Bermuda "Three Cheers For The Civil War"
The ports on the islands of Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Cuba enjoyed a booming economy during the American Civil War because of their proximity to the blockaded coast of the Confederacy. At these neutral way stations, large deep-draft oceangoing freighters from Europe offloaded their cargos for reloading onto fast and maneuverable shallow-draft blockade runners, which would then attempt to slip past the Union blockade into Southern ports. Successfully running the blockade brought immense profits, as much as $425,000 for one round trip, and the officers and crews of the runners as well as the island's merchants and tradespeople amassed great fortunes.
After the 1863 capture of Morris Island at Charleston, SC, by Union forces made that port a bad risk, Bermuda became a major trans-shipment port for runners going to Wilmington, NC, 674 miles away. Bermuda's St. George Harbor was filled with sleek low-profile blockade runners, its wharves laden with bales of cotton, and its brothels and bars full of free-spending and raucous profiteers. Said one Rebel midshipman of the profiteers, "They were a reckless lot and believed in eating, drinking and being merry for fear that they would die on the morrow. Their orgies reminded me of the stories of the pirates in the West Indies. They seemed to suffer from a chronic thirst that could only be assuaged by champagne, and one of their favorite amusements was to sit in the windows with bags of shillings and throw handfuls of the coins to a crowd of loafers in the street to see them scramble."
Though British, Bermuda was hardly neutral in the American Civil War, its sympathies being strongly in favor of the South and its source of new-found wealth. The Union consul in St. George was once mobbed in the street by sympathizers to the Confederate cause.
Fascinating Fact: A toast heard in St. George went like this: "Here's to the Confederates that produce the cotton; to the Yankees that maintain the blockade and keep up the price of cotton; and to the Britishers who buy the cotton and pay the high price for it. So three cheers to a long continuance of the War, and success to blockade runners."
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