On April 9, 1863, the Greensboro (North Carolina) Patriot wrote that blockade-runners arrived at Wilmington and Charleston every week, “all doing thrifty business with their Yankee friends in Boston and New York through Nassau.” Gen. W.H.C. Whiting wrote President Davis late in the war from Fort Fisher that runners carrying Northern goods seemed to penetrate the enemy blockade easily.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org
War for Immense Profits
“The amount of greed and corruption that attended the business of blockade-running was about what might have been anticipated, and involved not only Southerners and Britons, but some grasping Yankees. The contraband commerce had all the attractions of gambling for high stakes . . . the stocks of some blockade-running corporations, Southern or British, rose to mountain heights – even $6,000 a share!
More than half the ships and cargoes tried in the New York prize-court were British, but the British name too often concealed Northern interests. Some Yankees were as ready to evade trading-with-the-enemy laws as their fathers had been in 1812.
Northern goods, their labels altered to flaunt famous British names, passed through Boston or New York on long roundabout trips, Boston-Bermuda-Wilmington, or New York-Nassau-Mobile, and sometimes shipped with bold directness to Charleston or Matamoros.
At its height, the New York trade with Bermuda, Nassau and Havana was scandalously large. A “ring” of dealers, shippers and blockade-runners helped organize the traffic and made arrangements with the Custom House for shipments.
By the autumn of 1862 a brisk traffic, half-furtive, half open, sprung up, not only in occupied areas but where Union troops faced Confederate troops. Scores of [Northern] officers intent upon commercial deals, and a much greater number of merchants anxious to trade in cotton, tobacco and general merchandise flocked down, first to Memphis, then to Little Rock and Helena, and finally to Vicksburg.
Read Admiral [David] Porter said of the [United States] Treasury agents sent down by [Secretary Salmon] Chase to control the situation: “A greater pack of knaves never went unhung.” Yet his own gunboat crews were equally unscrupulous, one Senator later declaring that they had made a hundred millions during the war.
And David Perry of the Fifth Illinois Cavalry, son of a mayor of Bloomington, Illinois, made a yet graver charge: “Many lives have been sacrificed during the past summer and fall,” he informed his father as the year 1862 ended, “that certain high officers might make their fortunes with cotton-trade, and many a poor darkey who had fled to us has been traded off, by officers holding high positions in the army and before the world, for cotton.
The truth is, when an impartial history of this war shall be written, it will expose a greater amount of fraud and corruption than the world has ever before seen. Even your Bloomington general, Hovey, traded Negroes for cotton and sacrificed many lives . . . for the sole purpose of making money.”
(The War for the Union: the Organized War 1863-1864, Volume III, Allan Nevins, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971, excerpts pp. 342-343; 353-354)