The 1861 capture of the Salvor

Prelude to Capture - The Salvor seen as essential property by the Union Army.

During the Civil War, the Union Navy sought to cripple the Confederacy with a blockade of southern waters. In Florida, this task fell primarily to the East Gulf Blockading Squadron, whose mission was to deprive the South of vital food and supplies by capturing blockade runners and raiding salt works.

After the blockade of Tampa in 1861, Charlotte Harbor became the only port in South Florida accessible to runners. Consequently, this harbor became a rendezvous point for runners and an important target for the Union Navy. During the war, many kinds of sail and steam-powered craft plied the deep waters of the Charlotte Harbor region, where they operated as blockade runners, blockaders, supply ships, and tenders. The Salvor exemplified one type of commonly used ship.

The 450-ton screw-steamer Salvor was possibly the first blockade runner to operate at Charlotte Harbor and the first to be seized and converted to Union service. Built in 1856 in Buffalo, New York, the craft began its career as a wrecker on the Great Lakes. 

In 1860 in Chicago, McKay purchased the steamer to transport South Florida’s beef cattle to Cuba. In New York, McKay had the ship cut in half and 70 feet in length added to its middle section. The Salvor’s new length ideally suited it for duty as a cattle boat. At 161 feet in length, and with a 25 ½ ft. beam (width), the steamer could carry as many as 300 cattle in its dark and expanded hold. With its 19-foot draft, the Salvor could navigate the deepest waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa Bay, and Charlotte Harbor with ease.


Image of the Salvor courtesy of Naval Historical Foundation, Washington DC.

Square-rigged, the steamer sported masts that towered above its wooden decks. These carried auxiliary sails, clouds of canvas that helped assure the ship would never lie dead in the water in case of engine failure. Even the ship’s older wood and soft-coal burning engines proved advantageous to Florida duty. This fuel was much easier to obtain in Florida and Caribbean ports than the hard anthracite, or Cardiff, smokeless coal preferred by top-class northern ships. The steamer's single gun, though not powerful enough to intimidate warships, did prove a deterrent to pirates and smaller, hostile craft.

In the summer of 1860, the steamer failed to arrive on time from the process of being modified in New York.  At the cattle holding pens at Ballast Point, some thousand cattle perished because of a local drought, causing a financial disaster for McKay.  In November 1860, the Salvor’s base of operations shifted to Charlotte Harbor, where the steamer loaded cattle from McKay’s new wharf, near present-day Punta Gorda.

Soon the Salvor saw nearly continuous service. In January 1861, McKay purchased 10,000 head of cattle from a south Florida rancher and shipped many of them to Cuba. The captain, realizing that war was imminent, had also agreed to supply cattle to the Federal forces in Key West while continuing to sell beef in Cuba. News of the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in April 1861 led McKay to believe the Cuban cattle trade was, at least temporarily, doomed. He attempted to sell the Salvor to the Confederate Navy, but a southern naval officer who inspected the ship at Tampa Bay rejected the purchase after he rated the steamer too large to work on the rivers and too slow to evade Yankee warships at sea.

Undaunted, McKay loaded more cattle aboard the Salvor and steered a risky course for Havana.

The above is from Steamers, Tenders, and Barks: The Union Blockade of South Florida by Irvin D. Solomon and Grace Erhart, Tampa Bay History magazine, 18/02, Jan. 1, 1996 at USF Scholar Commons

McKay gives a detail of his version of the events up until this point in time in his Dec. 7 letter to Gen. L. Thomas from confinement at Ft. Taylor, Key West.  Here he describes the various times he went out of his way, by his own expense or at a loss, to help the U.S. Government with the Salvor.  One such event was to rescue a Union Lieutenant and his men who were slowly drifting out to see.  It caused McKay to be labeled as a Union sympathizer by his Tampa enemies.

McKay wrote:

This act of mine was carried to my enemies in Tampa and noted against me.

When asked to supply 3 heads of cattle by the Union quartermaster at Tortugas, McKay obliged. He wrote:

This was another heinous act of me and capital for my Tampa enemies.  These acts of mine came to their ears in Tampa.  They enlarged upon it, as I was never there, and spread around the country that I was carrying cattle from Charlotte Harbor to Havana, and then putting the Spanish flag on my boat, carried the same cattle back and sold them to the US Government at Tortugas and Key West, and that I was a general agent for the Government and a traitor and should be hung.  These reports were spread extensively without my knowledge.

Major French is Brevet Major, US Army, William H. French, commander at U.S. Army Headquarters at Ft. Taylor in Key West.

