Did any Confederate ship-owners register under the British flag?

SeaTurtle

Private
Joined
Jun 14, 2021
I know that a lot of the British-flagged vessels involved in shipping Confederate supplies were fully or at least partly British-owned, but I did start wondering whether any Confederate ship-owners were able to register their ships under the Red Ensign as a neutral "flag of convenience"?

I'm not sure if it was possible at the time for foreigners to register a vessel under the British flag ... I recall the "Arrow incident" in 1856 which kicked off the Second Opium War: it involved a Chinese-owned but British-flagged ship, though I believe the owner was resident in Hong Kong ... if so then not technically "foreign" to the British Empire.
 

bobinwmass

Corporal
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Location
Western Massachusetts
I'm not sure about actually registering under British colors, or if some Confederate ships just flew the British colors when convenient in attempts to prevent search or capture. I have a letter from Sgt. A. M. Ramsdell of the 31st Massachusetts Infantry describing his experiences in Louisiana, "Fort Pike is situated on the eastern extremity of Lake Ponchatrain and commands the Rigolets the main pass from New Orleans to Mobile. All boats are obliged to heave to and be searched and they must have a pass from Gen Butler. Yesterday a boat carrying an English flag attempted to run the Rigolets but a shot from a 50 lbr in her hull made her round too, the ball went through her. She proved to be a rebel boat under English colors loaded with salt, flour, and ammunition."
 

SeaTurtle

Private
Joined
Jun 14, 2021
I'm not sure about actually registering under British colors, or if some Confederate ships just flew the British colors when convenient in attempts to prevent search or capture.

Oh yeah, false flags are no surprise in that business, I've definitely heard of it too. But I was just curious if any Southern ship-owners tried to take the extra step and actually have a vessel legitimately registered under British colours. In theory it could keep Union ships from bothering you outside the blockade. I'm not sure if Union agents were checking Lloyd's register, but if they were then having your ship on the British roll might help keep them at bay, as opposed to them finding out your ship wasn't legit and sending a telegram to the USN to keep their eyes open for you.
 
Joined
Dec 20, 2018
I'm not sure about actually registering under British colors, or if some Confederate ships just flew the British colors when convenient in attempts to prevent search or capture. I have a letter from Sgt. A. M. Ramsdell of the 31st Massachusetts Infantry describing his experiences in Louisiana, "Fort Pike is situated on the eastern extremity of Lake Ponchatrain and commands the Rigolets the main pass from New Orleans to Mobile. All boats are obliged to heave to and be searched and they must have a pass from Gen Butler. Yesterday a boat carrying an English flag attempted to run the Rigolets but a shot from a 50 lbr in her hull made her round too, the ball went through her. She proved to be a rebel boat under English colors loaded with salt, flour, and ammunition."
In fact, here are two Red Ensign designs that were used by British/Confederate blockade runners
redensign4.png
redensignconfederate.jpg
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Member of the Month
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
Oh yeah, false flags are no surprise in that business, I've definitely heard of it too.
I've read that when slave ships spotted British vessels that were monitoring the trade, they hoisted the US flag. This was because Americans had been pretty shirty about being boarded by the Brits. Not being dumb, the British navy often just shadowed a suspect ship until they were sure.
 

John F Messner

Private
Joined
Jan 12, 2021
Location
Scotland
When the Lord Clyde (later renamed Ad-Vance) left Glasgow in May of 1863 to begin its role as a blockade runner for the State of North Carolina it was captained by the Scot Joannes Wyllie, fully crewed by British sailors and registered to a Scottish owner. This appears to have been part of a cover to allow it to travel cross Atlantic to get to Nassau without interference and to then take up its new role. Though registered to Scottish shipbuilder, John Key, the newspapers of the day noted it had been purchased by American agents and was soon to leave for its new career. There is even an crew agreement for a foreign going ship for the Lord Clyde that lists these facts and was returned to its 'owner' John Key after its first return run through the blockade - Nassau-Wilmington-Bermuda
 

georgew

First Sergeant
Joined
Oct 1, 2010
Location
southern california
I know that a lot of the British-flagged vessels involved in shipping Confederate supplies were fully or at least partly British-owned, but I did start wondering whether any Confederate ship-owners were able to register their ships under the Red Ensign as a neutral "flag of convenience"?

I'm not sure if it was possible at the time for foreigners to register a vessel under the British flag ... I recall the "Arrow incident" in 1856 which kicked off the Second Opium War: it involved a Chinese-owned but British-flagged ship, though I believe the owner was resident in Hong Kong ... if so then not technically "foreign" to the British Empire.
The former Southern Steamship Co. vessel General Rusk after serving in the Texas Marine Department in both Texas and Louisiana waters was sold out to private investors for use as a runner and was re-registered as the British vessel Blanche in Havana by a British front man named Clements. She was cornered in a Cuban port later and in a serious offense against neutrality was boarded by a USN party. Clements was taken into custody. The Blanche appears to have been scuttled by her crew and burned in the port. Another of the crooks involved was a Major Moise who apparently arranged for the ship to be insured for only one third of its value. At the time the General Rusk was the single most valuable Confederate vessel in Texas or Louisiana west of the river.
 

USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
I know that a lot of the British-flagged vessels involved in shipping Confederate supplies were fully or at least partly British-owned, but I did start wondering whether any Confederate ship-owners were able to register their ships under the Red Ensign as a neutral "flag of convenience"?

I'm not sure if it was possible at the time for foreigners to register a vessel under the British flag ... I recall the "Arrow incident" in 1856 which kicked off the Second Opium War: it involved a Chinese-owned but British-flagged ship, though I believe the owner was resident in Hong Kong ... if so then not technically "foreign" to the British Empire.

Sir, please see this thread on the regs for flagging vessels by different nations - https://civilwartalk.com/threads/naval-law-in-the-1860s.141729/

HTHs,
USS ALASKA
 
Top