Monday, December 2, 2013

British-Built Blockade Runners


A total of 588 blockade-runners would emerge from English ports during the war -- shipping 8,250 cargoes worth two million dollars the South paid for these imports with 1,250,000 bales of cotton. The majority of the runners sailed from Liverpool and some from Glasgow, with the North viewing this activity "as virtually tantamount to a participation in the war by the people of Great Britain . . . "

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman

North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission

"Unsurpassed Valor, Courage and Devotion to Liberty"

"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"

British-Built Blockade Runners

"In the early stages of the war every type of ship was used to break the blockade. But from 1862 onwards only steamers specially built or modified could slip through the Federal screen. Jones, Quiggin and Company of Liverpool built at least sixteen blockade runners between 1862 and 1865.  The Banshee, Lucy, Wild Dayrell, Bat, Badger, Colonel Lamb, Fox, Georgia, Belle, Hope, Lynx, Owl, Curlew, Hornet, Plover, Snipe, and Widgeon were all steel or iron paddle steamers of around 400 tons gross weight and were admirably built to evade the Federal ships.

W.H. Potter and sons in 1864 built two ships of a similar type, the Deer and Dream, while William C. Miller and Son created not only the Oreto/Florida and the unfortunate Alexandra but the successful blockade-runners Phantom, Let Her B, Celia, Abigail, and Ray.  Bowdler, Chaffer and Company of Seacombe, in 1864, launched the Secret and the Stag, and, in 1865, the Swan.

The Laird Brothers produced not only the wooden-screw Alabama (the Oreto and the Alexandra were also wooden-screw steamers), and the steel rams, but five steel paddle-steamers, the Wren, Lark, Mary, Isabel, and Penguin, and the Robert Todd, an iron screw.  All ships were especially suited to the swift maneuvers essential in blockade-running.

Most of these blockade-runners were bought and run by Liverpool trading firms.  Edward Lawrence and Company, the firm for which Tom Taylor worked as a supercargo throughout the war, and in which he eventually became a partner, owned the Banshee, a notorious blockade-runner with at least seven successful round trips to her credit before her capture.

A second Banshee was built and run by Aitken and Mansell and was again managed by the Liverpool firm.  Tom Taylor himself was lauded by Colonel [William] Lamb, commandant of Fort Fisher, for his "coolness and daring" and his generosity with food and luxuries to the poverty-stricken Confederates.

A number of blockade-runners were owned by the ship builders themselves – who no doubt made far more profit with them than would have ever been possible through straightforward sales.  William Quiggin of Jones, Quiggin and Company, owned the Bat, the Hope and the Colonel Lamb, which like the Phantom, roused [US consul to Liverpool Thomas H.] Dudley's suspicions when it was being built.

The Colonel Lamb was in fact sold by Quiggin to J.B. Lafitte of Nassau, but was never the property of the Confederacy, although it was one of the most notorious and successful blockade-runners under Liverpudlian Captain Tom Lockwood. T. Quiggin also owned the Owl, which was sold to [James] Bulloch for the Confederacy, as were Bat of the same firm and the Deer and the Stag – these were among the few blockade-runners owned by the Confederacy itself.  The Owl was to successfully run the blockade till the end of the war.

The financial advisor to the Confederacy, Charles Prioleau, of Frazer, Trenholm and Company, bought several ships for trade with the South. Prioleau also purchased the Flora, the fastest steamer of her day, and one which was to be a bane to the North."

(Support for Secession, Lancashire and the American Civil War, Mary Ellison, University of Chicago Press, 1972, pp. 168-172)