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Title: Cruise and Captures of the Alabama
Author: Goodrich, Albert M.
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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_Copyright 1906, by Albert M. Goodrich._



The publication of the naval records of the Rebellion, both Union and
Confederate, makes it possible to take a comprehensive view of the career
of the famous cruiser. In addition to these, Captain Semmes kept a diary,
which after the close of the war he expanded into a very full memoir.
Various officers of the vessel also kept diaries, and wrote accounts of
their adventures, The long report of the Geneva Tribunal of Arbitration,
and various consular reports contain a great deal of information in regard
to the Alabama's inception and operations. All this voluminous material
has been gone over with care in the preparation of this volume, and the
facts are set forth in a trustworthy, and it is hoped also, in a readable




In the decade preceding the Civil War in America the carrying trade of the
United States had grown into a vast industry. The hardy seamen of New
England had flung out the stars and stripes to every breeze, and cast
anchor in the most remote regions where a paying cargo might be found. Up
to October, 1862, they hardly felt that they had more at stake in the war
of the Rebellion than any other loyal citizens. But in that month the news
swept along the seaboard that the Alabama lay within a few days' sail of
their harbors, dealing out swift vengeance upon all Northern vessels
which came in her way.

Whether or not the decline of American shipping is principally due to
unwise legislation, certain it is that its downfall dates from the
appearance in the mid-Atlantic of this awful scourge of the seas. Northern
newspapers called the craft a pirate, and no other word seemed to the New
England sea captains adequate to describe the ruthless destroyer. Although
regularly commissioned by the Confederate government, she never entered a
Confederate port from the time she left the stocks until she tried
conclusions with the Kearsarge off the coast of France; and this, together
with the further fact that her crew was chiefly of European
origin--largely English--was used as an argument that she could not be
considered as a legitimate vessel of war. None of the great nations of the
world adopted this view, however, and she was everywhere accorded the same
treatment that was extended to war vessels of the United States.

Early in 1861 there sprang up in England a thriving trade in arms and
munitions of war. While the cotton spinners of Lancashire were suffering
from the loss of their usual supply of raw material, owing to the blockade
of the ports of the Confederacy, the merchants of Liverpool were turning
their attention to supplying the belligerants with the equipment necessary
for the continuance of the conflict. Sales were made directly or
indirectly to the Federal government, but the higher prices offered in the
South tempted many to engage in the more hazardous traffic with the
government at Richmond.

As the blockade gradually became more efficient, insurance companies
refused longer to take the risk of loss on Southern commerce. But it still
went on. The owners of a blockade runner were certain of enormous profits
if they could succeed in getting through the lines, but, if captured, both
vessel and cargo were confiscated by the Federal prize courts. The sleepy
little village of Nassau in the Bahama islands awoke to find itself a
great commercial emporium, and immense quantities of goods were soon
collected there, awaiting transshipment within the Confederate lines.

According to the law of nations, vessels of neutral countries were not
subject to seizure, unless actually attempting to run the blockade.
Consequently, ocean steamers could land their cargoes at the English port
of Nassau without danger, while smaller vessels, having less draught than
the Federal war ships, could make the short run to the coast with better
chances of escape. Liverpool was the principal European depot for this
traffic, as Nassau was its principal depot on this side of the Atlantic.

In the spring of 1862 Confederate agents in England were still talking
about the "paper blockade," but English merchants whose goods were piled
up at Nassau found the blockade much more real than it had been
represented to be. Their anxiety was somewhat lessened by the circulation
of rumors that the blockade was shortly to be raised. Confederate vessels
of war were to make an opening in the encircling fleets, and the blockade
was to become so lax that it would no longer be recognized by European
governments. Eventually these prophecies became tangible enough to connect
themselves with a certain mysterious vessel which was at that very time
lying in the Mersey awaiting her masts and rigging.

Charles Francis Adams was the United States minister to England, residing
at London. The suspected character of the vessel was communicated to him
by Thomas H. Dudley, the United States consul at Liverpool, and a strict
watch was kept upon her.

Any avowed agent of the United States government had great difficulty in
acquiring information of a compromising character. Public opinion in
England among the wealthy and influential was strongly in favor of the
South. For this there were two reasons--one political, the other
commercial. People of rank and those of considerable worldly possessions
saw with growing apprehension the rising tide of democracy, not only in
England but throughout the world. The feeling of disdain with which the
idle rich had so long looked upon those who were "in trade" was beginning
to lose its sting, and something like an answering scorn of those who
never contributed anything toward the struggle for human subsistence
began to be felt. The existence side by side of vast wealth and degrading
poverty were more often referred to, and the innate perfection of
institutions hoary with antiquity was more often called in question. The
dread of an uprising of the "lower classes," peaceful or otherwise, was
strong. The success of Napoleon III. in overturning the second republic of
France was greeted with delight and construed to mean the triumph of the
privileged classes.

And at last had come that long-deferred failure of republican
institutions, which aristocracy and aristocracy's ancestors had been so
confidently predicting--the breaking up of the American republic. The
refusal of President Lincoln and the people of the North to acquiesce in
the dismemberment of the Union was received at first with surprise and
then with indignation. British commerce was seriously interfered with by
the blockade. Spindles were idle all through the manufacturing districts
in the west of England. And all because a blind and headstrong people
persisted in an utterly hopeless war of conquest.

Abhorrence of chattel slavery was well nigh universal among the English
people of all classes. Indeed, the existence of that institution in
America was one of the principal indictments which aristocracy had been
fond of bringing against her. The assertion that the North was waging a
war for the extinguishment of slavery was laughed to scorn. Aristocracy
pointed to the assertion of Lincoln in his inaugural address, that he had
no intention or lawful right to interfere with slavery where it already
existed and to similar statements of Republican leaders. The general
opinion among the well-to-do classes was that the war was being fought on
the part of the North for territory--for empire--or from motives of pride.

On the other hand, the mechanics and artizans were inclined to believe
that the war was really a war against slavery, and that in the cause of
the North was somehow bound up the cause of the poor and downtrodden
generally. So it came about that associations of working men passed
resolutions of sympathy with President Lincoln, and the craftsmen of
Lancashire, who were the principal sufferers from the cotton famine, kept
as their representative in parliament the free trade champion, Richard
Cobden, an outspoken friend of the North.



In March, 1862, a steamer just in from an ocean voyage ran up the Mersey,
and as she passed the suspected craft the flag of the latter was dipped to
her. The new comer was the Annie Childs, and she had run the blockade. But
there was more important freight on board than the cargo of cotton which
she brought. Consul Dudley gained an interview with some of her crew, and
learned that it was understood at Wilmington, South Carolina, whence they
had come, that a number of war vessels for the use of the South were
building in England, and that several officers for the Oreto, the name by
which the suspected vessel was now known, had been passengers in the Annie
Childs. These officers had come on board at Smithville, some twenty miles
down the river from Wilmington. On the steamer they had talked of their
future positions on the Oreto, of which Captain Bulloch was to have the

The information thus obtained was hastily transmitted to Mr. Adams, but on
the same day, March 22, 1862, the Oreto sailed, bound, so her clearance
papers certified, for Palermo _and Jamaica_. She was next heard from at
Nassau, where she had been seized by the British authorities, but she was
subsequently released. She afterward ran into the port of Mobile and
reappeared as the Confederate war ship Florida.

The complications arising in the case of this vessel warned the
Confederate agents to be more guarded in their operations. The British
Foreign Enlistment Act provided a penalty of fine and imprisonment and
forfeiture of ship and cargo for any person who should "equip, furnish,
fit out or arm" any vessel to be employed by any persons or real or
assumed government against any other government at peace with Great
Britain. This prohibition was generally understood not to extend to the
construction of the vessel, no matter for what purpose she might be
intended; and the existing state of public opinion was such that it
required strong evidence to induce officials to act in a given case and a
very well fortified cause of action to induce a jury to convict an owner
of breaking the law.

Scarcely was the Oreto beyond English jurisdiction before Mr. Dudley's
attention was occupied with another and more formidable vessel, which was
suspected of being intended for the use of the Confederate government. She
had been launched from the yard of Laird Brothers at Birkenhead, near
Liverpool. The vessel had not yet even received a name, and was still
known by her yard number, 290.

On June 29th, 1862, Mr. Adams called the attention of Lord John Russell,
who was at the head of the British department of foreign affairs, to the
suspicious character of the "290," and an investigation was ordered. The
report of the custom house officers, made July 1, was to the effect that
the "290" was still lying at Birkenhead, that she had on board several
canisters of powder, but as yet neither guns nor carriages, and added that
there was no attempt to disguise the fact that she was intended for a
ship of war, and built for a foreign government, but that Laird Brothers
did "not appear disposed to reply to any questions respecting the
destination of the vessel after she leaves Liverpool." Having agreed to
keep watch of the vessel, British officialdom concluded that it had done
its entire duty in the premises, and the matter was dropped. Meanwhile Mr.
Adams, who had all along been expecting exactly this result, had been in
telegraphic communication with Cadiz, Spain, where the United States
steamer Tuscarora had touched, and that war ship was now on her way to


Mr. Adams had also caused a number of affidavits to be prepared, embodying
as much evidence as to the character of the "290" as could be obtained.
The affidavit of William Passmore was to the effect that he was a seaman
and had served on board the English ship Terrible during the Crimean war.
Hearing that hands were wanted for a fighting-vessel at Birkenhead, he
applied to Captain Butcher for a berth in her.

