Protest By The Master Of The Trent
(November 14, 1861)
Suspected and Disloyal Persons
Case of Mason, Slidell, Macfarland and Eustis.--#4
O.R.--SERIES II--VOLUME II [S# 115]
ADMIRALTY, [London,] December 27, 1861.
SIR: I am commanded by my lords commissioners of the admiralty to transmit herewith for the information of Earl Russell a copy of the protest made by the master of the royal mail steamer Trent before Her Majesty's consul at Saint Thomas on the 14th ultimo against the proceedings of the captain of the U.S. ship of war San Jacinto in forcibly removing Messrs. Mason and Slidell, the commissioners from the so-called Confederate States, with their secretaries from on board the Trent.
I am, &c.,
Secretary to the Admiralty.
HER BRITANNIC MAJESTY'S CONSULATE,
Saint Thomas, West Indies.
Be it known that on this 14th of November, 1861, before me, Robert Boyd Lamb, esq., Her Britannic Majesty's consul in the Island of Saint Thomas, personally appeared James Moir, master of the steamship Trent, of London, of the burden of 1,856 tons or thereabouts, and entered a protest declaring as follows:
That he sailed in the said steamship Trent from Havana under contract with Her Britannic Majesty's Government as a mail packet bound for Saint Thomas with Her Majesty's mails under charge of Commander Richard Williams, of Her Majesty's navy, sixty-odd passengers, $1,500,000 in specie and a valuable cargo, on the 7th instant, at 8 a.m.; that nothing particular occurred till the succeeding day, 8th instant, at about meridian, when the ship was in the narrow part of the Bahama Channel approaching the Paredon Grande Light-House, the coast of Cuba distant about 4 miles, a steamer having the appearance of a man-of-war but not showing any colors was observed ahead hove to; that the British ensign was immediately hoisted on board the Trent with the Royal Mail Company's distinguishing flag at the main, and on approaching the vessel ahead, which still showed no colors, at 1.05 p.m. she fired a round shot across the Trent's bows and then hoisted American colors, when the Trent's engines were immediately slowed, and while she was approaching the American vessel a shell was discharged from the latter's pivot gun across the Trent's bows which burst half a cable's length ahead of her. The Trent's engines were then stopped, when she was hailed by an officer from the American vessel and ordered to heave to.
A boat from her then came on board with armed boat's crew and an armed guard of marines accompanied by an officer in uniform of the U.S. Navy, who stated that the ship was the U.S. war steamer the San Jacinto, commanded by Captain Wilkes, and demanded a list of the passengers on board, which demand the master of the Trent refused to comply with, on which refusal a further force was sent for from the San Jacinto and two more boats with armed marines and armed boat's crews came on board the Trent; that the same officer then stated that he had orders whatever might be the consequence to arrest Messrs. Slidell, Mason, Macfarland and Eustis whom he knew were on board the ship. He was then asked by the master of the Trent what would be his course in case of a refusal to give up these parties, to which he replied that his orders were to take the ship in case of necessity. He was then informed by the master of the Trent that the passengers would not be given up unless such force was used as could not be resisted, on which Mr, Slidell stepped forward and informed the officer of the San Jacinto that the parties he demanded were before him under the protection of the British flag, and claiming same they would not consent to be taken out of the ship except by force of arms. They were then seized by order of the U.S. officers and after being allowed a short time to collect some necessaries and separate themselves from their families they were forcibly dragged out of the ship by the armed force, notwithstanding the strong and repeated protest by master of the Trent and Commander Williams against an act of hostility and violence committed on a vessel carrying the British flag by a ship of war of a nation on terms of peace and amity with Her Britannia Majesty's Government, to which protest the officer of the San Jacinto replied that he was obeying his orders to effect the arrest at all hazards.
That from the time the first boat was sent to the Trent the San Jacinto lay on the port beam about 200 yards off with her ports open, her guns (seven broadside iron-pivot) run out, tompions out and crew at quarters; that the American officer before leaving the Trent made a further demand that the commander of the Trent should proceed on board the San Jacinto, to which the reply was made that he would not leave the ship unless taken out by force of arms. Against all of which illegal, hostile and piratical acts as before detailed the said James Moir, on his own behalf as a British subject commanding a British ship engaged in the postal service of Her Majesty and on behalf of all others whom it may concern, did declare to protest as by these presents he doth solemnly protest against all and every person and persons, officers and governments directly or indirectly concerned in said illegal and hostile acts, holding them liable for all losses, damages and consequences of the same. And I, the said consul, at the request of the said James Moir, master of the said ship Trent, do hereby solemnly protest against the same, manner and form aforesaid.
This done, &c., at the port of Saint Thomas.
Master of H. M. S. Trent.
Source: "Official Records of the War of the Rebellion"
This page last updated 07/26/05
RETURN TO TRENT AFFAIR PAGE