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The blockade

The speedy “Rhode Island” --one of the few Federal cruisers swift enough to catch the greyhound blockade-runners that could outdistance most of the fleet


A greyhound caught — wreck of the blockade-runner “colt” The wreck of this blockade-runner, the “Colt,” lies off Sullivan's Island, Charleston Harbor, in 1865. The coast of the Carolinas, before the war was over, was strewn with just such sights as this. The bones of former “greyhounds” became landmarks by which the still uncaptured blockade-runners could get their bearings and lay a course to safety. If one of these vessels were cut off from making port and surrounded by Federal pursuers, the next best thing was to run her ashore in shallow water, where the gunboats could not follow and where her valuable cargo could be secured by the Confederates. A single cargo at war-time prices was enough to pay more than the cost of the vessel. Regular auctions were held in Charleston or Wilmington, where prices for goods not needed by the Confederate Government were run up to fabulous figures. The business of blockade-running was well organized abroad, especially in England. One successful trip was enough to start the enterprise with a handsome profit. A blockade-runner like the “Kate,” which made forty trips or more, would enrich her owners almost beyond the dreams of avarice.


The remains of the “Ruby” soon after her capture by U. S. S. “Proteus,” February, 1865 Here on the beach of Morris Island lies all that was left of the swift and doughty blockade-runner “Ruby.” She was one of the most successful of her kind. She was busy early in 1862, plying between Nassau and Charleston. Not until February 27, 1865, while trying to get in with an assorted cargo of the type usually denominated “hardware,” was she at last entrapped. The Federal screw-steamer “Proteus,” Commander R. W. Shufeldt, picked up her scent and gave chase, with the result seen in the picture. It was for taking such risks as these that the captains of the blockade-runners received $5,000 a month instead of the $150 which was the prevailing rate in the merchant service before the war. Officers and crews were paid in like proportion. Coal was worth $20 a ton instead of $4, as formerly. The whole expense of the trip was from three to four times what it would have been in time of peace, and yet a single cargo of cotton was worth from a quarter of a million to a million dollars, and the freight rates in and out ranged from $300 to $1,000 a ton. It was too alluring a business to be deterred by difficulty and danger. As Disraeli remarked, the exploits of the blockade-runners “increase our respect for the energy of human nature.”


A late capture--December, 1864--flying the British flag In this blockade-runner is seen the type of vessel in which foreign capital was lavishly invested. She is still flying the British flag, under which she plied her trade, and appears to have been the property of a syndicate of British merchants. In the early stages of the war the Confederacy purchased a number of vessels abroad for use as privateers and blockade-runners. In the beginning the latter were officered by members of the Confederate navy, but later in the war blockade-running became so profitable that the Confederacy could afford to leave it almost entirely to private initiative, rendering such assistance as was needed to enable the vessels to make port or to discharge their cargo in case they were driven on the beach. with the exception of a lighthouse which the Confederates established on the “Mound” near Port Fisher, there were no guides for blockade-runners at night, except the glow of fires of the ever-busy salt-works and the range lights which were put out in the various channels only after the vessel had exchanged signals with the shore and which were removed immediately after she had made port. It is a remarkable fact that no blockade-runner commanded by an officer of the Confederate navy was ever captured. The famous veteran, the “Robert E. Lec,” the best blockade-runner of the Confederacy and long commanded by Lieut-Commander John Wilkinson, C. S. N., did not meet her fate until October, 1863, on the very first trip she made after Commander Wilkinson had been superseded at Halifax, N. S. by an officer from the merchant marine.


