Blockade runner

Blockade runner

A blockade runner is a term applied to ships used to evade a naval blockade of a harbor or strait, as opposed to confronting the blockaders to break the blockade. Very often blockade running is done in order to transport cargo, for example to bring food or arms to a blockaded city. In other cases the blockade running is an attempt to communicate with the outside world.


Blockade-runners were typically the fastest ships available, and often lightly armed and armoured. Their operation was quite risky since blockading fleets would not hesitate to fire on them. However, the potential profits (economically or militarily) from a successful blockade run were tremendous, so blockade-runners typically had excellent crews. Although having "modus operandi" similar to that of smugglers, blockade-runners were often operated by state's navies as part of the regular fleet. Notable users of blockade runners include the Confederate States of America and Germany during the World Wars.

The term "blockade runner" has also been used by science fiction and fantasy writers for spaceships serving a similar purpose. Perhaps the best known example is the Corellian Corvette Tantive IV in "".

Blockade runners are often the subject of press coverage when they reach port giving the act of blockade running a propaganda value.

In history

Ancient Greece, Peloponnesian War

There were numerous blockades and attempts at blockade running during the Peloponnesian War.
*With his fleet blockaded, Leon of Salamis dispatched blockade runners to seek reinforcements from Athens.

American Civil War

Blockade Runners wrecked at Charleston, South Carolina

"Note: The following information was taken with permission from "Treasures of the Confederate Coast: The "Real Rhett Butler" & Other Revelations" by Dr. E. Lee Spence (Narwhal Press, Charleston/Miami, 1995)."

*"Thomas Watson", privateer ship, lost inbound on Stono Breakers several miles from Folly Beach, October 15, 1861.

*"Edwin", schooner, lost inbound near Lighthouse Inlet, Morris Island on May 8, 1862.

*"Minho", 3 masted screw steamer, lost inbound on wreck near Bowman's Jetty, Sullivan's Island, on October 20, 1862. Discovered by shipwreck expert E. Lee Spence and National Park Service historian Ron A. Gibbs in 1965. ["Spence's Guide to South Carolina", Nelson's Southern Printing, 1976, pp. 9-10] ["Treasures of the Confederate Coast" by E. Lee Spence, Narwhal Press, 1995, pp. 197-199]

*"Nellie" (or "Nelly", ex-"Cawtawba", ex-"Governor Dudley"), sidewheel steamer, lost inbound off Dewees Island on May 25, 1862.

*"Samuel Adams", schooner, lost inbound on western end of Long Island (present day Isle of Palms) on April 12, 1862.

*"Experiment", schooner, lost inbound on Long Island (present day Isle of Palms) on April 2, 1862.

* "Banshee", a side-wheel steamship, was built in Liverpool, England, in 1862 for employment running the Federal blockade of the Confederate coast. She is generally recognized as the prototype for all later blockade-runners [ [ The Blockade - Runners; Blockade - Running ---as an occupation] ] . Her trans-Atlantic maiden voyage, in April 1863, was a "first" for a steel-hulled ship. She made seven successful round-trips before her capture in late 1863. Recommissioned in 1864 as USS Banshee, a Federal gunboat in the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron [ [ Online Library of Selected
] .

*"SS Georgiana", screw steamer, lost inbound off Long Island (present day Isle of Palms) on March 19, 1863. Discovered independently by commercial fisherman Wally Shaffer and pioneer underwater archaeologist E. Lee Spence. First correct identification and salvage efforts were by Spence in 1965. Archaeology & salvage by Spence and Shaffer's company Shipwrecks Inc. under SCIAA issued S.C. Salvage license #1.

*"Norseman" (or "Norman"), small screw steamer, lost outbound on Long Island (present day Isle of Palms) on May 15, 1863. Discovered by Lee Spence after researching location and pinpointing it from a plane. Its general location had previously been reported as an unidentified obstruction by commercial fisherman.

*"Raccoon", sidewheel steamer, lost inbound on Drunken Dick Shoals, off Sullivan's Island, July 19, 1863. Large anchor, misidentified as that of "Housatonic", was recovered near this site. This wreck was reported by Clive Cussler as discovered by NUMA at 32 44' 35" N. latitude, 79 50' 10" W. Longitude.

*"Ruby", sidewheel steamer, lost on Folly Breakers, Lighthouse Inlet, south end of Morris Island, June 10, 1863. Discovered by Lee Spence and Jim Batey in 1966. Location was visited by Clive Cussler and NUMA in 1981 and its coordinates determined as 32 40' 57" N. latitude, 79 53' 03" W. Longitude.

