War of the Rebellion: Serial 038 Page 0160 Mississippi, WEST TENNESSEE, ETC. Chapter XXXVI.

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Point, and report to Major-General Sherman, commanding Fifteenth Army Corps.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


FLAG-SHIP AUTOCRAT, Above Vicksburg, March 31, 1863.


SIR: I have the honor herein in inclose the proceedings of a court of inquiry held by order of Acting Rear-Admiral David D. Porter, in the case of Josiah Reeder, pilot on steam ram Queen of the West, who refused to obey his officer, Colonel Charles R. Ellet, to run said boat past the Vicksburg batteries, in face of the enemy, on the 1st day of February last. Also the findings of a general court-martial, convened by my order, for the trial of one Thomas W. Gavory, pilot, for a like offense and others.

In the first case the court find, "That the charges are all sustained, yet, in consideration of the imperfect understanding with the immediate commanders of the ram fleet, and the apparently irregular manner of doing things on those vessels, the accused is hereby released from any further proceedings, and is at liberty to go when he pleases. "

In the other case the court find, "That it has no right to take cognizance in the matter, the prisoner being in its opinion neither officer, non-commissioned officer, nor private," and therefore is not subject to the consequences of a violation of the Articles of War, and that it has no authority over offenses against Navy Regulations.

Under these embarrassing circumstances, I would most respectfully ask to be instructed by special order how to proceed against offending parties belonging to this class, as it is absolutely necessary for the good of the service that justice be dealt in some way to such offenders.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,




Respectfully returned to the Secretary of War.

The question raised by the within paper is how shall pilots, engineers, &c., of the ram fleet be prosecuted and punished for offenses committed while on duty. In the first place, it is to be remarked that the force under Colonel Ellet, on duty in the ram fleet, is understood to be a special contingent and portion of the army and not of the navy of the United States. Persons, therefore, employed upon these rams are to be punished, if at all, under the laws which govern the discipline of the army. These pilots, &c., are neither officers nor enlisted men, and cannot, therefore, be tried under those Articles, which concern only officers and soldiers.

By a special article, however (Article 60), these persons, specified as "all persons whatsoever serving with the armies of the United States in the field, though not enlisted soldiers," are made "subject to orders, according to the rules and discipline of war. "

De Hart (PAGE 25), in commenting upon the phrase "Persons serving with the armies," holds that it includes "those who serve in the army by engagement for public hire or pay. " And this is precisely the case of the pilots, engineers, &c., on the rams, who are hired by the commanding officer of the fleet to perform the duties of their profession for a certain period, and at the close of that period receive as a final discharge an order from that officer upon the paymaster for their pay.