Excerpt from McKay's Dec. 7 letter from Ft. Taylor, Key West, to Gen. L. Thomas in Washington, DC.:


See larger
 

This May 2, 1861 letter from U.S. Army Maj. William H. French, commander at headquarters at Ft. Taylor, Key West, to the Captain of the USS Crusader, mentions the harassment of McKay by rebels suspicious of McKay's loyalty, and suggests to Craven

...the advantage of a military demonstration in the localities liable to be troublesome, giving those people who are disposed to annoy, an opportunity for a little serious reflection upon the fact that they receive no immunity from this quarter.

He encourages Craven to "sacrifice" some of the buildings at Ft. Brooke by a show of military force.

 

Maj. French sought to protect the Salvor as it was essential for their use in the Florida Keys to keep communication with the rest of Florida.

 

 

Captain McKay, Sr. had been engaged in a profitable shipping business using his steamer Salvor to supply his cattle from Peas Creek near Tampa to Havana, and to U.S. troops in Key West and the Tortugas, until prohibited by the onset of the blockade. 

Unfortunately for McKay, when Major William H. French, commander at headquarters, Ft. Taylor in Key West, learned of McKay's  attempt to sell the vessel to the Confederate Navy, he ordered it seized the next time it was at Key West.

By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

The S. S. Salvor was offered to the Confederate government and Commodore Hartstene was sent here to inspect her. She made a trip down the bay with him and when he returned he told my father that she would not do for the government, as she drew too much water for inside work and was not fast enough for outside work.

 

So having two or three loads of cattle on hand, she continued freighting them to Havana. On her last trip he received a tip that when she returned to Key West from Tampa she would be seized by the federal government, but as there were a great many southern sympathizers in Key West who were anxious to get away to the main land, he offered the Salvor to take them to Cedar Keys, obtaining permission from the commanding officers to do so. One hundred and eighty-six boarded her, and he made the trip to Cedar Keys with them not charging a cent. On the return trip he came by Tampa, loaded cattle and returned to Havana.

Article at right in the Peninsular in Tampa:
The Salvor and the Weir arrived in Tampa bringing secessionist citizens ("loyal citizens of the State") from Key West who were being treated "badly" by the military.  The election mentioned in the article took place in Key West.  News from July 8 below indicates the Salvor returned to Key West.

 

See McKay Sr's Dec. 7 letter further down to Gen. L. Thomas from confinement at Ft. Taylor, Key West, which gives detail about this voyage and CSA Capt. Hartstene's inspection of the Salvor.  McKay says he collected $180 from the passengers, but the trip cost him $300.

July 8, 1861 - Savannah Republican
Reports from the Tampa Peninsular the Salvor detained at KW and sent to Ft. Pickens, Lesley's Sunny South Guards detain the W.A. Wilbur.

 

Letter from W.H. French at Ft. Taylor, Key West to Capt. Hartsuff at Ft. Pickens, June 5, 1861

After seizing the Salvor at Key West, the Federal troops there immediately retrofitted it and pressed the ship into their own service. The steamer was employed by the U.S. Navy quartermaster's department, making trips to Ft. Pickens and to the Tortugas, being used by the government for three months.

Running constantly in salt water burned out her boilers so Maj. French had a survey made on her by Asst. Quartermaster and Engineer Grier of the US steamer Crusader.  He reported the Salvor unsafe and unfit to go to sea, so she was then anchored under charge in Key West Harbor.

The War of the Rebellion: v. 1-53  Formal reports, both Union and Confederate, of the first seizures of United States property in the southern states, and of all military operations in the field, with the correspondence, orders and returns relating specially thereto. 1880-98.


 

 

 

Several months later, in Feb. 1862, a friend of McKay's,  L. D. Stickney, would write about these events in a letter, an excerpt of which is shown here, to Sec. of State William Seward in defense of McKay. Stickney was a tax commissioner to Florida, an appointee and friend of Secretary Chase of the treasury department.

When I first made the acquaintance of Captain McKay in May [1861] last he was shipping cattle from Florida to Havana, Cuba. He was generally regarded as the most enterprising man in that State as well as one of its wealthiest citizens. A few weeks later I met him in Key West. He was there with his propeller the Salvor when Flag-Officer William Mervine arrived to enforce the blockade of the Gulf ports of the Confederate States.

By order of Flag-Officer Mervine the Salvor was seized, but subsequently she passed into the charge of the quartermaster's department of the Key West military division and made one or two trips to Tortugas and Fort Pickens. Her boilers being defective the quartermaster declined to make any further use of the Salvor and she was moored in Key West Harbor.

