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[The Broad Pennant -- Naval Service in the Mexican War] Introduction
[Alvarado] Alvarado
[Court Martial] Court Martial
of Lt. Hunter
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[Mexican War Service of the United States Navy]


COURT MARTIAL OF
LT. CHARLES G. HUNTER, USN

Just at the time this third expedition against Alvarado was perfected, a little steamer mounting three guns, and commanded by Lt. Charles G. Hunter, appeared off Vera Cruz. It was on the day of the surrender of the City and the Castle of San Juan de Ulloa to the American forces. The Lieutenant commanding reported to Commodore Perry; and received from him orders to proceed down the Coast -- to report to Capt. Samuel L. Breese -- and to blockade the river Alvarado.

Off went the little steamer with its small complement of officers and men, rather sad that day he had arrived at Sacrificios a few days too late to be sharers in the honors of the bombardment and capture of Vera Cruz and her Castle. What were the purposes of the Lieutenant commanding in view of his mal-apropos time of arrival, the writer knows not. But the action of his little command a few days after, before Alvarado, has certainly made the capture of that place, the standing joke of the war. And though the Lieutenant seemed to incur the responsibility of disobedience to orders, the odium of a court martial -- and certain displeasure in certain quarters -- yet it would seem equally to appear that his countrymen have sustained him in his action, and his government at home, informally, have approved his course by giving him a new command!

But the serio-comical farce --(perhaps it should be called without irony, THE DASHING AND GALLANT MOVE of the Lieutenant commanding the Scourge) -- no doubt surprised the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Squadron and General John A. Quitman of the shore forces, as much as it did the newspaper readers at the North.

PRELUDE

"The morning after, we were ordered by our Commodore to proceed to Alvarado, to blockade that port. We got off the harbor about sunset, and began to fire into the Fort, when it became dark, and a surf being very heavy on the bar, with indications of a Norther, we were compelled to stand off and on, which we did during the night. The next morning we stood in nearly shore again, and began firing a second time into the Fort, when several horsemen were seen coming down the Beach, at full Gallup and bearing a white flag. We hove to, to see what they wanted, when a boat was seen coming out of the harbor, bearing a flag of the same kind, and commanded by the Captain of the port, who invited us to take possession of the town. We stood up to the town and anchored, run out and pointed the guns, sent two officers with eight men ashore with a summons of unconditional surrender, with but thirty minutes time for doing it, -- all of which was acceded to, -- and thus was taken by one little vessel of three guns and a bold Captain, the town of Alvarado, the bugbear of the Navy.

Hearing that the Mexican General, with four hundred men, had gone up the river with several vessels, and munitions of war, we immediately pursued him, capturing on our way out, four schooners, one loaded with powder, &c., which they had run upon a shoal and scuttled, which we burned; two we brought down to Alvarado, and the other we let them keep as being worthless. About 2 o'clock in the morning we arrived at the city of Flacotalpam, fired a gun, and sent three officers with six men to summon the Alcalde to surrender. "After the surrender of this place, which is a very pretty town, containing some seven thousand inhabitants, we returned to Alvarado, getting there about sunset. That night the Captain took Passed-Midshipman Temple and myself in his boat and went up the river to assist the bringing down of the prize-schooners. On our way up we saw a large boat which we ran aboard and captured, and founder to contain ninety bales of cotton, with a quantity of dry goods and hides, worth three or four thousand dollars.

Flacotalpam is about six or seven leagues up the river of the same name -- the river is the most beautiful that I ever saw. In some places the banks are one hundred feet high, covered with the richest verdure, with here and there a palmetto-roofed cottage looking as primitive as need be."

ACT FIRST -- SCENE FIRST.

Correspondence that passed between the high contracting powers on sea and on shore, at the fall of Alvarado.

Commander Hunter to Lieutenant Marin

U. S. Steamer Scourge
Alvarado, March 31st, 1847

Sir: the surrender of the city must be made in thirty minutes from this time, and must be unconditional. If, at the expiration of that time, they do not agree to our terms, I'll open upon the town and order the troops to advance. Very respectfully, &c.,

C. G. Hunter, Com'g.

To. Lieut. M. C. Marin, U. S. N.
at the Government House, Alvarado.

