The Lake Smugglers
Lake Michigan dominates the east side of Chicago. Locals still spend warm days by the lake relaxing, but the lake is no longer the center of commerce it once was. British ships have blockaded access to the Atlantic through the Great Lakes, although the Union Navy pretty much controls the region around Chicago itself. Some companies still use the Lakes for local commerce, particularly with other Northern states, so the docks are not entirely dead.
They’re certainly not dead when it comes to smugglers. Every month significant quantities of food, supplies, and even ghost rock go missing from Chicago’s warehouses. Smugglers steal from the Union warehouses and then sell the stuff to either the Brits or the Confederacy. The Army and Union Blue check train cargoes closely, so most of the smuggling of these stolen goods takes place by boat.
The Navy has tried to crack down on this ring of thieves but so far they have met with little success. They estimate that for every ship carrying contraband that they capture, five or six others escape them.