Swartwout, Captain S.
Swartwout was commander of the United States naval forces in the Puget Sound. In this despatch, Douglas writes to Labouchere regarding a communication he received from Swartwout, which reported that an American citizen had been cruelly murdered by the natives near the town of Seattle.1 The murder took place 3 October 1856, and Swartwout was seeking assistance from Douglas towards arresting the murderers, however Douglas declined to interfere.2
In another despatch, Douglas informs Labouchere of the arrival of Swartwout's ship, the Massachusetts, in Puget Sound with 87 First Nations prisoners on board. According to Swartwout's statement, these people had been plundering the inhabitants, and spreading alarm among the United States Settlements.3 The Massachusetts had been detached to compel their departure from the territory, however the alleged offenders refused; they beat off the boat's crew and opened fire on the ship. Douglas states that after a desperate contest, with considerable loss of life on both sides, their camp was taken and burnt, their canoes destroyed, and the savages driven to the woods, when they agreed to surrender on condition of being left in possession of their arms, and safely landed on Vancouver's Island.4 The purpose of Swartwout's landing in Puget Sound was, therefore, to carry out the terms of the capitulation. Douglas objected; he considered it contrary to the usage of civilized nations.5 Swartwout responded with disappointment and irritation, threatening to land his prisoners with or without permission. To this, Douglas gave Swartwout two options: transport them to Washington and hand them over to the civil authorities for trial, or convey them 100 miles North and discharge them there. Swartwout chose the latter, knowing that he had made the promise of landing them on Vancouver Island in exchange for their surrender.6
Mentions of this person in the documents
People in this document

Douglas, James

Labouchere, Henry

Vessels in this document

USS Massachusetts, 1849-1867

Places in this document

Puget Sound


Vancouver Island

Washington Territory