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Old April 18th, 2021, 05:34 PM
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The following report of a U.S. Navy court-martial of Captain James Armstrong, commander of the Naval Station at Pensacola, Florida in the Spring of 1861, comes from Volume 4, Series 1, of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, pages 54-55. Previous pages give the results of the court of inquiry into the actions of Captain Armstrong previous to his surrender of the navy yard. It does give an interesting picture of how a court of inquiry is conducted. I suspect that Captain Armstrong greatly regretted asking for one, although one might have been convened regardless.

Quote:
Upon these charges and specifications the "finding" of the court is in the following terms:

The court, having maturely considered the whole case, with the evidence and the
defense aforesaid, find as follows:
1. That the first specification of the first charge against the said Captain James
Armstrong is proved, except as to the words in said specification " adequate to a defense of said yard."
2. That the second specification of the first charge against the said Captain James Armstrong is proved.
3. That the third specification of the first charge is proved, except that the accused did remove or send to Fort Pickens thirty men (a part of his command), thirty muskets, and some ammunition and a barge load of provisions.

And the court thereupon further find that the said Captain James Armstrong is guilty of the first charge of neglect of duty.

And the court doth further find that the first specification of the second charge against the accused is proved, except that thirty men (a part of his command) were sent by the said Captain James Armstrong to cooperate in the defense of Fort Pickens.
And they further find —
2. That the second specification of the second charge is proved.
And thereupon the court find the said Captain James Armstrong to be guilty of the second charge of disobedience of orders and conduct unbecoming an officer.

And the sentence of the court is —

That the said Captain James Armstrong be suspended from duty for the term of five years, with loss of pay for the first half of said term, and he reprimanded by the honorable Secretary of the Navy in general orders.

I have approved the sentence, and Captain James Armstrong will accordingly be suspended from duty for the term of five years from this date, with loss of pay for the first half of the said term.
The Secretary of the Navy at the time of the court-martial was Gideon Welles. Fort Pickens, held by the U.S. Army throughout the war, was at the entrance to Pensacola Bay, and could be readily reinforced and supplied by sea. The Confederates abandoned Pensacola following the capture of New Orleans and it became an extremely value base for the U.S. Navy in the blockade of the Gulf Coast.

The verdict against Captain Armstrong removed him from any further service in the Navy during the Civil War, assuming that he would have been trusted with a command.
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