McKay gives a detail of the events up until this point in time in his Dec. 7 letter to Gen. L. Thomas from confinement at Ft. Taylor, Key West:


See larger

 

Most all of the information and images of correspondence in the rest of this section, and the above letter of McKay in sections, are from
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, pub 1897

 

 

 

 

Portrait of Wm. H. French by Mathew Brady at Library of Congress

 

1861 - August - The Salvor breaks down in Havana

In late August of 1861, the Asst. quartermaster at Key West had the occasion to procure horses from Havana and informed Maj. French that Capt. McKay suggested his steamer would be able to go to Havana and return with the horses.  This they attempted, but a week later the quartermaster returned to Key West and reported that the steamer had broken down and could not be repaired for some time.  The Salvor remained in Havana, but the horses were purchased and arrived in Key West a week later.

The steamer was then turned over to McKay for repairs on the condition that he would not take her into any port in the hands of the insurgents or perform any service for them. 

Ever the optimist, McKay offered his reclaimed ship to the U. S. Government. The Federals, however, had little use for the crippled ship, and McKay collected around $1,000 in lease fees for its limited service.

 

As he passed through Key West, the commanding officer notified my father that an officer would go with him to Havana to purchase animals for use of the military at Key West and for him to follow his orders. On arrival at Havana the crew refused to return to Key West and the ship was laid up. The officer was informed to get back to Key West the best way he could.

by James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

 

An excerpt from L. D. Stickney's Feb. 1862 letter:

About the 1st of August Captain McKay came from Tampa to Key West with a flag of truce. In a conversation I had with him at that time he expressed disgust at the Confederate rule in Florida and added that he desired to remove his family to some place within the jurisdiction of the United States, dispose of his property at Tampa and vicinity and turn over the Salvor to the Government of the United States. Shortly after this conversation with Captain McKay, the Salvor sailed for Havana in charge of Quartermaster Webber for the purpose of bringing back a lot of horses. Mr. Webber returned four or five days afterward in a fishing smack without the horses.

 

1861 - Oct. 14 - The Salvor captured while running the blockade

McKay gave his word that he would not attempt to run the blockade again and sailed the disabled Salvor to Cuba. He expected to sell the steamer to a Cuban bidder, but the buyer had withdrawn his offer by the time McKay reached Havana. Hoping to sell the steamer and a contraband cargo at Nassau, McKay had the Salvor’s boiler repaired and readied for the voyage across the Straits of Florida. He also changed the ship’s name to M.S. Perry and transferred title to a British subject, Mr. John McLenan, so the ship would have foreign registry and would, theoretically, be safe from capture by the Federals. On October 13, 1861, McKay set off for Nassau with a cargo of small arms, percussion caps, coffee, and cigars. This would prove to be the Salvor’s final voyage under his command.

James McKay, Jr. revealed what really happened:

My father chartered a fishing smack to bring him to Tampa, as he wished to ascertain the situation in the south. Secretary S. R. Mallory who was a great friend of his, advised him to run the blockade with the Salvor. The south would go to war and they [the Rebels] wanted arms and ammunition.

 

So my father returned to Havana, obtained a cargo of guns and other war materials and merchandise, induced some of his Cuban friends to invest in the enterprise, which they did, the cargo costing some $400,000.

Clearing the ship for Nassau, under the English flag, but actually bound for Cedar Keys, he sailed out of Havana harbor in the afternoon towards Nassau, but when night came on, changed the course for Cedar Keys.

by James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

Although supposedly repaired, the steamer’s engines propelled it along at a modest 3 ½ miles per hour. Every two hours the engines had to be shut down for servicing.  The limping ship proved no match in speed for a Federal warship. While attempting to run the blockade under the English flag, the M.S. Perry, f.k.a. Salvor, was captured about twenty miles south of the Tortugas on the 13th of October, 1861 at about 11pm by commanding Captain Scott U.S. Navy of the steamer USS Keystone State.

  (Read about Ft. Jefferson on the Tortugas)

 

 

An excerpt from L. D. Stickney's Feb. 1862 letter:

The Salvor remained [in Havana] and subsequently I learned from Mr. Thomas Savage, vice-consul-general at Havana, that Captain McKay sold her to British owners and her name was changed to the M. S. Perry.

While sailing under British colors the Perry was captured by the U. S. steamer Keystone State, Capt. G. H. Scott. Captain McKay and his son Donald, a mere boy, were on board.

 

This steamer served as USS Keystone State in 1861-65.
After the Civil War she returned to civilian use as San Francisco. Courtesy of Erik Heyl.
(American Steamship 1853-1879) Watercolor by Erik Heyl, 1949, painted for use in his book Early American Steamers, Volume I.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

McKay gives a detail of the events leading up to and including the Salvor's capture in his Dec. 7 letter to Gen. L. Thomas from confinement at Ft. Taylor, Key West:


See larger

The vessel, along with McKay, his 15-year-old son Donald, his crew, and two passengers, were taken to Key West to be detained at Ft. Taylor, arriving at sunrise on Oct. 14.

