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Chapter 31: the Chinese-Wall blockade, abroad and at home.

  • Foundation errors
  • -- lost opportunity -- the Treaty of Paris view -- first southern commissioners -- doubts -- the Mason -- Slidell incident -- Mr. Benjamin's foreign policy -- Deleon's captured despatches -- murmurs loud and deep -- England's attitude -- other great Powers -- Mr. Davis' view -- “if” -- interest of the Powers -- the Optimist view -- production and speculation -- blockade companies -- sumptuary laws -- growth of evil power -- Charleston and Savannah -- running the fleet at Wilmington -- demoralization and disgust -- the Mississippi closed -- Vicksburg -- “running the Bloc.” on the border -- the spy system -- female agents.
    Potent factor in sapping the foundations of Confederate hope and of Confederate credit, was the blockade.

    First held in contempt; later fruitful mother of errors, as to the movements and intentions of European powers; ever the growing constrictor-whose coil was slowly, but surely, to crush out life-it became each year harder to bear :--at last unbearable!

    At first, Mr. Lincoln's proclamation was laughed to scorn at the South. The vast extent of South Atlantic and Gulf coast-pierced with innumerable safe harbors-seemed to defy any scheme for hermetic sealing. The limited Federal navy was powerless to do more than keep loose watch over ports of a few large cities; and, if these were even effectually closed, it was felt that new ones would open, on every hand, inviting the ventures of enterprising sailors.

    This reasoning had good basis, at first; and-had the South made prompt and efficient use of opportunity and resources at hand, by placing credits abroad and running in essential supplies — the result of the first year's blockade might largely have nullified its effect, for the last three. But there seemed indurated contempt for the safetybearing look ahead; and its very inefficiency, at the outset, of the blockade lulled the South into false security.

    The preceding pages note the rapid and vast growth of the Union navy; but the South misjudged-until error had proved fatal-that enterprise and “grit” of Yankee character; that fixed steadiness of purpose which forced both, ever, into most resultful effort. And, so gradual were appreciable results of this naval growth; so nearly imperceptible was the actual closing of southern ports — that the masses of the people realized no real evil, until it had long been accomplished fact.

    Already record has been made of the urgence on Government of sending cotton abroad, and importing arms, munitions and clothing, [273] which ordinary foresight declared so needful. But-only when the proper moment had long passed — was the then doubtful experiment made.

    A twin delusion to the kingship of cotton besotted the leaders as to the blockade. Arguing its illegality equal to its inefficiency, they were convinced that either could be demonstrated to Europe. And here let us glance briefly at the South's suicidal foreign policy; and at the feeling of other people regarding it.

    Under the Treaty of Paris, no blockade was de facto, or to be recognized, unless it was demonstrated to be effectual closing of the port, or ports, named. Now, in the South, were one or two ships, at most, before the largest ports; with an average of one vessel for every hundred miles of coast! And so inefficient was the early blockade of Charleston, Wilmington and New Orleans, that traders ran in and out, actually with greater frequency than before those ports were proclaimed closed. Their Government declared-and the southern people believed — that such nominal blockade would not be respected by European powers; and reliant upon the kingship of cotton inducing early recognition, both believed that the ships of England and France-disregarding the impotent paper closure-would soon crowd southern wharves and exchange the royal fleece for the luxuries, no less than the necessaries, of life.

    When the three first commissioners to Europe-Messrs. Yancey, Rost and Mann-sailed from New Orleans, on March 31, 1861, their mission was hailed as harbinger to speedy fruition of these delusive thoughts, to which the wish alone was father. Then-though very gradually-began belief that they had reckoned too fast; and doubt began to chill glowing hopes of immediate recognition from Europe. But there was none, as yet, relative to her ultimate action. The successful trial trip of the “Nashville,” Captain Pegram, C. S. N.-and her warm reception by the British press and peoplepre-vented that. And, after every victory of the South, her newspapers were filled with praise from the press of England. But graduallyas recognition did not come-first wonder, then doubt, and finally despair took the place of certainty.

    When Mr. Yancey came back, in disgust, and made his plain statement of the true state of foreign sentiment, he carried public opinion to his side; and-while the Government could then do [274] nothing but persist in effort for recognition, now so vital — the people felt that dignity was uselessly compromised, while their powerless representatives were kept abroad, to knock weakly at the back door of foreign intervention.