"Captain Butcher asked me," the affidavit continued, "if I knew where the
vessel was going, in reply to which I told him I did not rightly
understand about it. He then told me the vessel was going out to the
government of the Confederate States of America. I asked him if there
would be any fighting, to which he replied, yes, they were going to fight
for the Southern government. I told him I had been used to
fighting-vessels and showed him my papers."

Captain Butcher then engaged him as an able seaman at £4 10s. per month,
and it was arranged that he should go on board the following Monday, which
he did, and worked there several weeks. During that time Captain Butcher
and Captain Bulloch, both having the reputation of being Confederate
agents, were on board almost every day.

This affidavit with five others was laid before the customs officers, but
the evidence was adjudged to be insufficient to warrant the detention of
the vessel. Determined not to neglect any possible chance of stopping the
"290" from getting to sea, the energetic United States minister placed
copies of the affidavits before an eminent English lawyer, Mr. R. P.
Collier, who arrived at a very different conclusion in regard to them. He

"It appears difficult to make out a stronger case of infringement of the
foreign enlistment act, which, if not enforced on this occasion, is little
better than a dead letter."

Armed with this opinion, Mr. Adams lost no time in laying it before Lord
Russell, together with the affidavits upon which it was based. His success
was an agreeable surprise. An official opinion was at last obtained to the
effect that the "290" might lawfully be detained, and an order was issued
in accordance therewith.

The Confederate agents were well aware of the efforts of Mr. Adams and his
assistants, and suspected the nature of the errand of the Tuscarora.
Friends of the builders and others were invited to participate in a trial
trip of "No. 290" on July 29th. Her armament was not yet on board. The
still unfinished deck was decorated with flags, and occupied by a gay
party of pleasure seekers, including a number of ladies, and several
British custom house officials. The vessel dropped down the Mersey, and
the revellers partook of luncheon in the cabin. Then a tug steamed
alongside, and the surprised guests were requested to step on board.
Bunting and luncheon were hastily hustled out of the way, and holiday ease
instantly gave way to the work of getting to sea. Anchor was dropped in
Moelfre Bay on the coast of Wales, and preparations for a voyage were
rapidly pushed forward. A tug brought out about twenty-five more men, and
the crew signed shipping articles for Nassau.

At two o'clock on the morning of July 31st "No. 290" turned her prow
toward the Irish sea. On the same morning came the British officials with
the order for her detention. Information of the proposed seizure had
leaked out through the medium of Confederate spies, and the bird had

Meanwhile the Federal agents had discovered the location of "No. 290" at
Moelfre Bay, and the Tuscarora proceeded to Queenstown and thence up St.
George's Channel in quest of her. Mr. Adams telegraphed Captain Craven:

     At latest yesterday she was off Point Lynas; you must catch her if
     you can, and, if necessary, follow her across the Atlantic.

But the fleeing steamer passed through the North Channel, around the north
coast of Ireland and vanished in the broad ocean. The Tuscarora at once
abandoned the chase.



Captain Bulloch had gone ashore with the pilot at the Giant's Causeway, in
the north of Ireland, and the vessel was under the command of Captain
Butcher. During the next nine days the "290" struggled with strong head
winds and a heavy sea, shaping her course toward the southwest. The speed
at which she was driven was attended with some damage to the vessel and
considerable discomfort to her crew, but immediate armament was a pressing
necessity, and haste was made the first consideration.

On the 10th of August the welcome words "Land ho!" were wafted down from
the foremasthead, and the "290" or "Enrica," as she had been christened in
the shipping articles, came to an anchor--not at Nassau, but in the
secluded bay of Praya in the little-frequented island of Terceira, one of
the Azores. As an excuse for anchoring in their bay Captain Butcher
represented to the Portuguese authorities that his engines had broken
down. This being accepted as sufficient, the crew set to work ostensibly
to repair them, but really to prepare the vessel for the reception of her
guns. Three days were spent in quarantine. The inhabitants treated the new
comers very civilly, and they were regaled with fruits and vegetables.
Water was scarce, and meat had to be brought from Angra, on the other side
of the island. On the 13th a United States whaling schooner arrived, and
one of the crew of the "Enrica" was indiscreet enough to make known the
real character of his vessel, whereupon the whaler hastily departed.

At last, on the 18th of August, the anxiety of Captain Butcher was
relieved by the arrival of the bark Agrippina from London, under command
of Captain McQueen, with a cargo of ammunition, coal, stores of various
kinds, and the necessary guns for the steamer's armament. In response to
the inquiries of the harbor officials her commander stated that she had
sprung a leak, which would necessitate repairs before she could resume
her voyage.

The next day Captain Butcher ran alongside the bark, and having erected a
pair of large shears, proceeded to transfer her cargo to the deck of the
"Enrica." This brought off the Portuguese officials, furious that he
should presume to communicate with a vessel which had two more days of
quarantine to run. They were told that the Agrippina was in a sinking
condition, and a removal of her cargo was absolutely necessary in order to
repair the leak. Finally, Captain Butcher, feigning a passion in his turn,
protested angrily that he was only performing a service of humanity, and
was doing no more for the captain of the bark than any Englishman would do
for another in distress.

The Portuguese withdrew, and the transshipment proceeded without further
protest. Two days later (August 20th) when this work was nearly completed,
the smoke of a steamer was discovered on the horizon. After a period of
anxious suspense on board the two vessels, she was made out from signals
to be the English steamer Bahama, from Liverpool, commanded by Captain
Tessier. She had on board the future officers of the "Enrica," about
thirty more seamen, $50,000 in English sovereigns and $50,000 in bank
bills, together with some less important stores. Captain Bulloch was also
a passenger in her.

The Bahama took the Agrippina in tow, and the three vessels proceeded
around to Angra. Here there was more trouble with the authorities. The
latter could hardly help knowing the warlike character of the stores which
were being transferred, and notwithstanding the fact that the British flag
was flying from all three of the vessels, they suspected some connection
between them and the war in America. In common with other European
governments, Portugal had issued a proclamation of neutrality, and all her
subjects had been warned to conform to the international law governing

Captain Bulloch flitted from vessel to vessel, accompanied sometimes by a
small man with a gray mustache and wearing citizen's clothes, whom the
officers of the "Enrica" greeted as Captain Semmes, late commander of the
Confederate States steamer Sumter. Captain Butcher was still nominally in
command, and communications from the shore came addressed to him. An
English consul was stationed at Angra, and he sent word that the
authorities insisted that the vessels should go to East Angra, as West
Angra was not a port of entry. Captain Butcher replied that he wished to
take in coal from the bark, and that he would go outside the marine league
for that purpose. The three vessels stood along the coast. Gun carriages
were hoisted out and as many guns mounted as possible. At night the
"Enrica" and the bark returned to Angra. The Bahama kept outside. The next
morning the English consul came on board with several custom house
officials, and the ships having been regularly entered on the custom house
books, Portuguese dignity was satisfied, and peace once more reigned

Late on Saturday evening, August 23d, the coaling was finished, and six of
the eight guns on the "Enrica" were ready for use. The next day the
vessels steered for the open sea, and the officers of the newly armed
steamer, having made certain beyond the possibility of dispute that they
were outside of Portuguese jurisdiction, the seamen were called aft, and
Captain Semmes, in full Confederate uniform, stepped upon the quarter deck
and read his commission from Jefferson Davis. A starboard gun emphasized
the chameleon change, as the British flag dropped to the deck and was
replaced by the stars and bars.

The new-made warship now had a commander, but she still had no crew. It
was an anxious moment for Captain Semmes. The success of his enterprise
lay in the hands of the motley group of sailors before him, representing
nearly every country of western Europe, and gathered up in the sailors'
boarding houses of Liverpool. Under written instructions from Captain
Bulloch, Clarence R. Yonge, who was to be paymaster, had fraternized with
the crew on the outward voyage and done what was possible to impress them
with the justice of the Southern cause, and what was probably more to the
purpose, told them what might be looked for in the way of pay and prize
money. Other emissaries had been equally active among the thirty men who
came out in the Bahama. But none of these men had signed anything by which
they could be bound, and who could say what notions might be in their

The small band played "Dixie," and as the last strains died away Captain
Semmes began his speech to the crew. He briefly explained the causes of
the war as viewed from the Southern standpoint, and said that he felt sure
that Providence would bless their efforts to rid the South of the Yankees.
The mission of the vessel, he said, was to cripple the commerce of the
United States, but he should not refuse battle under proper conditions.
There were only four or five Northern vessels which were more than a match
for them, and in an English built heart of oak like this and surrounded as
he saw himself by British hearts of oak, he would not strike his flag for
any one of them.

"Let me once see you proficient in the use of your weapons," he said, "and
trust me for very soon giving you an opportunity to show the world of what
metal you are made."

The cruise would be one of excitement and adventure. They would visit many
parts of the world, where they would have "liberty" given them on proper
occasions. They would receive about double the ordinary wages, and payment
would be made in gold. In addition to this, the Confederate government
would vote them prize money for every vessel and cargo destroyed.

