Port Royal, SC vessel arrivals from Nassau, Bahamas Spring 1865

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May 21, 2018
Charleston, SC
As we know, Port Royal SC was occupied by the US early in the war (Nov 1861) and became an important US naval base for the remainder of the conflict (in particular, for blockade operations).

Using the U.S., Atlantic Ports Passenger Lists, 1820-1873 (found on Ancestry.com, among other places) as a reference, there are 203 documented arrivals into Port Royal in March and April 1865 from Nassau, Bahamas. Many if not most arrivals are listed as US nationality males of "military age", though there are lots of foreigners too plus some females.

One of the vessels (the eponymous 12 ton schooner "Wilton") was captained by Charlestonian Wilton P Poulnot (1841-1900), who was a Confederate sailor involved in the Aug 1863 attack on the Union flagship USS New Ironsides by the CSS Torch outside of Charleston harbor. He was also a blockade runner according to his 1900 obituary [attached]. I believe exhaustive research (which I have not done) on the other captains and passengers would turn up similar American captain and/or blockade running connections on at least some of them. That is only conjecture at this point, though.

Vessels arriving to Port Royal then were:
Georgianna - arrived Mar 6, 1865; British registry in Bermuda
Driver - 6 Apr, 1865; British registry in Nassau
Alice Flora - 16 Mar, 1865; British Registry in Nassau
Try Me - 11 Mar, 1865; British Registry in Nassau
Sunbeam - 10 Apr, 1865; British Registry in Nassau
Fortune - 22 Mar, 1865; British Registry in Nassau
Wilton - 22 Mar, 1865; British Registry in Nassau [crew and passenger list attached]

Nassau was, of course, the epicenter of blockade running and was, though officially neutral, in practice very pro-Confederate throughout the war since there were vast profits to be made.

With the surrender of Charleston in mid-Feb 1865 and the capture of Wilmington a week later, my working assumption is that many of those arriving into Port Royal in this time frame were formerly involved in blockade running (either as sailors or in some land-based jobs in Nassau - like the bartender and food service people on board the Wilton) returning home since clearly, at that point with the loss of the two primary Atlantic ports of the CSA, "the game was up".

The question I am trying to answer: Could they just return and go about their business? The war was still happening at that point. Was this some officially sanctioned surrender or amnesty of sorts? Were they detained in Port Royal until the war was over?

I have searched the wealth of information on this forum but just using "Port Royal" as a search term is delivering hundreds of hits. If anyone knows where this has previously been discussed, I welcome the information and apologize for the repetition.


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