An Example of Blockade Running
The following excerpt from the diary of James H. Burton provides a good read on how blockade running worked. Burton left for Liverpool, England from Macon, Georgia in 1863. He returned the same year. The following is exactly as Burton saw it:
May 6th, 1863. Left Macon, Ga. at 7.30 P.M. for Wilmington, N.C.
May 8th. Arrived in Wilmington at 6.30 A.M. and breakfasted and dined at the "City Hotel." Called on Mr. J. M. Seixas, Agt. C.S.S. Ships, and afterwards went on board the Screw Ship Robert E. Lee and took up my quarters in her cabin.
Sat., May 16th. S.S. Robert E. Lee left the wharf at Wilmington about 9 A.M. and dropped down the river 30 miles and cast anchor opposite the town of Smithville about noon.
Sunday, May 17th. Went ashore with Mr. C. S. Sharps and left letters at the P. Office.
Monday, May 18th. Got under way for St. George's, Bermuda at 6.40 P.M. to run the blockade. 5 blockading vessels off the western bar and 4 off the "new inlet." Capt. Wilkerson commanding the R. E. Lee. Tom Grissom Pilot for Wilmington. Mr. Peniston Pilot for Bermuda. Ran the blockade safely about 8 P.M. through the "new inlet" and put to sea. The S.S. Banshee going out just ahead, bound for Nassau N.P. Encountered no opposition whatever.
Friday, May 22d. Arrived at St. George's, Bermuda at daylight and landed on the wharf at 7 A.M. after a very smooth run from Wilmington. Went ashore with luggage and took lodgings &c. at Mrs. Haywood's "boarding" house. After breakfast called on Major Norman S. Walker and transacted business with him. Dined and took a walk up to the Fort and around it. After tea walked up to the barracks and parade ground, and heard the band perform several pieces in good style. Bananas and Tomatoes are in abundance.
Saturday, May 23d. Major Walker arranged for my passage to Liverpool in the S. S. Miriam to leave tomorrow. Made purchases in afternoon of dry goods, shoes &c. Had them packed in a trunk and sent to Maj. Walker's office, to be forwarded to Wilmington by the R. E. Lee, addressed to J. M. Seixas, Esq. Sat up late writing letters to wife, to Mr. Seixas requesting him to forward the trunk of goods to my wife after clearing them from the Customs, and enclosed $10.00 to defray Express charges to Macon. Wrote to Mr. Chas. S. Sharp at Hamilton, Bermuda.
Saturday, Sept. 5th, Liverpool. After breakfast settled hotel bill, and had luggage carted down to the St. Georges Pier, and walked down with Mr. Regnault and Mr. Greenwood. Had all put on board the tender "Sattelite," and left the Pier at 11 A.M. for the S.S. "Arabia" lying out in the stream about one mile below. Embarked on board about noon in a drenching rain, which continued nearly all day. Mr. Greenwood having seen me and my luggage all safely on board, bid me final good bye, and returned to shore in the tender. Waved our handkerchiefs to each other as long as we could see them. The mail boat having run up alongside and sent the mail on board, got under way about 1 P.M. and steamed steadily down the Musey. A full complement of passengers on board, including an unusual number of ladies. 140 passengers in both cabins. Mr. Regnault and self room together in the forward cabin Nos. 107 & 108, starboard side, a good sized room with sofa &c. Found on board several southern gentlemen returning home, including Rev'd Dr. Hoge of Richmond, Rev'd Mr. Terry of N.C., Col. Walker of Charleston, my late fellow voyager from Bermuda in the S.S. "Miriam," Mr. Lemmon, of Balto. Also a good number of gentlemen from St. John's N.B. and Nova Scotia, all of whom sided warmly with the Confederate cause. Several Yankees on board, including a Capt. Lawrence of Boston, all of whom keep rather quiet. The popular sentiment of those on board is decidedly in favor the the South. The officers of the ship included.
