The “Trent Affair,” Birth Of The United Canada’s Active Militia Battalions, 1861-62.

On the Outbreak of civil war in America, Queen Victoria on May 12th proclaimed British neutrality, the Confederacy recognized as, “belligerent power” nor a sovereign government, continuing diplomatic relations with the Union Government. President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis saw a need for diplomats in France and Briton, negotiation in diplomatic recognition as financial support from these nations, in the name of King Cotton. In August 1861 William L. Yancey a defender of slavery submitted his resignation as Commissioner while in Briton, frustrated in his attempts with British foreign secretary Lord John Russell’s refusal, acknowledging from dialogue and British press, the question of slavery was the South’s primary obstacle, to diplomatic recognition. Davis appointed Mason and Slidell as envoys realizing independence would materialize if Briton declared war on the Union and recognized the Confederacy.

Treasury officer George Harrington cautioned Secretary of State William Seward concerning Wilkes demeanour: “He will give us trouble. He has a superabundance of self-esteem and a deficiency of judgment. When he commanded his great exploring mission he court-martial nearly all his officers; he alone was right, everybody else was wrong.” Even though recognised as “a naval officer, distinguished explorer and author,” Historian Dean B. Mahin, One War at A Time; p. 59, characterises Wilkes, “had a reputation as a stubborn, overzealous, impulsive, and sometimes insubordinate officer.” Captain Wilkes, was ordered to relieve Captain Dornin at Fernando Po arriving in August assuming command of the San Jacinto.

The Trent Conspiracy; you have your status quo Anglo-American sided accounts of the Trent or known as Mason-Slidell Affair. However for over a century some academics, historians argued “the seizure of the Commissioners on the Trent was orchestrated by Mason, Slidell and Wilks hidden agenda.” Military historian Russell F. Weigley suggested “The Confederate government may have intended the Mason-Slidell mission as a trap to bring the United States and Great Britain to war. The itinerary of the two emissaries was suspiciously well advertised. At Havana, they fraternized and dined with the officers of the San Jacinto, again publicizing their departure plans. On board the Trent, Slidell appeared unduly eager to become a captive.”

The departure of both Southern envoys to England was no well kept secret, published in newspapers, while Union received daily intelligence on their whereabouts. In two accounts Captain Wilks informed on location as schedules of emissaries Mason, Slidell from local newspapers. The Union government issued seizure warrants for both, by October 1st while in, South Carolina aware of the issued warrants against them discarded their original plan sailing on the CSS Nashville directly to Britain run the blocked enforced by five Union warships at Charleston.

The Diary of Edward Bates, pp. 213-214 for December 25, 1861, a draft of answer by the Secretary of State, was read in a cabinet meeting as fallows:— Gen’l Cameron said that his Assistant Mr. Scott had rec’d a letter from Mr. Smith (our agent in England for bringing soldiers’ to the effect – i.e. that Mr. Smith had rec’d information from respectable sources in London, that Commander Williams, the British mail agent on board the Trent, had declared that the whole matter, and measures of the capture had been arranged at Havanna by the Commissioners, Slidell and Mason themselves, and our Capt Wilkes’. This might seem incredible, if it stood alone, but that something of the sort was variously reported and believed, in well informed circles in England, is a fact, shown by other corroborative facts. For during the session, Senator Sumner (who as chairman of the Committee of Foreign relations) was invited in, to read some letters which he had just rec’d from England – from the two celebrated M. Ps. John Bright and Richard Cobden – One of those letters – Bright’s I think – states, as news of the day, that at Havanna sic Slidell and Mason dined with Capt Wilkes on Board his ship San Jacinto and then and there arranged for the capture, just as it was, in fact, done!… I must doubt the truth of this statement in as much as it seriously implicates Capt. Wilkes.

Charles M. Hubbard; The Burden of Confederate Diplomacy, p.64-65, argues “au contrere!” Some historians have suggested the possibility of a Confederate conspiracy to create a diplomatic incident with the potential to produce war between Great Britain and the United States. This argument is supported by the publicity in Southern newspapers before the departure of Mason and Slidell, combined with their statements after their capture. [72] There is no evidence contained in the Confederate diplomatic papers and archives that supports the idea of intrigue. Indeed, the theory of conspiracy is easily refuted by the actual course of events. The decisions to change from a Confederate ship to a blockade runner, a subsequently to a British ship, were made spontaneously well after the Confederates arrived in Charleston. In addition, it is clear from his communications to his wife that Mason felt secure aboard the British ship Trent. [73] Moreover, it is unlikely that Slidell would have put his family in harms way to carry out such an intrigue. The idea of a Confederate conspiracy, while interesting and certainly supported by reasonable circumstantial evidence, must remain, at best, a speculation.”


