WASHINGTON, February 11, 1862.
Honorable WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.
DEAR SIR: I herewith submit for your consideration the following statement in relation to Captain James McKay and his son Donald McKay, of Tampa, Fla., the former now in Washington the latte detained in Fort Lafayette:
When I first made the acquaintance of Captain McKay in May last he was shipping cattle from Florida to Havana, Cuba. He was generally regarded as the most enterprising man in that State as well as one of its wealthiest citizens. A few weeks later I met him in Key West. He was there with his propeller the Salvor when Flag-Officer William Mervine arrived to enforce the blockade of the Gulf ports of the Confederate States. By order or Flag-Officer Mervine the Salvor was seized, but subsequently she passed into the charge of the quartermaster's department of the Key West military division and made one or two trips to Tortugas and Fort Pickens. Her boilers being defective the quartermaster declined to make any further use of the Salvor and she was moored in Key West Harbor.
About the 1st of August Captain McKay came from Tampa to Key West with a flag of truce. In a conversation I had with him at that time he expressed disgust at the Confederate rule in Florida and added that he desired to remove his family to some place within the jurisdiction of the United States, dispose of his property at Tampa and vicinity and turn over the Salvor to the Government of the United States. Shortly after this conversation with Captain McKay the Salvor sailed for Havana in charge of Quartermaster Webber for the purpose of bringing back a lot of horses. Mr. Webber returned four or five days afterward in a fishing smack without the horses.
The Salvor remained and subsequently I learned from Mr. Thomas Savage, vice-consul-general at Havan, that Captain McKay sold her to British owners and her name was changed to the M. S. Perry. While sailing under British colors the Perry was captured by the U. S. steamer Keystone State, Captain G. H. Scott. Captain McKay and his son Donald, a mere boy, were on board. The Salvor was carried to Philadelphia, condemned and sold by the admiralty court as a prize. Captain McKay was detained in Fort Taylor and his son sent to Fort Lafayette. By permission of Major B. H. Hill, commandant of Fort Taylor, Captain McKay appears in Washington to ask the liberation of himself and son and that they have permission to return to their home.
Having been driven from my own property by the rebels for furnishing some cargoes of timber to complete the defense of Fort Taylor and residing in Key West from July to December last, where I had an opportunity of observing what was transpiring, I have no hesitation in saying that whatver Captain McKay's offenses may be greater blame attaches to the U. S. officials who governed that post that to him. They were, with the exception of Mr. Charles Howe, collector; T. J. Boynton, U. S. attorney; E. B. Hunt, captain of U. S. Engineers, and Captain Brannan, greater favorities with the rebels than loyal citizens. If instead of Major French such officers as General Banks or Butler or the present commander, Major Hill, had the direction of military affairs at Key West, nearly all would have returned to their allegiance,
62 R R-SERIES II, VOL II