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July 9, 1861

Page 2

Dr. Russell’s Letters

Our contemporary of the N. O. Picayune has put some very caustic editorial strictures of Dr. Russell’s Southern letters to the London Times.  We must confess that we were ourselves greatly shocked when we read his account of British subjects being knocked down and dragged to recruiting offices and forced into the Confederate military service; and we made up our minds that either the Doctor had been grossly imposed upon with false information, or that, like some other passages purporting to be from his pen, this was a forgery.  That impressments could possibly be an existing fact anywhere in the South, where so many thousands are voluntarily seeking and being refused places in the ranks of the South’s defenders, we did not for a moment believe.

The article from the Picayune has brought out Wm. Mure, Esq., H. B. M.’s Consul at New Orleans, in a letter to that journal.  The British Consul gives his official testimony to the truth of Dr. Russell’s statements—nay, he makes the case worse than it was represented by the Times’ correspondent.  We must confess that we are greatly astounded at the statements he makes.  If one were to testify that the Spanish Inquisition, with all its terrible ceremonial and enginery had been established in New Orleans, we should hardly have been more surprised.  Dr. Russell has been roundly taken to task and severely criticized in the matter of his Southern correspondence.  With the British Consul to give him such information as the latter gentleman imparts to the Picayune, it is at least just to the Doctor to say that in the matter of the British enlistment he has only stated what he learned from the highest sources of correct information and coming from such a quarter, he had the right to believe it.  The following is Mr. Mure’s letter:

NEW ORLEANS, July 5, 1861

To the Editors of the Daily Picayune:

            GENTLEMEN—My attention has been called to an article in yesterday morning’s Picayune, commenting upon Mr. Russell’s tenth letter, written from this city on 25th of May, in which my name is made use of for the purpose of impeaching Mr. Russell’s veracity.  I have not seen his letter, but that is of little consequence, as I am not called upon either to coincide in his opinions, or defend his views.  I take it for granted, however, that the extract from the New York paper, relative to the impressments of British subjects, is correct, and, as the statement made by Mr. Russell involves a question of fact in which I am interested, I think it due to myself not to preserve a silence which might be misconstrued.

            Mr. Russell’s statement, you have apparently without any inquiry, characterized, not with your usual courtesy, as “an outrageous falsehood of his own coinage,” etc., etc.  Let us see with what justice you have used these severe expressions.

            It is not the fact, as you suppose, that one or two isolated cases of British subjects who enlisted in the army, and “having thought better of it,” then invoked my protection, made the basis of Mr. Russell’s statement, or, as you call it, “monstrous invention.”  But it is the fact that since the 28th of April to this present day, with very slight intermission, many British subjects, some of whom were only a few weeks in the country, were seized and forcibly carried off from the levee, steamboat landings, boarding houses, etc., to the different places of rendezvous of military companies.  When the men resisted, they were frequently assaulted, knocked down, and, being overpowered, carried off in furniture wagons to the headquarters of these embryo companies, where the most violent threats were used to compel them “to sign the papers.”

            When these outrages commenced, I addressed, in the end of April and beginning of May, communications to His Excellency, Gov. Moore, who at once granted all the redress in his power, by ordering the discharge of those men whose names I could furnish as having been illegally impressed.  His Excellency at the time expressed “his unqualified condemnation” of such outrages, and stated that he would endeavor to put an end to them, as far as he had any control or authority over the parties implicated.  I believe that in one case a company was ordered to be disbanded, in consequence of the very flagrant conduct of the recruiting squads, who had kidnapped men in mid-day at the end of the shellroad.

            At the time of Mr. Russell’s arrival in the city, about 35 or 40 of these “illegal musters” had been discharged, and my office was still daily besieged by women, imploring me to get their husbands released.  Within the last few days, there have been over 20 applications of a similar kind, and some of the men, according to the evidence, have been most severely maltreated.  One woman alleges that her husband was seized on his way to procure medical help for their child, that it was three days before she discovered the rendezvous where he was confined, and when she saw him he was so disfigured by bruises that she scarcely recognized him.  She was not allowed to hold any communication with him, but was threatened with the prison if she troubled them again!

I do not wish to trespass upon your columns by multiplying instances.  Instead of one repenting volunteer, there have been about 60 cases of impressed British subjects reported at my office.  I am somewhat surprised, when so much patriotic spirit has been evinced in the filling up of military companies with so much rapidity, that any resort should have been had to the gag or bludgeon; and it is singular that a fact so notorious should have escaped the attention of your city reporter, who might have easily satisfied himself of its accuracy by applying to official quarters.

Upon the principle of “audi alteram partem,” I request the insertion of this letter, and remain, dear sir,

Your obedient servant,


It is proper to add that the Pic still sticks to it, in the face of the consular letter, that Dr. Russell’s was “a grossly exaggerated statement.”


[Transcribed by Sharon Strout]


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