War of the Rebellion: Serial 115 Page 1016 PRISONERS OF WAR, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

ANNAPOLKIS, November 17, 1861.


Deliver the three prisoners, Gwin, Benham and Brent, to commandant of Fort Lafayette and advise me at Washington.


DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Washington, November 22, 1861.

Lieutenant Colonel MARTIN BURKE, Fort Hamilton, N. Y.

COLONEL: I will thank you to allow the Honorable Robert J. Walker to visit Mr. William M. Gwin, Calhoun Benham and J. L. Brent, from California, recently confined in Fort Lafayette.

I am, colonel, your obedient servant,


DEPARTMENT OF STATEE, Washington, November 25, 1861.

Lieutenant col. MARTIN BURKE, Fort Lafayette, N. Y.

SIR: You will please permit George D. Prentice, esp., to visit in presence of a proper officer any of the prisoners confined at Fort Lafayette.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Assistant Secretary.

NEW YORK, November 26, 1861.

Honorable W. H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

DEAR SIR: I have had to-day a long interview with my brother-in-law, Calhoun Benham, at Fort Lafayette. From the assurances he has given me and from the knowledge I have always had of his lofty integrityuu and chivalric honor I can say that there is not the taint of disloyalty in his conduct or in his heart. I educated him and have known him as one of my own children from his early childhood. Mr. Benham states to me that he has never in act or word or the ought favored the cause of disunion. He tells me that he has at all times viewed the idea of either annexing his State, California, to the Southern Confederacy of making it an independent govenment as utterly absurd. A movement for an independent government was at one time made on a public assemblage and he himself denounced it in a speech and crushed it. He was district attorney of California till last spring, and he was engaged in the service of the United States three days before he salled from Panama, saving to our Government $2,000,000 or $3,000,000. He left his home with no other intention than to attend to business very important to himself and to others, and of considerable importance to mee, in the Supreme Court at Washington, and to visit my family.

I cannot tell you how anxious I am that Mr. Benham should be discharged. If he remain where he is the inflammatory rheumatism to which he is very subject will kill him, and the heart of his poor sister, me wife, will be broken. Even if he were to survive he would be utterly ruined in fortuen for the crisis of his fortune is at hand. All this, however, would not make me ask for his release if I believed him guilty of disloyalty, but I know that he is not.

But on what condition shall he be set free? You asked me to make a report to you in regard to him. I am well convinced that he should