    Slight reaction came, when Mason and Slidell were captured on the high seas, under a foreign flag. Mr. Seward so boldly defied the rampant Lion; Congress so promptly voted thanks to Captain Wilkes, for violating international law; the Secretary of the Navy-after slyly pulling down the blinds-so bravely patted him on the backthat the South renewed her hope, in the seeming certainty of war between the two countries. But she had calculated justly neither the power of retraction in American policy, nor Secretary Seward's vast capacity for eating his own words; and the rendition of her commissioners — with their perfectly quiet landing upon British soil-was, at last, accepted as sure token of how little they would accomplish. And, for over three years, those commissioners blundered on in thick darkness — that might not be felt; butting their heads against fixed policy at every turn; snubbed by subordinates — to whom alone they had access; yet eating, unsparingly and with seeming appetite, the bountiful banquet of cold shoulder!

    It is not supposable that the people of the South realized to the full that humiliation, to which their State Department was subjecting them. Occasionally Mr. Mason, seeing a gleam of something which might some day be light, would send hopeful despatches; or before the hopeful eyes of Mr. Slidell, would rise roseate clouds of promise, light with bubbles of aid-intervention-recognition! Strangely enough, these would never burst until just after their description; and the secretary fostered the widest latitude in press-rumors thereanent, but deemed it politic to forget contradiction, when — as was invariably the case — the next blockade-runner brought flat denial of all that its precedent had carried.

    Still, constant promises with no fulfillment, added to limited private correspondence with foreign capitals, begat mistrust in elusive theories, which was rudely changed to simple certainty.

    Edwin DeLeon had been sent by Mr. Davis on a special mission to London and Paris, after Mr. Yancey's return; his action to be independent of the regularly established futility. In August, 1863, full despatches from him, to the southern President and State [275] Department, were captured and published in the New York papers. These came through the lines and gave the southern people the full and clear expose of the foreign question, as it had long been fully and clearly known to their government.

    This publication intensified what had been vague opposition to further retention abroad of the commissioners. The people felt that their national honor was compromised; and, moreover, they now realized that Europe had-and would have-but one policy regarding the Confederacy.

    Diplomatically regarded, the position of the South was actually unprecedented. Europe felt the delicacy-and equally the dangerof interference in a family quarrel, which neither her theories nor her experience had taught her to comprehend. Naturally jealous of the growing power of the American Union, Europe may, moreover, have heard dictates of the policy of letting it exhaust itself, in this internal feud; of waiting until both sides-weakened, wearied and worn out — should draw off from the struggle and make intervention more nominal than needful. This view of “strict neutrality” openly vaunted only tb be practically violated-takes color from the fact of her permitting each side to hammer away at the other for four years, without one word even of protest!

    Southern prejudice ever inclined more favorably toward France than England; the scale tilting, perhaps, by weight of Franco-Latin influence among the people, perhaps by belief in the suggested theories of the third Napoleon. Therefore, intimations of French recognition were always more welcomed than false rumors about English aid.

    In the North also prevailed an idea that France might interveneor even recognize the Confederacy-before colder England; but that did not cause impartial Jonathan to exhibit less bitter, or unreasoning, hatred of John Bull. Yet, as a practical fact, the alleged neutrality of the latter was far more operative against the South than the North. For-omitting early recognition of a blockade, invalid under the Treaty of Paris-England denied both belligerent navies the right to refit-or bring in prizes-at her ports. Now, as the United States had open ports and needed no such grace, while the South having no commerce thus afforded no prizes-every point of this decision was against her. [276]

    Equally favoring the North was the winking at recruiting; for, if men were not actually enlisted on British soil and under that flag, thousands of “emigrants” males only; with expenses and bounty paid by United States recruiting agents — were poured out of British territory each month.

    When France sent her circular to England and Russia, suggesting that the time had come for mediation, the former summarily rejected the proposition. Besides, England's treatment of the southern commissioners was coldly neglectful; and — from the beginning to the end of the Confederacy, the sole aid she received from England was personal sympathy in isolated instances. But British contractors and traders had tacit governmental permission to build ships for the rebels, or to sell them arms and supplies, at their own risks. And, spite of these well-known facts, northern buncombe never tired of assailing “the rebel sympathies” of England!

