Saturday, June 11, 2011

An Eye for an Eye

From the Charleston (SC) Mercury, June 11, 1861.
The capture of the Privateer Savannah actually occurred on June 3, 1861.

The Capture of the Privateer Savannah

Almost every day now brings us news of importance.  Yesterday brought us the Intelligence of the capture of the privateer Savannah, from this port.  The loss of the schooner in times like these, would scarcely call for a moment's consideration.  But the circumstances are such as to render the fact one a grave Import -- perchance the results may be still graver.  The insane and blood-thirsty spirit ruling the Government of the North, there are probabilities that the crew of the Savannah will be executed.  The United States Government has said it -- the popular clamor has approved the bloody declaration.  Will their bloated vanity and malice give way to the milder voice of national law -- of reason and discretion?  Will they not go on in their mad pathway of violence of lawlessness?  Their course up to this time has been uniform.  Will they at this day pay regard to reason, justice or law?  If they do not, what then?

Aye! what then?

Let one of these men perish, and we look to the authorities at Richmond for immediate and bloody retribution.  We look to them, and we shall expect them to settle a strict account of blood for blood.

If a hair of the head of a single man of this crew is injured, South Carolina will demand that the outrage be atoned for -- an eye for an eye -- a tooth for a tooth -- a life for a life.  Aye! and she will have it -- no more and no less; on the battle field, and after the battle.  Let one of these, her citizens commissioned in her cause, perish as a pirate, and woe to the enemy who falls into our hands.  Humanity and justice, no less than the cause itself, will compel to prompt and [sic] ample retribution; and the sooner this is understood, the better for all parties to the war.  Civilized warfare will be met in kind, savage warfare will compel savage warfare.  The North can make it either.  Let them now decide.
(Image of this article can be found at (http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.ed)

The crew members of the Savannah were not executed.  Six months later they were tried for piracy, but the jury disagreed. "While awaiting a new trial, the Confederacy imprisoned an equal number of officers of the Federal army, who were held as prisoners of war, and notified the Federals that whatever punishment was inflicted upon the privateersmen would be imposed upon the officers who were held as hostages. The great nations of the world refused to accept the ultimatum of the Union that the privateers were practising piracy, and from that time to the close of the war the men captured on privateers were treated as prisoners of war."(from The Photographic History of The Civil War: in ten volumes, Thousands of Scenes Photographed 1861-65, with Text by many Special Authorities, Volume 6: The Navy.)

The Privateer Savannah, from the Library of Congress Collection

No comments:

Post a Comment