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.”