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Initial Trip Down Chesapeake Bay After Blockade Runners And Contraband Dealers And Goods

My initial trip down the Chesapeake Bay after blockade-runners was made

under the following order:

Headquarters, Middle Department,

8th Army Corps,

Baltimore, Mch. 22, 1864.

Special Order No. 73.

2d Lieut. H. B. Smith, 5th Regt. N. Y. Artillery, is hereby

ordered to proceed down the Eastern shore, Virginia, and

> arrest ---- Jacobs (citizen) and such other persons as may be

found in company with him. If Lieut. Smith has reason to

believe that they are engaged in the practice of smuggling or

running the blockade, and seize all contraband goods in their


Lieut. Smith will seize and hold the following named vessels,

viz.: Schooners "Trifle," "Frances E. Burgess," "Despatch,"

"Washington," and "Glib," wherever he may find them, and will

convey them to the nearest place of safety within our lines.

Lieut. Smith will assume command of the steam tug placed at

his disposal by orders from this office, and having

accomplished the object of this order will return to this

city, and make immediate report to the Commanding General.

Lieut. Smith is permitted to use his discretion as to the

disposition of the vessels named in case of emergency. By

command of

Major General LEW WALLACE,


Asst. Adj. Gen'l.

Quinn, the prisoner referred to above was out on parole and was thus

able to pursue his business. He was in the habit of purchasing much of

his supplies from a certain ship chandler on Pratt street, a friend of

mine, and, in fact, a good Union man, who so concealed me in his

premises that I learned much of Quinn's plans from his (Quinn's) own

mouth; and this order was to enable me to develop the matters he had


Blockade running, mail carrying and "spy" carrying, along the Potomac

and Chesapeake, was carried on in such a cute manner as to necessitate a

peculiar service to meet and stop it. Gunboats nor troops could baffle

it; it was done in skiffs, canoes (called cunnas), small sail boats

with dirty sails hardly to be seen in broad day light. These little

"creepers" would run right up under the bows of gunboats unnoticed; as

soon as shore was touched, if a plug was pulled out of the bottom of a

boat it would immediately and entirely submerge itself, until wanted for

use again.

The price for carrying one person across the river was fifty dollars in

gold, which tempted to the business the most dare devil men on either

side of the line. As to merchandise, the plan was to "work" the local

storekeepers, for in the North it was perfectly legitimate to allow all

the merchandise desired to go to the line just on the borders of

territory patrolled by us, which might be only an hour's sail with fair

wind to put it at night within the reach of the Confederates. These

stores were not in villages, as was the case further north, but were

isolated, very frequently on a cross road in the woods.

Oystering was a favorite cloak for blockade-runners. Sometimes vessels

of little value (three hundred dollars or so) were loaded in Baltimore

with goods and purposely _swamped_ on the south side of the river to

allow the Confederates to confiscate. I was "on the inside" once when a

Captain was offered fifteen thousand dollars to allow his vessel to be

loaded and to permit its destruction when in reach of the Confederates.

There was some delay in the preparation of my written report which

caused anxiety at headquarters, which was expressed in the following:

Headquarters, Middle Department,

8th Army Corps,

Baltimore, Apl. 5, 1864.

Colonel.--I am directed by Major General Wallace to request

you to inform him what is the latest information you have

concerning Lieut. H. B. Smith, 5th N. Y. Arty., who was sent

with a squad of men on the 22d ult. to make certain seizures.

Please state near what point he was last known to be.

Resp'y your ob'd't serv't,


A. A. G.

To Col. Porter,

Com'd'g 2d Sep. Brigade.

The above I find among my papers. I cannot understand it in view of the

fact that I reported March 30th (see following), and was appointed Chief

of the Secret Service by General Wallace on April 3d. The years are many

since then and it is hard to remember details, but my present theory is

that as General Wallace had but recently assumed command, the Adjutant

General's office was in confusion. "I am directed by Major General

Wallace" is the usual language for an _Adjutant General_ to use; at any

rate my report is dated March 30th, and I was interviewed by General

Wallace on April 2d, this I clearly remember.

Fort McHenry, Mch. 30, 1864.

To the General Commanding,

8th Army Corps, Middle Department.

General.--I have the honor to report that in compliance with

Special Order No. 73, Mch. 22, 1864, I proceeded with a guard

of 12 men on board the steam tug "Adriatic," but on account of

the weather did not leave until the morning of the 23d.

I was alongside the Cutter (Revenue) and notified the officer

commanding to arrest any of the vessels named in my order. I

was afterwards hailed, and ran back to the Cutter again, and

learned that the schooner "Frances E. Burgess," Capt. J. J.