*"Stonewall Jackson" (ex-"Leopard"), sidewheel steamer, lost on Long Island (present day Isle of Palms) on April 12, 1863. In 1965, exposed wreckage at low water was identified by Lee Spence as that of the "Stonewall Jackson". In 1969 Spence's company, Shipwrecks Inc. was written up in the "New York Times" about its discovery and plans to salvage this wreck. In 1981 Cilve Cussler announced that his group NUMA had discovered the wreck, which by then had been entirely buried by shifting sand.

*"Stono", (ex-USS Isaac Smith) lost outbound on Bowman's Jetty on Sullivan's Island, June 5, 1863. Located and identified by Lee Spence and Ron Gibbs in 1965.

*"Tropic" (ex-CSS "Huntress"), sidewheel steamer, burned while attempting run into Charleston on January 8, 1863. Reported to have been the first vessel to fly a Confederate flag on the high seas.

*"Beatrice", sidewheel steamer, lost inbound near Bowman's Jetty, Sullivan's Island on November 27, 1864. Discovered in 1967 by shipwreck salvors Lee Spence and Jim Batey.

*"Constance" ("Constance Decimer"), sidewheel steamer, lost inbound off "Long Island" (present day Isle of Palms) on October 6, 1864. Discovered by Lee Spence and Wally Shaffer. Some salvage by their company Shipwrecks Inc. under SCIAA issued S.C. Salvage license #1.

*"Etiwan", sidewheel steamer, lost on Fort Johnson Reef, Charleston Harbor on June 7, 1864. This wreck was removed and repaired after the war. She was used by the United States Quartermaster's Department, and was later renamed and documented as the "St. Helena". ["Treasures of the Confederate Coast" by E. Lee Spence, Narwhal Press, 1995, p. 309]

*"Flamingo", sidewheel steamer, three stacks, lost off Sullivan's Island on October 23, 1864.

*"Flora", sidewheel steamer, lost on Drunken Dick Shoals opposite Battery Rutledge, Sullivan's Island on October 22, 1864.

*"Mary", schooner, burned off Morris Island on November 5, 1864.

*"Mary Bowers", sidewheel steamer, lost inbound off Long Island (present day Isle of Palms) on August 31, 1864. First identified by Lee Spence. Some salvage by their company Shipwrecks Inc. under SCIAA issued S.C. Salvage license #1.

*"Presto" (a.k.a. "Fergus"), sidewheel steamer, lost inbound opposite Battery Rutledge on Sullivan's Island, February 2, 1864.

*"Prince Albert", screw steamer, lost inbound on Bowman's Jetty, Sullivan's Island on August 9, 1864. About 1967, a wreck they found at this location was tentatively identified by Lee Spence and Ron Gibbs as the "Prince Albert".

*unidentified small sloop, with cotton and turpentine, lost near Fort Moultrie, Sullivan's Island, November 5, 1864.

*"Celt" (or "Colt"), sidewheel steamer, lost on Bowman's Jetty, Sullivan's Island, on February 14, 1865. A small part of her iron boiler sticks out of the water at extreme low tide. Looking like nothing more than part of the jetty, the remains were not identified as the "Celt" until 1965 when shipwreck research/salvor E. Lee Spence and NPS historian Ron A. Gibbs located it, examined it and matched the boiler to the exact position of the "Celt" in contemporary records,charts and photos.

*"John Randolph", sidewheel steamer, lost on Sullivan's Island on January 20, 1865.

*"Rattlesnake", twin screw steamer, lost inbound at Breach Inlet, January, 1865. Discovered in 1968 by Lee Spence and John Cranston Coleman.

World War I

During World War I the Central Powers, most notably Germany, were blockaded by the Entente Powers. In particular the North Sea blockade made it nearly impossible for surface ships to leave Germany for the then neutral USA and other locations.

The blockade was run with cargo submarines also called merchant submarines, "Deutschland" and "Breman", which reached the then neutral USA. [ [ German U-boat WWI Blockade Runners] ]

The "Marie" successfully ran the British North Sea blockade and docked, heavily damaged, in Batavia, Dutch East Indies (now called Jakarta) on May 13, 1916. [ [ SURVIVED BRITISH SHELLS.; German Blockade Runner, Almost a Sieve, Sailed from Africa to Java.] ]

In 1918 Germany tried unsuccessfully to supply their forces in Africa by sending Zeppelin LZ104.

World War II

In an attempt to transfer technology to Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany dispatched a submarine, "U-234", to sail to Japan. The war ended before the ship could arrive in Japan. The Japanese submarine "I-8" completed a similar mission.

