Civil War Blockade Papers

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For the buyers - a high risk / high return investment opportunity...for the sellers - a way to raise cash for other endeavors.

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wausaubob

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The blockade is relevant because it illustrates the lack of reality in political rhetoric. The blockade is based on the assumption that the southern areas were partially dependent on direct trade with Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Brooklyn and Boston. These cities had a combined had a combined population of 2,000,000. They existed because their economies and ports were efficient.
Although secessionist politicians made of a habit of deriding these cities that was flawed logic. Any diversion of this direct trade to foreign ports and foreign supplies was going to increase prices and increase carrying charges.
Since the Confederate alliance did not have its own manufacturing capacity, any decrease in competition in its markets was going to lead to inflation.
 

wausaubob

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The reality of the blockade was the twenty largest cities in the United States in 1860 were on the Atlantic Coast, the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, or the Great Lakes. They had grown based on the vast efficiency of water transportation, especially steam powered vessels.
By the first week of May 1862 they were all returned to control of the United States.
Baltimore, New Orleans, St. Louis, Louisville, and all the northern cities, they were all in control of the United States.
The standard history is the struggle of the Confederacy to survive without these manufacturing and distribution centers was a noble enterprise is strained at best.
How a belligerent that cannot maintain and build steam powered engines is going to prevail against one of the emerging industrial powers is never adequately explained.
 

wausaubob

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If we assume that guns and munitions were run into Texas during the course of the Civil War, that reveals the problem.
Why are we focused on guns and munitions, when what Texas needed was railroad equipment, locomotives and based on their economy, enslaved workers?
 

wausaubob

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The real story of the blockade is much simpler. As soon as direct traffic along the Atlantic coast was cut off, consumer prices in the Confederacy were bound to go up.
As soon as the United States controlled the Mississippi River as far south as Cairo, Il, Misssouri was cut off from the rest of the Confederacy.
The US shelled the Confederates off Ship Island, LA about 90 days after the beginning of the war. The island was substantially garrisoned as soon as the hurricane season passed.
 

DaveBrt

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If we assume that guns and munitions were run into Texas during the course of the Civil War, that reveals the problem.
Why are we focused on guns and munitions, when what Texas needed was railroad equipment, locomotives and based on their economy, enslaved workers?
Are you really saying that the Texas economy needed to have slaves run through the blockade? I thought the place was awash with refugee slaves.

Locomotives and railroad equipment can get fighting men to the place threatened by the enemy, but those troops need guns and munitions with which to fight. There were operating railroads in Texas, but a serious shortage of weapons -- so import them.
 
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wausaubob

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Are you really saying that the Texas economy needed to have slaves run through the blockade? I thought the place was awash with refugee slaves.

Locomotives and railroad equipment can get fighting me to the place threatened by the enemy, but those troops need guns and munitions with which to fight. There were operating railroads in Texas, but a serious shortage of weapons -- so import them.
Slaves could be walked into Texas, certainly. But for four years, with a large part of male population of Texas occupied elsewhere, Texas is cutoff from growth.
Texas was already falling behind before the war started, because investors were not willing to bet on the slave economy.
 

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There a few problems with discussions of the blockade. Whether the Confederacy could get percussion caps and artillery fuses to the places they were needed has never been discussed.
Also, with the civilian population of Richmond increasing as the war progressed, and the United States cutting Virginia off at the Potomac and the Chesapeake, Richmond and the Army of No. Virginia were probably in a food and forage deficit by July of 1862. The US was trimming Virginia from the west, then the north and then from the east. Slaves who could leave were getting out.
General Lee conducted two offensive campaigns to try to ameliorate this situation. Both campaigns exposed the army to loss rates it could not sustain.
The blockade was very tight as least with respect to Virginia and the elimination of most of the steamboat traffic on the internal rivers. As that situation took hold the Virginia railroad system was employed to fulfill a task it was not designed for.
Those short line railroads had a sound commercial purpose, but they were not capable of sustaining a growing city and a 60,000 man army with its mules and horses.
 

