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The European Diary of William L Yancey, March-June, 1861

Edited by Charles Priestley

 

This article originally appeared in Crossfire, the magazine of the ACWRT(UK) - Summer 2014

 

Among the William Lowndes Yancey Papers in the Alabama Department of Archives and History is a brief diary of Yancey’s visit to Europe as the first Confederate States Commissioner to Great Britain. Some ten years ago, I was able to obtain from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa a photocopy of this diary, together with a typed transcription clearly made some years before. I quickly saw that the typescript had a large number of inaccuracies, some probably because the writer was not familiar with the various British or French references, others because he or she had simply failed to read the manuscript correctly. For example, in describing his visit to Paris from London, Yancey states that he travelled “via Boulogne”; in the typescript, this appears as “in a Bourogue”.

 

The photocopy of the manuscript is very faint in places, as indeed is that of the typescript, but by comparing manuscript and typescript I was eventually able to produce what I felt was a reasonably accurate version of the diary, although I was unable to identify a number of the Americans mentioned.

 


I then learned that the veteran Civil War historian W. Stanley Hoole had produced an edition of the diary for the April, 1972 issue of The Alabama Review. Through the kindness of Mr Luke Utsey, Assistant Editor of the Review, I was recently able to obtain a digital scan of Dr. Hoole’s article, and immediately set about comparing it with my version and with the manuscript and typescript.

 

Unfortunately, it soon became clear that Dr. Hoole’s version of the diary was not the accurate, definitive text which I had been expecting. It seems probable that he was working from the typescript rather than the actual manuscript, since he copies all the errors which I had found in the former; thus he repeats the misreading of “via Boulogne” as “in a Bourogue”, but then tries to explain this by adding “(Barouche)”, as if Yancey had somehow travelled across the Channel in a carriage! Furthermore, he has added a number of errors of his own, and there is at least one quite lengthy omission. Dr. Hoole’s version of the text must therefore, I am sorry to say, be treated with caution. Where his article is of definite value, however, is in his introductory and closing remarks, putting Yancey’s visit to Europe in context, and in his identification of several of the Americans whom I had not been able to identify.

 

In the light of this, I have further revised my own version of the text of the diary, and have greatly expanded the explanatory footnotes; where I have made use of Dr. Hoole’s notes here, I have given these verbatim and placed them within brackets and in quotation marks.

 

I cannot claim that the version of Yancey’s European Diary which appears below is the definitive one; apart from anything else, a number of the people mentioned have yet to be identified. What I can say, though, is that it is as accurate as I have been able to make it. Here, then, is William L. Yancey’s European diary:

 

Left Montgomery, Ala. Sat’y 15. March 1861. Having $40. cash, and Tr’s draft on Tr. at N.O. for $6000 - and draft on Mobile for H. S. Brantley, Paris, France for $500.

 

Arrived in N.O. on Tuesday morning –18 March – Taken sick on Wednesday & confined to my bed until Thursday 28d (sic) Mar at my friend J M Hugers1. Attended by Dr Morse2, without charge – Invested my funds in Sterling bill on Barings Brothers & Co. London at 7. pr ct premium for the Sterling.

 

Left N. O. in screw Habana3 – Capt J. B. McConnell, on 31st. Mar. arrived at Habana at 8. P.M. Tuesday, 2d. April, after a pleasant voyage. Mr Crawford, English Consul4 invited us5 to dine with him – We also attended Mrs C’s reception – Was invited to dine with Count San Antonio the Capt Genl – who also sent one of his Aids (sic) to show us over the fortifications.

 

Was invited to dine by Mr Helm, of Ky6, the Am. Consul.

 

Capt Hickley7 of her B.M. war steamer Gladiator took us on board & showed us over his ship - & was kind enough to alter the painting of the flag of the Confd States, presented to us by Capt McConnell of the Habana. It had a star in center of a circle of stars.

 

Took passage on her B.M. Royal Mail St Clyde on Sunday the 6 Ap & reached St Thomas on Friday 11. May (April).

 

Mr Waring. N. C. Am Consul invited us to dine. He furnished ponies & we rode up the Mts.

 

Left St Thomas on B.R.M. St. Seine, on Sunday 13. at 12 M & after a mild & pleasant voyage reached Southampton on Sunday 12. M. 27th. Ap. Capt Revett was commander8.

