Volume 28, No. 1 – January 2015
Volume 28, No. 1
The President’s Message
Dues are due. Elections will be held in January. If you wish to run for any office or serve on the Board or any committee, please call me (561 967-8911) or e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Gerridine LaRovere, President
January 14, 2015 Program
Steven Stanley, Map Designer for the Civil War Trust, lives in Gettysburg and is a graphic artist specializing in historical map design and battlefield photography. His maps, considered among the best in historical cartography, have been a longtime staple of the Trust and have helped raised millions of dollars for the Trust through their preservation appeals and interpretation projects. He is co-author with J. D. Peatruzzi of three books: The Complete Gettysburg Guide, The New Gettysburg Campaign Handbook, and The Gettysburg Campaign in Numbers and Losses. Stanley and Petruzzi are working on a similar trilogy for Antietam. Stanley, James Kessler, and Wayne Motts are also working on Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg: A Guide to the Most Famous Attack in American History. Stanley will talk about the history of Civil War mapping and then go into how he creates Civil War maps for books, the Hallowed Ground magazine and the Trust.
December 10, 2014 Program:
Mr. Macomber, here for his 12th Holiday visit, started by stating that there have been innumerable civil wars in history, but few have been "international" wars. He cited the English Civil War in the 16th century, the French Civil War in the 17th century, the Spanish Civil Wars in the early 19th century, and the American Civil War in the 19th century. The legacy of our Civil War exists around the world today.
In the American Revolution, the American rebels wanted to bring the war to the British, but were obviously unable to match British naval power head on. So we resorted to "guerre de course" or commerce raiding, a kind of guerrilla war of attrition at sea aimed at British commerce. Few countries depended upon international commerce to the extent the British did. John Paul Jones is the "face" of this war, but the American rebels sent raiders all over the globe. The same strategy was employed in the War of 1812. In both these wars, the raiders’ top target was: oil! Whale oil provided lubrication and illumination. To illustrate how persistent a policy, once adopted, can be, until 1890, the U. S. Navy, faced with the fact of British primacy at sea, followed guerre de course as official policy and built ocean raiders!
When the war started in 1861, the U. S. Navy had 65 ships in commission – one-third were out of service being repaired, one-third were in transit and one-third were actually in service. Only 12 ships were on active duty in home waters and 5 were in two overseas squadrons. Suddenly, the North was faced with the reverse of the situation America faced in the two wars with Britain. The effectiveness of the Confederacy’s policy of guerre de course is all due to two men: Stephen Mallory (1812-1873), the Confederate Secretary of the Navy and Judah P. Benjamin (1811- 1884). the Confederate Secretary of State. Born in Trinidad, Mallory’s father moved to Key West, Florida, but then died, leaving his widow to raise two boys. Mallory became well-known as an admiralty lawyer. Elected to the U. S. Senate in 1851 when the "establishment" Democrats had a falling out with David Yulee, Mallory worked his way up the Senate ladder. As Chair of the U. S. Senate Naval Affairs Committee, in 1853, his committee added 6 new screw frigates to the fleet – considered the best frigates in the world. In 1857, his committee added 12 new sloops-of-war. which entered the navy beginning in 1858. Without these vessels, the plight of the U. S. Navy in 1861 would have been even more parlous.
When Florida seceded, Mallory joined the fledgling Confederacy. President Jefferson Davis appointed him Secretary of the Navy in March 1861. Mallory knew the South would never be able to go "ship-to-ship" against the U.S. Navy, so he adopted a naval strategy (supplementing the strategy used against England in the American Revolution and the War of 1812) based on the following strategies:
(1) Deploying sea-going commerce raiders to disrupt Union merchant shipping and divert Union warships from the blockade to chase the raiders.
(2) Running the Union blockade using a combination of private shipping and specially-constructed blockade-running ships operated by the Confederate Navy.
(3) Fighting on the rivers to keep the Confederacy from being split in two and severing its supply lines from West of the Mississippi.
(4) Adopting and deploying emerging naval technologies (ironclads, submersibles, and torpedoes) to attempt to keep southern harbors, especially Norfolk, Wilmington, Charleston, Mobile ,and New Orleans, open and maintain the flow of supplies through the blockade.
