January 29, 1861: “If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot.”

Major General John Adams Dix, USA

Louisiana having seceded on January 26, state forces were seizing US ships at the port of New Orleans. The revenue cutter McClelland was in New Orleans, and was ordered to leave and make for New York. Captain Breshwood (or Brushwood, spellings variable in original sources), of the McClelland, was reportedly refusing to take this evasive action. John Dix, newly named secretary of the Treasury, sent this dispatch to a chief bureau clerk in New Orleans, W. Hemphill Jones.

Treasury Department, January 29, 1861

Tell Lieutenant Caldwell to arrest Captain Breshwood, assume command of the cutter, and obey the order I gave through you. If Captain Breshwood, after arrest, undertakes to interfere with the command of the cutter, tell Lieutenant Caldwell to consider him as a mutineer, and treat him accordingly. If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot.

John A. Dix,
Secretary of the Treasury

Somewhat anticlimactically, the cutter had already been captured by the time the message arrived.

Dix v.1, p. 371

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