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The Union blockade in the
American Civil War The American Civil War (also known by other names) was a civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865, fought between northern states loyal to the Union and southern states that had seceded to form the Confederate States of America. Th ...
was a naval strategy by the
United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, 326 India ...
to prevent the
Confederacy
Confederacy
from trading. The
blockade 300px, C47s unloading at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, part of the airlift of supplies which broke the Soviet Union's 1948 Berlin Blockade, land blockade of West Berlin A blockade is an effort to cut off Contraband, supplies, Materiel, war ...
was proclaimed by President
Abraham Lincoln Abraham Lincoln (; February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was an American statesman and lawyer who served as the 16th president of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in 1865. Lincoln led the nation through the American Civil ...
in April 1861, and required the monitoring of of
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Atlantic
and
Gulf A gulf is a large inlet from the ocean into the landmass, typically with a narrower opening than a bay, but that is not observable in all geographic areas so named. The term gulf was traditionally used for large highly-indented navigable bodies ...

Gulf
coastline, including 12 major ports, notably
New Orleans New Orleans (,New Orleans
Mobile. Those
blockade runners A blockade runner is a merchant vessel used for evading a naval blockade of a port or strait. It is usually light and fast, using stealth and speed rather than confronting the blockaders in order to break the blockade. Blockade runners usually t ...
fast enough to evade the
Union Navy ), (official) , colors = Blue and gold  , colors_label = Colors , march = , mascot = , equipment = , equipment_label = , ...
could only carry a small fraction of the supplies needed. They were operated largely by foreign citizens, making use of neutral ports such as
Havana Havana (; Spanish: ''La Habana'' ) is the capital city, largest city, province, major port, and leading commercial center of Cuba.
,
Nassau Nassau may refer to: Places Bahamas *Nassau, Bahamas, capital city of the Bahamas, on the island of New Providence Canada *Nassau District, renamed Home District, regional division in Upper Canada from 1788 to 1792 *Nassau Street (Winnipeg), M ...
and
Bermuda ) , anthem = "God Save the Queen" , song_type = Unofficial territorial song , song = "Hail to Bermuda" , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 = , mapsize2 = , map_caption2 = , subdivision_type = Sovereign state , subdivision_name = Un ...
. The Union commissioned around 500 ships, which destroyed or captured about 1,500 blockade runners over the course of the war.


Proclamation of blockade and legal implications

On April 19, 1861, President Lincoln issued a ''Proclamation of Blockade Against Southern Ports'':
Whereas an insurrection against the Government of the United States has broken out in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, and the laws of the United States for the collection of the revenue cannot be effectually executed therein comformably to that provision of the Constitution which requires duties to be uniform throughout the United States: And whereas a combination of persons engaged in such insurrection, have threatened to grant pretended letters of marque to authorize the bearers thereof to commit assaults on the lives, vessels, and property of good citizens of the country lawfully engaged in commerce on the high seas, and in waters of the United States: And whereas an Executive Proclamation has been already issued, requiring the persons engaged in these disorderly proceedings to desist therefrom, calling out a militia force for the purpose of repressing the same, and convening Congress in extraordinary session, to deliberate and determine thereon: Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, with a view to the same purposes before mentioned, and to the protection of the public peace, and the lives and property of quiet and orderly citizens pursuing their lawful occupations, until Congress shall have assembled and deliberated on the said unlawful proceedings, or until the same shall ceased, have further deemed it advisable to set on foot a blockade of the ports within the States aforesaid, in pursuance of the laws of the United States, and of the law of Nations, in such case provided. For this purpose a competent force will be posted so as to prevent entrance and exit of vessels from the ports aforesaid. If, therefore, with a view to violate such blockade, a vessel shall approach, or shall attempt to leave either of the said ports, she will be duly warned by the Commander of one of the blockading vessels, who will endorse on her register the fact and date of such warning, and if the same vessel shall again attempt to enter or leave the blockaded port, she will be captured and sent to the nearest convenient port, for such proceedings against her and her cargo as prize, as may be deemed advisable. And I hereby proclaim and declare that if any person, under the pretended authority of the said States, or under any other pretense, shall molest a vessel of the United States, or the persons or cargo on board of her, such person will be held amenable to the laws of the United States for the prevention and punishment of piracy. In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the City of Washington, this nineteenth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-fifth.


