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Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/63

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Jefferson Davis, Privateer. 55

capturing the ship Crawford and burning her, after having taken aboard the crew of twenty- two persons.

The career of the Davis was ended off the coast of Florida on August 16, when, as the ship was making an effort to sail into the port of St. Augustine, she struck. A small boat was sent ashore for help and the prisoners were landed, and the Confederate officers were greeted by the citizens of St. Augustine with the most enthu- siastic demonstrations, the ladies throwing open their houses and giving them reception after reception, sumptuously providing for them and affording them every comfort possible.

During the voyage of the Davis a conspiracy existed among the prisoners and a portion of the crew to kill the commander and to take the vessel into New York. After the return of the privateer to Confederate shores, the conspiracy was disclosed, and, upon the arrival at Charleston, the suspected ones were arrested and given a trial, only one of the men proving to be guilty of the charge.

Wallace Smith, and three others of the crew of the Davis, who were captured by the Federals, were convicted in the United States Circuit Court at Philadelphia upon an indictment of piracy. A message was then sent to the government at Washington by the Confederate government that if the seamen were executed, the Con- federate authorities would likewise execute several prominent pris- oners of war then in the hands of the Confederates, and the lives of the seamen were thus saved.

The career of the Jefferson Davis reads like romance when the very interesting details of captures are told by those who remember when the Davis was as much feared along the Atlantic coast as the Alabama was a terror in other waters. Captain Coxeter, of the Jefferson Davis, after the wreck of his vessel, went into the block- ade-running service and commanded the steamers Autonica and Beauregard. In his last trip to Charleston, in command of the Beauregard, he was fired at fifteen times by the Federal blockaders. He was very successful in the service, but, owing to ill-health, was compelled to resign.