When the boatswain's call announced the close of the meeting eighty men
out of the two crews signed the new articles. Those who refused to sign
were given free passage to England in the Bahama. Captain Bulloch took a
fraternal leave of Captain Semmes, the Bahama and the Agrippina set sail
for British waters, and the Confederate States sloop-of-war Alabama went
forth on her mission of destruction.



Captain Raphael Semmes was a typical representative of Southern chivalry.
He was an ardent admirer of the South and a firm believer in her peculiar
"institution." His memoirs, written after the war, breathe secession in
every line. He was born in Charles county, Maryland, Sept. 27, 1809. At
the age of seventeen he received an appointment as midshipman, but did not
enter active service until six years later, meanwhile adding the study of
law to his naval studies. In 1834, at the end of his first cruise, he was
admitted to the bar. In 1837 he was made a lieutenant, and commanded the
United States brig Somers, which assisted in blockading the Mexican coast
during the war with that country. While in chase of another vessel a
terrific gale arose. The Somers was foundered and most of her crew were
drowned. A court martial acquitted Semmes of any fault in this matter, and
in 1855 was promoted to the rank of commander. In February, 1861, he was a
member of the Lighthouse Board, of which body he had been secretary for
several years.

The provisional government of the Confederacy was not yet a fortnight old
when he was summoned to Montgomery. Hastily resigning his Federal
commission, he met Jefferson Davis in that city, and was soon speeding
northward on an important mission. Mr. Davis had not yet fully made up his
cabinet, had not even a private secretary apparently, for Semmes'
instructions were in Davis' own handwriting. The funds for the trip were
borrowed from a private banker. Semmes visited the arsenals at Richmond
and Washington, and the principal workshops in New York, Connecticut and
Massachusetts, in search of information and supplies. In New York he
procured a large quantity of percussion caps, and shipped them to
Montgomery. Thousands of pounds of gunpowder were also shipped southward
by him before any hindrance was placed in the way of such operations.

Semmes entered the Confederate navy with the rank of commander, the same
which he had held in the Federal service. He was promoted to captain about
the time he took command of the Alabama, and near the close of the war was
again promoted to rear admiral. April 18th, 1861, he was ordered to take
command of the steamer Sumter, at New Orleans. More than a month was spent
in converting the innocent packet steamer into a war vessel, and before he
could get to sea the mouths of the Mississippi were blockaded by a Federal
fleet. The propeller of the Sumter could not be raised, and when she was
under sail alone, the propeller dragged through the water, greatly
retarding her speed.

On the 30th of June Semmes succeeded in running the blockade, and within a
week he had captured eight merchant vessels, six of which he took into the
port of Cienfuegos, Cuba. The captain general of Cuba ordered the prizes
to be detained until the subject of their disposition could be referred to
the Spanish government. Ultimately most governments refused to permit war
vessels with prizes of either the United States or the Confederate States
to enter their ports. The vessels which were taken into Cienfuegos were
turned over to their former owners.

As it was impossible to get into a Confederate port with his prizes,
Captain Semmes was forced either to destroy or to release those which he
took. After capturing ten more vessels, most of which were burned, the
boilers of the Sumter gave out, and she was blockaded by Federal cruisers
in the port of Gibraltar. In March, 1862, further efforts to utilize her
as a war vessel were abandoned, and her officers made their way to
England, where many of them were subsequently assigned to positions in the
Alabama. Captain Semmes proceeded to Nassau, where he found a
communication from Stephen R. Mallory, the Confederate secretary of the
navy, directing him to assume command of the Alabama. In reply he wrote a
letter, of which the following is an extract:

     Upon my arrival in London I found that the Oreto had been dispatched
     some weeks before to this place; and Commander Bulloch having
     informed me that he had your order assigning him to the command of
     the second ship he was building [the Alabama]. I had no alternative
     but to return to the Confederate States for orders. It is due to
     Commander Bulloch to say, however, that he offered to place himself
     entirely under my instructions, and even to relinquish to me the
     command of the new ship; but I did not feel at liberty to interfere
     with your orders.

     While in London I ascertained that a number of steamers were being
     prepared to run the blockade, with arms and other supplies for the
     Confederate States, and, instead of dispatching my officers at once
     for these states, I left them to take charge of the ships mentioned,
     as they should be gotten ready for sea, and run them in to their
     several destinations--deeming this the best service they could render
     the government, under the circumstances. I came hither myself,
     accompanied by my first lieutenant and surgeon--Kell and Gait--a
     passenger in the British steamer Melita, whose cargo of arms and
     supplies is also destined for the Confederate States. It is fortunate
     that I made this arrangement, as many of my officers still remain in
     London, and I shall return thither in time to take most of them with
     me to the Alabama.

     In obedience to your order assigning me to the command of this ship,
     I will return by the first conveyance to England, where the joint
     efforts of Commander Bulloch and myself will be directed to the
     preparation of the ship for sea. I will take with me Lieutenant Kell,
     Surgeon Gait and First Lieutenant of Marines Howell--Mr. Howell and
     Lieutenant Stribling [Stribling had been second lieutenant of the
     Sumter] having reached Nassau a few days before me, in the British
     steamer Bahama, laden with arms, clothing and stores for the
     Confederacy. At the earnest entreaty of Lieutenant-Commanding Maffit,
     I have consented to permit Lieutenant Stribling to remain with him,
     as his first lieutenant on board the Oreto (Florida),--the officers
     detailed for that vessel not yet having arrived. Mr. Stribling's
     place on board the Alabama will be supplied by Midshipman Armstrong,
     promoted, whom I will recall from Gibralter, where I left him in
     charge of the Sumter. It will, doubtless, be a matter of some
     delicacy and tact to get the Alabama safely out of British waters
     without suspicion, as Mr. Adams, the Northern envoy, and his numerous
     satellites in the shape of consuls and paid agents, are exceedingly
     vigilant in their espionage.

     We cannot, of course, think of arming her in a British port, this
     must be done at some concerted rendezvous, to which her battery, and
     a large portion of her crew must be sent in a neutral merchant
     vessel. The Alabama will be a fine ship, quite equal to encounter any
     of the enemy's steam sloops, of the class of the Iroquois, Tuscarora
     and Dakotah, and I shall feel much more independent in her upon the
     high seas than I did in the little Sumter.

     I think well of your suggestion of the East Indies as a cruising
     ground, and I hope to be in the track of the enemy's commerce in
     those seas as early as October or November next: when I shall,
     doubtless, be able to lay other rich "burnt offerings" upon the altar
     of our country's liberties.

John McIntosh Kell, the first lieutenant of the Alabama, had occupied the
same position in the Sumter. He had served twenty years in the United
States navy, had been in the war with Mexico, and had seen a great deal of
active service. The second lieutenant, R. F. Armstrong, and the third
lieutenant, Joseph D. Wilson, also came from the Sumter, and were fresh
from the instructions of the United States naval academy at Annapolis. The
fourth lieutenant was John Low, an Englishman, and a master of seamanship.
The fifth lieutenant, Arthur Sinclair, came of a family which had
furnished two captains to the United States navy. The acting master, I. D.
Bulloch, was a younger brother of Commander Bulloch. Dr. E. L. Gait, from
the Sumter, and the ill-fated Dr. D. H. Llewelyn, of Wiltshire, England,
occupied the positions of surgeon and assistant surgeon respectively.
Lieutenant of Marines B. K. Howell was a brother-in-law of Jefferson
Davis, and Midshipman E. A. Maffit was a son of the commander of the
Oreto, soon to be known as the Florida. Other officers were Chief Engineer
Miles J. Freeman and three assistants, who were excellent machinists and
able to make any repairs which could be made with the appliances on board,
Midshipman E. M. Anderson and Master's Mates G. T. Fullam and James Evans.


The Alabama was 220 feet long, 32 feet in breadth of beam, and 18 feet
from deck to keel. She carried two horizontal engines of 300 horse power
each, and had bunkers for 350 tons of coal, sufficient for eighteen days'
continuous steaming. Captain Semmes was, however, very economical with his
coal supply and only used the engines for emergencies. The Alabama proved
to be a good sailor under canvas, and the greater number of her prizes
were taken simply under sail. This enabled the vessel to keep at sea
three or four months at a time, and to strike Northern commerce at the
most unexpected places, while only once did a Federal war vessel succeed
in getting a glimpse of her against the will of her commander.

The engines were provided with a condensing apparatus, which supplied the
crew with water. The Alabama was barkentine rigged, her standing gear
being entirely of wire rope. Her propeller was so built as to be readily
detached from the shaft, and in fifteen minutes could be lifted out of the
water in a well constructed for the purpose, and so would not impede the
speed of the vessel when under sail. On the main deck the vessel was
pierced for twelve guns, but carried only eight; one Blakely
hundred-pounder rifled gun, pivoted forward, one eight-inch solid-shot
gun, pivoted abaft the mainmast, and three thirty-two pounders on each

The semicircular cabin at the stern, with its horse-hair sofa and
horse-shoe shaped table, was appropriated to the use of Captain Semmes,
and became the center of attraction for hero-worshippers when the vessel
was in port. A little forward of the mizzen mast was the steering
apparatus, a double wheel inscribed with the French motto:

  "Aide-toi et Dieu t'aidera."[1]



The Confederate flag was first hoisted on the Alabama, Sunday, August
24th, 1862. When once the shipping articles had been signed coaxing and
persuasion were at an end, and the man with the gray mustache had become a
dictator, to disobey whom meant severe or even capital punishment. Semmes

     The democratic part of the proceedings closed as soon as the articles
     were signed. The "public meeting" just described was the first and
     last ever held on board the Alabama, and no other stump speech was
     ever made to the crew. When I wanted a man to do anything after this,
     I did not talk to him about "nationalities" or "liberties" or "double
     wages," but I gave him a rather sharp order, and if the order was not
     obeyed in "double-quick," the delinquent found himself in limbo.
     Democracies may do very well for the land, but monarchies, and pretty
     absolute monarchies at that, are the only successful governments for
     the sea.

