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A blockade runner was a ship that attempted to get through the Union blockade of Southern waters during the Civil War. One of the main goals of the North against the South was to starve them and cut off supplies and transports to and from the South. A blockade is used for closing off ports, channels, creeks, waterways, and anything else that can transport weapons and supplies.

The success of the blockade is not arguable, as it did what it was supposed to do, stop supplies from getting into the Confederacy.

The Confederate Navy was never in any position to challenge the Union Navy in a full out battle. They simply lacked any real fighting ships and would be easily defeated.

Their only alternative was to come up with innovative ways to deal with the Union Navy. They employed the use of a submarine the CSS Hunley to try and break up the blockade.

This proved partly successful sinking one Union warship however the Hunley was also lost in the same attack. Ending the South’s submarine ambitions.

CSS Banshee

CSS Banshee

The South also employed the ironclad Virginia to attack the blockading ships, this however proved somewhat ineffective when the Union sent their own ironclad, the Monitor to intercept and stop the Virginia. The South did have one way that proved to be successful. This was simply running the blockade and not trying to fight it.

The blockade was an effective barrier against goods, weapons, and troops being transferred out of the city ports of Charleston and New Orleans. The Union set up two blockades. The first was called the Atlantic Blockading Squadron, which was based in Virginia. The second was the Gulf Blockading Squadron, which was based in Key West, Florida. Most of the action of the two blockading squadrons was in the state of Louisiana and along the east coast.

The goal of many of the successful blockade runners of the Confederate navy was to slip in and out without conflict or contact with the blockading Union ships. About seven out of ten of the Rebel blockade-runners would make successful runs each time they tried.

This was a very dangerous job but the rewards for a successful run were immense. The profit to be gained was more than worth the danger these crews faced with each run against the blockade. Blockade-runners were the Confederacy’s only lifeline to the outside world. Without them the South could not trade with Europe and they would not receive the precious weapons and materials they could not produce themselves. England even went as far as to secretly build blockade-runners for the South, threatening war with the Union in doing so.

Despite the effort and success of southern ships running the gauntlet of the Union Navy it was not enough for the South. In the end the South was simply squeezed into submission by both land and sea.