 

At Southampton Mr Wm Thompson of N.Y. Am Consul9 paid us agreeable attentions – also Dr Wiblin10.

 

Left Southampton - and reached London, Monday 28th. April 3. P.M. Gen.R Campbell, of Texas, Am. Consul11 & Col Mann12 and Mr Thompson, who had preceded us, met us at the Railway station & accompanied us to the Bath Hotel, Picadilly13 (sic), where Mr T. had engaged rooms for us.

 

The St.ship-passage money from N.O. to Havana was $20 - & from Havana to Southampton for 1st. class

accomodations (sic) was £48.

 

My entire travelling expenses from Montgomery to London was $350.

 

Mr Gregory M.P. from Galway14 called upon us – takes a warm interest in Affairs of the South – and thro him, the Comrs had an informal interview with Lord John Russell on 3rd. May.

 

I conducted the interview on part of the Comrs. It lasted an hour – and a favorable impression seemed to have been made on Lord John – tho he was cautious & non-commital (sic).

 

Took rooms at the Westminster Palace Hotel15 on Sat. night the 4th. May.

 

Visited Mrs Key Blount, sister of Barton Key Esqr,16 on 6th. She is to give public readings in London - was in deep mourning.

 

Mr Kellogg,17 Artist has frequently visited us & appears to sympathise warmly in Southn. affairs.

 

Mr A M Weir18, to whom I brot letters called on 8th. He is a ship owner. Mr Hen Vallance19, lawyer called with him.

 

Mr Thos Baring called and left his card, 9th. inst.

 

Mr Giffard of Va20 gave me a letter of introduction to Mr Lyndsay M.P.21 & I called upon him to day at his business office No 8. Austin Friars & had a long & interesting interview – Invited by him Sat & Sunday the 18 & 19. at his country residence22 – accepted.

 

Sent letters home & to J L. Pugh,23 by Mr Giffard 9. May. 1861.

 

Mr Bates, of house of Barings. Bros & Co called upon me.

 

9 May – Went to Ho of Parliament to night, by invitation of Mr W S Lyndsay,MP. Was introduced to a privileged seat in the Peers’ gallery.

 

While there was introduced to Mr Roebuck24 – to Mr Eyrton25 – Mr White26 – Col Dickson27 – Sir Morton Peto28 Gilpin29, Mr Kaird30 – Mr Ball31 – who sd – he was kind, but must be frank. He tho’t slavery a sin & that God was displaying his displeasure to the South! Invited to night to go to Mr Lyndsay’s house in country with him to-morrow to pass a day or so – Accepted.

 

17. Mr W.G. Man(n)32 & lady arrived, direct from Montgomery, bringing despatches for the Commissioners, and letters for me from my dear wife & Mr Harroll33.

 

16. May changed my lodgings & took rooms at 15. Half Moon34, at 3½ guineas pr week for the season, fires, lights & attendance included.

 

18. Visited Zoological Gardens – and dined, a white bait dinner with Mr Prioleau35 at Greenwich.

 

Rec’d ticket for 6 mo to visit Library of the Br. Museum.

 

Visited the Tower –

 

Went down the river to Woolwich

 

8. June. Left, via Boulogne fo

 

8 May (June) 1861

 

Left London at 6. A.M arrived at Paris at 6. P.M. & put up at Hotel De Trois Empereurs, Rue De Rivoli36.

 

Met Julius J Pringle of Charleston37.Came with me to Paris, under my passport.

 

Dined with him that night at Restaurant Des Trois Ferres Provencaux, in Palais Royale38.

 

9. May. (June)

Left Hotel De Trois Empereurs for Hotel Montaigne in Rue Montaigne39.

 

Dined at Restaurant Durand40, at corner of Rue Royale & Boulevard De la Madeleine.

 

Visited the Bal Mabile41

 

Called on Wm. C Preston42 & saw him & Mrs & Miss P.

 

Called on Mr M. Colbourn of Huntsville43 & saw him & Mrs & Miss C.Mr C took me in his carriage to see Mr P.

 

Met M Du Bellot44 at Mr Colbourn.

 

Mr Isaac McDowell of St Louis45, called – also Mr Pècquet du Belly46

 

Visited the Invalides - & Palace of Industry47.

 

Arrived in London, at 15. Half Moon, evening of 18 June.