    With somewhat of race sympathy between the two peoples, the French emperor's movements to feel the pulse of Europe, from time to time, on the question of mediation, kept up the popular delusion at the South. This was shared, to a certain extent, even by her government; and Mr. Slidell's highly-colored despatches would refan the embers of hope into a glow. But while Napoleon, the Little, may have had the subtlest head in Europe, he doubtless had the hardest; and the feeble handling by the southern commissioner, of that edged-tool, diplomacy, could have aroused only amusement in those subordinate officials, whom alone he reached.

    The real policy of France was doubtless, from the beginning, as fixed as was that of England; and though she may have hesitated, for a time, at the tempting bait offered-monopoly of southern cotton and tobacco — the reasons coercing that policy were too strong to let her swallow it at last.

    For the rest, Russia had always openly sympathized with the North; and other European nations had very vague notions of the merits of the struggle; less interest in its termination; and least of all, sympathy with what to them was mere rebellion.

    And this true condition of foreign affairs, the Confederate State Department did know, in great part; should have known in detail; and owed it to the people to explain and promulgate. But for some occult reason, Mr. Benjamin refused to view the European landscape, [277] except through the Claude Lorrain glass which Mr. Slidell persistently held up before him. The expose of Mr. Yancey, the few sturdy truths Mr. Mason later told; and the detailed resume sent by Mr. DeLeon and printed in the North-all these were ignored; and the wishes of the whole people were disregarded, that the line begun upon, should not be deviated from. There may have been something deeply underlying this policy; for Secretary Benjamin was clearsighted, shrewd and well-informed. But what that something was has never been divulged; and the people-believing the Secretary too able to be deluded by his subordinate-revolted.

    The foreign policy grew more and more into popular disfavor; the press condemned it, in no stinted terms; it permeated the other branches of the government and, finally, reacted upon the armies in the field. For the growing dislike of his most trusted adviser began to affect Mr. Davis; his ready assumption of all responsibility at the beginning having taught the people to look direct to him for all of good, or of evil, alike.

    As disaster followed disaster to southern arms; as one fair city after another fell into the lap of the enemy; as the blockade drew its coil tighter and tighter about the vitals of the Confederacy — the cry of the people was raised to their chief; demanding the cause of it all. The first warm impulses of patriotic and inflammable masses had pedestaled him as a demigod. The revulsion was gradual; but, with the third year of unrelieved blockade, it became complete. And this was due, in part, to that proclivity of masses to measure men by results, rather than by their means for accomplishment; it was due in greater part, perhaps, to the President's unyielding refusal to sacrifice either his convictions, or his favorites, to popular clamor, however re-enforced by argument, or reason.

    Mr. Davis certainly seemed to rely more upon Mr. Benjamin than any member of his Cabinet; and the public laid at that now unpopular official's door all errors of policy-domestic as well as foreign. Popular wrath ever finds a scape-goat; but in the very darkest hour Mr. Benjamin remained placid and smiling, his brow unclouded and his sleek, pleasant manner deprecating the rumbling of the storm he had raised, by his accomplishments and sophistries. When his removal was clamorously demanded by popular voice, his chief closed his ears and moved on unheeding — grave-defiant! [278]

    Calm retrospect shows that the Confederacy's commissioners were, from first to last, only played with by the skilled sophists of Europe. And, ere the end came, that absolute conviction penetrated the blockade; convincing the South that her policy would remain one of strict non-intervention.

    After each marked southern success, would come some revival of recognition rumors; but these were ever coupled, now, with an important “if” If New Orleans had not fallen; if we had won Antietam; if Gettysburg had been a victory-then we might have been welcomed into the family of nations. But over the mass of thinkers settled the dark conviction that Europe saw her best interest, in standing by to watch the sections rend and tear each other to the utmost. Every fiber either lost was so much subtraction from that balance of power, threatening to pass across the Atlantic. The greater the straits to which we reduce each other, said the South, the better will it please Europe; and the only faith in her at last, was that she hoped to see the breach permanent and irreconcilable, and with it all hopes of rival power die!

    If the theory be correct, that it was the intent of the Great Powers to foster the chance of two rival governments on this continent, it seems short-sighted in one regard. For-had they really recognized the dire extremity, to which the South was at last brought, they should either have furnished her means, directly or indirectly, to prolong the strife; or should have intervened and established a broken and shattered duality, in place of the stable and recemented Union.

