Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Confederate Activities in the UK

Just read a book called Guns for Cotton- England Arms the Confederacy by Thomas Boaz. This book details the efforts of Confederate agents to purchase ships, arms and equipment for the CSA in England.

Ships purchased there included the CSS Alabama, CSS Florida, CSS Shenandoah, and CSS Tallahassee. Other ships included the two "Laird Rams" which were impounded in order to avoid a war between the UK and the US.

Also purchased was supplies that were necessary to keep an army equipped in the field, including; Acid, Artillery Pieces, Artillery Carridges, Axes and Pickaxes, Bacon, Bayonets, Beef, Beer, Belts, Belt Buckles, Binoculars, Biscuits, Blankets, Books, Boots, Bottles, Bricks, Brooms, Bullets, Bullet Moulds, Candles, Canned Meat, Canteens, Cap Pouches, Cartridges, Cartridge Boxes, Chains, Cloth for Uniforms, Coal, Coffee, Copper, Cutlasses, Cutlery, Drawers, Eating Utensils, Engineers' Equipment, Files, Fish, Glue, Gunners' Equipment, Gunpowder, Harnesses, Hats, Haversacks, Horseshoes, Ink, Ink Stamps, Iron Beams, Knapsacks, Leather, Lumber, Manuals, Map Paper, Matches, Medical Equipment, Medicines, Mill Board, Needles, Nails, Officers' Braid, Overcoats, Paper, Percussion Caps, Pig Iron and Lead, Pins, Planks, Pork, Printing Presses, Printing Type, Railroad Track, Rank Badges, Revolvers, Rifled Muskets, Rifle Slings, Saddles, Salt, Saltpeter, Scabbards, Screws, Shirts, Shoes, Shovels, Soap, Socks, Stationery, Steel, Sugar, Swords and Sabers, Tea, Thread, Trousers, Twine, umbrellas, Uniforms, Wheels and Hubs, and Wool.

Other items imported included the latest fashions from London and Paris, popular amongst Southern women.

Getting them in was a task in itself. It involved ships known as blockade runners. These vessels had to be fast in order to get past the US Navy blockade. For example, a blockade runner leaves Wilmington, NC with a load of cotton. First, they had to get past the Yankee ships blockading the channel. Next they had to sail across the Atlantic, all the while keeping a look out for US warships. The crew breathed easier when they entered British territorial waters. Upon arriving in Liverpool, the cotton was offloaded and supplies that was bought by a Confederate agent was loaded. The return trip would have the same anxiety until the ship reached Wilmington with its cargo.
Another way to get cargo into the Confederacy was to sail into Matamoros, Mexico and use wagons to get the goods across the Rio Grande and into Texas, from where the supplies can be shipped to the armies. This worked mainly for the Western armies, since after July 1863, the Mississippi River was held by the Union and getting supplies across would be difficult at best.A popular method was to ship the supplies in a British ship (and therefore avoiding being stopped by Union vessels, as the North did not want a repeat of the Trent incident) to Nassau, the Bahamas. The cargo would be split between two or three Confederate ships and sent on their way.

An interesting way to establish credit for the Confederacy was the use of cotton as a method of payment. The French investment firm Erlanger and Company agreed to sell bonds backed by Southern cotton. These bonds were issued for 40,000 pounds of cotton for 1000 Pounds sterling or 25,000 French Francs. The total to be issued was 3,000,000 Pounds Stirling or 75,000,000 French Francs. On March 19, 1863 the bonds were issued in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Liverpool and Paris. The issue netted the Confederates 16,000,000 Pounds Stirling, badly needed money to but supplies with. Sadly for the investors, the cotton that was to be delivered was instead seized by the US. Attempts to reclaim the money from the US was rebuffed, the reasoning being that the US could not be held responsible for the actions of a government that they did not acknowledge. Some of the bonds survive and can be bought by collectors for at least $2000.

All in all this book makes an interesting read for those interested in the foreign operations of the CSA.

Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]