What allowed a ship to become a blockade runner?

Discussion in 'Civil War' started by Franklin, Dec 30, 2012.

  1. Franklin

    Franklin New Member

    I've read just a little about blockade-running ships during the Civil War. I always wonder what type of ships allowed them to call themselves blockade runners? They must have been super fast or super "something" to be able to outrun other ships.
  2. pietastesgood

    pietastesgood Member

    I'm also pretty interested in this if anyone has the information.
  3. I'm not an expert on naval design, but I've read a little bit about it and have done a little bit of sailboat racing.
    There are three main things that make a sail-driven ship faster.
    1) More sail - Self explanatory. If your forward motion is generated by the wind, a bigger sail to capture more wind will push the boat faster, just like a bigger parachute will cause you to fall slower, or even go up with a hard enough updraft.
    2) Narrower bow- In the same way that it's easier to split firewood with an axe or maul than a sledgehammer, a sharper front end of the boat will let it move through the water easier.
    3) Less weight - A lighter boat displaces less water than a heavier one, and the less boat that is in the water, the less resistance the boat meets to move through the water.
  4. pietastesgood

    pietastesgood Member

    That's pretty interesting. I'm assuming then that most of the blockade runners were small, and probably didn't have a lot of cargo. Perhaps they were used more for communications purposes than actually for trade purposes.
  5. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    Please recall most vessels of this time were built for their purpose. Most cargo ships were built to carry more goods with a minimal crew. Navy vessels were build to both deal and withstand punishment. In both cases speed was, while important, not paramount. Then there were the "greyhounds" of the period, the Yankee Clippers and such. They were built for speed and for this the sacrificed cargo capacity and durability.

    Another factor for blockade runners was their ability to run over the BAR at the entrance to river-mouths, such as at Charleston, S.C. Remember, in that time the US Army Corps of Engineers were not routinely dredging naturally occurring deposits at deltas as they do today. This allowed some captains of shallower-drafted vessels to slip around the blockade in areas the deep-drafted US Navy vessels could not go. But this too was a trade-off for the runners with shallow draft bottoms were less ocean worthy in deep seas.

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