No. 361. [1st Session.
ON THE EXPEDIENCY OF SENDING TWO ADDITIONAL SLOOPS-OP-WAR TO THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA, FOR THE SUPPRESSION OF PIRACY BY THE GREEKS.
COMMUNICATED TO THE SENATE, MARCH 11, 1828.
Senate Chamber, March 11, 1828. Sir: The Committee of Finance have again had under consideration the subject of appropriations for an addition to the naval force in the Mediterranean. They understood from you that none of the smaller sized vessels-of-war were disposable; and the report of the Commissioners of the Naval Board states that it would require two sloops, in addition, to ensure constant convoy from Malta to Smyrna and other ports, and on their return. That force would create an annual expense for stores and incidental expenses of
$-----. The committee did not offer an appropriation in the annual bill, as well because they had not
come to any definite conclusion, as that it might have tended to a delay of that bill. They wish, before they finally decide, to know from you whether, under all the circumstances, additional force is indispensable. They are informed by you that the whole force for the Mediterranean is one ship of the line, one frigate, and three smaller vessels. They submit whether, with officers of such known activity, those three, and occasionally the frigate, could not give ample convoy for such a short distance, provided the three were employed in that service, and that only. They also submit whether an understanding could not be had with the British admiral on that station, for the employment of two British vessels to grant mutual convoy; you will perceive that the committee wish to avoid any additional expenditure unless indispensably necessary. Your early answer will oblige
Your obedient servant, S. SMITH.
Hon. Samuel L. Southard, Secretary of the Navy.
Navy Department, March 17, 1828.
Sir: I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 11th instant, on the subject of applying for an addition to the naval force in the Mediterranean.
Since my last note to you, on the 11th instant, I have received public and private letters, from which I enclose short extracts. You will perceive that they relate to the existing state of piracy there, and contain some speculations as to the future. There is, unquestionably, at this time, much danger to our commerce from piratical depredations. The continuance of the danger will depend very much on the course of the allied squadrons, and the diligence and energy of our own vessels. The situation of the Greeks, both on the continent and the islands, is such as to drive many of them to piracy, and to tempt the unprincipled of other nations to seek and use their flag to cover their depredations. Nothing but the presence of a force which they dread can intimidate and control them.
1 have no peculiar means of judging of the future purposes of the allied squadrons. I infer, however, from the best information which I can procure, that their efforts will not be such as effectually to repress the evil. Our own officers will do all that their power can properly accomplish. Full reliance is placed on their zeal and activity; and renewed instructions on the subject have been given. But the number of our vessels is too small to watch the numerous positions where pirates may resort, and from which they may issue to carry on their work. I do not, therefore, believe that there can be entire safety to our merchant vessels, except by means of convoy. For convoy, the number of our vessels is so small, that the delay in waiting for them, and the danger to be met in reaching their place of rendezvous and departure, would injuriously affect our commercial operations. To entire security from interruption, therefore, an addition is "indispensable."
An understanding for mutual convoy, such as that suggested in your letter, has, in some instances, existed; and, if it be desired, can again be attempted. It will, for many months, however, be unknown and uncertain whether it can be effected; and, in the meantime, uncertainty and anxiety will prevail, and serious losses may be encountered by our merchants. I do not doubt, upon the whole, that it would be a wise and beneficent provision which would enable the Department to send two additional sloops as soon as they could be prepared.
I am, very respectfully, &c,
SAM'L L. SOUTHARD. Hon. Sam'l Smith, Chairman of Committee on Finance, Senate of United States.
Extract of a letter from Captain D. T. Patterson, commander of the U. S. ship Constitution, to Commodore
W. M. Crane, dated—
Smyrna, September 27, 1827.
Herewith I do myself the honor to enclose copy of a letter from Captain Booth, received on the 23d inst., who will, I hope, succeed in recovering the cargo of the Cherub, which vessel, with the brig Rob Roy, of Boston, arrived here on the 23d inst., under convoy of the Porpoise, which vessel I had sent to Milo to look for American vessels, believing from the information received that there would be some there awaiting a convoy, the Lexington having been detained by weather at Tenedos.
The Mystic, mentioned by Captain Booth, foundered while in tow of the Porpoise.
