Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 28.djvu/23

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17
A Secret-Service Episode.

On March 4, 1861, I received orders from Commodore Maury to proceed to New York to purchase 1,000,000 percussion caps for the use of the army of Virginia, and for that purpose obtained a credit from Colonel George Wythe Munford, then Secretary of State for Virginia, for $10,000 gold by draft on a Baltimore banking firm, with instructions to be guided by circumstances in the matters of purchase and conveyance. I started for the Potomac via Port Royal, stopped at Rice's farm, and at night crossed the river in a lugger to Piney Point Light-house, Maryland; went to a point on St. Mary's river, whence I took steamer to Baltimore. Was recognized when I registered at the Maltby House by a northern spy, and forced to get out of the rear entrance of the hotel in short order; drew the gold from the bankers and belted it securely about my body; went by train that day to Philadelphia, where I stopped at the St. Lawrence Hotel; next day to New York, where I registered at Taylor's Hotel; wore conspicuously a Lincoln badge; saw several crack city regiments march down Broadway on their way to the front; purchased 1,000,000 army percussion caps at a store on Liberty street, and ordered them shipped to the address of a friend in Philadelphia. An hour later I was informed that the caps had been seized. I always suspected that the merchant from whom I bought the goods furnished information to the police.

My Philadelphia friend, the consignee, had to prove his loyalty before the authorities would permit the caps to be sent forward, and even then the suspicious merchandise was shipped under police escort, consigned to care of Mayor Henry. This official was satisfied to let the stuff go, so I stored the caps in an old house in an unfrequented part of the city, where at night I transferred them to several Saratoga trunks; shipped the trunks to Baltimore; thence continued my journey as a refugee to St. Mary's river, Maryland. Kind friends here assisted me with my "baggage" to the cottage of trusty Captain Bell, who was custodian of my boat. I crossed the Potomac river that night in safety; got government transportation for my precious charge via Fredericksburg to Richmond, and delivered 250,000 percussion caps to General Dimmock, chief ordnance officer of the State of Virginia. Promptly I went back by the same route for more of my "baggage," but the patrol boat chased us, captured my boat, and I escaped with my life by swimming and running my best. However, I managed to run the blockade again on a favorable dark night, and was able to deliver 300,000 more caps to my superior officers. "Running the blockade" across