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Destruction of a Federal American Ship by a Confederate Sloop of War.

The Illustrated London News, vol. 39, no. 1119, p. 536.

November 30, 1861

The greatest excitement prevailed at Southampton last Thursday week by the arrival in the waters there of a large paddle-sloop of war, with pennant, and flying the Confederate flag of America. She proved to be the Nashville, Captain Peagrim, which ran the blockade at Charleston on the 26th of October last; and on her coming to anchor there landed from her, with their personal effects, the crew (twenty-nine in number) of the late American slip Harvey Birch. This latter was a full-rigged vessel of 1500 tons burden, cost 150,000 dollars, and was bound from Havre to New York in ballast, but fallen in with by the Nashville on the morning of Tuesday, the 19th inst., and by her captured and destroyed by fire.

The following is the statement of her commander, Captain W. H. Nelson:—The American ship Harvey Birch, of New York, left Havre on Saturday, the 17th inst., bound to New York, in ballast; when in lat 49.6 N., long. 9.52 W., was brought to by the Confederate steamer Nashville, Commander Peagram[sic], late of the United States' Navy. The Harvey Birch was immediately boarded by the officers and crew of the Nashville, who were at once ordered on board the Confederate steamer, allowing Captain Nelson and crew to take a few of their effects and some fresh provisions. The Harvey Birch was then ordered to to fired by Commander Peagrim, who remained alongside until she was burnt to the water's edge.

At half-past twelve o'clock the Nashville arrived off the entrance of the docks, and at one p.m. was moored alongside the north jetty, which was literally besieged with spectators. She brought as passengers, under orders of the Hon. the Secretary of the Navy, Colonel Peyton and lady. Colonel Peyton is on special duty for the State of North Carolina, and, notwithstanding the length of the voyage and the heavy weather experienced throughout her passage, which carried away portions of her paddle-boxes. &c., they are in good health. He says that there are 750,000 bales of cotton of the old crop, and over 4,000,000 bales of the new crop, and 50,000,000 dols.' worth of tobacco and naval stores ready for shipment.

Captain Peagrim is an old officer of the United States' Navy, and bore a conspicuous part in the Mexican War, in the Paraguay and Japan expeditions, and during the war waged by the English and French in China. For his distinguished services his native State of Virginia voted him, by the unanimous voice of the General Assembly of the Legislature, a splendid sword, and Sir John Stirling, in his despatches to the Admiralty, makes the following mention of him:—"It is impossible to speak too highly of the American co-operating party engaged. They were with the Rattler, emulating each other in the thickest of the attack. But my warmest thanks in particular are due to Lieutenant Peagrim, the American senior officer: his encouragement of the men, and coolness under a heavy fire, and determined bravery, when surrounded by a persevering and revengeful foe, was conspicuous to all." First Lieutenant Fauntleroy was Aide-de-Camp to General Johnson at the battle of Manassas. Second Lieutenant Bennett served there in the naval battery, while one youngster on board named Cary received his appointment as midshipman in the Confederate navy as a reward for distinguished gallantry in the same action. The remainder of her company, chiefly Scotch and Irish, consists of two mates, eight midshipmen, paymaster, surgeon, engineer, and staff; firemen, coal-trimmers, and crew, amounting in all to some sixty men.

The Nashville does not carry a very formidable armament, having only two English 12-pounder rifled guns, of Captain Blakeley's manufacture. She is of 1100 tons burden and 800-horse power, and was built for the passenger and coasting trade between New York and Charleston. Though by no means qualified to make a thoroughly efficient ship-of-war, she is superior to many that have been adopted into the service of the belligerents. Like most American passenger-steamers, she is fitted with a deckhouse and hurricane-deck, which would have to be removed before she could he made to answer even tolerably as a gun-boat. Her paddle-wheels are, of course, a great drawback to her utility for actual warfare, while her machinery, being scarcely below the level of the deck, would, in all probability, be disabled by the first shot. She is a good model, and, in smooth water and proper trim, her speed is over fifteen knots an hour. In spite of her top-hamper the officers speak of her qualities as a seaboat, and of her performance during a succession of heavy gales, in terms of the highest praise. She is sister ship to the James Adger, Federal war-sloop, of eight guns.

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