Marauders of the Sea, Confederate Merchant Raiders During the American Civil War

The Blockade and Leaders

When the Civil War started, the North had but 35  Naval ships to cover 3000 miles of  Southern coastline.

Only 6 days after Fort Sumter had fallen on the 13th. of April 1861, President Lincoln issued his declaration blockading Southern States from South Carolina to Texas, and then extended this blockade to Virginia and North Carolina.

President Lincoln
President Lincoln
President Lincoln’s Blockade Proclamation: Washington. April 19, 1861.

"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 comfortably to that provision of the Constitution which requires the duties to be uniform throughout the United States.

"And, further, a combination of persons engaged in such insurrection have threatened to grant letters of marque to authorise the bearers to commit assaults on the lives, vessels and property of the good citizens of the country, engaged in commerce on the high seas and in the waters of the United States.

"And whereas an Executive proclamation has been already issued, requiring the persons engaged in these disorderly proceenings 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, the President 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 have ceased, has futher deemed a blockade of the ports within the States aforesaid, and in pursuance of the laws of the United States and the law of nations in such case provided.

"For this purpose a competent force will be posted so as to prevent the entrance and exit of vessels from the ports aforesaid. If, therefore, with a view to violate such blockade, any vessel shall attempt to leave any of the said ports, the vessel will be duly warned by the commander of one of said blockading vessels, who will endorse on her register the fact and date of such naming, and if the same vessel shall again attempt to enter or leave the blockaded port, she will be captured and sent to the nearest commercial port, for such proceedings against her and her cargo as may be deemed advisable."

The Confederate Navy.

Jefferson Davis. President of the Confederacy during Civil War.
Jefferson Davis
President Davis now appointed Stephen R. Mallory as his Naval Secretary.

Charles Conrad, as Chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs was authorised to offer equivalent rank to a number of Southern Officers who were commissioned in the Navy of the United States.

Commander Raphael Semmes.
This officer, although a native of Maryland had lived in Mobile for 20 years, and was serving in Washington on the Lighthouse Board.

He received a telegram:

“Montgomery. 14th. February 1861. Sir, on behalf of the Committeee on Naval affairs, I beg leave to request that you repair to this place, at your earliest convenience. Your OB servant, C.M.Conrad.”

Semmes quickly responded, resigned from the Union Navy, packed up, and appeared in Montgomery only four days later.

Rear Admiral Raphael Semmes, Confederate Navy. ( 1809-1877 )
Rear Admiral Raphael Semmes, Confederate Navy. ( 1809-1877 )
He was quickly commissioned to select and buy two steamers of both strength and with a light draught, but being closely watched by Union Agents, he was forced to abandon his search.

Commodore Lawrence Rousseau.
This Commodore, although a native of Louisiana, had served very faithfully for fifty two years in the United States Navy, and as Mallory had funds available to buy or build ten screw steamers for the Confederate Navy he asked Rousseau to head up this project.

Rousseau quickly resigned from the USN, and accepted the task from Mallory, he found two ships in New Orleans, Havana, and Marquis de la Habana, the latter was renamed CSS McRae, whilst Havana was taken in hand by Semmes, now a Commander in the Confederate Navy.

He asked Mallory for command of Havana, this request was granted, and he went about rebuilding her to enable this ship to take on the role of a Southern Cruiser to be let loose against the ocean commerce of the Union.

Confederate Armed Cruisers.
These 8 Cruisers were: Sumter, Tallahassee, Georgia, Shenandoah*, Nashville, Florida*, Alabama*, and Chickamanga. Stonewall, was an armed ram built in France, but she never made it into action, and her brief life as a Confederate ship will be covered later in this work.

* These three Cruisers were all built in Britain at the behest of J.D. Bulloch, a most resourceful Agent of the Confederate Navy operating within Great Britain.

Tacony, and Clarence were Tenders to Florida, whilst Tuscaloosa acted as a Tender for Alabama, these 3 vessels all had their own small place in the sun and destroyed some Union ships.

Let us now look at the individual exploits of these intrepid ships, who were to evade the Union Navy, whilst they roamed the world’s oceans striking terror into both the Union’s Merchant Fleet, many of whom they destroyed, and the Union ship owners fearful of seeing their ships sunk, before they could sell out their interests.

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