The hasty transfer of stores to the deck of the vessel, a large part of
which had been accomplished in a rolling sea, had not been favorable to
an orderly bestowal. A gale sprang up, and the boxes and chests on deck
went tumbling about. The hot sun of the Azores had opened seams in the
deck and upper works, and the clank of the pumps, so familiar to those who
had been in the Sumter during the latter part of her cruise, once more
disturbed their dreams.

It was the purpose of Captain Semmes to strike at the American whaling
vessels which he knew would be at work in the vicinity of the Azores. The
season would close about the first of October, after which time the whales
would seek other feeding waters. The following week was spent in getting
the pivot guns mounted and in putting the ship in order. The captain was
not at once successful in locating the whaling fleet. On Friday, August
29th, a blank shot was fired at a brig which had been pursued all day, but
the latter refused to heave to or show her colors, and not having the look
of an American craft, the chase was abandoned. Another week was spent in
the search, and several vessels were overhauled, but all showed neutral
colors. September 5th the Alabama was in chase of a brig which showed
very fast sailing qualities, and came unexpectedly upon a ship lying to in
mid-ocean with her foretopsail to the mast. Excitement grew apace as a
nearer approach justified the opinion that the motionless stranger was a
Yankee whaler. The English flag was hoisted on the Alabama, and all doubt
was set at rest when the ship responded with the stars and stripes. The
chase of the brig was forthwith abandoned. The master of the whaler made
no effort to get under way. He had struck a fine large sperm whale, which
was now alongside and partly hoisted out of the water by the yard tackles,
and his crew were hard at work, cutting it up and getting the blubber
aboard. A boat was sent from the Alabama, and as the boarding officer
gained the whaler's deck, the cruiser dropped her false colors, and ran up
the Confederate flag.

The astonishment and consternation of Captain Abraham Osborn when he
realized that he was a prisoner and that his ship and cargo were subject
to confiscation, can only be imagined. International law, which is so
careful of property rights on land, affords no protection whatever at sea
in the presence of a hostile force. The ship was the Ocmulgee, of
Edgartown, Massachusetts. Captain and crew were removed to the deck of the
Alabama and placed in irons. Some beef, pork and other stores were also
transferred, and the ship left, anchored to the whale, as Captain Semmes
did not wish to burn her during the night, for fear of alarming other
whaling masters, who were probably not far away. Next morning the torch
was applied, and the most of the Alabama's crew saw for the first time a
burning ship.

Sunday, September 7th, the Alabama approached the south shore of the
island of Flores, one of the westernmost of the Azore group, and the crew
of the Ocmulgee were permitted to pull ashore in their own whaleboats. At
four o'clock p. m. the Alabama filled away to head off a schooner which
appeared to be running in for the island, and hoisted the English flag.
The schooner failed to respond, and a gun was fired, but she still held
her course. A shot was fired across her bow, but even this failed to stop
her. Then a shot whistled between her fore and main masts, and the
futility of attempting to escape being apparent, she rounded to and
hoisted the United States flag. Her master, a young man not over
twenty-eight, was well aware of the fate which had befallen him. His
vessel was the Starlight, from Boston, and he was homeward bound from the
Azores, having on board a number of passengers to be landed at Flores,
including several ladies. He also had dispatches from the American consul
at Fayal to Secretary Seward, narrating the proceedings of the Alabama at
Terceira. The captain and the six seamen who constituted his crew, were
placed in irons. Next day the cruiser proceeded again to the island of
Flores, and sent the prisoners on shore in a boat.


The obliging governor of the island paid the Alabama a visit, and offered
her officers the hospitalities of the place. In the afternoon (Sept. 8th)
the whaling bark Ocean Rover, of New Bedford, Massachusetts, was captured.
She had been out over three years, had sent home one or two cargoes of
oil, and now had about 1,100 barrels of oil on board. The captain and
crew were permitted to pull ashore in their six whale boats, into which
they had conveyed a considerable quantity of their personal effects.

Before daylight the next morning Captain Semmes was aroused and notified
that a large bark was close by. She proved to be the Alert, of New London,
Connecticut, sixteen days out. Her crew pulled ashore in their boats.
During the day the three prizes (Starlight, Ocean Rover and Alert) were
burned. While the hulks were still smoking the schooner Weathergauge, of
Provincetown, Massachusetts, was captured. This vessel and the Alert
brought plenty of Northern newspapers, and those on board the cruiser were
thus informed of the progress of the war. The whaler Eschol, of New
Bedford, came near enough to make out the burning vessels with a glass,
but her master kept her close to the shore, determined to run her upon the
beach rather than permit her to be captured, and she escaped without being

On September 13th the brig Altamaha, of New Bedford, fell a prey to the
spoiler, and during the night the Benjamin Tucker, of the same town met a
like fate. The boarding officer on this occasion was Master's Mate G. T.
Fullam, an Englishman, whose home was at Hull. He wrote in his diary:

     Darkness prevented us knowing who she was, so I went on board to
     examine her papers, which, if Yankee, I was to signal it and heave to
     until daylight. What I did on boarding this vessel was the course
     usually adopted in taking prizes. Pulling under the stern, I saw it
     was the whaling ship Benjamin Tucker, of and from New Bedford.
     Gaining the quarter deck, I was welcomed with outstretched hands.

The unsuspecting master answered all questions promptly touching the
character of his ship and cargo, and was then told that the vessel was a
prize to the Confederate States steamer Alabama. This ship had 340 barrels
of oil and made a brilliant bonfire. One of the crew, a Hollander, shipped
on the Alabama. Early the next morning (Sept. 16th) the whaling schooner
Courser, of Provincetown, Massachusetts, was captured. The Alabama then
ran in toward Flores, and to the rapidly increasing colony of shipless
mariners on that island were added the sixty-eight seamen forming the
crews of the last three prizes. The Courser was used as a target until
dark and then burned.

The forenoon of the next day was taken up with the chase of another
whaler, the Virginia, of New Bedford. She was overhauled at noon and
burned. The next day (Sept. 18th), with the wind blowing half a gale, the
Alabama chased the Elisha Dunbar, also a New Bedford whaler. Both vessels
carried their topgallant sails, although the masts bent and threatened to
go over the side. In three hours the Alabama had drawn within gunshot, and
her master judged it best to obey the summons conveyed by a blank
cartridge. Sails were hastily taken in on both vessels. Captain Semmes
hesitated somewhat about launching boats in so rough a sea, but he was
fearful that the gale would increase and that the prize would escape
during the night. The Alabama reached a position to windward of her
victim, so that the boats' crews might pull with the wind and waves, and
two of the best boats were launched, gaining the Dunbar's deck in safety.
The Alabama then dropped round to the leeward of the prize, so that the
boats might return in the same manner, with the wind. The Dunbar's master
and crew were ordered into the boats, and hastily applying the torch, the
boarding officer gained the lee of the Alabama where a rope was thrown to
him, and the boats' crews with their prisoners got on board the cruiser
without accident. The fire quickly gathered volume, and the flames
streamed heavenward as the doomed ship drove before the blast. The storm
burst and thunder and lightning added their magnificence to the sublime
scene. The fire was blazing too fiercely to be affected by the rain. Now
and then a flaming sail would tear loose from its fastenings and go flying
far out over the sea. At last the masts crashed overboard, and only the
hull was left to rock to and fro until nearly full of water, and then dive
deep into the ocean. This was the only ship burned by Captain Semmes
without examining her papers, but as the Elisha Dunbar was a whaler there
was little danger of burning any goods belonging to a neutral owner.

In thirteen days the Alabama had destroyed property to the amount of
$230,000. Captain Tilton, of the Virginia, had remonstrated with his
captor and asked to be released, and Captain Semmes had replied:

"You Northerners are destroying our property, and sending stone fleets to
block up our harbors. New Bedford people are holding war meetings and
offering $200 bounty for volunteers, and now we are going to retaliate."

Captain Tilton resented the indignity of being put in irons and was told
that this was a measure of retaliation for the treatment which had been
meted out to the paymaster of the Sumter, Henry Myers, who was arrested in
Morocco by order of the United States consul, put in irons, and sent to
New York. During the time Captain Tilton remained on the Alabama (nearly
three weeks) he was never permitted to have more than one of his irons off
at a time. Captain Gifford and crew, of the Elisha Dunbar, were treated in
like manner.



