About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for British Blockade Runners of the American Civil War: The Story of Joannes Wyllie

Greetings from the National Archives’ flagship building in Washington, DC, which sits on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank peoples. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s program about British blockade runners of the Civil War.

Before we begin, I’d like to tell you about two programs coming up this month on our YouTube channel.

On Tuesday, November 16, at 1 p.m., Gayle Jessup White, a Black descendant of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings’s family, will discuss her new book Reclamation, which explores her journey to understand her heritage. Historian Annette Gordon-Reed will join the author in conversation.

And on Friday, November 19, at 1 p.m, Michael Burlingame will tell us about his new book, The Black Man’s President, and discuss Abraham Lincoln’s personal connections with Black people over the course of his career.

* * *

One of Abraham Lincoln’s first acts as President in 1861 was to blockade the ports of southern states that had recently seceded from the Union. The blockade intended to deprive those states of the needed materials required to wage war.

In response, the Confederate government, some state governors, and private individuals purchased ships that would evade the blockade and bring in the needed goods. They looked to the shipyards of Britain, particularly Glasgow and Liverpool, to obtain and fit out steamers.

Joannes Wyllie, commander of the steamer Ad-Vance, was one of the thousands of British sailors who ran the blockade of Confederate ports during the Civil War.

Beginning with the story of Captain Wyllie, our guest speakers will look into why so many British vessels were involved in the conflict even though Britain remained officially neutral during the American Civil War. Sources for today’s story include Civil War prize cases files from the National Archives at New York City and at Boston—which are available in our online Catalog—and archival sources from Great Britain and the State Archives of North Carolina.

* * *

It is now my pleasure to introduce our three panelists:

John F. Messner—curator of Transport and Technology at the Glasgow Museums and author of A Scottish Blockade Runner in the American Civil War: Joannes Wyllie [of the Steamer Ad-Vance,

Stephen R. Wise—an expert on the blockade and author of Lifeline of the Confederacy, and

Vann Evans—audiovisual materials archivist at the State Archives of North Carolina and contributor to “Connecting the Doc,” a podcast where archivists connect archival materials to fascinating, true stories from the past.

Thank you for joining us today.