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these hasty and makeshift preparations. They could not recognize a war ship in an armed tug or ferry-boat, or expect that a vessel whose keel was not yet laid would be afloat in ninety days. More especially they could hardly anticipate that within a twelvemonth there would occur a seafight between novel maritime inventions so unlooked-for and startling as to revolutionize by that single contest the naval warfare of the world. It is probable that while politely listening, and apparently accepting our diplomatic promise to establish an effective blockade, they mentally reserved the expectation that in the actual condition of affairs we must inevitably fail, at least so far as to justify their intervention, either to raise the blockade or recognize the Confederate States as an independent nation, whenever their convenience or interest should dictate. One phase of American events was calculated to give foreign nations a truer impression, and to make them hesitate in their evident inclination to accept prematurely the dismemberment of the republic as a fixed fact. This was the popular unanimity of the North in its war sentiment and its unprecedented activity in pushing war measures, in furnishing volunteers, provisions, ships, and armaments in every available form, and in demonstrations urging upon the Government energy and action commensurate with the popular enthusiasm.
Under the proclamations of the President and instructions of the Navy Department, the blockade did not begin simultaneously at all points, but by notifications from the various ships or fleets at their several stations. Considerable time thus
elapsed before it became actually effective as in- CHAP. L ternational law required. That this did not give rise to serious complications was due to two causes: first, that foreign nations did not hastily press their inquiry, and second, that the insurgents were themselves so destitute of vessels and seamen that they could take no efficient countermeasures, either to break the blockade or evade it. Some advantage came to them from the unobstructed importation of war material during the delay. Gradually, blockading ships appeared before their several ports, and cut off their commerce. By the middle of July the blockade had become reasonably complete, and contraband trade could be carried on only by means of regular blockade-runners, a class of English-built steamers afterwards specially devised for concealment and speed.
A little later the whole question of the blockade underwent a new discussion. The President's proclamation establishing it was issued after the fall of Sumter, when war measures had to be adopted under the stress of an immediate necessity which left no time for deliberate examination. In the absence of statutory provisions this seemed the only expedient at hand to shut off the commerce of the world from the rebellious States. At the special session of Congress an act was
July 18, passed, and approved by the President, giving the Executive authority to close insurrectionary ports; and many persons contended that this procedure ought, even now, to be adopted. The Cabinet was divided on the question; and the Secretary of the Navy submitted a long written opinion favoring the latter course. He contended that
a blockade was in some degree a recognition of belligerency; that we had a right to treat the question as a municipal one; that such an attitude would better conform to our denial of the right of secession, or of de facto separation. He did not
however propose to withdraw the blockading fleet; Opinion, that would need to remain on duty as a police Aug. 8, 1861.
force to prevent actually the interdicted commerce. While there was much force in this argument as a theory, it had to give way to considerations of expediency. Foreign powers almost unanimously protested against a change of this character. They seem to have based their objection chiefly upon the fear that what is known as a mere paper blockade would be attempted in this form. Mr. Seward asserted our municipal right to close the ports equally with Mr. Welles, but thought it wiser to adhere to the blockade under rules of international law, as offering less room for misunderstandings with foreign nations. And the President's wellconsidered policy from the first was, by every prudential act to avoid any pretext for intervention, or the dangerous complication of a foreign war.
The Confederates resorted to a judicious and energetic use of the limited naval resources at their command. They made all haste to extemporize and commission privateers; but so great was their lack of vessels that only one of them made anything like a successful cruise during the first year of the war.
This was the Sumter, a screw-steamer of 500 tons, formerly in passenger service between Havana and New Orleans. Fitted out and armed with five guns, she succeeded in making her escape through the blockade at the mouth of the
Raphael Semmes, “Cruise of
the Alabama and
Vol. I., p.
Mississippi, towards the end of June; and continued her cruise, mainly in the Caribbean Sea, and along the South American coast, capturing and burning American merchantmen, until the following January. A number of war ships were sent in pursuit, but they failed to find her till she sailed for European waters, and entered the harbor of Cadiz for repairs. From there she went to Gibraltar, where, unable immediately to obtain coal, she was delayed until three United States vessels arrived and maintained a watch from neighboring ports with a view to her capture; and this circumstance with others compelled her abandonment and sale, after having sumier." made in all some eighteen captures, of which number she bonded two and burned seven.
Other privateers extemporized during the first year of the war, while they became a serious annoyance to American commerce, generally had a shorter career. Of those captured only the Savannah requires special mention. She was a schooner of fifty-three tons burthen with one pivot gun, and was fitted out as a privateer at Charleston, from which port she sailed on her cruise on the 2d of June, 1861. She captured a merchant brig on the following day about fifty miles east of Charleston, and the same afternoon gave chase to another vessel, which she supposed would fall an easy prey. She soon discovered that she had made a serious mistake; the stranger proved to be the United States brig-of-war Perry, which in turn overhauled and captured the Savannah about nightfall. The privateersmen, thirteen in number, were taken off their vessel and sent to New-York. They were given in charge of the United States marshal, and
A. F. War
burton, “Trial of the Officers and Crew
CHAP. I placed in confinement; and on the 16th of July
the Grand Jury of the United States Circuit
course came to the knowledge of the rebel GovernPrivateer ment at Richmond, through the reports printed in
the Northern newspapers, coupled with rumors of
President Lincoln made no reply to the letter of
Davis to Lincoln, July 6, 1861.