  Trent Affair 1961-62


WE devote this page to illustrations of the capture of the rebel Commissioners, MASON and SLIDELL, who were arrested on 8th inst. on board the British mail steamer Trent, in the Bahamas Channel, by Commodore Wilkes of the United States sloop of war San Jacinto. The transaction was thus described by Captain Taylor, the bearer of dispatches from Commodore Wilkes:

The San Jacinto arrived at New York with the rebel prisoners on 18th inst., but was ordered forthwith to Boston : Mason and Slidell are to be confined in Fort Warren with the other prisoners of war. The event has created no little commotion, especially in British circles; for the first time in history the English are complaining of an “outrage on their flag.” It seems, however, that the arrest of the rebel Commissioners was fully justified in international law, and that Commodore Wilkes would even have been justified in taking the Trent, and bringing her into the harbor of New York as a prize, for carrying rebel officers and dispatches. Harper’s Weekly; Nov. 30th 1861. p.765.

Trent Affair Rebel Commissioners

According to Captain E. J. Chambers; the “Trent” excitement in the years 1861 and 1862 had an important and beneficial effect upon the active militia, “the menaces of invasion” arousing the military spirit of the whole Canadian people and stimulating the energies of the newly organized defensive force. Many of the existing organizations of the active militia trace their existence to those stirring months.[1] Canadian historian Terry Copp wrote in “The Brigade: The Fifth Canadian Infantry Brigade in World War II.” “The rise of American military strength during the Civil War concerned Canada. The government authorized formation of militia regiments. In lineage of the Black Watch RHC; each of six Montreal Scottish chieftains responded by raising an infantry company for the 5th Battalion. Eventually, eight companies were raised.”[2]

While Ernest Chambers suggests, the defence force authorised in the “Trent Affair,” owing America was in preparation of invading Canada, more like Briton and Canada were going to invade, attack America. With the outmost respect to historian Terry Copp: World War II or WW II is American terminology considered bad-form, when describing Canadian or British Commonwealth Second World War Accounts, let’s not be too American. I would gingerly suggest a refresher course, on the American Civil War & “Trent Affair,” or aka “the Mason and Slidell Affair,” a diplomatic incident seven bloody months after the start of war, involving the doctrine “freedom of the seas,” violated. The Civil war erupted on April, 12th 1861, when Confederate forces fired the first shots of aggression. The Northern Press and Union elite promised a quick victory and collapse of the South, in which the masses believed. President Lincoln in his message to Congress on July 4, 1861, the President wrote: “On the side of the Union, it is a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men – to lift artificial weights from all shoulders – to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all – to afford all, an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life.” General Lee commanding a smaller force defeated the Union in several engagements, most notable the battle of Bull Run, July 21st, 1861. The North won no major battles in 1861, Union warships sunk, or damaged awaiting repair in dry dock shipyards, President Abraham Lincoln with his top advisors didn’t want a rift in “Anglo-American relations” owing “a military conflict would sink his country in disaster,” considering they had more pressing issues, “Lee, Stonewall Jackson and A.S. Johnston;” as “for the rise in military strength in a civil war,” I certainly think not. Ending 1861 saw high casualties for the “North” reorganising of their forces at a great cost too their coffers in preparation for an offensive against the “Confederacy” in early 1862. Britannia’s government, even though neutral supported, pocketed generously from the Confederacy, during the civil war. The British shopkeepers built two warships for the “South” while operating a majority of “blockade runners,” spending hundreds of millions of pounds. Eventual the “Alabama Claims,” post war in arbitration, the United States was compensated $15.5 million by an international tribunal for damages inflicted by British built warships included (blockade runners). The Union Government during the war made no fuss with the British according too many accounts, even though some voiced war should be declared on Briton, due to fear, war mongering from newspapers, profiteers, etc.

The RMS Trent a British Royal mail and passenger “sail wheelpaddle steamer,” Captained by James Moir was intercepted by Captain Charles Wilks on the helm of USS San Jacinto a war sail paddle steamer “screw frigate,” on Nov. 8th 1861. Unaware to Union Naval H.Q., Government, Wilks without authority or colours, waited at the narrow passage in Bahama Channel. The Trent took notice, approached weary in caution, hoisted her British colours and within 200 meters of reaching the US warship, responded by firing one cannon shot across the Trent’s bow in persuasion to be hove to, however the Trent ignored. USS San Jacinto fired a second shot from the pivot gun, landing in front bow forcing the British packet steamer to leeward. Captain Moir, of the Trent, signalled the Union warship’s captain, replying he wished to board the Trent.

