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The British Bahama Islands had the major blockade-running base of Nassau, where cargoes bound for blockaded Confederate ports were transferred to fast, sleek steamers and small sailboats to sneak through the Union blockade with war material and luxury items. On their return trips from the Confederacy, the blockade-runners carried cotton and other Confederate agricultural products. The treacherous Bahamian reefs were the scene of numerous shipwrecks of blockade-runners and Union blockaders.
USS Adirondack. Union. Wooden steam screw sloop, 1,240 tons. Length 207 feet 1 inch, beam 38 feet, depth 16 feet 10 inches, draft aft 10 feet 2 inches, speed 14 knots. Complement of 160, with two 11-inch Dahlgren smoothbores, two 24-pounder Dahlgren smoothbores, and one 12-pounder. Launched in 1862 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. On August 23, 1862, at 3:55 a.m., the USS Adirondack ran aground due to a navigation error on a reef about one mile northeast of Little Bahama Bank outside of Man of War Cay. Cannon, coal, and stores were jettisoned, but the sloop could not be extricated from the reef. Capt. Guert Gansevoort remained aboard the ship for four days before spiking the rest of the guns and throwing them overboard, as the CSS Florida was in the area, and he feared capture. Bahamian wreckers tried to claim the ship's stores and five of the ship's crew deserted, joining the wreckers. The captain tried to rent the wreckers' boats and finally bought a schooner for $2,500 to help salvage his vessel.
He ultimately paid $625 for the schooner's use. The crew saved the 24-pounder howitzers and the 12-pounder gun with carriages. The ship's back was broken on the reef. The vessel was set afire by the wreckers, who were probably paid by Confederate agents to destroy it. The wreck is located under 10-25 feet of water with 80 feet of visibility, making it a popular diving site. Steam boilers, machinery, and two 11-inch Dahlgrens were on site. (ORN, 1:422-29; 13:293-94, 313; ser. 2, 1:28; WCWN, 42; Tzimoulis, "Best of the Bahamas," Skin Diver, 61-91; Murphy, "Tropical Shipwrecks," Skin Diver, 29.)
Agnes Louisa (Grapeshot). British. Iron side-wheel steamer blockade-runner, 578 gross tons, 434 registered tons. Length 243 feet 10 inches, beam 25 feet, depth 12 feet 6 inches. Built in 1864. Ran onto Hog Island (now called Paradise Island) off Nassau and was thought to have been a total loss on September 4, 1864, while outbound for Charleston, S.C. (ORN, 10:477; LLC, 286.)
Cecile. Confederate. Side-wheel steamer, 360 bulk tons, 460 gross tons. Length 156 feet, beam 29 feet, depth 8 feet 6 inches. Cargo of eight cannons, ammunition wagons, knapsacks, harness, 2,000 rifle-muskets, 400 barrels of gunpowder for the Confederate navy, 100 powder kegs on the ship's account, and medicine. Built in 1857 at Wilmington, Del. Sank in ten minutes with no loss of life on June 17, 1862, while going through the Northeast Providence Channel on the reefs of Abaco near Abaco Lighthouse and Hole in the Wall. Part of the cargo was salvaged and sold at auction. Confederate agents purchased six cannons at the auction. Made thirteen successful runs of the Union blockade before being wrecked. (OR, ser. 4, 1:1174; Horner, Blockade-Runners, 188; MSV, 31; LLC, 292.)
USS Courier. Union. Sailing store ship, 556 or 554 tons. Length 135 feet, beam 30 feet, depth 15 feet. Complement of between seventy-five and eight-two, with two 32-pounder smoothbores, two 24-pounder smoothbores, and one rifled 12-pounder. Built in 1858 at Newburyport, Mass. Was grounded on a reef at Abaco Island, about 10 miles south of the Elbow Cay Lighthouse on June 14, 1864. Both cargo and crew were saved. (ORN, 17:720-21; 27:591-92, 598; ser. 2, 1:67; DANFS, 2:196; WCWN, 139.)
George C. Ross. Union. Brig. Cargo of coffee, honey, and logwood. From Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for New York City. Was wrecked on Long Cay in mid-January 1862. (ORN, 12:629.)
Kelpie. British. Blockade-runner steamer. Length 191 feet, beam 18 feet, depth 10 feet. Built in 1857 at Glasgow, Scotland. Was sunk while cruising into Nassau Harbor in December 1862. (LLC, 307.)
USS Magnolia (Magnolia). Union. Side-wheel steamer, 843 bulk tons, 1,067 new measurement tons. Length 242 feet 5 inches or 246 feet, beam 33 feet 11 inches or 37 feet, draft 5 feet, depth 11 feet 3 inches or 10 feet 9 inches, speed 8-12 knots. Complement of ninety-five, with four 24-pounders and one 20-pounder Parrott. Built in 1854 in New York City. Was captured as the blockade-runner Magnolia on February 19, 1862, at Pass a l'Outre, La., by the USS Brooklyn and USS South Carolina. Was holed and ran ashore on Man-of-War Key near Great Abaco. Was later raised. Decommissioned on June 10, 1865. Sold at public auction in New York City on July 12, 1865. (ORN, ser. 2, 1:131; WCWN, 74.)
Margaret and Jessie (Douglas) (USS Gettysburg). Confederate. Steamer, 732 tons. Cargo of 730 bales of cotton. Carried 16 passengers. En route from Charleston, S.C., to Nassau, Bahamas. Chased by the USS Rhode Island and hit by a shell, which killed one aboard. Ran ashore at Eleuthera Island on May 27, 1863, in neutral waters, 25 miles from Nassau. The British island was hit by Union shells. British authorities were enraged at the territorial violation. (ORN, 2:235-51.)
Marion. Side-wheel steamer, 900 tons. Built in 1851 at New York City. Stranded at Doubleshot Key on April 4, 1863. (MSV, 137, 279.)
Maryland. Nationality unknown. Bark. Cargo of 4,300 bags of coffee. Wrecked on January 30, 1862, at Inagua. (ORN, 12:629; Bernath, Squall across the Atlantic, 114-16.)
USS San Jacinto. Union. Screw steam frigate, 1,567 tons. Length 234 feet, beam 37 feet 9 inches, depth 23 feet 3 inches, draft 16 feet 6 inches, speed 8 knots. Complement of 278, with ten 11-inch Dahlgrens, one 100-pounder Parrott, one 20-pounder Parrott, and three 12-pound-ers (another source—two 8-inch and four 32-pounders). Laid down in 1847 and launched in 1850 in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Wrecked on January 1, 1865, at No Name Cay or Turtle Cay near Treasure Cay and Great Abaco Island. Capt. Richard W. Meade salvaged the guns, ammunition, ship's copper, and other items of value. Forty-six crewmen deserted from the vessel, and four were later captured. Bahamian wreckers removed iron, copper, and lead from the wreck as the Bahamian police magistrate would not let Union vessels near the wreck. In August 1865 the Union removed additional material from the wreck. The wreck was sold for $224.61 in Nassau on May 17, 1871. On February 10, 1866, Captain Meade was court-martialed and found guilty of inattention and negligence as well as inefficiency and suspended from rank for three years. Two boilers, a 3-blade propeller, masts, and the stern are located in 20-50 feet of water and are often visited by sport divers. (ORN, 22:246; ser. 2, 1:200; Tzimoulis, "Best of the Bahamas," Skin Diver, 66; Murphy, "Tropical Shipwrecks," Skin Diver, 29; DANFS, 6:295-97.)
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