    Nor can thinkers, on either side, cavil at Europe's policy during that war; calculating, selfish and cruel as it may seem to the sentimentalist. If corporations really have no bowels, governments can not be looked to for nerves. Interest is the life blood of their systems; and interest was doubtless best subserved by the course of the Great Powers. For the rumors of destitution and of disaffection in France and England-caused by the blockade-begotten “cotton famine” --that crept through the Chinese wall, were absurdly magnified, both as to their proportions and their results. And the sequel proved that it was far cheaper for either nation to feed a few thousand idle operatives-or to quell a few incipient bread riots-than to unsettle a fixed policy, and that at the risk of a costly foreign war. [279]

    There was bitter disappointment in the South, immediately succeeding dissipation of these rosy, but nebulous, hopes in the kingship of cotton. Then reaction came-strong, general and fruitful. Sturdy “Johnny Reb” yearned for British rifles, shoes, blankets and bacon; but he wanted them most of all, to win his own independence and to force its recognition!

    There are optimists everywhere; and even the dark days of Dixie proved no exception to the rule. It was not unusual to hear prate of the vast benefits derived from the blockade; of the energy, resource and production, expressed under its cruel constriction! Such optimists-equally at fault as were their pessimistic opponents-pointed proudly to the powder-mills, blast-furnaces, foundries and rollingmills, springing up on every hand. They saw the great truth that the internal resources of the South developed with amazing rapidity; that arms were manufactured and supplies of vital need created, as it were out of nothing; but they missed the true reason for that abnormal development, which was the dire stress from isolation. They rejoiced to very elation at a popular effort, spontaneousunanimous-su-preme! But they realized little that it was exhaustive as well.

    Could these life-needs the South was compelled to create within, have been procured from without, they had not alone been far less costly in time, labor and money — but the many hands called from work equally as vital had not then been diverted from it. The South was self-supporting, as the hibernator that crawls into a stump to subsist upon its own fat. But that stump is not sealed up, and Bruinwho goes to bed in autumn, sleek and round, to come out a skeleton at springtime-quickly reproduces lost tissue. With the South, material once consumed was gone forever; and the drain upon her people-material-mental-moral — was permanent and fatal.

    One reason why the result of the blockade-after it became actually effective — was not earlier realized generally at the South, was that private speculation promptly utilized opportunities, which the Government had neglected. What appeared huge overstock of clothing and other prime necessities had been “run in,” while there was yet time; and before they had advanced in price, under quick depreciation of paper money. Then profits doubled so rapidly that --spite of their enhanced risk from more effective blockade-private ventures, and even great companies formed for the purpose, made [280]

    “blockade-breaking” the royal road to riches. Almost every conceivable article of merchandise came to southern ports; often in quantities apparently sufficient to glut the market-almost always of inferior quality and manufactured specially for the great, but cheap, trade now sprung up.

    Earlier ventures were content with profit of one, or two hundred per cent.; calculating thus for a ship and cargo, occasionally captured. But as such risk increased and Confederate money depreciated, percentage on blockade ventures ran up in compound ratio; and it became no unusual thing for a successful investment to realize from fifteen hundred to two thousand per cent. on its first cost.

    Still, even this profit as against the average of loss-perhaps two cargoes out of five-together with the uncertain value of paper money, left the trade hazardous. Only great capital, ready to renew promptly every loss, could supply the demand-heretofore shown to have grown morbid, under lost faith in governmental credit. Hence sprung the great blockade-breaking corporations, like the Bee Company, Collie & Co., or Fraser, Trenholm & Co. With capital and credit unlimited; with branches at every point of purchase, reshipment and entry; with constantly growing orders from the departments-these giant concerns could control the market and make their own terms.

    Their growing power soon became quasi dictation to Government itself; the national power was filtered through these alien arteries; and the South became the victim-its Treasury the mere catspaw — of the selfsame system, which clear sight and medium ability could so easily have averted from the beginning!

    Even when pressure for supplies was most dire and Government had become almost wholly dependent for them upon the monopoly octopus — it would not move. Deaf to urgent appeals of its trusted officers, to establish a system of light, swift blockaderun-ners, the Department admitted their practical necessity, by entering into a limited partnership with a blockade-breaking firm. And, it must go without saying that the bargain driven was like the boy's: “You and I will each take half and the rest we'll give to Anne!”

