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The Eight Lives of the Syren

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US Stamp Covers101 of 106Walker, Confederate AgentGovernor Brown and the CSA Blockade of the Santee River
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Posted 7 years ago


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The folded letter below was carried by the steamer Syren on one of her thirty-three successful blockade-running trips, the most made by any blockade-runner during the Civil War. As the average number of successful runs by a blockade-runner during the war was only four, the record of the Syren is equivalent to the life span of eight "average" steamers. In second place for the number of successful blockade-running trips was the steamer Alice with a distant twenty-four runs.

The Syren was a sidewheel steamer built at Greenwich, Kent, England in 1863 and designed specifically for blockade running. She was owned by the Charleston Importing and Exporting Company. The Syren began her career rather late in the war with her 5 November 1863 maiden voyage from Nassau to Wilmington. Much of her success can be attributed to the daring captains and pilots who ignored many of the norms of blockade-running. Rather than leaving port only at the time of the new moon, she frequently departed at the quarter moons and often in poor weather. With these elements of surprise operating in her favor, slipping through the naval squadron guarding the harbors became easier. It is reported that the Syren at one point made three round trips to Charleston while the other blockade-runners, awaiting a new moon, never left port.

The letter below was carried on her third trip from Nassau to Wilmington. After the fall of Charleston the Syren was captured in port on 18 February 1865.

Posted by Richard Frajola

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