Would have a less successful Union blockade have allowed the Confederacy to win the War?

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
David Surdam's book on the blockade makes it clear that while the blockade could be evaded by specialized blockade runners, these specialized vessels had a low cargo capacity. Just the fact of the blockade cut cotton exports so much that the CSA could never have accumulated enough income from the exports to pay for any significant increase in imports. Plus, the blockade interrupted the Southern state's vital sea lanes with each other--a huge part of the prewar transportation infrastructure.
It's not just CSA to Europe that needs to be considered, but also one part of the CSA to another.
The cargo volume expands in step with the square of the radius of the hull. Thinner, faster ships cannot haul as much cargo.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Two Confederate armies were captured long before the blockade was total.
That's true, but it didn't end the war. And both were trapped against a river which was under US control. The coastal blockade, without the capture of the major ports, would not have produced surrender in 5 years. Probably not even in any time the British were willing to wait and see.
But the coastal blockade also included capturing the port cities, controlling the Mississippi river over it's entire length, and controlling all trade through Tennessee and Kentucky. It was a complete siege.
 
Last edited:

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
If you define the blockade narrowly, then a no is possible. If you define the blockade more broadly a yes is the result. Without a complete blockade, the US was going to have agree to a settlement for several years.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
There were only 9 deep water ports in the CSA. Around 75% of blockade runners successfully avoided the blockade. There simply was not enough credit to finance more blockade runners nor were there ships available to haul more loads. This problem was self inflicted.

When the CSA government showed how very small their grip was on reality by embargo grill cotton exports, they effectively blockaded themselves. Had, as anybody with the sense god gave a duck, they exported every pound of cotton they could let hands on, a huge cash reserve could have been created. Goods & ships could have been purchased & delivered before the US Navy could have interfered.

Yes, without doubt more tons of supplies could have been imported… but it would have taken a wholesale replacement of the CSA government to do it.
 

georgew

First Sergeant
Joined
Oct 1, 2010
Location
southern california
That's true, but it didn't end the war. And both were trapped against a river which was under US control. The coastal blockade, without the capture of the major ports, would not have produced surrender in 5 years. Probably not even in any time the British were willing to wait and see.
But the coastal blockade also included capturing the port cities, controlling the Mississippi river over it's entire length, and controlling all trade through Tennessee and Kentucky. It was a complete siege.
It wasn't just the issue of the ports. Pressure by Union land forces kept the Confederates busy trying to safeguard deteriorating rail systems for the distribution of goods. The same conditions began hampering the collection of cotton for shipment in the ports. Widening the number of distribution points by shipping smaller consignments from secondary ports using smaller vessels was also not a solution as the European markets wanted "pressed" bales versus the lower volume unpressed variety. The latter greatly reduced the amount of product per unit volume and productivity of ship deliveries went down, even if not losing vessels to Union patrols.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Since the US held New Orleans, and Savannah was under close blockade, diverting the cotton to smaller towns to meet smaller ships introduced multiple inefficiencies.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
There were only 9 deep water ports in the CSA. Around 75% of blockade runners successfully avoided the blockade. There simply was not enough credit to finance more blockade runners nor were there ships available to haul more loads. This problem was self inflicted.

When the CSA government showed how very small their grip was on reality by embargo grill cotton exports, they effectively blockaded themselves. Had, as anybody with the sense god gave a duck, they exported every pound of cotton they could let hands on, a huge cash reserve could have been created. Goods & ships could have been purchased & delivered before the US Navy could have interfered.

Yes, without doubt more tons of supplies could have been imported… but it would have taken a wholesale replacement of the CSA government to do it.
An early shipping program would have been admission that it was going to be a long war, and would have had to anticipate that the US could institute a close blockade, with several intermediate coaling stations. That would be a lot to plan for if the secessionists wanted to believe there would be little or no fighting.
The international market then behaves differently if it knows cotton reserves are soaring to new high levels.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
An early shipping program would have been admission that it was going to be a long war, and would have had to anticipate that the US could institute a close blockade, with several intermediate coaling stations. That would be a lot to plan for if the secessionists wanted to believe there would be little or no fighting.
The international market then behaves differently if it knows cotton reserves are soaring to new high levels.
I think it was more a matter of get every cent you can as fast as you can while you can. Of course, the CSA brain trust didn’t see it that way.

The underlying delusion of the SC secessionists was the belief that the whole world revolved around them. There were only 35,000 of them living like frogs at the bottom of a well. Everybody croaked the same thing back & forth so it must be true. After all, their status as white slaveholders was God given, everybody knew that, just ask any other frog. They hadn’t a clue that Egyptian cotton was about to come to market in volume & Indian not far behind.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
I think it was more a matter of get every cent you can as fast as you can while you can. Of course, the CSA brain trust didn’t see it that way.

The underlying delusion of the SC secessionists was the belief that the whole world revolved around them. There were only 35,000 of them living like frogs at the bottom of a well. Everybody croaked the same thing back & forth so it must be true. After all, their status as white slaveholders was God given, everybody knew that, just ask any other frog. They hadn’t a clue that Egyptian cotton was about to come to market in volume & Indian not far behind.
The blockade was a funny thing. By the time Slidell and Mason got to England, the US had coaling stations at Hatteras inlet, Port Royal and Ship Island, MS, as well the forts the US held onto. By the time they got to France, the French asked the amusing question, if the blockade is so ineffective, why are you complaining about?
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
In the only data generated on this issue, the actual US Civil War, the Confederates did not do very well after the US closed Mobile Bay and the blockaders could stack on Wilmington. After that point, when the Confederates did fight, it was usually infantry attacks, without very much artillery support. After August 1864, the whole war became like the last few weeks at Chattanooga. Confederate artillery men became much more reluctant to duel with US artillery.
And by the time of the breakthrough at Five Forks, many Confederate soldiers threw down their rifles and surrendered. Even at Fort Stedmen, many were unwilling to risk returning to their own lines over no mans land. So how much ammunition did the Confederate Army of No. Virginia have left by the first week of April 1865? We don't know. But they sure didn't fight much.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
I think it was more a matter of get every cent you can as fast as you can while you can. Of course, the CSA brain trust didn’t see it that way.

The underlying delusion of the SC secessionists was the belief that the whole world revolved around them. There were only 35,000 of them living like frogs at the bottom of a well. Everybody croaked the same thing back & forth so it must be true. After all, their status as white slaveholders was God given, everybody knew that, just ask any other frog. They hadn’t a clue that Egyptian cotton was about to come to market in volume & Indian not far behind.
There was so much money in cotton that England and France would continue experimenting in diversification until they got it right. Egypt couldn't compete in cost, and Indian cotton tended to hybridize with inferior strains. West Africans did not like cotton work. But trials in Indochina and the Dutch East indies were still possible. And the Brazil experiment could be repeated multiple times.
The Manchester cotton association was already buying up American seed.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
There was so much money in cotton that England and France would continue experimenting in diversification until they got it right. Egypt couldn't compete in cost, and Indian cotton tended to hybridize with inferior strains. West Africans did not like cotton work. But trials in Indochina and the Dutch East indies were still possible. And the Brazil experiment could be repeated multiple times.
The Manchester cotton association was already buying up American seed.
The English mills had more than a year’s supply of cotton on hand. These weren’t the days of just in time inventory. Cotton was purchased through factors six months to a year in advance. A sailing ship could take 30 days to 3 months to make an Atlantic crossing. I can attest to that personally. There was considerable time slack in the cotton supply chain.

Even today, Christmastime is when summer stock is ordered from the mills. The supply chain reaches back to planting time the previous year.
 
Top