(In Fairfax p.136-137): Lieutenant Fairfax was summoned to the quarterdeck, where Wilkes presented him with the following written instructions:

  • On boarding her you will demand the papers of the steamer, her clearance from Havana, with the list of passengers and crew.
  • Should Mr. Mason, Mr. Slidell, Mr. Eustice [sic] and Mr. McFarland be on board make them prisoners and send them on board this ship and take possession of her [the Trent] as a prize. … They must be brought on board.
  • All trunks, cases, packages and bags belonging to them you will take possession of and send on board this ship; any dispatches found on the persons of the prisoners, or in possession of those on board the steamer, will be taken possession of, examined, and retained if necessary.”

Wilkes later claimed he believed that the Trent was carrying “highly important dispatches and were endowed with instructions inimical to the United States.”

Captain Wilks ordered lieut. Fairfax, Macneil, to assemble a detail boarding the Trent, seize James M. Mason and John Slidell with their secretaries, placed under arrest as prisoners of war under “contraband.” Fairfax felt caution in seizing the Trent, due a British mail “R.M. Packet. Co., steamer” not a blockade-runner.” (In Ferris p.23-24. & Fairfax p.137-139): Fairfax, believed Wilkes was stirring an international incident, ordered the armed escort to remain in the cutter. Fairfax Boarded, hastily escorted to Captain Moir voicing his outraged, Faifax announced he had orders “to arrest Mr. Mason and Mr. Slidell and their secretaries, and send them prisoners on board the United States war vessel nearby.” “Captain Wilks, of the United States steamship San Jacinto, received information that Messrs. Slidell, Mason, M’Farland and Eustace, were among the passengers, and required that they should be given up to him.” Captain Moir as Captain Williams, Naval officer in charge of the mailer with commissioners refused to comply stating; they were sailing under protection of the British flag. The crew and passengers, threatened Lieutenant Fairfax, and the armed party in the two cutters beside the Trent, responded by climbing aboard with Cutlasses drawn. Captain Moir refused Fairfax’s request for a passenger list, however Slidell and Mason came forward and identified themselves. Moir refused to allow a search of the vessel for contraband, and Fairfax failed to force the issue which would have required seizing the ship as a prize, arguably an act of war. Mason and Slidell made a formal refusal to go voluntarily with Fairfax, but didn’t resist when Fairfax’s crewmen arrested the commissioners and secretaries removing them, with their luggage from the ship, under critical protest by Commander Williams against act committed by the USS San Jacinto, Captain and crew.

The USS San Jacinto arrived at New York with prisoners on 18th, Captain Wilks announcing to naval authority and press, of the seizer, boarding of the Trent and capture of confederate commissioners. However, immediately ordered to Fort Warren at Boston, where the prisoners would be held with other POW’s. At the arrival in Boston, the news of the Confederate prisoners quickly spread throughout the city and rural areas; Bostonians “gave him a great banquet, bombarding him with oratory.” Once news reached the Northern population, public opinion enthusiastically applauded Wilks actions “a Victory” Newspapers feed the jubilant frenzy, while Navy Secretary Gideon Welles proclaimed Captain Wilkes a hero perpetuated by a resolution passed in the U.S. House of Representatives with commendation, awarding the Captain a gold medal for seizing the Confederate Commissioners. Lincoln’s cabinet, including Secretary Seward, in the press publicly supported Wilks action. Abraham Lincoln issued no public statements on the boarding and seizure of the envoys, immediately realizing Wilks action was in violation of international law. U.S. Navy Secretary G. Welles voiced his regrets to Union officials and press; “that the Trent was not captured, and an under-current of apprehension that things will not be taken quite so quietly in England.” The Union Secretary quickly proven wrong when on the 27th news of the arrests, boarding of the Trent reached London with haste, on the 30th sent an ultimatum to America. Dec. 4th London ordered mobilisation organizing the first reinforcements boarding the Melbourne, in her manifesto a vast amount of munitions and rifles which were in dire need in the “United Canada’s.” On Dec. 9th British Government authorized 25,000 troops to Halifax, Canada, while all available steamer warships in the Mediterranean fleet ordered to set sail towards North America. The British dispatched troops from England, weapons, munitions, accruements over the pond on the 20th Williams issued General Militia Order No.1., allotted a force circa 40,000 men, within 14 days of orders ready to embark. Throughout Canada with only two active militia battalions and 7,000 Enfield rifles at their disposable the government authorized four battalions organized at Montreal. The old sedentary battalions were re-raised, in 1862 providing a force in preparation to invade and attack America, if ample apologies for “outrage on the British flag,” immediate release of Mason, Slidell with their secretaries.