    As noted, in considering finance, the mania for exchanging paper money for something that could be enjoyed, grew apace as the war progressed. Fancy articles for dress, table luxuries and frippery of all sorts came now into great demand. Their importation increased [281] to such bulk as, at last, to exclude the more necessary parts of most cargoes; and not less to threaten complete demoralization of such minority as made any money. It may seem a grim joke;--the starving, tattered-moribund Confederacy passing sumptuary laws, as had Venice in her recklessness of riches! But, in 1864, a law was necessitated against importation of all articles, not of utility; forbidden luxuries being named per schedule. That its constant evasion --if not its open defiance — was very simple, may be understood; for the blockade firms had now become a power coequal with Government, and exceptions were listed, sufficient to become the rule.

    And so the leeches waxed fat and flourished on the very lifeblood of the cause, that represented to them-opportunity! And, whatever has been said of speculators at Richmond, they were far less culpable than these, their chiefs; for, without the arch-priests of greed, speculation would have died from inanition. The speculators were most hungry kites; but their maws were crammed by the great vultures that sat at the coast, blinking ever out over the sea for fresh gains; with never a backward glance at the gaunt, grim legions behind them-naked-worn-famished, but unconquered still!

    Transportation needs have been noted, also. No department was worse neglected and mismanaged than that. The existence of the Virginia army wholly depended on a single line, close to the coast and easily tapped. Nor did Government's seizure of its control, in any manner remedy the evil. Often and again, the troops around Richmond were without beef-once for twelve days at a time; they were often without flour, molasses or salt, living for days upon cornmeal alone! and the ever-ready excuse was want of transportation!

    Thousands of bushels of grain would ferment and rot at one station; hundreds of barrels of meat stacked at another, while the army starved because of “no transportation!” But who recalls the arrival of a blockader at Charleston, Savannah, or Wilmington, when its ventures were not exposed at the auctions of Richmond, in time unreasonably short!

    These facts are not recalled in carping spirit; nor to pronounce judgment just where the blame for gross mismanagement, or favoritism should lie. They are recorded because they are historic truth; because the people, whom they oppressed and ruined-saw, felt and angrily proclaimed them so; because the blockade mismanagement was twin-destroyer with the finance, of the southern cause. [282]

    The once fair cities of Charleston, Savannah and Wilmington suffered most from the blockade, both in destruction of property and demoralization of their populations. The first--as “hot-bed of treason” and equally from strategic importance — was early a point of Federal desire; but the fleet had been compelled to stand idly by and witness the bloodless reduction of Sumter. Later-when strengthened armaments threatened constant attack-Lee and Beauregard had used every resource to strengthen defenses of the still open port. What success they had, is told by the tedious and persistent bombardment-perhaps unexampled in the history of gunnery; surely so in devices to injure non-combatant inhabitants.

    On the 30th January, 1863, the two slow, clumsy and badly-built rams, under Captain Ingraham--of Martin Koszta fame-attacked the blockading squadron and drove the Union flag completely from the harbor; but re-enforced by iron-clads, it returned on the 7th of April. Again, after a fierce battle with the fort, the Federal fleet drew off, leaving the “Keokuk” monitor sunk; only to concentrate troops and build heavy batteries, for persistent attempt to reduce the devoted city. The history of that stubborn siege and defense, more stubborn still; of the woman-shelling “swamp-angel” and the “Greek-fire;” of the deeds of prowess that gleamed from the crumbling walls of Charleston-all this is too familiar for repetition. Yet, ever and again-through wooden mesh of the blockade-net and its iron links, alike-slipped a fleet, arrowy little blockader into port. And with what result has just been seen!

    Wilmington — from long and shoal approach to her proper portwas more difficult still to seal up effectually. There-long after every other port was closed — the desperate, but wary, sea-pigeon would evade the big and surly watcher on the coast. Light draught, narrow, low in the water, swift and painted black-these little steamers were commanded by men who knew every inch of coast; who knew equally that on them depended life and death-or more. With banked fires and scarce-turning wheels, they would drop down the Cape Fear, at night, to within a hundred yards of the looming blockade giant. Then, putting on all steam, they would rush by him, trusting to speed and surprise to elude pursuit and distract his aimand ho! for the open sea.

