Confederate States Navy

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Confederate States Navy emblem
Gösch of the Confederate States from 1863

The Confederate States Navy was the Navy of the Confederate States of America and existed during the Civil War . It had three tasks:

  1. Defend the Confederacy's coasts and secure inland waterways
  2. Break the coastal blockade by Northern Naval Forces.
  3. To wage a trade war against ships of the northern states.

As a symbol of secession, the last jack of the Confederate States acquired a meaning that went beyond its original use as the flag .


The Congress of the Confederate States decided on February 21, 1861 to set up a Ministry of the Navy. The President , Jefferson Davis , appointed Stephen R. Mallory as First Secretary of the Navy. Mallory submitted a budget for the current year to Congress on March 12th. On March 16, Congress approved the scope of the naval forces. The fixed posts included four sea ​​captains , four frigate captains , 30 corvette captains and captain lieutenants (lieutenants) and the posts of logistics, fortress and medical officers. Congress limited the total size of the Navy to 3,000 men. This made it possible for the Navy to take on all officers who had defected to the southern states. In addition, the Congress approved the establishment of a marine infantry with a scope of 19 officers, 660 NCOs and men in six companies and the regimental staff .


The pay of the officers was higher than that of the army officers. In order to ensure comparability, the Navy Ministry assigned the army ranks to the naval ranks.

Comparability of naval and army officers
marine army comparable German rank
admiral general admiral
Rear admiral Major general Rear admiral
Commodore Brigadier General Flotilla admiral
Captain Colonel Sea captain
Commander Lieutenant colonel Frigate captain
Lieutenant commanding major Corvette Captain
Lieutenant Captain Lieutenant captain

The salary of naval officers differed within the ranks according to three criteria. The highest salaries were officers who led formations or ships. Then the officers who went to sea were classified. The last group were officers who were deployed on land.

Annual payments
Rank Commanding Use at sea other use
Captain $ 5000 $ 4200 $ 3600
Commander $ 2825 $ 2662 $ 2250
Lieutenant commanding $ 2550
Lieutenant $ 1500 $ 1500

After a specified number of years that the officer had been assigned a role, the salary should increase. This did not happen because the Confederation capitulated before these deadlines could come into effect.

Further development

On April 21, 1862, Congress approved the increase in the number of naval officers to four admirals , ten sea captains, 31 frigate captains, 100 corvette captains and lieutenants, and 25 lieutenants. The number of logistics, fortress and medical officers as well as non-commissioned officers was also increased.

In March 1861 the Navy had no warships. The Minister of the Navy made the construction of ironclads and the purchase of warships abroad a priority. He also strongly supported the research and development of new weapons such as submarines and mines. With the secession of Virginia, the Department of the Navy began integrating the state naval forces into a federal navy.

The Navy had 32 shipyards and boatyards and two large naval yards in Norfolk , Virginia and New Orleans , Louisiana in the spring of 1861 . There were plenty of steel mills, including the largest in the Confederation, the Tredegar Ironworks in Richmond , Virginia, but the iron ore had to be imported from overseas and the capacity shared with the army and especially the railroad.

The navy also included the coastal fortifications, which were primarily intended to protect the entrances to the large seaports and were manned either by marines or naval personnel.

Story 1861

Battle of the USS Brooklyn with the CSS Manassas
The Shenandoah on June 25, 1865 in Behringstrasse. The Confederate Trade Destroyer tows boats with the crews of three burned prizes, which can be seen in the background on the left

By November 1861, the Confederation had commissioned the ships Sumter , McRae , Patrick Henry , Jamestown , Resolute , Calhoun , Ivy , Lady Davis , Jackson , Tuscarora , Virginia and Manassas . The Manassas was the first on the American continent designed ironclad ; Because of its ram (English: ram = metaphorically ram ), this type of ship was also referred to as a ram .

In addition, her government fell back on the strategy of piracy , which had been tried and tested in the founding era of the United States , to which it had approved 20 ships by letter of introduction by this time . Legally, this was easily possible since the United States had not signed the Paris Declaration of the Law of the Sea in 1856 .

The constant qualitative, quantitative and organizational lead enjoyed by the US Navy over its southern counterpart, the Confederation was able to shorten in places through constant innovation and the personal commitment of its officers. Ultimately, however, this was not enough to offset the structural advantages of the north, especially its much more advanced industrial capacities. Right from the start, President Jefferson Davis was confronted with a shortage of iron, corresponding factories and deep-water ports. As a result, it was ultimately not possible for the Confederate States Navy to decisively influence the course of the war.

Use of blockade breakers

Blockade breaker Colonel Lamb

In order to break the sea blockade of the Union, blockade breakers were used by the confederation, but also by private British side . Both conventional steamers and specially constructed high-speed steamers were used for this purpose. The latter were characterized by an extremely narrow hull, low silhouette, shallow draft, extremely high engine performance and partially retractable chimneys, which enabled them to bypass the blockade, preferably at night and in poor visibility, as they usually have a had higher speed than the blocking units of the Union Navy. Due to its design, which was designed for the highest possible speed, the loading space was relatively small, so that the private operators of the blockade runner had to charge disproportionately high prices for the cargo in order to cover the maintenance costs. This in turn meant that high-quality luxury goods were often imported into the confederation rather than goods essential to the war effort.

After the end of the war, some of the blockade breakers that came into the possession of the Union were sold to navies in Latin America , such as Venezuela , as they were not commercially viable. One of the most famous ships of its kind was the Robert E. Lee . It was captured by Union forces and put into service as Fort Donelson , but sold to the Chilean Navy in 1866 for $ 85,000 , which put it into service under the name Concepción .

Individual evidence

  1. List of the Navy Ministry. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2001, accessed February 4, 2011 (Documenting the American South).
  2. Scope of the Navy 1861. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2001, accessed February 4, 2011 (Documenting the American South).
  3. ^ Scope of the Marine Corps 1861. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2001, accessed February 5, 2011 (Documenting the American South).
  4. Officer ranks in the navy and in the army. Cornell University Library, 2018, accessed January 12, 2020 (Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. Volume II, Part 2, p. 58).
  5. Remuneration of the officers. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2001, accessed March 13, 2012 (The Statutes at Large of the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America, Chapter LVIII).
  6. Scope of the Navy 1862. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1999, accessed February 5, 2011 (Documenting the American South).
  7. ^ Building and buying warships. Cornell University Library, 2012, accessed on August 29, 2012 (Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, Series II, Volume 2, pp. 67ff).
  8. ^ Census 1860. US Census Bureau, accessed February 5, 2011 (The Eighth Census of the United States).


  • William N. Still (Ed.): The Confederate Navy. The Ships, Men and Organization, 1861-65. Conway Maritime Press, London 1997, ISBN 0-85177-686-8 .
  • Raimondo Luraghi: A History of the Confederate Navy. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis MD 1996, ISBN 1-55750-527-6 .
  • Martin Öfele: The Navy in the American Civil War. Under two flags. 2nd Edition. Publishing house for American studies, Wyk auf Föhr 1992, ISBN 3-924696-80-2 .
  • Angus Kostam / Tony Bryan: Confederate blockade runner 1861-65 , Oxford (Osprey Publishing) 2004. ISBN 1-84176-636-4
  • Stephen R. Wise: Lifeline of the Confederacy. Blockade running during the Civil War , Columbia (University of South Carolina Press) 1991. ISBN 0-87249-554-X . ISBN 0-87249-799-2

See also

Web links