Letters from Marshall Roberts seeking payment for the use of the Illinois; it is not known whether he ever received any compensation
YORK, April 15, 1862.
GIDEON WELLES, Secretary of the Navy.
I had the honor to receive your dispatch of the 24th ultimo, stating that--
Department approves the course of Flag-Officer Goldsborough in accepting the
annulling of the contract between the owners of the steamer Illinois
and the Department for the charter of said steamer, and that, in view of all
the circumstances in the case, it does not feel justified in allowing any pay
from the date specified in the charter party.
are circumstances connected with the charter of the Illinois
and occurrences which led to the alleged annulling of the charter party not
known to the Department at the date of your dispatch which I beg leave to bring
to your attention, in the confident hope that they may afford sufficient ground
for a reconsideration of the action of the Department, and justify an allowance
of pay from the date specified in the charter party.
application was made for the Illinois by
the Department she was under charter to the War Department as a dispatch vessel.
Although at somewhat less per diem pay, this service was less hazardous to the
ship and the ship's company than the present. The release from that contract was
obtained by the Navy Department, and she was speedily dispatched to Fortress
Monroe, under the charter of March 17.
the time of sailing her officers and crew, except Captain Barton, were not
informed of the actual purpose of the charter, because at that time it was not
thought expedient to disclose it. In fact, I considered myself precluded by
injunctions from a high quarter from divulging it to anyone except the captain.
But to guard against the refusal by any of the ship's company to serve on the
arrival of the steamer at her place of destination, the charter party provided
that the Department should be allowed "the right to put on board any
officers and men to take the place of any officers or crew who should refuse to
go under fire." This provision of the charter party was relied upon as a
resource, should any of the officers or crew refuse to serve when informed of
the object of the charter.
this are the depositions of Captain Barton and Purser Roberts, stating the
occurrences from the time of shipping the officers and crew of the Illinois
in New York to her arrival in Hampton Roads on the 18th March, and to her
return to New York on the 24th of that month, together with all the
correspondence between Flag-Officer Goldsborough and Captain Barton; by which it
will be seen that Captain Barton, in his letter of the 20th March, informed
Commodore Goldsborough that five of the officers of his ship, viz, the captain,
first mate, first engineer, purser, and steward, had determined to remain on
board. This letter had not been received at the Department at the date of your
dispatch of the 24th March.
will be seen also that Captain Barton and Purser Roberts exerted themselves to
induce the crew to remain, and did prevail upon twelve, in addition to the five
already mentioned, to continue on board.
subsequent difference of views was no doubt the result of mutual
Poor having taken command of the ship, Captain Barton, in his tender of the ship
to the flag-officer, supposed he was acting in obedience to the conditions of
the charter party, and after his avowed determination to remain on board the
ship and aid in running down the Merrimack,
and after the efforts he had made to secure the services of his officers and
men, I am unwilling to suspect him of any intention to prevent the ship from
carrying out the object of the Department.
Barton is a loyal citizen of worth and of well-known rectitude, and has been
upward of twenty years in the service of Mr. Moses Taylor, a gentleman of the
highest character, and one of the most extensive and honorable shipping
merchants in the city of New York. He supposed, as I supposed, that on the
refusal of any of the officers and men to serve, their places would be supplied
by the flag-officer, or by any officer of the Navy that should be placed in
command of the ship, and that it was his duty to tender the ship to the
Government. But he was wholly without authority to annul the charter party; and
had not the course of the flag-officer been approved by the Department, I should
doubt his power to accept an unauthorized abrogation of the charter.
ought, perhaps, not to omit to add that the difficulties of shipping a crew for
the return of the Illinois to Fortress Monroe were considerably aggravated by the
arrival of the crew of the Arago, who,
having quit their ship, returned to New York, and prevailed upon the fresh crew
of the Illinois to
refuse to serve, and nearly a day elapsed before their places could be
am, sir, your obedient servant,
MARSHALL O. ROBERTS.
YORK, June 6, 1862.
GIDEON WELLES, Secretary of the Navy.
