War of the Rebellion: Serial 041 Page 0808 W. FLA., S. ALA., S. MISS., LA., TEX., N. MEX. Chapter XXXVIII.

Search Civil War Official Records

to me about 10 a. m. on the 12th that the United States marshal for the district of Louisiana had appeared on board of the steamer, accompanied by several deputies; had taken possession of the ship; ordered all work on her to cease, and driven off all the mechanics, officers, and coalers, using violent language against the military authorities, and saying he would teach these military men not to ride over the courts, &c.

Captain McClure, assistant quartermaster, went on board and found all work suspended and three deputy marshals in charge of the steamer. He requested permission to go on with the work, and was told that not a blow could be struck until the vessel was paid for.

Meantime the report having come to me, I deeply regretted any chance of collision with civil authorities, but deemed it necessary to push the re-enforcements forward to General Banks at all hazards, and, foreseeing great and perhaps disastrous delays in stopping to argue with excited civilian officers, I ordered a discreet officer (Lieutenant-Colonel Abert, assistant inspector-general) to proceed to the steamer with a guard of 20 soldiers, to arrest any persons on board interfering with the preparations and repairs, and to restore the workmen to their duty. All this time I had supposed that the military authorities had lawful possession of the steamer, under the authority of Commodore Bell, from whom I had borrowed her, and with the consent of the court which had ordered her transfer to the navy.

Lieutenant-Colonel Abert performed his duty satisfactorily, and arrested three deputy marshals, whom he brought to my office, after having re-established order and industry on the steamer.

Meantime I addressed a respectful letter to His Honor the judge of the district court, expressing my concern that there should have been any misunderstanding; informing him of the necessity which existed of the steamer's promptly leaving with the re-enforcements for General Banks; stating to him that I had been in peaceable possession of the vessel for more than thirty-six hours before the violent action of the marshal, and, as i supposed, with his full concurrence and approval; that nothing could be more regretted by the military authorities than a conflict with or a seeming disrespect to the honorable court, but that, under any circumstances, the steamer must remain in my possession and go to sea with troops on board as quickly as possible. It was a case of necessity.

To this letter the honorable judge made no reply; but late, the United States district attorney wrote to me that the judge was ill, and that the steamer had not yet been paid for by the navy, and therefore was still in the custody of the court. To this letter I wrote a respectful reply.

The steamer, after a delay of one day, by reason of the interruption of the work of preparation, was duly dispatched to Brazos with the re-enforcements and supplies.

On the day following, I received a summons to appear before the honorable Mr. [Edward H.] Durell, United States district court judge, on the 18th of November instant, and show cause why I should not be fined and imprisoned for contempt of court in having seized said steamer from the custody of the marshal and arresting his officers.

On the 18th instant, I presented myself in court and made a statement of the facts as herein related; stated my responsibilities and the necessity of the action taken, and disclaimed any intent to be disrespectful to the honorable court. I regret to state that the course pursued in court by the district attorney was very far from conciliatory. He