The waterfront at Savannah, Georgia (circa 1862)
Back in January 1861, the New York City police had seized a large shipment of weapons meant for Georgia or Alabama and had impounded the weapons, waiting for someone in the federal government to decide what ought to be done with the rifles or muskets. After demanding the release of the weapons and being rebuffed, Georgia's Governor Brown ordered Georgia militia to seize several New York trading vessels then in Georgia ports. The Georgians grabbed five sailing vessels and used them as collateral to force the release of the impounded weapons. On February 11, 1861 the news broke that New York City had relented and had released the weapons in exchange for the release of the five trading vessels.
REPRISALS BY GEORGIA.; SEIZURE OF FIVE NEW-YORK VESSELS AT SAVANNAH. RELEASE OF THE VESSELS. THE NEWS IN WASHINGTON.
The Governor of Georgia has initiated the policy of reprisal, laid down in his recent message, by the seizure of five vessels owned in New-York. The following dispatch, received here on Saturday, tells the story:
SAVANNAH, Friday, Feb. 8.
Col. LAUTON to-day, under orders of the Governor, seized five vessels, owned in New-York, namely:
Brig W.R. Kibby.
Brig Golden Lead.
Bark C. Colden Murray.
Schooner Julia A. Hallock.
The measure is an immediate application of the lex talionis to the action of the New-York authorities in the seizure of arms shipped for Southern ports. Gov. BROWN, in his message to the Legislature of Georgia, on the 7th ult., recommended the enactment of a law authorizing him, in case any citizen of that State should be deprived of his slaves or other property by the "aggressive legislation" of any other State, or by neglect of any other State to fulfill its constitutional obligations to Georgia in the return of fugitives, or otherwise, to call out a military force and seize sufficient of the property of such State within the limits of Georgia to indemnify the citizens who have sustained loss by such action, and if, after thirty days' notice to the Governor of the offending State, the latter does not cause the property belonging to citizens of Georgia or its value to be returned, to deliver to those citizens enough of the property taken in reprisal as should make good their loss. This message was sent to the Legislature before the secession Convention met and a portion of the document is an argument for the establishment of the proposition that the provision in the Constitution of the United States declaring that no State shall grant letters of marque and reprisal does not forbid a State to make reprisals in her sovereign integrity.
On the 22d ult., under the direction of General-Superintendent KENNEDY, the Police of this City, our readers are aware, seized twenty-eight cases, containing 950 muskets, found on board the steamer Monticello, about to start for Savannah, Ga. The articles contraband were consigned to a citizen of that State. Other muskets were seized under the belief that they were destined to be placed in the hands of the troops of the seceding States, but were given up on the receipt of reliable assurances that they were bound to a foreign port; and an unsuccessful effort was made to detain another consignment of similar goods, which was carried off by a Charleston steamer. Two days after the event first mentioned, Mayor WOOD received the following telegram:
MILLEDGEVILLE, Friday, Jan. 24, 1861.
To His Honor Mayor Wood:
Is it true that any arms intended for and consigned to the State of Georgia have been seized by public authorities in New-York? Your answer is important to us and to New-York. Answer at once. R. TOOMBS.
The Mayor lost no time in sending the following message in reply:
Hon. Robert Toombs, Milledgeville, Ga.:
In reply to your dispatch, I regret to say that arms intended for and consigned to the State of Georgia have been seized by the Police of this State, but that the City of New-York should in no way be made responsible for the outrage. As Mayor, I have no authority over the Police. If I had the power I should summarily punish the authors of this illegal and unjustifiable seizure of private property.
FERNANDO WOOD, Mayor.
CROMWELL & Co., the agents of the Monticello, received the following dispatch on the same day that Mr. TOOMBS sent his:
SAVANNAH, Jan. 24, 1861.
The seizure of arms from the Monticello causes excitement here. Can you get them back? We fear retaliation.
Gov. BROWN next made a formal demand upon the Governor of this State for the surrender of the muskets, and Gov. MORGAN is said to have replied that as the arms were designed to be used to subvert the United States Government, which he had sworn to sustain, he could not, so far as he had any control, permit arms to leave this State which might be turned against the Government and our own citizens. Another story is that Gov. MORGAN refused to take any action upon Gov. BROWN's demand until he should receive it officially in writing.
