General Naval Order

National Republican, Washington DC, 4 May 1861

The proceedings of Captain Armstrong's court martial appears to be missing from the rest of the proceedings deposited in the National Archives so the testimony surrounding exactly what happened that day between Conway and Renshaw that lead to the Court submitting a communication to Welles is unavailable. Conway eventually got "some appropriate mark of approbation" bestowed in 1939 and 1942 when hulls DD-70 and DD-507 were named in his honor.

A Naval General Court Martial, consisting of a full complement of officers of the highest rank in the service, was recently convened in the city of Washington for the trial of Captain James Armstrong, of the navy, on charges growing out of his surrender of the navy yard at Warrington, Florida.

Before the court separated, the members of it addressed a communication to the Navy Department, of which the following is a copy:

"The President and members and Judge Advocate of the Court lately held in the city of Washington, D. C., for the trial of Commodore Armstrong, beg leave respectfully to submit to the Hon. Secretary of the Navy the propriety, justice and good policy, of bestowing some appropriate mark of its approbation of the loyalty, spirit and good conduct of William Conway, a quartermaster of the navy - on duty in the navy yard at Warrington, Florida, when the same was surrendered on the 12th January, 1861 - who, with manly pride and in a spirit of patriotic devotion, refused to obey the order to haul down the national flag on the occasion of said surrender.

"The evidence of this honorable devotion to the dignity and credit of the flag of his country is found in the record of the testimony in Commodore Armstrong's case.

Respectfully submitted by order of the Court.
Judge Advocate
Washington, D.C., April 8, 1861

It appears from the testimony taken in Captain Armstrong's case, that William Conway, an aged seaman doing duty as quartermaster, in the Warrington navy yard, at the time of its surrender, when ordered by Lieut. F. B. Renshaw to haul down the National Flag, promptly and indignantly refused to obey the order.

The love and reverence thus impulsively exhibited for his country's flag, in the hour of its peril, is not the less worthy of being called noble and chivalric because displayed by one in a humble station. It is the more deserving of commemoration; for subordinates in the service are not usually expected to set examples of patriotism and fidelity in their trusts, but to follow them.

The Department deems it no more than strict justice to William Conway that this testimonial from the Court, in his behalf, should be made known throughout the service. It therefore directs that this General Order be publicly read as early as practicable after its receipt by the commanders of all naval stations, and all vessels of the navy in commission, in the presence of the offices and men under their command.

Secretary of the Navy
Navy Department, April 24, 1861