Sunday, Sept. 6th, S.S. "Arabia" Wet and disagreeable day. Wrote letters to Mr. Greenwood; Messrs. Goody & Jones, London; Maj. Huse, London, advising him of my having drawn on S. Isaac, Campbell & Co. for £212, for my pay, allowances & mileage for Augt. & Sept. but inclusive of only £30 for cost of passage to Bermuda, via Halifax. Wrote also to Fraser, Trenholm & Co., Liverpool, advising them of shipment of several cases of steel by Thos. Firth & Son of Sheffield, on my private account, and requesting them to forward to Bermuda by first opportunity. Wrote also to Robt. Mallet, Esq., London, in reply to a letter just rec'd from him enclosing one for his son, J. W. Mallet. Mailed all the above in time to be sent ashore at Queenstown by the mail boat. Came to anchor in Queenstown harbor at 2 P.M. and got under way again at 4 P.M. having rec'd on board the London and other late mails. Went to sea in a gale of wind, and many passengers soon became sea sick, myself included. Kept my berth for the balance of the day & night after dinner. Ships run to Queenstown 198 miles. Divine service was held in the saloon this morning. Rev'd Dr. Gray, of St. John's N.B. officiating. He preached from the text contained in the 14th Chap., St. Mathew, 33d verse.
Monday, Sept 7th, S.S. "Arabia" Ship's run, up to 12, noon, 138 miles.
Tuesday, Sept. 8th. Ship's run, up to 12, noon, 208 miles.
Wednesday, Sept. 9th. Ship's run, up to 12, noon, 228 miles.
Thursday, Sept. 10th. Ship's run, up to 12, noon, 264 miles.
Friday, Sept. 11th. Ship's run, up to 12, noon, 282 miles. Quite sick during the night, having caught severe cold, with sore throat.
Saturday, Sept. 12th. Ship's run, up to 12, noon, 303 miles. Sick in my berth all day under the care of the ship's Surgeon, Dr. Rent. Mustard to my throat, & dose of castor oil at night. Restless night.
Sunday, Sept 13th. Ship's run, up to 12, nnon, 283 miles. Remained in my bed all day till 4 P.M. Got up and went to dinner in the saloon. Feel better, but weak. Rev'd Mr. Terry preached in the saloon today, but I did not hear him.
Monday, Sept. 14th. Ship's run, up to 12, noon, 308 miles.
Tuesday, Sept. 15th. 178 miles. Arrived at Halifax N.S. at 7 A.M. Deposited trunks &c. in Cunard's warehouse, engaged passage in the Screw Steamer "Alpha," Capt. Hunter, to Bermuda; and drove with Mr. Regnault to the "Halifax Hotel" and took rooms there. spent the day in walking around the town, making some purchases of dry goods, boots & shoes &c. in company with Mr. regnault.
Wednesday, Sept. 16th, Halifax N.S. Spent the most of the day in company with Mr. regnault walking about twon, and making purchases of various articles to take home. In the evening remained home at my hotel writing. Wrote official letter to Greenwood & Batley, requesting them not to make the machine for rolling bayonets, and to make a mchine for boring the stock for the ramrod instead. Enclosed the above with a private letter to Mr. Thos. Greenwood, Leeds. Wrote letter to D. C. Keller, Evansville, Inda. enclosing one also to my son Clinton in which I sent him my "carte de viste" and photo likeness of self and wife. Wrote also to Mr. & Mrs. Levering, jointly, and enclosed my "carte de viste."
Thursday, Sept. 17th, Halifax, N.S. Made further purchases of boy's violin, blankets, candles, starch &c. Completed the packing of my case of goods purchased in Halifax and sent it down to the Steamer "Alpha," for shipment to Bermuda. Called on Dr. Hoge & Mr. Walker in the evening at their hotel.
Friday, Sept. 18th, Halifax, N.S. Completed all preparation for leaving this city for Bermuda, settled hotel bill, and drove with Mr. Regnault down to the Steamer "Alpha," and went directly on board. At 12, noon, the gun fired, and we cast off from the wharf and steamed out to sea. Decks covered with cattle, to the great annoyance of the passengers. There are 90 head of beef cattle and 120 head of sheep on board. The sheep and about 20 head of cattle being in the hold. There are about 26 passengers in all on board, including several ladies, some of whom came over with us from Liverpool in the "Arabia." Mr. Wells and Mr. Stone (and his bride), Govt. employees at the Dock Yard, Bermuda, are on board. Also, Col. Hamley, R.E., wife and family, who are to be stationed at Bermuda. Also Capt. O'Coffee of the Indian Cavalry, who intends going to the Confederacy to take service in the field.