A week of tempestuous weather followed. The prisoners from the last two
prizes occupied the open deck, with no other shelter than an improvised
tent made from a sail. They were frequently drenched by driving rain or by
the waves which washed over the deck, and often awoke at night with their
bodies half under water. The seamen of the Alabama, who bunked below, were
not much better off, for the main deck above them leaked like a sieve. A
few days of pleasant weather were occupied in calking the decks.

The ship was now far to the westward of Flores and at no great distance
from the banks of Newfoundland. On the morning of October 3d two sails
were seen. The wind was light; both the strangers approached with all
sails set, and apparently without the slightest suspicion of any danger.
When within a few hundred yards the Alabama fired a gun and ran up the
Confederate flag. There was nothing to be done but to surrender. The
prizes proved to be the Brilliant and the Emily Farnum, both conveying
cargoes of grain and flour from New York to England. The boarding officer
clambered up the side of the Brilliant and ordered Captain Hagar to go on
board the Alabama with his ship's papers. Having been shown into the cabin
of the cruiser, the master was subjected to a sharp cross-examination, in
the course of which he said that part of his cargo was on English account.

"Do you take me for a d--d fool?" demanded Captain Semmes. "Where are the
proofs that part of your cargo is on English account?"

The papers not having any consular certificates attached, were not
accepted as proof of foreign ownership. The beautiful vessel, containing
all the worldly wealth of her captain, who owned a one-third interest in
her, was doomed to destruction.

The master of the Emily Farnum was more fortunate. His ship's papers
showed conclusively that the cargo was owned in England, and was therefore
not subject to seizure. He was ordered to take on board his vessel the
crew of the Brilliant and also the suffering prisoners on the Alabama and
proceed on his voyage. The Brilliant was then set on fire. Fullam wrote in
his diary:

     It seemed a fearful thing to burn such a cargo as the Brilliant had,
     when I thought how the Lancashire operatives would have danced for
     joy had they it shared among them. I never saw a vessel burn with
     such brilliancy, the flames completely enveloping the masts, hull and
     rigging in a few minutes, making a sight as grand as it was

The Alabama was now in the principal highway of commerce between America
and Europe. English, French, Prussian, Hamburg and other flags were
displayed at her summons upon the passing merchant vessels. If any doubt
arose as to the nationality of any vessel, she was boarded and her master
compelled to produce his papers. Masters' Mate Evans was an adept in
determining the nationality of merchant ships. Captain Semmes soon learned
that if Evans reported after a look through the glass, "She's Yankee,
sir," he was absolutely sure of a prize if he could get within gunshot;
and conversely, when Evans said, "Not Yankee, sir; think she's English,
sir," (or French or Spanish as the case might be), it was a waste of time
to continue in pursuit, for to whatever nation she might prove to belong,
she was invariably a neutral of some kind.

[Illustration: MASTER'S MATE G. T. FULLAM.]

On October 7th the bark Wave Crest, with grain for Cardiff, Wales, ran
into the Alabama's net. She was used as a target, and in the evening was
burned. The deceptive glare proved a decoy for the brigantine Dunkirk,
also grain laden, bound for Lisbon, and she, too, was fired. One of the
crew of the Dunkirk was recognized as George Forest, who had deserted from
the Sumter when she lay at Cadiz some ten months previously. He was duly
tried by court-martial and sentenced to serve without pay. This was found
later to be a grievous mistake. Forest was a born mutineer, was a glib
talker, and acquired great influence among the crew. Had he possessed the
added qualification of being able to hold his tongue, the career of the
Alabama might some day have been suddenly cut short. But having already
had his pay sacrificed, and so, as he said, having nothing to lose, he was
often openly defiant, and was constantly undergoing punishment of one sort
or another.

The next capture was that of the fine packet ship Tonawanda, bound from
Philadelphia to Liverpool with a large cargo of grain and about
seventy-five passengers, nearly half of whom were women and children.
Captain Semmes was in a dilemma. The Alabama was already crowded with
prisoners. But he was reluctant to release so valuable a vessel. A prize
crew was put on board, in the hope that the passengers and crew might be
transferred to some ship having a neutral cargo, or one of less value than
the Tonawanda. Her captain was sent aboard the Alabama as a precautionary
measure, and the prisoners of the Wave Crest and Dunkirk transferred to
the prize.

The next victim was the fine large ship Manchester. A bond for $80,000 was
now exacted from the captain of the Tonawanda, and having added the crew
of the Manchester to the crowds on his ship, he was suffered to proceed on
his way, much to the delight of his passengers. The Manchester was given
to the flames. October 15th the Lamplighter, with tobacco for Gibraltar,
was captured and burned. The weather was rough and boarding somewhat
dangerous, but the capture and burning were effected without accident.

       *       *       *       *       *

The newspapers found on the prizes kept Captain Semmes informed in regard
to the events of the war and often gave the whereabouts of the Northern
cruisers which he wished to avoid. The escape of the "290" was known in
New York, but that she would develop in so short a time into the pest of
the Atlantic was not thought of. The tactics of Captain Semmes were always
the same. A false flag was invariably used until the victim got within
striking distance, and then hauled down, to be replaced by the stars and
bars. For this purpose flags of various nations were used--French,
Spanish, Portuguese and the like, and often that of the United States; but
the one most frequently employed was that of Great Britain.

The crew of the Alabama taken as a whole were a turbulent lot. Boarding
officers had little or no control over their boats' crews. Knowing that
the guns of the Alabama would answer for their safety, they would rush
below like a gang of pirates, staving open chests and boxes and carrying
off anything that took their fancy. The clothing and personal effects of
sailors were often heartlessly destroyed After being transferred to the
Alabama, however, the prisoners were comparatively free from this sort of
persecution; and with the exception of being placed in irons, their
treatment seems to have been as good as circumstances permitted. As all
private looting was contrary to the captain's orders, the sailors
belonging to the boarding crews did not often venture to carry anything on
board their own ship which could not readily be concealed. Whisky they
frequently did find, and occasionally one of them had to be hoisted over
the Alabama's side, very much the worse for his explorations among the
liquid refreshments.

Although directly in the path of American commerce and only a few hundred
miles from New York, the United States flag now began to be a rarity.
From the 16th to the 20th of October nine vessels were chased and boarded
and their papers examined, but all of them were neutrals. The reason is
not far to seek. The captain of the Emily Farnum had promised Captain
Semmes as one of the conditions of his release, that he would continue his
voyage to Liverpool; but the moment he was out of sight, he put his ship
about and ran into Boston and gave the alarm. The American shipping
interests throughout the seaboard were thrown into an uproar of terror.
The experience of Captain Tilton in trying to escape in the Virginia had
led him to believe that the Alabama was considerably swifter than she
really was, and extravagant estimates of her speed were accepted as true.

Secretary Welles hastily dispatched all the available warships in search
of the Alabama, but he put too much trust in the report of her probable
future movements, which had been brought in innocently enough by Captain
Hagar, and much valuable time was lost beating up and down the banks of
Newfoundland and the coast of Nova Scotia, while the Alabama had shifted
her position to a point much nearer New York, and thence southward. The
sober second thought of the navy department, that with the advent of cold
weather the Alabama would seek a field of operations farther
south--probably in the West Indies--proved to be correct. But the West
Indies was a very large haystack and the Alabama, comparatively, a very
small needle.

The Northern newspapers found on the prizes were carefully scanned by the
captain and his secretary for valuable information, after which they were
passed on to the other officers in the ward room and steerage and thence
into the hands of the crew. These teemed with denunciation of the
"pirates," and the members of the crew were described as consisting of
"the scum of England," an expression which rankled in the sailor's heart
and for which he took ample vengeance when his opportunity came.

The name of Captain Semmes became a synonym of heartless cruelty. Captain
Tilton said he treated his prisoners and crew like dogs, and Captain
Hagar said that it was his custom to burn his prizes at night, so that he
might gather round him fresh victims among those who sailed toward the
burning ships in order to save human life. The British premier, Lord
Palmerston, and his minister of foreign affairs, Lord John Russell, were
denounced for letting loose such a fire-brand.

The officers and crew were almost universally referred to as pirates.
Indeed, the newspapers had some official warrant for this appellation. In
his proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteers after the capture of Fort
Sumter, President Lincoln had declared "that if any person, under the
pretended authority of said states or under any other pretence shall
molest a vessel of the United States, or the persons or cargo on board of
her, such persons will be held amenable to the laws of the United States
for the prevention and punishment of piracy."

This proclamation may have served the purpose of frightening off a horde
of privateers until the blockading fleets could get into place, but the
position taken was clearly untenable when the Confederacy was recognized
as a beligerant.

Few United States vessels could get cargoes after the presence of the
Alabama off the coast became known. This was true on both sides of the
Atlantic. Ship captains on the coast of Portugal offered in vain to
transport salt free of charge as ballast. American craft which ventured
out took care to have their cargoes well covered with consular
certificates of foreign ownership.

On October 16th several days of bad weather culminated in a cyclone, and
the Alabama was probably saved from foundering by the prompt action of
Lieutenant Low, who was in charge of the deck, and who took the
responsibility of wearing ship without waiting to call the captain. The
main yard was broken and the main topsail torn to shreds.