Macomber’s talk focused on the first two of these strategies. Initially, the Confederates tried commerce raiding by issuing "Letters of Marque" to allow private parties to act as raiders on behalf of the Confederate government. Due to international treaty and an inadequate response from private ship owners, the Confederate Navy soon took over purchasing sea-going ships to prey on Union commerce shipping and whale hunting. These would be regular, commissioned war ships. While some of these had great success (notably the CSS Alabama., CSS Florida, and CSS Shenandoah), they failed to even partially disable Union maritime commerce, although they did contribute to the eventual demise of the U.S. merchant marine industry because of the inflation in insurance costs. They were only partially successful at diverting Union Navy ships off the blockade to try to hunt them down and capture them.
Blockade running was also initially entrusted to private parties, but the private runners ultimately failed to deliver the war material needed by the Confederacy to prosecute the war. The demand for luxury goods (and the willingness of the Confederate aristocracy to pay whatever price was demanded) made it more lucrative for private runners to carry cargo to meet this demand, despite government requirements that they carry a certain percentage of military cargo. Eventually, the Confederate Navy chose to construct and crew its own blockade runners in order to supply arms and equipment to the armies of the Confederacy.
Mallory embraced the use of ironclad ships as a means of going up against the overwhelming firepower of the big frigates and sloops of the Union Navy. The use of submersible vessels (the "Davids" and CSS Hunley) did not achieve widespread success, and the use of torpedoes, while effective in the latter stages of the war (in terms of both real results and their psychological impact), failed to stem the Northern tide.
In pursuit of building a navy from scratch, Mallory sent a very talented man, James Bulloch (1825-1901), to England and to use Confederate cotton to purchase ocean raiders and blockade runners. Bulloch had served in the United States Navy for 15 years before resigning his commission to join a private shipping company in 1854. When the war started, Bulloch wanted to be an ocean raider himself. After all, ocean raiders had "fun" blowing stuff up, burning things down, and making money off prizes without killing many people in the process. Instead, he became a Confederate secret agent and their "most dangerous man" in Europe according to the Northern State Department officials.
Less than two months after the attack on Fort Sumter, Bulloch established a base of operations in Liverpool. Britain was officially “neutral” in the conflict between North and South, but private and public sentiment favored the Confederacy. Britain was also willing to buy all the cotton that could be smuggled past the Union blockade, which provided the South with its only real source of hard currency. Bulloch arranged for the construction and secret purchase of the commerce raiders CSS Alabama and CSS Florida as well as many of the blockade runners that acted as the Confederacy's commercial lifeline. James’s brother, Irvine Bulloch, would serve and fight on CSS Alabama. James also purchased a large quantity of ordnance and naval supplies, bought a steamship SS Fingal, renamed it CSS Atlanta, filled it with this material, and captained it to America. Bulloch returned to England and was involved in constructing and acquiring a number of other warships and blockade runners for the Confederacy, including purchasing Sea King, which was renamed CSS Shenandoah. Bulloch instructed Captain James Iredell Waddell (1824-1886) to sail CSS Shenandoah “into the seas and among the islands frequented by the great American whaling fleet, a source of abundant wealth to our enemies and a nursery for their seamen. It is hoped that you may be able to greatly damage and disperse that fleet.” CSS Shenandoah fired the last shots of the war on June 28, 1865 during a raid on American whalers in the Bering Sea. More about this later in Macomber’s talk.
Gideon Welles, the Northern Secretary of the Navy, faced a terrible job. Europe favored the South for two reasons: (1) to keep cotton flowing to its mills and (2) to undermine America’s rise as a world power. No wonder he and his naval officers were not enthusiastic about General-in-Chief Winfield Scott’s “Anaconda Plan.” After all, how was the U. S. Navy, with only 65 ships, to cover over 5,000 miles of coast line? For the first two years of the war, the Northern blockade was extremely porous. However, the North energetically built up the U. S. Navy. By the end of the war there were 632 U. S. Naval vessels afloat. Americans have built huge navies virtually from scratch three times in our history: Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Before Fort Sumter, the Navy had been kept on short rations because Congress did not trust it – in England, the aristocratic Navy had encroached on Parliament’s powers. The first American admiral wasn’t appointed until 1862 and even then as an “acting” Rear Admiral. The U. S. Navy also had to develop fleet tactics from scratch. Macomber said he religiously avoids “taking sides” between North and South, but that he clearly prefers Mallory, who was personable and humorous, to Welles, who was neither.