Those taken into custody were James McKay Sr. as owner of the Salvor, and passengers Mr. Ball and Dr. Barrett.  Afterward, Charles Tifft, merchant of Key West, was arrested for funding McKay's voyage.  These four were detained at Ft. Taylor while the others, Donald McKay, 15-year-old son of James McKay Sr.,  Captain Francisco "Ponche" Menendez, First Officer J. Charles Butler, First engineer William J. Browning, Asst. engineer George McNabb, cook Hunter Semple,  crewmember seaman William Reed, crewmember seaman Frederick Lewis , crewmember seaman Peter Fernandez , crewmember seaman Don Santos, and possibly a crewmember seaman David Evans, were all held on the USS Keystone.

Brevet Major, US Army, William H. French boarded the Salvor and

"...found the evidences* so strong against her and against all on board that I sent the officer of the day to arrest [James] McKay and the two passengers named Ball and Dr. Barrett." 

*Various sources give differing accounts of the contraband on the Salvor.  In "MEN, SALT, CATTLE AND BATTLE" THE CIVIL WAR IN FLORIDA (November 1860 - July 1865) by William J. Gladwin, Jr. Commander, USNR, Naval War College - Newport, RI, June 1992, which is chronology of the Civil War events in Florida, the author states:

"U.S.S. Keystone State, Commander Gustavus H. Scott, captured Confederate steamer Salvor, commanded by James McKay of Tampa, near the Tortugas Islands with cargo of coffee, cigars, 21,000 stands of arms, 100 boxes of revolvers, 6 rifled cannon and ammunition. (CWNC: pg 1-29: WOR; Ser I, Vol 6, pg 308)"

The next day he was captured by the Keystone State and towed to Key West. My father was confined in Fort Taylor and the steamer, with my brother, Donald, and the crew taken to Philadelphia. Donald was sent to Fort Lafayette, N. Y. harbor. Seven of the crew, being negroes owned by my father were freed. The steamer was sold and purchased by Clyde and Company. The cargo was also sold.

by James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

In his lengthy letter of Dec. 7 from confinement at Ft. Taylor to Gen. L. Thomas in Washington, McKay detailed his cargo by memory:


McKay lies about not having any weapons on board, "to his knowledge."
See this whole last page

 

Fort Taylor, Key West
From SonOfTheSouth.net, where they state: Civil War Harper's Weekly, The March 2, 1861 edition of Harper's Weekly featured a cover illustration of president elect Abraham Lincoln. The remainder of the newspaper includes incredible stories on the opening events of the Civil War. We have posted the newspaper below.
Newspaper Thumbnails will take you to the page of interest."


Fort Zachary Taylor Park photo courtesy of Charlotte Spokes People


Fort Zachary Taylor at Key West, lower left.

The U.S. District court in Key West then asserted jurisdiction over the case, but this was resisted by naval commander Scott of the Keystone.  He sent a note to French stating his intent to take the Salvor for the prize courts to the North, along with all who were captured.  The note directed French to turn over his three prisoners as prizes of war.

U.S. Dist. Atty Thos. J. Boynton wrote to French on Oct. 16:

"There is no doubt that the men mentioned are guilty of treason against the Government of the United States, the offense having been committed on the high seas.  They can only be tried in this district after having once been brought here.  It is consequently defeating the ends of justice to take or send them to New York.  In addition to this fact, the vessel has been libeled and an attachment regularly issued and the vessel, the Salvor, or MS Perry, is now properly in the custody of the US marshal.  If the marshal should call on you for assistance in keeping or regaining possession of the prize, it is my opinion you would be justified in assisting, but violence disproportioned to the nature of the outrage would not of course be justifiable, such for instance as sinking the vessel in the channel to prevent her leaving port."

To which French replied:
The steamer is leaving without my being able to send any letters of advice or explanation.

French declined Capt. Scott's request to turn over the three prisoners and contrary to the wishes of the judicial authorities, Capt. Scott left for Philadelphia on the Keystone, with only two hours notice, and the M.S. Perry (a.k.a. Salvor) in tow, along with its crew, McKay's slaves, and McKay's young son, for trial in the prize courts.

See Maj. French's assessment of the situation in his Oct. 17 letter to Brig. Gen. L. Thomas in Washington DC.

Slaves onboard the Salvor
This letter of Oct. 31, 1861 from Sec. of State William H Seward to Gideon Welles, Sec. of the Navy mentions slaves which were onboard the Salvor, but doesn't say how many there were; only that they were to be retained at the Navy yard at Philadelphia where the Salvor remained, "for such service as they can be usefully employed upon..."

