Would it have been a better idea for the CSN to invest in blockade runners instead of merchant raiders?

Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
Ships like the Shendoah, Alabama, and Florida, were they a waste of war time capital? Think about the disdain many countries have for piratical endeavors, then combine that with the fact raiding commercial shipping didn't really accomplish much. Should the South have taken that money and invested in blockade runners? Was the South even short on blockade runners? Would speedier blockade runners like the side wheel steamers we saw late in the war have made any difference on the war effort?

You know me, I believe that the South's lack of foresight cost them greatly, it was mainly arrogance, but I'm interested in what the outcome would've been.
 

Dilandu

First Sergeant
Joined
Mar 16, 2015
Location
Moscow, Russian Federation
Well, the answer is complex. On the one side, there were quite a lot of blockade runners. On the other hands, only a small number of them was owned by Confederacy government, and the rest were private ones - which means, that they were more interested in bringing in luxury items & goods for sale on civilian markets for over-inflated prices, rather than hauling weapons and war materials. There were much more profit to be made by moving in coffee (which could then be auctioned) or lady's clothes, than guns or ammunition (which would be brought at fixed price).

The ocean raiders weren't particularly efficient, yes. Still, they were cost-effective; they inflicted much more damage & forced Union to expend much more resources, than they cost for Confederacy to operate.

Would the same resources better spend on additional government-owned blockade runners? I think no. Thing is, that blockade running was a matter of chance & statistics; some ships would get caught, some would slip through. Adding a few more ships just did nothing to move the balance in any direction - and adding MANY new ships would simply cost too much. So, frankly, I doubt that it would be practical to exchange raiders for runners.
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
Well, the answer is complex. On the one side, there were quite a lot of blockade runners. On the other hands, only a small number of them was owned by Confederacy government, and the rest were private ones - which means, that they were more interested in bringing in luxury items & goods for sale on civilian markets for over-inflated prices, rather than hauling weapons and war materials. There were much more profit to be made by moving in coffee (which could then be auctioned) or lady's clothes, than guns or ammunition (which would be brought at fixed price).

The ocean raiders weren't particularly efficient, yes. Still, they were cost-effective; they inflicted much more damage & forced Union to expend much more resources, than they cost for Confederacy to operate.

Would the same resources better spend on additional government-owned blockade runners? I think no. Thing is, that blockade running was a matter of chance & statistics; some ships would get caught, some would slip through. Adding a few more ships just did nothing to move the balance in any direction - and adding MANY new ships would simply cost too much. So, frankly, I doubt that it would be practical to exchange raiders for runners.
Thanks for the break down man.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Ships like the Shendoah, Alabama, and Florida, were they a waste of war time capital? Think about the disdain many countries have for piratical endeavors, then combine that with the fact raiding commercial shipping didn't really accomplish much. Should the South have taken that money and invested in blockade runners? Was the South even short on blockade runners? Would speedier blockade runners like the side wheel steamers we saw late in the war have made any difference on the war effort?

You know me, I believe that the South's lack of foresight cost them greatly, it was mainly arrogance, but I'm interested in what the outcome would've been.
Yes and no. Commerce raiders are a good but limited tool in the tool box.
The CSN forced many US ship owner's to sell their ships cheap to foreign buyers who then could use their ships to trade with the US under a foreign flag so nothing the CSN can do to stop them.
As @Dilandu points out Commerce raiders diverted some USN ships from blockade duty.
In the long term the USN did destroy all the major Commerce Raiders except the Shenendoah which late war was sinking US Walers in the Bearing Sea far from the critical US shipping trade going to Western Europe.
Investing in blockade runners is not a viable long term strategy because the Union seized Confederate ports ever year of the war.
What the Confederacy required was an army that could protect it's vital ports and a navy that could break the Blockade and escort Confederate merchant ships at least to European colonial ports in the Caribbean but that was a bridge to far.
Leftyhunter
 
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
Agree without raiders, whatever gain there was from a few additional blockade runners, would be offset by the Union no longer needs squadrons hunting raiders, and convoy escorts, so they would be added to blockade, making it more efficient.

Raiders forced the Union to divert ships from the blockade.
 
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bradford011

Private
Joined
Jan 9, 2015
It's a bit more complicated than that. As Dilandu said almost all blockade runners were private and were more interested in small luxury goods that made huge profits for the owners.

Sometime in 1864 the Confederate government did two things:

1) All private blockade runners were to set aside a portion of their cargo space for Confederate government cargo.
2) A number of blockade runners were built for the Confederate government which would carry nothing but government cargo.

Getting in large things like ironclad engines simply couldn't be done by the private sector, not enough profit. Such things needed to be carried on a government vessel.

What needed to be done was both of these events taking place in 1862 instead of 1864. Won't change the outcome of the war but would help ease Confederate supply problems.
 
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