A fleet-footed blockade-runner, with telescoping stacks This rakish side-wheel steamer was photographed off Norfolk, Va., December, 1864, some time after the boat had been compelled by force of arms to change her occupation from Confederate blockade-running to very useful work with the Federal blockading fleet, under the name of “Fort Donelson.” She was of 900 tons burden. Burning an thrucite coal, with telescoping smokestacks which could be lowered till almost level with the deck, these vessels left Bermuda and Nassau “on moons” --that is to say, when their arrival of the Southern coast would be attended by as much darkness as possible. Mostly Clyde-built vessels, their first trip would be from some British port with a crew shipped to Bermuda or Nassau “and a market.” Little difficulty was experienced in securing recruits willing to take the places of those who did not wish to go the whole cruise. The runners would leave Bermuda and Nassau half a dozen at a time at favorable opportunities, with a regularity and despatch that the Northern newspapers of the day were fond of commending to the blockading squadron. Old veterans like the “R. E. Lec” and the “Kate” plied with the precision of regular packets. At Havana the blockade-runners were more frequent callers than the regular merchantmen between that city and New York. The “Fort Donelson,” while in the Federal navy, on August 15, 1864, under command of Acting Vol. Lieut. T. Pickering, captured a suspicious-looking vessel, the “Dacotah,” but she was subsequently released. In January, 1865, the “Fort Donelson,” under command of Acting Master G. W. Frost, took part in the expedition against Fort Fisher, which dealt such a heavy blow at blockade-running, the business in which she was formerly engaged.


There are two kinds of blockades — military and commercial. A military blockade is merely the equivalent, on the part of a naval force, of that of a siege upon land, and has been practised from the very earliest times. Commercial blockades are instituted with the principal object of stopping an enemy's imports, crippling his trade, and isolating him from commerce with the outside world. In the old monarchies and the republics of antiquity, trade, even when affecting national interest, was held in contempt; there is no record in the his-tories of early nations of this commercial form of warfare. When Columbus and Vasco da Gama opened the great ocean routes and provided markets that turned royal minds to the value of commerce, international customs and trade relations were entirely changed — the new weapon of the blockade grew suddenly to be an element in warfare. The Dutch provinces of Spain, in their great fight for independence, were the first to make use of it, when they established the commercial blockade of the Scheldt.

The blockade which the United States proclaimed, and at last succeeded in enforcing, against the ports of the Southern Confederacy was of a twofold character; it was both military and commercial, and was recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States as being valid, and sanctioned by both municipal and international law. By the amended proclamation of President Lincoln on the 27th of April, 1861, the whole seacoast of the South Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, from Virginia to the Rio Grande, a stretch of over three thousand miles, was interdicted from commercial relations with any foreign shore. But had the President or his advisers perceived the magnitude of the task or apprehended its difficulties and [111]

The first Federal blockading squadron photographed by a Confederate in 1861 This dimmed Confederate photograph of early in 1861 ranks as a unique historical document — for it shows, beyond Fort Pickens on the point of Santa Rosa Island, the Federal squadron that began the blockade on the Atlantic coast. Two tiny figures at the lower right gaze across the waters-Confederates who little dream how mighty a part those ships and their sisters will play in the coming struggle. The view was taken from the lighthouse by Edwards of New Orleans. The relief of Fort Pickens was the first dramatic incident of the war in which the navy played a part. In January, 1861, the “Brooklyn,” Captain W. S. Walker, was sent with some United States troops on board to reenforce the little garrison at Fort Pickens. But, owing to the conciliatory policy of the Buchanan Administration, a joint-order from the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy was sent to the naval and military commanders on January 29th, instructing them not to land the troops unless Fort Pickens should be attacked. On April 12th Lieutenant John L. Worden, later of “Monitor” fame, arrived with a special message from Secretary Welles, and that night the Fort was saved by soldiers landed from the “Brooklyn.”

[112] complexities, the blade that cut the life-artery of the newly risen Confederate Government might never have been forged. The great blockade of European history was that put in force by England against the ports of France and Spain at the beginning of the last century. England's wooden walls and her sailing supremacy made this a possibility, but the fact that assisted the United States in the accomplishment of its own huge task was the power of steam. The Federal Government, through the exercise of its tremendous financial resources, organized a succession of fleets that, massed together, would have made the combined navies of the old world hesitate before descending upon the coasts of the Western continent.

