Deserters from the Confederate Privateer "Savannah" Demanding to be Taken to Fort Pulaski on the Savannah River; verso: sketch of a woman holding up her hoop skirt

Object Number: 
3 June 1861
Graphite on paper
Overall: 6 1/2 x 10 3/8 in. ( 16.5 x 26.4 cm ) mat: 11 x 14 in. ( 27.9 x 35.6 cm )
Inscribed at upper left in brown ink: "Night scene"; verso inscribed at upper center: "Deserters from the Confederate Steamer 'Savannah' / -- on the Savannah River -- / respectfully requesting a rebel naval officer to accompany / them to Fort Pulaski."
Civil War Drawings Collection. The privateer 'Savannah' was captured 3 June 1861 by USS 'Perry'. She was sold as contraband and purchased from the New York City Prize Court on 2 July 1861 by the U.S. Navy and recommissioned under the name USS 'Chotank'. Since the United States did not recognize the legitimacy of the Confederacy, it did not recognize the legitimacy of Confederate letters of marque and reprisal. As far as President Lincoln was concerned, Confederate privateers were simply pirates, and he announced that as such they would be hanged if captured. The privateer Savannah with a crew of about 18, was patrolling off Georgetown, SC for Northern commercial vessels, advanced on a Northern ship they spotted. Unfortunately for them, it turned out to be the USS Perry which promptly engaged in a onesided shooting contest with the Savannah, which the Perry emphatically won. When the 'Savannah', was captured by the Federals in early June, the ship's crew was taken to New York to stand trial for piracy. Jefferson Davis replied that he would hang Union prisoners in response, {letter Davis to Lincoln, July 6-8, 1861]. In the South, thirteen of the highest-ranking Union prisoners were selected by lot to face hanging if the any of the Confederate privateers were hanged. However, the New York jury was unable to reach a verdict and the crisis passed, until the issue resurfaced as the war progressed.
Credit Line: 
James B. Wilbur Fund
John T. Kavanaugh Collection, Rutherford, New Jersey, 1945
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group