Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Talkin’ Blockade Runners

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 8, 2012

Next Sunday, July 15 at 2 p.m., I’ll be giving a talk, “For-Profit Patriots: Blockade Runners of the Texas Coast.” There will be particular emphasis on two vessels wrecked here in 1865, Will o’ the Wisp and Denbigh. The official blurb:

In the closing months of the Civil War, long, low blockade runners slipped in and out of Texas ports, racing both to keep the Confederacy supplied, and to generate dramatic profits for their owners. It was a risky, high-stakes gamble that was the foundation for many fortunes on both sides of the Atlantic. Almost 150 years later, archaeologists and historians have begun to uncover the stories of these remarkable vessels. The discovery of the paddle steamer Denbigh in 1997, and of a wreck believed to be the famous Will o’ the Wisp in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, open the door to a long-overlooked story of patriotism, avarice and daring during those last desperate months of the conflict.

Tickets are $10 for Galveston Historical Foundation members and $12 for non-members. The presentation will be at Menard Hall, 33rd Street and Avenue O in Galveston. Reservations may be made with Jami Durham at GHF at 409-765-3409. Hope top see y’all there!


Update, July 16: The talk went well, lots of follow-up Q&A. Seventy folks in attendance, which I understand is a strong turnout for that venue and subject matter. (Especially on a rainy Sunday afternoon.) I was especially glad to see two of my former teachers, Jim Clyburn and Alex Pratt, in the audience. Thanks, y’all!

Image: Hand-colored portrait of an unidentified Confederate blockade runner shown with large Confederate naval flag, Matanzas, Cuba, c. 1865. Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library.


5 Responses

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  1. Foxessa said, on July 8, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    The figure in the illustration is located in Matanzas (where I’ve spent quite a bit of time, at various times)? Ironic, since the confederates wanted nothing more than possession of Cuba to fulfill the manifest destiny of the slavery society. Well, of course, the U.S. always has had a lust to possess Cuba, both before and after the Waw.

    I’ve always found this fascinating — cutpasta follows from this website, though you can find the information in many places and forms, that Salmon Chase’s son in law did blockade running to supply his mills with Texas cotton:

    When Salmon P Chase was Secretary of the Treasury he had been accused of being lax in the way he handled the cotton permits which allowed some trading with the south to keep the cotton mills in the north active. The capture of a Confederate blockade runner in 1864 threatened to discredit Chase who had just been appointed Chief Justice and Lincoln would have suffered from the scandal; Chases son-in-law Senator William Sprague of Rhode Island was implicated in a scheme of running guns through though Texas were they were exchanged for cotton for Spragues cotton mill back in Cranston, Rhode Island. The act if true would have been treason. Stanton for the sake of his party, Lincoln and his friend Chase, hushed the matter and the damning evidence disappeared from the War Department.

    Love, C.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 8, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      Cuba, and Havana specifically, was a hotbed of blockade-running activity, first to Mobile and then later to Galveston. There was a lot of intrigue going on there, the history of which remains to be written.

  2. Mac Whatley said, on July 9, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Wish I could be there! Post the good stuff after your talk.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 9, 2012 at 8:52 am

      I will. The previous talk in this series was recorded, and (I understand) will be online soon. I presume something similar will be done with my talk, although I don’t have the specific details right now.

  3. S. Thomas Summers said, on July 9, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    I need to move South. I pray all goes well.

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