500 tons. Can go at any time and by any route to Nassau or Havana. Offered at $62,000, or chartered to either port at $10,000 for the trip. Owners to pay all expenses; Government to pay value if captured. Will be very useful for coast defense. We will go at once in her if authorized and think the charter price may be reduced one-half. One or more naval officers to go in her as may be ordered.
J. M. MASON.
CHARLESTON, October 5, 1861.
Honorable R. M. T. HUNTER, Secretary of State.
DEAR SIR: It seems due to ourselves and to the occasion that you should be informed fully of the causes of delay, with the difficulties attending our expected departure from this port. The confidence of success expressed by those in charge of the subject when we left Richmond seems to have been based on the state of facts then and perhaps for sometime previously existing in regard to the blockade. There had been it appears but two ships off the harbor, generally a steam frigate and sloop-of-war, and the expectation was that going out at night through the main channel we might elude observation, or if disappointed in that could escape through the speed of our ship.
For a day or two after our arrival the tide did not serve for departure at night; then there came strong winds at night which although they drove the squadron out to sea by reason of the surf created on the bar prevented our passing over it. Before this obstacle ceased the squadron reappeared with the addition of another steamer - a clipper-built propeller - and from her trim and appearance apparently a fast ship. It was then projected to make the attempt through the Maffitt Channel though without the full sanction of the pilots, and this I believe we should have attempted but for the appearance at that time of another steam frigate, thus making the squadron to consist of three steamers besides the sloop-of-war. Such sudden and unusual accessions to the blockade of the port made us infer (as a high probability at least) that our presence here and purpose had reached the enemy and was the cause of the unusual preparation we witnessed. Mr. Slidell had determined to send his family back, and after full consideration of the whole case we could see no alternative but to take the route through Mexico, and so advised you by telegraph accordingly.
Whilst awaiting your reply the plan was suggested which was the subject of our telegram last night. There is a steamer belonging to this port and owned here called the Gordon now and for some time past under charter to the Government for harbor service at (as we are told) $200 per day. She is something more than 500 tons burden and was used as a coasting packet, crossing occasionally to Havana. After the war [began] she was strengthened and refitted to be used as a privateer and was so used for a short time, having now on board three rifled cannon. Her speed [is] equal to fifteen knots per hour and may be increased to sixteen, and of so light a draft of water that she can pass the bar at any time and is not confined to the channel ways.
This account of the steamer we get from gentlemen here long acquainted with her and only interested to serve our cause. She is used every night to reconnoiter the enemy, going safely out to sea where they lie and keeping only out of reach of their guns. In the last two days she has done the same thing in the daytime, having on board Cap-