“All Confederates were Looked upon as British Men-of-War flying New Colors as a Sham”

John Hartwell

Forum Host
Aug 27, 2011
Central Massachusetts
I don't know if this is the right place to put this "sailor's tale," but it doesn't really seem to fit under "The Naval War." Then, it's not really a tale, either, just an excerpt from a longer narrative by an old salt named John Brogan. Brogan was a career navy man, serving first on the USS Sabine, a sailing frigate of the old navy, and later as fireman on the steam-frigate USS Niagara, after her refitting and re-commissioning in 1863. Thirty-three years later, he wrote a lively account, replete with old-timey sailor lingo, of the first, midwinter cruise of the Niagara off the icy coast of New England and Nova Scotia. It wasn't a particularly significant cruise, though Niagara was successful in running down the Chesapeake, a steam packet on the route between Portland, Maine, and St Johns, New Brunswick, which had been siezed by Confederate raiders disguised as innocent passengers, and taken on a piratical cruise, preying on the New England fishing fleet.

Steam frigate USS Niagara, after her 1863 re-fitting
Brogan prefaces his account with the following:
“There is a peculiarity about your true American man-of-war man to which I have never seen any of our naval writers avert. Perhaps the feeling is too intense, for it permeates the quarter-deck and ward-room as well as the forecastle and gangways, and that is, the Dago, Hans, or Johnny Crapeau can be laughed at, and, on liberty ashore be sociable with, but the lime-juicer, the Englishman, was his natural enemy, to be fought with in peace or war -- no truce between the sailors.​
“In no port I have ever seen liberty granted where the vessels of each country were anchored without it ended with a fight, and the top-man of our navy who first laid himself athwart hause of lime-juicer and brought down his upper rigging was a man to be envied and honored. All privateers of the Confederates were looked on as British men-of-war flying new colors as a sham, and the Yankee tar was about right, as future events proved.”​
I'm reminded of my cousins Tom and Joe Barron, who served on an American destroyer in the North Atlantic during WWII. They were always telling of their brawls with "the D*mned Limeys" every time they were in port. But then, they were Boston Irish, so I imagine that had something to do with it.

source: A Memorable Cruise, National Tribune, Sept. 24 and Oct. 1, 1896