I have read carefully the statement(*) of Mr. Fox in reply to my letter
previously addressed to the Department in relation to the charter of the
steamship Illinois, and regret to say
that between that gentleman and myself there is an entire misunderstanding of
the material facts as he relates them. I beg leave to submit herewith my
understanding at the time, hoping that the facts may be found to justify my
Saturday, March 15, Mr. O. S. Halsted called at my office to say that the
Government wanted to hire or purchase the steamship Illinois
for an extra hazardous employment, and said Mr. Fox, Assistant Secretary of
the Navy, was then in the city, at the Astor House, sent by the President for
that purpose, and advised me to see him at once. I stated to him that the Illinois
was then in the Government service, but still in port. At Mr. Halsted's
urgent solicitation, who insisted that the business of the Government would
admit of no delay, I went to the Astor House, found Mr. Fox in his room, and
informed him of my earnest desire to meet the wishes of the Department in every
way in my power, and expressed the desire that he would freely command my time.
said, "Do you wish to charter or purchase steamships?" He answered by
asking, "What ships are here?" I replied, "I have two, the Illinois and Philadelphia, and
know of no others except the Vanderbilt
and Havre lines." He answered, "But the Atlantic will be back to-morrow." I said, "Do you want the
Illinois?" He answered, "I
do not know. Is she not already in the service of the War Department?"
I replied, "Yes, but perhaps that may be changed, if important." But I
could get no answer from Mr. Fox to show the least possible desire to employ the
leaving Mr. Fox's room, he followed me out to the hall of the Astor House (his
room being on the same floor with the hall and office). Still hoping he might
suggest to me some mode of serving my Government, I walked with him more than
ten minutes up and down the hall, but got nothing from him beyond the remark
that he was then going up the river to West Point, and expected to return to
Washington on Sunday afternoon. On Sunday morning, 16th, a messenger called at
my house, saying the quartermaster wished to see me at his office, upon reaching
which, Captain Stinson handed me a letter, of which the following is a copy:
New York, March 15, 1862.
O. ROBERTS, Esq.,
Owner of the Steamer Illinois, New York.
I have been directed by the Secretary of War to turn over the steamer Illinois
to the Navy Department. You will therefore please consider her as in the
service of that Department from 12 o'clock m. to-morrow.
am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
D. D. TOMPKINS, Assistant
reading the above letter, I was at a loss to know what to do; the Illinois
being transferred to the Navy Department, not discharged, as was the usual mode
of procedure. I told Captain Stinson that I was greatly embarrassed, but was
ready to take any course that would facilitate the object of the Navy
Department. He said, "Have you not seen Mr. Fox?" I replied,
"Yes, for some time yesterday, but he told me he was going up the river,
and did not appear to want the Illinois
for his Department for any purpose whatever, although he did not say so."
Captain Stinson said, "Get the Illinois
ready for sea; I know they want her." Not willing to take so much
responsibility, I called and con-suited my friend Moses Taylor, who advised me
to get the ship ready, and in the absence of her regular captain, said he would
authorize Captain Barton, who had been in his employ for a quarter of a century,
to take her to sea.
Taylor and myself, notwithstanding it was Sunday, proceeded at once to the ship
to get her ready for service, without regard to expense or labor. Fagged and
tired, I reached my house at nearly 4 o'clock p.m. and learned for the first
time that Mr. Fox had been there twice and would return. In five minutes he was
announced, and I met him in my library. Then for the first time he said he
wanted the Illinois for immediate service, and asked if she was ready for sea,
and if she could leave early the next morning. I answered that she was ready,
and could sail at the time named. He then said, "I will take her at the
same rate of compensation paid by the quartermaster." This, you are aware,
was $1,200 per day, as dispatch vessel, with no more than the ordinary risk. I
answered that the service was different, much more hazardous and costly, and
worth more money than that. He said he would give no more and left the room,
proceeding down the stairs, followed by myself. At the foot of the stairs, I
said, "You have succeeded in procuring the ship's discharge from the
service of the War Department, and as you do not want her, I will go down and
inform the people on board and discharge the crew, but regret to do it, not only
because I have been put to expense and some trouble to get her in readiness for
this duty, but because I wish to do the Government any service in my
power." He replied," I will give you the same price paid for the Arago,
$1,300 per day." I agreed to this proposition, although the Illinois
was a better conditioned ship and more expensive to run.
state these particulars because it may be inferred from Mr. Fox's statement that
the difference in compensation between the two Departments was greater. I then
said, "Mr. Fox, I understand the purpose for which you intend to use the
ship, and I think her perfectly competent to run down the Merrimack,
but," said I, "suppose any of the crew should refuse to go under
fire." He answered, "That is all provided for in the contract, which
you will obtain from Mr. Isaac Bell, and let your own copy correspond with that,
but let the Illinois leave early
to-morrow morning. The Arago can not
be got ready for several days, as they have some repairs to make to her
called at the house of Mr. Bell and obtained a copy of the contract, and
enquired if anything had been said to him about the service to be rendered by
the Illinois or the Arago.
