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 Posted: Fri Jul 26th, 2013 08:33 pm
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Hellcat
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Ok, looking further in Series I Volume 3 of Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion I found a report from a Jacob Thompson to Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin that mentions both the Greek fire used in the NYC plot and the steamer Georgian. This time the report in question is a bit long (it runs from page 714 to 719) so I'm not going to repost the full thing. Here, however, from pages 717 and 718, is the paragraph discussing the two:

Previous to the arrival of Lieutenant-Colonel Martin and Lieutenant Headly, bringing an unsigned note from you, all the different places where our prisoners are confined---Camp Douglas, Rock Island, Camp Morton, Camp Chase, Elmira---had been thoroughly examined, and the conclusion was forced upon us that all efforts to release them without an outside cooperation would bring disaster upon the prisoners and result in no good. All projects of that sort were abandoned, except at Camp Douglas, where Captain Hines still believed he could effect their release. We yielded to his firmness, zeal, and persistence, and his plans were plausible, but treachery defeated him before his well-laid schemes were developed. Having nothing else on hand, Colonel Martin expressed a wish to organize a corps to burn New York City. He was allowed to do so, and a most daring attempt has been made to fire that city; but their reliance on the Greek fire has proved a misfortune; it can not be depended on as an agent in such work. I have no faith whatever in it, and no attempt shall hereafter be made under my general directions with any such materials. I knew nothing whatever of the raid on St. Albans [Vt.] until after it transpired. Desiring to have a boat on whose captain and crew reliance could be placed, and on board which arms could be sent to convenient points for arming such vessels as could b seized for operations on the Lakes, I aided Dr. James T. Bates, of Kentucky, an old steamboat captain, in the purchase of the steamer Georgian. She had scarcely been purchased whe the story went abroad that she had been purchased and armed for the purpose of sinking the Michigan, releasing the prisoners on Johnson's Islnd, and destroying the shipping on the Lakes and the cities on their margin. The wildest consternation prevailed in all the border cities. At Buffalo two tugs had cannon placed on board; four regiments of soldiers were sent there---two of them represented to have been drawn from the Army of Virginia; bells were rung at Detroit, and churches broken up on Sunday. The whole lake shore was a scene of wild excitement. Boats were sent out, which boarded the Georgian and found nothing contraband on board; but still the people were incredulous

Ok so I'm going to have to check Van Doren Stern's book and see if I misspelled the name, but I believe Headly and Headley are the same person. Reading this it sounds to me like the burning of NYC wasn't a backup plan but rather it was developed after it was determined the initial plan of breaking the POWs out of the prison camps was deemed unattainable (to my way of thinking a backup plan is developed before you try carrying out the main plan so that if the main plan has to be abandoned you have something to fall back on). It is interesting that Thompson says Greek fire is unreliable and would not be used in any future operations under his directions. This does jive with some of the sources I posted earlier on how dependable the substance was. Which brings up two things. First it shows how desperate things were if folks were willing to rely on something that wasn't that reliable. Second it begs the question of if it was known to be unreliable then why was anyone willing to ok it's use despite the desperate situations without trying to make it more reliable first?

The other thing about this report is that it seems to answer the sub-enclosure of the previous letter concerning Greek fire and the Georgian. From the sounds of this in connection with that, it sounds like the Greek fire was never meant for use with the Georgian but was meant for the NYC plot.

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