Operations


Scope

A joint Union military-navy commission, known as the
Blockade Strategy BoardThe Blockade Strategy Board, also known as the Commission of Conference, or the Du Pont Board, was a strategy group created by the United States Navy Department at outset of the American Civil War to lay out a preliminary strategy for enforcing Pre ...
, was formed to make plans for seizing major
Southern The name Southern may refer to: * South, a point in direction. * Southern (surname) Businesses * China Southern Airlines, airline based in Guangzhou, China * Southern Airways, defunct US airline * Southern Air, air cargo transportation company bas ...
ports to utilize as Union bases of operations to expand the blockade. It first met in June 1861 in Washington, D.C., under the leadership of Captain Samuel F. Du Pont. In the initial phase of the blockade, Union forces concentrated on the Atlantic Coast. The November 1861 capture of Port Royal in South Carolina provided the Federals with an open ocean port and repair and maintenance facilities in good operating condition. It became an early base of operations for further expansion of the blockade along the Atlantic coastline, including the
Stone Fleet The Stone Fleet consisted of a fleet of aging ships (mostly whaleships) purchased in New Bedford and other New England ports, loaded with stone, and sailed south during the American Civil War by the Union Navy for use as blockships. They were to be ...
.
Apalachicola, Florida Apalachicola ( ) is a city and the county seat of Franklin County, Florida, United States, on the shore of Apalachicola Bay, an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico. The population was 2,231 at the 2010 census. History Etymology "Apalachicola" comes from ...
, received Confederate
goods In economics, goods are items that satisfy human wants and provide utility, for example, to a consumer making a purchase of a satisfying product. A common distinction is made between goods which are transferable, and services, which are not trans ...
traveling down the
Chattahoochee River The Chattahoochee River forms the southern half of the Alabama and Georgia border, as well as a portion of the Florida - Georgia border. It is a tributary of the Apalachicola River, a relatively short river formed by the confluence of the Chattaho ...
from
Columbus, Georgia Columbus is a consolidated city-county located on the west-central border of the U.S. state of Georgia. Columbus lies on the Chattahoochee River directly across from Phenix City, Alabama. It is the county seat of Muscogee County, with which it offi ...
, and was an early target of Union blockade efforts on Florida's Gulf Coast. Another early prize was
Ship Island Ship Island is a barrier island off the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, one of the Mississippi–Alabama barrier islands. Hurricane Camille split the island into two separate islands (West Ship Island and East Ship Island) in 1969. In early 2019, th ...
, which gave the Navy a base from which to patrol the entrances to both the
Mississippi River The Mississippi River is the second-longest river and chief river of the second-largest drainage system on the North American continent, second only to the Hudson Bay drainage system. From its traditional source of Lake Itasca in northern Minne ...
and
Mobile Bay photo with Mobile Bay in the center Mobile Bay is a shallow inlet of the Gulf of Mexico, lying within the state of Alabama in the United States. Its mouth is formed by the Fort Morgan Peninsula on the eastern side and Dauphin Island, a barrier is ...
. The Navy gradually extended its reach throughout the
Gulf of Mexico The Gulf of Mexico ( es, Golfo de México) is an ocean basin and a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, largely surrounded by the North American continent. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States; ...

Gulf of Mexico
to the
Texas Texas (, ) is a state in the South Central region of the United States. It is the second largest U.S. state by both area (after Alaska) and population (after California). Texas shares borders with the states of Louisiana to the east, Arkansa ...