 

 

(Endnotes)

 

1. (Hoole: “Huger was in the firm of Bell, Boyd & Huger, cotton merchants, with offices at the corner of Henderson and New Levee Streets. His residence was on St. Peter’s St. In 1862 he was appointed “volunteer aide-de-camp” on the personal staff of Gen. Braxton Bragg, Army of the Mississippi.”).

2. (Hoole: “Morse’s office was on Camp St., opposite St. Patrick St.”).

3. (Hoole: “The Habana, a 520-ton steam brig built in Philadelphia in 1859, was in April, 1861 purchased by the Confederate States Navy and, under direction of Com. Raphael Semmes, converted into the C.S.S. Sumter, the first Confederate warship.”).

4. Joseph Crawford had been British Consul at Havana since the early 1840s. His U.S. counterpart, Schufeldt,accused him in1861 of being “a rebel sympathiser” and of aiding Mason and Slidell.

5. Yancey himself and Pierre A. Rost, Confederate Commissioner to France.

6. Charles J. Helm of Kentucky (1817-1868) had been United States Consul at Havana since 1858. He was

appointed Confederate Consul there in October 1861.

7. Commander Henry Dennis Hickley, RN, captain of HMS Gladiator. In October 1860, after the failure of William Walker’s final expedition and Walker’s execution by the Honduran authorities, Walker’s wounded were transported to New Orleans in Gladiator. Hickley was assaulted in the bar of the St. Charles Hotel, New Orleans, by supporters of Walker who believed that Hickley had not taken proper care of the wounded during the voyage. A year earlier, Hickley had been responsible for saving the American brig St. Mary, disabled in a heavy gale, for which he and his crew had been publicly thanked by the New York Board of Underwriters. (Hoole: “Shortly afterwards , Capt. Hickley was promoted to commander and senior British naval officer at Nassau and transferred to H.M.S. Greyhound which, in May, 1862, seized the C.S.S.Florida, held her for two days and then released her under orders of the British admiralty.” Hickley had in fact

been promoted to commander in 1858).

8. Captain Richard Revett of the Royal Mail Company’s steamship Seine.

9. William Thomson of New York was United States Consul at Southampton 1859-1861 and 1869-1876. He died in Southampton in 1887.

10. Dr John Wiblin (1814-1900) was H.M. Medical Superintendent at the port of Southampton. He treated Semmes after the sinking of the Alabama.

11. Robert Blair Campbell of South Carolina was U.S. Consul at London 1854-1861. He had previously been Consul at Havana. After his recall, he returned to London to assist Henry Hotze, but died in 1862.

12. Ambrose Dudley Mann of Virginia (1801-1889). Together with Yancey and Pierre Rost, he was one of the three original Confederate Commissioners to Europe.

13. The Bath Hotel was at 25, Arlington Street, on the corner of Piccadilly. The Ritz now covers the site.

14. W. H. (later Sir William) Gregory (1817-1892), Liberal-Conservative M.P. for County Galway, was an early sympathiser with the South and the author of the 1861 motion for recognition.

15. The Westminster Palace Hotel was at 6, Victoria Street, on the corner of Tothill Street, diagonally opposite

Westminster Abbey.

16. The writer and poetess Ellen Lloyd Key Blunt (1821-1884) was the daughter of Francis Scott Key and sister of Philip Barton Key (1818-1859), who was shot and killed in February 1859 by Daniel Sickles as a result of his affair with Mrs Sickles. Mrs Blunt’s dramatic readings seem to have been popular on both sides of the Atlantic.Her poem “The Southern Cross” urged “Southrons” to “stand for our Southern rights” and “fling the invader far.”

17. Unidentified.

18. Unidentified.

19. Henry and John Vallance formed the firm of Vallance & Vallance, of 20 Essex Street, Strand.

20. (Hoole: “ Giffard and Beverly Tucker held a munitions contract, signed by Col. Josiah Gorgas,

chief of the Confederate Ordnance Bureau, Nov. 3, 1861, which was subsequently transferred to E.

Bourget, W.T. Glazebrook , and Count Ple. De Lassus.”).

21. William Schaw Lindsay (1816-1877), Liberal M.P. for Sunderland, was a shipowner and a sympathiser

with the Confederacy. He was associated with Roebuck in the 1863 recognition motion.

