Confederate States of America. Navy



The Confederate Navy was the military naval force of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. It was established by the Confederate Congress on February 21, 1861, and was primarily responsible for protecting the Confederacy’s coastlines and harbors from federal attack and disrupting the United States Navy’s blockade of Southern ports. At its creation, the Confederate Navy had thirty ships, only fourteen of which were seaworthy. In contrast, the United States Navy had approximately ninety ships ready for service. Despite manufacturing limitations, the Confederate Navy eventually increased its size to slightly over one hundred ships and approximately 5,000 sailors. Still, it could not compete directly with the Union Navy, which enlarged to more than 650 ships and around 20,000 sailors.

Because of its smaller size, the Confederate Navy sought new and unconventional methods to challenge Union naval supremacy. This included inviting privateers—privately owned ships that engaged in warfare—to attack Union ships, particularly merchant vessels, for the Confederate cause. More famously, the Confederate Navy built ironclad vessels (wooden ships protected by iron plates) and the first submarine (named the Hunley) in an effort to defeat Union ships through technological innovation. These efforts did not change the trajectory of the war, though, due in part to the Confederacy’s inability to build these new ships in great number and by the Union Navy’s own development of ironclad warships.

Confederate Navy ships also performed blockade running operations and attacked Union vessels traversing the Atlantic to and from Europe. These efforts were intended to open avenues for Confederate merchant vessels to carry on foreign trade and to draw Union ships away from the Confederacy’s coast. However, efforts to overcome the Union blockade proved ineffective. Federal ships managed to reduce the South’s trade to only five percent of its pre-war levels.

The Confederate Navy was the last vestige of the Confederacy. It ceased to exist on November 6, 1865, with the surrender of the CSS Shenandoah in Liverpool, England. That event also marked the end of the Civil War. (Wikipedia)

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