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


USS Kearsarge vs. CSS Alabama. 19 June 1864
USS Kearsarge V CSS Alabama. 19 June 1864
Long before Germany in both WW1 and WW2 turned the Armed Merchant Raider into an art form, eight Confederate warships aided by four tenders decimated the Union Merchant Fleet.

Over a four year period commencing with CSS Sumter in 1861, they sank 110,000 tons of Union shipping. Fearful of losing their ships to these Marauders, US Ship Owners sold off another 800,000 tons of their ships to foreign interests, often at bargain basement prices, but the limited money in hand, was better than waiting for their ship to become another statistic, sunk by these Confederate Raiders.

These Confederate Cruisers were the only naval force available to the rebel cause to confront the American Merchant Fleet, and across the oceans of the world, these ships, commanded by innovative and daring Captains, manned by brave crews almost brought the Union Merchant Fleet to it’s knees.

Britain, alarmed at the way the American Merchant Fleet was making inroads into their previous dominance of maritime commerce, was happy to asist the rebels by building three of the most successful Confederate Cruisers, these were, Alabama, Florida, and Shenandoah.

After the Civil War was all over, the United States sued Britain in an International Court of Arbitration for all the damages caused by Confederate Cruisers built in British shipyards. The Geneva Tribunal awarded the US, $15.5 Million in gold.

There is little doubt that the British would have considered that settlement a small price to pay for them to regain dominance of maritime commerce once more.  

This then, is the fascinating history of the operational success, but final defeat of the Confederate Armed Merchant Raiders.

A true saga of the sea!

back to Confederate Merchant Raiders index


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