22. Lindsay lived at Shepperton Manor, on the Thames near Sunbury. The house is still standing.

23. James L. Pugh of Eufaula, Alabama, was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1858 until 1861, when he resigned. (Hoole: “Pugh, of Eufaula, Ala., was a powerful and aggressive States Rights Democrat whom Yancey had campaigned for in the 1850’s. He and John T. Morgan represented Alabama in the U.S. Senate, 1880-1897.”).

24. John Arthur Roebuck (1802-1879), Liberal M.P. for Sheffield and author of the 1863 recognition motion.

25. Presumably Acton Smee Ayrton ((1816-1886), Liberal M.P. for Tower Hamlets.

26. Presumably James White, M.P. for Brighton.

27. Lieut.-Col. Samuel Auchmuty Dickson was M.P. for County Limerick.

28. Sir Samuel Morton Peto, railway entrepreneur and Liberal M.P. for Finsbury.

29. Either Charles Gilpin, M.P. for Northampton and Parliamentary Secretary for the Poor Law Board, or Colonel Richard Thomas Gilpin, M.P. for Bedfordshire.

30. James (later Sir James) Caird (1816-1892), M.P. for Stirling.

31. Presumably Edward Ball, M.P. for Cambridgeshire.

32. William Grayson Mann was Dudley Mann’s son. (Hoole: “Mann, Commissioner A. Dudley Mann’s private secretary, accompanied him on his audience with Pope Pius IX on Nov. 13, 1863.”).

33. Yancey’s daughter Mary Elizabeth was married to John L. Harrell. (Hoole: “Harrell was an employee of the Confederate Post Office Dept.”).

34. 15 Half Moon Street is listed in the 1861 London directory as belonging to Arthur Newman Dare. The building is still standing.

35. Charles Kuhn Prioleau (1827-1887) of Charleston, senior partner of Fraser, Trenholm & Co., Liverpool.

36. The Hôtel des Trois Empereurs, later renamed the Hôtel de la Place du Palais-Royal, was at 172, rue de

Rivoli.

37. This must be John Julius Pringle (1824-1901), son of William Bull Pringle of Charleston and grandson of the famous South Carolina lawyer John Julius Pringle (1753-1843). Pringle had served as a midshipman in the U.S. Navy during the war with Mexico, but spent the Civil War in France. (Hoole: “Pringle was the son of Julius J. , Sr., sometime speaker of the House of Representatives and attorney general of South Carolina. He is mentioned as a deliverer of dispatches from James M. Mason, Confederate diplomatic agent in London, to Secretary of State R. M. T. Hunter on Feb. 22, 1862.”)

38. The restaurant “Aux Trois Frères Provencaux” was founded in 1786 by three brothers-in-law named Barthélémy, Maneille and Simon. It was in the arcade of the Palais-Royal. It closed in 1869.

39. This was at 28-30, rue Montaigne, on the corner of the rue Rabelais. The street was renamed rue Jean-Mermoz in 1937. No. 28 is now the restaurant Le Merisier and No. 30 is the Hôtel Élysées Mermoz. The building appears to be original

40. The Restaurant Durand was at 2, place de la Madeleine, on the south-east corner of the square. The

restaurant closed in 1911 and the building was demolished, flooding having damaged the foundations.

41. This was a famous open-air dance-hall at 51, boulevard des Champs-Élysées.

42. William Preston of Kentucky (1816-1887), U.S. Minister to Spain 1858-1861 and brother-in-law of Albert

Sidney Johnston. Appointed Brigadier-General from April 14, 1862, he was made “envoy extraordinary

and minister plenipotentiary of the Confederate States” to Imperial Mexico in 1864.

43. Unidentified.

44. Hoole thinks, almost certainly correctly, that this is an error for “du Bellet.” See note 42 below.

45. Unidentified.

46. Paul Pecquet du Bellet (1816-1884), a member of an old French family settled in Louisiana, spent the Civil War in Paris, attempting to gain French support for the Confederacy. (Hoole: “Pecquet du Bellet, a former New Orleans attorney who had lived in Paris since 1855, wrote articles defending the Confederacy for Paris newspapers and meddled in the affairs of Confederate agents.”).

47. The Palais de l’Industrie was built in 1855 for the Exposition Universelle of that year. It was demolished in 1897.