William Howard Russell, the first great war correspondent, was an important contact for British Consul Robert Bunch, Our Man in Charleston. Here, Russell is traveling through the newly declared Confederate States of America.
From William Howard Russell's My Diary North and South:
President Lincoln had declared a blockade of Southern ports in April after the confederates seized For Sumter in Charleston Harbor. But Britain would not honor a "paper blockade" that was not enforced or enforceable. The Crown and all the major powers of Europe had signed an appendix to the Treaty of Paris in 1856 at the end of the Crimean war making that clear, even though the United States was not a signatory and, of course, the Confederate States had not existed.
So Her Majesty's Consul Robert Bunch spent much of the month of May and early June sailing out of Charleston Harbor to observe the presence of the Union fleet, or the lack of it, and to make sure that British merchant ships bottled up in Charleston harbor could sail fully loaded with cargo and without undo interference. At the same time, Bunch encountered ever greater difficulties communicating with his superiors in Washington and London, since the U.S. postal service had been terminated. He frequently resorted to private messengers, preferably Britons, to carry official correspondence north.
Passages from one of Bunch's letters to Lord Lyons, the British envoy to Washington, courtesy of the the Duke of Norfolk's Archives, Arundel Castle, West Sussex, U.K.:
June 6 - ... In these hard times, especially, scraps of important news are most welcome. We are beginning to feel the effects of the Blockade and interruption of mails as we get no new books and no papers, whilst the telegrams are exclusively Southern. ... This [letter] is to go by a young Englishman in 'the mercantile line,' Mr. John Baird. He has given me good references and is preferable to an American messenger.
Bunch had remonstrated with American officers who had stopped a British schooner from sailing, and persuaded them that it met the criteria for passage. He then sent one of them "a loin of veal and some fresh vegetables by way of showing him that he was forgiven." Meanwhile, his observations made it clear that the blockade, in general, was poorly enforced at that point, and he suggested Lord Lyons use that information in his talks with Union Secretary of State William Seward.
I hope that Your Lordship may see fit to let Mr. Seward have a copy of my [report] of arrivals and departures. I should particularly wish him to know that the two privateers [Confederate merchantmen armed as warships for commerce raiding] were goign to sail - this will be so pleasant - One has gone since yesterday. The line of the [Federal] government and its officers seems to be to say that everybody tells whoppers who does not agree with them. The Blockade was entirely at an end here for fourteen days. Mr. Seward, the Secretary of the Navy, Commodore Stringham and the capt. of the "Harriet Lane" to the contrary notwithstanding.
It is getting dreadfully hot and the summer bids fair to be pleasant. The ice will soon price out and lots of things are missing already. What it will be four months hence Your Lordship may judge."