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Title: The Story of the Kearsarge and Alabama
Author: Browne, A. K.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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A few obvious typographical errors have been corrected, and they are
listed at the end of this book.



   THE STORY

   OF THE

   KEARSARGE

   AND

   ALABAMA.

   SAN FRANCISCO:
   HENRY PAYOT & CO., PUBLISHERS.

   1868.



   Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by

   EDWARD BOSQUI & CO.,

   In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, for
   the District of California.

   EDWARD BOSQUI & CO., PRINTERS.
   517 Clay Street, San Francisco.



The Author is induced to publish this narrative of the Kearsarge and
Alabama, from the want that exists of a popular, detailed, and yet
concise account of the engagement between the two vessels.



THE STORY.


On Sunday, June 12th, 1864, the U. S. Steamer Kearsarge was lying at
anchor in the Scheldt, off Flushing, Holland. Suddenly appeared the
cornet at the fore--an unexpected signal, that compelled absent officers
and men to repair on board. Steam was raised, and immediately after a
departure made, when all hands being called, the nature of the
precipitate movement became apparent. Captain Winslow, in a brief
address, announced the welcome intelligence of the reception of a
telegram from his Excellency, Mr. Dayton, Minister Resident at Paris, to
the effect that the notorious Alabama had arrived the day previous at
Cherbourg, France; hence, the urgency of departure, the probability of
an encounter, and the confident expectation of her destruction or
capture. The crew responded by cheers.

The succeeding day witnessed the arrival of the Kearsarge at Dover,
England, for dispatches, and the day after (Tuesday) her appearance off
Cherbourg Breakwater. At anchor in the harbor was seen the celebrated
Alabama--a beautiful specimen of naval architecture, eliciting encomiums
for evident neatness, good order, and a well-disciplined crew,
indicative of efficiency in any duty required. The surgeon of the
Kearsarge proceeded on shore and obtained pratique for boats. Owing to
the enforcement of the neutral twenty-four hour regulation, to anchor,
became inexpedient; the result was the establishment of a vigilant
watch, alternately, at each of the harbor entrances, which continued to
the moment of the engagement.

On Wednesday, Captain Winslow paid an official visit to the Admiral
commanding the Maritime District and the U. S. Commercial Agent,
bringing on his return the unanticipated news that Captain Semmes
declared his intention to fight. At first, the assertion was hardly
credited, the policy of the Alabama being regarded as in opposition to a
conflict, but even the doubters were speedily half convinced when the
character of the so-called challenge was disclosed, viz.:

                "C. S. S. ALABAMA, Cherbourg, June 14th, 1864.

        "TO A. BONFILS, Esq.,
                         "Cherbourg--

     "_Sir_: I hear that you were informed by the U. S. Consul, that the
     Kearsarge was to come to this port solely for the prisoners landed
     by me, and that she was to depart in twenty-four hours. I desire
     you to say to the U. S. Consul that my intention is to fight the
     Kearsarge, as soon as I can make the necessary arrangements. I hope
     these will not detain me more than until to-morrow evening, or
     after the morrow morning at farthest. I beg she will not depart
     before I am ready to go out.

          "I have the honor to be

                        "Very respectfully,
                             "Your obedient servant,
                                  "R. SEMMES,
                                       "Captain."

This communication was sent by Mr. Bonfils to the U. S. Commercial
Agent, Mr. Liais, with a request that the latter would furnish a copy to
Captain Winslow for his guidance. There was no other defiance to combat.
The letter that passed between the commercial agents, was the challenge
about which so much has been written. Captain Semmes indirectly informed
Captain Winslow of his desire for a combat. Captain Winslow made no
reply, but prepared his ship to meet the opponent, thereby tacitly
acknowledging the so-called challenge and its acceptance.