    This was a service of keen excitement and constant danger; [283] demanding clear heads and iron nerves. Both were forthcoming, especially from navy volunteers; and many were “the hair-breadth ‘scapes” that made the names of Maffit, Wilkinson and their confreres, household words among the rough sea-dogs of Wilmington.

    Savannah suffered least of the fair Atlantic sisterhood, from the blockade. The early capture of her .river forts blocked access to her wharves, almost effectually; though occasional steamers still slipped up to them. Yet, she was in such easy reach of her more open neighbors, as to reap part of the bad fruits with which they were so overstocked.

    These proud southern cities had ever been famed throughout the land, for purity, high tone and unyielding pride. At the first bugleblast, their men had sprung to arms with one accord; and the best blood of Georgia and the Carolinas was poured out from Munson's Hill to Chickamauga. Their devoted women pinched themselves and stripped their homes, to aid the cause so sacred to them; and on the burning sand-hills of Charleston harbor, grandsire and grandson wrought side by side under blistering sun and galling fire alike!

    How bitter, then, for those devoted and mourning cities to see their sacred places made mere marts; their cherished fame jeopardied by refuse stay-at-homes, or transient aliens; while vile speculation-ineffably greedy, when not boldly dishonest-smirched them with lowest vices of the lust for gain! Shot-riddled Charlestonex-posed and devastated-invited nothing beyond the sterner business of money-getting. There, was offered neither the leisure nor safety for that growth of luxury and riotous living, which at one time possessed Wilmington.

    Into that blockade mart would enter four ships to one at any other port; speculators of all grades and greediness flocked to meet them; and money was poured into the once-quiet town by the million. And, with tastes restricted elsewhere, these alien crowds reveled in foreign delicacies, edibles and liquors, of which every cargo was largely made up. The lowest attache of a blockade-runner became a man of mark and lived in luxury; the people caught the infection and — where they could not follow-envied the fearful example set by the establishments of the “merchant princes.”

    Was it strange that the people of leaguered Richmond-that the worn hero starving in the trench at Petersburg-came to execrate [284] those vampires fattening on their life-blood; came to regard the very name of blockade-runner as a stench and the government that leagued with it as a reproach? For strangely-colored exaggerations of luxury and license were brought away by visitors near the centers of the only commerce left. Well might the soul of the soldier-frying his scant ration of moldy bacon and grieving over still more scant supply at his distant home-wax wroth over stories of Southdown mutton, brought in ice from England; of dinners where the pates of Strasbourg and the fruits of the East were washed down with rare Champagne.

    Bitter, indeed, it seemed, that-while he crawled, footsore and faint, to slake his thirst from the roadside pool-while the dear ones at home kept in shivering life with cornbread-degenerate southerners and foreign leeches reveled in luxury untold, from the very gain that caused such privation!

    This misuse of that blockade-running — which strongly handled had proved such potent agency for good-bred infinite discontent in army and in people alike. That misdirection-and its twin, mismanagement of finance-aided to strangle prematurely the young giant they might have nourished into strength;--

    And the spirit of murder worked in the very means of life!

    But the Chinese-wall blockade was tripartite; not confined to closing of the ocean ports. Almost as damaging, in another regard, were the occupation of New Orleans, and the final stoppage of communication with the trans-Mississippi by the capture of Vicksburg.

    The Heroic City had long been sole point of contact with the vast productive tracts, beyond the great river. The story were twicetold of a resistance-unequaled even by that at Charleston and beginning with first Union access to the river, by way of New Orleans. But, in May, 1862, the combined fleets of Porter and Farragut from the South, and Davis from the North, rained shot and shell into the coveted town for six terrible weeks. Failing reduction, they withdrew on June 24th; leaving her banners inscribed-Vicksburg vicrix!

    In May of the next year, another concentration was made on the “key of the Mississippi;” General Grant marching his army one hundred and fifty miles from its base, to get in rear of Vicksburg and cut off its relief. The very audacity of this plan may blind the careless thinker to its bad generalship; especially in view of the success [285] that at last crowned its projector's hammer-and-tongs style of tactics. His reckless and ill-handled assaults upon the strong works at Vicksburg-so freely criticised on his own side, by army and by press — were but preface of a volume, so bloodily written to the end before Petersburg.

