| America First|
|by Lawton B. Evans|
|Collection of one hundred action-packed stories, covering the range of American history, from the first visit of Leif the Lucky to the exploits of Sergeant York in World War I. In relating the long, thrilling story of the trials and triumphs of the pioneers and patriots, the author aims to gratify the love of children for the dramatic and picturesque, to satisfy them with stories that are true, and to make them familiar with the great characters in the history of their own country. Ages 8-12 |
RUNNING THE BLOCKADE
DURING the Civil War, the harbors of the Southern ports were closely blockaded, so as to cut off supplies from
foreign countries. In spite of the watchful gunboats patrolling the coasts, there were many adventurous
blockade-runners, that slipped past the patrol, carrying supplies to the Confederacy, and bringing out cotton
and other products for foreign trade. The life of a blockade-runner was full of perils and thrilling
This is the story of how a blockade-runner made its way into Wilmington, North Carolina, which lies about
sixteen miles up Cape Fear River. At
 the mouth of the river was Fort Fisher, whose guns kept the blockading fleet some distance away, thus giving a
blockade-runner a chance to slip in, once under protection of the fort.
The mouth of the river was heavily patrolled by Federal vessels. There were three sections of them, one cordon
as near shore as was safe, and two others lying outside, so that a blockade-runner must needs be very alert to
get by their vigilance.
The Banshee was a blockade-runner operating from Nassau. On her first run into Wilmington, she
left the shores of the Bahamas, and crept noiselessly along, invisible in the darkness, and keeping well out
of sight of vessels in the daytime.
During the day, a man was stationed in the cross-trees, and the moment a sail was seen on the horizon, The
Banshee would turn in the opposite direction, until the sail was lost beyond the horizon. Every time
the look-out man saw a sail, he was given a dollar. If the sail was discovered first from the deck, the
lookout man was fined five dollars.
Thus, two days passed, and The Banshee neared her destination. The night was dark, but calm and
clear. No lights were allowed—not even a cigar. The steersman had to see as much of the compass as he
could through a shield that came
 almost to his eyes. Absolute silence prevailed, as the blockade-runner moved into the danger zone.
At length, they were opposite the mouth of Cape Fear River.
"Better cast a lead, Captain, to find the bottom," whispered the Pilot.
A muttered order down the engine-room tube, and The Banshee slowed down, and then stopped. The
lead was cast, and the report was "Sixteen fathoms—sandy bottom with black specks."
"Not far enough in, and too far southward," said the Pilot. "We must get away from that bottom before we head
At the end of an hour, the lead was cast again, and the Pilot whispered to the steersman, "All right, we are
opposite the mouth of the river. Starboard, and go easy."
The ship crept along slowly in the darkness. Not a sound was heard except the beat of the paddle floats.
Suddenly, the Pilot grasped the Captain's arm.
"There's one of them, on the starboard bow," he whispered.
A moment afterward, a long, low, black ship was seen, not a hundred yards away, lying still on the water.
The Banshee drifted by as noiselessly as possible. Not a movement was seen on
 the patrol boat, and, in a half-hour, it was lost in the darkness.
Not long afterwards came the whispered alarm, "Steamer on the port bow." Another cruiser was close by.
"Hard-a-port," said the Captain to the steersman, and The Banshee swung around, barely missing
Hardly had this second ship been passed, before a third one loomed up, dead ahead, steaming slowly across the
bows of The Banshee.
"Stop her," was the quick order down the engine-room tube, and The Banshee lay dead on the water.
"Instead of going round those blockaders, we are going through them," said the Pilot to the Captain. "Our only
hope is that they will not recognize us, and will take us for one of them."
Day was not far off, and The Banshee must make haste to get inside the cordons of the blockade.
She was headed straight for the white line of surf on the shore. As much speed as possible was made, and all
eyes were strained for any familiar landmarks.
Daylight now streaked the East. Fort Fisher was some distance off, and the gunboats were still on the watch
for blockade-runners. In a
 half hour, The Banshee would be safe, or else captured.
Six or seven gunboats appeared out of the mist, and headed for the blockade-runner, to discover her identity.
"Full steam ahead, and a race for the fort," cried the Captain.
Displaying her flag, she ran full steam toward the protecting guns of the fort. It was now a question of speed
and distance, for The Banshee was discovered, and her purpose was known! Boom! came the roar of
guns across the waters. Splash! Splash! fell the shells, uncomfortably near the runner, which was carrying a
cargo of ammunition.
But Fort Fisher was now awake, and the guns began to roar. Every minute brought The Banshee
nearer to safety, and the gunboats into greater danger. The guns from the fort rained shells over The
Banshee, and into the sides of her pursuers.
With a sullen roar, and a parting shot, the gun-boats drew off, and the blockade-runner glided under the walls
of the fort.
In and out ran The Banshee, trip after trip, bringing in guns, ammunition, and medicines, and carrying
out cotton and tobacco. Her daring crew had many narrow escapes before the war came to an end.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics