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Block-busters; Maritime Tales by Stephen Guy of Merseyside Maritime Museum.

Byline: Stephen Guy

THE American Civil War cost 620,000 lives while dividing loyalties, splitting families and creating enormous changes that led to the United States becoming the world's most powerful nation today.

The war - with the slave-owning South pitched against the abolitionist North - created international controversy and debate that still rage today. It began when 11 Souther n states broke away from the United States (the Union) and formed the Confederate States of America.

The conflict also created some very beautiful ships - particularly the sleek and elegant blockade runners that were built on the River Mersey.

INVOICE: Paperwork for bales transported by the The Union Navy wanted to stop trade and supplies by blockading Confederate ports on the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts.

The Confederates responded by building ships of their own to bust the blockade and keep supply lines open.

The blockade runners were built for speed to avoid Union warships. Although Britain was officially neutral in the war, a fleet of Confederate blockade runners was secretly built in Liverpool.

Mersey shipyards also repaired blockade runners and Liverpool men enlisted into the Confederate Navy and served on some of these ships.

cotton Banshee Three superb contemporary models of blockade runners are newly-displayed in the Art & the Sea gallery at Merseyside Maritime Museum. All were built in the Liverpool shipyard of Jones, Quiggin & Co.

The earliest was the Banshee of 1863 - the first steel-built vessel to cross the Atlantic. The small model captures her streamlined construction and evokes the craftsmanship that was lavished on her.

The ship is also depicted in a painting by Samuel Walters. The Banshee - there was also a ship of the same name built later at the yard - was captured on her ninth voyage in November 1863. She became a union ship.

An archive display is at the start of the Liverpool and the American Civil War Trail around the Merseyside Maritime Museum and the International Slavery Museum (in the same building).

The display marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and will be changed over the next five years to reflect developments in the conflict.

Among many exhibits is an account of sale from March 1861 of 161 bales of cotton carried on the ship Courier from New Orleans.

The close links between Liverpool and the southern states were due to the import of cotton for the booming cotton mills in Lancashire and neighbouring areas.

American cotton, largely produced by slave labour, was the source of a great deal of income and employment in Britain.

More about blockade runners next week when we look at the Colonel Lamb and her sister Hope.

[bar] Buy the Maritime Tales book (pounds 3.99) at the Merseyside Maritime Museum open seven days a week, admission free, and at bookshops, newsagents and


INVOICE: Paperwork for cotton bales transported by the Banshee BANSHEE: A scale model at the Maritime Museum of the Merseyside-built vessel, which aimed to break enemy blockades
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 21, 2011
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