The Blockade Runners: ‘Catch Me If You Can!’: Part III
The beautiful side-wheeler Lynx, nicknamed “glamour girl of the sea,” lived up to her name. Like the lynx, a wildcat flirting with danger, she furtively “ran the blockade” while smuggling guns, machinery and raw materials into Wilmington. But whileheading out of the port, bound for Bermuda with a load of cotton and $50,000 worth of gold—payment for past cargoes—she was sighted by three Union warships, the Howquah, Niphon and Buckingham. Soon the spider and the fly, fox and hound game began. The Confederate ship was so fast, she almost succeeded in running between the Union ships and back out to sea. Confederate gunfire from shore helped a little bit, but not enough. The Howquah fired two percussion shells from 30-pounder rifles, one striking the ship’s paddle box and the second damaging the forward structure. The Niphon delivered several broadsides below the waterline, forcing the Lynx to turn back toward shore where she ran aground near Half Moon Battery, five miles above Ft. Fisher. The Howquah, with an injured sailor struck by a bullet, abandoned pursuit and sought a surgeon aboard the Buckingham. Most of the gold and some of the cotton was salvaged before the Lynx burned and sank in shallow water near Half Moon Battery. The Lynx and scores of other blockade runners remain historic time capsules sunk in the Graveyard of the Atlantic. They lie on the shifting sands of a bending coastline and the treacherous shoals of Cape Fear. Exploring them is no picnic. Currents, sediment and sometimes zero visibility discourage some divers, but those truly interested in history labor on. The Condor is a popular site lying 700 yards off Kure Beach in 25 feet of water. Much of the wreck remains including her paddle wheels, engine and parts of the superstructure scattered across the bottom.
Those who have been fortunate enough to work with conservancy groups have helped foster unity and cooperation among blockade runner history buffs and museum officials. That’s where the blockade runners sail again—in the many museums that harbor their narratives and artifacts. Moreover, they live in the hearts of those who seek to restore the heritage that will forever belong to Old Dixie.
Note: Blockade runner artifacts are on display at the North Carolina Museum at Raleigh, the North Carolina Museum at Beaufort, the North Carolina Museum at Southport and the Ft. Fisher State Historic Site and Museum, Kure Beach. Information about the museums and diving on the wrecks may be obtained by calling: (919) 814-6550. For general information, Google: North Carolina Dept. of Natural & Cultural Resources (DNCR).
Author: Ellsworth Boyd
Ellsworth Boyd, Professor Emeritus, College of Education, Towson University, Towson, Maryland, pursues an avocation of diving and writing. He has published articles and photo’s in every major dive magazine in the US., Canada, and half a dozen foreign countries. An authority on shipwrecks, Ellsworth has received thousands of letters and e-mails from divers throughout the world who responded to his Wreck Facts column in Sport Diver Magazine. When he’s not writing, or diving, Ellsworth appears as a featured speaker at maritime symposiums in Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, New York and Philadelphia. “Romance & Mystery: Sunken Treasures of the Lost Galleons,” is one of his most popular talks. A pioneer in the sport, Ellsworth was inducted into the International Legends of Diving in 2013.