Texas
coastline, including
Galveston Galveston ( ) is a coastal resort city and port off the Southeast Texas coast on Galveston Island and Pelican Island in the U.S. state of Texas. The community of , with a population of 47,743 in 2010, is the county seat of surrounding Galveston ...
and
Sabine Pass USGS map of Sabine Pass Sabine Pass is the natural outlet of Sabine Lake into the Gulf of Mexico. It borders Jefferson County, Texas, and Cameron Parish, Louisiana. History Civil War Two major battles occurred here during the American Civil War, k ...
. With 3,500 miles (5,600 km) of Confederate coastline and 180 possible ports of entry to patrol, the blockade would be the largest such effort ever attempted. The
United States Navy ), (unofficial)."''Non sibi sed patriae''" ( en, "Not for self but for country") (unofficial). , colors = Blue and gold  , colors_label = Colors , march = "Anchors Aweigh" , m ...
had 42 ships in active service, and another 48 laid up and listed as available as soon as crews could be assembled and trained. Half were sailing ships, some were technologically outdated, most were at the time patrolling distant oceans, one served on
Lake Erie Lake Erie is the fourth-largest lake (by surface area) of the five Great Lakes in North America and the eleventh-largest globally. It is the southernmost, shallowest, and smallest by volume of the Great Lakes and therefore also has the shortes ...
and could not be moved into the ocean, and
another Another or variant may refer to: * anOther or Another Magazine, culture and fashion magazine * ''Another'' (novel), a Japanese horror novel ** ''Another'' (film), a Japanese 2012 live-action film based on the novel * Another River, a river in the U. ...
had gone missing off
Hawaii Hawaii ( ; haw, Hawaii or ) is a U.S. state in the Western United States, in the Pacific Ocean about 2,000 miles (3,200 km) from the U.S. mainland. It is the only state outside North America, the only island state, and the only state in ...
. At the time of the declaration of the blockade, the Union only had three ships suitable for blockade duty. The Navy Department, under the leadership of Navy Secretary
Gideon Welles Gideon Welles (July 1, 1802 – February 11, 1878), nicknamed "Father Neptune", was the United States Secretary of the Navy from 1861 to 1869, a cabinet post he was awarded after supporting Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 election. Although opposed to ...
, quickly moved to expand the fleet. U.S. warships patrolling abroad were recalled, a massive shipbuilding program was launched, civilian merchant and passenger ships were purchased for naval service, and captured blockade runners were commissioned into the navy. In 1861, nearly 80 steamers and 60 sailing ships were added to the fleet, and the number of blockading vessels rose to 160. Some 52 more warships were under construction by the end of the year. By November 1862, there were 282 steamers and 102 sailing ships. By the end of the war, the Union Navy had grown to a size of 671 ships, making it the largest navy in the world. By the end of 1861, the Navy had grown to 24,000 officers and enlisted men, over 15,000 more than in
antebellum Antebellum, Latin for "before war", may refer to: United States history * Antebellum South, the pre-American Civil War period in the Southern United States ** Antebellum Georgia ** Antebellum South Carolina ** Antebellum Virginia * Antebellum archi ...
service. Four squadrons of ships were deployed, two in the Atlantic and two in the Gulf of Mexico.


Blockade service

Blockade service was attractive to Federal seamen and landsmen alike. Blockade station service was considered the most boring job in the war but also the most attractive in terms of potential financial gain. The task was for the fleet to sail back and forth to intercept any blockade runners. More than 50,000 men volunteered for the boring duty, because food and living conditions on ship were much better than the
infantry at the Battle of the Somme (July–November 1916) during the First World War Infantry is an army specialization whose personnel engage in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and armored forces. Also known as foo ...
offered, the work was safer, and especially because of the real (albeit small) chance for big money. Captured ships and their cargoes were sold at auction and the proceeds split among the sailors. When ''Eolus'' seized the hapless blockade runner ''Hope'' off
Wilmington, North Carolina Wilmington is a port city and the county seat of New Hanover County in coastal southeastern North Carolina, United States. With a population of in 2019, it is the eighth most populous city in the state. Wilmington is the principal city of the ...
, in late 1864, the captain won $13,000 ($ today), the chief engineer $6,700, the seamen more than $1,000 each, and the cabin boy $533, compared to infantry pay of $13 ($ today) per month. The amount garnered for a
prize of war A prize of war is a piece of enemy property or land seized by a belligerent party during or after a war or battle, typically at sea. This term was used nearly exclusively in terms of captured ships during the 18th and 19th centuries. Basis in inter ...
widely varied. While the little ''Alligator'' sold for only $50, bagging the ''Memphis'' brought in $510,000 ($ today) (about what 40 civilian workers could earn in a lifetime of work). In four years, $25 million in
prize money Prize money refers in particular to naval prize money, usually arising in naval warfare, but also in other circumstances. It was a monetary reward paid in accordance with the prize law of a belligerent state to the crew of a ship belonging to the ...
was awarded.