Macomber then turned to Judah P. Benjamin, one of his favorite guys and, incidentally, one of the few living people to have their portrait on a Confederate Two Dollar Bill! Benjamin spoke several languages, could “schmooze” everybody. In 1861 he persuaded England and France to recognize the Confederacy as a “legitimate belligerent,” which meant that the South’s ocean raiders would not be treated as pirates and “enemies of all nations.” England and, to a lesser degree France, made lots of money off the Civil War. Britain allowed nearly all the ocean raiders and blockade runners to be build in British shipyards in blatant violation of its “neutrality.” The design of the ocean raiders was “state of the art” and they were armed with Armstrong rifled cannon, placed in both pivots, and broadsides. The South sent its “best and brightest” officers to command these vessels. Macomber next introduced us to two of the best and the brightest:
Raphael Semmes (1809-1877) was an officer in the United States Navy from 1826 to 1860 and in the Confederate States Navy from 1860 to 1865. He was captain of the famous commerce raider CSS Alabama, Between August 1862 and June 1864, he took a record 86 prizes in the Caribbean Sea, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. Welles sent many “flying squadrons” in futile effort to destroy or capture him. Welles, seriously embarrassed by this, wanted Semmes hung as a pirate. Finally, Semmes is trapped in Cherbourg, France and CSS Alabama is sunk. [Editor’s note: The effort begun in 1990's to salvage the wreck is a complicated tale of international cooperation beyond the scope of this report.] Semmes escaped and returned to the South and was promoted to Rear Admiral. He also served briefly as a Brigadier General in the Confederate Army. Admiral/General Semmes is the only North American to have the distinction of holding both ranks simultaneously.
James Newland Maffitt (1819-1886), in command of CSS Florida, set out in January 16, 1863 and spent 6 months off North and South America and in the West Indies, with calls at neutral ports, all the while making captures and eluding the Northern squadrons pursuing him. It was during this period that he acquired the nickname "Prince of Privateers" (which was somewhat inaccurate, since he was a naval officer and not an actual privateer.) After yielding command of CSS Florida due to ill health, at the end of the war he commanded CSS Owl, a successful blockade runner. Instead of surrendering his ship, he took it to England. After the war he commanded an English merchant steamer and a warship on the rebels’ side in the Cuban Ten Years War.
Macomber then introduced us to Charles William Read (1840-1890), class of 1860, U.S. Naval Academy. Read exhibited bravado and leadership from the beginning of the war. He participated in the attack on the Union blockading squadron at Head of the Passes on the Mississippi River. When the commander of CSS McRae was wounded, Read took command of the ship. Read then served as executive officer of CSS Arkansas during its fight with over 30 Northern ships blockading the Mississippi River near Vicksburg, Mississippi and served as its acting commander in her final battle assaulting Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After the sinking of Arkansas, Read was assigned to the CSS Florida. When Maffitt captured the USS Clarence in Brazilian waters, Read persuaded him not to sell it but to put him in command so he could raid the East Coast from Norfolk, Virginia to Portland, Maine. Imagine a 23-year old ensign commanding 16 sailors and armed with one 6-pound boat howitzer and 2 “Quaker” fake guns, planning to sail into the biggest naval base in the US and raise havoc. Sailing North from Brazilian waters, Maffitt targets New York City. Outside the harbor, he destroys two merchant ships. Meanwhile, by sheer coincidence, Read in CSS Clarence is sailing along the north coast of Long Island.
Their efforts were not planned but were brilliantly successful, causing pandemonium among shipping circles with consequences with us today. Besieged by complaints from insurance companies, shipping line owners, the fishing industry, and chambers of commerce, Welles has the US Navy desperately searching for CSS Florida but cannot find her because Maffitt had sailed her to Bermuda to refit and refuel. Insurance rates are skyrocketing and the merchant fleet is staying in port. According to the New York Chamber of Commerce, by mid-1863, 150 vessels and 150 tons worth $12 million have been captured by Confederate raiders world wide. Rather than remaining idle, merchants ships are being registered under foreign flags or sold to British owners. Before the Civil War, the American merchant marine had been the largest in the world. That ended permanently in 1863!
