Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Fast Small Ship

The Confederate blockade runner the Theodora slipped out of Charleston, South Carolina October 12th 1861 with John Slidell and James M Mason on board.

The Theodora started life as the Carolina when she was built in 1852 in Greenpoint, New York, and was sent to Charleston, South Carolina for use as a coastal packet.  When the Civil War started she was refitted, renamed the Gordon and commissioned as a privateer under the command of Captain T J Lockwood on July 15th 1861.  She had a light draft and so had no trouble slipping over the bar in the harbor, was able to stay just out of reach of the guns on the Union ships, and was fast.

John Slidell with two female members of his family went out on the ship on October 5th 1861, and they approached the Union fleet during daylight and were ignored.  This gave Confederate Secretary of State Robert M T Hunter the idea to use her to run the blockade, carrying Confederate diplomats James M Mason and John Slidell to the West Indies.  She received her name Theodora, and with the diplomats on board slipped over the bar in Charleston Harbor on October 12th 1861 at about one in the morning.  She hugged the coast escaping the Union blockade and on October 14th 1861 the Theodora made the mouth of the harbor at Nassau, Bahamas being chased by the USS H W Johnson.  Two days later the Theodora with Mason and Slidell on board, with the Confederate flag flying reached Cuba.  The start of the “Trent Affair”.

The Theodora was captured May 28th 1862 with a crew of 24 and a load of Enfield rifles, clothing and ammunition.  She was sent to the New York prize court.