Blockade runners

While a large proportion of
blockade runners A blockade runner is a merchant vessel used for evading a naval blockade of a port or strait. It is usually light and fast, using stealth and speed rather than confronting the blockaders in order to break the blockade. Blockade runners usually t ...
did manage to evade the Union ships, as the blockade matured, the type of ship most likely to find success in evading the naval cordon was a small, light ship with a short draft—qualities that facilitated blockade running but were poorly suited to carrying large amounts of heavy weaponry, metals, and other supplies badly needed by the South. They were also useless for exporting the large quantities of cotton that the South needed to sustain it’s economy. To be successful in helping the Confederacy, a blockade runner had to make many trips; eventually, most were captured or sunk. Nonetheless, five out of six attempts to evade the Union blockade were successful. During the war, some 1,500 blockade runners were captured or destroyed. Ordinary freighters were too slow and visible to escape the Navy. The blockade runners therefore relied mainly on new steamships built in Britain with low profiles, shallow draft, and high speed. Their paddle-wheels, driven by steam engines that burned smokeless
anthracite coal Anthracite, also known as hard coal, is a hard, compact variety of coal that has a submetallic luster. It has the highest carbon content, the fewest impurities, and the highest energy density of all types of coal and is the highest ranking of coa ...
, could make . Because the South lacked sufficient sailors, skippers and shipbuilding capability, the runners were built, commanded and manned by British officers and sailors. Private British investors spent perhaps £50 million on the runners ($250 million in U.S. dollars, equivalent to about $2.5 billion in 2006 dollars). The pay was high: a
Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by English and Scottish kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years' War against the K ...
officer on leave might earn several thousand dollars (in gold) in salary and bonus per round trip, with ordinary seamen earning several hundred dollars. The blockade runners were based in the British islands of
Bermuda ) , anthem = "God Save the Queen" , song_type = Unofficial territorial song , song = "Hail to Bermuda" , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 = , mapsize2 = , map_caption2 = , subdivision_type = Sovereign state , subdivision_name = Un ...
and the
Bahamas The Bahamas (), known officially as the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is a country within the Lucayan Archipelago of the West Indies in the Atlantic. It takes up 97% of the Lucayan Archipelago's land area and is home to 88% of the archipelago' ...
, or
Havana Havana (; Spanish: ''La Habana'' ) is the capital city, largest city, province, major port, and leading commercial center of Cuba.Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...
Cuba Cuba ( , ), officially the Republic of Cuba ( es, República de Cuba, links=no ), is a country comprising the island of Cuba, as well as Isla de la Juventud and several minor archipelagos. Cuba is located in the northern Caribbean where the Car ...
. The goods they carried were brought to these places by ordinary cargo ships, and loaded onto the runners. The runners then ran the gauntlet between their bases and Confederate ports, some apart. On each trip, a runner carried several hundred tons of compact, high-value cargo such as cotton, turpentine or tobacco outbound, and rifles, medicine, brandy, lingerie and coffee inbound. Often they also carried mail. They charged from $300 to $1,000 per ton of cargo brought in; two round trips a month would generate perhaps $250,000 in revenue (and $80,000 in wages and expenses). Blockade runners preferred to run past the Union Navy at night, either on moonless nights, before the moon rose, or after it set. As they approached the coastline, the ships showed no lights, and sailors were prohibited from smoking. Likewise, Union warships covered all their lights, except perhaps a faint light on the commander's ship. If a Union warship discovered a blockade runner, it fired signal rockets in the direction of its course to alert other ships. The runners adapted to such tactics by firing their own rockets in different directions to confuse Union warships. In November 1864, a wholesaler in Wilmington asked his agent in the Bahamas to stop sending so much chloroform and instead send "essence of cognac" because that perfume would sell "quite high". Confederate patriots held rich blockade runners in contempt for profiteering on luxuries while the soldiers were in rags. On the other hand, their bravery and initiative were necessary for the nation's survival, and many women in the back country flaunted imported $10 gewgaws and $50 hats as patriotic proof that the "damn
