150 years ago: Another blockade runner headed for Darien, GA?

Just to show blockade runner traffic in Doboy Sound, Georgia was two-way – from Lieutenant-Commander Francis H. Baker, on the USS Huron, reporting on the capture and sinking of the schooner Sylvanus on this day (January 2) in 1864:

Sir: I have the honor to report that at 10:30 o’clock p.m. of the 2d instant, it being cloudy and somewhat hazy, a suspicious sail was discovered, apparently three-quarters of a mile distant from this vessel and heading up this sound, with a light breeze from N.N.E.  Went to quarters, slipped the cable, got underway, and fired a shell from the [20]-pounder Parrott rifle in order to bring her to.  The strange vessel persisting in her course, paying no attention to the shell, I fired several times directly at her in rapid succession from the XI-inch, port howitzer, and rifle, when, hearing loud shouts from the direction of the vessel, and soon after a light being shown from her, I gave the order to cease firing and sent an armed boat in charge of Acting Master William H. Baldwin and Acting Master’s Mate William Henderson to board her and, should she be deemed a prize, to take charge of her and send the master and crew on board this vessel with all the papers found on board.  After a short interval the boat returned with Mr. Henderson, accompanied by the master, officers, and crew of the vessel and a passenger, 9 in all.  The former reported that an XI-inch shell had passed through her a few inches above the water line, without injury, however, to the crew, and that she was aground and rapidly filling….

The prize proved to be the British schooner Sylvanus, from Nassau, New Providence, loaded with salt, spirits, and cordage….

Barker sent the boat back with a team to survey the vessel.  But Baldwin returned with details of the damage, indicating the vessel was not seaworthy.  The Huron salvaged some of the Sylvanus‘ cargo, but left the ship to break up.  The crew was transferred north to Philadelphia, in a round-about manner.

Two months later, the British envoy Richard Bickerton Pemell Lyons, Lord Lyons, complained about this incident on two counts.  First that the Huron had not given sufficient warning before firing on the Sylvanus.  Second that the crew was placed in irons after rescue.

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles answered these complaints in June (showing how slow the diplomatic channels worked in comparison to the military action).  To the first point, Welles noted that the Huron had fired a warning shot “a little wild of her, to bring her to.”  He noted that was the practice, given the established blockade.  To the second point, Welles was conciliatory without admitting wrong doing.   “There may be good grounds for complaining of the treatment of the crew so far as putting them in irons, and if they were treated thus harshly it was [not] in accordance with the wish or the instructions of this Department.”  The response quelled further inquiry.

International incident aside, let us again look at the location of Doboy Sound:


Certainly the Sylvanus was not heading up the coast, hoping to bypass numerous blockaders along the way. She was entering Doboy Sound with the intention of making port. While Darien, Georgia was not the stated destination, clearly the Sylvanus was looking, at minimum, for shelter in that vicinity.  Otherwise, the ship’s captain would have chosen one of the other sounds, particularly those offering direct access to Brunswick.  If nothing else, the intercept of the Sylvanus demonstrated the need to maintain a blockade on the Georgia coast.

(Citations from ORN Series I, Volume 15, pages 219-22.)