Cuba "Destination Of Gulf Runners"
Cuba was one of the three principal destinations for blockade runners shipping cotton out of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Once reaching Havana, the main blockade-running port, the runners would load their ships with the valuable supplies so desperately needed in the Southern states. Because of Cuba's southern location, ships running to and from the island primarily utilized the Confederate Gulf of Mexico ports that stretched from Brownsville, TX, 750 miles from Havana, to St. Marks, FL, only 450 miles away. Unlike Bermuda and the Bahamas, the other two principal blockade-runner destinations, many of the ships running in and out of Cuba were not sleek steam-powered ships, but sailing vessels of little draft that were suitable for navigating the shallow ports of the Confederacy's Gulf Coast.
Havana was a bustling and rowdy port crowded with speculators, businessmen, and gamblers who were making their fortunes with the blockade runners or entertaining the free-spending crews. Havana warehouses bulged with merchandise that the owners claimed to be "expressly for the Confederate market... all available at low price because we wish the Confederate States to get the benefit of them." As soon as a ship that appeared to be a runner was spotted approaching the harbor, the news was signaled from Havana's Moror Castle, and a flotilla of small boats would head out to sea. Greeting the incoming ship with eager smiles, the speculators offered a wide variety of goods for sale before the runner even entered the harbor.
Just outside the walls of the old city was a large cafe called the Louvre tat was a favorite haunt of the blockade-running fraternity. The Louvre was neutral ground where the runners as well as Union sailors and officers would meet, drink many glasses of Cuban rum, exchange friendly banter, and gather useful information. While socializing, Union crews might be able to ascertain when a runner would attempt to recross the Gulf, and runners might learn the disposition of blockading ships and which Southern ports would be the safest destinations.
Fascinating Fact: After the war, Cuba was a favorite destination for escaping Confederates seeking a safe haven for temporary or permanent exile.
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