The problem of transportation, always the bugbear of military governments but the deciding factor in the sum of their accomplishments, was solved by the North, not by the use of its open lines of communication, its railways, or its roads, but by control of inland waters and the coastwise ocean lanes. In one week, the fleet and the army that in the end effected the control of the Mississippi valley were moved from their home bases to the scene of active operations. Only could this have been done by a belligerent power that was able uninterruptedly to maintain its ocean traffic by means of the power of steam. It was this that enabled the Federal navy to post a cordon of pickets at the mouth of every harbor, river, and inlet from Maryland to Mexico. By means of this control of the sea-coast, the commercial operations of all the ports of the Confederacy were substantially ended. Through the use of sea power the islands of North and South Carolina were taken possession of, not without much hard fighting, however, and fighting in which the new navy of the United States proved the hitherto undemonstrated fact that unarmored vessels of heavy broadsides kept in constant motion by the power of steam could set aside the vaunted superiority of well-placed and well-fought batteries ashore.

Along the Atlantic coast were innumerable indentations [113]

Officers on deck of the U. S. S. “Rhode Island This proved to be one of the most useful of the vessels purchased by the Navy Department during the war. Commissioned in May, 1861, she was one of the last of the Federal warships to go out of service, June, 1865. During the entire war she was commanded by Commander (later Rear-Admiral) Stephen Decatur Trenchard. At the time this picture was taken at Cape Haytien, her executive officers were Lieutenant Pennell, Lieutenant Farquhar, and Master Rodney Brown. Other officers were Chief-Engineer McCutcheon, Captain's Clerk F. C. T. Beck, Paymaster R. Hall Douglas, Paymaster's Clerk, Langdon Rodgers. She had first been employed as a special despatch-boat for the rapid transmission of Government orders to all squadron commanders. Her speed proved so great that she was soon converted into a heavily armed cruiser (twelve guns) and sent to West Indian waters to search for Confederate privateers and blockade-runners. She made numerous prizes and was subsequently transferred to Wilkes' flying squadron. She was finally attached to Admiral Porter's South Atlantic squadron and took part in both attacks on Fort Fisher. For his conduct there Commander Trenchard was specially mentioned in orders by his chief.

[114] that multiplied a thousand times the difficulties of maintaining a strict blockade. From Cape Henry to Matamoras, every bay, sound, harbor, and inlet offered tempting shelter to any craft inward bound and laden with the contraband of war, and from these hidden nooks vessels loaded with cotton for the idle factories of Europe essayed the hazardous voyage that brought the reward of French and British gold.

Remarkable as it may seem, it was the Confederacy that made the first move in the game of blockade. The State of Virginia attempted to close the Potomac and to prevent egress and ingress to the national capital. A total lack of naval force prevented such accomplishment. But the Federal navy's blockade of the Southern ports became ultimately the determining factor in the downfall of the Confederacy. Vicksburg and Port Hudson surrendered as much to Farragut and to Porter as to Grant. Sherman's march to the sea would never have been undertaken had not the Federal fleets already held possession of Port Royal and so strongly invested the harbors of Savannah, Charleston, and Wilmington. In his campaign against Richmond, McClellan sought shelter under the guns of the navy, and Grant was enabled, through the navy's control of the coast, to maintain his base at City Point.

Had Jefferson Davis a navy at his command, the result of the internecine struggle might have been far different. It was the blockade as much as the battles that brought to every Southern home the horrible reality of want that follows in the track of war. The people of the North knew no deprivations, but the women and children of the South, before the conflict ended, were suffering from the lack of the very things that ships, and ships only, could bring them. The watching cordons spread along the coast ultimately precluded the import of articles, not only of trade but of necessity. It was natural that the ports of Virginia and North Carolina received the first attention of the Federal navy.

Agreeable to the requirements of international law, notice [115]

Port Royal, 1862.