 

1861-Nov. 7 - Indictment for treason overruled

The grand jury of the district court of the US for the Southern district of Florida, regular November term, on the indictment for treason against McKay, returned a "not a true bill" decision on Nov. 7, 1861, primarily because the evidence had been taken north with the Salvor by Capt. Scott of the Keystone. 

 

 

 

1861-Nov 9 - Prisoners sent to New York

On Nov. 9, 1861, those being held at the Navy yard in Philadelphia were ordered to be sent to Fort Lafayette; prison off the coast of the Bronx, New York.

 



Info and images of letters used above are mostly from
Congressional Edition, Volume 3788

 

Fort Lafayette was an island coastal fortification in the Narrows of New York Harbor, built offshore from Fort Hamilton at the southern tip of what is now Bay Ridge in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. The fort was built on a natural island known as Hendrick's Reef. Construction on the fort began during the War of 1812 and was completed in 1822. The fort, originally named Fort Diamond after its shape, was renamed in 1823 to celebrate the Marquis de La Fayette, a hero of the American Revolution who would soon commence a grand tour of the United States.
Wikipedia photo from Harper's Bazaar magazine, Sept 7, 1861

The fort was demolished in 1960 to make room for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge; the Brooklyn-side bridge tower now occupies the fort's former foundation site.

 

 

Donald McKay at Fort Lafayette

Asst. Sec. of State F.W. Seward's letter to William Lighthall, Esq. of New York, stating Donald McKay should not be released yet, but he was to be furnished with "any articles which may be necessary for his comfort."

Donald McKay's Dec. 2, 1861 letter written  from prison at Fort Lafayette, to Sec. of State William H. Seward.

 

1861-December 7 - McKay's lengthy appeal from Fort Taylor to Adj. Gen. L. Thomas, Washington DC

Lengthy letter (links below) from McKay to L. Thomas, Adj Gen. US Army, Wash DC. giving his side of the story:
Pg.1 - Pg. 2 - Pg.3 - Pg.4 - Pg.5

 

1862-January - McKay' release at Fort Taylor, Key West

By a letter on Jan. 23, 1862, to Sec. of State Seward from Maj B.H. Hill at Ft. Taylor, Key West, , Seward was advised that McKay had been released from military custody in Key West and would proceed on his pledge to New York and then to Washington and report himself to the Sec. of State. 

Secretary of State Wm. H. Seward
Seward orchestrated the purchase of the Alaska territory which was deemed "Seward's Folly" in its time.  He was also victim of an assassination stabbing attempt by a co-conspirator on April 15, 1865 when President Lincoln was assassinated.

 

 

 

 

The rest of L. D. Stickney's Feb. 11, 1862 letter to Sec. of State Seward

Having been driven from my own property by the rebels for furnishing some cargoes of timber to complete the defense of Fort Taylor and residing in Key West from July to December last, where I had an opportunity of observing what was transpiring, I have no hesitation in saying that whatever Captain McKay's offenses may be greater blame attaches to the U. S. officials who governed that post than to him. They were, with the exception of Mr. Charles Howe, collector; T. J. Boynton, U. S. attorney; E. B. Hunt, captain of U.S. Engineers, and Captain Brannan, greater favorites with the rebels than loyal citizens. If instead of Major French such officers as General Banks or Butler or the present commander, Major Hill, had had the direction of military affairs at Key West, nearly all would have returned to their allegiance, whereas three-fourths by the example and conduct of those highest in, authority were in open, active hostility to the United States Government.

Captain McKay, stripped of his large property, crushed in spirit, but as he assures me loyal in heart to the Union, certainly deserves to have his case speedily disposed of, and I am sure it will be your pleasure to deal as leniently with him as with others who have experienced your clemency. He is illy able to bear the expense of delay in Washington and I earnestly hope you will give him a prompt hearing. I am known to Hon. C. B. Smith, William McKee Dunn, E. P. Walton and George D. Prentice, Esq., who will vouch for my loyalty.

With high regard, your admirer and friend, L. D. STICKNEY.

 

 

James McKay in Philadelphia and release

McKay arrived in Philadelphia around  Feb. 1, 1862.  On Feb. 15, in accordance with the order of the War Dept. of the preceding day he was transferred to the charge of that Dept. 

On Mar 12, Adj Gen L. Thomas of the War Dept. in Washington DC advised the US Dist. Atty in Philadelphia, George Coffey, that McKay's testimony concerning the Salvor incident be taken as soon as possible and when he was no longer needed could be discharged on the condition he agree in writing that he will render no aid or comfort the the enemies in hostility to the Government of the United States.

