Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 23.djvu/290

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

money, or rather the want of it, seemed to be the cause of delay, which, however, being eventually provided to the amount of $25,000, we, together with Lieutenant Walter R. Butt, one of our ward-room mess on board of the old Merrimac, were at last ordered to hold ourselves in readiness to proceed on the duty assigned us, when suddenly the order was changed, it having been decided in Cabinet council that our operations on the lakes might embarrass our relations with England, and thus prevent the completion of the iron-clad and other vessels building for us in the private ship-yards of that country. So the plan was foiled at the last moment, and, as we learned, by order of his Excellency, President Davis, who was apprehensive on the score of foreign complications. With the expedition thus broken up, Murdaugh, disheartened, sought other duty, and he, Carter, and Butt were ordered abroad, leaving me here on my regular ordnance duty, as only representative of a scheme whose prospects were so inviting and so brilliant. Late in the spring, I believe it was, that our enemies made Johnson's Island, in the Bay of Sandusky, O., a depot for our officers, their prisoners, and after the surrender of the Post of Arkansas, Vicksburg, and Port Hudson, some 1,500 or 2,000 were imprisoned there, whom it became an object to release, as the balance was, and still is, strongly against us. With this view I found myself one day, in August last, closeted with Mr. Seddon, Secretary of War, and Mr. Mallory, who asked me to give my views on the contents of a letter, a part of which Mr. Seddon read to me, containing a proposition for the release of our poor fellows.


As a cruise on the lakes in the Michigan, and the destruction of the enemy's very valuable commerce, has been my study for months past, I assented at once to the plan, and remarked that "I need not inform you, gentlemen, how much pleasure it would give me to be engaged upon such duty." Well, sir, nearly a month of precious time passed away without my hearing another word on the subject, when one day I was sent for by Mr. Mallory, who told me to organize an expedition, select the officers, make all the necessary preparations, and then concluded by offering me the command of it, which, however, I waived in favor of my friend, John Wilkinson (who was in a manner somewhat committed to the plan by the letter which I have mentioned as being shown to me by Mr. Seddon, the Secretary of War), with this proviso, however, that on our arrival in Canada,