Supplying the Confederacy

painting of a large sailing ship

'CSS Florida' by Samuel Walters. Accession number MMM.40.22.1

At the outbreak of the war the Southern States were at a disadvantage, as the North had more manufacturing industry. The Confederacy had to look to Europe for arms and supplies, and the already strong links from the cotton trade made Liverpool the obvious choice.

The Confederacy had no navy or ships to beat the Northern blockade of Southern ports and looked to Liverpool shipyards to secretly build a fleet of blockade-runners and naval cruisers. James Dunwoody Bulloch, Confederate naval officer, arrived in Liverpool in June 1861 with orders to obtain six steam vessels suitable for use as commerce destroyers against the Union, and to purchase and transport arms. He was assisted by Charles K Prioleau, manager of Fraser, Trenholm and Co, Liverpool based merchants and foreign bankers to the Confederacy, who made an enormous contribution to the war effort of the South. George A Trenholm became Secretary to the Confederate States Treasury in 1864.

Fraser, Trenholm and Co helped provide funds for the construction of the 'CSS Florida', the first foreign built commerce raider. The ship was built by William C Miller and Sons of Toxteth, Liverpool and purchased from Liverpool engineers Fawcett, Preston and Co, who also supplied engines, arms and munitions.

Bulloch's second contract was with Laird's in Birkenhead who built the 'CSS Alabama', launched in 1862. Jones, Quiggin and Co built many ships for the Confederacy including five blockade runners, the first one being the Banshee, which became the first steel ship to cross the Atlantic in 1863.

detail of signature on hand written letter

Signature of James D Bulloch, 1865.
Maritime Archives reference B/FT/BOX/1/6