 

 

 


Mar. 13, 1862 letter from Col. Martin Burke, Ft. Hamilton, NY
 to Gen L. Thomas regarding Donald McKay's parole

 

 

This Mar. 19, 1862 letter from L. D. Stickney to President Lincoln makes reference to a personal visit with the President the previous week.

 

 

 

 

 

McKay remained in custody until his Oath of Allegiance was sent to President Abraham Lincoln on Mar 20, 1862.

 

 

 

 

 

McKay was then released and arrived back in Key West on April 21, onboard the steamer Rhode Island, and reported to General Brannan.  In Key West, he was informed by Gen. Brannon that the captain of the U.S. steamer Connecticut, which left Key West the day before McKay arrived, had heard on his way to Key West from a blockading vessel in Tampa that McKay had written his wife from Washington to warn them that Gen Brannon would be invading Tampa with a large force of 600 to 700 men.  In his April 24 letter to Gen. Thomas, McKay denied having written his wife concerning the impending Union attack on Tampa, and explained how it was impossible for him to do so--his mail would have been opened and read at Fort Monroe** in Virginia.

 

 

 

**Beginning in 1862 Fort Monroe was also used as a transfer point for mail exchange. Mail sent from states in the Confederacy addressed to locations in the Union had to be sent by flag-of-truce and could only pass through at Fort Monroe where the mail was opened, inspected, resealed, marked and sent on. Prisoner of war mail from Union soldiers in Confederate prisons was required to be passed through this point for inspection.  If this was indeed a "one way" inspection of mail, McKay could have written the alleged letter without it being opened at Ft. Monroe since it was going from Washington DC to the South.

 

The fate of the Salvor/M.S. Perry

According to L. D. Stickney's letter of Feb. 11 above:  The Salvor was carried to Philadelphia, condemned and sold by the admiralty court as a prize.

On Feb. 18, 1862, U.S. Attorney George Coffey in Philadelphia wrote to Sec. of State William Seward:

"...It is beyond my power to send the original documents found on board of the vessel at the time of her capture for they are in judicial custody and cannot of course leave the possession of the court. The case is still pending in the prize court. The vessel has been sold under an interlocutory decree as perishable by reason of changeableness and deterioration resulting from her detention. A final decree of condemnation has not yet been entered."

According to Steamers, Tenders, and Barks: The Union Blockade of South Florida by Irvin D. Solomon and Grace Erhart, USF Scholar Commons:

After sailing to Key West, the Salvor was condemned and shipped North, never to return to Florida waters. Later that year, the steamer was sold at auction in Philadelphia for $38,250.94. After the war, the ship served as a freighter on the Metropolitan line between Boston and New York.

The fate of McKay's slaves

At the beginning of his lengthy letter of Dec. 7 from confinement at Ft. Taylor to Gen. L. Thomas in Washington, McKay thanked Thomas for sending them back, and viewed this as being "a kindness to them as they desired it."

 

Table of correspondences concerning those captured on the Salvor
Click the date links to see related correspondence detailing the events concerning each person listed. 

Who Capture Events Events

Events/Letters

James McKay Sr.

Owner of the Salvor

Captured with the Salvor, Oct. 13, 1861 Oct. 14, 1861 Arrested, Detained as prisoner of war at Ft. Taylor, Key West Nov. 7, 1861 - Indictment for treason deemed not a true bill by Grand Jury at Key West.

Dec 6, 1861-From Cmdr. BH Hill, Ft. Taylor to Adj. Gen. Wash.DC.

Dec 7, 1861-Lengthy letter (links below) from McKay to L. Thomas, Adj Gen. US Army, Wash DC. giving his side of the story:

Pg.1 - Pg. 2 - Pg.3 - Pg.4 - Pg.5

Dec 7, 1861 -
From Cmdr. BH Hill, Ft. Taylor to L. Thomas Adj Gen Wash. DC.
Jan 23, 1862-From BH Hill, Cmndr, Key West, to Sec. of State Wm Seward
confirm McKay released from Ft. Taylor, to report to him in Wash. DC. for trial
Feb 11, 1862-From LD Stickney*, friend of McKay, to Sec. of State Seward
Feb 14, 1862-From FW Seward to G. Coffee, US Dist. Atty. Phila.
Feb 18, 1862 From G.Coffey, reply to FW Seward, Asst Sec of State
Feb 19, 1862-From FW Seward, reply to G. Coffee, US Dist. Atty. Phila.
Mar 12, 1862-From L Thomas, Adj Gen War Dept, to G.Coffey, US Dist Atty Phila.
Mar 14, 1862-From Hubly Ashton, Asst US Atty Phila. to Gen L.Thomas
Mar 19, 1862-From LD Stickney to Pres A. Lincoln
Mar 20, 1862-From Pres A. Lincoln to Sec of State Wm Seward re: J.McKay Oath
Apr 24, 1862 From J.McKay, free & returned to Key West, to Gen L.Thomas re fake news

*L. D. Stickney was a tax commissioner to Florida , an appointee and friend of Secretary Chase of the treasury department.

