Joseph M. Jones Steamboat Collection
Custodians of the Coast. Looking out from the mouth of every important harbor along the Southern seacoast, the Confederates were confronted by just such a grim menace as this. Riding at anchor or moving swiftly from point to point, the Federal fighting-ships, with sleepless vigilance, night and day sought every opportunity to destroy the vessels which attempted to keep up the commercial intercourse of the Confederacy with the outside world. At first it was chiefly a ""paper blockade,"" and the fact that its mere announcement accorded to the Confederacy the status of belligerents was hailed at the South as a fortunate diplomatic mistake. Swift merchantmen abroad were easily induced to enter the bold enterprise which meant such profitable trade; laughing at the inadequate Federal patrol, they began to dump huge cargoes of the munitions of war at every Southern port, taking in return cotton, so necessary to keep the looms of Europe going. With the rapid growth of the Federal navy the blockade, whose early impotence had been winked at by European powers, became more and more a fact. The dordon was drawn tighter and tighter from the Potomac to the Rio Grande. One venturesome vessel after another was overhauled or driven ashore and both they and their cargoes became the rich prizes of the Federal navy. While this served vastly to increase the difficulty and danger of dealing.