On October 21st, 1862, a large ship was seen carrying a cloud of canvas,
and running with great speed before the wind. The reefs of the Alabama's
topsails were shaken out and preparations made to set the topgallant sails
in case it should be necessary, and the cruiser ran down diagonally toward
the stranger's path. She was pronounced "Yankee" long before she came
within gunshot, and as she drew near a blank cartridge brought her to the
wind. The admirable seamanship displayed in bringing her to a speedy halt
called forth the praise of even the Alabama's captain, and one can only
wonder that some of her master's skill was not expended in avoiding this
suspicious steamer idling in mid-ocean. The British flag she wore could
hardly deceive anybody, after the tales which were told by the captains
who were taken into Boston on the Emily Farnum. But doubtless Captain
Saunders relied upon the fact that his cargo was well covered with
consular certificates, remembering that the Farnum had escaped by having a
cargo which was owned abroad.

The prize proved to be the Lafayette, from New York, laden with grain for
Belfast, Ireland. Captain Saunders readily obeyed the order of the
boarding officer to go on board the Alabama with his ship's papers. He was
shown into the presence of Captain Semmes, and produced his British
consular certificate, with the remark that he supposed that was sufficient
protection. After a hasty examination, Semmes said:

"New Yorkers are getting smart, but it won't save it. It's a d--d hatched
up mess."

The Lafayette was burned.

The decree of the "Confederate Prize Court," which seems to have
comprehended neither more nor less than the Alabama's commander, was in
this case as follows:


     The ship being under the enemy's flag and register, is condemned.
     With reference to the cargo, there are certificates, prepared in due
     form and sworn to before the British consul, that it was purchased,
     and shipped on neutral account. These _ex parte_ statements are
     precisely such as every unscrupulous merchant would prepare, to
     deceive his enemy and save his property from capture. There are two
     shipping houses in the case; that of Craig & Nicoll and that of
     Montgomery Bros. Messrs. Craig & Nicoll say that the grain shipped by
     them belongs to Messrs. Shaw & Finlay and to Messrs. Hamilton,
     Megault & Thompson, all of Belfast, in Ireland, to which port the
     ship is bound, but the grain is not consigned to them, and they could
     not demand possession of it under the bill of lading. It is, on the
     contrary, consigned to the order of the shippers; thus leaving the
     possession and control of the property in the hands of the shippers.
     Farther: The shippers, instead of sending this grain to the pretended
     owners in a general ship consigned to them, they paying freight as
     usual, have chartered the whole ship, and stipulated themselves for
     the payment of all the freights. If this property had been, _bona
     fide_, the property of the parties in Belfast, named in the
     depositions, it would undoubtedly have gone consigned to them in a
     bill of lading authorizing them to demand possession of it; and the
     agreement with the ship would have been that the consignees and
     owners of the property should pay the freight upon delivery. But even
     if this property were purchased, as pretended, by Messrs. Craig &
     Nicoll for the parties named, still, their not consigning it to them
     and delivering them the proper bill of lading, passing the
     possession, left the property in the possession and under the
     dominion of Craig & Nicoll, and as such liable to capture. See 3
     Phillimore on International Law, 610, 612, to the effect that if the
     goods are going on account of the shipper or subject to his order or
     control, they are good prize. They cannot even be sold and
     transferred to a neutral _in transitu_. They must abide by their
     condition at the time of the sailing of the ship.

     The property attempted to be covered by the Messrs. Montgomery Bros,
     is shipped by Montgomery Bros., of New York, and consigned to
     Montgomery Bros., in Belfast. Here the consignment is all right. The
     possession of the property has legally passed to the Belfast house.
     But when there are two houses of trade doing business as partners,
     and one of them resides in the enemy's country, the other house,
     though resident in a neutral country, becomes also enemy, _quoad_ the
     trade of the house in the enemy's country, and its share in any
     property belonging to the joint concern is subject to capture,
     equally with the share of the house in the enemy's country. To this
     point see 3 Phillimore, 605. Cargo condemned.

The next batch of prizes consisted of the Crenshaw, captured on the 26th
of October, the Lauretta captured on the 28th, and the Baron de Castine on
the 29th. The Crenshaw brought New York papers containing resolutions
denouncing the "pirates," which had been introduced in the New York
Chamber of Commerce by a Mr. Low, who was a member of that body, and had
lost considerable property on account of the depredations of the Alabama.
The cargoes of the Crenshaw and Lauretta were covered by certificates of
foreign ownership, but these were bunglingly gotten up, and evidently made
only for the purpose of avoiding condemnation, and Captain Semmes, being
well versed in international law, was able to pick flaws in all of them.
The Baron de Castine was an old and not very valuable vessel, bound with
lumber from the coast of Maine to Cuba. She was released on a ransom
bond, and carried the crews of the Lafayette, Crenshaw, and Lauretta,
together with the derisive compliments of Captain Semmes to Mr. Low, into
the port of New York, then distant only two hundred miles. The other
prizes were burned.

The advent of the Baron de Castine carried fresh dismay to the shipping
interests along the Atlantic coast. The news that a foreign consular
certificate could not be relied upon to furnish protection seemed to sound
the death knell of trade carried on in American ships. The representatives
of the foreign governments whose seals had been defied were appealed to
for assistance in putting an end to the career of the "pirate." The New
York Commercial Advertiser published the following article:

     Some important facts have just been developed in relation to the
     operations of the rebel privateer Alabama, and the present and
     prospective action of the British and other foreign governments,
     whose citizens have lost property by the piracies of her commander.
     The depredations of the vessel involve the rights of no less than
     three European governments--England, Italy and Portugal--and are
     likely to become a subject of special interest to all maritime


     Already the capture and burning of the ship Lafayette, which
     contained an English cargo, has been the occasion of a
     correspondence between the British consul at this port, Mr.
     Archibald, and Rear Admiral Milne, commanding the British squadron on
     the American coast; and it is stated (but we cannot vouch for the
     truth of the statement) that the admiral has dispatched three war
     vessels in pursuit of the pirate. The consul has also, we understand,
     communicated the facts of the case to the British government and Her
     Majesty's minister at Washington. What action will be taken by the
     British government remains to be seen.

     The Lafayette sailed from this port with a cargo of grain for
     Belfast, Ireland. The grain was owned by two English firms of this
     city, and the facts were properly certified on the bills of lading
     under the British seal. * * *

     But another case (that of the bark Lauretta) is about to be submitted
     for the consideration of the British authorities, as well as those of
     Italy and Portugal. The facts establish a clear case of piracy. The
     Lauretta, which had on board a cargo consisting principally of flour
     and staves, was burned by Semmes on the 28th of October. She was
     bound from this port for the island of Madeira and the port of
     Messina, Italy. Nearly a thousand barrels of flour and also a large
     number of staves were shipped by Mr. H. J. Burden, a British subject
     residing in this city, to a relative in Funchal, Madeira. The bill of
     lading bore the British seal affixed by the consul, to whom the
     shipper was personally known. The other part of the cargo was shipped
     by Chamberlain, Phelps & Co. to the order of parties in Messina, and
     this property was also covered by the Italian consular certificates.

     The Portuguese consul at this port also sent a package under seal to
     the authorities at Maderia, besides giving a right to enter the port
     and sending an open bill of lading.

     Captain Wells' account of the manner in which Semmes disposed of
     these documents, and which he has verified under oath, is not only
     interesting, but gives an excellent idea of the piratical intentions
     of the commander of the Alabama.

     The papers of the bark were, at the command of Semmes, taken by
     Captain Wells on board the Alabama. There was no American cargo and
     therefore no American papers, except those of the vessel. These, of
     course, were not inquired into. Semmes took first the packet which
     bore the Portuguese seal, and with an air which showed that he did
     not regard it as of the slightest consequence, ripped it open, and
     threw it upon the floor, with the remark that he "did not care a d--n
     for the Portuguese." The Italian bill of lading was treated in a
     similar manner, except that he considered it unworthy even of a

     Taking up the British bill of lading and looking at the seal, Semmes
     called upon Captain Wells, with an oath, to explain. It was evidently
     the only one of the three he thought it worth his while to respect.

     "Who is this Burden?" he inquired sneeringly. "Have you ever seen

     "I am not acquainted with him, but I have seen him once, when he came
     on board my vessel," replied Captain Wells.

     "Is he an Englishman--does he look like an Englishman?"

     "Yes," rejoined the captain.

     "I'll tell you what," exclaimed the pirate, "this is a d--d pretty
     business--it's a d--d Yankee hash, and I'll settle it,"--whereupon he
     proceeded to rob the vessel of whatever he wanted, including Captain
     Wells' property to a considerable amount; put the crew in irons;
     removed them to the Alabama; and concluded by burning the vessel.

     These facts will at once be brought before the British consul. The
     preliminary steps have been taken. The facts will also be furnished
     the Portuguese consul, who announces his intention of placing them
     before his government; and besides whatever action the Italian consul
     here may choose to take, the parties in Messina, to whom the property
     lost on the Lauretta was consigned, will of course do what they can
     to maintain their own rights. The case is likely to attract more
     attention than all the previous outrages of the Alabama, inasmuch as
     property rights of the subjects of other nations are involved, and
     the real character of Semmes and his crew becomes manifest.