Lewis, had left just one-half hour before. On the morning of

the 22d, she came in and just touched at the wharf,

immediately dropping out in the stream. This last fact,

connected with the previous one, also the fact that Quinn was

much worried about the "F. E. B." led me to believe that the

"Burgess" was not all right, and that Captain Lewis had

learned of my moves and had attempted to evade me. I made

chase for her.

At Hill's Point (below the Choptank river) I arrested the

schooner "Trifle," and took her in tow to Point Lookout. By

her papers she is with bonds given by E. R. Quinn, T. R.

Quinn, and George G. Nellis, stated in her license, dated

Feb'y 3, 1864. Her enrollment dated Feb'y 3d, 1864, shows that

T. R. Quinn, master, is a citizen of the United States, and

had sworn to it, when he was then on his parole as being a

British subject.

Her crew consisted of Captain Seward, Farrell, Reddick,

Zervicks, and Bailey, deck hands. Captain Seward has

acknowledged that he ran the blockade, and that he was in

Richmond about last Christmas, but did not go on this vessel.

I believe the balance of the crew are innocent men. I found

Bailey to be of great service to me on the balance of my trip.

I remained at Point Lookout on the night of the 23d. On the

24th, went up to St. Mary's river for a harbor, on account of

a heavy blow. On the evening of the 24th, I started for and

arrived at Pocomoke Sound (Accomac), where we remained that

night. On the 25th, went into Onancock Creek, where I landed

with eight men, and sent the Steamer around to the Pungateague

river to wait for us. In the evening we arrived at the house

of one T. W. Jacobs, on the sea side. We entered and searched

his house; next morning we learned our error, and although he

is undoubtedly a Rebel, I released him.

We then made our way to the house of one William E. Jacobs,

on the bay side, where we arrived at 3 P. M., on the 26th. At

this place I found the schooner "Frances E. Burgess"--Captain

Lewis. I arrested Mr. Jacobs, and found him to be the man

engaged with Quinn. I searched his house and barns but found

nothing contraband, as they had been duly warned by the

arrival of the "Burgess."

Captain Lewis stated that he left Baltimore on the 11th of

March, and arrived at Accomac Creek on the 14th, and said that

was his last trip. Mr. Jacobs made same statement.

Captain Lewis was arrested about last June, about the same

time that Quinn was arrested. He said that he was caught in

the act of leaving the Eastern shore with contraband goods and

that his intention was to run the blockade; he said he was

examined by Captain E. W. Andrews, and afterwards released

after taking the oath of allegiance.

Both Jacobs and Lewis say that Lieut. Andrews, Capt. Andrews'

son, was to go into business on the Eastern shore; that they

engaged two stores for the purpose, but that Andrews did not

come down there.

Mr. Jacobs said that Quinn had often remarked that he could

get anything done at Fort McHenry with the Adjutant General.

At first both Jacobs and Lewis denied all knowledge of any man

named Andrews.

Jacobs said that J. J. Hodge (the writer of some of the

letters found in Quinn's possession) was arrested on the

Eastern shore about the same time that he and Quinn were, on

the charge of attempting to go south; said that he heard Quinn

speak of letters that he had from Hodge, but did not know

their contents. Quinn was the first man that employed him

(Lewis) after his release, and said it was Quinn's own seeking

(to employ a man of that character appears rather suspicious).

The creek where we found the "Burgess" is one that no steamer

can enter, or even a sailing vessel, unless piloted by an old

residenter of that neighborhood. The creek is very crooked and

the channel is very narrow.

All the people about that country seem to be very closely

united and watch a stranger's movements very closely. On the

evening of the 27th, we left this creek with the schooner, and

on the afternoon of the 28th, we arrived in the Pungateague,

and started on the steamer, towing the schooner for Point

Lookout, where we arrived at 9 P. M.

On the morning of the 29th we left the Point with the two

schooners, but afterwards let go the "Burgess," and sent her

up under sail to Baltimore, where she arrived at 4 P. M.,

after encountering a very heavy sea. We arrived here at 9.20

P. M.

I could find nothing of the schooners' "Despatch" or "Glib," I

made many inquiries for the schooner "Washington," but could

not find her.

On our way back to the city Captain Seward, of the "Trifle"

said that there was a sign "Washington" painted on it, in the

hold of the "Trifle," which I afterwards found to be true. I

think by the actions of all connected, that "Washington" was

sometimes substituted for "Trifle"; this sign was hid away and

only by accident found.

Both the "Burgess" and "Trifle" have been confiscated before,

two or three times.