Commander Hunter to the Spanish Consul

U. S. Steamer Scourge
Alvarado, March 31st, 1847

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of this date; and cordially answer your solicitations. All under your national flag, and subjects of her Catholic Majesty of Spain, shall meet with the due considerations of friendship, and of the friendly power which you represent. I have the honor, &c.,

C. G. Hunter, Lt. Com'g.

To Senor Don Francisco Sanchez,
Vice Consul H. C. M. of Spain, at Alvarado

Commander Hunter to Passed Midshipman Temple

U. S. Steamer Scourge Alvarado,
March 31st, 1847

Sir: You will take charge of the forts in and about the city of Alvarado, and retain the command there until relieved by some superior officer. I am, Sir, &c.,

Chas. G. Hunter, Lt. Com'g.

To Wm. G. Temple, Passed Midshipman,
on board U. S. Steamer Scourge.

The Demand for the Surrender of Flacotalpam

U. S. Steamer Scourge
Off Flacotalpam, March 31st, 1847

Sirs: In order to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, and in accordance with the spirit and feeling of civilized nations, I demand, in the name of United States of America, the entire and unconditional surrender of the city of Flacotalpam. I have the honor, &c.,

C. G. Hunter, Lt. Com'g.

To the President and Ayuntamento
of the City of Flacotalpam.

Commander Hunter to Passed Midshipman Pringle

U. S. Steamer Scourge
April 1, 1847

Sir: You will proceed on board and take charge of the prize schooner now lying near this vessel. At high water you'll get her off and take her down to Alvarado, and report to me on your arrival., I am &c.,

C. G. Hunter, Lt. Com'g.

To J. J. Pringle, Passed Midshipman
on board the U. S. Steamer Scourge.

Commander Hunter to Commodore Perry

U. S. Steamer Scourge
April 3, 1847

Sir: Enclosed I send you a letter from the Alcalde of Flacotalpam, enclosing a communication from a Governor of Cosamaloapam relative to seven men and one midshipman, prisoners whose release I demanded while at Flacotalpam. I have the honor, &c.,

C. G. Hunter, Lt. Com'g.

To Commodore M. C. Perry,
Commanding Gulf Squadron.

Acting-Master Bankhead to Commander Harris

U. S. Steamer Scourge
Alvarado, March 31, 1847

Sir: Agreeably to your orders I went on board of the Mexican schooner Matilda, and finding it impossible to get her off, owing to her having been scuttled previously, I destroyed everything I could get at, and then set fire to her. She was loaded with munitions of war -- principally powder, canister shot, and Congreve rockets. Ascertain before I left her that the fire had made such progress that it was impossible to extinguish it, I proceeded up the river after the steamer. Respectfully your obedient servant,

J. P. Bankhead, Acting Master

Lt. Com. Hunter U. S. Steamer Scourge.

Commander Hunter to Commodore Perry

U. S. Steamer Scourge
April 2d, 1847

Sir: I have the honor to report that on the afternoon of the 30th ultimo, at about 5 o'clock, I arrived off the bar of this river; that I immediately opened upon the forts with round shot and shell, but finding a heavy surf on the bar, and seeing indications of a Norther, I stood off and on during the night. In the morning I again opened on the forts, when I discovered a white flag on the beach, and, shortly thereafter, the Captain of the port and a pilot came off with a flag of truce, offering a surrender of the place, and informing me that the Mexican troops (to the number of three or four hundred) had, after our attack, evacuated the forts and the city the night previous, having fired all the government vessels, spiked a portion of the guns and buried others in the sand. With a view of preventing any further destruction of public property, or a return of the Mexicans before your arrival, and for the purpose of securing an unobstructed entrance for the squadron, I came in, anchored off the town, received their surrender, (a copy of which I herewith enclose,) hoisted the American flag under a salute of twenty-one guns, and then, hearing that the garrison of the place was hastening up the river with two or three vessels loaded with arms, ammunition, and other public property, I left Passed-Midshipman Temple, with five men, in command of the place, and stood up the river after them. On the way up I succeeded in capturing four schooners; one that I burned, as I could not get her off; another I left behind as worthless; the third I towed down, and the fourth is now coming down under the command of Passed Midshipman Pringle. At 2 o'clock in the morning I anchored off Flacotalpam, a city of about 7,000 inhabitants, sent Lieutenant Marin ashore to the alcalde, assembled the junta, and demanded an entire and unconditional surrender within half an hour. My demands were at once complied with, and I herewith transmitted copy of their surrender. I am, &c.,

C. G. Hunter, Lt. Comd'g.

To Commodore M. C. Perry
Commander-in-Chief of the Gulf Squadron.