The British ultimatum unbeknown to the British Government and public was delayed reaching America weeks later, on December 25th presented to Lincoln’s cabinet during a four hour session. “The instructions of the British Minister to Lord Lyons were read. They are sufficiently peremptory, and without being very specific as to the precise elements of the wrong done, the “affront to the British flag,” the point on which the British confidently claim that the law of Nations was broken by us, is that Capt Wilkes did not bring in the Trent, the Steamer for adjudication, so that the matter might be judged by a prize court, and not by the Capt, on his quarter deck.”

  • Diary of Orville H. Browning, Volume I, pp. 516-517: On December 23, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner wrote English politician John Bright: “The President himself will apply his own mind carefully to every word of the answer, so that it will be essentially his; & he hopes for peace.”
  • Historian Burton J. Hendrick wrote: The Selected Letters of Charles Sumner, Volume II, p.87: (Letter from Charles Sumner to John Bright, December 23, 1861). “As chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Sumner had considerable claims to Lincoln’s confidence, and spent a part of nearly every day with him discussing the Trent question. Sumner saw clearly the issues involved. From the first he was for a peaceful settlement, not only because England has justice on its side, but because he knew that a military conflict would sink his country in disaster.”

The saber rattling subsides within a few months as the Confederate commissioners and secretaries were released, however without apology from the Union Government, on Dec 29. (In Ferris, pp. 32–33. Jones, p. 83. Jones wrote): “The seizure of these two Southerners in particular drew a triumphant response. Mason had been a principle (sic) advocate of the hated Fugitive Slave Law and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and Slidell had earned a reputation as one of the most dedicated secessionists in Congress.” Charles Francis Adams Jr., p. 541: Charles Francis Adams Jr., son of the U. S. Minister to Great Britain, wrote, “Probably no two men in the entire South were more thoroughly obnoxious to those of the Union side than Mason and Slidell.”

In hindsight British Canadians of high stature during 1861-65, favoured the South, while public opinion supported the Union. The status quo in immigration, large scale trade on American grain shipped over the pond to Briton, in return sent munitions, manufactured goods, without incidents throughout the civil war. British traded with the Confederacy in comparison, at a snails crawl with small shipments in cotton, and munitions provided by the blockade runners. Therefore when researching from books or other formats, I’ve learnt to scrutinise even if their world renowned historians. Edgar Allan Poe; “Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear.”

Civil War Harper's Weekly, Published November 23, 1861. Artist Justin Howard

Civil War Harper’s Weekly, Published November 23, 1861. Artist Justin Howard.

“It is understood that Messrs. SLIDELL and MASON are empowered to pledge CERTAIN SOUTHERN INTERESTS to Great Britain and France on condition of their establishing a Protectorate over the Southern Confederacy.”–Daily Paper.

“In the featured cartoon, Slidell (left) and Mason (right) appear as thieves who have brought their loot to a pawnshop. They carry cotton bales, slaves, Southern “chivalry,” and the boots and spurs of Confederate President Jefferson Davis to pawnbrokers John Bull (left, symbolizing Britain) and Emperor Napoleon III (right, representing France). In the left-background, Uncle Sam is a policeman ready to arrest the Confederate lawbreakers, who had sailed from Charleston, South Carolina, through the Union’s proclaimed blockade of Confederate ports. After reaching Havana, Cuba, on November 7, the two men had boarded a British vessel, the Trent and set sail for Europe.

By Robert C. Kennedy

The American Civil War; between 33,000 and 55,000 men from British North America enlisted in the war, almost all of them fighting for Union forces. The conservative press in Canada East, supported the secession and ridiculed the Yankees as lacking in morality. French Canadians in particular were very highly sympathetic to the Confederacy in the Southern U.S.[3] There was talk in London in 1861–62 of mediating the war or recognising the Confederacy. Washington warned this meant war, and London feared Canada would quickly be seised.[4] In November 1861 tensions escalated between Washington and London when an American warship stopped the British mail ship RMS Trent on the high seas and seized two Confederate diplomats. London demanded their return and an apology, and to signal its intention to defend its possessions sent 14,000 combat troops to Canada, while the colonials planned to raise 40,000 militia. The crisis ended when President Abraham Lincoln released the diplomats; he did not issue an apology. The British decided that colonial union was now a high priority, as it would relieve London of the need to defend Canada.[5] Lyons was summoned to Seward’s office on December 27 and presented with the response. Focusing on the release of the prisoners rather than Seward’s stated analysis of the situation, Lyons forwarded the message and decided to remain in Washington until further instructions were received. The news of the release was published by December 29th and the public response was generally positive. Among those opposed to the decision was Wilkes who characterized it “as a craven yielding and an abandonment of all the good … done by [their] capture.[6] Mason and Slidell were released from Fort Warren and boarded the Royal Navy screw sloop HMS Rinaldo at Provincetown, Massachusetts. The Rinaldo took them to St. Thomas; on January 14th, they left on the British mail packet La Plata bound for Southampton. The news of their release reached Britain on January 8th. The British accepted the news as a diplomatic victory. Palmerston noted that Seward’s response contained “many doctrines of international law” contrary to the British interpretation, and Russell wrote a detailed response to Seward contesting his legal interpretations, but, in fact, the crisis was over.[7]