Saturday, Sept. 19th, S.S. "Alpha" Sea rather rough, -ship rolling considerably, -and most of the passengers very uncomfortable, self included. Cabins very badly ventilated, -keep out the air, but let in the sea and the rain.
Sunday, Sept. 20th, S.S. "Alpha" Rev'd Mr. Terry voluntered to read the church service, but did not finish because of the rough weather and uncomfortable condition of the passengers. My cabin is about 7 feet square, and in this small space 5 passengers are stowed away in small berths - and bunks fitted up for two more, which fortunately are unoccupied. One wash basin &c serves for all. Many of the passengers sleep on the seats in the saloon in preference to their berths, including several ladies. The table, and the entire accomodations on this ship are villainous.
Monday, Sept. 21st, S.S. "Alpha" Head winds so far all the way from Halifax, and progress of the ship slow. Passengers growing tired of their voyage, and wishing for a fair wind, but none comes.
Tuesday, Sept. 22d, S.S. "Alpha" Wind becoming more favorable, and progress of the ship more satisfactory. Dr. Hoge and Mr. Terry slept on deck last night. Atmosphere growing milder as we progress to the south. Beautiful moonlight nights. Begin to look for the appearance of Bermuda.
Wednesday, Sept. 23d, S.S. "Alpha" Land sighted at 8 A.M. Signaled for a pilot who came off to us at 10 o'clk. Wind blowing very fresh, sea rough, indications of a storm. Ship struck by a wind squall last night, but did not do much damage. Pilot took the ship safely into St. George's Harbor, and dropped anchor at 11 A.M. Soon after a severe storm of wind and rain set in which lasted all afternoon with more or less intensity. Commenced landing the cattle at once. They were each slung over the side of the ship by the horns into the water, and then made fast to a large barge, which towed them ashore in squads of about a dozen. Engaged a small boat and went ashore with my light luggage. Got caught in a rain squall, but managed to stay tolerably dry. Went to the house kept by Mrs. Heyward, where I stopped when I came out; but could get no room. Storm too severe to allow of my seeking about for lodgings, so Mr. Terry kindly allowed an old, lumpy sofa to be put in one corner of his room, on which I slept, or rather did not sleep, for the night.
Thursday, Sept. 24th, St. George's, Bermuda. Having caught fresh cold, and feeling very badly indeed, concluded to call in Dr. Hunter, who came and prescribed for me two kibls (part calomel) to be followed in 4 hours by a saline mixture. Kept my room all day, and ate but little. Mr. terry and my other friends kindly keeping me company. Mr. Regnault and Mr. Walker attended ti the landing of my heavy luggage.
Friday, Sept. 25th, St. George's, Ba. Feel better this morning but weak from effects of medicine. Dr. Hunter called to see me at noon, and pronounced me much better. He prescribed a tonic for me. Paid him his fee of one guinea. Called on Major N. S. Walker and had conversation with him on business matters. Returned to my lodgings, packed up my light luggage, paid bill, and drove over to Hamilton in company with Mr. Walker, Mr. Regnault, and Capt. Bonneau of the Ella & Annie, S.S. Arrived at Hamilton (12 miles) at 6.30 P.M. and took rooms at the new "Hamilton Hotel," where I find things generally far superior to those at St. Georges. Town prettier, country more pleasing, and the air purer and cooler. Took a cup of tea, and retired a little before 10 P.M.
Saturday, Sept. 26th, Hamilton, Ba. Rose at 7 A.M. having slept but little last night because of the mosquitoes. There being no net to my bed. After breakfast took a stroll around town with Mr. Walker and Mr. regnault. Purchased a roll of tracing paper, 30 sheets for s10 strerling, which is very cheap. Selected a few pairs of black cloth boots for wife. Ordered a small supply of Arrow Root and Casava of Dr. Heyle, to take home with me. Played Whist in the evening at Hotel with my friends Walker & regnault and Mr. Pender, of N. C.