In these photographs of March, 1862, Federals are busily at work making the newly captured Port Royal the strong and handy Southern base it remained throughout the war. It had become apparent early in the war that, if the blockade were to be made effective, the Federal Government must repossess itself as quickly as possible of the forts guarding the entrances to the important harbors of the South. From the Rio Grande to the Chesapeake the coast defenses were in the hands of the Confederacy. It was impossible for the navy to prevent the ingress and egress of blockade-runners under friendly guns. President Lincoln, in June, 1861, convened a board including Captain Samuel Francis Du Pont and Captain Charles H. Davis, of the navy, Major John G. Barnard, of the army, and Professor Alexander D. Bache, of the coast survey. After careful study they presented a plan to the President. Its first object was to obtain possession of Hatteras Inlet and thus close the main entrance to Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, which were veritable havens of refuge to the blockade-runner. This was to be followed up by the capture of Port Royal for a naval base, where vessels could be coaled and repaired without the necessity of being withdrawn from the blockading squadron for the long period required to reach a Northern port. On August 29th a fleet under Flag-Officer Silas H. Stringham, together with a military force commanded by General Benjamin F. Butler, carried out successfully the first of these plans. This was the first expedition in which the army cooperated with the navy. On November 7th another joint expedition, under Flag-Officer Samuel Francis Du Pont, silenced and captured the forts at Port Royal. Then into the sounds had to be sent light-draft gunboats to drive the Confederates from position after position back toward Charleston and Savannah — the first effective step by the Federal navy toward narrowing the field of the blockade-runners, compelling them to seek harbors where the larger vessels of the old navy could be effectively used against them.

Federals on the wharf at Port Royal--1862

Stores at the newly captured base

[116] of the blockade was given formally, first at Hampton Roads by Flag-Officer G. J. Pendergast three days after President Lincoln had signed the proclamation declaring it. This was on the 30th of April, 1861. On the 11th of May, Captain W. W. McKean, commanding the frigate Niagara which had hastened home from Japanese waters, appeared off Charleston and gave notice to the foreign ships then in that port that the blockading laws would be rigidly enforced. On the 25th of May, he appeared off Pensacola, Florida, and the same day gave notice. Neutral vessels were boarded and warned off the coasts. The steam frigate Brooklyn, under Commander C. H. Poor, at the same time proclaimed the blockade at the mouth of the Mississippi, and Lieutenant D. D. Porter, in the Powhatan, did the same thing at the entrance to Mobile Bay. The menace had begun. By July, every port had been informed.

Europe, especially England, was at first inclined to laugh at the attempt to close these profitable markets. It was indeed at the outset, in view of the bigness of the task, apparently ludicrous. Here was a coast three thousand five hundred and forty-nine miles long, containing almost two hundred places where anchors could be dropped and cargoes landed. But very soon the shoe began to pinch. As a foreign writer of renown, in reviewing this phase of the war, puts it, “the rapid rise in the prices of all imported commodities in the insurgent States presented the exact measure of the efficiency of the blockade.” In December of 1861, when Congress met, the Secretary of the Navy reported that in addition to the regular forces then afloat there had been purchased one hundred and thirty-six vessels; that thirty-four ships had been repaired and put in commission, and that fifty-two vessels were in process of construction, making in all two hundred and sixty-four ships manned, armed, and equipped, and flying the flag of the United States. In the eight months of the war the available navy had been more than trebled.

Engaged in the blockade duty were two separate squadrons. [117]

Hilton Head, 1862.

These scenes show the activities that sprang up around Hilton Head after the success of the Port Royal expedition. The picture above is of the foundry shop erected by the Federals. Here hundreds of mechanics were kept constantly employed, repairing the iron work needed aboard the gunboats and doing work for which the ships other-wise would have had to go North. The central picture shows the anchor rack, where were kept all sizes of anchors from the small ones used for mooring buoys to those of the largest ships. In the early part of the war hundreds of anchors were lost to the navy by ships slipping their moorings to stand off-shore in bad weather. Later the employment of long heavy deep-sea cables obviated this necessity, enabling ships to ride out gales. Not a single vessel of the regular navy foundered or was wrecked during the whole war. One of the first things done by the Federal authorities after gaining a foothold at Hilton Head was to replace all buoys and lights. In the lower picture one of the monitors is convoying the new lightship that was sent down from the North to replace the one removed, at the outbreak of hostilities, by the Confederates.

