Melinda R., age unknown, North Carolina


Wednesday night soon after tea we were alarmed by the cry of fire we felt rather excited after hearing of the big fire in Charleston. It was a very small fire but in a dangerous place arsenal grounds. The papers are filled with the most on the Mason & Tlidell case. They were two ambassadors sent out by the Southern Confederacy with dispatches to England. They took passage with their families on the British mail steamer went & sailed from Havana on the 7th on the 8th when in the passage of the old Bahama channel they saw a vessel coming towards them, it fired a shot across the Trents bow & showed the United States colors. This was contrary to all acknowledged law as when a vessel wishes another to stop it is customary to fire a blank cartridge. A boat containing two officers & about twenty men armed with muskets, pistols and cutlasses then shoved off towards the Trent boarded it and demanded of the Captain, Capt Moir a list of the passengers which he refused to give. The officers commanding the boat stated that the frigate was the San Sacinto of which he was the first lieutenant and that they had received positive intelligence that there were certain passengers on board whom they would take. This was refused and then the Lieut called out the names of the commissioners Messrs Slidell & Mason & their secretaries McFarland & Eustice, he said these were the persons he wanted & that he would take them at all hazards. The four gentlemen were standing near & requested to know what he wanted with them he said he wished to take them on board the Federal Man of War they replied if he did he would have it to do by force & turning to Capt Moir Mr Tlidell said, “We claim the protection of the British Flag.” When the Captain again refused to give up the passengers the lieutenant said he would take charge of the ship. Commander Williams Royal Navy then spoke as follows: “In this ship I am the representative of her Majesty’s Government & I call upon the officers of the ship, & the passengers generally to mark my words, when in the name of that government, & in distinct language, I denounce this as an illegal act an act in violation of international law – an act, indeed, of wanton privacy which, had one the means of defense, you would not dare to attempt.” Mr Tlidell told the Captain as the boat shoved off that he would expect his government to resent this outrage & called on him to represent the case clearly. All the passengers on the Trent were indignant at the outrage. Mr Tlidell said as he took leave of his family on board the Trent, “It is true I may suffer great personal inconvenience, but thank God, it is the best thing that could happen for my country,” & it is indeed the best thing that could happen. England is justly indignant because of this gross insult & has formally demanded of the Federal government the surrender of Messrs Tlidell and Mason which has been refused & now of course England will be obliged to declare war against the Federal Government & that will be the very thing for the Southern Confederacy. They will be obliged to make peace when they have England & us both to contend with.  *(Diary: Melinda Ray, 1861-1865, North Carolina State Archives)