yankee The term ''Yankee'' and its contracted form ''Yank'' have several interrelated meanings, all referring to people from the United States. Its various senses depend on the context, and may refer to New Englanders, residents of the Northern United Stat ...
s" had failed to isolate them from the outer world. The government in
Richmond, Virginia (Thus do we reach the stars) , image_map = , mapsize = 250 px , map_caption = Location within Virginia , pushpin_map = Virginia#USA , pushpin_label ...
, eventually regulated the traffic, requiring half the imports to be munitions; it even purchased and operated some runners on its own account and made sure they loaded vital war goods. By 1864, Lee's soldiers were eating imported meat. Blockade running was reasonably safe for both sides. It was not illegal under international law; captured foreign sailors were released, while Confederates went to prison camps. The ships were unarmed (the weight of cannon would slow them down), so they posed no danger to the Navy warships. One example of the lucrative (and short-lived) nature of the blockade running trade was the ship ''Banshee'', which operated out of Nassau and Bermuda. She was captured on her seventh run into Wilmington, North Carolina, and confiscated by the U.S. Navy for use as a blockading ship. However, at the time of her capture, she had turned a 700% profit for her English owners, who quickly commissioned and built ''Banshee No. 2'', which soon joined the firm's fleet of blockade runners. In May 1865, CSS ''Lark'' became the last Confederate ship to slip out of a Southern port and successfully evade the Union blockade when she left
Galveston, Texas Galveston ( ) is a coastal resort city and port off the Southeast Texas coast on Galveston Island and Pelican Island in the U.S. state of Texas. The community of , with a population of 47,743 in 2010, is the county seat of surrounding Galveston ...
, for
Havana Havana (; Spanish: ''La Habana'' ) is the capital city, largest city, province, major port, and leading commercial center of Cuba. The blockade also largely reduced imports of food, medicine, war materials, manufactured goods, and luxury items, resulting in severe shortages and
inflation In economics, inflation (or less frequently, price inflation) is a general rise in the price level in an economy over a period of time. When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services; consequently, inf ...
. Shortages of bread led to occasional bread riots in
Richmond Richmond may refer to: People * Richmond (surname) * Earl of Richmond * Duke of Richmond * Richmond C. Beatty (1905–1961), American academic, biographer and critic * Richmond Avenal, character in British sitcom The IT Crowd Places Australia * ...
and other cities, showing that patriotism was not sufficient to satisfy the daily demands of the people. Land routes remained open for cattle drovers, but after the Union seized control of the Mississippi River in summer 1863, it became impossible to ship horses, cattle and swine from Texas and Arkansas to the eastern Confederacy. The blockade was a triumph of the Union Navy and a major factor in winning the war. A significant secondary impact of the naval blockade was a resulting scarcity of salt throughout the South. In Antebellum times, returning cotton-shipping ships were often ballasted with salt, which was bountifully produced at a prehistoric dry lake near
Syracuse, New York Syracuse () is a city in and the county seat of Onondaga County, New York, United States. It is the fifth-most populous city in the state of New York following New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, and Yonkers. At the 2010 census, the city populat ...
, but which had never been produced in significant quantity in the Southern States. Salt was necessary for curing meat; its lack led to significant hardship in keeping the Confederate forces fed as well as severely impacting the populace. In addition to blocking salt from being imported into the Confederacy, Union forces actively destroyed attempts to build salt-producing facilities at
Avery Island, Louisiana Avery Island (historically french: Île Petite Anse) is a salt dome best known as the source of Tabasco sauce. Located in Iberia Parish, Louisiana, United States, it is approximately inland from Vermilion Bay, which in turn opens onto the Gulf of ...
(destroyed in 1863 by Union forces under General Nathaniel P. Banks), outside the bay at Port St. Joe, Florida (destroyed in 1862 by the Union ship USS Kingfisher (1861), Kingfisher), at Darien, Georgia, at Saltville, Virginia (captured by Union forces in December 1864), and various sites hidden in marshes and bayous.


