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Topic Sixty-four:  The Navy and Ironclads in the Civil War

Ironclads of the Civil War Learning Activity

National Ensign

Union Navy Jack

Confederate States National Ensign

Confederate Navy Jack

U.S. Civil War Naval Ships, Men and Battles--Confederate and Union
A Part of My Civil War Weapons & Warfare Activity Page
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The turning point of the Civil War Naval War



       Prize is a term used in admiralty law to refer to equipment, vehicles, vessels, and cargo captured during armed conflict. The most common use of prize in this sense is the capture of an enemy ship and its cargo as a prize of war. In the past, the capturing force would commonly be allotted a share of the worth of the captured prize. Nations often granted letters of marque that would entitle private parties to capture enemy property, usually ships. Once the ship was secured on friendly territory, it would be made the subject of a prize case, an in rem proceeding in which the court determined the status of the condemned property and the manner in which it was to be disposed of.


       . . . One of the prettiest captures made off Wilmington was that of the Ellaand Anna, by Acting Master J. B. Breck of the Niphon, in the following November. Breck was an officer of pluck and resource, and he won a name for himself by his dashing successes on the Wilmington blockade. About five o'clock on the morning of the 9th of November, as he was returning along the shore from a chase near Masonboro Inlet, he discovered a side-wheel steamer to the northward, stealing along toward the entrance of the river. Outside of her lay a blockader, which opened on her with grape, and the blockade-runner, finding herself intercepted, steered directly for the Niphon with the intention of running her down. Breck saw the intention, and fixed on his plan in an instant. Heading for the steamer, he formed his boarders on the bow. The blockade-runner dashed on at full speed under a shower of canister, and struck him a blow that carried away his bowsprit and stem. In a moment, his boarders were over the rail and on the deck of the blockade-runner; and a few seconds made her a prize. She had on board three hundred cases of Austrian rifles and a quantity of saltpetre; and the prize-sale netted $180,000. The Ella and Anna was taken into the service, and in the next year, under her new name of the Malvern, became famous as the flagship of Admiral Porter.



A . . . The Trent Affair was perhaps the most well known "Prize Case," from the Civil War.  Find information on this historical event.  Gather names of participants, including the U.S. Naval Officer who seized the British ship.   How did President Lincoln handle the Trent Affair, and finally what was the court decision about the "Prize."  Search for any letters or use the Harper's Weekly article as primary sources to gather facts. 

B . . . What kind of ship was this, what was it's name, and who was the commanding officer of the ship.  Find what happened to the British ship, its' crew and the contents on it.  What did Washington politicians and past presidents think about the Trent Affair.  Read from the Library of Congress Lincoln Papers to find information about Lincoln's response to the Trent Affair.  Make a list of information gathered.

C . . . Find two other Confederate or foreign ships that were seized by American military ships and made "prizes.'  Provide details of these ships including name, crew, commanding officers, and what the ship was hauling.  Get pictures and facts about each.

D . . . Go to Harpers Weekly article on SonsoftheSouth.net site and find facts about the Trent Affair to be able to make a computer presentation or poster with fact boxes, illustrations and ships' pictures.  This will be a culminating activity concerning the Trent Affair.


Check the U.S. Navy Civil War Sesquicentennial Blog Site for a Series of Articles

Visit the Prize Court Site for Information 

You can record your answers in a Navy Form each part of the activity.

Visit the Blockades Page for Information

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