On the 24th, with a fresh northeast wind, the Warren sailed, having under convoy five American brigs; and as I had learnt that suspicious looking vessels had been seen cruising out of sight of land, west
of Mattapan and Cerigo, I directed Captain Kearney to run his convoy one to two hundred miles westward, and not to leave them in a calm or very light airs. As the wind has continued fresh from northeast, he is, no doubt, beyond the Arches. Another convoy of the same number of American vessels, being all now in this port, will sail about the 5th of next month under convoy of the Porpoise, or the Lexington should she arrive; Captain Kearney being directed to relieve Captain Booth after discharging his convoy. Should the cargo of the Cherub not be restored, I shall feel somewhat at a loss what course to adopt. No impression can be made upon Carabusa by the force I have, except by blockade, and that cannot be rendered effectual from the situation of the place; I shall therefore be much tempted to make reprisals.
Extract of a letter from Commodore W. M. Crane, commanding U. S. naval forces in the Mediterranean, to
the Secretary of the Navy, dated—
Port Mahon, December 5, 1827.
I forward copies of communications made to me by Captain Patterson and Lieutenant Cooper, by which it appears that piracy has not lessened in the Archipelago. The officers and crew of the Porpoise have been successful in destroying a number of pirates who had captured one of Lieutenant Cooper's convoy. The severe chastisement they received may render them more cautious for the future. Several of our merchantmen have been robbed, notwithstanding all the vessels of the squadron (except the Java) were left for their protection; and there are numerous cruisers belonging to other nations.
The islands of the Archipelago afford secure retreats and shelter to the pirates, and in calms they make use of fast rowing boats. It is to be hoped that the victory of the allies at Navarino will secure the emancipation of Greece, and induce the people to resort to honest courses.
Extract of a letter from Lieut. Benj. Cooper, commanding U. S. schooner Porpoise, to Commodore Crane,
Mahon, November 19, 1827.
I have also to inform you that on my way down from Smyrna with a convoy, one of them, an English brig, was attacked in the Doro passage, on the night of the 15th October, in a calm, by 200 Greeks. They fired several rounds of musketry into her, when, seeing it, I immediately hoisted out our boats, manned them with 40 men. Lieutenants Goldsborough, Carr and Manning, and Midshipman Wilson, had each a boat. Owing to the darkness of the night, and the noise made by the pirates in towing the brig towards Andros, they did not discover our boats until they got within half pistol shot, when our men gave three cheers and fired into the caiques. They immediately cast off, and two pulled for Negropont and one for Andros. Three of our boats gave chase to the latter and continued firing into her for three-quarters of an hour, within pistol shot. Lieutenant Carr, with one midshipman and four men, finding he could not keep up, returned to the brig and there found forty pirates. They had jumped overboard when our men cheered, in hopes of reaching their boats, but not succeeding, they then attempted to regain possession of the brig. Nearly all these men were put to death by this boat. The affair was conducted by Lieutenant Goldsborough with great judgment, and the officers and men acted with great spirit on the occasion. Notwithstanding the return fire from the Greeks, I am happy to say none of our men were injured. An Englishman was wounded by the Greeks after they boarded, and two days afterwards died on board this vessel.
Three American brigs parted convoy off Scio, and one was robbed of a large part of her cargo; another was abandoned by her captain and crew before a Greek got on board; the third escaped.
Copy of a letter from Master Commandant B. W. Booth to Captain D. T. Patterson, dated—
Milo, September 19, 1827.
Sir: On my arrival here, I fell in with the American brig Cherub, that was captured some few days previous by a piratical vessel between Cerigo and Candia, and carried to the latter place, where the whole of the cargo was taken out by boats employed for that purpose, and landed. In consequence of this circumstance, I have been extremely anxious to proceed without delay off Candia, with the hope of yet recovering some part of the cargo, and of being able to destroy the pirate, as he is said to make that place his rendezvous. I have now to report to you that after having communicated with Lieutenant Commandant Cooper, whom I fell in with off this harbor on my way down, and understanding from him that he had been directed to take under convoy for Smyrna any American vessels bound there, I left the Cherub with directions to wait his return from Napoli de Romania. Meeting, however, with head winds and every appearance of thick weather, I determined to run in again and anchor. I have to congratulate myself that I did so, for the next morning I was informed that there was a suspicious-looking boat in the harbor, offering sugar, coffee, and other articles for sale. I immediately ordered her to be boarded and overhauled, and found, as you will perceive by the enclosed papers, that the principal part of the cargo consisted of the identical goods which had been taken from the Cherub. That claimed to be American, together with as many of the crew as we were enabled to apprehend, I have taken on board this ship. The vessel, with the articles not claimed to be American property, with the exception of the arms and ammunition I found on board, I send with the Cherub to await your disposal.
