American Civil War in the News is a edited review of American Civil War related news and articles, providing collection of hand-picked 1861-1865 era history.

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Naval war and blockade - American Civil War

Latest hand-picked Civil War news and articles.

Blockade of Confederate ports - Squeezing the South into Submission
Though the Union army was still getting its war footing, by August 1861 the Northern blockade of Southern ports and waterways was almost complete. That month federal ships closed the Mississippi River to commerce between loyal and secessionist states, while naval squadrons were in place off the coast of most Southern cities, from south Texas to the Chesapeake. A large number of blockade runners managed to slip past the Union ships, but the relevant data point is not how many ships evaded capture, but how many ships never sailed that, undeterred, otherwise would have.

Strangling the Confederacy:: Coastal Operations in the American Civil War by Kevin Dougherty
"Strangling the Confederacy" examines Union coastal operations against the Confederate States during the American Civil War. With 189 harbour and river openings along the 3549 miles of Confederate shoreline between the Potomac and the Rio Grande, it was easier to declare the blockade than enforce it.

Bermuda and the Confederate Blockade Runners
Because of the Union naval blockade, Bermuda - in addition to the Bahamas and Cuba - became a hotspot of Confederate commerce. Bermuda was both a location where cotton was exchanged for British weapons and a refueling depot for Confederate blockade runners making transatlantic journeys.

The day 45 Australians rowed off to fight with the Confederates
When a Confederate warship sailed into Port Melbourne it set off a chain of events that cost Britain a small fortune. In 1865 the Confederate raider Shenandoah limped in for repairs, avoiding Union ships that had been chasing it. Many Melburnians were sympathetic to the rebels' cause, and they became the toast of the town as they waited for repairs to the ship's propeller shaft. Balls were held in their honour and crowds flocked to see the ship. The US consul, William Blanchard, attempted to rally the authorities to intervene, but the repaired and resupplied Shenandoah left with 45 new recruits.

American History Series: The Civil War at Sea
As soon as the war started, President Abraham Lincoln wanted to block the South's ports to prevent the South from shipping its products to other countries in exchange for industrial goods. The plan had weaknesses. The Union navy was too small for the job and the Confederate seacoast was long. The Confederacy had no navy at the start of the Civil War - and little money to create one - plus no factories to build one. For a while, the Confederacy was able to get warships from Britain, but then the Union put diplomatic pressure on Britain to stop this cooperation. So the Confederacy depended on privately owned ships to get goods in and out of the South.

Archaeologists locate Confederate cannons from a sunken Confederate gunboat in the Pee Dee River
Archaeologists have located 2 large cannons - each weighing upwards of 5 tons - from sunken Confederate gunboat C.S.S. Pee Dee in the Pee Dee River and have pinpointed where the Mars Bluff Naval Yard once stood on the east side of the river in Marion County, S.C. Underwater archaeologist Christopher Amer says the findings and the artifacts recovered will help tell the story of the people who worked at the Mars Bluff Naval Yard and how they built the Confederate warships. The Mars Bluff Naval Yard was one of many Confederate naval yards that were located inland in Southern states so gunboats and support vessels could be built and protected from Union forces.

Lincoln and His Admirals by Craig L. Symonds [book review]
There's no way to tell the story of Abraham Lincoln and his admirals without setting the context: the politics, the strategies, the land and naval campaigns, foreign relations and the state of the nation as a whole. Craig L. Symonds takes all those strings and weaves them into an informative book. Lincoln was prone to defer on military matters to the generals, but there were no admirals - The highest Navy grade was captain. Therefore, when one of the first naval crises came up, the Southern pressure on Fort Sumter, Lincoln turned to what advisors he had at hand, the newly nominated Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles and his Assistant Secretary Gustavus Fox.

