Sea History 151 - Summer 2015

Page 39

Halifax physician and Confede rate sympathizer William J Almon (1 81 6-1901) provided support fo r Capt. Wood when he dropped anchor in Halifax in 1864. was hardly room between the keel and the bottom for your open hand." They m ade it through and escaped to the open sea. It was a remarkable feat of navigation but, as it turned out, an unnecessary one; a Union warship did not reach H alifax until the following day. Thirteen gunboats h ad been sent in pursuit ("all the vessels available to the navy," by one account) and the U S N avy was condemned for allowing Wood to escape. One editorial cartoon depicted W ood kidnapping Secretary of the Navy G ideon W elles. W ood steamed south a nd captured one more pri ze, a brig out of M assachu setts. Tallahassee reached Wilming ron on the night of25 August and, after a brief firefight w ith ships m anning the blockade, m ade it to the safety of the harbor. Tallahassee's cruise was brief, Jefferson D avis n o ted in his history of the Confederacy published in 1881, "but brilliant while it las ted ." Wood served on D avis's staff for the rest of the wa r and was with his uncle when t hey learned of Lee's surrender in April 1865. After the war he settled with his wife and youngest children in H alifax, the new home of m any ve terans of the Confederate Navy. H e established a sh ipping firm in partnership with fo rmer blockade runner Joh n W ilkinson a nd proudly fl ew the


Rebel flag over his waterfront warehouse. Wood becam e a resp ected m ember of Halifax's elite, serving as commodore of the prestigio us Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron. When he died in H alifax in July 1904 at seventy-three, the city's M orning Ch ronicle eulogized him as a Southern gentleman who would be rem embered for his "daring exploits." Tallahassee's cruise was a grander version of John Taylor Wood 's commando raids on Union ships earlier in the war; it was a swift, bold attack, but little more than an annoyance to the enemy. The limited strategic value of the mission, C ivil War-era C anadian hisrorian G reg M arquis has argued, was "less important than the propaganda effect." Wood 's exploits boosted Southern morale, at least temporarily, whi le shattering the complacency ofNorthern merchants and ship ow ners. "If fas t C lyde-built steamers can thus run into Wilmington as merchantmen and com e out as armed privateers," the New York Times wa rned as the crisis unfolded, "we shall have a fleet of pirates on our coast within six months, sufficient to sweep our commerce from the seas." The South, how-

ever, was running out of the time and resources needed to assemble a fleet of swift, n ext-generation raiders, and th e threat never m aterialized. The real dam age was to the Confederate cause. The Union N avy, embarrassed by its inability to stop Wood 's depredations, tightened its blockade of Wi lmington, effectively choking off one of the South 's las t overseas supply routes. Tallahassee was renam ed CSS Olustee and, with a new captain, captured six more U nion vessels during a cruise in the fa ll of 1864. A fter a fin al nam e change to CSS Chameleon, she escaped from Wilmington as a blockade runner but was unable to return . Seized in England at the war's end, she was sold to the Japanese government and sank in 1869. J,

D ean ]obb, an associate professor ofjournalism at the University of King's College in Halifax, is the author ofEmpire of D eceptio n (Algonquin Books of Chapel H ill), the untold story of master swindler Leo Koretz, who operated an elaborate Ponzi scheme and hoodwinked Chicago's elite in the Roaring Twenties.

Discover the USS Monitor Center View Small Craft from Around the World Explore the Ocean Depths in

Extreme Deep: Mission into the Abyss New Exhibition Open May 16 - September 7, 2015

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Mariners' Museum and Park 1-800-581-SAIL (7245) I Newport News, VA Just 20 minutes from the Historic Triangle of Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown.


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