 In dispatch dated January 11th, Lord Russell has the satisfaction of announcing to our Minister at Washington- who is thanked for the “discretion and good temper” he has manifested in this important matter—that the liberation of the prisoners and the explanation offered by Mr. Seward “constituted the reparation which her Majesty and the British nation had a right to expect.” His Excellency was, however, informed that her Majesty’s Government could not assent to the conclusions arrived at by the Federal Secretary of State on some points of international law, and that the discussion of these questions would form the subject of a special despatch. “In the meantime,” adds Lord Russel, “it will be desirable that the commanders of the United States’ cruisers should be instructed not to repeat acts for which the British Government will have to ask for redress and which the United States Government cannot undertake to justify.”

“Policeman Wilkes,” from Harper’s Weekly, published Nov. 30, 1861. p. 768, v. 5.

“Policeman Wilkes,” from Harper’s Weekly, published Nov. 30, 1861. p. 768, v. 5.

“Policeman Wilkes, noticing…that the well-known rouges, Mason and Slidell, were about to pawn some of their late Employer’s property at Messrs. Bull, Crapaud & Co.’s shop, kept….look-out…and nabbed them in the nick of time.”

Wiki, online, even though critical, provides detailed accounts, footnotes etc., which hold’s water. Owing too discrepancies, contradictions from historians/authors point of views, written in a one-sided perspective, at times adding their personal touch, while secondary sourcing, confusion sets in especially considering the “Trent Conspiracy.” The London & New York Times, The Illustrated London News with other news press archives provides a prime source, historical documented account of the Trent Affair in 1861-62, as it unfolded. Times views, were critically scrutinized by other American, British newspapers, elite, etc. Newspaper extracts; Britain, Canada, and America accounts, with Intelligence reports from 1861-62, exposing a two sided perspective to the traditional literary narrative of events, without author’s touch. Providing indicative first hand accounts allowing readers, facts recorded, while referencing historian footnotes, in conclusion providing a sense of credence too inaccuracies. The timeline reveals the manner events cascaded into hostile verbal arrogant posturing, calls of war by portions of British and Americas. The reader will uncover difference on accounts from the press of the day, using their narrative, even though not accurate, just too sell papers. As the stormy seas dwindled into a simple statement by the American Government, the prisoners were realised, Wilks acted without authority, mutual understanding due to peaceful diplomacy, cooler heads prevailed and the British accepted the explanation of events. By enlarge one can say the mongering by British, Canadian, American press influenced agitated fickle public opinion, feeding the masse frenzy into a state of war. In hindsight, the Trent crisis once the sea subsided, America and British relations were strengthen.


  1. Capt. E. J. Chambers; The Canadian Militia p.65.
  2. Terry Copp (31 October 2007). The Brigade: The Fifth Canadian Infantry Brigade in World War II. p.11.
  3. Jones, Preston. “Civil War, Culture War: French Quebec and the American War between the States” (2001).
  4. Bourne (1961).
  5. Morton (1964) 102-3.
  6. Ferris, pp. 188–191.
  7. Ferris, pp. 192–196.


Trent Affair


Newspaper Extracts Timeline: The London & N.Y. Times, Illustrated London News, Birmingham Daily Post, M. Guardian, Globe, Intelligence Reports, etc., 1861-62.

New York, Nov, 23, Evening.— President Davis delivered message to the Confederate Congress.— That Messrs. Slidell and Mason, Commissioners appointed to represent the Confederacy abroad, had been seized while under the protection and within the dominion of a neutral nation, and says:—“The claim of the United States to seize them in the streets of London would have been as well founded as the seizure on board the Trent. The Confederates asked no aid from foreign-powers but perhaps had a right to inquire if the European doctrine that the blockade to be binding must be effective, was to be generally applied, or only in particular cases. Evidence will be laid before the European Governments of the total inefficiency of the blockade.”