During this raid, Lieutenant Read captured or destroyed 22 U.S. vessels. The Northern Navy thought the raid involved a whole fleet of Confederate ships, because, if a captured vessel was bigger or faster or better armed, Read transferred his crew and supplies, first to CSS Tacony and finally to CSS Archer, and would then sink his old vessel. Moreover, Read’s raid came at a fortuitous time – in New York, the draft riots were on and blacks were being lynched; Gen. Robert E. Lee had invaded the North and the Northern generals had lost track of him – perhaps his target was Washington, D. C. or even New York! All of this was sheer coincidence, but the Northern mercantile interests smelled a real threat.
Read and his crew were captured off Portland, Maine, while attempting to take USRC Caleb Cushing, not by the U.S. Navy, but by the local militia. Those troops commandeered the unarmed Forest City, manhandled a gun aboard, and took off after Read. Read, who cannot fire back for lack of powder, finally surrenders. The militia saved Read and his men from a mob who wanted to lynch them as pirates. Read was held at Fort Warren, Massachusetts, until he was exchanged on October 18, 1864, for a U. S. Naval officer.
Read’s contribution to history exceeds any possible expectation. Northern maritime commerce was completely disrupted even after he was captured because the North believed other Confederate raiders were still at large. Insurance rates continued to escalate. The U. S. merchant marine lost only 22 ships but shrank by 40% and has never recovered.
Macomber’s final vignette was of James Iredell Waddell (1824-1886), who commanded CSS Shenandoah. Waddell, not knowing the South had surrendered and the war was over, continued to harass the Northern whaling fleet until September 1865, when he sailed toward Fort Alcatraz to refit and refuel. On the way he stopped a British whaler who showed him a newspaper saying the war is over. If he and his crew did not surrender immediately they would truly be deemed to be pirates. Waddell huddled with his men and all decided not to surrender in California but to sail 9,000 miles back to Liverpool. They could not stop at any ports on the way and subsisted on fish and rainwater, arriving in Liverpool on November 7, 1865. Waddell refused to take a harbor pilot on board and instead dropped anchor next to a British frigate. He “decommissioned” his ship and then surrendered to the Lord Mayor of Liverpool. A big legal too-do followed, with the American Ambassador demanding they be arrested and tried as pirates. Instead a British court held that as “legitimate belligerents” they could not be arrested. Shenandoah was eventually sold to a British firm.
Macomber pointed out that Confederate crews were an international lot – Brits, French, Australians, Brazilians, and sometimes even Union sailors serving on ships captured by the ocean raiders. Today, Confederate graves are tended in Brazil and Australia by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Only one Civil War era vessel still exists, Huáscar, restored and maintained as a memorial to the Peruvian and Chilean Navies in Talcahuano Naval Base, Chile.
James Bulloch, the Confederate purchasing agent in Britain, had another interesting effect on American history. His sister, Martha “Mittie” Bulloch, a real Southern belle, married Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., father of Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., who disliked being called “Teddy.” Scarlet O’Hara of Gone With the Wind fame is reputed to have been modeled on Mittie. After TR’s father died, TR spent lots of time with his uncle, James Bulloch, who taught him about naval strategy, especially in the War of 1812. This inspired TR to write The Naval War of 1812 , published when he was only 24. TR also studied Captain Mahan’s The Influence of Sea Power on History. It is no accident that TR, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, implemented updated strategy and fleet tactics and fostered a modern navy that replaced the British Navy as the world’s dominant sea power. Nor is it an accident that TR’s cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, also served in the same post.
Macomber closed his fascinating talk with an exploration of the problems facing the Confederate ocean raids once they captured a merchant or whaling ship. For example, when CSS Alabama, took a prize off the coast of Vietnam, there was no port and no admiralty court to award prize money, Semmes burned the prize ship. An alternative would be to put the captured seamen on board the prize, "parole" the ship, have its captain sign a "bond" on behalf of the owners and order him to sail to a port that had a court where the ship’s owners were supposed to pay off the bond to the Confederates States of America. Macomber doubted that many of these bonds were actually paid off.
The audience gave Robert Macomber a well-earned round of applause for an entertaining talk.
Last changed: 01/08/15