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Blockade running during the American Civil War: Sources

6.jpg


Introduction

The economic impact of the American Civil War (1861-1865) on Scotland and Clydeside in particular was far reaching. The Confederate need for manufactured goods and ships to run the blockade provided a great stimulus to shipbuilding and heavy industry in general. Clydeside firms such as Scott & Co., J. & G. Thomson, Kirkpatrick and MacIntyre, William Denny & Bros., W. Simons & Co. and Thomas Wingate & Co., produced a great many of the ships that ran the blockade, and four ships which served in the Confederate Navy. Shipbuilders were not the only group to benefit from the civil conflict. Ship owners and blockade running houses also made massive profits by running the blockade, shipping in vital and luxury goods on the inward voyage and bringing out cotton on the return trip which could be sold at vastly inflated prices in European markets. This guide is designed to illustrate the records, which University of Glasgow Archive Services hold relating to blockade runners and blockade running companies. It also suggests other records, which may contain relevant information and recommends reading on specific companies. A secondary reading list is also included; it is hoped that this will provide a useful context and introduction to blockade running during the American Civil War.

https://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_60666_en.pdf
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THE “CONFEDERATE” BLOCKADE OF THE SOUTH
by ROBERT B. EKELUND, JR , AND MARK THORNTON

"...However, while the presence of the blockade fleet was certainly a necessary condition to shutting down international trade, it was not sufficient. The blockade fleet made it more costly to transport goods, but the percentage of blockade-runners that were actually captured by the Union blockade fleet was small. Important research has now shown that the Union blockaders posed little threat to the blockade-runners. The blockade fleet did have an economic incentive to capture blockade-runners because the “prize” would be divided between the officers and crew. However, those same incentives meant that the blockaders did not want to harm the blockade-running ships for fear of destroying valuable prizes, particularly the outgoing vessels that were loaded with cotton. International law protected captured members of the crew, who were typically released in port and available for more blockade running. The risk of death or injury faced by blockade-running crews was significantly less than those faced by Confederate soldiers (Neely 1986)..."

http://www.mises.net/sites/default/files/qjae4_1_2.pdf
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DaveBrt

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THE “CONFEDERATE” BLOCKADE OF THE SOUTH
by ROBERT B. EKELUND, JR , AND MARK THORNTON

"...However, while the presence of the blockade fleet was certainly a necessary condition to shutting down international trade, it was not sufficient. The blockade fleet made it more costly to transport goods, but the percentage of blockade-runners that were actually captured by the Union blockade fleet was small. Important research has now shown that the Union blockaders posed little threat to the blockade-runners. The blockade fleet did have an economic incentive to capture blockade-runners because the “prize” would be divided between the officers and crew. However, those same incentives meant that the blockaders did not want to harm the blockade-running ships for fear of destroying valuable prizes, particularly the outgoing vessels that were loaded with cotton. International law protected captured members of the crew, who were typically released in port and available for more blockade running. The risk of death or injury faced by blockade-running crews was significantly less than those faced by Confederate soldiers (Neely 1986)..."

http://www.mises.net/sites/default/files/qjae4_1_2.pdf
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I have not had time to read this in detail, but from scanning it, I'm led to believe that they suffers from too much knowledge. They know the weaknesses that showed up and argue that Davis should have anticipated those very weaknesses and worked to prevent them. For example, he says the railroads deteriorated during the war, so Davis should have bought imported railroad iron and machinery early in the war, before the blockade became a problem. How would Davis, a non-railroad man, know what to buy? The railroad companies believed the war would be short and saw no need to rush orders to buy railroad material -- why should Davis have had better vision than the railroad professionals?

They say Davis should have bought naval engines right away, but did he know what specific engines to buy? Were naval engines more important than rifles, cannon, ammunition, etc? This is what Davis tried to buy, with no government organized to buy or pay for anything in Europe.