Confederate Navy raider Raphael Semmes had colorful career on CSS Alabama
Raphael Semmes does not spark a lot of space in local historical accounts, but he carved a heroic course in a bad cause as the most successful Confederate raider during the Civil War. Born Sept. 27, 1809 Semmes was a captain in the Confederate States Navy. During a 22-month period, he seized 447 vessels, including over 60 Union merchant ships. Known as the "Wolf of the Deep" he was the captain of the CSS Alabama, and his raids on the sea during the Civil War earned him a place in military history. "He was called a pirate, but that's not true. He was an officer in the navy of the Confederacy," explained naval historian William Dudley.

Confederate Navy is not forgotten
Yes, the Confederate States of America had a navy. Not only did the ships travel the high seas, they also operated on the rivers flowing through Dixie. There are today in several locations throughout the South the remnants of ships, gunboats and submarines which were a part of the navy of the Confederacy. There is a Confederate Naval Museum located in Columbus, Georgia. The city constructed the museum after two Confederate ships, The CSS Jackson (ironclad) and the CSS Chattahoochee (gunboat), were found in the Chattahoochee River during a drought when the river was very low.

Confederate boats prepare to sink the USS Underwriter
When the Confederate navy resolved to take out the Union gunboat Underwriter in 1864, they meant it as a literal thing. Daniel Conrad was among the men selected for the secret mission. 10 small boats and 120 men would take part, "every one of whom were young, vigorous, fully alive and keen for the prospective work." At sundown they encamped on an island, and "in distinct and terse terms" heard their instructions from Commander J. Taylor Wood — a naval officer known for daring feats. The plan was simple: 10 boats would board the Underwriter from two sides. Using small arms and surprise to capture her, they would build up her steam, and sail her away.

Wolf-Infested Waters: Confederate raider harassed Union Navy   (Article no longer available from the original source)
In 1863, the Cape Malay people of South Africa were so impressed with the CSS Alabama that they wrote a folk song to the Confederate raider and her captain Raphael Semmes. Stephen Fox has written a tribute "Wolf of the Deep: Raphael Semmes and the Notorious Confederate Raider CSS Alabama by Stephen Fox" a history of Semmes and the ship he used to cause so much difficulty for Union shipping. The Alabama seldom had to use her guns, and she only twice came into contact with the Union Navy. She preyed on civilian shipping and whalers, capturing and burning 52 ships, sinking 1, bonding 9 and disposing of 3 others in various fashion.

Gunboat Water Witch sailed under both Confederate and Union flag
Captured by Confederate sailors in a bloody sneak attack in 1864, the gunboat Water Witch became one of the few Civil War ships to sail under the flags of both the Confederate and Union navies. Archaeologists say they found strong evidence they've located the Water Witch's wreckage buried under over 10 feet of mud in the Vernon River south of Savannah. Divers pushed a 20-foot metal rod through the mud and tapped solid wood and metal underneath. It was the same location where an 1865 map showed Confederate sailors burned the ship to prevent Union General William T. Sherman's army from recapturing it.

Sunken Confederate ship Acadia resurfaces - Civil War naval history   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Lifelong Civil War buff Henry McCabe said it's been more than 30 years since the wreckage of the Confederate side-wheeler Acadia has been visible in the Yazoo River. "It was about 2-3 weeks ago when I saw it for the first time. I saw that axle sticking up in the river." The Confederates sunk the Acadia between June 4 and July 15, 1863. The scuttling of ships was intended to prevent the ships from falling into the hands of advancing Union forces. According to "Steamboats and the Cotton Economy" by Harry P. Owens, the Acadia was 188-feet-long, 35-feet-wide and had a 7-foot draft and was used as a cotton boat.

Raphael Semmes and the Notorious Confederate Raider CSS Alabama
At the beginning of the Civil War the U.S. had a merchant marine that was second only to Great Britain`s. By the end of the war the nation was no longer a maritime power, except in its Navy, which would be radically reduced in size. This profound change had been brought about by Confederate naval strategy. It was perhaps the South`s greatest victory. "Wolf of the Deep: Raphael Semmes and the Notorious Confederate Raider CSS Alabama" by Stephen Fox is a retelling of the most famous implementation of that strategy, the cruise of the CSS Alabama under Captain Raphael Semmes. Handful of Confederate ships, under bold and skilled captains, took about 200 U.S.-flagged vessels.