The outlying navy-yard — Hilton Head, 1862

The outlying navy-yard — Hilton Head, 1862--the anchor rack

Monitor at Port Royal convoying lightship


One was the Atlantic Blockading Squadron, of twenty-two vessels carrying two hundred and ninety-six guns and thirty-five hundred men under Flag-Officer Stringham, who had for his field of operations the whole of the Atlantic coast from Norfolk to Cape Florida. Flag-Officer Mervine had been given command of the other squadron, whose department was the Gulf. Here were twenty-one vessels, carrying two hundred and eighty-two guns and thirty-four hundred men. As fast as new ships could be built or old ships bought and repaired, these squadrons were reenforced. During the war more than two hundred vessels were built and more than four hundred purchased. As has been noticed before, in the chapter on Federal Organization, there were more officers in the navy at the end of the Civil War than there were seamen at its commencement, the numbers totaling seven thousand five hundred who held commissions and fifty-one thousand sailormen.

The blockade was no child's play, as England and the Continent soon learned, and for those engaged in it, it was work of serious character. The Comte de Paris, in his “History of the Civil war,” has summed up the work of officers and men who, for four years, policed that seaboard of three thousand miles: “Their task was the more arduous on account of its extreme monotony. To the watches and fatigues of every kind which the duties of the blockade involved, there were added difficulties of another character. It was necessary to instruct the newly recruited crews, to train officers who had been taken from the merchant navy, and to ascertain, under the worst possible circumstances, the good and bad qualities of merchant vessels too quickly converted into men of war. In these junctures the Federal navy displayed a perseverance, a devotion, and a knowledge of its profession which reflects as much honor upon it as its more brilliant feats of arms.”

Before the blockade was six months old, the Atlantic Squadron was divided in two. Flag-Officer Goldsborough [119]

Admiral Samuel Phillips Lee.

When the war broke out, Samuel Phillips Lee, who was born in Virginia in 1811, had already seen twenty-six years of almost continuous service. During the Civil War he was frequently shifted, but everywhere set an example to the service. At the passage of Forts Jackson and St. Phillip he commanded the sloop-of-war “Oneida.” He fought conspicuously in the battles of the Mississippi, from New Orleans to Vicksburg. In July of 1862 he was placed in command of the North Atlantic blockading squadron, making the blockade more effective than ever. Late in the war, in the summer of 1864, he was transferred to the Mississippi squadron, keeping the Cumberland River open for the army. The sloop below, attached to the blockading squadron during the war, won quite a name for herself, although not engaged in any of the larger actions, by capturing a number of prizes. In 1861, under Captain C. Green, she caught the blockade-runner “Alvarado” and took the British vessel “Aigburth” at sea laden with contraband intended for the Confederacy. On December 15th, of the following year, she captured the ship “Havelock” and a large brig that was trying to make the coast, laden with cloth and percussion-caps. The “Jamestown” was ordered to the East Indies September 11, 1862, where she remained till after the war's close. She had a roving commission full of adventure.