Requisite preparations were immediately instituted for battle, with no
relaxation of the watch. Thursday passed; Friday came, and yet no
Alabama appeared. According to report, important arrangements were being
effected; a zeal was displayed in the reception of coals, the
transmission of valuables on shore, and the sharpening of swords,
cutlasses, boarding-pikes, and battle-axes. To the observer this
preparation confirmed the assurance of the certainty of a fight. An
intended surprise by night was suggested, and measures precautionary
taken. Dispatches were brought from Mr. Dayton, Minister at Paris, by
his son, who with difficulty had obtained permission from the Admiral
commanding to visit the Kearsarge. To preserve a strictly honest
neutrality, the French authorities had prohibited all communication with
the respective vessels. Mr. Dayton expressed the opinion that the
Alabama would not fight, though acknowledging the prevalence of a
contrary impression at Cherbourg; he departed for the shore with
intention to proceed immediately to Paris. In taking leave of the
Admiral, the latter mentioned the fixed determination of Captain Semmes
to engage with the Kearsarge on the day following (Sunday), and that he
imparted this intelligence, since no subsequent communication could be
had with the Kearsarge. Mr. Dayton consequently deferred his departure,
witnessed the action, telegraphed to Paris the result, and was one of
the first to repair on board and offer congratulations. He passed a
portion of Saturday night endeavoring to procure a boat to dispatch to
the Kearsarge the information acquired, but so securely was the coast
guarded by the enforcement of the Admiral's orders, that all his efforts
were useless.

At a supper in Cherbourg on Saturday night, several officers of the
Alabama met sympathizing French friends--the impending fight being the
chief topic of conversation. In confidence of an easy victory, they
boastingly proclaimed the intention either to sink the Federal or gain
another corsair. They rise with promise to meet the following night to
renew the festivity as victors, are escorted to the boat, and separate
with cheers and wishes for a successful return.

Sunday the 19th comes; a fine day, atmosphere somewhat hazy, little sea,
moderate westerly wind.

At 10 A.M. the crew are inspected at quarters and dispersed to attend
divine service at 11 o'clock. Seemingly no one thought of the Alabama,
for so long awaited and not appearing, speculation as to her probable
advent had ceased. At 10.20 the officer of the deck reports a steamer
coming from Cherbourg, a frequent occurrence, and consequently creates
no excitement. Soon, by the aid of a glass, he descries the enemy, and
shouts: "The Alabama!" Instantly all hands are called and the ship
cleared for action.

The position of the Kearsarge was off the eastern entrance to the
harbor, at a distance of nearly three miles, the Alabama approaching
from the western entrance, escorted by the French iron-clad frigate La
Couronne, and followed by a fore-and-aft rigged steamer, flying the
English yacht flag, the Deerhound. The frigate having convoyed the
Alabama outside the limit of French waters, with characteristic
neutrality, steamed back into port without delay; the yacht remained in
proximity to the scene of action. To avoid a question of jurisdiction,
and to prevent an escape of the Alabama to neutral waters in the event
of a retreat, the Kearsarge steamed to sea making final preparations,
the last being the sanding of decks (sufficiently suggestive of sober
thoughts), followed by the enemy, until a distance of about seven miles
from the shore was attained, when at 10.50 the Kearsarge wheeled,
bringing her head in shore, and presented starboard battery, being one
and a quarter miles from her opponent: the Kearsarge advanced rapidly,
and at 10.57 received the first broadside of solid shot at a distance of
eighteen hundred yards from the Alabama. This broadside cut away a
little of the rigging, but the shot chiefly passed over or fell short.
With increased speed the Kearsarge advanced, receiving a second and
part of a third broadside with similar effect. Arrived within nine
hundred yards of the Alabama, the Kearsarge, fearing a fourth broadside
with evident raking results, sheered and broke her silence by opening
with the starboard battery. Each vessel was now pressed under a full
head of steam, each employing the starboard battery, and to obviate
passing each other too speedily, and to maintain the bearing of the
respective broadsides, the circular method of fighting was necessitated,
each steering around a common center, from a quarter to half a mile
apart.