Captain Semmes makes this sarcastic comment upon the foregoing article:

     I was not quite sure when I burned the Lafayette that her cargo
     belonged to the shippers, British merchants resident in New York. The
     shippers swore that it did not belong to them, but to other parties
     resident in Ireland, on whose account they had shipped it. I thought
     they swore falsely, but, as I have said, I was not quite certain. The
     Advertiser sets the matter at rest. It says that I was right. And it
     claims, with the most charming simplicity, that I was guilty of an
     act of piracy, in capturing and destroying the property of neutral
     merchants, domiciled in the enemy's country, and assisting him to
     conduct his trade!

The alleged destruction of British property on board American ships
attracted much less attention in England than in the United States. The
Liverpool Chamber of Commerce caused a letter to be addressed to the
British foreign office asking for information in regard to the matter, to
which the following reply was made:

     Sir; I am directed by Earl Russell to reply to your letters of the
     6th inst., respecting the destruction by the Confederate steamer
     Alabama of British property embarked in American vessels and burned
     by that steamer. Earl Russell desires me to state to you that British
     property on board a vessel belonging to one of the belligerants must
     be subject to all the risks and contingencies of war, so far as the
     capture of the vessel is concerned. The owners of any British
     property, not being contraband of war, on board a Federal vessel
     captured and destroyed by a Confederate vessel of war, may claim in a
     Confederate Prize Court compensation for the destruction of such

As the "Confederate prize court" which condemned the Alabama's prizes
habitually walked about under her commander's hat, and as there was
considerable doubt as to where a court competent and willing to review the
decisions made, might be located, there was not much comfort in this
letter for American ship owners or their prospective customers.

But the shippers of merchandise were not the only persons to whom the
Baron de Castine's news brought fear and anxiety. The inhabitants of
unprotected or but slightly protected towns along the coast already saw in
imagination the Alabama steaming in upon them, demanding ransom, and
leaving their homes in ashes. Captain Semmes loved to threaten New York,
and one of the masters last released seems to have gone ashore with the
belief that the Alabama's next move would be to throw a few shells into
that city. But a descent upon the coast would have put Secretary Welles in
possession of a knowledge of her whereabouts, whereas at sea her commander
could usually calculate the time when the news of her movements would
reach the nearest telegraph office, and shift her position just before the
time when a powerful enemy would be likely to arrive.



When off duty the sailors amused themselves by spinning yarns and singing
songs. Sometimes they got up a sparring match, and occasionally hazing of
the duller or less active of the crew was indulged in. It is related that
one sailor was nicknamed "Top-robbin" because he usually began his stories
with the introduction, "When I sailed in the Taprobane, East Ingyman."
Once he was induced to attempt a song, and began in a voice in which a
hoarse bass struggled with a squeaky treble:

  Jerry Lee was hung at sea
  For stabbing of his messmate true.
  And his body did swing, a horrible thing,
  At the sport of the wild sea mew!

The whole watch shouted for him to stop, and he was warned:

"If you ever sing again in this 'ere watch while we're off soundings,
we'll fire you through a lee port. Such a voice as that would raise a

"Top-robbin's" yarns, however, were treated with more tolerance. He had a
lively imagination and a very impressive delivery. His themes were of the
ghostly sort--of phantom ships sailing against wind and tide, and women in
white gliding on board in the midst of storms.

Curiously enough, Captain Semmes, who was constantly called a pirate and
whose name was associated in the minds of New England people with that of
Captain Kidd, had gained the reputation in the forecastle of his own ship
of being a sort of preacher, the impression doubtless dating from that
introductory speech of his off Terceira, in which he predicted the
blessings of Providence upon the Alabama's efforts to rid the South of the
Yankees. One of the forecastle songs is said to have run thus:

  Oh, our captain said, "When my fortune's made,
    I'll buy a church to preach in,
  And fill it full of toots and horns,
    And have a jolly Methodee screechin'.

  "And I'll pray the Lord both night and morn
    To weather old Yankee Doodle--
  And I'll run a hinfant Sunday School
    With some of the Yankee's boodle."

One sailor who claimed to have been an officer in the British navy had an
excellent tenor voice, and delighted not only his messmates, but
frequently the officers as well, with his rendering of popular songs. Even
the captain used occasionally to stroll out on the bridge and listen with
pleasure to the entertainment furnished with voice or violin. The
following song, said to have been improvised by one of the crew, was sung
on the night before the fight with the Kearsarge:

  We're homeward bound, we're homeward bound,
  We soon shall stand on English ground;
  But ere that English land we see,
  We first must lick the Kersar-gee.

At the Cape of Good Hope fourteen of the Alabama's crew deserted. Captain
Semmes records in his journal the fact that the Irish fiddler was one of
the number, and calls this "one of our greatest losses." When the
desirability of keeping the crew in a state of subordination and
contentment was taken into consideration, there is no doubt that a petty
officer or two could have been better spared.

The engineer now reported only four days' coal in the bunkers, and Captain
Semmes determined to shape his course for Martinique, in the West Indies,
to which point Captain Bulloch had arranged to dispatch a fresh supply in
a sailing vessel.

Early on the morning of Nov. 2d, a sail was discovered and the Alabama
immediately gave chase. The master of the fleeing stranger was not even
reassured by the United States flag which flew from his pursuers' mast
head, and made all haste to get out of the dangerous vicinity. He was
overhauled about noon and a hint from the "Persuader," as the Blakely
rifle had come to be called, induced him to heave to. The boarding officer
found himself on the deck of the Levi Starbuck, a whaler expecting to
spend two and a half years in the Pacific, and consequently supplied with
an abundance of provisions, considerable quantities of which were
transferred to the Alabama. New Bedford papers on board were only four
days old, and contained the latest war news.

On the morning of November 8th two sails were in sight, one of them a
very large vessel. Master's Mate Evans, the oracle of the ship in the
matter of the nationality of vessels, pronounced both of them Yankee. In
this dilemma the chase of the smaller vessel, which had gone on during the
greater part of the night, was abandoned, and attention concentrated upon
the big ship. She made no effort to escape, evidently placing all faith in
the lying United States flag which the Alabama showed her. Her master was
dumbfounded when on nearer approach the stars and stripes dropped to the
deck and were replaced by the colors of the Confederacy.

The prize was an East India trader, the T. B. Wales, of Boston, homeward
bound from Calcutta, with a cargo consisting principally of jute, linseed
and 1,700 bags of saltpetre, the latter destined for the Northern powder
mills. The ship had been five months on her voyage and her master had
never heard of the Alabama. He had his wife on board and also an ex-United
States consul returning homeward with his family consisting of his wife
and three little daughters.

The Wales was one of the most useful of the Alabama's captures. She
yielded spars and rigging of the best quality. Her main yard proved to be
of almost the exact length of the one which the cruiser had broken in the
cyclone, and was taken aboard and afterward transferred to the place of
the old one, which had been temporarily repaired. Eight able seamen were
secured from her for the Alabama's crew, bringing the number up to 110
within half a score of a full complement.

Semmes was on his good behavior, and evidently anxious to disprove the
appellation of "pirate" which had been so constantly flung at him of late.
Southern chivalry was at its best in the polite consideration with which
he treated the ladies. Several of the officers were turned out of their
staterooms to make room for them, a proceeding to which they submitted
with apparent good grace. The Wales was burned.

The Alabama now entered the calm belt about the tropic of Cancer, across
which she proceeded by slow stages and dropped anchor in the harbor of
Fort de France, in the French island of Martinique, on November 18th,



To his surprise Captain Semmes found the whole town expecting him,
although this was the first port he had entered since leaving Terceira two
months previous. The Agrippina had been in this port a week, and her
master, Captain McQueen, had not been able to resist the temptation to
boast of his connection with the Alabama, and aver that his cargo of coal
was intended for her bunkers. It had, moreover, been whispered about that
the Agrippina had guns and ammunition under the coal, which were intended
for the Confederate cruiser, and also that Captain McQueen had stated that
he expected to receive some further instructions as to his movements from
the British consul, Mr. Lawless. Diplomatic relations between Great
Britain and the United States were very much strained at this time, and
the consul was much incensed because his name had been connected with the
Alabama in this public manner. When cross-questioned by the consul,
McQueen became frightened and denied that his cargo was for the Alabama,
but admitted that he had said that he took a cargo to Terceira for her,
and also that he expected to receive a letter from the owners of the
Agrippina in care of the consul. Mr. Lawless warned him against engaging
in such illegal traffic under the British flag, and having satisfied
himself that the Agrippina's cargo was really intended for the Confederate
cruiser and that the Alabama might soon be expected in port, he laid the
whole matter before the governor of the island. That official did not seem
at all surprised, took the matter very coolly, and stated that if the
Alabama came in she would receive the ordinary courtesies accorded to
belligerent cruisers in French ports.

When the Alabama did come in and Captain Semmes became acquainted with the
real state of affairs, Captain McQueen spent a bad quarter of an hour in
his presence, and the same day the Agrippina hastily got up her anchor
and went to sea. Seven days was long enough for McQueen's chatter to be
wafted many a league even without the aid of the telegraph, and the United
States consul, Mr. John Campbell, had not been idle.