Extract of a letter from Master Commandant Benj. W. Booth, commanding the U. S. ship Lexington, to the
Honorable Secretary of the Navy, dated—
Smyrna, December 11, 1827. The frigate Constitution, Captain Patterson, sailed on the 17th. ultimo for Port Mahon, where he expected to join the commodore, leaving me orders to remain in the Levant, with this ship and the Warren, for the protection of our commerce during the winter, which duty we have been previously engaged in for several months past, and notwithstanding the greatest vigilance, I regret to say, owing to the increased number of pirates, many vessels have been robbed of valuable cargoes.
Extract from the official report of the cruise of the United States ship Warren, under command of MasterCommandant Lawrence Kearney.
September 25. Sailed with a convoy of American vessels from Smyrna, which we separated from on. the 28th, two hundred miles westward of Cerigo.
October 4. Off Carabusa captured a piratical boat with fourteen men and one boy. Same day captured a brig under the Greek flag, pierced for sixteen guns, bound into Carabusa.
Prom October 4 to 24. Cruising from Cape Matapan to Carabusa, touching at Milo for convoy occasionally.
October 25. Off Milo; heard of the robbery of American brigs Rob Roy and Cherub. Same day chased a piratical ten-gun brig belonging to Carabusa and sunk her at the Island of Argenteire, crew making their escape into the mountains. Cut away her masts, and stripping them of sails and rigging left her under water.
October 28. At Syra found the Cherub and took possession of her. That evening the U. S. ship Lexington, under the command of Lieutenant Breese, arrived, (Captain Booth being sick in Smyrna;) assumed the duties pointed out in the instructions of Captain Patterson, addressed to Captain Booth, and. shown me by Lieutenant Breese; proceeded to Miconi, leaving the Cherub in possession of the Lexington. On the 29th, between Tino and Miconi, fell in with the Austrian brig Silence, robbed of everything; towed her into Syra and left her in charge of the Lexington.
October 30 and 31. Cruising round Miconi captured a large tratta (a piratical boat), capable of rowing forty oars.
November 1. Came to in the harbor of Miconi, and on this and the succeeding day recovered some sails and property taken from the Cherub, and two cases of opium taken from the Rob Roy, also the sails and rigging of the brig Silence, before mentioned. Four men were brought off by the inhabitants and one taken by us in the mountains, accused of piracy. Took possession of a boat belonging to the pirates living in this town, which we afterwards burnt.
November 7. Returned to Syra, and restored the plunder belonging to the Cherub, and the sails and rigging of the Austrian brig Silence. The Lexington and Cherub sailed for Smyrna. Same evening got under way, and sent the boats under Lieut. Hudson round Andros.
November 9. Boats returned, bringing off one piratical boat, and having burnt another in a small bay near the south end of Andros.
Until November 14. Cruising round Jura and Andros; the people of Andros sent off a boat, said to belong to pirates; found on board of her a twelve-pound carronade, and tools with "B. Cherub" marked on the handles; this boat is one of those which robbed the Cherub.
November 18. Arrived at Milo, and on the 27th the American brig Sarah and Esther arrived from Boston.
November 30. Got under way with the Sarah and Esther, and six other vessels, for Smyrna. December 6. Arrived at Smyrna.
Extract of a private letter, dated—
Smyrna, December 12, 1827.
The system of piracy here is as well established as any other system or any other pursuit.
Piracy has "Egina," the present seat of the Greek government, for its fountain head. Here, under the authority of a personage who signs himself secretary, or clerk, a great number of commissions are issued to brigs, schooners, and small boats, or anything which presents the price of the signature into his hands. Since, however, the destruction of the Turkish fleet, the allied powers have ordered the commissions to be called in and canceled. It, therefore, must reasonably be expected that the great number of Greek sailors who will be thrown by this measure suddenly out of employ and deprived of that commission which has so long legalized their acts of piracy, will now assume the undisguised character of pirates in smaller vessels, in the boats which can with impunity commit depredations, as experience daily informs us.
Syra is one of the principal places of deposit for plunder—a great deal of which is sold openly in the market; from thence it goes to Egina, under the Greek, or Ionian flag; and some, under the latter, goes even to Smyrna, where I have traced the principal pirate agent of Andros.
Each of these Greek isles have a man or two of this kind, an agent, or consul as they sometimes are termed, who owns the pirate boats and disposes of the plunder, holding forth encouragement to the poor Greeks they employ.
How far this system will be carried, it is impossible to conjecture. Cruisers from Carabusa, a piratical place at the west end of Candia, have extended their trespasses to Sicily, and next summer I have no doubt the Greek pirate will be seen off the rock of Gibraltar, if success does not attend him before reaching that distant point.