The Case of George Cameron, Neutral Alien & PoW

John Hartwell

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WAR DEPARTMENT
Solicitor’s Office
Washington
Novr 15th 1864

Hon E.M. Stanton
Secretary of War
Sir

George Cameron was captured as a prisoner of war at Petersburg, in arms with the forces of the Confederates. He now asserts that he is a neutral British subject, and that he was forced into the rebel service against his will. His assertion is not accompanied by any proofs.

If Mr. Cameron was in fact a neutral British subject, and denizen of the Confederate States, at the commencement of our civil war, he had a right to withdraw from the belligerent territory, within a reasonable time, and would have preserved by such withdrawal his claim to be regarded as a neutral alien by the United States. Having voluntarily remained a denizen of the Confederate States, and having thereby subjected himself to the control of rebels in arms claiming a de facto right to enforce their municipal law, he has lost his right to be treated by the United States as a subject of her Majesty, not only by such voluntary continuance of residence, but by engaging in active hostilities: which he might have avoided by leaving the country in due season.

Being thus captured as a prisoner of war, he may be lawfully held or exchanged as such: but as it appears from his own statement that he was forced into the rebel army against his will and against is written protest, and that he is willing to leave the United States to go to Scotland, not to return to any of the Confederate States, or in any wise to aid or abet the rebellion in the United States or elsewhere; and as he proposes to give security accordingly, -- I recommend that Mr. Cameron be discharged, providing that he shall first make it appear upon satisfactory evidence that he is bona fide, a British subject, and was compelled to take up arms on behalf of the rebels against his will and under protest; and further that he shall give his sworn parole not to aid or abet the rebellion in the United States of elsewhere, directly or indirectly, or any person or persons sympathizing therewith; and to proceed with reasonable dispatch to Scotland, and not to return to any state in rebellion during the present war; and give bond in the sum of 15,000.$, with two sureties, approved by the Attorney of the United States in the Southern District of New York, for the faithful performance of his parole.

Very respectfully yours
Your obedient Servant
William Whiting
Solicitor of the War Department


This is just part of the 53 pages of documents in the file of George Cameron and John Glenn, both of whom were captured before Petersburg on June 8, 1864. Both claimed British citizenship, and to have been unwillingly forced into Confederate service. They had written to Lord Lyon, the British Minister in Washington, and he contacted the War department in their behalf, asking for an investigation. Cameron was eventually able to come up with documents proving that he had been recognized in 1862 as a neutral alien by the Confederate government; and also that he had protested his forced recruitment in May 1864. Lord Lyon arranged the required Bond, and Cameron was duly released from Elmira, and sent home to Scotland.

The full case file is at fold3, “Civil War Subversion Investigations” (Turner Files, Case #3440), and contains a great deal of detail regarding the enforced recruitment, service, capture and proceedings regarding the two men. They had become separated after capture and their cases proceeded separately, but John Glenn would also be released.

The Turner files consist to a very large degree of protests of neutrality by men who had been arrested as deserters, or, like Cameron and Glenn, captured as PoWs. They make interesting reading.


(note: @Pat Young might find some of these useful, as most of the men were immigrants, and some have complicated stories to tell)
 

Pat Young

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Long Island, NY
WAR DEPARTMENT
Solicitor’s Office
Washington
Novr 15th 1864

Hon E.M. Stanton
Secretary of War
Sir

George Cameron was captured as a prisoner of war at Petersburg, in arms with the forces of the Confederates. He now asserts that he is a neutral British subject, and that he was forced into the rebel service against his will. His assertion is not accompanied by any proofs.

If Mr. Cameron was in fact a neutral British subject, and denizen of the Confederate States, at the commencement of our civil war, he had a right to withdraw from the belligerent territory, within a reasonable time, and would have preserved by such withdrawal his claim to be regarded as a neutral alien by the United States. Having voluntarily remained a denizen of the Confederate States, and having thereby subjected himself to the control of rebels in arms claiming a de facto right to enforce their municipal law, he has lost his right to be treated by the United States as a subject of her Majesty, not only by such voluntary continuance of residence, but by engaging in active hostilities: which he might have avoided by leaving the country in due season.

Being thus captured as a prisoner of war, he may be lawfully held or exchanged as such: but as it appears from his own statement that he was forced into the rebel army against his will and against is written protest, and that he is willing to leave the United States to go to Scotland, not to return to any of the Confederate States, or in any wise to aid or abet the rebellion in the United States or elsewhere; and as he proposes to give security accordingly, -- I recommend that Mr. Cameron be discharged, providing that he shall first make it appear upon satisfactory evidence that he is bona fide, a British subject, and was compelled to take up arms on behalf of the rebels against his will and under protest; and further that he shall give his sworn parole not to aid or abet the rebellion in the United States of elsewhere, directly or indirectly, or any person or persons sympathizing therewith; and to proceed with reasonable dispatch to Scotland, and not to return to any state in rebellion during the present war; and give bond in the sum of 15,000.$, with two sureties, approved by the Attorney of the United States in the Southern District of New York, for the faithful performance of his parole.

Very respectfully yours
Your obedient Servant
William Whiting
Solicitor of the War Department


This is just part of the 53 pages of documents in the file of George Cameron and John Glenn, both of whom were captured before Petersburg on June 8, 1864. Both claimed British citizenship, and to have been unwillingly forced into Confederate service. They had written to Lord Lyon, the British Minister in Washington, and he contacted the War department in their behalf, asking for an investigation. Cameron was eventually able to come up with documents proving that he had been recognized in 1862 as a neutral alien by the Confederate government; and also that he had protested his forced recruitment in May 1864. Lord Lyon arranged the required Bond, and Cameron was duly released from Elmira, and sent home to Scotland.

