James D. Bulloch Acts as European Agent for the Confederacy

Naval service and European agent of Confederacy Bulloch served in the United States Navy for 14 years before joining a private shipping company.

When the southern states attempted to leave the Union and the Civil War began in 1861, one of the first acts of Washington was to begin a strangling Federal naval blockade on the Confederacy. With these developments, Bulloch decided to serve the southern cause. In 1861, he offered to assist the Confederate States of America by travelling to Liverpool, to arrange the Confederacy's foreign affairs in England. Bulloch has been called the Confederacy's first secret service agent[verification needed].

In 1861, almost immediately after the attack on Fort Sumter, Bulloch traveled to Liverpool, England, and established a base of operations there. Britain was officially neutral in the conflict between North and South, but private and public sentiment favored the Confederacy. Britain was also willing to buy all the cotton that could be smuggled past the Union blockade, which provided the South with its only real source of hard currency. Bulloch established a relationship with the shipping firm of Fraser & Trenholm to buy and sell Confederate cotton; Fraser Trenholm became, in effect, the Confederacy's international bankers. Bulloch arranged for the construction and secret purchase of the commerce raider CSS Alabama as well as many of the blockade runners that acted as the Confederacy's commercial lifeline. Bulloch arranged for cotton to be converted to hard currency, which he used to purchase war material including arms and ammunition, uniforms, and other supplies. Bulloch also arranged for the construction of the CSS Florida and with the Alabama, these two ships were destined to prey upon the Union's merchant shipping. James' brother, Irvine, would serve and fight on the CSS Alabama. James also purchased a large quantity of naval supplies. Next, realizing that he must arrange for a steady flow of new funds before he could go much farther with his purchasing program and also prompted by the fact that the materiel of war that he had already acquired would be useless to the Confederate cause as long as it remained in England—he decided to buy a steamship (the CSS Atlanta), to fill it with the ordnance that he and an agent of the Southern War Department had accumulated, and to take her to America. Bulloch returned to England and continued his business relationship with Fraser & Trenholm in Liverpool. Bulloch was also involved in constructing and acquiring a number of other warships and blockade runners for the Confederacy, including purchase of the Sea King which was renamed the CSS Shenandoah. Bulloch instructed Captain James Iredell Waddell to sail “into the seas and among the islands frequented by the great American whaling fleet, a source of abundant wealth to our enemies and a nursery for their seamen. It is hoped that you may be able to greatly damage and disperse that fleet.” The CSS Shenandoah fired the last shots of the war on 28 June 1865 during a raid on American whalers in the Bering Sea.

Work for the Confederate Secret Service in North America

In the summer of 1864, future presidential assassin, John Wilkes Booth met with several well-known Confederate sympathizers at The Parker House in Boston, Massachusetts. In October 1864, Booth made a trip to Montreal, Canada which has never been fully explained. At the time, Montreal was a well-known center of clandestine Confederate activities. He spent ten days in the city and stayed for a time at St. Lawrence Hall, a meeting place for the Confederate Secret Service, and met at least one blockade runner there. Several historians indicate that it is possible that it was here that he also met Confederate Secret Service director James D. Bulloch as well as George Nicholas Sanders, a one-time U.S. ambassador to Britain.

At 16 James joined the U.S. Navy and quickly rose to the rank of Lieutenant but soon he hit a ceiling and needing money for his family he resigned his commission and took service with the Cromwell Steam Company.

At the outbreak of the Civil war in 1861 he was in command of a passenger mail ship, Bienville, which he was asked to sell to the Confederates. He refused but promised to resign his commission and join in their campaign.

When he arrived at his next destination, New York, and saw that his passengers were Union soldiers who were travelling to the south to put down the rebellion he resigned immediately and reported to the Confederate States Navy department to sign up.