Major Caleb Huse>

Confederate States Army Agent in Europe

Major Caleb Huse was a significant Confederate agent in Europe during the war, working many times alongside J.D.Bulloch, and using the same services of Fraser Trenholm. He collaborated with Bulloch on supplying the armaments carried to the Confederacy aboard the Fingal.
The following article on Major Huse appeared in Confederate Veteran, Volume XIII, number 2, page 65, in February of 1905.

Mr. J.S.Rogers, of 54 Warren Street, Boston in a circular, publishes the following:

"In the summer of 1903 two friends of Major Huse were hospiably entertained by him, at his charming home, `The Rocks,` on the Hudson, near West Point, and during their visit were treated to a recital of some of his experiences as agent in Europe for purchasing army supplies for the Confederate States during the war between the States. I was so impressed by this unique bit of historythat I succeeded in inducing him to write of it."

Mr. Rogers has issued a pamphlet account that he will funish at twenty-five cents per copy. The narration states;

"When I arrived in England the Confederate States government was already represented by Hon. William L. Yancey, Commissioner to England, and Judge Rost of New Orleans, Commissioner to France. Later Hon. L. C. Q. Lamar, afterwards United States Secretary of the Interior, and later still, Justice of the United States Supreme Court, was appointed Commissioner to Russia; but he went no further than Paris, and returned to Richmond before the end of the war. Commander James D. Bulloch, previously of the United States navy, whose sister was the mother of President Roosevelt, was in charge of all naval matters. Messrs. Fraser, Trenholm & Co. of Liverpool, were the fiscal agents. None of the representatives of the Confederate government required much money in the discharge of their duties, except Commander Bulloch and myself. We were both to look to Fraser, Trenholm & Co. for all the money we were to expend, as indeed were all the diplomatic agents.

The fiscal system was, almost of necessity, of the most simple character. Fraser, Trenholm & Co. of Liverpool, John Fraser & Co. of Charleston,S. C., and Trenholm Brothers of New York, were practically one concern, and the senior member of John Fraser & Co., Mr. William trenholm, became Confederate States Secretary of the Treasury early in the war. Mr Wellsman, senior member of Trenholm Brothers in New York, joined the Liverpool house, the senior member and manager of which was Charles K. Prioleau, formerly of Charleston. There was no loan to negotiate, for the Confederacy - recognized only as belligerants - had no credit among the nations, and no system of taxation, by which it could hope to derive any revenue for purchasing supplies abroad. But it possessed a latent purchasing power such as probably no other government in history ever had.

The cotton crop of its people was a prime necessity for the manufacturing world outside; and for want of machinery was utterly valueless in all the Southern States except Georgia, where there were a few small factories. Almost immediately after the outbreak of hostilities, the Confederate authorities began to buy cotton, paying in such "money" as it had - that is to say, its own promises to pay whenever it could. Some of these promises bore interest and were called bonds; some bore no interest, and these constituted the currency of the country.

The cotton, as it lay on the plantations or in the warehouses, was for sale, and the government was almost the only buyer. To all others there was a difficulty , amounting almost to impossibility, in getting cotton to market. Some no doubt was smuggled across the border, to the advantage of "patriots" of each side; but this outlet, for a bulky article like cotton was altogether inadequate, and practically everyone was compelled by the very condition of affairs, without the application of the normal force, to sell to the government and receive in payment the best that the government had to offer - namely, its own promise to pay - which, whether stated as a condition of a promise or not, could not be made good until after the favorable close of the war. If the South failed, the promises would be valueless; if it succeeded, the obligations would be met as promptly as possible. The situation was accepted by the people, and the government acquired cotton and shipped it to Nassau, Bermuda and Havana as fast as it could.

To get cotton through the blockading squadron called for daring and skill; but there seems to have been no lack of either, and it was not long before every steam vessel that could carry even a few bales and was seaworthy enough to reach Nassau was ready with a crew on board, eager to slip out any dark night and run to a neutral port, generally Nassau.

