South African Military History Society

NEWSLETTER No.251 Cape Town Branch NOVEMBER 1998

When Abraham Lincoln became President of the USA in 1861 he introduced the "Anaconda plan" with which to blockade the 3 000 mile long coastline of the Southern States in order to stop the importation of war material for their war effort, and at the same time halt the exportation of the money-generating cotton crop to Europe. This was the topic of fellow-member STAN LAMBRICK'S October lecture about the Role of the Navy in the American Civil War. Part II.

In April 1862, Federal Admiral Farragut, with a fleet of 38 warships, among them 18 new mortar schooners, captured the city of New Orleans, and thus gave the Army a base from which they could capture the lower part of the Mississippi river as far as Vicksburg. The Confederates possessed a small flotilla of gunboats, including the all-metal-ram. CSS Manassas, which was used to strike at the wooden hulls of the federal warships with great effect. The upper part of the Mississippi river system was captured by General Ulyssis S.Grant who made use of a flotilla of large gunboats in order to capture the Confederate fortifications such as Fort Henry and Donelson. He was then able to finally capture the last river fortress at Vicksburg with the assistance of the Navy on 4th July 1863.

An interesting historical sidelight is the fact that afterwards the population of Vicksburg refused to celebrate the 4th July, Independence Day, for the next 81 years.

By the end of 1861 the blockade of southern ports was starting to hurt the Confederacy, 'and in consequence the Government sanctioned the building of a number of seagoing cruisers in Gt. Britain which afterwards could be easily commissioned and fitted out as warships, and cruised the oceans of the world to strike at the undefended Union Commercial Fleet. The most fa- mous of these was the CSS Alabama which became part of our heritage through the famous Malay folksong "da kom die Alibama", when she called on Cape Town in August of 1863. The Alabama, together with the Florida, Georgia and the Shenandoah and half a dozen other warships succeeded in sinking a total 257 Federal commercial vessels in all the oceans of the world.

After the war the U.S. Government claimed 130 million dollars from Gt.Britain at the Alabama claims court held in Switzer- land in 1871/1873, because the ships were built for the Confederacy in British dockyards in contravention of British neu- trality and subsequently converted into warships. Eventually an amount of 15 million dollars was paid out in compensation. It is amazing that the Confederate Navy performed so well against the might and massive infrastructure of the North, and served the young country with the limited resources at its disposal both in manpower and raw materials. With a great number of excellent and rare slides Stan brought this most exciting period of American history to life, and the extended Q & A session afterwards undoubtedly proved how well his talk had been received by all present.

It is with sincere recret that we hear of the death of fellow member CAPT. PHILIP BLOCH. He will be best remembered as an avid militaria collector and a founder member of this same Society. His talks to our Society were most informative, and he was always willing to assist any collector with his vast knowledge and expertise. From 1942 he served in the 21st Coast Defence Regiment, settled in Rhodesia after the war, and then joined the SA Permanent Force where he was adjutant and stores officer of a signals unit in the Cape. Our sincere sympathies go to his wife and family.
NEW MEMBERS; The Committee invites fellow members to recruit new blood from among their friends, especially young people. Our numbers are slowly being eroded by resignations and old age, and unfortunately our efforts to engage newspapers and radio to promote the Society have met with deafening silence.
NEW BOOK: The late Group Captain Rupert Taylor's book on his early life at sea and in the RAF Coastal Command entitled: "Ripples in the Pond", is now available in soft cover from: Mrs Virginia Taylor @ 60,00 per copy. Tel: (031) 28 6550.
Elaboration to October-Newsletter: The following note arrived from fellow-member Dr.H.-G.M. Migeod: Between 1240/48, the County of Tyrol had evolved from the bishoprices Brixen and Trient, with a population made up of Bavarians and remnants of Rhaetians (romanized Gauls). The Counts resided near Meran. In 1363 the last Count bequeathed Tyrol to the House of Hapsburg, who were then the Emperors of the German Reich. But following the dictate of Trianon in 1919. Tyrol lost its southern part to Italy with the towns of Meran, Brixen, Bozen and Trient. The population in the ceded part consisted to 85% of Germans and to 15% of Rhaetians. A plebiscite was not allowed.

Meetings of the Cape Town Branch are normally held on the second Thursday of each month (barring December) at 20h00 (8.00 pm sharp), in the Recreation Hall of the SA LEGION'S ROSEDALE COMPLEX, Lower Nursery Road, Rosebank, (off Alma Road), opposite the Rosebank railway station, below the line. Visitors are welcome. Donation R 3.00. Scholars and Students free. Tea and biscuits will be served.

John Mahncke, (Vice-Chairman/Scribe), (021) 797 5167

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