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

This is part three of a trilogy "Marauders of the Sea."  Part one "Marauders of the Sea WW1" is here and Part three, "Marauders of the Sea WW2" is here.

07 October 2002

USS Kearsarge vs. CSS Alabama. 19 June 1864Long 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.

The Blockade and Leaders
07 October 2002

Rear Admiral Raphael Semmes, Confederate Navy. ( 1809-1877 ) 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.


CSS Sumter. 1861-1862. Captain Raphael Semmes
07 October 2002

[Image]This ship was a barque rigged steamer of but 437 tons, having a length of 184 feet, her beam, 30 feet, and she drew only 12 feet of water. In trials she made about 9 knots, and coal bunkers were fitted to enable her to steam for 8 days.

CSS Nashville. 1861-1862. Captain Robert B. Pegram
13 November 2002

CSS NashvilleThis Confederate Raider was constructed in 1853, to be a coastal trader and carry passengers, she was a fast 1,200 ton side wheeler, but like most side wheelers did not shine as a sailing ship.

CSS Florida. 1862-1863. Captain John Newland Maffitt. CSS Florida. 1864. Captain Charles M. Morris
18 October 2002

CSS FloridaThis ship was built by William C. Miller and Sons of Liverpool, and was the first contract negotiated by Captain James Bulloch as Naval Agent of the Confederate States. She carried the dockyard name of Oreto, by March 1862, the ship was ready for sea, an English crew was signed on to sail her as an unarmed ship, this arrangement was necessary to avoid any conflict with the neutrality regulations that obtained.   Captain John Newland Maffitt achieved much in only 8 months, captured 25 prizes, destroying another 19 ships and bonding a further 6. To this total must be added, another 22 vessels as the result of the activity of Lapwing, Clarence, Tacony and Archer, a remarkable 47 ships in all.

Alexandra. 1862-1863
18 October 2002

[Image]The impounding of the Alexandra and the trial were part of the change in attitude of Britain to the South, plus of course the Rebels were starting to also lose the land battles.


CSS Alabama. 1862-1864. Captain Raphael Semmes
03 November 2002

CSS AlabamaThe most powerful of all the Confederate Raiders, Alabama started her life at the Birkenhead shipyard of John Laird and Sons, known as keel No 290. 

CSS Georgia. 1863. Captain William Lewis Maury
14 November 2002

CSS GeorgiaOn the 1st. of April 1863, she cleared the Clyde, a very ordinary merchant ship, inspected, and cleared by British Customs. The Alar, a small ship usually engaged trading to the Channel Islands was used for transporting arms, ammunition, and after five days of hard work, Lieutenant William Maury commissioned CSS Georgia off the French port of Brest.

CSS Tallahassee. 1864. Captain John Taylor Wood
15 November 2002

CSS TallahasseeGiven her speed and low profile, broken up by two funnels and two sparsely rigged masts, the ship was ideal for running blockades, but left a lot to be desired as a raiding cruiser. Coal was necessary to drive the ship, and her design suitable for journeys of only 1,000 miles, hardly condusive to the role of long days/weeks at sea demanded from a commerce raider.

CSS Rappahannock 1863-1865. Captains. William P.A.Campbell. Charles M. Fauntleroy.
14 November 2002

CSS RappahannockMaury sent Lieutenant William F. Carter off to seek out suitable ships to purchase and convert, he quickly came up with a former British vessel, HMA Victor, retired as a gunboat by the British, and now used as a dispatch ship.  This ship carried six, 24 pounders, all mounted forward of her twin funnels, she had 350 horse power engine, was fast under steam, and her three square rigged masts only carried single top sails, again, essentially this ship was a steamship, not designed as a sailing vessel.

CSS Chickamauga. 1864. Captain John Wilkinson.
15 November 2002

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

CSS Stonewall. 1865. Captain T.J.Page.
16 November 2002

CSS StonewallAt the time of this sale, Denmark was at war with Prussia, by the time this ship was delivered, the war was over, and the Danes wanted to be rid of her. The Confederates did a deal, and on the 6th. of January 1865 she sailed out of Copenhagen with Captain T.J.Page in command, and met up with a steamer, City of Richmond off the French coast, she carried the remainder of the officers and crew, plus necessary supplies, up went the Confederate flag, and she was named CSS Stonewall.

CSS Shenandoah. 1864-1865. Captain James I. Waddell
13 November 2002

CSS ShenandoahWith Alabama sunk, Mallory again turned to Bulloch in England, on the 16th. of July 1864 he ordered him to find a suitable replacement for the most successful Raider ever operated by the Confederates, a tall order indeed.

Selected Bibliography
15 November 2002


This site was created as a resource for educational use and the promotion of historical awareness. All rights of publicity of the individuals named herein are expressly reserved, and, should be respected consistent with the reverence in which this memorial site was established.

Copyright© 1984/2014 Mackenzie J. Gregory All rights reserved