Impact on International Trade

The southern cotton industry began to heavily influence the British economy. On the eve of the war, 1,390,938,752 pounds weight of cotton were imported into Great Britain in 1860. Of this, the United States supplied 1,115,890,608 pounds, or about five-sixths of the whole. Not only was Great Britain aware of the impact of Southern cotton, but so was the South. They were confident that their industry held large power, so much, that they referred to their industry as "King Cotton." This slogan was used to declare its supremacy in America. On the floor of the U.S. Senate, Senator James Henry Hammond declaimed (March 4, 1858): "You dare not make war upon cotton! No power on earth dares make war upon it. Cotton is king." The South proclaimed that many domestic and even some international markets depended so heavily on their cotton, that no one would dare spark tensions with the South. They also viewed this slogan as their reasoning behind why they should achieve their efforts in seceding from the Union. The Southern Cotton industry was so confident in the power of cotton diplomacy, that without warning, they refused to export cotton for one day. Imagining an overwhelming response of pleas for their cotton, the Southern cotton industry experienced quite the opposite. With the decisions of Lincoln and the lack of intervention on Great Britain's part, the South was officially blockaded. Following the U.S. announcement of its intention to establish an official blockade of Confederate ports, foreign governments began to recognize the Confederacy as a belligerent in the Civil War. Great Britain declared belligerent status on May 13, 1861, followed by Spain on June 17 and Brazil on August 1. This was the first glimpse of failure for the Confederate South. The decision to blockade Southern port cities took a large toll on the British economy but they weighed their consequences. Great Britain had a good amount of cotton stored up in warehouses in several locations that would provide for their textile needs for some time. But eventually Great Britain began to see the effects of the blockade, "the blockade had a negative impact on the economies of other countries. Textile manufacturing areas in Britain and France that depended on Southern cotton entered periods of high unemployment..." in the so-called Lancashire Cotton Famine. The article written in the New York Times further proves that Great Britain was aware of the influence of cotton in their empire, "Nearly one million of operatives are employed in the manufacture of cotton in Great Britain, upon whom, at least five or six millions more depend for their daily subsistence. It is no exaggeration to say, that one-quarter of the inhabitants of England are directly dependent upon the supply of cotton for their living." Despite these consequences, Great Britain concluded that their decision was crucial in terms of reaching abolition of slavery in the United States.


Confederate response

The Confederacy constructed torpedo boats, tending to be small, fast steam launches equipped with spar torpedoes, to attack the blockading fleet. Some torpedo boats were refitted steam launches; others, such as the CSS David, CSS ''David'' class, were purpose-built. The torpedo boats tried to attack under cover of night by ramming the spar torpedo into the hull of the blockading ship, then backing off and detonating the explosive. The torpedo boats were not very effective and were easily countered by simple measures such as hanging chains over the sides of ships to foul the screws of the torpedo boats, or encircling the ships with wooden booms to trap the torpedoes at a distance. One historically notable naval action was the attack of the H. L. Hunley (submarine), Confederate submarine ''H. L. Hunley'', a hand-powered submarine launched from Charleston, South Carolina, against Union blockade ships. On the night of 17 February 1864, ''Hunley'' attacked . ''Housatonic'' sank with the loss of five crew; ''Hunley'' also sank, taking her crew of eight to the bottom.


