Monday, September 1, 2014

Blockade Running From Bermuda


It is said that masters of private blockade runners could expect $5,000 in gold for a successful round trip from Bermuda to Wilmington and back, and the Captain Roberts mentioned below used his profits to rent the opulent residence of Wilmington Mayor John Dawson while in port. Confederate commerce raiders John Newland Maffitt, John Wilkinson and others performed such a work of destruction on the North's merchant marine, that it never recovered after the war. The Dawson home is visited on the "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"

Blockade Running From Bermuda

"In July 1863 Captain [Hezekiah] Frith loaded his sturdy little Bermuda schooner, the Harkaway, with a cargo of boots, shoes and cloth and ran the blockade into Wilmington. Frith was evidently proud of his contribution to the Southern cause.  [US] Consul [Charles M.] Allen noted that upon his return he "flew the Confederate flag a considerable time while in port."

Another captain who often called at Bermuda . . . [was] "Captain Roberts" . . . the nom de guerre of the Honourable Augustus Charles Hobart-Hampden, a younger son of the Earl of Buckinghamshire.  Roberts/Hampden held the rank of Captain in the Royal Navy and at one time served as commander of [Queen Victoria's] yacht.

Roberts started blockade running in 1863 . . . On one run he earned a 1,100-percent profit selling corset stays, Cockle's Pills and toothbrushes to Southerners starved for consumer goods.

Another raider to call at Bermuda was the CSS Florida, under the command of Lieutenant John Maffitt, CSN.  She left Liverpool as the Oreto in March, 1862, and received her guns from the CSS Nashville in Nassau a month later.  After capturing a number of prizes in the South Atlantic, Maffitt turned north, threatening US shipping along the eastern seaboard.

Arriving in St. George's in early July for coal and repairs, the Florida exchanged salutes with the British garrison at Fort Cunningham.  While in port the Florida . . . took on all the coal then available in St. George's.  She also transferred . . . captured items from various prizes to the Robert E. Lee, which ran them into Wilmington.  While his ship was being repaired, Maffitt was "handsomely entertained" by the island's British garrison, who, according to Georgiana Walker, "believed that Capt. Maffitt had achieved gallant deeds upon the sea & . . . [and] honored him accordingly."

In mid-1864 the blockade runner Edith was converted to a commerce raider and commissioned as the CSS Chickamauga.  She left Wilmington for her first cruise on October 28, under the command of Capt. John Wilkinson, CSN, former captain of the runner Robert E. Lee.

The Chickamauga prowled the shipping lanes as far north as Long Island Sound, taking seven prizes before calling at Bermuda to provision. One of the vessels she captured southwest of Bermuda, the US merchant ship Harriet Stevens, carried a supply of gum opium that Wilkinson consigned to a runner for delivery to Southern hospitals.

(Rogues & Runners, Bermuda and the American Civil War, Catherine Lynch Deichmann,  Bermuda National Trust, 2003, excerpts pp. 46-57)