Plaque marking the torpedo warfare during the American Civil War
A band of men and gunpowder to turn the St. Johns River into a war zone during a dark spring night in 1864. That April, one of dozen improvised torpedoes seeding the water sank the Union Army steamer Maple Leaf - sparking a summer of detonations that struck a death knell for ships. Exploding devices such as naval mines were called torpedoes at that time. "People coming here, people moving down here don't really know how involved Jacksonville was in the Civil War," said Calvin Hart, adjutant of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Kirby-Smith Camp 1209. The group and Orange Park officials will erect a plaque to the history of torpedo warfare on the St. Johns River.

Preservation of CSS Neuse - One of three Civil War era ironclads left
Efforts to preserve a Civil War warship CSS Neuse in Lenoir County could be getting a $500,000 boost from the state. The money is less than what was requested, and even less than what House budget writers had recommended. Top House Appropriations Committee chairs had recommended a 1-time appropriation of $750,000 for the CSS Neuse. The Appropriations Committee lowered that to $500,000. "It`s one of 3 Civil War era ironclads left in the world." Warship sits under a shelter but the air and humidity cause damage to the ship. Plans call for the Neuse to be taken from the current site and moved to the Civil War Museum on Queen Street.

Excerpt: Last Flag Down: Epic Journey of the Last Confederate Warship
Never in the history of armed national conflict, had the investment of hope in a handful of gallant and daring individuals seemed so utterly pointless, so drastically out of scale. Their goals were manifold, and breathtaking: to rip a hole in the skin of the Federal blockade and thus open up channels of desperately needed arms and goods flowing from England to Dixie; to cripple Yankee shipping, along with the economically vital Yankee whaling fleet; ... and, in sum, to shock and disable Abraham Lincoln's war machine as traumatically as Stonewall Jackson's infantry had shocked it at Bull Run and Chancellorsville.

Documentary: Battle of the ironclads
What I like best about WHRO's new documentary on the Civil War battles in Hampton Roads is the blow-by-blow account of the 4-hour clash of the ironclads Monitor and Virginia on March 9, 1862. Producer Cynthia Pardy took what could have been just another stodgy history lesson and turned it into something remarkable by using nifty special effects while applying sharp, crisp pacing to the scenes of the ironclads battling bow to bow. "It took a lot of searching the archives to illustrate the documentary." With precious few photographs available from the early 1860s, Pardy had to improvise in retelling the epic adventure.

Fort Fisher Falls - the last major Southern seaport
A big break for the Union in the American Civil War occurred on January 15, 1865, the U.S. Navy and Army finally took Fort Fisher, which guarded the entrance to the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. The capture deprived blockade-running merchant ships of access to Wilmington, the last major Southern seaport still in Confederate hands. Near the end of 1864, Gen. Robert E. Lee had written "Hold Fort Fisher or I cannot subsist my army." With provisions and matériel from abroad now cut off, the collapse of the Confederacy became not just inevitable but imminent.

The first blockade runner built in 150 years
A new attraction is coming to downtown Wilmington. A Civil War style blockade runner ship will eventually be docked on the Cape Fear River. Pictures of the proposed boat were revealed at the boat building shop. Supporters dressed in Civil War style clothing to set the mood for the announcement. Students will build the 60 to 85 foot boat that features steam engines, planning to use it to give tours up and down the river. The ship will be the first blockade runner built in 150 years, and it is expected to cost $7.5-million.