I have this day been on the Cutter, twice, to ascertain to a

certainty if the "Burgess" left on the 23d inst., and the

officers say they will swear she passed out on that day; that

she was in here I know. I then went to the Custom House and

found that she did not enter or clear on that trip but left

without any papers, and did not stay in Port over 24 hours.

I have the honor to be,

Very respy. your obdt. servt,

(Signed) H. B. SMITH,

Lieut. 5th N. Y. II. A.

Lieutenant Andrews and George G. Nellis, "tied up" to Quinn and Lewis,

the blockade-runners, had been, respectively, Provost and Assistant

Provost Marshals at Fort McHenry, prior to the assignment of Captain

Holmes and myself to those offices.

It pleases me to note how vivid my memory is, after forty-seven years,

of the incidents connected with this expedition. Our party of eight,

after landing in Accomac, split up, and straggled over the country about

ten miles, through fields and timber, in snow and slush nearly ankle

deep, avoiding the highways and stopping only at negro huts to inquire

our way. We arrived at T. W. Jacobs' house quite late and began our

search; right here I want to say our search was orderly, endeavoring not

to unnecessarily annoy.

About midnight a great commotion was raised outside the house by the

tramping of horses, rattling of sabres, and loud voices. We were

surrounded by a troop of cavalry (our cavalry). They were very excited,

and they threatened us with everything, until I took the Commandant

aside and made him aware of who we were; even then he soundly upbraided

me for giving him such a scare. He finally departed.

The next day we went over to the Chesapeake Bay side of the peninsula.

When we arrived there we divided into two parties, in order to approach

the harbor from two directions. When we arrived on the bluff (about

twenty feet above water) my party of four was first to discover that

there were a number of sailing vessels at anchor in the little bay.

What to do was the question. I determined that we four must capture the

whole fleet. Which we did in this way: As quietly as possible we

possessed ourselves of one vessel and from it, under the persuasive

influence of our revolvers, we compelled the men on all the other

vessels to go below deck. Then we searched the vessels in detail,

detaining only the "Frances E. Burgess."

This harbor was an ideal place for such "traders," i. e.,

blockade-runners. It was perfectly land-locked, could not be seen from

the bay, and was very hard to get in or out of; it was impassable for

gunboats, and so it was well chosen for the business.

The Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries are indented almost continuously

with smaller estuaries, which make excellent hiding places. Beautiful

places for residence, and likely spots for romance.

While laying at Point Lookout on our way home a severe March storm came

up, dreadful to a land lubber like me. The point is where the Potomac

empties into the Chesapeake. Storms are felt there nearly as greatly as

at Old Point. It blew so hard I feared it would blow us over onto the

wharf. The water was up to the wharf's surface, and there was no sleep

for us that night. Next morning, when we started for Baltimore (ninety

miles away), as we were rounding the Point a big boiling sea took the

yawl of the "Burgess," davits and all, throwing it high in the air. But

to turn back spelled death. Our pilot was Captain Cannon, an old bay

pilot. He did not conceal that he was frightened. He said he never had

seen such weather. We breasted that storm for about twelve hours. The

only encouragement from Captain Cannon was that if our boat could live

until we got under the influence of North Point we would be all right;

we lived.

The heavens were never more unkind in appearance. I did not spend much

time in gazing that way, for the awful waves occupied me. Captain Cannon

kept the vessel as near head on as possible, first on top of the wave

and then in a trough of the sea. Half the time our screw was revolving

in the air. Everything loose on deck washed away. I never had a better

chance to contemplate my past and future than in that twelve hours. I

remember my great regret was that if we should go down, no one could

know what became of us, for I had not reported at Point Lookout and we

were unknown on the peninsula. The severity of this storm became a

matter of history. Seagoing steamers remained tied to their wharves. The

shores of the Chesapeake Bay were strewn with wrecks. The "Adriatic"

(our vessel) was iron bottomed and drew six feet of water. The

Chesapeake can kick up a sea, give it a northeaster, that would gratify

the most hungry tar.

When we were opposite the mouth of the Severn river we saw the steamer

"Nellie Pentz" headed out, her bow tossing up and down in the air like a

cork. She did not dare come out, to certain wreck, dared not turn

around, so she backed up the river again. When we got under the lee of

North Point I became courageous and generous; off towards the west was

in view a schooner, on the rocks. Her crew of four men were in the

rigging. I proposed to Captain Cannon to rescue them. He said it was

impossible, as our boat drew more water than theirs and would be wrecked

before we could reach them. However, we notified the revenue cutter and

they were rescued. When we arrived at Baltimore (nine o'clock P.M.) the

wharves were afloat. The big Bay Line steamers, sea-going vessels, had

not left the wharf. They had not dared to venture out in the storm our

little eighty-foot craft had passed through.