Major engagements

The first victory for the U.S. Navy during the early phases of the blockade occurred on 24 April 1861, when the sloop ''Cumberland'' and a small flotilla of support ships began seizing Confederate ships and privateers in the vicinity of Fort Monroe off the Virginia coastline. Within the next two weeks, Flag Officer Garrett J. Pendergrast had captured 16 enemy vessels, serving early notice to the Confederate War Department that the blockade would be effective if extended. Early battles in support of the blockade included the Blockade of the Chesapeake Bay, from May to June 1861, and the Blockade of the Carolina Coast, August–December 1861. Both enabled the Union Navy to gradually extend its blockade southward along the Atlantic seaboard. In early March 1862, the blockade of the James River in Virginia was gravely threatened by the first ironclad, CSS Virginia, CSS ''Virginia'' in the dramatic Battle of Hampton Roads. Only the timely entry of the new Union ironclad forestalled the threat. Two months later, ''Virginia'' and other ships of the James River Squadron were scuttled in response to the Union Army and Navy advances. The port of Savannah, Georgia, was effectively sealed by the reduction and surrender of Fort Pulaski on 11 April. The largest Confederate port, New Orleans, Louisiana, was ill-suited to blockade running since the channels could be sealed by the U.S. Navy. From 16–22 April, the major forts below the city, Forts Jackson and St. Philip were bombarded by David Dixon Porter's mortar schooners. On 22 April, Flag Officer David Farragut's fleet cleared a passage through the obstructions. The fleet successfully ran past the forts on the morning of 24 April. This forced the surrender of the forts and New Orleans. The Battle of Mobile Bay on 5 August 1864 closed the last major Confederate port in the Gulf of Mexico. In December 1864, Union Secretary of the Navy
Gideon Welles Gideon Welles (July 1, 1802 – February 11, 1878), nicknamed "Father Neptune", was the United States Secretary of the Navy from 1861 to 1869, a cabinet post he was awarded after supporting Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 election. Although opposed to ...
sent a force against Fort Fisher, which protected the Confederacy's access to the Atlantic from Wilmington, North Carolina, the last open Confederate port on the Atlantic Coast. The first attack failed, but with a change in tactics (and Union generals), the fort fell in January 1865, closing the last major Confederate port. As the Union fleet grew in size, speed and sophistication, more ports came under Federal control. After 1862, only three ports east of the Mississippi—
Wilmington, North Carolina Wilmington is a port city and the county seat of New Hanover County in coastal southeastern North Carolina, United States. With a population of in 2019, it is the eighth most populous city in the state. Wilmington is the principal city of the ...
; Charleston, South Carolina; and Mobile, Alabama—remained open for the 75–100 blockade runners in business. Charleston was shut down by Admiral John A. Dahlgren's South Atlantic Blockading Squadron in 1863. Mobile Bay was captured in August 1864 by Admiral David Farragut. Blockade runners faced an increasing risk of capture—in 1861 and 1862, one sortie in 9 ended in capture; in 1863 and 1864, one in three. By war's end, imports had been choked to a trickle as the number of captures came to 50% of the sorties. Some 1,100 blockade runners were captured (and another 300 destroyed). British investors frequently made the mistake of reinvesting their profits in the trade; when the war ended they were stuck with useless ships and rapidly depreciating cotton. In the final accounting, perhaps half the investors took a profit, and half a loss.
The Union victory at Vicksburg, Mississippi, in July 1863 opened up the Mississippi River and effectively cut off the western Confederacy as a source of troops and supplies. The fall of Fort Fisher and the city of Wilmington, North Carolina, early in 1865 closed the last major port for blockade runners, and in quick succession Richmond was evacuated, the Army of Northern Virginia disintegrated, and General Lee surrendered. Thus, most economists give the Union blockade a prominent role in the outcome of the war. (Elekund, 2004)


Squadrons

The Union naval ships enforcing the blockade were divided into squadrons based on their area of operation.


Atlantic Blockading Squadron

The Atlantic Blockading Squadron was a unit of the United States Navy created in the early days of the American Civil War to enforce a blockade of the ports of the Confederate States. It was originally formed in 1861 as the Coast Blockading Squadron before being renamed May 17, 1861. It was split the same year for the creation of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.


North Atlantic Blockading Squadron

The North Atlantic Blockading Squadron was based at Hampton Roads, Virginia, and was tasked with coverage of Virginia and North Carolina. Its official range of operation was from the Potomac River to Cape Fear (headland), Cape Fear in North Carolina. It was tasked primarily with preventing Confederate ships from supplying troops and with supporting Union troops. It was created when the Atlantic Blockading Squadron was split between the North and South Atlantic Blockading Squadrons on 29 October 1861. After the end of the war, the squadron was merged into the Atlantic Squadron on 25 July 1865.


Commanders


South Atlantic Blockading Squadron

The South Atlantic Blockading Squadron was tasked primarily with preventing Confederate ships from supplying troops and with supporting Union troops operating between Cape Henry in Virginia down to Key West in Florida. It was created when the Atlantic Blockading Squadron was split between the North and South Atlantic Blockading Squadrons on 29 October 1861. After the end of the war, the squadron was merged into the Atlantic Squadron on 25 July 1865.


Commanders


Gulf Blockading Squadron

The Gulf Blockading Squadron was a squadron of the United States Navy in the early part of the War, patrolling from Key West to the Mexican border. The squadron was the largest in operation. It was split into the East and West Gulf Blockading Squadrons in early 1862 for more efficiency.