Sunday, Sept. 27th, Hamilton. Fine clear morning. After breakfast drove out 4 miles to "Flatt's Village" with Dr. Heyle, in his light waggon. Mr. Pender also joined us at the invitation of Dr. H. returned to hotel about 11 A.M. and drove thence to Dr. Heyle's house, where we had some refreshment. Walked back to hotel to dinner, after which took a walk with Mr. Regnault and Mr. Pender. returning called in to see the house and grounds of the late Lady Burnaby, where i obtained some seed of the "Sago," a large tropical plant, like an immense fern of circular form, with a head in the centre.
Monday, Sept. 28th, Hamilton, Ba. Wet morning. Drove over to St. George's at 12.30 in company with Mr. Pender and a Mr. Hurst. Called on Major Walker and dined with him and his family. Took over drawings to be traced, and conferred with Maj. W. on the subject. He recommended that a Mr. James, artist, be employed to make the tracings. Called on him twice, but he was not in. Left for Hamilton at 5.15. Arrived at 7 P.M. in time for tea.
Tuesday, Sept. 29th, Hamilton, Ba. After breakfast, drove over to St. George's with Mr. Regnault and Col. Walker, at 9.30. Arrived at 11.30 and called on Maj. walker. Had trunks opened, and covered with strong canvas. Dined with Dr. Hunter by invitation, at his bachelor's hall. Had a nice dinner. Maj. Walker arranged with Mr. James to make the tracings required. Made partial arrangement to take passage in the S.S. "Advance," to leave for Wilmington on next Wednesday week. Left for Hamilton at 4.45 P.M. Arrived at 6.45, had tea, and in the evening played a rubber of Whist with Messrs. Walker, Regnault, and Pender.
Wednesday, Sept. 30th, Hamilton. Fine, clear day. Spent the morning in making purchase at the stores. In the afternoon took a walk into the country with Messrs. Regnault, Pender, & Walker. In the evening played a rubber of whist.
Thursday, Oct. 1st, Hamilton, Ba. Beautiful day. Made some more purchases at the stores in the morning. After which returned to hotel and wrote for several hours until dinner. After dinner wrote an hour, and then walked out for recreation with Messrs. Regnault, Pender, & Walker. Arranged for a fishing trip in the morning tomorrow. Played a rubber of whist in evening. Introduced to Capt. Crossan of the N.C. Steamer "Advance" and had conversation with him about my passage to the C. S. in his steamer. He declined to take me without compensation by the Govt. Music in the public parlor in the evening; piano, violin and signing by Capt. Crossan, Mr. Chase &c.
Friday, Oct. 2d, Hamilton, Ba. Beautiful, clear morning. Rose at 7. After breakfast went fishing with Mr. Regnault and Mr. Pender. Caught about 1½ dozen of nice pan fish, and returned about 1 P.M. After dinner went to Gosling Bros. and attended to packing of case of articles. Had our fish served up for supper. After which played whist with Messrs. Regnault, Pender, and Walker. Pender & self beat our opponents badly.
Saturday, Oct. 3d, Hamilton. Rose early, and wrote letter to Mr. John Batley before breakfast. Beautiful morning. After breakfast went fishing with Regnault, Walker & pender. Had poor luck, and returned at 2 P.M. Wrote for an hour before and after dinner. Walked down town in evening before tea. After tea, Whist as usual with the above gentlemen. Steamer Flora sailed from St. Georges for Wilmington.
Sunday, Oct. 4th, Hamilton. Fine morning. Steamer "Alpha" from St. Thomas arrived at St. Georges this morning. Several ladies and gentlemen left our hotel this morning in carriages to take passage to Halifax on the "Alpha." Wrote short letter to wife to go by the Steamer "Del" tomorrow. Rev'd Moses D. Hoge of Richmond preached in the Presbyterian Church at Hamilton in the morning, and self and all my fellow Southerners went to hear him. Text 32d Chap. of Exodus, 26th verse. Excellent sermon. Took walk in afternoon with Mr. Pender into the country, and gathered some slips of double Oleander, and a slip of India Rubber Tree. Went to be at 10.