For a long time this traffic went on almost without a caoture and the Confederate government only deposited in places of safety large quantities of a commodity in general demand throughout the world, but also had the satisfaction of seeing its property advance rapidly in value as the war went on and its necessities increased. The cotton, thus shipped was all consigned to Fraser, Trenholm & Co., Liverpool, and the consignments for the army, navy and diplomatic departments were carefully kept separate. There was, therefore, no clashing of interests between the army and navy as to the disposition of the proceeds. The rquirements for the diplomatic agents were trifling compared with those of the army for supplies, and the navy for building, equipping and manning ships.

I had not been in England long before the sinews of war began to be available, and I found myself able to meet my engagements in a manner entirely satisfactory to my creditors. To buy supplies was simple enough; but to ship them was another matter. As was to be expected, detectives employed by the United States government, as well as volunteer spies, were about me. Efforts were made to intercept telegrams and to tamper with employees, but few of these attempts at stopping Confederate army supplies were successful.

One success scored by the United States was the capture of the Stephen Hart, a schooner of American build, but purchased by an English house, and put inder the English flag, for Confederate use, . . . After the Stephen Hart episode, all army supplies were carried by steamer, either to a Confederate port direct, or to Nassau or Bermuda. There was little difficulty in chartering steamers to carry supplies to "The Islands." Generally both ship and cargo belonged in good faith to British subjects, and, as the voyage was from a British port to another, the entire business was as lawful as a similar shipment would have been from London to Liverpool.....

During the first two years the captures were so infrequent that, it may be safely stated never before was a government at war supplied with arms, munitions, clothing, and medicines, with so little money as was paid by the Confederacy. The shipment from England to The Islands in ordinary tramp steamers, the landing and storage there, and the running of the blockade cost money; but all that was needed came from cotton practically given to the Confederate Government by its owners.

The supplies were in every instance bought at the lowest cash prices by men trained in the work as contractors for the British army. No credit was asked. merchants having needed supplies were frankly told that our means were limited, and our payments would be made in checks on Fraser, Trenholm & Co., Liverpool, an old, established, and conservative house. The effect of such buying was to create confidence on the part of the sellers, which made them more anxious to sell than were we to purchase. When the end came and some of the largest sellers were ruined, I never heard a word of complaint of their being over-reached or in any manner treated unfairly. As long as the system thus described continued the South not only equipped an army able to cope with the colossal forces constantly advancing upon it, but it accomplished this without distressing people with taxes.

But the supply of acceptable arms was not equal to the demand. The civilized powers had but recently been equipped with modern arms. The United States had the Springfield, England had the Enfield, which was actually the same as the Springfield; Austria had a rifle bearing a close resemblance ro them both and of about the same caliber. Austria had a considerable quantity on hand, and these an intermediary proposed I should buy.

I knew something of the armament of Austria, having visited Vienna in 1859 with a letter from the United States War Department which gave me some facilities for obsevation. At first I considered the getting of anything from an imperial Austrian arsenal as chimerial. But my would-be intermediary was so persistent that finally I accompanied him to Vienna, and within a few days closed a contract for one hundred thousand rifles of the latest Austrian pattern and ten batteries, of six pieces each, of field artillery, with harness complete, ready for service, and a quantity of ammunition, all to be delivered on ship at Hamburg. The United States Minister, Mr. Motley, protested in vain. he was told that the making of arms was an important industry of Austria; that the same arms had been offered to the United States and declined, and that, as belligerants, the Confederate States were by the usage of nations, lawful buyers. However unsatisfactory this answer may have been to Washington, the arms were delivered, and in due time were shipped to Bermuda from hamburg. Mr. Motley offered to buy the whole consignment, but was too late. The Austrian government declined to break faith with the purchasers.......

The fourth year of the war saw an end of the struggle, not only because of the immense superiority of the North in men and materials but also on account of a change of policy in securing supplies. For a long time there were no contractors between the European sources of supply and the great consumer, the army. Cotton, the only article of value to the outside world, passed into the possession of the government continuously and without friction, and was landed in Nassau - exceptionally in Bermuda - with no back charges due. Every shilling that a bale was worth as it lay at the landing place was so much to the credit of the War or Navy Department with Fraser, Trenholm & Co., of Liverpool, and was available as soon as the arrival was announced by mail via New York. There were literally no leaks.... But in the latter stages of the war contracts with the government began to appear. These contracts, made in Richmond, were generally a sort of partnership affair by which the contractor, usually an English company, shared equally the freighting capacity of each blockade runner."

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