NASSAU, NEW PROVIDENCE, December 11, 1861.
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN,
Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:
DEAR SIR: After all, the British dispatch vessel is not going to Havana, but I may succeed in getting a passage on a British man-of-war, to leave in the course of an hour or two. After writing yesterday I found that the Theodore had sustained more injury than we imagined. She leaked so badly that we had to haul her into shore so as to be able at low water to get her bottom comparatively bare and ascertain the damage. I grieve to say that the prospect of putting cargo into her is very faint; indeed, it will be fortunate if we can get her home safely. After completing such repairs as are absolutely necessary Captain Lockwood will return to Charleston. There are now ways or dry docks here, otherwise we might possibly put her in condition to go to Cardenas but under present circumstances deem it out of the question to attempt the voyage. Indeed, as it is, there are symptoms of unwillingness on the part of the crew to go in her. We have, of course, been compelled to discharge the cotton, a portion of which is damaged. If too much so, I shall have to sell it for what it will bring. The remainder I am inclined to dispose of at not less than 20 cents, though this is a poor place to get a buyer. If I can do no better I shall ship it under advances to Fraser, Trenholm & Co., Liverpool. The repairs to the Theodore will have to be met out of the proceeds. I feel that my instructions require me to go to Cuba and see Mr. Helm. He must be apprised of the accident to the Theodore, and I shall hand him the remittance of Pounds 3,000 and consult with him as to the best mode of turning the funds to good account.
An idea struck me that under the circumstances I would, perhaps, be justified in retaining the exchange and bringing it home, but I do not feel at liberty to assume such responsibility, the more so as Mr. Helm is the accredited agent of the Government. Captain Bird, of the Gladiator, is also in a quandary. He intended going out to-morrow, but a Yankee gun-boat has just arrived, and as he imagines, has come expressly for him. He is extremely anxious to see Mr. Helm and get definite orders from him, his instructions being to that effect, and that he would find Helm at Nassau. Captain Bird has asked my advice in the matter, but I replied that I was entirely incompetent to decide. I told him how extremely anxious we were to get the arms, but that would hardly warrant him to assume an extravagant or extraordinary risk. Of course the running of the blockade was the risk he had to take; but there were various degrees of risk to be considered, especially with reference to the magnitude of the interests that might be placed in jeopardy by a too precipitate or too timid action. If I could have been justified in assuming control I should have ordered him off on the evening of my arrival. As long as the Yankee vessel is in port the captain will not venture out, and if she leaves he is afraid it will only be for the purpose of enticing him out so as to make the capture. The Gladiator is not fast; you cannot get over nine knots out of her under the most favorable juncture. It is so obvious to me that the captain is reluctant to decide for himself that this constitutes an additional inducement for my going immediately to see Helm. I have instructed Captain Lockwood to proceed with the Theodore's repairs and return as speedily as possible. We must at least make the effort to save the vessel, for by proper strengthening and cutting off her guards she may be made very valuable. She