Times Thursday 28 November 1861: SEIZURE OF THE WEST INDIA MAIL BY AN AMERICAN FRIGATE. — SOUTHAMPTON, Wednesday.— By the arrival here this morning of the West India mail steamer La Plata, Captain Weller, most important intelligence has been received, involving questions affecting the relations existing between this country and the Federal Government of America. The mail steamer Trent, Captain Moir, was intercepted by the American steamer San Jacinto, commanded by Captain Wilks, while on her passage from Havannah to St. Thomas, and under force of arms the accredited Commissioners to Europe from the Southern Confederacy, Messrs. Mason and Slidell, were taken prisoners, and forcibly removed from the Trent to the San Jacinto. This act was committed in defiance of the joint remonstrances of the Commissioners, Captain Moir, and Commander Williams, the naval officer in charge of the mails on board the Trent.

The San Jacinto is a first-class steam sloop of war, of 1,446 tons, and carrying 13 guns. She was refitted at this port in the year 1854.

It appears from the statements which we have received that the San Jacinto, Captain Wilks, arrived at Havannah on or about the 2d of November, from the Coast of Africa, bound to New York. She coaled and sailed again on the 4th inst. At this time it was well known at Havannah that Messrs. Mason and Slidell, with their suites, were at that place, having arrived there in the steamer Theodora, which vessel ran the blockade at Charleston, These gentlemen had not kept their presence a secret, as from the moment of their landing at Havannah they were unquestionably under the protection of the Spanish flag. Passages to Southampton were booked for them by the British Royal Mail steamer which was to sail from Havannah for St. Thomas on the 7th inst., on which day they duly embarked on board the Trent as follows:-

Mr. Slidell, accredited Commissioner from the Confederate States to France, accompanied by his wife, son, and three daughters. Mr. Mason, accredited Commissioner from the Confederate States to England. Mr. Eustis, secretary to Mr. Slidell, accompanied by his wife. Mr. M’Farland, secretary to Mr. Mason.

The Trent sailed from Havannah at 8 o’clock on the morning of the 7th, and nothing occurred worthy of notice till about noon on the 8th, when, in the narrow passage of the old Bahama Channel, opposite the Paradon Grande lighthouse, a steamer was observed ahead, apparently waiting, but showing no colours. On approaching her, Captain Moir, of the Trent, hoisted the British ensign, which met with no response until the two vessels were within about a furlong of each other, when the stranger fired a shot across the Trent’s bow, and hoisted the American flag. This proceeding was quite contrary to all acknowledged law, as when a vessel of war wishes another vessel to stop it is customary to fire first a blank cartridge. The Trent was still holding on her way, when a shell was fired from a long pivot gun on the American’s deck forward, which burst about 100 yards from the Trent’s bow. Captain Moir immediately stopped the Trent, as the American had her broadside of guns run out, and men at quarters ready to fire. Captain Moir then hailed her, and the American captain replied that he wished to send a boat onboard. A boat, containing two officers and about 20 men, armed with muskets, pistols, and cutlasses, then shoved off and boarded the Trent, and demanded a list of the passengers, which the captain refused to give. The officer commanding the boat stated that the name of the frigate was the “San Jacinto,” of which he was the first lieutenant, and further that they had received most positive information that certain passengers were on board, whom he would take out. This was also refused. Commander Williams, R.N., the naval agent in charge of Her Majesty’s mails, with Captain Moir, positively objected to their being taken, denying their right to take any person whatever from under the English flag.

The lieutenant then called out the names of the before-mentioned Commissioners and secretaries, and said that those were the persons he sought, and that he would take them at all hazards. The four gentlemen, who were standing near, answered to their names, and requested to know what was wanted of them. The lieutenant stated that he wished to take them on board the man-of-war, to which they replied that they would not go until they were taken by force, and, turning to Captain Moir, Mr. Slidell said, “We claim the protection of the British flag.” On the captain’s again refusing to give up the passengers, the lieutenant said he should take charge of the ship. Commander Williams, R.N., then spoke as follows, – viz., “In this ship I am the representative of Her Majesty’s Government, and I call upon the officers of the ship and the passengers generally to mark my words when, in the name of that Government, and in distinct language, I denounce this as an illegal act – an act in violation of international law – an act, indeed, of wanton piracy, which, had we the means of defence, you would not dare to attempt.” The lieutenant then beckoned to the frigate, and three boats, containing 30 marines and about 60 sailors, officered and heavily armed, came alongside. The men at once leaped on deck, sword in hand. After some more parleying Messrs. Slidell, Mason, Eustis, and M’Farland were taken and forced into the boat. The American went back to the cabins and took possession of the baggage, and sent it with their prisoners on board the San Jacinto. Mr. Slidell said, as the boat shoved off, that he expected redress from the British Government for this outrage while under the protection of its flag, and called upon the English captain to represent the case properly. The lieutenant stopped on board, having ordered the boat to return. He then stated that he had orders to take Captain Moir and his papers on board the San Jacinto, and that the Trent was to be moved nearer. Captain Moir replied, “You will find me on my quarter deck; if you want me, you will have to come there for me,” and he immediately walked on deck.

