Maritime Commerce on the Far Western Gulf,
1861 - 1865
L. TUFFLY ELLIS
A LL THE LIGHTS ON THIS COAST HAVE BEEN EXTINGUISHED,) BUT
an attempt will be made "to run the blockade to night," British
Consul Arthur T. Lynn at Galveston informed his New Orleans counter-
part, July 3, 1861, the day after the I,15O-ton, three-deck, steam-propelled
U.S.S. South Carolina appeared off the Texas coast. With the arrival of
the South Carolina the Federals on the far western Gulf began their first
effort at enforcement of President Abraham Lincoln's blockade proclama-
tion of April 19, 1861. Commander James Alden of the blockading warship
reported within five days eleven enemy sailing vessels captured or destroyed
off Galveston Island. The little craft were not worth much, Alden stated,
but he was pleased with his catch and believed that with some assistance he
could "most effectually close up every hole and corner" of the coast between
the Rio Grande and the South West Pass of the Mississippi River.
Consul Lynn anticipated great distress in Galveston if the blockade was
prolonged and told a correspondent in the hinterland that "business of
every description is now so prostrated that the best houses in this city have
not sufficient employment for their clerks. . . ." A large local merchant
firm advised an interior planter: "Blockaded & cut off from all the usual
business facilities money is and must continue very scarce until cotton can
be sold[,] be that long or short time." The enemy's interception of provision-
carrying vessels to Galveston quickly resulted in "a very great Scarcity of
Groceries," and those on hand were "held at high prices. . . ." In early
'Lynn to Wm. Mure, July 3, i86x, British Consular Papers, Galveston (Foreign Office,
Public Record Office, London); Alden to Wm. Mervine, July 8, 1861, Official Records
of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion (3I vols.; Washington,
D.C., 1894-1927), Ser. I, XVI, 576-577; United States Statutes at Large, XII, 1258-
I259. References to these Official Records are hereafter cited as O.R.N. At the time this
writer used the British Consular Papers, Galveston, they were located at the San Jacinto
Galveston's lack of adequate fortifications, particularly in the early days of the war,
enabled blockading ships to lie close to the shore and fire on the town. James Russell
Soley, The Blockade and the Cruisers (New York, 1883), 140.
For an overview of United States naval operations during the war, see Charles B.
Boynton, The History of the Navy During the Rebellion (2 vols.; New York, 1867-1868),
and Virgil Carrington Jones, The Civil War at Sea (3 vols.; New York, 1960-I962).
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117148/. Accessed March 2, 2015.