Bull's Bay Prize
The Capture of the Steamer Emilie

     The steamer Emilie had been built in Charleston, South Carolina with a weight of more than two hundred tons and sold to George Alexander Stuart resident of St.Vincent on June 3, 1862, with a crew of eighteen men assigned to her. The ship set sail from Nassau, New Providence precisely one month later, with a cargo of dry goods, boots, shoes, one hundred pounds of sporting powder, and a few thousand sporting caps for Beaufort, South Carolina; a port that had been opened to trade by the President of the United States himself.

     Four days later, she arrived at Bull's Bay approximately sixty miles north of Beaufort having had the misfortune of running herself aground at 6 am that morning only fifteen miles from Charleston. Three hours later, eleven of the crew deserted the ship when the gunboats USS Flag and USS Restless arrived. She was boarded about 8:45 am with no opportunity hoped for in getting her afloat again until high tide reached which had been expected between 1 and 2 o'clock that afternoon.

     Lieutenant D. Frank Mosman, in command of the expedition boarded the vessel having ignored the Confederate protest; and proceeded to haul down the British Flag which had been flying from the mast. Witnessed by those having signed affidavits after the fact, proclaiming the officer jumped upon it with great passion before running the United States Flag up the staff as a replacement.

     The observation of the detained crew saw that no papers had been asked for by the boarding party, and having placed the ship's captain and crew under guard, a search of the entire ship was ordered. In a mad rush, Lieutenant Mosman's boarding party had the cabin completely torn out, champagne and liquors broken into, seaman's trunks looted and scattered about deck turning the entire affair into one performed by a drunken mob.

     The ship's cargo, weighing rather heavily was heaved overboard in an effort to free the vessel from the bar, which had been accomplished almost five hours later, slowly steaming her out to sea, with four prisoners of war, custody of all transferred to the fleet.

     One month later, Commander James H. Strong, commanding USS Flag was tasked by the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron Commander, Admiral Samuel Du Pont to give account of the operations resulting in the capture of the Emilie. The admiral had been in possession of a copy of the signed affidavit by Henry McLeod, the former supercargo of the steamer and desired to look into the conduct of officers and crew that participated in its capture. The reports of the officers were therefore forwarded onto fleet headquarters as that was all the commanding officer of the USS Flag was able reference.

     It was difficult to argue, however; that some of the officers and men on the expedition did in fact get tight off the champagne and other liquors aboard, but it had been reported to the Navy Department that the crew of the Emilie had taken the time to scattered the intoxicants about the ship in hopes that the boarding party utilized it for such a purpose. As for the broken in trunks, the crew that made their escape as they saw the federal sailors approaching had looted their own belongings prior to departure. Rear Admiral Samuel Du Pont managed to report that his officers and sailors acted in the most professional manner when taking the Emilie prize.

     The vessel had been identified by the commanding officer of the James Adger as having once been the William Seabrook, and having obtained a British register upon being sold. She pulled a six foot draft and weighed in at 353 tons, carrying an assorted cargo with a registered value of $21,548.41. Along with her cargo were found Confederate bonds, Enfield rifles and a large number of small arms not listed upon the manifest. She was captured having run the blockade laden with supplies, arms and munitions of war for the Confederacy.

     The admiral had not felt confident in concealing the irregularities that the captured Confederates were willing to sign their names to and present to the United States Navy Department. Those, he attempted to justify by relating them to the inexperience of the officers leading the expedition when permitting their crews to enter the cabin and saloons of the prize ship. For all of those attempting to make their escape from a vessel that was about to fall into the hands of the Federal Navy; none of it seemed likely that these would have sufficient time to conceive such a slothful trap prior to departure. Taking measures to correct such, the squadron itself would be duly disciplined that an incident of that nature would never tarnish the reputation of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron again.

Aldie Daniel Moran
© 2006

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at dmoran@us-civilwars.net