Admiral S. P. Lee North Atlantic blockading squadron, 1862

A fast sailer the sloop-of-war “Jamestown

[120] took command of the North Atlantic, guarding the coast of Virginia and North Carolina, while Flag-Officer Du Pont was assigned to the South Atlantic, guarding the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. The Gulf Squadron also was divided: Flag-Officer McKean took command of the East Gulf from Cape Canaveral to Pensacola, and Flag-Officer Farragut was assigned to the command of the West Gulf from Pensacola to Matamoras. When Port Royal was taken by Du Pont and Farragut had captured New Orleans, the navy had not only established bases but had entered wedges into the very vitals of the Confederacy. After holding the command of the North Atlantic Squadron for little short of a year, Admiral Goldsborough was relieved by Admiral Lee, who was, two years later, relieved in turn by Admiral Porter. The latter's command was brief but full of stirring events and brilliant deeds. The Confederacy, though tottering, was fighting tenaciously. Brave old Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor was still unsurrendered, and the land forces of the South held a few strong positions on the Atlantic coast, but the navy and the army of the United States, acting in cooperation, soon had possession of every port and sea-coast battery, Fort Fisher being the last to fall, on January 15, 1865.

In July of 1863, Admiral Du Pont had been relieved by Admiral Dahlgren, who hauled down his flag two years later at Washington. In the East Gulf, the command fell successively on Admirals Lardner, Bailey, and Stribling. In the West Gulf, Farragut retained command until after the capture of Mobile Bay, in 1864, when Admiral Thatcher succeeded him.

The monotony of this continual and watchful existence was broken by the frequent chasing and occasional capture of blockade-runners. The log-books of this adventurous fleet of marine speculators would make chapters as full of interest as any in naval history. But it would be interest of the kind one finds in fiction. It was one series of deliberated, challenging dangers and hairbreadth escapes to freedom. Profits almost [121]

Bold blockaders

This fast side-wheel steamer under Commander C. Steedman saw her first active service in the war in following up the advantages gained by the Federal navy at Port Royal. July 29, 1862, she led three other gunboats up the Ogeechee River to the first attack upon Fort McAllister. The following October she led the expedition to Florida which captured the Confederate batteries on St. John's Bluff. The following year, under Commander A. C. Rhind, she was with the fleet of Rear-Admiral Dahlgren, which captured Fort Wagner on Morris Island in Charleston Harbor, July 18th. Of her seven guns, two were 50-pounder rifles and one a 100-pounder, which made her a very efficient blockader. The trim little gunboat “Marblehead” (shown below), rating something over five hundred tons, was active throughout the war. In April, 1862, under the command of Lieutenant S. Nicholson, she was in the Chesapeake aiding McClellan in his operations before Yorktown. In February, 1863, she joined the blockading squadron, and under Lieutenant-Commanders R. W. Scott and R. W. Meade, Jr., she participated in the operations in the vicinity of Charleston, supporting the movements up the Stono River and the attacks on Morris Island.

The “Paul Jones

The trim gunboat “Marblehead

[122] beyond belief were made by the owners of these vessels which were mostly built in Great Britain and were the fastest steaming craft of their day. They were loaded with arms, ammunition, and other supplies needed by the Confederacy, and departed on the return voyage loaded down to their gunwales with cotton. It is a question whether, in the main, the traffic was successful, for so many of these greyhounds were captured by the blockading fleets, and destroyed or wrecked, that in figuring up profit and loss the totals must have almost equaled. During the war the number of blockade-runners destroyed or captured was one thousand five hundred and four. The gross proceeds of the property condemned as lawful captures at sea and prizes to the vessels who took them, before November 1, 1864, amounted to $21,840,000. Subsequently this sum was increased by new decisions of the prize-courts, and actually the total loss to owners who ventured in the business and who principally resided in Great Britain, was in the neighborhood of $30,000,000. The damage paid in the Alabama Claims decision was very little more than half this sum.

