CHAPTER XXX. THE NAVY IN THE WAR; LIFE IN WAR TIMES

THE SOUTHERN COAST BLOCKADE. - The naval war began with a proclamation of Davis offering commissions to privateers, [1] and two by Lincoln (April 19 and 27, 1861), declaring the coast blockaded from Virginia to Texas.

The object of the blockade was to cut off the foreign trade of the Southern states, and to prevent their getting supplies of all sorts. But as Great Britain was one of the chief consumers of Southern cotton, and was, indeed, dependent on the South for her supply, it was certain that unless the blockade was made effective by many Union ships, cotton would be carried out of the Southern ports, and supplies run into them, in spite of Lincoln's proclamation.

RUNNING THE BLOCKADE. - This is just what was done. Goods of all sorts were brought from Great Britain to the city of Nassau in the Bahama Islands (map, p. 353). There the goods were placed on board blockade runners and started for Wilmington in North Carolina, or for Charleston. So nicely would the voyage be timed that the vessel would be off the port some night when the moon did not shine. Then, with all lights out, the runner would dash through the line of blockading ships, and, if successful, would by daylight be safe in port. The cargo landed, cotton would be taken on board; and the first dark night, or during a storm, the runner, again breaking the blockade, would steam back to Nassau.

THE TRENT AFFAIR. - Great Britain and France promptly acknowledged the Confederate States as belligerents. This gave them the same rights in the ports of Great Britain and France as our vessels of war. Hoping to secure a recognition of independence from these countries, the Confederate government sent Mason and Slidell to Europe. These two commissioners ran the blockade, went to Havana, and boarded the British mail steamship Trent. Captain Wilkes of the United States man-of-war San Jacinto, hearing of this, stopped the Trent and took off Mason and Slidell. Intense excitement followed in our country and in Great Britain, [2] which at once demanded their release and prepared for war. They were released, and the act of Wilkes was disavowed as an exercise of "the right of search" which we had always resisted when exercised by Great Britain, and which had been one of the causes of the War of 1812.

THE CRUISERS. - While the commerce of the Confederacy was almost destroyed by the blockade, a fleet of Confederate cruisers attacked the commerce of the Union.

The most famous of these, the Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Shenandoah [3] were built or purchased in Great Britain for the Confederacy, and were suffered to put to sea in spite of the protests of the United States minister. Once on the ocean they cruised from sea to sea, destroying every merchant vessel under our flag that came in their way.

One of them, the Alabama, sailed the ocean unharmed for two years. She cruised in the North Atlantic, in the Gulf of Mexico, in the Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Brazil, went around the Cape of Good Hope, entered the China Sea, came again around the Cape of Good Hope, and by way of Brazil and the Azores to Cherbourg in France. During the cruise she destroyed over sixty merchantmen. At Cherbourg the Alabama was found by the United States cruiser Kearsarge, and one Sunday morning in June, 1864, the two met in battle off the coast of France, and the Alabama was sunk. [4]

OPERATIONS ALONG THE COAST. - Besides blockading the coast, the Union navy captured or aided in capturing forts, cities, and water ways. The forts at the entrance to Pamlico Sound and Port Royal were captured in 1861. Control of the waters of Pamlico and Albemarle [5] sounds was secured in 1862 by the capture of Roanoke Island, Elizabeth City, Newbern, and Fort Macon (map, p. 369). In 1863 Fort Sumter was battered down in a naval attack on Charleston. In 1864 Farragut led his fleet into Mobile Bay (in southern Alabama), destroyed the Confederate fleet, captured the forts at the entrance to the bay, and thus cut the city of Mobile off from the sea. In 1865 Fort Fisher, which guarded the entrance to Cape Fear River, on which was Wilmington, fell before a combined attack by land and naval forces.

ON THE INLAND WATERS. - On the great water ways of the West the notable deeds of the navy were the capture of Fort Henry on the Tennessee by Foote's flotilla (p. 358), the capture of New Orleans by Farragut (p. 361), and the run of Porter's fleet past the batteries at Vicksburg (p. 368).