Thursday, July 07, 2011

150 Years Ago: William Tillman

On Sunday, July 7, 1861, the Confederate privateer Jefferson Davis captured the schooner S. J. Waring about 150 miles off the coast of Sandy Hook, New Jersey.  The Confederates put a five-man prize crew on the schooner and headed her toward Charleston.

It would not end well for the privateers.  Aboard the S. J. Waring was an African-American serving as the ship's cook, William Tillman (also spelled Tilghman).  He was told that he, like the ship and the cargo, was Southern property and would be sold into bondage when the ship reached the South.

On the night of July 16, Tillman went to the captain's cabin with an axe and killed the captain and first mate in their sleep.  He then went up on deck and killed the second mate.  He tossed the bodies overboard, then forced the remaining members of the prize crew to surrender.  Tillman, two other crew members who had remained on board, a passenger, and the two surviving members of the prize crew sailed the ship to New York, arriving there on July 22.  Tillman was awarded $6000 in prize money.

Also on this date, the U.S.S. Resolute encountered and successfully swept two moored mines in the Potomac River.  Following the battle of Aquia Creek, the Confederates had placed the mines near where the creek joined the river.  This was almost certainly the first time the Confederates used mines, but they would sink some 40 ships with them during the war.

John Ellis, the governor of North Carolina, died at Red Sulphur Springs, Virginia (now West Virginia).  Ellis had been in ill health for some time and had traveled to Red Sulpher Springs to recuperate.  Henry Clark, the speaker of the state senate, had assumed Ellis's duties when he left the state and served out the remainder of his term. 
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