War of the Rebellion: Serial 021 Page 0470 W. FLA., S.ALA., S.MISS., LA., TEX., N.MEX. Chapter XXVII.

Search Civil War Official Records


Brigadier General M . C. MEIGS,

Quartermaster-General U. S. Army:

GENERAL: In the matter of certain cotton sent home on the Black Prince, a Government transport, form Ship Island, the transaction is simply this: This cotton was captured by the Navy on board a small schooner, which would be unsafe to send to sea. I needed the schooner as a lighter and took her from the Navy. What should be done with the cotton? A transport was going home empty; it would cost the United States nothing to transport it. To whom should I send it? To my quartermaster at Boston? But I supposed him on the way here. Owing to the delays of the expedition I found all the quartermaster's men and artisans on the island, whose services on the island were indispensable, in almost a state of mutiny for want of pay. There was not a dollar of Government founds on the island. I had $75 of my own; the sutler had money;s he would lend it on my draft on my private banker. I borrowed on such draft about $40,000, quite equal to the value of the cotton as I received it, and with the money paid the Government's debts to its laborers, so that their wives and children would not starve. In order that my draft should be paid I sent the cotton to my correspondent at Boston, with directions to sell it, pay the draft out of the proceeds, and hold the rest, if any, subject to my order, so that upon an account stated I might settle with the Government. What was done? The Government seized the cotton without a word of explanation to me, kept it till it depreciated 10 per cent., and allowed my draft to be dishonored, and it had to be paid out of the little fund I have left at home for the the support of my children during my absence. This, general, is the only aid myself or the forces under my command received from the Quartermaster's Department form the 24th of February to the 8th of May, when, being in possession of New Orleans, where there was something to be received, a very able and competent officer, Colonel Shaffer, was sent me. But my men are still suffering for the mesquite-nets you premised me on the 24th of February and the public service was much delayed by the want of those light-draught steamers, for which I made requisition at or before this date, but which have every come; but instead thereof I received an order to send home the only steamer I had that had not a hole in her bottom five inches square.

I have stated the facts. I make no complaints; I ask no favors. I have since received from Colonel Shaffer here the money I had paid out to the laborers, which was the amount of my draft (losing the interest and expenses of protect, &c.), so hat the cotton or its proceeds now belongs to the Government, and I relinquish all claims upon it. I hope you will cause my agent to be paid for the trouble he has had about it; if not, well.

There was on the same ship two or three bales of cotton, which was bought by a Mr. Parker of some person who picket it up floating form the wreak, partly damaged. He asked me the privilege of sending home those bales, as there was none other than a Government transport at Ship Island. I gave it. I hope they were not seized; they can be easily distinguished. If they were, they should be given up, as it is neither just nor right they should be seized or held.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Major-General, Commanding.