On Nov. 23, 1942, the German ship "Ramses", which in addition to Germans had three Norwegian crewmen, attempted unsuccessfully to sail from Batavia (now called Jakarta), the ship being in the Pacific when the war started, to Bordeaux with a cargo of rubber. The hope was that maintaining a sharp 24 hour lookout they would be able to evade the Allied blockade. [ [ Blockade Runner Ramses] ]

Modern era

In modern times, tracking equipment such as radar and sonar make evading a total blockade by a world power nearly impossible. Drug smugglers and groups like the Tamil Tigers are able to run blockades due to the partial nature of the blockade, or because the navy imposing the blockade is weak and under-equipped. Reminiscent of earlier German attempts, drug smugglers have used Semi-submersibles (Narco submarine) in their smuggling operations. [ [ Colombia navy seizes submarine supected of hauling cocaine] ]

A testament to the effectiveness of modern navies, the Israeli blockade of Gaza is only evaded with the use of tunnels. [ [ GAZA TUNNEL SMUGGLERS STAY BUSY] ]

ee also

*Airbridge (logistics), the route and means of delivering material by an airlift, sometimes across blockades
*CSS Lark
*Merchant submarine, first invented for blockade running in World War I
*Union blockade


* "A Look at South Carolina's Underwater Heritage", by E. Lee Spence (Nelson Southern Printing, Charleston, South Carolina, 1974 [ OCLC: 11121049]
* "Treasures of the Confederate Coast: the "real Rhett Butler" & Other Revelations" by Dr. E. Lee Spence, (Narwhal Press, Charleston/Miami, ©1995) [ISBN 1886391017] [ISBN 1886391009] , [ OCLC: 32431590]
* "Shipwreck Encyclopedia of the Civil War: South Carolina & Georgia, 1861-1865" by Edward Lee Spence (Sullivan's Island, S.C., Shipwreck Press, ©1991) [ OCLC: 24420089]
* "Shipwrecks of South Carolina and Georgia : (includes Spence's List, 1520-1865)" by E. Lee Spence, Sullivan's Island, S.C. (Sullivan's Island 29482, Sea Research Society, ©1984) [ OCLC 10593079]
* "Shipwrecks, Pirates & Privateers: Sunken Treasures of the Upper South Carolina Coast, 1521-1865" by E. Lee Spence, (Narwhal Press, Charleston/Miami, ©1995) [ISBN 1-886391-07-6]
* "Spence's Guide to South Carolina : diving, 639 shipwrecks (1520-1813), saltwater sport fishing, recreational shrimping, crabbing, oystering, clamming, saltwater aquarium, 136 campgrounds, 281 boat landings" by E. Lee Spence, (Nelson Southern Printing, Sullivan's Island, S.C.: Spence, ©1976) [ OCLC: 2846435]
* "Wreck of the Georgiana, mystery ship of the Confederacy" by E. Lee Spence, (Sullivan's Island, S.C. : Shipwreck Press, 1988) [ OCLC: 50414449]
* "Shipwrecks of Charleston Harbor" by E. Lee Spence (Sullivan's Island, SC : Shipwreck Press, 1980) [ OCLC: 6908900]
* "Shipwrecks: "the magazine" edited by E Lee Spence, (Sullivan's Island, SC: Shipwreck Press, 1989-1991, Narwhal Press 1995-) [ OCLC: 20784612]
* "The Hunley: Submarines, Sacrifice & Success in the Civil War" by Mark Ragan (Narwhal Press, Charleston/Miami, ©1995) [ISBN 1-886391-43-2]


External links

* [ The Liverpool built blockade-runners.]
* [ The tragedy of a blockade-runner wrecked in Liverpool bay]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • blockade runner — ☆ blockade runner n. a ship or person that tries to go through or past a blockade * * * …   Universalium

  • blockade runner — ☆ blockade runner n. a ship or person that tries to go through or past a blockade …   English World dictionary

  • blockade-runner — blockade running, n. /blo kayd run euhr/, n. a ship or person that passes through a blockade. [1860 65] * * * …   Universalium

  • blockade-runner — blockade′ run ner n. mil a ship or person that passes through a blockade • Etymology: 1860–65 block•ade′ run ning, n …   From formal English to slang

  • blockade-runner — noun Date: 1862 a ship or person that runs through a blockade • blockade running noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • blockade runner — noun A vehicle, mainly refering to a naval one, with the purpose to bring cargo across a military blockade …   Wiktionary

  • blockade-runner — noun a ship that runs through or around a naval blockade • Hypernyms: ↑ship …   Useful english dictionary

  • Blockade Runner Badge — or the Badge for Blockade Runners ( de. Abzeichen für Blockadebrecher) is a German military decoration awarded for service on warships or merchant vessels (also allied) that attempted to break through the British sea blockade of Germany.… …   Wikipedia

  • CSS Florida (blockade runner) — For other ships named Florida , see CSS Florida . The Confederate blockade runner CSS Florida , built at Greenpoint, New York in 1859, was thrice considered for a gunboat before she became one. Contrary to previous interpretation of the official… …   Wikipedia

  • Blockade — For other uses, see Blockade (disambiguation). An action during the British fleet s blockade of the French port of Toulon between 1810 and 1814, depicted by Thomas Luny …   Wikipedia

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