The action was now fairly commenced. One of the shot of the first
broadsides of the Kearsarge carried away the spanker-gaff of the enemy,
and caused his ensign to come down by the run. This incident was
received as a favorable omen by the fortunate crew, who cheered
vociferously and went with increased confidence to their work. Wild and
rapid was the firing of the Alabama, that of the Kearsarge being
deliberate, precise, and almost from the commencement productive of
death, destruction, and dismay. The Kearsarge gunners had been cautioned
against firing without direct aim, advised to elevate or depress the
guns with deliberation, and though subjected to an incessant storm of
shot and shell, proceeded calmly to their duty, and faithfully complied
with the instructions. The effect upon the enemy was readily perceived;
nothing restrained the enthusiasm of the crew. Cheer succeeded cheer,
caps thrown in the air or overboard, jackets discarded, one encouraging
the other, sanguine of victory, shouting as each projectile took effect:
"That is a good one;" "that told;" "give her another;" "down boys;"
"give her another like the last;" and so on, cheering, exulting, joyous
to the end. After exposure to an uninterrupted cannonading for eighteen
minutes without casualties, a sixty-eight-pound Blakely shell passed
through the starboard bulwarks below main rigging, exploded upon the
quarter-deck, and wounded three of the crew of the after-pivot gun. With
these exceptions, not an officer or a man of the Kearsarge received the
slightest injury. The unfortunates were speedily taken below, and so
quietly was the action performed, that at the termination of the fight a
large portion of the crew were unaware that any of their comrades were
wounded. Two shot entered the ports occupied by the thirty-twos, where
several men were stationed, and yet none were hit. A shell exploded in
the hammock-netting and set the ship on fire; the alarm calling to
fire-quarters was sounded, and persons specially detailed for a like
emergency, promptly extinguished the flames, while the remainder of the
crew continued at the guns without interruption.

Terrific was the effect of the eleven-inch shell upon the crew of the
doomed ship: many were torn asunder by shell direct, or horribly
mutilated by splinters. Her decks were covered with blood and the debris
of bodies. One gun (after-pivot) had its crew renewed four times,
fourteen out of nineteen men being disabled during the action. The
carnage around this gun was more frightful than elsewhere; so great was
the accumulation of blood and fragments of limbs, that a removal was
required before the gun could be worked. A man upon the bowsprit is
struck in the abdomen by a shot, staggers aft holding up his entrails,
and near the main hatch falls dead. Another is cut in twain, one-half of
the body going down the engine hatch, the other half remaining on deck.
A poor wretch paralyzed by fear leaves his station and vainly seeks
safety by a plea of indisposition; he is ordered to resume his position
at the gun, and not obeying, is killed by a pistol shot from the officer
commanding the division.

It is truly wonderful that so few casualties should have occurred on
board the Kearsarge with so large a percentage to her adversary--the
first having fired one hundred and seventy-three shot and shell, and the
second nearly double that number. Probably no future similar combat
will occasion like results.

The fight continues. The eleven-inch shell tell with astonishing
precision; one penetrates a coal bunker, and immediately a dense cloud
of coal-dust rises and like a pall hovers over the fated ship. Others
strike near the water-line between the main and mizzen masts, explode
within board, or passing through burst afar off. Crippled and torn the
Alabama moves less quickly and begins to settle by the stern, yet
relaxes not her fire, but returns successive broadsides, ever without
disastrous effect. Captain Semmes witnesses the dreadful havoc made by
the shell, especially by those of the after-pivot gun, and offers a
reward for its silence. Soon his battery is turned upon the particular
offending gun with endeavor to compel its abandonment; in vain, for its
work of destruction goes on. Captain Semmes places sharp-shooters in the
quarter boats to pick off the officers; in vain, for none are injured.
He views the surrounding devastation--a sinking ship, rudder and
propeller disabled, a large portion of the crew killed or wounded, while
his adversary is apparently but slightly damaged. He has completed the
seventh rotation on the circular tract and is conscious of defeat. He
seeks to escape by setting all available sail (foretrysail and two
jibs), leaves the circle and heads for the neutral waters of the French
coast. The speed of his vessel is lessened; in winding she presents the
port battery with only two guns bearing, and exhibits gaping sides. The
Alabama is at the mercy of the Kearsarge. Captain Semmes calls his
officers aft, briefly states the condition of the two vessels, and
orders a surrender to prevent a further loss of life.