Monday, Oct. 5th, Hamilton, Bermuda. Fine, clear morning. Rose early, packed up luggage for departure, walked to Livery Stable and engaged a carriage fro St. Georges at 9.30. Walked round to the market and bought "Avocado Pears" to take to Major Walker at St. Georges. Returned to Hotel, breakfasted, settled bill, and left Hamilton Hotel for St. Georges at 11.15 A.M. in company with Mr. Regnault & Mr. walker. Called at Photographists and purchased pictures of views & vessels about Bermuda. Purchased felt hat. Arrived at St. Georges at 2 P.M. in time for dinner at Mrs. Hayward's boarding house, where I could only arrange for a bed on a sofa in Mr. Terry's room. He kindly offering me a corner in his apartment. Called on Major Walker, and he authorized me to engage passage to Wilmington in the "Ad-Vance." Sat up writing until 10.30 P.M. Wrote letter to Mr. Bourne of St. George's, instructing him to receive and store a number of cases of goods on my private act. to arrive from Liverpool.
Tuesday, Oct. 6th, St. George's, Ba. Rose at 7, and wrote until breakfast. Wrote letter to wife, and left it with Maj. walker to be sent by next Govt. steamer leaving for Wilmington after the Ad-Vance. Left also with Major Walker copies of correspondence &c. &c. connected with my mission to Europe. Also some copies of tracings made by Mr. James of St. Georges. In evening took all my heavy luggage on board the Ad-Vance, in a sail boat, and saw it stowed away in the hold.
Wednesday, Oct. 7th, St. George's, Ba. After breakfast, packed up luggage, settled all bills, left letter with Mr. Bourne, called on Mr. James about tracings, bid Maj. Walker good bye, and went on board the Ad-Vance at 11.45. And at 12.15 she got under way and steamed out of the harbor in fine style. I have as fellow passengers, Rev'd M. D. Hoge, of Richmond, Va. - Rev'd Terry of Wilmington, N.C. and my friends Walker & Reganult. Also, Mrs. Pender, who returns to her friends in N.C. Fine, clear day.
Thursday, Oct. 8th, S.S. "Ad-Vance" Beautiful day. During last night the steam could not be kept up, owing to the bad quality of the coals. About 6 o'clk this morning the ship was put about for about a half hour, when owing to a better draught thus created, -steam was got up again, and the ship again put on her course. At noon the ship's position was taken, and her run made out to be 213 miles. During the afternoon passed two sailing vessels at a long distance. At night about 9 o'clk a vessel showing a light was made out by the look out at the mast head, and the course of the ship altered so as to pass the vessel on the starboard beam. Supposed to be a sailing vessel. All lights on the ship were ordred to be put out, and we had to find our way to our bunks in the dark. Slept in my clothes last night and also each night during the voyage. All my friends doing the same, and sleeping on the sofas of the Saloon.
Friday, Oct. 9th, S.S. "Ad-Vance" Got up at daylight and went on deck. During the morning passed two sailing vessels on the starboard beam, a long way off. Ship's position taken at noon, and her run made out to be 280 miles; -leaving 180 miles to be run to make the land. Expect to make land by 2 A.M. tomorrow, if all goes well. During the afternoon all the passengers and crew were assigned to the various boats (5 in number) so that each would know his place in case we have to abandon the ship and destroy her. I am assigned to the life boat immediately aft of the Port wheel house, along with Rev'd Mr. terry, Mr. Regnault, Mr. Walker, Mr. Morrisson, the Chief Engineer, and Capt. Wiley, Comdg. the ship. Rev'd Dr. Hoge and Mrs. Pender are assigned to the life boat on the opposite side, along with Col. Crosson. The entire crew, officers & passengers number about 50. About 10 P.M. a light was made on the starboard bow, which was finally decided to be Cape Clear light, but no one was quite certain, as the point was many miles further to the north than we should have made according to our reckoning. Stood to the couthward, and before long made out the red & green lights of a steamer, and accordingly avoided her. Kept on our course, with some occasional variation, without being able to determine where we were, much to the anxiety and concern of the Capt. and all on board. All the passengers were up most of the night, occasionally lying down in the saloon. I remained on deck with my glass anxiously on the lookout until 1.30 A.M. whenI lay down and slept for an hour or so. Went on deck again just before day and was the first one to make out the land. About sunrise the pilot was enabled to determine his locality, which was off the coast about 18 miles north of Fort Fisher.
