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Now, therefore. I, Jefferson Davis. President of the Confederate States of America, Invite Charles W. Read to service in an armed vessel on the high seas, to aid this government in resisting so wanton and wicked an aggression, that I do enact as President of the Confederate States and hereby authorized to use the whole land and naval force of the Confederate States to meet the war thus commenced, and to issue to vessels commissions or letters of marque and general reprisal, It is with this authority in such form as I shall think proper, under the seal of the Confederate States, against the vessels, goods, and effects of the United States, and of the citizens or inhabitants of those States and territories thereof; that property of the enemy shall be subject to seizure.

Caleb Cushing, a U.S. revenue cutter also known as Morris, was quietly boarded and seized in the early morning hours of 27 June 1863 while in the harbor at Portland, Maine, by Lt. Charles W. Read, CSN, and his men who had entered the harbor undetected on board their prize schooner Archer. It was Read’s plan to get the cutter away from Union shore batteries before daylight, and then set fire to Union shipping in the harbor. As it was dawn before Read’s force cleared the Union guns, he found it impossible to carry out his plan, and instead he set out for sea. Lt. “Savez” Read intended to send his prisoners back on Archer after transferring his supplies to Caleb Cushing. However, when about 20 miles at sea, Caleb Cushing was overtaken by 2 steamers. Read ran out of ammunition and was unable to put up a resistance. Ordering his men and prisoners into small boats he fired the cutter after setting a powder train to her magazine. He, his men and his prisoners were captured by the steamer Forrest City. Archer was captured later, and Caleb Cushing soon exploded and was destroyed.

Sea wolf of the Confederacy : the daring Civil War raids of naval Lt. Charles W. Read  David W. Shaw Confederate States of America. Navy Officers Biography, Read, Charles William, 1840-1890 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. 235 p. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [221]-223) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG   

In June 1863, just days before the battle at Gettysburg, a small party of the Confederate Navy mounted a devastating series of raids on the New England coast, culminating in a battle off Portland, Maine. Author David W. Shaw re-creates this almost forgotten chapter of the Civil War in rich narrative detail drawn from accounts of the participants.

At the center of the conflict were two men: the young Charles W. Read, who resigned his commission as a Union midshipman to become a lieutenant in the Confederate Navy; and Secretary of the United States Navy Gideon Welles, a well-connected politician who oversaw the explosive growth of the fleet – including the revolutionary ironclads – during the war despite his lack of maritime experience.

Serving aboard CSS Florida off the coast of Brazil, Read hatched a plan to sail a captured brig directly into the Union’s home waters and wreak havoc on their shipping lanes. Burning or capturing more than twenty merchant vessels in less than three weeks, and switching ships several times to elude capture, Read’s rampage caused widespread panic in Northern cities, made headlines in the major daily newspapers, and brought enormous pressure on Welles to “stop the rebel pirate.” At one point there were nearly forty Union ships sent to hunt down Read in a cat-and-mouse game that finally led to his dramatic capture off the coast of Maine.

Sea Wolf of the Confederacy brings to light this fascinating yet little known episode of the war, combining extensive research culled from contemporary newspapers, journals, and official war records. Taking readers to the heart of the action on the decks of the burning ships, Shaw offers a compelling portrait of the complex Read and an insightful new perspective on the divisions splitting north and South during this dark time in American history.

Operating in the Atlantic and West Indies, Florida captured twenty-two prizes, striking terror in the United States’ merchant marine and frustrating the U.S. Navy’s efforts to catch her. In August 1863, she went to Brest, France, remaining there until the following February, when she again got to sea past watching Federal forces. Florida took another eleven prizes between then and October 1864, when she arrived at Bahia, Brazil. While anchored in that port on 7 October, Florida was attacked, captured and towed to sea by USS Wachusett, in violation of Brazilian neutrality.


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