In a 13-month a Confederate raider captured 38 vessels   (Article no longer available from the original source)
The voyage of the CSS Shenandoah: In a 13-month a Confederate raider compassed the globe, captured 38 vessels, burnt 32 and ransomed 6. In 1860, the United States had one of the largest fleets in the world. Five years later, U.S. merchant ships had declined in numbers. Part of this was the direct result of depredations by Confederate raiders. Lincoln condemned the raiders' actions as acts of piracy. But the Confederates were only doing what the fledgling U.S. had done in both previous wars. Because the Confederacy had no tradition of blue-water maritime prowess, it for the most part resorted to purchasing vessels abroad and converting them into warships.

How much the Union naval blockade crippled the Confederacy   (Article no longer available from the original source)
The three tasks of the Union navy, as James M. McPherson explained it, were (1) maintaining the Union blockade of Confederate ports; (2) conducting combined operations with the Union army in coastal areas; and (3) engaging in fleet or single-ship actions with Confederate ships, especially ships raiding Union commerce on the high seas. -- So, how much did the blockade hurt the South? Accoring to postwar admission by a Confederate naval officer the blockade shut the Confederacy off from the world and supplies. But some said, "The so-called blockade was a monstrous fiction, Old Abe's practical joke on the war." What are we to make of these contrasting claims?

Confederate warships died a long way from her element   (Article no longer available from the original source)
One of the most effective warships that ever flew the Confederate flag died an shameful death, a long way from the Atlantic Ocean where her crew wreaked havoc. The CSS Chickamauga captured more than a dozen merchant ships, caused a financial crisis in New York's shipping agencies, and terrorized ports from Bangor to Philadelphia. Confederate Naval strategists had pushed the idea of commerce raiders since the beginning of the civil war. Rather than taking on the U.S. Navy ships Confederate strategists wanted to cripple the Union Navy, and thereby the Union government, by hitting them in the wallet.

Life aboard a Civil War Union warship USS Susquehanna
"Circle of Fire" tells the history of the USS Susquehanna in the American Civil War. The book details life aboard a Union warship, the long hours on watch, dramatic engagements with coastal fortifications and pursuits of elusive blockade-runners and Rebel commerce raiders. The narrative is complemented by many rare photos, maps and engravings of the vessel and the battles she fought in. "Circle of Fire is more than the story of a Union warship ... it is a glimpse into the inner workings of the blockade of the Confederacy."

Civil War submarines remain elusive prey   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Civil War submarines known to once be in Shreveport but unseen since that conflict continue to elude searchers. "The submarines look like they will stay an enigma for a while," said Ralph Wilbanks, the diver who led underwater efforts that found the Confederate submersible Hunley off Charleston Harbor in 1995. Wilbanks thinks the submarines were abandoned and salvaged after the Civil War. Wilbanks and his crew also made scanning runs over the site of the suspected grave of the Civil War warship Grand Duke, out in the middle of Red River just north of Cross Bayou.

Mystery: ID tag of a Union soldier aboard a sunken Confederate sub
An identification tag of a Killingly soldier had been found aboard a sunken Confederate submarine in Charleston, SC. Thus began the mystery and the search for answers as to why the dog tag of a Union soldier, Ezra Chamberlin, was on board the Confederate submarine, "H. L. Hunley," which sank in Charleston Harbor February 17, 1864, after ramming an explosive charge into the Union blockade ship "Housatonic" that sank it. The Hunley had been discovered in 1995 by Clive Cussler's National Underwater Agency (NUMA) and raised from the bottom of the harbor on August 8, 2000.

American Civil War submarine found
A british explorer has found an early submarine that he believes was the inspiration for Nautilus, Captain Nemo`s vessel in Jules Verne`s novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. Colonel John Blashford-Snell discovered the half-submerged, cast-iron wreck off the coast of Panama while searching for ancient ruins. She was built in 1864 by a visionary craftsman, Julius Kroehl, for the Union forces during the American Civil War. But the boat, called Explorer, was never used in the conflict and was subsequently taken to Panama where she was used to harvest pearls.