The Union Blockade Essay Research Paper THE — страница 4

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Union sailors. While it may have been “rollicking good fun” for blockade-runners, it remained “perfect hell” for blockaders.[27] Blockade duty was boring and monotonous. It was also very hard because blockade-running ships were often superior to the blockaders. The blockaders most often had inadequate speed and poor seagoing qualities and many of them were sailing ships, which were worthless unless the blockade-runners were sailing ships too. While blockaders were mostly poor, sluggish ships, blockade-runners were often some of the best ships ever made. They had speeds the Union couldn’t match; most sailed at 10 to 14 knots, some could attain speeds of 17 knots fully loaded, which was incredible for the time, and by the end of the war a few had broken 18 knots.[28]

Stunned by the superior speeds of blockade-runners, the commander of the blockader USS Dacotah remarked that “The speed of these contraband steamers is beyond all precedent of late. I have never experienced anything like it.”[29] Blockade-runners also had the advantage of virtual invisibility. After 1862, most had become fast iron steamers without sails, with light drafts, low silhouettes, and they were often painted a foggy gray color. They burned a smokeless anthracite coal and they liked to run on moonless nights.[30] Thus, a custom-built blockade-runner was “absolutely indiscernible at a cable’s length” on a dark night.[31] An officer of the blockader USS Vandalia stationed at Charleston wrote, “We could not see a single vessel going in or out…We have but little

doubt that these vessels elude our vigilance at night as the nature of the coast precludes the possibility of our anchoring within at least four miles of the shore-hence a vessel of a few hundred tons…can easily escape by hugging the shore until out of our sight.”[32] Since the blockade-runners were so hard to distinguish, blockading vessels often spent hours chasing each other by accident.[33] The blockading fleet was of such poor quality that it was often in shambles. The blockaders frequently suffered breakdowns in machinery and had to leave their stations for long periods of time while the Navy had no replacements to send. In fact, over the course of the war, repair time kept one-third to two-fifths of the vessels constantly away from their stations.[34] This made

statistics of the number of blockaders somewhat inflated, and although 600 ships were in the blockading fleet at the end, probably less than 400 were actually on station. At one time, the Wilmington blockade was missing ten of its vessels due to repair time.[35] The whole fleet was riddled with broken pumps, leaky boilers, and worn-out machinery, and in 1863, an officer remarked, “We are all getting into lame condition.”[36] Another problem plaguing the blockaders was the shortage of coal. In 1862, the four blockading squadrons required 3,000 tons of coal per week, and the amount kept growing. The Union supply depots at Beaufort, North Carolina, Port Royal, South Carolina, and Pensacola, Florida frequently ran out of coal and long delays were endured before ships there could

return to their stations. The need to conserve coal prompted Rear Admiral Samuel Phillips Lee, the commander of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, to write the force commander in Wilmington in September, 1863: “You may find it expedient not to keep more than one of the little vessels moving about at a time, even at night.”[37] The coal shortages and maintenance problems seriously limited the blockading fleet and were major reasons why the Union couldn’t establish a tighter blockade. In terms of blockade-running, Charleston and Wilmington were the busiest and most famous ports of the war. After the fall of New Orleans on April 25, 1862, they were the best ports left open to the Confederates. Of all Confederate ports, Wilmington had the best geography and was ideally

suited for blockade-running (even with big steamers). It was located 25 miles up the Cape Fear River and had two main outlet channels, the eastern one, the New Inlet, guarded by Fort Fisher, and the Western Bar Channel, guarded by Fort Caswell. Thus, Wilmington required two separate blockading fleets 50 miles apart and each one needed to keep its distance from the channel because of the forts. In addition, the double coastline opened other outlets such as the Shallotte Inlet and the New Topsail Inlet. The Carolina blockade was more stringent starting in 1863, but of 590 attempts from January 1863 to April 1864, 498 (about five in six) were successful.[38] The Charleston blockade changed drastically in 1863 when Admiral Dahlgren moved ironclads in, and conducted nightly patrols of