The Civil War Connections Blog

Civil War on Spring Break

Hello faithful Connections followers! I apologize for the recent lack of blogs. I spent the past week frolicking in the Bahamas for my spring break, but I have a full post about the history of the Bahamas, and their Civil War Connections. Some friends and I went on a cruise, and were able to see a few island’s within the Bahamas and explore their local history, which is extremely fascinating.  There is so much there to explore, and their history is not always as recent as the Civil War. The Bahamas’ were a highly active area following the arrival of Christopher Columbus and the Spanish in the late 1400’s.


To start with, the word “bahama” comes from the Spanish word “baja mar,” meaning shallow sea, which makes sense seeing as the Bahamas are surrounded by very shallow water. One of my friends and I went jet-skiing off of the coast of Paradise Island, near Nassau, and we could not only see the fish in the water, but also the reef surrounding the coastline. Back in the 1600’s and 1700’s, the Bahamas were used by many pirates, including Blackbeard, because the shallow waters and multiple islands provided a good hiding place. Similarly, the shallow water also caused many shipwrecks, and many pirates could profit off of raiding the shipwrecks.


View of Great Stirrup Cay

View of Great Stirrup Cay. Not too hard to imagine pirates or rum runners here!


One of the islands we went to, Great Stirrup Cay, which is now privately owned by Norwegian Cruise Line, was used by Federal troops to store provisions. There have even been coral encrusted cannon balls found in the waters surrounding the island. We also visited Nassau, on New Providence Island, and Freeport, on Grand Bahamas Island. Both of these islands are considerably bigger and more densely populated than Great Stirrup Cay, and both benefited greatly during the American Civil War. Due to the Northern blockade of the South, Britain could not receive the Southern cotton that it was dependent on. Blockade runners would go from Charleston to Nassau to meet and trade with British ships, and then return to Charleston while attempting to avoid Union ships. From 1861 to 1865, the Bahamian economy greatly profited from this arrangement. Following the end of the Civil War, the economy plummeted, and did not experience much revival until the start of Prohibition in the United States in 1919, and the start of rum running. Currently the majority of the Bahamian economy is reliant upon tourism, especially from the United States.


Queen's Staircase in Nassau

Queen’s Staircase in Nassau, all of which was chiseled by hand in honor of Queen Victoria and her emancipation of the Bahamians.


There’s an abundance of history to be explored on the Bahamas. While on Nassau, my friends and I visited the Queen’s Staircase, a monument to Queen Victoria who freed the Bahamian people from slavery, and Fort Fincastle, a fort constructed by Governor John Murray in 1793. Unfortunately we were limited to one day per island, but there is definitely more of a day’s worth of exploration on the Bahamas. I know for a fact I’m going to have to go back some day, and not only explore more of the islands, but also try to find one of those coral covered Civil War cannons (try saying that three times fast).



Panoramic view of Nassau from the top of Fort Fincastle

Panoramic view of Nassau from the top of Fort Fincastle