Passed-Midshipman Temple to Commander Hunter

Alvarado, April 1st, 1847.

Sir: I have the honor to report, that in obedience to your order of yesterday, I have this afternoon delivered over the command of the forts in and about this place, to Commodore Perry. I am sir, &c.,

Wm. G. Temple, Passed Midshipman.

To Lieut. C. G. Hunter, Com.
U. S. Steamer Scourge.

Passed Midshipman Pringle to Commander Hunter

Alvarado, April 2d, 1847.

Sir: I have the honor to report, that agreeably to your order of the 1st instant, I went with a prize crew on board this schooner captured by our boats on the evening of the 31st March -- took possession of her -- called her out of the Creek in which she was lying, and this morning brought her down the river, and had anchored her off the town, near the Scourge. Respectfully yours,

J. J. Pringle, Passed Midshipman

To Lieut. C. G. Hunter, Commanding
U.S.S. Scourge, Alvarado.

ACT SECOND -- SCENE SECOND.

The Trial, Defense, and Reprimand
of Lieut. Hunter
before a Naval Court Martial

Charges and Specifications. Charges and specifications preferred by Commodore M. C. Perry, Commander-in-Chief of the United States Naval Forces in the Gulf of Mexico, against Lieut. Charles G. Hunter, United States Navy, late commanding the U. S. Steamer Scourge.

Charge First -- Treating with contempt his superior, being in the execution of his office.

Specification First -- in that he, this said Lieutenant Charles G. Hunter, U. S. Navy, did on the 31st day of March, 1847, being then in the command of the U. S. Steamer Scourge, enter the port of Alvarado, and did there arrogate to himself, (the said Lieut. Charles G. Hunter,) the authority and power, that are vested only in the Commander-in-Chief, but entering into stipulations for, and receiving the surrender of Alvarado and its dependencies.

Specification Second -- In that the said Lieut. Charles G. Hunter, U. S. Navy, did on the 31st day of March, 1847, with the U. S. Steamer Scourge under his command, proceed from Alvarado to the town of Flacotalpam, without any orders or authority, and there demand the surrender of the said town of Flacotalpam. And enter into and sign articles of capitulation, although aware of the immediate approach of the Commander-in-Chief, to whom alone such powers are confided -- thus treating with contempt the authority of his superior, being in execution of his office.

Specification Third -- In that the said Lieut. Charles G. Hunter, U. S. Navy, did, on the 31st day of March, 1847, in proceeding from Alvarado to Flacotalpam, capture four schooners, one of which he set on fire and burnt, and another he abandoned, thus substituting his own will for the discretion of the Commander-in-Chief, who was within a few hours' reach of communication, and treating with contempt the authority of his superior; all of which is in violation of the laws of United States, as contained in "an Act for the better government of the Navy of United States, approved April 23d, 1800."

Charge Second -- Disobedience of orders.

Specification First -- In that he, the said Lieut. Charles G. Hunter, U. S. Navy, having been ordered to report to Captain Samuel L. Breese, and to assist in blockading the port of Alvarado, did, in disobedience or disregarded said orders, enter the harbor and take possession of the town of Alvarado.

Specification Second -- In that he, the said Lieutenant Charles G. Hunter, U. S. Navy, having been ordered on the evening of the 1st April, to report himself in person to the Commander-in-Chief, at his quarters in the town of Alvarado, at 10 o'clock, A. M., of the following morning, did disobey said order; all of which is in violation on the laws of United States, as contained in "an Act for the better government of the Navy of United States, approved April 23d, 1800."

M. C. Perry
Commanding Home Squadron.

Click here
for Lt. Hunter's Defense
and the Results of the Court Martial

The Broad Pennant.  A Cruise in the United States Flag Ship of the Gulf Squadron, During the Mexican Difficulties Together With Sketches of the Mexican War. Rev. Fitch W. Taylor, A. M., USN.    Leavitt, Tron & Co., New York.  1848.



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