He replied, "Not one word." Having received my information on that
subject from Mr. Halsted in confidence, I did not feel at liberty to mention it
to anyone except Captain Barton. My son, a lad of 18, who desired to go out in
the ship, was not informed of the nature of the voyage. Had I stated it to the
crew of the Illinois, many of them
probably would not have gone out in the ship, and she would have been delayed
over the day named, and as I supposed any such contingency was provided for by
the arrangement with the Department I did not feel at liberty to disclose it,
especially as its publicity might do mischief in other respects.
contract distinctly covered all the points. The Assistant Secretary will not
deny that this is the contract under which the Illinois
sailed, and I most respectfully refer the honorable Secretary to it, on file
in the Department.
it was expected the crew would be shipped expressly to run down the Merrimack,
why provide in the charter for the emergency of their refusing, on reaching
their destination, to go under fire?
charter party provides for precisely the emergency which happened, showing, in
the opinion of both parties, that it was likely to occur under the
circumstances. The men were shipped without knowing that the ship was to go
under fire, and it was in the contemplation of both parties that more or less of
them, when they should ascertain this, would refuse to serve; and in that event
the Government, not the undersigned, was to supply the deficiency. That it was
so understood will be apparent by the fact that the flag-officer sent on board
several men, besides Commander Poor, who immediately called up the ship's
company and announced not only the purpose of the ship, but that he was in
Fox argues his case with all the skill and zeal of an advocate. In order to show
that I could not have been restrained from avowing the object of the charter of
the Illinois and thus shipping a crew expressly for that purpose by any
consideration of the confidential nature of the service, or by any injunction of
secrecy, he asserts at three different times (on pages 2, 4, and 9) that I
stated in the interview at my house, before making the contract, "that it
would be necessary for me to inform the people on board of the service expected
from them, as they might object to going in the vessel on such duty." Had I
said this, and then omitted to inform them, I might think myself as delinquent,
as Mr. Fox charges me with being. But no such intimation was made, or any such
thought entertained for a moment by me. All that transpired in the two
interviews between us is as stated above.
stated in my letter of the 15th of April, I felt myself precluded from
disclosing the nature of the service by the intimation through Mr. Halsted, as I
then supposed from a high official source. But had no such intimation been made,
the urgency of the service, the late hour (Sunday afternoon, and the sailing
hour next morning), and the belief that the provision in the charter that the
place of anyone refusing to "go under fire" could be supplied by the
flag-officer, would probably have deterred me from raising the question at that
time. I can only explain the discrepancy by assuming that Mr. Fox has
inadvertently confounded my remark--when I supposed his intention was not to
charter the ship, after having withdrawn her from the War Department--that I
must "inform the ship's people on board and discharge the men" with
the unreal declaration which he puts in my mouth.
a review of the entire case I have no fault to find with myself, but I greatly
regret that there should be any misunderstanding with Mr. Fox.
can I consider myself responsible for the occurrences at Fortress Monroe, nor
for the surrender of the charter by Captain Barton, or the acceptance of such
surrender by Commodore Goldsborough, or that I ought to be subjected to all its
therefore, I make no claim for the ship's service from the day the charter was
annulled by the unauthorized act of Captain Barton (22d March) to the date of
the second charter (28th of that month), I can not but think that the first
charter should be held to be in operation during the time the ship was in the
actual service of the Navy Department, viz, from the 17th to the 22d March.
beg leave, also, in conclusion to say that the price fixed for the service of
the steamship Illinois is less remunerative than any other commercial employment
involving the same amount of capital invested, and I here declare that I would
not for the whole of it have a personal difficulty with the Navy Department.
am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
MARSHALL O. ROBERTS.
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