Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Captain Roberts and the Game of Blockade-Running

The "Captain Roberts" mentioned below resided in Wilmington during the war, renting the lavish home of Mayor John Dawson directly across from the Bellamy Mansion which still stands.   The famed blockade-runner wrote his  reminiscences of "twelve successful trips in blockade-running," "Never Caught," in 1867.  The Dawson home is part of the popular "Confederate Wilmington" walking tour.

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"

Captain Roberts and the Game of Blockade Running

Many of the captains during the [first years of the war] were drawn from the very cream of the English navy, officers of prolonged naval experience who, tired of the inertia of life on half pay, were drawn to volunteer in the Confederate service by the lure of rich profits . . . and of adventure, which was a battle cry to those old sea dogs.

The sympathies of so many of the English were with the Confederacy that probably other naval officers would have gone in for blockade-running if the United States had not threatened to send all British officers taken on a blockade-runner to England in irons.

The English officers in this service usually operate under an assumed name. For instance, Captain Roberts, who commanded one of the first little twin-screw steamers, called the Don, was in reality a titled officer in the English Navy, the honorable Augustus Charles Hobart Hampden, son of the Earl of Buckinghamshire. He was post captain in the Royal Navy, and for a time commander of Queen Victoria's yacht, [the] Victoria and Albert.

He had seen service in the war against Emperor Nicholas in 1854 under the British admiral, Sir Charles Napier, and after the order, "Lads, sharpen your cutlasses," had boarded the Russian warships before Kronstadt, helped storm the seven forts which guarded the entrance to the harbor, and sailed up the Neva to St. Petersburg.

With the coming of the American war he obtained leave of absence to try his skill at this new game of blockade-running. He was very proud of his craft, in which he made six trips between Nassau and Wilmington [and] returned to England with a snug fortune.

The Don was captured on her very first trip after the command had been renounced by "Captain Roberts," and the chief officer was assumed by his captors to be Roberts.  He did not reveal his identity and the northern newspapers upon the arrival of the prize at Philadelphia were full of the capture of the "notorious Captain Roberts." Their chagrin, when they learned the mistake, equaled their former elation.

Dramatic to the end, unable to endure the dull routine of service ashore, Hobart accepted the command of the entire Turkish navy at the outbreak of the Turkish-Russian War.  He died, in accordance with his character, Hobart Pasha, admiral of the Turkish Navy."

(Foreigners in the Confederacy, Ella Lonn, UNC Press, 1940, pp. 299-301)

From: bernhard1848@gmail.com