Confederate Trade 1862-65


Map Code: Ax02502

Prior to the US Civil War (1861–65), the Confederate economy was based on cotton, the ‘white gold’ of the day. Shipped largely to Britain and Europe, it comprised 75 per cent of Confederate exports. This (and the desire to prevent materiel entering the South) prompted the Union to institute a naval blockade. A key part of the Union’s Anaconda Plan for suppressing the South, the Union dramatically increased the size of their navy – this was the largest blockade ever attempted, after all – from 42 ships at the war’s beginning to nearly 400 by the end of 1862. Concentrating initially on the Atlantic Coast, Union forces gradually extended their reach across the Gulf of Mexico, dominating Confederate ports; after 1862, only three ports east of the Mississippi remained open. The blockade was largely unable to restrict the import of materiel from Europe, with over 600,000 arms, mostly British Enfield rifles, smuggled in. Cotton and materiel were also smuggled to transfer points in Cuba and the Bahamas, as this trade remained profitable for foreign merchants, but cotton exports were nevertheless restricted significantly. Trade with Britain and Europe dropped to a trickle, and the blockade also became much more effective at restricting imports. Though the CSS Alabama and other raiders disrupted Union trade – the Alabama claimed 65 Union vessels before being sunk near Cherbourg – it was never to the same extent as the blockade. Having lost the income from their cash crop, with imports increasingly restricted, the Confederate economy gradually crumbled.

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