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Judah Benjamin to Brig-General John H. Winder, Order to select Richmond prisoners for reprisal, November 9, 1861

Judah Philip Benjamin, detail
The Confederate prize Enchantress was recaptured by the U.S.S. Albatross off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina in July 1861 and the prize crew sent to Philadelphia to be tried for piracy. The four day trial of prize captain William Smith in the U.S. District Court there, Justices Grier and Cadwaladar presiding, resulted in a guilty verdict and a sentence of death by hanging. The trial caused a sensation in the South and here Acting Confederate Secretary of War Judah Benjamin orders the selection of a senior officer from among the prisoners at the Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia to be held for trial in similar conditions as Smith to protest the situation. Brigadier-General Winder selected Colonel Michael Corcoran of New York, captured at Bull Run and perhaps the best known of his prisoners. The trials never took place and the Union reclassified the convicted privateers as prisoners of war in February, 1862. (By John Osborne)