possessed, and even saw carried away the tent which they had borrowed from a merchant of Bagdad for the purpose of sheltering themselves.

His excellency the minister for foreign affairs charges me to call the most serious attention of your excellency to these deplorable facts, and to press upon you that the perpetrators of acts so contrary to the feelings of human nature and to the law of nations should be actively sought for and severely punished.

Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys adds to the note which he has written to me on this subject, that there is every reason to think that the cabinet at Washington will show itself the more ready to receive and notice this claim, in that the colonel, Jones, has himself taken the initiative in an examination of the facts above stated.

In consequence, I would be obliged to your excellency to have the goodness to let me know as soon as may be the sequel which shall be given to this regrettable business.

Accept, Mr. Secretary of State, the assurance of my consideration.


Hon. William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.

[Page 370]


Report from Captain G. Gautret.

On the 4th February, 1865, in accordance with the deliberate opinion of the crew—and not being able to remain on board, so much was the vessel overflowed by the sea—the boats being alongside, I had some instruments put into them; then we left the ship, the national flag being hoisted on the gaff.

Reaching the shore, we encamped abreast of the ship, waiting for daylight. The 4th February, in the morning, I went to make my deposition to the captain of the port of Bagdad, leaving the crew to watch that nothing of what we had saved should be touched. On my return, about two hours afterwards, I found federal troops installed near our encampment. They were numerous. I perceived that valuable instruments had been taken away. Although the sea was heavy, we tried to go on board, as well as another boat from the shore, to try to save what it would be possible to do. We were scarcely alongside when a hail-storm of bullets assailed the boats and forced them to abandon the ship, before they had time to save the least thing. On returning to land we occupied ourselves with gathering the wreck effects and what the sea cast ashore. The federal soldiers, who were watching us, took from us everything, as fast and as soon as they could, notwithstanding the order I had received from Colonel Jones to work at the saving of the vessel and cargo. We tried a second time to go on board, but the sea was so high that the boat capsized, and one of the crew disappeared. The rest of the day and night we were guarded by a squad of federal troops. The next day, 5th February, we made several excursions along shore; the sea was very heavy; we could not get on board. We found some pieces of spars, effects, and articles in the water; we hauled them on the shore, the whole being too heavy to be carried in our arms to the place of our encampment. The weather becoming colder, they sent to us from Bagdad a tarpaulin to set up a tent to put us under shelter, as well as the things saved, which we had been able to keep out of the hands of the federals. The 6th day was not more fortunate; the north wind made the sea very heavy. At night the federals appeared in the greatest number, forced us, revolver in hand, to abandon our encampment, and proceeded to escort us to the shore, almost, of the river Rio Grande; took off during the night our encampment sail-cloth, effects, &c.—in a word, everything we had saved of flotsam. We crossed the river and came to Bagdad, renouncing the hope of saving anything. On the night of the 7th the vessel parted in two. The next day the sea was a little less heavy—would have permitted the saving of the masts and sails—but the federale were drawn up in echellons along the shore; as soon as persons went in the direction of the vessel they took aim at them. It would be impossible to state exactly what the federal soldiers and officers took from me; within our knowledge, there was part of the spars and sails; chronometer, quadrant; two trunks full of effects belonging to the captain, stolen by a federal officer, (with threats;) a sextant; a trunk with effects of the chief mate; the effects of the crew, with all the bedding on board; articles belonging to the ship—a boat, three whole pieces of sail-cloth, six water-casks; all the spare spars, consisting of two mizzen-masts, three top masts; some steering-sail yards; a compass; a tarpaulin of Mr. Cowpers, a merchant of Bagdad.

In testimony whereof I have drawn up this present report, in order to make known in what manner we have been treated by the federal troops at Brazos.

The present is signed by the crew and eye-witnesses.

The captain, G. Gautret; first mate, G. Pradel; crew, Cassel, Gauffery, Pihour, Sorevbier. The cook, not knowing how to write, makes his cross.

Eye-witnesses—Havard, captain of the Gironde; C. Heevult, captain of the Leontine; Berniard, captain of the Turenne; F. Ferranti, of Bagdad.

Certified true copy:

J. J. BRUGIER, Vice-Consul of France.