The full case file is at fold3, “Civil War Subversion Investigations” (Turner Files, Case #3440), and contains a great deal of detail regarding the enforced recruitment, service, capture and proceedings regarding the two men. They had become separated after capture and their cases proceeded separately, but John Glenn would also be released.

The Turner files consist to a very large degree of protests of neutrality by men who had been arrested as deserters, or, like Cameron and Glenn, captured as PoWs. They make interesting reading.


(note: @Pat Young might find some of these useful, as most of the men were immigrants, and some have complicated stories to tell)
Can this be moved to the immigration forum?
 

John Hartwell

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Location
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Can this be moved to the immigration forum?
OK by me ... if somebody knows how.

Pat, do take a look at the "Turner Files," there are thousands of cases (endless reading in often barely legible handwriting, though often also neatly transcribed by War Dept Solicitors' clerks), but a lot of really good stories to be found.
 

Pat Young

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OK by me ... if somebody knows how.

Pat, do take a look at the "Turner Files," there are thousands of cases (endless reading in often barely legible handwriting, though often also neatly transcribed by War Dept Solicitors' clerks), but a lot of really good stories to be found.
Thanks. I will.
 

covers

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John Harwell - thanks for your post. I was researching a cover and letter regarding Cameron just yesterday. See below image of cover and transcript of letter.

95C313A1-238A-4266-B647-E10DAD908AAC.jpeg


00EF6B1B-D744-49C3-92A4-992CC6B1C625.jpeg
 

John Hartwell

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Interesting. 19 days from Glasgow to Portland, Maine. Of course we have no way of knowing how long it sat around in Glasgow before the ship left port. I checked the Portland newspapers for ship arrivals from Glasgow late in Dec. 1864, but found none. May have come into another Maine port & the mail sent to Portland, or the ship might have had another stop before reaching Portland (?).

You perhaps have found This Kelleher auction of another, undated cover and letter (lot 6021) to Capt. Whiton (who was U.S. Commissary of Prisoners at Elmira), from the same Attorney Charles Edwards, also regarding the Cameron case:
1606405238852.png

1606405281850.png
I see it's unsold ... might make an interesting companion-piece to yours, @covers

Capt. Whiton was praised in letters from prisoners for his "generous spirit which prompted ... kindness above and beyond mere official relation." (Elmira Prison Camp, a history) Which source includes the fillowing:
1606409686284.png
George wasn't looking forward to being exchanged ... he feared being sent back into the fight.
 
Last edited:

John Hartwell

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Private George Cameron, enlisted May 5, 1864 in Co. B (J.E. Wolfe's), Archer's 3rd Battalion Virginia Reserves, 2nd Class Militia, was reported captured June 9th.
1606407076644.png
Sent to Point Lookout, Md., transferred to Elmira July 12th. Back to Point Lookout October 11th, exchanged the 29th.

His service record is attached below.
 

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covers

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Thanks again ... my cover and letter came in an old (ca. 1950s) collection of covers carried via the Allan Line to Portland and the previous owner did not seem to care about contents at all. I did not, and would not, have noticed that cover in a Kelleher sale as I don't think I have dealt with them at all since Stanley Richmond sold out to the current owners.

PS - My letter is datelined the same day as it was postmarked. mail did not sit around much in those days ....

something does not add up
VAgenweb.com says this:

Although deeply engrossed in business for many years, Mr. Cameron did not forget his duty to the public, and during the war with the states volunteered for service in the Confederate army, and was taken prisoner in the engagement before Petersburg June 9, 1864. With others he was conveyed to Point Lookout, Maryland, and later transferred to Elmira, New York. There he was paroled and returned to his home, by way of Savannah, Georgia, in October, 1864. Mr. Cameron has long been one of the most active and influential members of the Presbyterian Church South, and while he is not a voter, he has always been a firm supporter of the Democratic party. Since 1866 he has been identified with the Masonic fraternity, whose benevolent principles are an exemplification of his own character.

The above in addition to the following which links the letter-writer, George Campbell, with George Cameron:

George Cameron, son of Alexander and Elizabeth (Grant) Cameron, was born April 23, 1839, in Dreggie, near Grantown, and came to Virginia with his mother at the age of only two years. When he was ten years old he returned to Scotland, for his education. In Petersburg, his elder brothers were engaged in the manufacture of tobacco with the late David Dunlop, and in this way he became interested in that business at the age of fifteen years. Since the early age above mentioned, Mr. Cameron has been most actively identified with the tobacco business, and has come into control of many widely separated depots for handling this product. With great natural ability, and possessed of the traits peculiar to his people, he made rapid progress in business while yet a boy, and in 1862, at the age of twenty-three years, he became a partner in the firm of Cameron & Crawford, and later in the firm of William Cameron & Brother, at Petersburg, Virginia, and the firm of Alexander Cameron & Company, at Richmond. In the pursuit of this industry, business houses were established in Australia in order to readjust business arrangements in that far continent, which had been severely interrupted by the war. Australia and India were among the largest consumers of the tobacco manufactured by the Cameron concern. Upon the return of William Cameron, in 1866, other branches were established, namely: William Cameron & Brother, at Petersburg, Virginia; Alexander Cameron & Company, at Louisville and Henderson, Kentucky; and George Campbell & Company, Liverpool and London. The owners in these concerns were William Cameron, Alexander Cameron, George Cameron, Robert Dunlop, and George Campbell, the last two being husbands of the sisters of Mr. George Cameron.
 

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