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Running the blockade. [from the Richmond times Feb. 21, 1897.] daring Exploits at Charleston in war times. Some lucky vessels that made their way through the Federal Fleets repeatedly without Detection.

Charleston, S. C., February 6, 1897.
The blockade of this harbor and the naval manoeuvres off Charleston bar next week, have brought out some interesting reminiscences of the genuine blockade of the sixties.

There are numbers of men surviving, who ran the blockade through the United States fleet, but most of the masters of the vessels are dead.

Among those still to be seen in Charleston are Captains Sim Adkins, A. O. Stone, William F. Adair, F. N. Bonneau, and Edward Morse.

Captain H. S. Lebby, one of the most daring of Charleston's blockade runners, is now in the Sailors' Snug Harbor. [226]

In most instances the vessels were of English build, small, fast, with powerful engines, and of the type known as Clyde steamers. Their color assimilated that of the clouds, or a light lilac, the object being to prevent discovery by Federal cruisers, and it was often the case that it enabled the steamers to avoid and escape pursuit.

The Margaret and Jessie belonged to this category. She was an iron steamer of about 600 tons, and under the name of Douglas had plied regularly between the Isle of Man and Liverpool. Provided with double engines and a powerful frame, there were few vessels of her class, which in smooth water, could show a cleaner pair of heels to others in pursuit.

Her capacity for storing cotton was equal to about 800 bales, and the usual time made between Charleston and Nassau did not exceed on an average forty-four hours.

She was purchased in 1862 by John Fraser & Co., for $20,000, and during eight round trips met with uninterrupted good luck, making money for her owners, and fame for her commander, Captain R. W. Lockwood. The latter was known to be not only one of the best pilots on the coast, but also a brave, dashing, yet judicious commander.

Captain Lockwood's good luck did not follow him after the war. He died about ten years ago, many believe from the effects of the loss of the Clyde steamer Champion, of which he was in command, which was lost on her way from New York to Charleston.

Few of the blockade-runners were fitted with accommodations for passengers. Nevertheless two, three, or a half dozen might generally be found on every incoming and outgoing steamer.

Not infrequently some of these were women. The men were either Confederate agents, business men in speculation, or persons seeking to avoid service in the Confederate army.

The fate of the larger proportion of these vessels may be inferred. Some succumbed to the perils of the deep, some were run ashore and wrecked to avoid capture, some became prizes to the Federal fleet.

Some of the vessels ran into four different ports, and it may be added that a number of them made from six to eighteen voyages. It was rare that a craft was captured on her first voyage, and it could be pretty safely figured that she would make two trips, and this generally paid for her cost and voyage expenses, and left a handsome sum in addition.

Among many daring and successful exploits was that of the steamship [227] Sumter, Captain E. C. Reid, laden with two Blakely guns, each weighing, with their carriages, etc., thirty-eight tons.

These, with two hundred rounds of amunition, were all she had aboard. The length of the guns necessitated their being loaded in an upright position in the hatchways for a voyage across the Atlantic, and the steamer at sea had the appearance of having three smoke stacks.

Captain Reid boldly ran her, in broad daylight, through the fleet into Wilmington, North Carolina, despite a shower of shot and shell. These two guns were presented to the Confederate Government by John Fraser & Co.

One of these enormous guns was mounted at White Point Garden, and was never near enough to the enemy to be fired. In February, 1865, at the evacuation of the city, it was burst, to prevent its falling into the hands of the Federal army, and this explosion damaged some of the surrounding property. A fragment of this gun, weighing 500 pounds, is now lodged in the rafters of the roof of the residence on East Battery, now occupied by A. F. Chisholm.

The Margaret and Jessie, Captain R. W. Lockwood, was one of the most successful runners of the war, and paid her owners ten times over.

One night in May, 1863, having a very valuable cargo of arms and munitions sadly needed by the Confederacy, she laid a straight course for Charleston.

There were five Federal blockaders off the bar, and the night was fine. The steamer ran straight in for the fleet, and as soon as her character was known every blockader opened fire. It was estimated that 500 shots were fired, some from a distance of less than 200 feet, and yet, strange to say, the steamer got into port without having a man wounded.

She was struck in five or six places, but with no serious results.