The lieutenant, however, went into one of the boats, and told Captain Moir that he could proceed. The boat pulled for the San Jacinto, and the Trent steamed ahead for St. Thomas.

The indignation felt on board the Trent by every person, of whatever nation, can better be imagined than described. A considerable number of foreigners of different nations were among the passengers, and it is affirmed that every man would have fought if called upon to do so; but, with such an opposing force, and the unarmed condition of the Trent, it was deemed impossible to make any defence.

The officers of the San Jacinto asked for provisions to maintain the prisoners, as they stated that they were short of stores. Captain Moir told the four gentlemen that at their request he would supply what was needed, and they having expressed a wish that he should do so, all the necessaries were supplied.

The despatches of the Confederate Emissaries escaped the vigilance of the boarding officers, and they have all arrived safely here per La Plata.

The families of Mr. Slidell and of Mr. Eustis were urged by the first lieutenant of the San Jacinto to accompany them, but, being informed on inquiry that it was probable they would be separated from them on their arrival at New York, they declined the offer, and have arrived in the Plata. On the arrival of the steamer in the dock the whole of the party went on board the Nashville, which is now lying near the entrance of the graving dock, where they were received with every attention and kindness, and left for London by the 3 o’clock train. One of the gentlemen of the party has the despatches in his possession, which he, of course, keeps in close custody till his arrival in London.

Besides the mails and a large quantity of passengers, the Trent had a large amount of specie on board from Mexico for England, as well as a very valuable cargo of general merchandise.

It is stated by the friends of Messrs. Slidell and Mason, who have come home, that the lieutenant of the San Jacinto said this was the most painful act he had ever been called upon to perform, but he was compelled to do it, acting under orders.

THE AMERICAN OUTRAGE ON OUR FLAG.— MANCHESTER, Nov. 28.— On the news reaching here yesterday afternoon that the Americans had stopped an English mail steamer and taken the Confederate Commissioners from on board there was a strong feeling of indignation expressed, especially among gentlemen meeting on the Exchange. This feeling had not undergone much abatement this morning; but a calmer feeling took possession of the public mind as the day wore on, and after the question had been discussed with the light thrown on it by the press. There are a great many reckless men who would at once urge on a war to redress the alleged insult to the British flag; but this is by no means the general feeling, and among some of the leading merchants the first ebullition of anger is giving place to anxiety lest the Government should too precipitately be disposed in favour of a resort to arms.

Times Monday 20 January 1862: —The Rinaldo, with Mason and Slidell on board, sailed from Princetown on the 2d inst., a strong gale from N.E. blowing off shore. She had not reached Halifax on the 10th, and Captain Judkins supposes she has borne down south for Bermuda, or some other of the West India Islands.

Times Thursday 30 January 1862:— The Royal Mail Company’s steamship La Plata, Captain C.G. Weller, arrived, at Southampton yesterday at 9 30 a.m., with mails in charge of Lieutenant de Brock, R.N., naval mail agent. She left St. Thomas on the 14th inst., and experienced heavy gales from N.W. to S.W. during the voyage…. This steamer brought 75 passengers (viz., 62 first-class, 12 second, 1 child, 2 servants, 5 distressed British seamen, and 3 naval invalids), among whom were Messrs. Mason, Slidell, M’Farland, and Eustis, the liberated Confederate Commissioners and their Secretaries…

For the complete timeline see link:

In the United Canada’s, only first and second Battalion’s were raised pre Trent, 11 more Active Militia battalions raised in 1862, as fallows:-