Maybe they can persuade me, but I don't think they can make the argument the Davis did a bad job buying the correct material during the period of weak blockade.
 

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@DaveBrt

Sir, agreed - on a macro level, and with the underlining belief of many that it would be a short war, criticisms of Davis seem rather far reaching.

The premise of the paper is that the Confederate policies did more to enhance the efficacy of the blockade than any Union actions. Just wanted to post a different view point of the blockade, like post #15.

I disagree with certain passages of the paper - "If submarines such as the Hunley, which sunk the USS Housatonic off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina could have been improved and produced in sufficient numbers, the blockade could have been broken or sufficiently weakened to open international trade." or feel that there isn't enough presented data to draw the conclusion that the authors do - "Browning (1980, pp. 175–79) found that, despite a tremendous increase in the number of blockading vessels off Wilmington, the number of blockade-runners captured each month stayed about the same.", the overall focus of the paper appears not to be an analysis of the blockade itself but what the authors perceive as errors in Confederate policy that created a self-imposed isolation.
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wausaubob

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I have not had time to read this in detail, but from scanning it, I'm led to believe that they suffers from too much knowledge. They know the weaknesses that showed up and argue that Davis should have anticipated those very weaknesses and worked to prevent them. For example, he says the railroads deteriorated during the war, so Davis should have bought imported railroad iron and machinery early in the war, before the blockade became a problem. How would Davis, a non-railroad man, know what to buy? The railroad companies believed the war would be short and saw no need to rush orders to buy railroad material -- why should Davis have had better vision than the railroad professionals?

They say Davis should have bought naval engines right away, but did he know what specific engines to buy? Were naval engines more important than rifles, cannon, ammunition, etc? This is what Davis tried to buy, with no government organized to buy or pay for anything in Europe.

Maybe they can persuade me, but I don't think they can make the argument the Davis did a bad job buying the correct material during the period of weak blockade.
I agree with @DaveBrt . Initially there was well founded optimism that either the US would concede independence or the British would intervene well before material shortages affected the outcome of the war.
When it turned out that optimism about the status of Kentucky was excessive, and that the US navy could bypass even Forts Philip and Jackson, then it became clear that the war was going to be prolonged and the British were going to take care of their own interests.
The US in contrast targeted the commercial and industrial cities that could have been part of the Confederacy.
By June 1862 most of cities in the slave states were occupied, permanently, by the US.
 

DaveBrt

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I agree with @DaveBrt .
By June 1862 most of cities in the slave states were occupied, permanently, by the US.
I think that is a bit strong -- Memphis, New Orleans, Nashville, Norfolk captured. Not captured: Atlanta, Richmond, Petersburg, Charleston, Savannah, Macon, Mobile, Montgomery, Augusta, Columbia and plenty of 2nd rate cities, like Knoxville and Chattanooga.

I don't think Lincoln was smart enough to make war on the industrial South. He was a politician and went for the things his military could give him -- especially his naval power (notice all the cities above captured were captured by or because of naval power).

Lincoln had the ability to hurt the industrial South in many ways that he did not take advantage of. Cutting the RRs to Richmond at Knoxville and Weldon; taking Chattanooga when the Union held Decatur and Huntsville in 1862; attacking Pollard, then Montgomery from Pensacola; taking Savannah in 1863 with the troops at Charleston; etc. As an amateur, he took the enemy's armies and capitol to be his only targets, neglecting the logistics that kept those armies in the field.
 

wausaubob

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Lincoln's contribution was to peal off the border areas, with force where required and through patience in Kentucky. That led to St. Louis, Louisville, and Baltimore staying in the US. That made the blockade a huge factor in the eventual outcome of the war.
 

wausaubob

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The success of the blockade depends on clearing the western Gulf, getting over the Head of the Passes and eventually conquering New Orleans and taking its wharves and railroad connections.
While the press was debating the merits of the Anaconda, the navy put their best man in the Western Gulf, and sent the mortar scows to New Orleans.
 


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