Sailing Into History

Imagine the mixture of fear and excitement being in the midst of the American Civil War.

That’s exactly what seaman Joannes Wyllie from the Scottish Borders endured and now he has gone down in history as one of the most successful blockdale runners in the war.

Fascinated by the life and adventure of this extra-ordinary man, writer John F Messner has dedicated a wonderful book which tells Wyllie’s untold story.

American born Messner is now the curator of the Riverside Museum in Scotland and has used his spare time to research and put into words, the contribution of Wyllie.

Born in 1828 near Kelso, Wyllie went to sea as an apprentice in 1852 and quickly rose through the ranks and by 1862 he had gained his masters certificate in Liverpool and took command of his first vessel, the Bonita.

He headed for Nassau, then a vibrant port which was running contraband through the Union blockade of the Confederate States and at that time the American Civil War was in earnest.

Wyllie was joined by many other British sailors encouraged by the fortune that could be made and on the return journey, two agents from the State of North Carolina, Thomas Crossan and John White, were travelling to Britain on the orders of Governor Zebulon Vance to buy ships to run the blockade. They bought the Clyde built paddle steamer Lord Clyde and renamed it Ad-Vance.

Taking command, Wyllie was in charge until her capture in September 1864. Two more commands of blockade runners followed and he was caught again, but managed to evade the American authorities through an ingenious and somewhat unbelievable escape to Scotland.

Following the war, Wyllie settled in Scotland as a farmer and Messner’s book is a wonderful insight into a fascinating life, with a potted history of Wyllie’s time onboard Ad-Vance and also featuring a collection of passenger diaries, memories from crew members, official war records and telegrams between the commander and officials on dry land.

A truly inspiring read.

Blockade Runner by John E Messner

Publication date: July 2021
UK price: 18.99
ISBN: 978-184995-482-2
Format: 240 x 170mm, portrait format, softback
Pages: 272
Illustration: 70 illustrations and maps plus 8 page colour section

A Scottish Blockdale Runner in the American Civil War
By John E Messner
Published by Whittles Publishing

For more information and to purchase a copy of the book, please visit:

Author Bio:

Rebecca Hay is an experienced travel writer and member of The British Guild of Travel Writers. Follow her adventures with her family on Twitter and Instagram @emojiadventurer and on Facebook via EmojiAdventurers2.

Images courtesy of Whittles Publishing

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