The ability of the Southern Blockade runners, like the “Will O’ the Wisp” to pass undetected between them at night so immensely frustrated the Union captains in command of the Charleston blockade that they began to refer to the runners as “black snakes.” Promising naval careers were scuttled by their inability to successfully intercept the daring blockade runners.
Commander John Downes of the Federal gunboat “Huron” sent the following letter back to his superiors in Washington, D.C.
“I would be glad if I could impress upon you some faint notion of how disgusting it is to us, after going through the anxieties of riding out a black, rainy, windy night at three fathoms of water, with our senses on alert for sounds of paddles or sight of miscreant violation of our blockade, and when morning comes to behold him lying placidly inside of Fort Sumter as if his getting there was the most natural thing in the world, and the easiest.”
The Charleston Mercury reported, “No ghost could move more silently among the Yankee junkers. The “Will O’ the Wisp” appears to be able to cast a spell which closes the eyes and obscures the glass of our maritime sentries.”
To learn more about this veritable phantom ship please read my new Charleston-based Civil War fiction novel, “Will O’ the Wisp: Madness, War, and Recompense” available on Amazon, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble.