A question about ACW blockade runners

By Rob Morgan

In my collection of 1/1200th American Civil War models, I have a number of blockade runners, rarely used in any game, but I like them. Mars and Banshee are delightful models, made by Skytrex and Navwar ages ago. But, I have just read a report on the Society for Nautical Research 2019 conference at Bristol. In an account of specialised gunboats being built for use against the Russian Baltic forts during the Crimean War (1854-56), the commentator writes of the intention to paint them in a form of camouflage:

“Blockade Runners were often painted ‘Mist Greyto help them hide from Union blockaders in fog banks.”

Now, I didn’t realise that fog and mist were a prominent feature of the waters around the Southern ports of the Confederacy, but is this statement correct? If it is, can someone tell me what the shade of ‘mist grey’ is or was?  I know that in this part of the world, occasionally flat white was used to hide ships. Can anyone help?

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2 Responses to A question about ACW blockade runners

  1. Mark ManofTIN says:

    Interesting question. Have you read the Blockade Runners novella by Jules Verne? Nice Luath edition with history notes https://www.luath.co.uk/fiction/the-blockade-runners

  2. Robert Walker says:

    Thanks for the kind words about the Navwar “Mars”. I made the plastic master many years ago.

    I can’t claim any knowledge of weather conditions off the American coast. However, it was realised by WW2 that a ship at night generally appeared as a dark shape and could be more effectively hidden by light colouration (e.g. Schnellboot Weiss) than dark.

    http://www.prinzeugen.com/colors.htm

    https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1DIMC_enGB891GB891&source=univ&tbm=isch&q=schnellboot+weiss+color&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjQ5OzGtaDqAhUXhlwKHU1HACYQsAR6BAgJEAE&biw=1920&bih=937

    I wonder if blockade runners discovered this with slightly different intentions 80 years earlier.

    Several contemporary photographs depict blockade runners in a pale colour scheme. The Time-Life Civil War volume “The Blockade” describes this as a dull gray. This certainly agrees with the privately-held painting shown on Pages 92-93 of my copy, but the blockade runners shown in the painting of St George Bermuda on Page 89 seem much paler:

    https://www.1st-art-gallery.com/William-Torgerson/Blockade-Runners-In-Port-At-St.-George-Bermuda-C.1861-65.html

    as does this one:

    http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20120414/ISLAND09/704149973&template=mobileart

    Dave Horner in “The Blockade Runners” (Dodd, Mead & Company, NY, 1968) describes this as “a lead gray color or a light cloudlike color”. That agrees with models here:

    https://www.ssplprints.com/image/84639/ps-colonel-lamb-1864

    and here:

    https://www.bidsquare.com/online-auctions/cowans/model-of-the-blockade-runner-fergus-aka-presto-522030

    To go full-circle, though, the model here looks to be rather darker:

    https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g34859-d103688-i234320859-National_Civil_War_Naval_Museum-Columbus_Georgia.html

    No doubt you can dig much deeper into this question if you want. However, identification of any precise colour/shade must by now lost be lost in the mists of time (‘scuse the pun).

    I’m afraid my model of “Mars” is a more traditional black with brown paddle-boxes and even some white boot-topping, but it was painted a long time ago…. I notice that I built up the stern freeboard a bit, as my copy seemed to have slipped in the mould. Good luck with yours!

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