Shortly after the seizure by the Police a resolution, introduced in the popular branch of the New-York Legislature, calling upon the Police Commissioners to report by what authority the seizure was made, was rejected.
On the 1st inst. the attorneys of W.H.D. CALLENDER, Cashier of the State Bank, of Hartford, demanded the surrender of the muskets by the General Superintendent. The latter declined to give them up, and last Thursday a writ of replevin was served upon him. His counsel entered into negotiations with the representatives of the claimant, and the result was the delivery of the muskets to the Sheriff.
Mr. G.B. LAMAR, President of the Bank of the Republic, in an interview with Mr. KENNEDY, on the 30th ult., represented that he had been authorized by the Adjutant-General of Georgia, who had purchased the muskets from the Directors of the Bank at Hartford, to receive and forward them to Savannah.
Mr. LAMAR, early on Saturday, received a dispatch from Savannah, stating that unless the muskets were speedily given up there would be reprisals upon New-York vessels at Savannah. He had not dispatched an answer when another telegram brought the news that the vessels were seized. The following private dispatches were also received:
SAVANNAH, Feb. 8, 1861.
Messrs. J.N. SMITH & Co, New-York City: Your brig (the Wm. R. Kibby,) has been seized by order of the Government. SAVANNAH, Feb. 8, 1861.
Messrs. FUNCH & MEINCKE: My vessel is seized by order of the Governor of Georgia, on account of arms detained in New-York. CHARLES A. ENELL.
Capt. ENELL is master of the Adjuster. Her owners, Messrs. FUNCH & MEINCKE, returned the following reply:
NEW-YORK, Feb. 9, 1861.
Capt. C.A. ENELL, ESQ.: Protest and send us full particulars and facts, including any papers they may send you. FUNCH & MEINCKE,
The Adjuster is a bark of 496 tons burthen, rated A 2. She was built at Freeport, Me., in 1853. She cleared at New-York on the 14th ult., and arrived at Savannah on the 27th.
The D. Colden Murray is a bark of 443 tons burthen, A 1. She was built in Brooklyn, in 1860. D.C. MURRAY is her owner and namesake and Capt. LEE commands her. She cleared at New-York on the 10th ult., and arrived at Savannah on the 19th.
The W.R. Kibby is a brig of 190 tons burden, A 2, built at Baltimore in 1853. She belongs to J.N. SMITH & Co., of New-York, who purchased her last October, and Capt. BARSTOW commands her. She reached Savannah from New-York last Thursday with a cargo of coal, and was to have sailed thence shortly with rice to New-Orleans.
The Golden Lead is a brig of 299 tons burden, A 2, built at Thomaston, Me., in 1855. Messrs. METCALF & DUNCAN, of this City own, and Capt. JOHNSON commands her. She was chartered by Mr. HENRY RAIMERS, of New-York, to take a cargo of timber to Aspinwall. She was ready for sea, and cleared at Savannah on the 27th ult.
The Julia A. Hallock is a schooner of 239 tons burden, A 1 1/2, built at Stonybrook, L.I., in 1853. Capt. PEDRICK commands her, and C.D. HALLECK is her owner. She sailed from New-London for Savannah, where she arrived on the 25th ult.
It is stated -- but the authority for the statement does not clearly appear -- that the seized muskets were on Saturday surrendered unconditionally to Mr. G.B. LAMAR, of this City, and that JOHN BOSTON, Esq., Collector of Savannah, and Col. LANTON, in command of the Georgia forces at that port, have been informed of the facts by telegraph.
CHARLESTON, Sunday, Feb. 10.
A dispatch received here to-day, to Gov. PICKENS, from Savannah, states that the New-York vessels, seized there on Friday by the authorities of Georgia, have been released.
WASHINGTON, Saturday, Feb. 9.
By reason of the receipt of news to-day of the seizure of New-York ships at Savannah, together with the recent action of the New-Orleans Custom-house in obstructing the interior commerce, in effect of levying tribute, and the declaration of the Montgomery Congress in opening the Southern ports free to foreign commerce, JOHN COCHRANE, of New-York, will call up Monday, and press to a passage, the bill heretofore introduced by him, providing for the thorough execution of the Federal Revenue laws, for the protection of the commercial interests of the nation against flagitious attacks upon them by the seceded States.