The colors are struck and the Kearsarge ceases firing. Two of the junior
officers of the Alabama swear they will never surrender to a "damned
Yankee," but rather go down in the ship; in a mutinous spirit they rush
to the two port guns and open fire upon the Kearsarge. Captain Winslow,
amazed at this unwonted conduct of an enemy who had hauled down his flag
in token of surrender, exclaimed: "He is playing us a trick, give him
another broadside." Again the shot and shell go crashing through the
bulwarks, carrying death and destruction; the Kearsarge is laid across
the bows for raking and in position to employ grape and canister with
deadly effect. Over the stern of the Alabama is displayed a white flag,
her ensign half-masted, union down; Captain Winslow for the second time
orders a cessation of firing.

Captain Semmes in his report says: "Although we were now but four
hundred yards from each other, the enemy fired upon me five times after
my colors had been struck. It is charitable to suppose that a
ship-of-war of a christian nation could not have done this
intentionally." He had not the generosity to afford the explanation; he
is silent as to the renewal of the fight after his surrender; an act
which in christian warfare would, in severe justice, have authorized the
Kearsarge to continue firing until the Alabama had disappeared beneath
the waters; nay, even to have refused quarter to the survivors.

Thus ended the fight after a duration of one hour and two minutes.

Boats were now lowered from the humbled Alabama. A master's mate, an
Englishman, Fullam by name, came alongside the Kearsarge with a few of
the wounded, reported the disabled and sinking condition of his vessel,
and asked for assistance.

Captain Winslow demanded: "Does Captain Semmes surrender his ship?"
"Yes," was the reply. Fullam then solicited permission to return to the
Alabama with his boat and crew to assist in rescuing the drowning,
pledging his word of honor that when this act was accomplished, he would
come on board and surrender himself a prisoner. Unhappily Captain
Winslow granted the request. With less generosity, he could have
detained the rebel officer and men, supplied their places in the boat
from his own ship's company, secured more prisoners, and afforded equal
aid to the distressed. The generosity was abused as the sequel shows.
Fullam pulled to the midst of the drowning, rescued several officers,
proceeded to the Deerhound, cast his boat adrift, and basely violated
his proffered word of honor.

The Deerhound, after the conclusion of the fight, appears upon the
scene, and plays an important part. This yacht was built by the Messrs.
Laird, at the same yard with the Alabama. Coming under the stern from
the windward, the Deerhound was hailed, and her commander requested by
Captain Winslow to run down to the Alabama and assist in picking up the
men of the sinking vessel. Or, as Mr. Lancaster reported: "The fact is,
that when we passed the Kearsarge the captain cried out,--'For God's
sake do what you can to save them;' and that was my warrant for
interfering in any way for the aid and succor of his enemies." The
Deerhound steamed towards the Alabama, which sank almost immediately
after, lowered her boats, rescued Captain Semmes, thirteen officers, and
twenty-six men, leaving the rest of the survivors to the boats of the
Kearsarge, and departed directly for Southampton. Captain Winslow
permitted the yacht to secure his prisoners, anticipating their
subsequent surrender. Again was his confidence in the integrity of a
neutral misplaced. The assistance of the yacht, it is presumed, was
solicited in a spirit of chivalry, for the Kearsarge comparatively
uninjured, with but three wounded, possessed of a full head of steam,
was in condition to engage a second enemy: instead of remaining at a
distance of about four hundred yards from the Alabama, and from this
position sending two boats (others being unserviceable), the Kearsarge
by steaming close to the settling ship and in midst of the vanquished,
could have captured all--Semmes, officers, and men.

The Deerhound steams rapidly away. An officer approaches Captain Winslow
and reports the presence of Captain Semmes and many officers on board
the English yacht, considering the information authentic as it was
obtained from certain prisoners; he suggests the propriety of firing a
shot to bring her to, and asks permission. Captain Winslow chivalrously
replies in the negative, declaring that no Englishman who flies the
royal yacht flag, would act so dishonorable a part as to run away with
his prisoners when he had been asked to save them from drowning.
Meanwhile the Deerhound increases the distance from the Kearsarge;
another officer addresses Captain Winslow in language of similar effect,
but with more positiveness, that Semmes and his officers were on board
the yacht endeavoring to escape. With undiminished confidence in the
honor of the English gentleman, with continued chivalric spirit Captain
Winslow refuses to have a shot fired, not crediting the flight, saying
that the yacht was "simply coming round," and would not go away without
communicating. "I could not believe that the commander of that vessel
could be guilty of so disgraceful an act as taking our prisoners, and
therefore took no means to prevent it." Without this trust in chivalry,
Captain Winslow might have arrested the yacht in her flight, if only as
a prudential motive, reserving final action as to the seizure of the
passengers when time had been afforded for reflection.

