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Recapture of a Prize

The Illustrated London News, vol. 40, no. 1141, p. 425.

April 26, 1862

Recapture of a Prize.—A merchant ship of 884 tons, the Emily St. Pierre, which was captured off Charleston by the Federal ship James Adger, ran into Liverpool on Monday, her crew having recaptured her. When the ship was taken most of the crew were transferred to the Florida, and a prize crew of sixteen men, under a Lieutenant Stone, was sent on board. The captain states that the moment he was aware of the intention of leaving him on board the Emily St. Pierre he came to the determination that the vessel should not be taken to Philadelphia, and resolved that he would recapture her, if practicable, and bring her into a British port. He inquired of the cook and steward whether they would assist him in his efforts to retake her. One of them at once consented to do so, but the other deliberated upon his conduct. Afterwards, however, he also agreed to assist the captain. The captain turned over in his mind the best means of effecting his object, and soon came to a conclusion as to the best course to be adopted in the emergency. The prizemaster's mate was asleep in the cabin on the morning of the second day after the capture, and he determined to secure him in the first instance. The cook and steward were armed, and were instructed by Captain Wilson of the course they were to adopt. Some cloth was thrown over this officer's head; his arms were secured by Captain Wilson, and irons placed upon his hands; and he was also prevented from creating any alarm by a gag being placed in his mouth. Captain Wilson returned to the deck, and, in a familiar manner, inquired from the master of the prize crew, "Well, Stone, what is the position of the ship?" The officer replied that they were somewhere off Hatteras, and were about to change the course. The captain invited Lieutenant Stone into the cabin to prick upon the chart the vessel's position. Lieutenant Stone accompanied the captain into the cabin; the door was closed, and, the cook and steward being also present, Captain Wilson drew a belaying pin—he did not take a pistol, as he was anxious to prevent any noise—and demanded that Lieutenant Stone should quietly consent to a pair of irons being placed upon his hands. In the presence of such a force, the officer was compelled to submit to being placed in irons, and also to a gag being inserted in his mouth. The master prizeman being thus secured in the cabin, Captain Wilson returned on deck, where he met three of the prize crew; and one being a very powerful fellow he was doubtful as to his treatment of these men, who were still, in common with the rest of the crew, in ignorance of the proceedings below. Captain Wilson's ready wit, however, soon suggested an expedient. He ordered them to go aft and get out of a scuttle a coil of rigging, of which Lieutenant Stone was represented as being in need. The three men, suspecting nothing, entered the scuttle; but as soon as they were within the hatch was placed over the egress, and they were thus imprisoned. In the meantime the forecastle-door had been fastened up, and iu [sic] in this manner the whole of the watch below was prevented from taking any part in the affray. Still the other men of the prize crew were unconscious of what was going forward; and the captain sent forward one of his men to ask whether they would assist in navigating the ship to a British port, as he was determined that she should not go to Philadelphia. One man consented to assist him; others, who refused, were placed with the three men in the scuttle. After the men on deck had been disposed of in this manner, the watch below were brought out of the forecastle one by one, and interrogated as to whether or not they would assist Captain Wilson in navigating the vessel. Three consented in the whole to this course; but only one of these was a sailor, the others being landsmen. In the course of a few days, however, two more of the prizemen expressed their willingness to assist Captain Wilson; but one of the men was afterwards confined in consequence of violence. With this slender crew Captain Wilson was compelled to navigate his ship to Liverpool, and in the course of the voyage encountered a furious gale, which broke the tiller; but in this emergency also the ingenuity of Captain Wilson was equal to the occasion. The serious defect was remedied, and the vessel was safely brought to Liverpool.

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