Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Captain James Carlin: Anglo-American Blockade Runner

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Captain James Carlin: Anglo-American Blockade Runner

Article excerpt

Captain James Carlin: Anglo-American Blockade Runner. By Colin Carlin. Studies in Maritime History. (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2017. Pp. xxiv, 275. $34.95, ISBN 978-1-61117-713-8.)

Until recently, historians have typically given short shrift to the naval aspects of the American Civil War, often treating the war at sea as a sideshow of peripheral importance. In the past decade or so, however, with the general revival of interest in the history of the Civil War, many books have been published on various aspects of the naval war that redress the previous landlubber historiographical imbalance. With regard to the literature on blockade-runners, it must be noted that although these vessels were primarily crewed by British and European sailors, many works have been written from an almost entirely American perspective. In this respect, Colin Carlin's intimate portrait of his ancestor, British Confederate James Cornelius Carlin (1833-1921), who was among the successful captains who ran the blockade of Confederate ports, provides a potentially welcome addition to literature on the blockade.

The son of an Irish member of the British Coast Guard Service, James Carlin was born in England and raised in County Antrim, Ireland, and he completed his merchant marine officer apprenticeship with Fitzsimmons of Belfast. By 1854 Carlin "was serving as a master's mate and pilot with the U.S. Coast Survey Department," where he gained extensive knowledge of the South Atlantic coastline (p. 11). After marrying and settling in Charleston, South Carolina, Carlin resigned from the Coast Survey Department in 1860 and started running the blockade with a "small sailing schooner" in 1861 (p. 35). The volume's most intriguing contribution is its analysis of Carlin's five-month imprisonment in Fort Lafayette, New York, following the capture of the SS Memphis in July 1862. Upon his release, Carlin vigorously returned to blockade-running. In August 1863 he captained a spar torpedo boat, the CSS Torch, during its failed attack on the USS New Ironsides. In 1864, as a senior captain of the Importing and Exporting Company of South Carolina, Carlin traveled to Britain to commission new vessels. He moved his family to Liverpool, England, but he continued to run the blockade until the last stages of the war. …

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