1/29/2022 0 Comments
Rebel “Pirates” in the Pacific
One inspiration for my second novel, California Rifles at Chattanooga, was the Confederate privateering effort in the Pacific. The rebel goal was to duplicate the success of commerce raiders in the Atlantic, notably, the Confederate States Ship (CSS) Alabama and CSS Shenandoah. In addition to just wreaking ordinary havoc on trade and business, the western theater offered a matchless prize—California gold. “The California steamers used to take about $2,000,000 in gold at every voyage in those days, sailing twice a month.”
After the attack on Fort Sumpter, U.S. officials were rightfully anxious about the California gold being shipped to northeastern banks via the Panamanian isthmus. In June 1861, the U.S. Consul in Panama warned Secretary of State Seward:
In the case of the U.S. merchant steamer Salvador, Confederate agents, disguised as passengers, boarded the vessel in Panama. At the direction of the Secretary of the Confederate Navy, their mission was to seize the vessel and convert it into a Confederate cruiser preying on American commerce in the Pacific. 
U.S. authorities learned of the plan and placed armed sailors and Marines on the steamer. The seizure was easily thwarted. During the subsequent trial, the Salvador conspirators boasted that they desired to share the honors of the rebel Navy that "had swept the ocean, lit battle fires in many a sea, and illumined the darkness of night with many a burning wreck." Mayhem and bounty were clearly their goals.
The earlier instance, that involving the two-mast Schooner Chapman, was the one that launched my story. On March 15, 1863, when the Chapman cast off from a pier in San Francisco, the manifest indicated the Chapman was taking machinery to the Port of Manzanillo, Mexico. In fact, the schooner was loaded with pirates and weapons and heading to the Island of Guadalupe, about 250 miles west of the Baja California peninsula, to await its prey. Jefferson Davis had issued a letter of marque authorizing the Chapman to attack, capture, and seize the cargo of Federal vessels.
According to Willard Farwell, the Treasury Department’s Naval Officer for the District of San Francisco, the Chapman enterprise was doomed from the outset. The shipbroker hired by the Confederate conspirators provided Farwell a daily report on the Chapman’s progress. Shortly after the Chapman cast off at 3 in the morning, it was met by a Union sloop-of-war and a tugboat full of police officers and revenue agents. Twenty-three conspirators were arrested. Two 12-pound cannons, small arms, swords, bowie knives, and uniforms were seized.
Although the rebel privateering initiatives in the Pacific failed, they are further evidence of the Confederacy’s intent to sway activity on America’s west coast. Confederate leaders, southern sympathizers, secessionists, and clandestine members of organizations such as the Knights of the Golden Circle, conceived a California far different than any that we could imagine today. --Mig
 The San Francisco Call, 3/8/1896, p. 23 (accessed on 1/28/2022, https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=SFC18960308.2.198&e).
 Letter dated 6/14/1861 from Consul Amos B. Corwine to Secretary of State William H. Seward (accessed on 1/28/2022, https://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/115/0360). Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series L Volume 3, Operations of the Cruisers (April 1, 1864-December 30, 1865), WPO 1896, p. 212.
 Dyer, Brainerd. “Confederate Naval and Privateering Activities in the Pacific.” Pacific Historical Review, vol. 3, no. 4, University of California Press, 1934, pp. 433–43 (accessed on 1/28/2022, https://www.jstor.org/stable/3633146).
 Letter dated 9/16/1865 from the Secretary of War to the President (accessed on 1/28/2022, https://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/121/0751).
 Letter dated 3/24/1863 from Brigadier General G. Wright, Commanding, Department of the Pacific, to that Adjutant General of the Army, Washington, D.C., (accessed 1/28/2022, https://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/106/0364).
 Asbury Harpending, The Great Diamond Hoax and Other Stirring Incidents in the Life of Asbury Harpending, 1913, pp 47-48.
 The San Francisco Call, 8 March 1896, p. 23 (accessed on 1/28/2022, https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=SFC18960308.2.198&e).
The American Civil War marked a turning point in our nation's course toward liberty, individualism, and equality.
It was the first significant step in removing the black mark that stained America’s history—that is slavery. Although the framers of the U.S. Constitution wrestled with the future of this “peculiar institution,” ultimately, they chose to chose to tolerate it. Their hesitation contributed to the conflict that cost over half a million American lives and nearly shattered our union.
Whether you are a historian, political scientist, human rights defender, or just a plain ol' U.S. citizen, the American Civil War has significance to you. It demonstrated the commitment of a people to correct an institutionalized wrong. Although we can point to other catalysts for this war, slavery was the underlying cause.
Every American should have a fundamental understanding of our Civil War. This novel, "California Blood at Gettysburg," is intended to entertain while increasing knowledge of this pivotal point in our history. I hope that you enjoy the story and increase your knowledge of this pivotal point in American history. --Mig
My intent is to offer occasional short comments on my writing, our history, or your questions. Let me know what you think, Mig