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High Seas and Yankee Gunboats
A Blockade-Running Adventure from the Diary of James Dickson

Roger S. Durham

A harrowing tale of danger and determination on a smuggling run through Union waters

High Seas and Yankee Gunboats tells of the bold adventures of two men from Savannah, Georgia, who sought to breach the Federal blockade early in the Civil War. Roger S. Durham draws from James Dickson's 1862 Civil War diary to frame the story of the young sailor's travels with his friend, Thomas L. Hernandez, from New Jersey to Nova Scotia to the coast of Georgia. Using Dickson's diary and other primary source materials, Durham expertly recounts their remarkable voyage and makes available a firsthand vantage point of the early war years in which blockade runners enjoyed their greatest success.

Durham traces the journey of Dickson and Hernandez aboard the blockade runner Standard on its mission to smuggle medicines, commercial goods, and provisions. Blown off course by ravaging winds, the Standard struggled for more than five weeks through the stormy north Atlantic Ocean before reaching the waters near Brunswick, Georgia. In his diary, Dickson records his thoughts about the trip and the day-to-day difficulties faced by the crew. His account reveals the degree of contempt these men felt for the efficiency of the blockade, believing that even in a wind-powered brigantine they could penetrate Union defenses. Their story illustrates the commercial connections between Halifax and the Confederacy and features many prominent Georgians, including the Colcock Jones family made famous by Robert M. Myers's The Children of Pride.

Dickson's diary ends abruptly, in mid-sentence, in the midst of action. From other primary sources Durham pieces together the fates of Dickson and Hernandez and tells of how they successfully transported their cargo to Savannah only to lose the Standard in an encounter with Union forces shortly thereafter.

Roger S. Durham is the director of the U.S. Army Heritage Museum in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. Durham is the editor of The Blues in Gray: The Civil War Journal of William Daniel Dixon and the Republican Blues Daybook and A Confederate Yankee: The Journal of Edward William Drummond, a Confederate Soldier from Maine.

"Roger Durham's High Seas and Yankee Gunboats is an informative snapshot of small-time blockade running operations during the Civil War. Despite the fact that James Dickson's diary ended in mid-sentence, Durham's superb historical detective work gives closure to the story. The four-month adventure related in this fascinating diary is a penetrating narrative of man against the sea which embellishes our understanding of the Civil War."—Robert M. Browning Jr., historian, U.S. Coast Guard, and author of Success Is All That Was Expected: The South Atlantic Blockading Squadron During the Civil War

"Durham's outstanding research ties together disparate threads in this seafaring tale of Civil War blockade running. Durham artfully reconstructs the storm-plagued voyage of a Nova Scotia sailing vessel that ran the blockade into the Georgia sounds and was then trapped. While most blockade-running narratives center on major ports, Durham opens our eyes to the smaller scale importing that was also vital to the Confederacy's survive. His exceptional knowledge of the Georgia sounds, coupled with a willingness to travel far afield, provides a personalized journey through time to experience an original account of Civil War naval history."—Lawrence E. Babits, Director of Maritime Studies, East Carolina University, and author of A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens



book jacket for High Seas and Yankee Gunboats


6 x 9
208 pages
24 illustrations
ISBN 978-1-57003-572-2
hardcover, $29.95t

Studies in Maritime History

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