  • First Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles of Canada; was authorized by MGO 17 November 1859, It was redesignated The First (or Prince of Wales’s) Regiment of Volunteer Rifles of Canadian Militia’s on 7 September 1860.
  • Second Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles Canada; raised by MGO April 26th 1860 Redesignated; Second Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles of Canada’ or ‘Queen’s Own Rifles of Toronto by MGO 18 March 1863; 2nd Battalion, ‘Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada’ on 13 January 1882 by MGO 1/82.
  • 3rd Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles Canada; authorized on 22 Jan 1862, formed from six independent rifle companies authorized on 10 January 1862: Redesignated: 3rd Battalion “The Victoria Volunteer Rifles of Montreal” by MGO 18 July 1862; 3rd Battalion “Victoria Rifles of Canada” on 5 December 1879 by MGO 30/79. 4th Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles Canada; or Chasseurs Canadiens (1862) (Disbanded/dissous1869) 4th Chasseurs Canadiens (1869) (Disbanded/dissous 1872) 4th Battalion “Chasseurs Canadiens”. M. of Montreal.
  • 5th battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles of Canada; formed from 6 rifle companies authorized January 22, 1862, authorized by MGO into 8 companies Jan. 31, 1862.     Regesignated “The Royals” 5th Battalion Royal Light Infantry by MGO Nov. 7th 1862.
  • 6th battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles of Canada; raised January 31, 1862 at Montreal; Redesignated the Sixth Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles of Canada or (Hochelaga Light Infantry) on June 5, 1865, redesignated the 6th Battalion Hochelaga Fusiliers. 7th Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles, Canada; (or “Chasseurs de Quebec”) (1862) (Disbanded/dissous 1864).
  • The 8th Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles, Canada (1862).
  • The 9th Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles, Canada or “Voltigeurs de Québec” (1862).
  • The 10th Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles, Canada (1862).
  • 11th Battalion, Volunteer Militia Rifles, Canada or (“Argenteuil Rangers”) (1862).
  • 12th Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles Canada (1862) (Disbanded/dissous 1864).
  • 13th Battalion Volunteer Militia (Infantry), Canada (1862).

Montreal, Toronto, Quebec, Authorised Battalions In The Trent Affair.

Col. E. J. Chambers in The Prince of Wales Regiment, p.59, as fallows:— A good idea of the excitement which prevailed in Montreal at this time is obtained from a Montrealer’s private letter to a friend in Scotland published in the Greenock “Herald” of March 7th, 1862. Ill the course of his letter, which was dated February 14th, the writer remarked: “ When I arrived here in December, I found the Canadians in a great state of excitement about the Mason and Slidell affair. They were volunteering and drilling all over the country, but at the same time they did not seem to be in the least afraid, although, had war broken out, the brunt of it would have fallen upon Canada. I think that the backing out of the .Americans was all owing to the prompt measures adopted by the British government, and the determined stand taken by the Canadians. It is the opinion of every one here who knows anything of the Yankees, that Canada would have been invaded before this if any of the people had shown disloyalty to the British government at the present crisis; but I am proud to say that the Canadians of every class rallied round the ‘Old Flag’ like Britons. In Montreal alone we have 10,000 volunteers. I am drilling one of the regiments. We have here now two regiments of Guards and two regiments of the Line, so that our town looks like a regular camp; at every step you meet soldiers of some kind or other.”

The census taken in 1861 showed the a population of the city and suburbs to be 101,600, so that the enrolled militia force must have comprised a very large proportion of the adult male population. The crowning glory, so to speak, of the military enthusiasm of the loyal citizens of Montreal in this historic year of 1862 was an imposing parade of the volunteer force on April 18th. The following extracts of the report of this event published in the “Witness” are interesting as giving some idea of the popular sentiment of the time, and at the same time enumerating the existing military organizations of the city:

The Illustrated London News No. 1122 Vol.39, p.617.— Saturday, December 21, 1861The Canadian Militia. — The militia of Canada, as at present organised, is under the command in chief of the Governor-General and has n staff of Adjutant-General for each province, with two provincial Aides-de-Camp, and a Quartermaster-General. It consists of two divisions known as the “Active” and the “Sedentary.” There are sixteen batteries of artillery, sixteen troops of Cavalry designated as class A, twelve troops of class B, Sixty-two companies of rifles, and several corps of light infantry. In Lower Canada there are forty-two battalions and in Upper Canada forty-seven battalions of Sedentary Militia. The Canadian Rifles are regular enrolled troops, and act with the other Queen’s regiments stationed at Toronto, Montreal, Quebec. The militia has shown that it can be relied upon in times of emergency. In addition to these, there is a considerable force of volunteers in both provinces, and with the aid of the reinforcement which have already arrived, and those which are on their way or under orders, would have no fear for Canada.- Canada News.

British Demands Montreal Witness Dec. 28th 1861

British Demands Montreal Witness Dec. 28th 1861.

Montreal Witness Vol. XVII. No.8. p. Saturday, January 25th, 1862.

Trent a

The militia 1862
Trent Military And Naval Intelligence.



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