No shot is fired: the Deerhound finally disappears with the great prize,
Semmes, and thus passed an opportunity of making this brilliant
engagement one of the most complete and satisfactory in naval history.

Captain Winslow erroneously thought that the Deerhound would not run
away with the rescued persons: in this opinion he was probably alone. An
excitement occurred as a consequent; an expression of regret for the
escape of the yacht and her coveted prize, after being as it were within
reach of the victors. The bitterness of the regret was manifest. The
famed Alabama, "a formidable ship, the terror of American commerce,
well armed, well manned, well handled," was destroyed, "sent to the
bottom in an hour," but her notorious commander had escaped: the eclat
of victory seemed already lessened.

At 12.24 the Alabama sank in forty-five fathoms of water, at a distance
of about four and a half miles from Cherbourg Breakwater, off the west
entrance. She was severely hulled between the main and mizzen masts, and
commenced settling by the stern before the termination of the conflict.
Her crew had jumped into the sea, supporting themselves by portions of
the wreck, spars, and other accessible objects, the water swept over the
stern and upper deck, and when thus partially submerged, the mainmast,
pierced by a shot, broke off near the head, the bow lifted from the
waves, and then came the end. Suddenly assuming a perpendicular
position, caused by the falling aft of the battery and stores, straight
as a plumb-line, stern first, she went down, the jibboom being the last
to appear above water. Down sank the terror of merchantmen, riddled
through and through, and as she disappeared to her last resting place,
not a cheer arose from the victors. To borrow the language of the
Liverpool _Courrier_: "Down under the French waters, resting on the bed
of the ocean, lies the gallant Alabama, with all her guns aboard, and
some of her brave crew, waiting until the sea yields up its dead."

Mounted on the summit of an old church tower, a photographic artist
obtained a good negative of the contest. An excursion train from Paris
arrived Sunday morning, bringing hundreds of pleasure-seekers who were
unexpectedly favored by the spectacle of a sea-fight. The events of the
day monopolized the conversation of Parisian society for more than a
week.

This grand artillery duel, or Sunday gladiatorial combat, occurred in
the presence of more than fifteen thousand spectators, who upon the
heights of Cherbourg, the breakwater, and rigging of men-of-war,
witnessed "the last of the Alabama." Among them were the captains and
crews of two merchant ships burnt by the daring rover a few days before
her arrival at Cherbourg. Their excitement during the combat was
intense, and their expressions of joy to the victors at the result, such
as only those who had suffered from the depredations of the Alabama
could give utterance to. Many were desirous to go on board the Kearsarge
to participate in the action, but so strictly was the neutrality law
observed, no intercourse was allowed.

The Alabama's wounded were brought on board the Kearsarge for surgical
attendance. Seventy persons, including five officers, were saved by the
boats. The conduct of Dr. Llewellyn, native of Wales, Assistant Surgeon
of the Alabama, deserves mention. He was unremitting in attention to the
wounded during the battle, and after the surrender, superintended their
removal to the Kearsarge, nobly refusing to leave the ship while one
remained. This humane duty performed, with inability to swim, he caused
two empty shell boxes to be attached to his waist, an improvised
life-preserver, and thus prepared leaped overboard. In the hurried
adjustment of the shell boxes, sufficient care was not taken to maintain
the center of gravity, the unfortunate gentleman failed to keep his head
above water, and before aid could be derived from his struggling
comrades, he was dead.

At 3.10 P.M. the Kearsarge anchored in Cherbourg harbor; the wounded
were transferred the same evening to the Hôpital de la Marine, and all
the prisoners, officers excepted, were paroled and set on shore before
sunset. The crew of both vessels harmonized after the fight, the
conquerors sharing their clothes, supper, and grog with the conquered.

