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James Island Morris Island Fo ll y Isl a nd Stono Inlet John's Island K i a w a h I s l a n d Wadmalaw Island Sullivan's Island Ft. Sumter Battery Wagner W a n d o R . Cooper River Ashley R. S t o n o R . K i a w a h R . North Edisto River S e a b r o o k I s l a n d Charleston & Savannah RR South Carolina RR North Carolina RR CHARLESTON 0 5 miles 1 2 3 4 Charleston Harbor N S E W Charleston Harbor and vicinity 1 1 2 Bluejackets and Contrabands had about 1,400 men and four fieldpiece artillery units stationed there. Braine explained that one of the contrabands, Kent Newton, had worked for several years on the ferryboats that crossed the river at Wilmington and had described the recent arrival of the steamer Gordon or Theodora from Cuba with a cargo of coffee and fruit. Newton confirmed Braine’s suspicions about a steamer he had observed over a period of three weeks that had changed its usual route, no longer passing east of Zeek’s Island or in the outer channel, as it had during the month of November. Newton explained the steamer’s change of course by describing four heavy wooden cribs sunk by the rebels near Zeek’s Island, effectively blocking the channel. “This fact has been the subject of comment among the officers ,” Braine wrote to Commander Oliver Glisson, the senior officer of the Wilmington blockade, “and now that we are aware of the fact that these cribs have been sunk in the channel at Zeek’s Island, I know that it is an impossibility for her to pass, or any other vessel drawing 9 feet of water.” By escaping to the Monticello, Kent Newton and his contraband companion not only earned their freedom but also gave Braine extremely valuable information to share with Glisson and the officers charged with enforcing the blockade of the important southern port of Wilmington. Railroads connected Wilmington to New Bern, allowing the fast shipment of goods brought in by blockade runners and rice from nearby plantations. Before the outbreak of the Civil War, sometimes thirty ships a day docked at Wilmington’s wharves, and even in 1862 and 1863 the port continued to see blockade runners going in and out of the river.25 By the spring of 1862 the Navy Department and the Lincoln administration had begun exerting tremendous pressure on Du Pont and his squadron to effectively enforce the blockade. Their concerns about the blockade stemmed in part from a number of reports about steamers running the Charleston blockade, reports that had sparked controversy about the blockade’s effectiveness. On April 7, 1862, a statement in the British House of Commons that armed vessels passed freely into and out of the city cast the legality of the blockade into question. All these reports prompted the chairman of the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs, John P. Hale, to begin a federal investigation into the effectiveness of the blockade of Charleston. Happily for Du Pont, in late April 1862 Commander Ridgley of the Santiago de Cuba captured one of the most elusive Confederate blockade runners, the Isabel (Ella Warley), heading from Havana, Cuba, to Charleston, and brought it into Port Royal Harbor.26 At about this time, a boat carrying fifteen contrabands came alongside the USS Bienville, which had departed the blockading station off Informants 1 1 3 Charleston. Commander John Marchand, the senior officer off Charleston , had the “most intelligent” contrabands taken on board his ship, the James Adger, for questioning. “I learned that the Steamer Cecil from Nassau ran the blockade and entered Charleston before daylight in the morning of last Friday or Saturday,” Marchand wrote in his journal entry for April 28, 1862. From these refugees he received a description of the route out of Charleston taken by blockade runners and learned that the rebels had two wooden gunboats under construction but had not laid keels for any ironclads. Of more importance, Marchand wrote in his journal, “One of the contrabands gave information that nightly six steamers were expected from Nassau and England and one (the South Carolina) and two sailing vessels [were soon] to go out. This information caused me to alter the positions of the blockading vessels . . . [to] more thoroughly protect [the] blockade.”27 Alerted by this new information, squadron commanders spent the night, Marchand wrote...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813173481
Related ISBN
9780813125541
MARC Record
OCLC
496122978
Pages
400
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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