The first prize captured off Charleston was the ship General Parkhill that was taken by the Niagara. The second of Charleston's prizes was the schooner Savannah that was taken by the United States brig Perry on June 3, 1861. She had been a pilot-boat before the war, and was not in any sense a blockade-runner except for the fact that she had escaped from Charleston and made the open sea. It was intended that she should intercept American merchant vessels, and she was practically a privateer. She had already made one or two prizes when, mistaking the Perry for a merchantman, she suffered the consequences. The blockade had more to do with the blockade-runners than with the privateers; the history of these latter vessels, daring as any adventurers in the days of Drake or Frobisher, is of the greatest interest. The careers of the Sumter and the brig Jefferson Davis, the Amelia, the Dixie, the Petrel, the Bonita, the James Gray, and many others would [123]

A pursuer of many prizes — the “Santiago de Cuba This vigilant blockader was one of the first to see active service. As early as December 3, 1861, Commander D. B. Ridgely brought her ten guns to bear upon the schooner “Victoria” and captured her off Point Isabel on her way to the West Indies with a cargo of cotton. In February of the next year, the “Santiago” caught the sloop “O. K.” off Cedar Keys, Florida. The next month she drove a blockade-runner ashore. On April 23, 1862, she captured two schooners and (two days later) a steamer, all on their way from Charleston loaded with cotton. On April 30th she added to her prizes the schooner “Maria,” and on May 27th the schooner “Lucy C. Holmes,” both with more cotton; on August 3, 1862, at sea, the steamer “Columbia,” loaded with munitions of war, and on August 27th the schooner “Lavinia” with a cargo of turpentine. In 1863 the side-wheel steamer “Britannia” and the blockade-runner “Lizzie” were her captures, the former loaded heavily with cotton. Cotton was so valuable at this stage of the war that if a blockade-runner attempted to lighten herself by throwing over a part of her cargo, volunteers were called for from the crew of the closest vessel pursuing to swim out and climb up on the cotton-bales until they could be recovered for their own particular ship after the prize was made. In 1864, after capturing the famous blockade-runner “A. D. Vance” and the “Lucy,” the “Santiago de Cuba” served with distinction at Fort Fisher.

[124] make exciting reading. Their careers, however, were all short; many of the blockade-runners kept at sea much longer. The Robert E. Lee, under the command of Captain John Wilkinson, C. S. N., ran the blockade no less than twenty-one times, and carried out from six thousand to seven thousand bales of cotton worth two million dollars in gold, at the same time bringing back return cargoes of equal value.

On November 9, 1863, she attempted to run in once more from the island of Bermuda, but Wilkinson and his luck had deserted her; she was under the command of another captain, and was captured off Cape Lookout shoals by the steamer James Adger and taken to Boston as a prize. As many of these captured blockade-runners were added to the squadrons off the coast, the hare became a member of the pack of hounds, and not a few of them, like the Bat, A. D. Vance and others, helped chase their sister vessels to their death. Over three hundred piled their bones along the shore — in fact, every harbor-mouth of the South was dotted with them.

On the 31st of January, 1863, there took place a brilliant and famous attempt on the part of the Confederate naval forces in Charleston to break the blockade, when the ironclads Palmetto State and Chicora actually put out from their harbor and steamed some distance out to sea, these rams having engaged several strong Federal gunboats, capturing one and putting the others to flight. Flag-Officer Ingraham, the senior officer of the attack, was fully persuaded that he had broken the blockade, and upon his return to Charleston so reported to General Beauregard. The latter did everything in his power to force this claim upon the attention of foreign governments, for if the consuls of European nations at Charleston would have acted upon such representation, it would have been necessary for the Federal Government to have established a fresh blockade in accordance with the laws of nations. However, to put it briefly, although this intrepid exploit came as a thunderclap to the North, the great Federal armada had [125]

Commodore Gershom J. Van Brunt, U. S. N. The gallant commander of the “Minnesota.” He and his ship were early in the thick of things and served under Rear-Admiral Goldsborough at Hatteras Inlet. Made commodore July 16, 1862, Van Brunt was actively engaged in blockade duty during the rest of the war.

Rear-Admiral James L. Lardner, U. S. N. In command of the steam frigate “Susquehanna,” he formed an active part of Admiral Du Pont's “circle of fire” at Port Royal, November 7, 1861. In 1862-3 he was in command of the East Gulf blockading squadron and in 1864 of the West Indian squadron.

