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.
MAJ. HUSE, OF THE SECRET SERVICE
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
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
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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