Saturday, November 9, 2013

November 9, 1863: CSS Robert E. Lee Runs its Last Blockade

This day 150 years ago in Rebel Raiders’ History

-Dedicated to Civil War episodes, battles, people and ships that also appear in my game, GMT’s Rebel Raiders on the High Seas

November 9, 1863CSS Robert E. Lee Runs its Last Blockade

Historical Event:  On this day in 1863 the CSS Robert E. Lee was caught off the coast of North Carolina while trying to run the blockade.

Game Connection:  While Blockade Runners in Rebel Raiders are represented by generic counters, some can gain special advantages from cards.  The CSS Robert E. Lee is represented in by one such card (CSN Card 69).  This card increases the value of any cargo she unloads by one VP (Victory Point).

The Story of the CSS Robert E. Lee:

Built in Scotland as the merchant ship Giraffe, CSS Robert E. Lee (CSN Card 69) began her career as a blockade runner in the fall of 1862.  For nearly a year the sleek schooner-rigged, iron-hulled, oscillating-engine, double-stack paddle-steamer ran in and out of North Carolina’s inlets and harbors to bring in war materials and other desperately needed supplies.

 Unlike most blockade runners which were either owned by private individuals or commissioned by the states, the Robert E. Lee was part of the regular navy – hence the CSS before its name.   Among the most important of its 21 voyages was a trip to Halifax to deliver cotton and a number of key passengers, including 20 naval officers destined to serve aboard other blockade runners and raiders.  Her most frequent runs, however, were between Bermuda and Wilmington (both of which appear on the game map).

Naval officer Lt. Richard H. Gayle took command in May 1863 and under his command the ship eluded capture several times, but on November 9, 1863 his luck ran out and CSS Robert E. Lee was finally run down off the North Carolina shore by a pair of Union warships:  USS Iron Age and USS James Adger

  As with many captured blockade runners, The U.S. Navy took her as a prize, armed and rechristened her and put her into service on the blockade.  During the second attack on Fort Fisher, the Lee, now flying the federal flag and bearing the name USS Fort Donelson, fired her newly mounted Yankee guns upon the Rebel batteries, making her one of  the comparatively few ships to have fought on both sides in the war.

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