Donald McKay

15-year-old son of James McKay Sr.

Passenger

Captured with the Salvor, Oct. 13, 1861 Oct. 16, 1861 - Taken to the Navy yard at Philadelphia by Keystone, Capt. Scott USN, with the Salvor Nov. 9, 1861- Sent from Navy yard, Phila to Ft. Lafayette prison, NY Nov 12, 1861-Appeal to British Consul in NY, from Menendez, signed by all.*
Nov. 28, 1861 - From FW Seward, State Dept to Wm Lighthall, Esq. NY.
Dec 2, 1861 - From Donald McKay at Ft. Lafayette to Sec. of State Wm Seward.
Feb 3, 1862-From Robt Murray, US Marshal, NY to Sec. of State Wm Seward

Mar 8, 1862-From L. Thomas, Adj Gen. War Dept to Lt. Col Martin Burke, Ft. Lafayette, NY-Authorization to release.
Mar 13, 1862-From Col. Martin Burke, Ft. Hamilton, NY to Gen L. Thomas, Donald McKay parole
Francisco "Ponche" Menendez

Spanish subject

Captain

Captured with the Salvor, Oct. 13, 1861 Oct. 16, 1861 - Taken to the Navy yard at Philadelphia by Keystone, Capt. Scott USN, with the Salvor Nov. 9, 1861- Sent from Navy yard, Phila to Ft. Lafayette prison, NY Nov 12, 1861-Appeal to British Consul in NY, from Menendez, signed by all.*
Jan 22, 1862-Menendez letter to Sec. of State Wm Seward

Feb. 3, 1862 - Released by order of Sec. of State having given his evidence before the prize court  commissioners.

 

J. Charles Butler

First Officer, Mate

Captured with the Salvor, Oct. 13, 1861 Oct. 16, 1861 - Taken to the Navy yard at Philadelphia by Keystone, Capt. Scott USN, with the Salvor Nov. 9, 1861- Sent from Navy yard, Phila to Ft. Lafayette prison, NY

Nov 12, 1861-Appeal to British Consul in NY, from Menendez, signed by all.*
Jan. 8, 1862 - Released.  Claimed to be a subject of Denmark and for the purpose of obtaining the facts of his nationality was released by order of the Sec. of State and placed into custody of US Marshal Murray of NY.

William J. Browning

First engineer

Captured with the Salvor, Oct. 13, 1861 Oct. 16, 1861 - Taken to the Navy yard at Philadelphia by Keystone, Capt. Scott USN, with the Salvor Nov. 9, 1861- Sent from Navy yard, Phila to Ft. Lafayette prison, NY

Nov 12, 1861-Appeal to British Consul in NY, from Menendez, signed by all.*
Nov. 20, 1861-To Sec. of State Wm Seward.
Dec 13, 1861-From Robt Murray, US Marshal at Ft. Lafayette NY to Sec. of State Wm Seward, Wash DC

Dec 14, 1861-From Asst. Sec FW Seward, Dept of State to Lt. Col. Martin Burke, Ft. Lafayette NY
Dec. 17, 1861 - Released on his taking of an oath of allegiance.

George McNabb

Asst. engineer

Captured with the Salvor, Oct. 13, 1861 Oct. 16, 1861 - Taken to the Navy yard at Philadelphia by Keystone, Capt. Scott USN, with the Salvor Nov. 9, 1861- Sent from Navy yard, Phila to Ft. Lafayette prison, NY

Nov 12, 1861 George to brother James
Nov 12, 1861-Appeal to British Consul in NY, from Menendez, signed by all*
Nov. 20, 1861-To Sec. of State Wm Seward.
Dec 13, 1861-From Robt Murray, US Marshal at Ft. Lafayette NY to Sec. of State Wm Seward, Wash DC
Dec 14, 1861-From Asst. Sec FW Seward, Dept of State to Lt. Col. Martin Burke, Ft. Lafayette NY
Dec. 17, 1861 - Released by order of the Sec. of State on taking Oath of Allegiance.