On November 11th of the same year, the Margaret and Jessie attempted the same bold dodge at Wilmington. She was here beset by three blockaders, shot through both wheels, and hit in a dozen other spots, but managed to turn about and get at sea, and lead five Federal vessels a chase of twenty hours before she was compelled to surrender.

The steamer Hattie, Captain H. S. Lebby, was the last runner in or out of Charleston. She was a small vessel, Clyde built, furnished with powerful engines, and she made more trips than any other vessel engaged in the business. [228]

On several occasions she brought such munitions of war which the Confederacy was in pressing need of, and at least three battles were fought with munitions for which the Confederates had waited, and which she landed safely in their hands.

Plot after plot was formed at Nassau to get hold of the Hattie, but none of them were successful. She slipped in and out like a phantom, taking the most desperate risks, and being attended by quite extraordinary good luck.

The last entrance of the Hattie into Charleston occurred one night in Febuary, 1865. The Confederacy was then in extremis, and the Federal fleet off Charleston, numbered eighteen or twenty sail.

It was a starlight night, and at an early hour, the Hattie crept forward among the fleet. She had been freshly painted a blue-white, her fire made no smoke, and not a light was permitted to shine on board. With her engines moving slowly, she let the wind drive her forward There were eight or ten vessels outside the bar, and as many within. Those outside were successfully passed without an alarm being raised. The Hattie ran within 300 feet of two different blockaders without her presence being detected. To the naked eye of the lookouts she must have seemed a hazy mist moving slowly along.

The little steamer was quietly approaching the inner line of blockaders, when a sudden fire was opened on her from a gunboat not 200 feet distant, and the air at the same time was filled with rockets to announce the runner's presence.

At that time the Federals had the whole of Morris Island, and Fort Sumter had been so battered to pieces that monitors took up their stations almost in pistol shot of it.

As soon as the Hattie was discovered, all steam was put on and she was headed straight for the channel. She ran a terrible gauntlet of shot and shell for ten minutes, but escaped untouched.

Then came the real peril. Just below Sumter, in the narrowest part of the channel, the Hattie encountered two barge-loads of men stationed there on picket.

Her extraordinary speed saved her from being boarded, but the volleys fired after her wounded two or three men and cut three fingers off the hand of the pilot holding the spokes of the wheel.

Two hundred yards ahead lay a monitor, and she at once opened fire and kept her guns going as long as the Hattie could be seen, but not a missile struck, and she arrived safely at her wharf. [229]

This was marvelous, considering that the steamer ran so close that she could hear the orders given on the monitor.

Charleston was being bombarded, many of the business houses closed, and all could see that the end was drawing near. The Hattie was in as much danger lying at the wharf, as she would be outside, and a cargo was made up for her as quickly as possible, and she was made ready for her last trip.

Just before dark the sentinels on Fort Sumter counted twenty-six Federal blockaders off Charleston harbor, and yet the Hattie coolly made her preparations to run out. Just before midnight, with a starlight night and smooth sea, the lucky little craft picked her way through all that fleet without being hailed or a gun fired, and she was lying at Nassau when the news of Lee's surrender was received.

The following gives an idea of the magnitude of the business and a glimpse at the wasteful and reckless manner of living in those times.

“I never expect to see such flush times again in my life,” said the captain of a successful blockade-runner in speaking of Nassau.

Money was almost as plenty as dirt. I have seen a man toss up twenty-dollar gold pieces on “head or tail,” and it would be followed by a score of the ‘yellow boys’ in five seconds.

There were times when the bank vaults would not hold all the gold, and the coins were dumped down by the bushel and guarded by the soldiers.

Men wagered, gambled, drank, and seemed crazy to get rid of their money. I once saw two captains put up $500 each on the length of a porch. Again I saw a wager of $800 a side as to how many would be at the dinner table of a hotel.

The Confederates were paying the English importers and jobbers at Nassau large prices for goods, but these figures of cost were multiplied enormously in the Confederacy. The price of cotton was not increased in the same ratio, and this large difference in values between imports and exports gave the enormous profits which induced these ventures.

Ten dollars invested in quinine in Nassau would bring from $400 to $600 in Charleston.—New York Sun.


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