The total casualties of the Alabama are not known, estimated at
forty-seven--a striking contrast to the three of the Kearsarge. Two of
these three recovered; one, the brave Gowin, died in hospital. The
behavior of this gallant sailor during and after the battle, as
described by the Executive Officer and Surgeon, is worthy of the highest
commendation. Stationed at the after-pivot gun, by the explosion of a
shell, he was seriously wounded in the left thigh and leg; in the agony
of pain, and exhausted from the loss of blood, he dragged himself to the
forward hatch, concealing the severity of injury, that his comrades
might not leave their stations for his assistance: fainting, he was
lowered to the care of the surgeon, whom poor Gowin, in acuteness of
suffering, greeted with a smile, saying: "Doctor, I can fight no more
and so come to you, but it is all right, I am satisfied, for we are
whipping the Alabama;" and subsequently: "I will willingly lose my leg
or my life if it is necessary." Lying upon his mattress he paid strict
attention to the progress of the fight, as far as could be elicited by
the sounds on deck--his face beaming with satisfaction whenever the
cheers of his shipmates were heard; with difficulty he waved his hand
over his head and joined in each exulting shout with a feeble voice. At
times he would comfort the other wounded by an earnest assurance that
"victory is ours!" Directly after the fight he desired the surgeon to
render him no further attention, for he was "doing well," requesting
that all his time should be devoted to the "poor fellows of the
Alabama." In the hospital he was resigned, thankful for being the only
victim, proud of his ship and shipmates, frequently asserting his
willingness to die after so glorious a victory. "This man, so
interesting by his courage and resignation," wrote the French
surgeon-in-chief, with uniform patience and cheerfulness, enlisted
general sympathy; all anxiously desired his recovery and sincerely
regretted his decease. Certainly one of the most interesting events of
the action is the heroic conduct of the brave Gowin.

An incident that ever occasions gratification in its relation, was the
singular coincidence of the lowering of the rebel colors by an early
shot from the Kearsarge, and the unfolding of the victorious flag by a
shot from the last volley of the Alabama, prior to surrender. At the
main peak of the Kearsarge the colors were stopped, that they might be
displayed if the ensign was carried away, and to serve as the emblem of
victory in case of a happy success. It will be remembered that the
Alabama's colors were brought down by a shot from one of the first
broadsides of the Kearsarge,--an auspicious omen for the sailor at the
commencement of battle. A shot from the last broadside of the Alabama
passed high over the Kearsarge, striking and carrying away the halyards
of the colors at the main peak, and in so doing, pulled sufficiently to
break the stop, and thereby unfurled the triumphant flag at the moment
the rebel ensign was struck in token of submission.

The Alabama was destroyed--the Kearsarge being so little damaged, that
if required, could have engaged another enemy. It is surprising that the
Alabama's fire should have produced so moderate an injury, for,
according to report, over three hundred shot and shell were discharged;
of these, thirteen took effect in the hull, and fifteen in sails,
rigging, boats, and smoke-stack. Luckily, a one hundred and ten-pounder
rifle shell which lodged in the stern post, raising the transom frame,
and a thirty-two-pounder shell that entered forward of forward-pivot
port, crushing water-ways, did not explode.