Saturday, Oct. 10th, S.S. "Ad-Vance" Beautiful morning and sunrise. As we run along the shore, about a half mile from it, all passengers were up on deck - some with glasses - looking out for the Yankee blockading ships, and for Fort Fisher. When about 10 miles from the latter several ships were discovered, about 5 to 7 miles from shore, but we were eveidently not yet observed by them as they remained stationary. We kept steadily on our course, making a bee line for the Fort, and when about 6 miles from it, the signal officer attached to our ship exchanged signals by means of a falg with a signal party on shore, requesting them to telegraph us to Fort Fisher without delay. In the meantime, the Yankees had discovered us, and soon two large and one small steam ships were under way to cut us off, but we had evidently got too much the start of them to be overtaken by them, although it was quite apparent that we would be fired at. This expectation was fully realized, for when they had approached to within about 2½ miles of us the largest vessel of the three, which occupied the central position, was observed to round to, and immediately a puff of white smoke rose from her, followed by a loud report, and then the shot was seen to fall in the water a half mile short of us, which encouraged us to hope that we were out of range; but in this we were speedily dissapointed for in another moment a second gun was fired and the shot apssed close over us and fell not more than 100 yards beyond us, throwing up the water in a column of spray. Next the small steamer, which was in the advance, opened fire on us with her bow gun, and her shot & shell struck very close to us. Soon all three vessels were firing at us, sometimes a broadside of several guns at once, and our position became really perilous. And most of the passengers felt it to be so. As we ran abreast of Fort Fisher, however, the Fort opened fire on the Yankees in fine style, and at this time the excitement on hand of the Ad-Vance was intense. The enemy doing his best to strike and disable us, and the guns of the Fort firing shot & shell right over us in rapid succession. We expected every moment to be struck; but the firemen were using rosin to get up steam to the desired pressure, and our gallant ship kept on her course steadily and all the Officers stuck to their posts most bravely. The result of all which, with the halp of a kind Providence, was that we eventually got safely inside of the inlet, and the Yankees ceased firing, much to our satisfaction. The practice from the Fort was very good, and it is said by the Officers in charge, who afterwards came on board, that one of the large ships was struck twice. Our vessel was under fire during a run of about two miles, or about a quarter of an hour, and about 25 or 30 shots & shell were fired at us, some of large dimensions. The Fort fired about 12 shot & shell, some of the 7½ inch calibre. The tide was ebbing, and in consequence of there not being sufficient water to float us over the "Rips" just inside the inlet we grounded, and there lay hard and fast, much to the disgust of all the passengers, who were most anxious to proceed at once to their respective homes. During the day, Col. Lamb, Comd't. of Fort Fisher, and several of his officers came on board of us and brought late papers. The afternoon tide failed to float us, so we were compelled to stay on board until tomorrow, when some arrangement will be made by which the vessel can be lightened and the passengers sent up to Wilmington. Fearing that the disappointed Yankees might make an attempt during the night to take our ship by armed boat crews, Capt. Crossan requested Col. Lamb to send a guard of 12 men on board from Fort Fisher. They came at dusk, and the Saloon on deck was assigned to them as temporary quarters. There were a case of rifles and some ammunition on board belonging to the ship. The passengers were armed with these, and the Rev'd Moses D. Hoge was duly elected the Capt. of the Auxiliary Guard. Each took his rifle & sword bayonet with him when he retired below for the night and placed them handy by his side in case of an emergency.
Sunday, Oct 11th, S.S. Ad-Vance. Still aground on the Ripps inside Fort Fisher. Fine, clear morning. No disturbace on the ship last night. Col. Crossan signalled to Wilmington for a steamboat to come down this afternoon to lighten vessel by taking out part of the cargo. Service in the Saloon. Rev'd Dr. Hoge officiating. He preached an excellent sermon from 2d Timothy, 1st Chapter, 16th, 17th, & 18th verses - Paul's prayer for Onosiphorous. Left the ship with all my luggage laet in the afternoon, and proceede up to Wilmington in a small steamer. Arrived after dark. Placed trunks & packages in charge of Express Co. to be forwarded to Macon, and stopped for the night at the City Hotel, in company with Rev'd Dr. M. D. Hoge, Mr. Regnault, and Col. Walker. All in one room with two beds.
Monday, Oct. 12th, Wilmington. Left in company with Col. Walker for home in early train.
Wednesday, Oct. 14th. Arrived at my home in Macon, Ga.
© 2001 Matthew W. Norman. All rights reserved.