The Capture of Hatteras Inlet

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Map of Cape Hatteras. Courtesy of weather.com

The first combined operation of the Civil War was the capture of Hatteras Inlet. This inlet was used by Confederate gunboats and privateer merchantmen sailing around Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. These Southern commerce raiders’ depreciation was lucrative for the Carolinians; however, Northern losses became so significant that several major maritime insurance brokers demanded something be done about this situation. This prompted the development of the Union’s Hatteras Inlet operation. [1]

North Carolina’s Outer Banks

The North Carolina Sounds reached from the Virginia border to Cape Lookout, the eastern border of North Carolina. Four major inlets could be used to reach the Atlantic Ocean from the Sounds: Hatteras, Oregon, Ocracoke, and Beaufort (Old Inlet). Hatteras Inlet was best situated for commerce raiding. Cape Hatteras was the easternmost point within the Confederacy, overlooking the Gulf Stream. This current was very popular with merchant ships trading between Northern ports like New York, the Caribbean, and South America. Using the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the Confederates could signal waiting raiders about tempting merchantmen targets. “The enemy’s commerce,” wrote North Carolina governor John Ellis on April 27, 1861, “could be cut off by privateers on the coast of No. Carolina.” [2]   Read more

Commerce Raider CSS NASHVILLE

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Nashville/Rebel. Pen and Ink Drawing. Samuel Ward Stanton, artist, ca. 1890-1910. The Mariners’ Museum 1988.0041.000446

The CSS Nashville was the first Confederate warship to be recognized by Great Britain when the commerce raider arrived in Southampton, Great Britain, on November 21, 1861. This caused a diplomatic estrangement between Great Britain and the United States simultaneously with the infamous Trent Affair. Virtually trapped in Southampton by USS Tuscarora, thanks to the British Foreign Enlistment Act, Nashville was able to escape and run through the blockade into Beaufort, North Carolina. The Nashville ended its commerce raiding career when it was sold to become a blockade runner at Georgetown, South Carolina. Nevertheless, CSS Nashville played an important role in the Confederate search for European recognition.

FAST MAIL STEAMER

The Nashville was built as a fast screw steamer constructed by William Collyer of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and it launched on September 22, 1853.Commissioned as United States Mail Steamer, the sidewheeler Nashville maintained  a passenger run between New York and Charleston, South Carolina. The ship’s characteristics were as follows:   Read more