This week, the intriguing story of an American who arrived in Liverpool on a secret mission and never left…
James Dunwoody Bulloch was born in 1823 in Georgia, a southern US state heavily dependent on its cotton-based economy and the slaves on its plantations. He joined the US Navy at the age of 16, but by the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, was commanding a passenger mail ship for the Cromwell Steam Company. Asked to carry Unionist soldiers being sent to the South to crush the Confederacy rebellion, Bulloch resigned his commission and enlisted in the Confederate States Navy.
Confederate secret service agent
Bulloch arrived in Liverpool on 4 June 1861, charged with the task of buying or building ships for the Confederate Navy to help in its struggle against the Unionists. This was a sensitive and dangerous mission as English law prohibited the supply of armed war vessels to foreign countries at war. Investigated several times for illegal activity, he managed to stay one step ahead of the authorities. He built a relationship with the shipping firm Fraser & Trenholm and worked from its offices in Rumford Place in Liverpool city centre. His role included arranging for cotton to be smuggled past the Union blockade and providing the Confederacy with its only real source of income throughout the conflict.
In 1862, he commissioned the building of the CSS Alabama from John Laird Sons & Company (Cammell Laird, Birkenhead). This was used successfully for commerce raiding, attacking Union merchant ships and disrupting trade.
“An American by birth, an Englishman by choice.”
The Confederacy collapsed in 1865, and the US authorities never forgave Bulloch for his role in the Civil War. He chose to remain in Liverpool, living out his days as a successful cotton importer and broker. He died at his son-in-law’s home at 76 Canning Street in 1901 at the age of 77 and is buried in Toxteth Cemetery. A plaque over the entrance to the courtyard of Rumford Place bears his portrait as Agent of the CSS Alabama.
Louise McTigue is a freelance writer and researcher, writing on behalf of Sarsfield Memorials.