The Merrimac and the Railroad

   A newspaper article regarding the 1863 annual meeting of the Wilmington & Manchester RR (NP, WJ 11-25-63) tells of the railroad's attempt to get supplies through the blockade by buying a $100,000 share of a blockade runner and names the vessel in question -- the Merrimac. The reports of the President and Superintendent, published the next day, do not name the vessel, but the Merrimac fits the other facts available.
   
Wise, Lifeline of the Confederacy
   p. 312: Sold to the Confederate Government in December, 1862. Made a run into Wilmington April 13, 1863. Sold to Richard Bradley, who represented the interests of Joseph Anderson, owner of Tredegar Iron Works. Captured by the USS Magnolia July 24, 1863 while trying to escape from Wilmington.
   p. 97 "The second vessel purchased by Huse was the Merrimac, an extremely fast side-wheeler. In buying the vessel, the Confederacy was solving a long-standing problem. The Merrimac had been owned by Z. C. Pearson and Company, who had accepted a Confederate contract to bring in a cargo that included three 8-inch Blakely rifled cannon and 1,100 barrels of gunpowder. Pearson was to receive payment on delivery of the goods.
   The Merrimac and her valuable cargo arrived at St. George on September 5, 1862, enroute from London to Nassau. Before she could continue her voyage, Pearson and Company declared bankruptcy and their creditors seized the Merrimac. Southern agents were unable to separate their cargo from the impounded steamer and, as a result, Huse found it necessary to purchase the vessel and her cargo for L7,000. Once in the hands of the Confederacy, the Merrimac was made ready for sea and on April 13, 1863, under the command of S. G. Porter, ran into Wilmington. The three Blakely guns, each capable of firing a 170-pound projectile, were divided up, one going to Vicksburg and the remaining two being kept for the defense of Wilmington. One was placed at Fort Fisher at New Inlet while the other was positioned at Fort Caswell at Old Inlet.
   The Merrimac never again went to sea for the Ordnance Bureau. Though she had been an extremely fast vessel, reported to have made eighteen knots on her trials, her engines became fouled, and Gorgas sold her to private interests.".
 
Dew, Ironmaker to the Confederacy
   p. 200-1 "The problem was getting the cotton out of the Confederacy. After the War Department declined to permit Anderson and Company to ship on government steamers, the Tredegar owners decided to send the cotton abroad on their own vessel. In May and June 1863, the members of the firm subscribed a total of $100,000 in two new joint stock exporting companies organized by prominent Richmond commission merchants and businessmen. Shortly after they had made these investments, the Tredegar partners saw a much better chance to ship their cotton to foreign ports and they quickly seized the opportunity. In late June, they learned that they could acquire an interest in a blockade-runner undergoing repairs at Wilmington. The Merrimac, a fast iron paddle-steamer originally built for opium smuggling along the China coast, had sustained engine damage and the War Department had sold the vessel to a group of Wilmington men. Anderson and Company acquired a quarter interest in the ship and its cargo of cotton for some $250,000 by promising to make the Tredegar facilities available for necessary repairs. After a trip to Wilmington in early July to inspect the ship and talk to the owners, Anderson and Tanner hurried back to Richmond to rush the needed parts to completion. Anderson, evidently forgetting about the tools for his burnt workshops, promptly negotiated a contract with the Ordnance Bureau for freighting arms out of Bermuda.
   When news of Lee's defeat at Gettysburg reached Richmond, the Tredegar management wired the Wilmington syndicate to "Hurry out our vessel... This is an anxious moment." The ship sailed shortly after the urgent message from Richmond, but the Union blockaders were waiting for the sleek vessel. The U. S. Steam Sloop Iroquois captured the Merrimac and its cargo of tobacco, turpentine, and 642 bales of cotton on July 24, 1863, forty miles off the coast of North Carolina, "She is reported to be very fast (16 to 18 knots), certainly looks it, and I am satisfied would not have been caught by us if she had been properly managed," reported the captain of the Iroquois.
   The Tredegar's initial venture into the risky business of blockade-running proved disastrous. The company's bookkeeper recorded an expense of $244,167 under "Stmr Merrimac" when he totaled the profit and loss figures for 1863. The Richmond industrialists had some slight consolation in that none of their cotton purchased in April, May and June was on board the vessel."

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