Commanders


East Gulf Blockading Squadron

The East Gulf Blockading Squadron, assigned the Florida coast from east of Pensacola to Cape Canaveral, was a minor command. The squadron was headquartered in Key West and was supported by U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, Key West Station, a U.S. Navy coal depot and storehouse built during 1856–61. With .


Commanders


West Gulf Blockading Squadron

The West Gulf Blockading Squadron was tasked primarily with preventing Confederate ships from supplying troops and with supporting Union troops along the western half of the Gulf Coast, from the mouth of the Mississippi to the Rio Grande and south, beyond the border with Mexico. It was created early in 1862 when the Gulf Blockading Squadron was split between the East and West. This unit was the main military force deployed by the Union in the capture and brief Battle of Galveston, occupation of
Galveston, Texas Galveston ( ) is a coastal resort city and port off the Southeast Texas coast on Galveston Island and Pelican Island in the U.S. state of Texas. The community of , with a population of 47,743 in 2010, is the county seat of surrounding Galveston ...
in 1862.


Commanders


Retrospective consideration

After the war, former Confederate Navy officer and Lost Cause of the Confederacy, Lost Cause proponent Raphael Semmes contended that the announcement of a blockade had carried de facto recognition of the Confederate States of America as an independent national entity since countries do not blockade their own ports but rather ''close'' them ''(See Boston Port Act)''. Under international law and maritime law, however, nations had the right to Visit and Search, stop and search neutral ships in international waters if they were suspected of violating a blockade, something port closures would not allow. In an effort to avoid conflict between the United States and Britain over the searching of British merchant vessels thought to be trading with the Confederacy, the Union needed the privileges of international law that came with the declaration of a blockade. However Semmes contends that by effectively declaring the Confederate States of America to be belligerents—rather than insurrectionists, who under international law were not eligible for recognition by foreign powers—Lincoln opened the way for Britain and France to potentially recognize the Confederacy. Britain's proclamation of neutrality was consistent with the Lincoln Administration's position—that under international law the Confederates were belligerents—and helped legitimize the Confederate States of America's national right to obtain loans and buy arms from neutral nations. The British proclamation also formally gave Britain the diplomatic right to discuss openly which side, if any, to support.


See also

* Bibliography of early American naval history#American Civil War, Bibliography of American Civil War naval history * Confederate Navy * Postage stamps and postal history of the Confederate States#Blockade mail, Blockade mail of the Confederacy


References


Bibliography

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* * * Greene, Jack (1998). ''Ironclads at War''; Combined Publishing * James M. McPherson, McPherson, James M., ''War on the Waters: The Union & Confederate Navies, 1861-1865'' University of North Carolina Press, 2012, * Surdam, David G. (2001). ''Northern Naval Superiority and the Economics of the American Civil War''; University of South Carolina Press * Time-Life Books (1983)'' The Blockade: Runners and Raiders''. ''The Civil War'' series; Time-Life Books, . * Vandiver, Frank Everson (1947). ''Confederate Blockade Running Through Bermuda, 1861–1865: Letters And Cargo Manifests'', primary documents * Wagner, Margaret E., Gary W. Gallagher, Gallagher, Gary W. and Paul Finkelman, Finkelman, Paul ed., (2002) ''The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference''
Simon & Schuster, New York. *
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* Wynne, Nick & Cranshaw, Joe (2011). ''Florida Civil War Blockades''
History Press, Charleston, SC, .


Further reading

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External links






''Unintended Consequences of Confederate Trade Legislation''

''The Hapless Anaconda: Union Blockade 1861–1865''


By W. T. Block

* David G. Surdam
Northern Naval Superiority and the Economics of the American Civil War

Egotistigraphy", by John Sanford Barnes. An autobiography, including his Civil War Union Navy service on a ship participating in the blockade, USS ''Wabash'', privately printed 1910. Internet edition edited by Susan Bainbridge Hay 2012
{{DEFAULTSORT:Union Blockade Military operations of the American Civil War Blockades involving the United States Maritime history of the United States 1861 in the American Civil War 1862 in the American Civil War 1863 in the American Civil War 1864 in the American Civil War 1865 in the American Civil War Campaigns of the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War Campaigns of the Lower Seaboard Theater and Gulf Approach of the American Civil War Battles of the Chesapeake Bay Blockade of the American Civil War, .