Hunter Semple

British subject

Cook

Captured with the Salvor, Oct. 13, 1861 Oct. 16, 1861 - Taken to the Navy yard at Philadelphia by Keystone, Capt. Scott USN, with the Salvor Nov. 9, 1861- Sent from Navy yard, Phila to Ft. Lafayette prison, NY

Nov 12, 1861-Appeal to British Consul in NY, from Menendez, signed by all.*
Feb. 3, 1862 - Released by order of Sec. of State having given his evidence before the prize court  commissioners.
Feb 3, 1862-From Semple in New York to Robt Murray, US Marshal at Ft. Lafayette

William Reed

Crew, seaman

Captured with the Salvor, Oct. 13, 1861 Oct. 16, 1861 - Taken to the Navy yard at Philadelphia by Keystone, Capt. Scott USN, with the Salvor Nov. 9, 1861- Sent from Navy yard, Phila to Ft. Lafayette prison, NY

Nov 12, 1861-Appeal to British Consul in NY, from Menendez, signed by all.*
Dec 24, 1861-Appeal from Reed to Hon. Lord (Richard) Lyons, British diplomat
Dec 31, 1861-Ltr. from Lyons to Sec. of State Wm Seward
Jan 10, 1862-Ltr. from Seward to Lord Lyons
Jan 10, 1862-Ltr. from Seward to Ft. Lafayette Marshal Robt Murray
Jan 13, 1862-Letter from Lt. Col. Martin Burke cmdr. Ft. Hamilton, NY Harbor, to Sec. of State Wm Seward confirming release of Reed.

Frederick Louis

French subject

Crew, seaman

Captured with the Salvor, Oct. 13, 1861 Oct. 16, 1861 - Taken to the Navy yard at Philadelphia by Keystone, Capt. Scott USN, with the Salvor Nov. 9, 1861- Sent from Navy yard, Phila to Ft. Lafayette prison, NY

Nov 12, 1861-Appeal to British Consul in NY, from Menendez, signed by all.*
Feb. 3, 1862 - Released by order of Sec. of State having given his evidence before the prize court  commissioners.

Peter Fernandez

Spanish subject

Crew, seaman

Captured with the Salvor, Oct. 13, 1861 Oct. 16, 1861 - Taken to the Navy yard at Philadelphia by Keystone, Capt. Scott USN, with the Salvor Nov. 9, 1861- Sent from Navy yard, Phila to Ft. Lafayette prison, NY

Nov 12, 1861-Appeal to British Consul in NY, from Menendez, signed by all.*
Feb. 3, 1862 - Released by order of Sec. of State having given his evidence before the prize court  commissioners.

Don Santos

Crew, seaman 

Captured with the Salvor, Oct. 13, 1861 Oct. 16, 1861 - Taken to the Navy yard at Philadelphia by Keystone, Capt. Scott USN, with the Salvor Nov. 9, 1861- Sent from Navy yard, Phila to Ft. Lafayette prison, NY

*His name does not appear on the Nov 12 letter to British Consul in NY

Feb. 3, 1862 - Released by order of Sec. of State having given his evidence before the prize court  commissioners.

David Evans

Crew, seaman

Captured with the Salvor, Oct. 13, 1861

unknown

 

*His name does not appear on the Nov 12 letter to British Consul in NY

Evans is mentioned only once in a correspondence list of those on the Salvor who were detained at Ft. Taylor.  It may have been an error.

Mr. Ball

Passenger

Captured with the Salvor, Oct. 13, 1861, arrested as witness Oct. 14, 1861 Arrested, Detained at Ft. Taylor, Key West Nov 15, 1861 Ltr from Maj. Hill to Dist. Atty.
Nov 15, 1861 Reply from D.A. to Hill.

Nov. 21, 1861 - Released due to Grand Jury returning no true bill on indictment at Key West during Nov. term of the U.S. Dist. Ct..

 

Dr. Barrett

Passenger

Captured with the Salvor, Oct. 13, 1861, arrested as witness Oct. 14, 1861 Arrested, Detained at Ft. Taylor, Key West Nov 15, 1861 Ltr from Maj. Hill to Dist. Atty.
Nov 15, 1861 Reply from D.A. to Hill.

Nov. 21, 1861 - Released due to Grand Jury returning no true bill on indictment at Key West during Nov. term of the U.S. Dist. Ct..

 

 

Charles Tifft

Merchant of Key West

Arrested in Key West Oct. 17, 1861 Charged with  having furnished funds to McKay for the purchase of arms in Havana to be run into a rebel port on board the said steamer.

Dec 6, 1861-From Cmdr. BH Hill, Ft. Taylor to Adj. Gen. Wash.DC.
Released on two $5,000 bonds not to leave Key West due general opinion of him by the public and his character,  suspicions of Ft. Taylor Commander B.H. Hill.

 

 

 

 

 

James McKay Sr   The Capture of the Salvor & McKay's Imprisonment

 

 

 

SOURCES

Saving Fairyland
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Lowry Park/Fairyland History    Herman - King of the Zoo     Safety Village      Fantasia Golf


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