    Under ordinary combinations, Johnston had found it easy to crush Grant and prevent even his escape to the distant base behind him. But, unhappily, Government would not re-enforce Johnstoneven to the very limited extent it might; and Mr. Davis promoted Pemberton to a lieutenant-generalcy and sent him to Vicksburg. But this is no place to discuss General Pemberton's abilities-his alleged disobedience of orders — the disasters of Baker's creek and Big Black; or his shutting up in Vicksburg, hopeless of relief from Johnston. Suffice it, the dismal echo of falling Vicksburg supplemented the gloom after Gettysburg; and the swift-following loss of Port Hudson completed the blockade of the Mississippi; and made the trans-river territory a foreign land!

    The coast of Maine met the waters of the Ohio, at the mouth of the Mississippi; and two sides of the blockade triangle were completed, almost impervious even to rebel ingenuity and audacity. It needed but careful guard over the third side — the inland border from river to coast — to seal up the South hermetically, and perfect her isolation.

    That perfection had long been attempted. Fleets of gunboats ploughed the Potomac and all inland water-approaches to the southern frontier. A shrewd detective system, ramifying from Washington, penetrated the “disaffected” counties of Maryland; spying equally upon shore and household. The borders of Tennessee and Kentucky were closely picketed; and no means of cunning, or perseverance, were omitted to prevent the passage of anything living, or useful, into the South. But none of this availed against the untiring pluck and audacity of the inland blockade-breakers. Daily the lines were forced, spies evaded, and bold “Johnny Reb” passed back and forth, in almost guaranteed security.

    Such ventures brought small supplies of much-needed medicines, surgical instruments and necessaries for the sick. They brought northern newspapers-and often despatches and cipher letters of immense value; and they ever had tidings from home that made the [286] heart of exiled Marylander, or border statesman sing for joy, even amid the night-watches of a winter camp.

    Gradually this system of “running the bloc.” systematized and received governmental sanction. Regular corps of spies, letter-carriers and small purchasing agents were organized and recognized by army commanders. Naturally, these also made hay while the sun shone; coming back never-whatever their mission — with empty hands. Shoes, cloth, even arms-manufactured under the very noses of northern detectives and, possibly, with their connivance-found ever-ready sale. The runners became men of mark-many of them men of money; for, while this branch never demoralized like its big rival on the coast, the service of Government was cannily mixed with the service of Mammon.

    Late in the war-when all ports were closed to its communication with agents abroad, the Richmond Government perfected this spy system, in connection with its signal corps. This service gave scope for tact, fertility of resource and cool courage; it gave many a brave fellow, familiar with both borders, relief from camp monotony, in the fresh dangers through which he won a glimpse of home again; and it gave a vast mass of crude, conflicting information, such as must come from rumors collected by men in hiding. But its most singular and most romantic aspect was the well-known fact, that many women essayed the breaking of the border blockade. Almost all of them were successful; more than one well nigh invaluable, for the information she brought, sewed in her riding-habit, or coiled in her hair. Nor were these coarse camp-women, or reckless adventurers. Belle Boyd's name became historic as Moll Pitcher; but others are recalled --petted belles in the society of Baltimore, Washington and Virginia summer resorts of yore — who rode through night and peril alike, to carry tidings of cheer home and bring back news that woman may best acquire. New York, Baltimore and Washington to-day boast of three beautiful and gifted women, high in their social ranks, who could — if they would-recite tales of lonely race and perilous adventure, to raise the hair of the budding beaux about them.

    But it may be that the real benefits of “running the bloc.” were counterbalanced by inseparable evils. The enhancement of prices and consequent depreciation of currency may not have felt this system appreciably; but it tempted immigration of the adventurous [287] and vicious classes, while it presented the anomaly of a government trading on its enemy's currency to depreciation of its own. For the trade demanded greenbacks; and the Confederacy bought theseoften the product of illicit traffic — from the runners themselves, at from twenty to one thousand dollars C. S., for one U. S.!

    Such is the brief, and necessarily imperfect, glance at the triple blockade, which steadily aided the process of exhaustion and ruin at the South. Such were its undeniable effects upon the Government and the people. And that these, in part at least, might have been averted by bold foresight and prompt action-while the blockade was yet but paper — is equally undeniable!

    With this, as with most salient features of that bittergallant-enduring struggle for life; with it, as in most mundane retrospectsthe saddest memories must ever cluster about the “might have been!”

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