Fast ships, easy money and sudden danger arrive in the Bahamas when the Civil War transforms a sleepy tropical port into a haven for Confederate blockade runners. From sordid waterfront taverns to the Governor’s mansion, to the elegant Royal Victoria Hotel, sailors, spies, fortune seekers, and adventurers cut deals and cut loose while preparing for the next harrowing trip through the blockade’s deadly ring of fire and steel. Here a daring captain with a fast ship can quickly become rich…or dead. Nassau is the exciting story of how the Civil War changed a once quiet port and the people who lived there.
Behind the Scenes: The story behind Nassau
Most books begin with an idea. Nassau began with a vacation. Barbara and I were in the Bahamas and set off to explore Nassau one day. After seeing the usual tourist sites, we came upon an overgrown park-like area that had a profusion of exotic plants and flowers, all seemingly neglected. In the center of this area was the shell of a concrete building. The building had obviously been pretty big for Nassau, and looked to be the victim of a fire. A small sign said the building was the remains of the Royal Victoria Hotel, and that the hotel had been headquarters for American blockade runners during the Civil War.
This seemed to be far more interesting than the warmed-over pirate tales the guides were feeding the other tourists so I started to research more information.
During the Civil War, the Union Navy blockaded southern ports to cut off trade to the Confederacy. The south tried to beat the blockade with blockade runner ships, small, fast steamers that could slip in and out of the Union blockade to trade southern cotton to England for arms, munitions, and medicine. Nassau functioned as a transfer port and the hotel was the place for blockade runners to rest and party between runs.
The rise and fall of the Royal Victoria and all the riotous living and skullduggery that went on there in connection with the Blockade became the basis for my historical novel Nassau. In Nassau, I explored why the Blockade was implemented, how the Blockade and the Blockade runners operated and how the sudden influx of money and mariners affected the once sleepy tropical port.
After the war, the hotel’s clients disappeared, but the Royal Vic struggled on until a fire put it out of business for good in 1979. A few years after we saw it, even the burned out shell was gone. Now the site is occupied by a government building, and the vanished hotel is commemorated only by a small plaque.