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

CSS Chickamauga. 1864. Captain John Wilkinson.

CSS Chickamauga.
Now, the sister ship to Tallahassee, Edith, became the new Confederate cruiser, CSS Chickamauga, with Lieutenant John Wilkinson being given command.

CSS Chickamauga
CSS Chickamauga

He ran into all the same problems experienced by Woods, the ship had been a successful blockade runner, but did not have the qualities needed for success as a Raider, she was fast, but could only stay at sea as long as the coal supply held up.

On the 26th. of October, the ship made for the open sea, she also grounded on the bar, backed herself free, tried once more, and eventually cleared the obstruction, and made it out into the open sea.

Lieutenant John Wilkinson. Captain of CSS Chickamauga
Lieutenant John Wilkinson. Captain of CSS Chickamauga
She was seen at once by USS Dumbarton,and chased by it and two more Union ships, but speed saved the ship, and she was off. The US ship reported that the Talahassee was again out, fooled by Ckickamauga looking exactly the same. For five days, Wilkinson headed north, grabbing 6 prizes off New York, including

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Mark L. Potter, and the barks, Emily L.Hall, and Albion Lincoln, the ship Shooting Star. The prisoners were sent to Albion Lincoln, and the others burned, instead of proceeding to Fort Monroe as ordered, Lincoln's Captain sailed into New York and raised the alarm.

By the 4th. of November, Secretary Welles learned he had a new Raider on his hands, but did not know to what extent, but he telegraphed Rear Admiral Porter:

"It is reported that four privateers are out of Wilmington. Three have actually committed depredations, namely, Tallahassee, Chickamauga, and Olustee."

Of course we know that Olustee was actually Tallahassee, operating under her new name. By the next day, Porter had issued orders to find the Raiders to nine Union warships.

Wilkinson kept busy, he captured and scuttled schooners, Goodspeed,and Otter Rock, bonded and released the bark Speedwell.

When Porter's ships were out seeking Chickamauga, she was down off Bermuda seeking to recoal, Britain was being difficult enforcing the neutrality laws, to stay longer, Wilkinson sabotaged his condenser, only to find 65 men deserted, the Governor declined helping to recover them, leaving the Captain desperately short of man power aboard his ship.

On the 15th. of November, Wilkinson left Bermuda setting course for home at Wilmington, he arrived off this port on the 18th.and anchored in fog under the protection of Fort Fisher, awaiting for the next high water to clear the bar.

Before he could gain the safety of the harbour, four blockading Union ships, USS Clematis, USS Wilderness, USS Cherokee and USS Kansas all opened fire, the Fort returned the fire, and Chickamauga herself got into the act, but not a single shell from either side ever found a target.

Wilkinson rushed at the bar, cleared it without difficulty, and steamed up the Cape Fear River to safety.

In three weeks Chickamauga had taken only seven ships, Olustee four, it had been Tallahassee who was responsible for capturing most of the 55 prizes taken by the Confederate Raiders over 1864.

How did these ships end their days? When the Feds stormed Fort Fisher, it was Chickamauga who took part in this final battle, she then had to retreat up river back to Wilmington, where her crew burned her.

Olustree had another name change to Chamelon, to resume duties as a blockade runner, Wilkinson took her to sea running food from Bermuda to bring succour to

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Lee's starving armies. On his return, both Charleston and Wilmington gone, with Union troops in control, he went off to sea, sailing to Liverpool.

On his arrival there, Lee surrendered, the British Government seized his ship, and gave it to the United States, they in turn, sold the vessel to Japan.

John Wood managed to escape from the South, settled in Halifax, to become one of its leading citizens. With his old friend John Wilkinson, he established a partnership in a merchant commissioning house.

They continued to flaunt their Confederate leanings by flying a Confederate Flag over the premises of Wood and Company.

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