It is said that one of the most distinguishing achievements of the American Confederacy was the ingenuity of Southern authorities and businessmen meeting the challenge of a naval blockade of its coasts. They answered the challenge with swift, light draft blockade runners fueled with quick-burning Welsh coal while utilizing two Southern-friendly islands, Bermuda and the Bahamas, for supply transshipments.
Gen. U.S. Grant, III, stated in 1961 that “if the Cambridge Modern History is correct in its allegation that between October 26, 1864 and January 1865 it was still possible for 8,632,000 lbs. of meat, 1,507,000 lbs. of lead, 1,933,000 lbs. of saltpeter, 546,000 pairs of shoes, 316,000 blankets, half a million pounds of coffee, 69,000 rifles and 43 cannons to run the blockade into the port of Wilmington alone, while cotton sufficient to pay for these purchases was exported, it is evident that the blockade runners made an important contribution to the Confederacy’s ability to carry on.” (New York History Quarterly, Vol. XLII, No. 1, January 1961, pp. 49-50).
Helot Rhett Butlers
“There were, of course, precedents for blockade evasion in the history of warfare. One striking parallel to the Southern problem occurred in 425 B.C., during the Peloponnesian War. The Athenians had succeeded in trapping a portion of the Spartan land forces on the island of Sphacteria, off the coast of Pylos, and thus, by maintaining a blockade, learned what the federal navy and government would in time come to understand: a blockade immobilized, perhaps, some of the enemy’s forces, restricted his strategy, and imposed attrition, but it did not of itself bring him to capitulation.
Thucydides records that much time was consumed in the blockade of the island because the Spartans had not stood idly by while the cream of their land forces was being starved to death.
“The fact was,” he wrote, “that the Lacedaemonians had made the advertisement for volunteers to carry into the island ground corn, wine, cheese, and any other food useful in a siege; high prices being offered, and freedom promised to any of the Helots who should succeed in doing so . . . In short, both sides tried every possible contrivance, the one to throw in provisions, the other to prevent their introduction.”
Thucydides reasoned well in considering the material inducement offered the Helots to undertake running the blockade. Those men of the Confederacy who were interested in bringing in supplies from abroad, and who were not involved in the trade officially, had rich material benefits in mind.”
(Ploughshares into Swords: Josiah Gorgas and Confederate Ordnance, Frank E. Vandiver, Texas A&M Press, 1994, excerpt pg. 85)