The statistics of the various blockade running steam vessels, and their fate and fortunes, if fully set forth, would exhibit some curious facts. Some of those facts, of which we have been informed, shall now be mentioned; they will, to most readers, bring with them their own explanation. Seven or eight new steamers have been built at English dockyards, expressly to run the blockade; they were ordered, and afterwards equipped and manned, and the officers found for them, by and English firm styled Alexander Collie & Co. On arriving at Bermuda they were transferred to a respectable Confederate firm, acting on behalf of the Confederate government: so that on arrival at Wilmington – if they had ever arrived there – they were to have been under the Confederate flag, and owned by Confederate owners; and were destined thereafter as regular blockade runners, half on government account and half on account of the Confederate firm. These vessels have all been lost; they were all, save one, lost on their very first voyage between Bermuda and Wilmington; and our readers may remember their ill fated names, the Venus, the Ceres, the Vesta, the Juno &c. One of these, the Hebe, was lost, not on her first voyage, but on her second.
Now, at the very same time, there was running a most lucky and prosperous line of blockade breaking ships, belonging to that English firm of Collie & Co. The very house which was employed to order and equip vessels to run the blockade on account of our government, was also most extensively engaged in running the blockade on its own account. In other words, our government expected Mr. Alexander Collie to furnish them faithfully and bona fide with the means of competing with himself and driving him out of the most lucrative trade he ever had in his life. Accordingly their ships were all driven ashore, a total loss. But of Mr. Collie’s own vessels, the Hansa has made nine round voyages, paying for herself twenty times over; the Edith and the Annie have made each three round voyages, and are now prosperously running; the Falcon has made tow round voyages; and the Flamingo has just come in successful in her first trip. One of Collie’s however, was lost; she is the Don; had made six prosperous round voyages, and then was run down at sea by the Yankees, and is now one of the blockading squadron herself.
The contrast thus presented is striking enough, but this is not all; the captains and officers found by Collie & Col for the Confederate vessels were all most particularly capable and experienced me; they always ran their ships safely through the blockading squadron – for if they had lost them to the Yankees they never could have got command of a vessel again; it was always on the coast, or in the very mouth of Cape Fear river, that those ships were run aground, and then usually burned up, both ship and cargo. Suspicions could not but arise after a while, even in the most simple hearts; and when the Vesta, about seven months ago, after successfully making her way through a blockading fleet in pursuit, and after she was safe out of their range and out of their sight, was wantonly run aground on the North Carolina and instantly burned by her captain, together with her cargo and the very baggage of passengers, enquiry was instigated before a court at Wilmington, and it was determined to examine the captain and first officer; but it was found that they, apprehending such enquiry, had left secretly and by night, and got about the Hansa (one of Collie’s ships), them weighing anchor for England. This captain was afterwards appointed captain of one of Collie’s own vessels. The first officer, also of the Vesta, had been, before that, an officer on board the Hebe¸ one of our unlucky Confederate blockade runners; and is now first officer of the Annie, one of Collie’s – The captain of the Hebe, when she was lost, is now commander of the more fortunate Hansa.
We learn further that Dudgen, of London, an extensive shipbuilder, constructed to the order Collie & Col. seven double screw vessels, all just alike; of these five were transferred to the Confederate firm (or Government) – all five lost; two were retained by Collie & Co – both still running.
The agent of the house of Collie at Wilmington has bee, during all these transactions, one Andrew, a Hebrew.
There are two other vessels, the Fanny and the Alice, not furnished and manned, as we were informed, by Collie & Co, which have the good luck to be commanded by Confederate Captains; they have each made seven round voyages. The State of North Carolina, also, in providing herself with vessels to run the blockade upon State accounts, made her own arrangements and employed her own officers; which is probably the reason of her good fortune in that business.
There is no other conceivable way of accounting for the facts above mentioned, than by suppositions that the judicious Collie & Co. employed captains and paid them, expressly to run ashore and destroy those vessels which were to enter into competitions with his own; and that as a further reward for that service, the officers who have lost Confederate ships are put on board Collie’s to carry them through safely. Many persons have speculated in vain upon the astonishing ill luck of the Confederate vessels, and have suggested that the Yankees had agents in Nassau and Bermuda to bribe captains and officers, so as to ensure the loss of certain ships. – That there was villainy somewhere was very apparent; and as usual the misfortunes of the Confederates may be traced this time also to that guileless simplicity with which they have entrusted their interests to those having another interest directly opposite to theirs. Many is the bale of precious cotton that has gone to England to pay for those ships and cargoes; the Coquette, the very last ship our Government had, is at last sold; and a pawky Scotchman has almost a monopoly of the foreign trade of the Confederate States. Collie & Co is at present one of the richest firms in England and it sees no good reason why this war should ever end.
Source: Semi-Weekly Standard (Raleigh), August 19, 1864 as found on www.chroniclingamerica.loc.gov