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Lieutenant Commander Edward Yorke Mccauley, Letter, 21 March 1864, [Bahama Bank Vicinity, Bahamas] to Acting Rear Admiral Theodorus Bailey

Letter, 21 March 1864, from Lieutenant Commander Edward Yorke McCauley (1827-1894), U.S. Navy, reports to acting Rear Admiral Theodorus Bailey that his steamer had captured a Confederate blockade runner en route from South Carolina to Nassau.

McCauley, who had been born into a naval family, was already a twenty-year veteran of the service when the Civil War began. He had fought pirates in the China seas and had served as navigation officer on the U.S.S. Niagara during Cyrus Field's early attempts to lay the transatlantic cable. Because transporting the cable required a huge vessel, the United States sent the 5,200-ton Niagara, the world's largest warship, to link with the H.M.S. Agamemnon in the mid-Atlantic. In 1858, during McCauley's tour of duty, the two ships successfully strung the first working cable that carried messages between President James Buchanan and Queen Victoria.

Suffering from bouts of fever contracted on the coast of Africa, McCauley had resigned his commission in 1859 but rejoined when war broke out. He was assigned to blockade duty. In 1862, he joined the East Gulf Blockading Squadron headquartered in Key West, Fla. On 23 November 1863, Admiral Bailey ordered him to take command of the U.S.S. Tioga, a 700-ton side-wheeler mounting four guns.

On the morning of 20 March 1864, the Tioga captured the 100-ton sloop Swallow off Elbow Cay, Bahama Bank. This blockade runner had embarked from the Combahee River in South Carolina; the point where the Union navy took it was about 460 miles from home and 110 miles short of Nassau, its intended destination.

After McCauley disposed of the cargo and prisoners, he composed his terse official dispatch to headquarters. The next day, he wrote Bailey a longer and informal report, and it is this second dispatch that the South Caroliniana Library has acquired.

"Yesterday afternoon," he wrote, "I sent to market the first invoice of this year's crop from your Plantation in these arables, consisting of 180 Bales Cotton, 80 Barrels Rosin..., 25 Boxes Tobacco, making about the most valuable prize the `Tidy' has yet captured....A dozen Confederacies were on board, of whom the captain and one man were sent North for the usual general good. They had been out 9 days and had on board at the time of capture Hf. peck black beans, Hf. peck mouldy bread and a very little Coffee, so that the beggars should be grateful to us for our trouble, as they might have starved before getting in."

Concerning his own ship, McCauley wrote, "The Tioga is much improved by your attentions to her last time at K. West. She used to steam 7 Knots, without the Blower. She now makes nearly 9. I have not had a chance to try her, full speed, save that we overhauled the Oriental the other day, hand over fist."

During a single eighteen-month period in 1863-1864, Bailey's squadron captured one hundred fifty blockade runners, of which this was one.

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