Reminiscences of Confederate Service, 1861-1865 by Francis W. Dawson

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!


Retired User
Jun 13, 2016
Bloomington, IL Corvette Gold



[100 COPIES.]





It was in the autumn of 1861 that I made up my mind to go to the Southern States of America, and enter the Confederate Army. Looking back more than twenty years, I find it difficult, as the man of forty-two, to recall the exact feelings of the boy of twenty. I can say, however, that I had no expectation whatever of any gain, or advantage to myself. I had a sincere sympathy with the Southern people in their struggle for independence, and felt that it would be a pleasant thing to help them to secure their freedom. It was not expected, at that time, that the war would last many months, and my idea simply was to go to the South, do my duty there as well as I might, and return home to England. I expected no reward and wanted none, and had no intention whatever of remaining permanently in the Southern States.

There was much difficulty, of course, in obtaining accurate information as to the best way of reaching the seat of war in the South. I found that I could probably go by way of Nassau, N. P., but the expense would have been greater than I cared to incur, and the other mode of entering the Confederacy—by going to a Northern port and slipping through the lines—was exceedingly troublesome, and was, besides, uncertain in its result. However, I determined to go in some fashion, and just about this time the Confederate States steamer Nashville arrived at Southampton. This vessel had been one of the regular steamers on the line between Charleston and New York, and was seized, I believe, by the Confederate authorities after hostilities began. It had been determined to send the Hon. James M. Mason and the Hon. John Slidell to represent the Confederate[4] States in England and France respectively, and the Nashville was fitted out for the purpose of taking them to England. They changed their plan, unfortunately for them, and went in a small vessel to Havana, where they took the mail steamer Trent for St. Thomas. The trip of the Nashville was not, however, abandoned, and, under command of Captain Robert B. Pegram, she ran the blockade at Charleston and reached Southampton in safety, capturing and destroying during the voyage a fine American ship named the Harvey Birch.

The arrival of the Nashville at Southampton caused considerable stir. By those who were friendly to the North she was spoken of as a pirate, and her officers and crew were dubbed buccaneers. While some of the newspapers were disposed to order out Captain Pegram and his crew for instant execution, there were others which were quite friendly in tone. I remember that it became necessary for Captain Pegram to write a letter to “The Times,” in which he explained that, far from being “a pirate,” he was a regularly commissioned officer of the Confederate States Navy, and that the Nashville was a vessel of war of the Confederate States, entitled to the consideration that would be shewn to the war vessel of any other Government. This view was taken by the English authorities, although, under the proclamation of neutrality which the Queen had issued, the Nashville was not allowed to obtain any sort of equipment which could, by any stretch of the imagination, be conceived to be capable of use in war. The authorities at Southampton were so strict in their construction of the neutrality proclamation that they objected to our strengthening the forward deck, lest it might increase the efficiency of the vessel for fighting purposes. No repairs were allowed[5] to be made except such as would place the Nashville in the precise condition in which she was when she left Charleston. The passage had been rough, or no repairs of the kind allowed would have been necessary. Punch, of course, made fun of the whole business, and had some rhyming verses on the subject, in which the name of Captain Pegram, the commander of the Nashville, was made to rhyme with “megrim.”

the book is here: