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Lifeline of the Confederacy: Blockade Running during the Civil War Paperback – August 1, 1991

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

From the profusion of books about Confederate blockade running, this one will stand out for a long time as the most complete and exhaustively researched. Though not unaware of the romantic aspects of his subject, Wise sets out to provide a detailed study, giving particular attention to the blockade runners' effects on the Confederate war effort. It was, he finds, tapping hitherto unused sources, absolutely essential, affording the South a virtual lifeline of military necessities until the war's last days. This book covers it all: from cargoes to ship outfitting, from individuals and companies to financing at both ends. An indispensable addition to Civil War literature. Thomas E. Schott, Office of History, Engineering Installation Div., Tinker AFB, Okla.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Blockade Running During the Civil War
  • Paperback: 403 pages
  • Publisher: University of South Carolina Press (August 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872497992
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872497993
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #749,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Stephen Wise, the author of Gate of Hell: Campaign for Charleston Harbor, 1863, has written another excellent book. This objective treatise about Confederate steam powered blockade running is thorough, without being exhausting to the reader. It covers the subject with ample maps, sketches/photos, tables and text. Summarizing from the book: nearly 300 steamers made 1300 attempts, of which 1,000 were successful. 221 vessels were captured or destroyed. The South imported 400,000 rifles (60%), 1/3rd of its lead, 2/3rd of its salt peter for gunpowder, as well as a great number of blankets, clothing, shoes, and leather goods.

This is not a romanticized, detailed retelling of many blockade running stories. A reader in search of such a tactically oriented story telling work would likely be disappointed. However, neither is the book simply a dry collection of statistics and organizational descriptions, for it also has concise retellings of many pertinent blockade running attempts. These accounts provide the reader with a feel for the trade, the skill and resourcefulness of the captains, and how methods evolved over time as both the blockade runners, and the blockaders improved in quality and numbers.

The book focuses almost exclusively on steam powered blockade runners, dismissing the numerous sailing ship attempts as having a negligible impact on the war effort. One of the few omissions from the book is adequate statistics and detailed explanation of why this was so (size, vulnerability, etc.)

There is a treasure trove of information in this work for anyone seeking a better understanding of the strategic aspect of arming and supplying the South. The strengths and weaknesses of the Union blockade are exposed from the vantage point of the blockade runners.
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Format: Paperback
Stephen R. Wise's opus on the blockade runners is not to be missed! He ably describes the blockade itself, the ships and men that challenged it, and backs it all up with valuable charts and tables. Truly definitive.
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Format: Paperback
Stephen Wise has managed to both write a comprehensive history packed with information which is also very readable. Truly a remarkable feat. The book succeeds at both imparting the general course of the blockade running and the many fascinating incidents which make up the history of blockade running.
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Format: Paperback
This excelent book is well worth the price for anyone interested in the American Civil War. The author is well known to Civil War students (I hate the word "buff") and the publisher is safe. South
Carolina Press has published very little in history that is not above average. Unlike some readers I find no problem with the paperback binding, and the print is easy to read.

The South depended on the export of agricultural products, particularly cotton for trade for manufactured goods, especially war material to sustain the population and the war effort. The decision to blockade the Southern ports was as improtant to the Nothern victory as the Anaconda plan to squeexe the South geographically and contain its movements. And there was a large coastal area composed of the eastern seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico. Much of the coast lacked means of transporting exports or imports to and from the coast, but a few major ports did a remarkable job during the first years of the war when the Uion had too few ships to effect a good blockade. Then things went bad for the South. Texas was lost which hurt the trade with Mexico, Vicksburg and other Mississippi River ports were closed and New Orleans was lost. The whole area of the Confederacy known as Kirby-Smith's Confederacy, the South west of the Mississippi was lost. The few ports that remained for the Confederacy were even more important. Confederate raiders such as the Alabama destroyed Northern commerce and the blockade runners brought as much as they could out of and into the South.

The hunger for cotton gave the blockaders extra motive for effectiveness. When an outbound ship with a load of cotton was captured the product was shipped North and the crew and officers profited.
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