Captain Semmes, in his official report, says: "At the end of the
engagement it was discovered by those of our officers who went alongside
the enemy's ship with the wounded, that her midship section on both
sides was thoroughly iron-coated. This planking had been ripped off in
every direction by our shot and shell, the chain broken and indented in
many places, and forced partly into the ship's side. The enemy was
heavier than myself, both in ship, battery, and crew; but I did not know
until the action was over that she was also iron-clad." The
chain-plating of the Kearsarge, the "iron-clad" of Captain Semmes,
consisted of one hundred and twenty fathoms of sheet chains covering a
space amid-ships of forty-nine and one-half feet in length by sixteen
feet two inches in depth, stopped up and down to eyebolts with marlines,
secured by iron-dogs and employed for the purpose of protecting the
engines when the upper part of the coal bunkers was empty, as happened
during the action. The chains were concealed by inch deal boards as a
finish. The chain-plating was struck twice, by a thirty-two pound shot
in starboard gangway, which cut the chain and bruised planking, and by a
thirty-two-pounder shell, which broke a link of the chain,
exploded, and tore away a portion of the deal covering. Had the shot
been from the one hundred and ten-pounder rifle, the result would have
been different, though without serious damage, because the shot struck
five feet above the water line, and if sent through the side would have
cleared the machinery and boilers. It is proper therefore to assert that
in the absence of the chain-armor the result would have remained the
same, notwithstanding the common impression at the time, of an "iron
clad" contending with a wooden vessel. The chains were attached to the
ship's side more than a year previous to the fight, while at the Azores;
in subsequent visits to European ports they had attracted notice and
caused repeated comment. Strange that Captain Semmes did not know of the
chain-armor before the fight; supposed rebel spies had been on board,
there was no attempt at concealment; the same pilot was employed by both
vessels and visited each during the preparation for battle.

One hundred and sixty-three was the number of the crew of the Kearsarge,
including officers; that of the Alabama not definitely known, but from
the most reliable information estimated at nearly the same. The tonnage
of the former 1031, of the latter 1044. The battery of the Kearsarge
consisted of seven guns, two eleven-inch pivots, smooth bore, one
twenty-eight-pounder rifle, and four light thirty-two pounders; that of
the Alabama of eight guns, one sixty-eight-pounder pivot, smooth bore,
one one hundred and ten-pounder rifle pivot, and six heavy thirty-two
pounders. Five guns were fought by the Kearsarge, seven by the Alabama,
both with the starboard batteries. The Kearsarge had made thirteen and
one-half knots an hour under steam, the Alabama never exceeded thirteen,
and at the time of the action was only equal to ten. The vessels were
not unequally matched in size, speed, crew, and armament, displaying a
similarity not often witnessed in naval battles. The contest was
decided by the superiority of the eleven-inch Dahlgrens over the
Blakely rifle and smooth bore, in connection with the greater coolness
and accuracy in aim of the gunners of the Kearsarge.

"So ends the story of the Alabama," quoting again from the Liverpool
_Courrier_, "whose journal would be the most interesting volume of ocean
literature; whose ubiquity scared the commerce of America from the seas;
whose destructive powers have ruined property belonging to the northerns
valued at upwards of three millions of money; whose actions very nearly
involved these countries in war with the United States. The Americans
are indignant that the ship was built by British hands, of British oak,
armed with British guns, and manned by British sailors."

Numerous inaccuracies, suppressions, exaggerations, and discrepancies
exist in most of the accounts of this renowned naval engagement. The
first reports published in Europe were characterized by contradictions
sufficient to confuse any reader. This variance was noted by the London
_Daily News_ in the following manner: "The sceptic who called history a
matter-of-fact romance, should have lived in our day, when a naval
action is fought off Cherbourg on a Sunday, and reported to the London
and Paris newspapers on the Monday morning, no two reports agreeing in
any single fact, except in the result. In our enlightened epoch of
incessant, instantaneous, and universal inter-communication, the
difficulty of getting at the simple facts of any passing incident, in
which conflicting sympathies are concerned, increases in proportion to
the increasing celerity and certainty with which the materials of
history are gathered. Some allowance, no doubt, may be made for
eyewitnesses on shore of a naval engagement seven miles out at sea.
Their 'powerful glasses' are liable to that peculiar inaccuracy of sight
which distance, excitement, and smoke produce. A French gentleman, for
instance, who from Cherbourg Breakwater looked on at the American duel
on Sunday last, wrote a graphic letter to the _Debats_, with a
postscript to the effect that he had just discovered that the account in
his letter was entirely wrong."

Here ends the present story of the Kearsarge and Alabama. It is the
truth told honestly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note


A few obvious typographical errors have been corrected, and they are
listed below.

Page 20: "Hopital de la Marine" changed to "Hôpital de la Marine".

Page 24: "which which broke a link" changed to "which broke a link".

Page 27: "postcript to the effect" changed to "postscript to the effect".





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