Confederate War Ship Photo (1865)

Photograph of Confederate Warship Hercules sent from U.S. Consul in Liverpool, England to U.S. Department of State

February 22, 1865

From the early days of photography, pictures we used for intelligence gathering. During the Civil War, the Confederacy purchased many foreign ships, largely from Great Britain. While some were used to raid Union commerce ships, others were used to thwart the Union blockage and bring valuable supplies to the Confederate coast. 

Union intelligence gathering forces followed Confederate shipbuilding activities. The U.S. consulate in Liverpool, England was able to observe ships being built for the Confederacy. Union officials in England would send reports with detailed descriptions back to America so the Union Navy could identify Confederate ships and enforce the blockage. 

The photograph above is of the ship Hercules from February 1865 sent from the Union Consul in Liverpool to the U.S. Department of State. An earlier report described the warship Hercules as  “a double screw boat of about 500 tons  . . . one hundred and seventy feet long 25 feet breadth of beam and eleven and a half feet depth of hold, with a draught of water of nine feet marked; two engines combined one hundred and fifty horse power nominal, one funnel, two masts the fore one Brig rigged the last one schooner rigged, & the decks flush fore & aft.” 


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About the Author

Ari Siegel is the founder and CEO of and After growing up hearing WWII stories from both of his
grandfathers, he studied history at the University of Michigan. While working
in Washington D.C. and giving tours of the U.S. Capitol building, he was
inspired to take some of the thousands of historic documents that belong to the
American people, and make them more accessible.