Appeal: The Blockade Runner Minna and The Malcomsons of Co. Waterford

One of the roles of the Irish in the American Civil War site is to assist researchers exploring different aspects of the Irish experience of the conflict. To that end James Doherty, of  Waterford Civil War Veterans and a founder of The 1848 Tricolour Celebration is seeking information relating to the Confederate Blockade Runner Minna, which had interesting connections to Waterford. James explains further:

On the 9th December 1863  the Union Steamship Circassian captured the blockade runner Minna off Charleston. The Minna was towed into Hampton Roads where its cargo was disposed of. One of the curious items onboard the Minna  was a consignment of bibles which had been in short supply since the outbreak of the war. The Circassian itself was a former blockade runner which had been captured earlier in the war. She had been an emigrant ship prior to the war and had served the Galway to New York route.

An 1862 Harper's Weekly engraving of captured blockade runners: The 'Circassian' is in the right foreground (Naval History and Heritage Command)

An 1862 Harper's Weekly engraving of captured blockade runners: The 'Circassian' is in the right foreground (Naval History and Heritage Command)

The Minna was apparently part owned by the Malcomsons of Portlaw, Co. Waterford, who were cotton merchants that had a workforce of over 2000 in their Waterford mill. As the war progressed two sons of the mill manager were dispatched to the South to try and reclaim some of the large amounts of money owed to the Malcomsons by the Confederate government. The two unfortunate men were never heard from again and their fate is unknown. The Malcomsons had by necessity backed the South, a decision which led to the eventual ruin of their business empire.

Due to its nature information on blockade running is scarce and the author of this post would greatly appreciate more information on the eventual fate of the Minna or any blockade runner with Irish connections. James Doherty can be reached at


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Categories: Guest Post, Waterford

Author:Damian Shiels

I am an archaeologist based in Ireland, specialising in conflict archaeology.

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13 Comments on “Appeal: The Blockade Runner Minna and The Malcomsons of Co. Waterford”

  1. Sean O'Connell
    January 13, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    Lifeline of the Confederacy: Blockade Running During the Civil War – Stephen R. Wise. says the Minna was ‘Built in Newcastle, England 1858, Melchir G. Klingender for Fraser, Trenholm and Company; Purchased for L9000; Served as a transport between Nassau and Liverpool for most of her career; Captured off Cape Romain, S.C. December 9, 1863, by the Circassian; Sold by prize court to private interests; Lost in 1876’

    • January 16, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

      Hi Sean,

      Thanks for the information, I will pass it on to James!

      Kind Regards,


  2. January 16, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

    Thanks Sean and thanks again Damien.

  3. January 17, 2012 at 12:31 am #

    Sorry don’t know a thing about blockade runners—except that CSS Alabama was a sore spot between British and American governments—–well into 1866

  4. January 21, 2012 at 8:13 am #

    Wreck Report for ‘Minna’, 1889

  5. January 22, 2012 at 4:04 am #

    I realise that my earlier post is the “wrong Minna” I did find this “In 1873 when two German merchant ships, The Gazelle and Maria Louisa was surrounded in the waters of Sulu and its cargo were seized. Not long after, was a German brig, Minna, was also captured by the Spanish navy.”
    at this site

  6. January 24, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    The Minna mentioned here was renamed ‘The Planet’.

  7. January 17, 2015 at 9:46 pm #

    Minna appears to have been re-named “Oriental” according to Bureau of Ships Record of American and Foreign Shipping 1870. see:
    However, date of build is at variance with Tyne Built ships info .
    Article by Francis Bradlee Essex Institute Historical Collections 1920 identifies Oriental as “former southern blockade runner built in England in 1858”.
    Even with differences I believe this is the same vessel. The Oriental was on a regular steamship route from Boston to Charlottetown PEI in the late 1860s. I do not know her fate.

  8. Tommy Deegan
    January 5, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    The Malcomson Family did not go under because of the American Civil War, this company were also heavily involved in ship-building and shipping. The firm got into financial difficulties following the collapse of their London based bank Overend, Gurney & Co. the bank collapsed with a loss of £15,000,000 most of this capital was Malcomson capital. The company did indeed have a large cotton interest at Portlaw, Co. Waterford, this however, was not the company’s main source of income, it;s shipping interests generated the main capital. A new steamer named (most likely) after the above vessel 633 ton screw steamer Minna arrived in Waterford on May 24th. 1865, it had been built in Glasgow for the Messrs. Malcomson Company.

    • January 19, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

      Hi Tommy,

      Many thanks for this detail! I will pass it on to James. I am very keen to visit Portlaw as I have not managed it yet, I saw it on Nationwide last night and it looked fantastic.

      Kind Regards,


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