Rear-Admiral Charles Wilkes, U. S. N. A nephew of the celebrated John Wilkes of London, this officer in 1838-42 led the exploring expedition that discovered the Antarctic continent. In 1861 he obtained fame of another kind by seizing Mason and Slidell aboard the British steamer “Trent” and conveying them to Boston in his ship, the “San Jacinto.” He had been cruising in the West Indies, looking for the Confederate cruiser “Sumter,” and seized the opportunity for what appeared to be bigger game. Wilkes was thanked by Congress and applauded by the people of the North, but his act nearly brought on a war with England. On August 28, 1862, in command of a flotilla, he destroyed City Point, which was later to become the army base in the closing operations in Virginia. Wilkes afterward did excellent service with his famous “flying squadron,” capturing blockade-runners in the West Indian waters.


The commander who closed in on CharlestonDahlgren and his staff The South Atlantic blockading squadron was fortunate in being commanded by the best brains of the navy throughout the war. Admiral Du Pont, whose genius had helped to organize the Naval Academy at Annapolis, guided the fortunes of the squadron until July 6, 1863, when he was succeeded by Admiral Dahlgren (seen in the center of picture, his thumb thrust in his coat), who remained in command until after both Savannah and Charleston had fallen. He was chosen by the Administration to recapture Fort Sumter and secure possession of Charleston. The task proved an impossible one. But Dahlgren in cooperation with the military forces captured Morris Island and drew the cordon of the blockade closer about Charleston. Admiral Dahlgren was the inventor of a new form of cannon. He also introduced the light boat-howitzers which proved so useful in the blockading service.


Admiral Du Pont and staff, on board the “Wabash,” off Savannah, 1863 From left to right: Capt. C. R. P. Rodgers, fleet captain; Rear-Adm. S. F. Du Pont, commanding fleet; Commander Thomas G. Corbin, commanding “Wabash” ; Lieutenant Samuel W. Preston, flag-lieutenant; Admiral's Secretary McKinley; Paymaster John S. Cunningham; Lieut. Alexander Slidell McKenzie; Fleet Surgeon George Clymer; Lieut. James P. Robertson; Ensign Lloyd Phenix; Commander William Reynolds, Store-Ship “Vermont” ; Lieut.-Com. John S. Barnes, Executive Officer. Rear-Admiral Samuel Francis Du Post was the man who first made the blockade a fact. To his naval genius the Federal arms owed their first victory in the war. His plan for the capture of Port Royal on the Southern coast was brilliantly carried out. Forming his fleet in a long line, he, in the “Wabash,” boldly led it in an elliptical course past first one Fort and then the other, completing this “terrible circle of fire” three times till the Confederate guns were silenced. Du Pont's plan of battle became a much followed precedent for the navy during the war, for by it he had won his victory with a loss of but eight killed and twenty-three wounded. A midshipman at the age of twelve, he had got his training in the old navy.

[128] only been caught slightly off its guard. England refused to admit that the blockade had been raised by the events of January 31st. Charleston never had another opportunity, for there was soon off the port the strongest fleet then at sea, which embraced the New Ironsides, mounting fourteen 11-inch Dahlgren guns, two 150-pounder rifles, and two 50-pounder rifles, and also the monitors Weehawken, Passaic, Montauk, Patapsco, Catskill, Nantucket, and Nahant, besides the monitor Keokuk, of a slightly different pattern from the Ericsson floating turrets.

The game of blockade-running became so expensive that during the last few months of the war it was practically abandoned. Many of the blockade-runners which had found it impossible to escape were dismantled, it being useless to attempt to break through the watching line. As port after port fell into Federal possession, it was not necessary to maintain so strict a watch, but there was one other factor that helped to decide matters — it was the waning and final disappearance of the Confederate credit abroad, for the Government claimed for itself a percentage of every cargo of cotton. The blockade had accomplished this, and in keeping the foreign-built cruisers from rendezvousing on their own shore, had confined their efforts merely to the destruction of commerce-carrying merchant ships on the far high seas.

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