New book reveals remarkable Fife son’s gun-running role in American Civil War

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The remarkable story of a Fife son has been revealed in a new book which reveals his role gun-running to the confederate south during the American Civil War.

The life and remarkable times of Joannes Wyllie is detailed in John F. Messner’s new book which recalls the history of the Clyde-built paddle steamer Ad-vance, and its role in the historic battle.

Wyllie, the son of a Fife gardener, was born in Kelso in 1820, and travelled the world.

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It was a life filled with adventure - he was once declared dead, survived shipwrecks and shark attack, and commanded ships across the globe.

Joannes WyllieJoannes Wyllie
Joannes Wyllie

He started as an apprentice seaman, and quickly rose through the ranks.

The first vessel under his command set sail to Nassau, then a booming port involved in running contraband through the Union blockade of the Confederate States, at that time fighting in the American Civil War.

Sailors from Britain rushed to man these vessels as great fortunes could be made if a successful run was made into a Confederate port.

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On the return journey, two agents of the State of North Carolina travelled to the UK to purchase ships to run the blockade which Union forces deployed at Confederate ports to prevent the export of cotton and smuggling guns to the Confederacy.

Wyllie stepped into this world and made a fortune, and this new book explores in depth the role he played during the Civil War when he was a constant face, and force, in the crew of the steamer.

He was aboard from the start of the vessel's new career until her capture in September 1864. He was also seized, but evaded the American authorities through an ingenious escape to Scotland.

After several more years at sea, he returned home and settled as a farmer.

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Councillor David McDonald, who chairs Glasgow Life, said: “The research undertaken for this book by John Messner is a tremendous asset to Glasgow Museums.

“It highlights Glasgow’s rich shipbuilding history.”In a foreword, Dr Stephen R. Wise, author of Lifeline of the Confederacy, said: “John has done a fine and commendable job in bringing to life the varied and fascinating career of Joannes Wyllie."

A Scottish Blockade Runner In The American Civil War, by John F. Messner,

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