Captain Semmes applied to the governor for permission to land his
prisoners, consisting of Captain Lincoln and family, of the T. B. Wales,
ex-Consul Fairfield and family, Captain Mellen, of the Levi Starbuck, and
forty-three seamen belonging to the two vessels. No objection being
offered, the prisoners went ashore and sought the friendly offices of the
United States consul to assist them in reaching their own country.

It was just a year since Captain Semmes, then in command of the Sumter,
had been blockaded in this very port by the United States gunboat
Iroquois, and had adroitly given the latter the slip. Now, in a much
better vessel than the Sumter, he felt able to defy foes like the

But a surprise was brewing for him between decks.

After dark George Forrest swam ashore and bribed a boatman to put him
aboard his vessel again with five gallons of a vile brand of whisky. His
fellow conspirators pulled him and his purchase in through a berth deck
port, and the crew proceeded to hold high carnival. When the watch below
was called the boatswain was knocked down with a belaying pin and an
officer who tried to quell the disturbance was saluted with oaths and
every kind of missile within reach.

The captain was immediately notified, and ordered a beat to quarters. The
officers appeared armed and charged forward, assisted by the sober portion
of the crew, and after a sharp fight succeeded in securing the worst of
the mutineers. Captain Semmes had the drunken sailors drenched with
buckets of cold water until they begged for mercy. Forrest was identified
by a guard from the shore as the man who bought the liquor, and he was
placed in double irons and under guard.

Captain Semmes had said to people on shore that the Alabama would go to
sea during the night. But she did not go, and early the next morning the
stars and stripes were floating outside the harbor at the masthead of the
steam sloop San Jacinto, mounting fourteen guns.

"We paid no sort of attention to the arrival of this old wagon of a ship,"
writes Semmes in his memoirs. Nevertheless, it must be recorded that he
beat to quarters and kept the Alabama close under the guns of the French
fort in the harbor.[2] He might be able to outsail the San Jacinto, but he
knew very well that one or two of her broadsides would be very apt to send
the Alabama to the bottom, in case Captain Ronckendorff should take it
into his head to violate the neutrality of a French port. Moreover, his
crew were hardly in a condition either of mind or body to meet a
determined enemy.

The captain of the San Jacinto refused to receive a pilot or come to an
anchor, because his vessel would then come within the twenty-four hour
rule, and the Alabama would be permitted that length of time to get out of
reach when she chose to depart, before the San Jacinto, according to
international law governing neutral ports, would be permitted to follow
her. During the day Governor Candé sent a letter to Captain Ronckendorff
warning him that he must either come to anchor and submit to the
twenty-four hour rule, or keep three miles outside the points which formed
the entrance to the harbor. Being well aware that the governor had
correctly stated the law governing the case, Captain Ronckendorff readily
promised acquiescence.

Public sentiment in Martinique among the white population was almost
unanimously favorable to the South, and while the law was thus enforced to
the letter as against the Federals, practically every white person in the
port stood ready to give Captain Semmes any assistance which might enable
him to escape from his ponderous adversary. The crew of the Alabama spent
the 19th of November in various stages of recovery from the debauch and
fight of the previous night, and repairing and painting occupied the time
of some of them. In the afternoon a French naval officer went on board and
furnished Captain Semmes with an accurate chart of the harbor. Towards
night the captain of the Hampden, an American merchant ship lying in the
harbor near the Alabama, in company with Captain Mellen, were rowed out to
the San Jacinto, bearing a letter from the United States consul to Captain
Ronckendorff, informing him in regard to the situation ashore. The news of
their departure was not long in reaching the Alabama. Suspecting that some
code of signals was being arranged, Captain Semmes determined to take time
by the forelock. He asked for a government pilot, who was promptly
furnished, and just at dusk the Alabama hoisted anchor and steamed toward
the inner harbor. The evening was cloudy. Darkness came on early, and rain
began to fall. All lights on board were extinguished or covered, and
having passed out of sight of the Hampden, the course was altered and the
Alabama ran out through the most southerly channel.

When the captain of the Hampden returned to his vessel a little after
eight o'clock he immediately sent up three rockets in the direction in
which the Alabama was supposed to have gone. The San Jacinto at once ran
under a full head of steam to the south side of the harbor, and searched
up and down with her crew at quarters until after midnight. At daybreak
two of her boats were taken on board, one of which had spent the night in
the southern side of the harbor and the other in the northern side. Nobody
had seen anything of the Alabama.

People on shore solemnly assured the San Jacinto's officers that the
Alabama had not escaped, but was hiding in some obscure part of the bay,
to await the departure of her enemy. The whole harbor was therefore
explored by the San Jacinto's boats, establishing the fact that beyond a
doubt the Alabama was gone.

In a postscript to his report to the navy department Captain Ronckendorff
says: "I could find out nothing of the future movements of the Alabama."
Nor could anybody else. That was a secret which was kept locked in the
breast of her commander. It was very rarely that the lieutenants in her
own ward room knew where the vessel would be twenty-four hours ahead.



The next afternoon the Alabama ran down to the solitary little island of
Blanquilla, near the coast of Venezuela, whither the Agrippina had
preceded her. At the anchorage Captain Semmes was somewhat surprised to
find an American whaling schooner. Some boilers had been set up on the
island, and her crew were busily engaged in trying out oil from the
carcass of a whale which had recently been captured. As the Alabama
floated the United States flag, the captain of the whaler rowed out to her
and volunteered to pilot the new comer in, and expressed much satisfaction
that the United States navy department had shown such a commendable
determination to protect commerce in the Carribean Sea. After an
inspection of the Alabama's armament, he expressed the opinion that she
was "just the ship to give the pirate Semmes fits." When he was finally
informed into whose hands he had fallen, his consternation was really
pitiable. Semmes, however, was not disposed to stir up a quarrel with even
so weak a government as that of Venezuela, and magnanimously informed the
young skipper that he should consider the island as a Venezuelan
possession, notwithstanding the slight evidences of occupation, and that
the marine league surrounding the island would be respected as Venezuelan
waters. The Yankee master was detained on board the Alabama during her
stay as a precautionary measure. Some of the junior officers took delight
in tantalizing the enforced guest in the interim. A midshipman asked him
with great earnestness if "the old man" told him that he would not burn
his ship.

"Why to be sure he did," was the response.

And then followed doleful waggings of the head and the comforting remark
that it all looked very much like one of Semmes' grim jokes.

In the end the whaler was released and her master warned to get into a
Federal port at the earliest opportunity, and not permit himself to be
caught on the high seas, as he might not fare so well a second time.

The Alabama spent five days here coaling from the Agrippina. The crew were
allowed shore liberty in quarter watches, but as there were no rum shops
or dance houses on the island, the privilege was not greatly appreciated
by a large part of the rough sailors. Several of the boats were rigged
with sails and the officers went fishing. Gunning for pelicans, plovers,
gulls and sand-snipes was also a favorite pastime. Flocks of flamingoes
waded in the lagoons around the island in search of food, or stood in line
like soldiers on the beach.

A few settlers from the main land had taken up their residence on the
island, and were cultivating bananas. The sailors helped themselves
bountifully to this fruit, and complaint having been made to Captain
Semmes, he squared the account with ship's rations.

A court martial was appointed to consider the case of the incorrigible
George Forrest, and he was condemned to be put ashore and left on this

November 26th the Alabama left her anchorage at Blanquilla, and on the
29th was coasting along the shore of Porto Rico. It was the hope of
Captain Semmes that he might capture a treasure steamer on her way north
with gold from California. In the Mona passage a Spanish schooner was
boarded, which contained late Boston papers giving long accounts of the
extensive preparations which were being made for a campaign in Texas, the
conduct of which was to be placed in the hands of General Banks. Captain
Semmes had already heard of this proposed transfer of a northern army to
the Texan coast, and had laid his plans to be in the Gulf of Mexico about
the time it should arrive, which it was expected would be early in
January. In the meantime he had something over a month to devote to other
matters. The Spaniards were told that the Alabama was the United States
steamer Iroquois. A few hours later another sail was sighted, and the
Alabama having drawn nearer, it needed not the skill of Evans to
pronounce her "Yankee." The stamp of New England was in her tapering
royal and sky-sail masts and her snowy canvas. Newspapers were hastily put
aside and attention concentrated on the chase. Almost within sight of her
destination the bark was overhauled and proved to be the Parker Cooke, of
Boston, bound for San Domingo with provisions. Large quantities of butter,
salt meats, crackers and dried fruits were transferred to the Alabama, and
at dusk the torch was applied to the prize.

That night the Alabama's officers had a bad scare, and the men were
ordered to their guns. A large ship of war came suddenly upon them, and as
the cruiser had her propeller up and no steam in her boilers, she would
have been completely at the mercy of so powerful an adversary. The
stranger, however, was evidently not Federal, and passed quickly by
without paying the slightest attention to the Alabama, which was in plain
view. Next day three vessels were boarded, but one showed Dutch papers and
the others Spanish.

December 2d the Alabama chased and overhauled a French bark, and her
master's ignorance of international law came near costing him dearly. He
paid no attention to a blank cartridge, and it was not until a solid shot
was thrown between his masts and at no great distance above his people's
heads, that he consented to round to. When asked by the boarding officer
why he had not stopped at the first summons, he replied that he was a
Frenchman, and that France was not at war with anybody!

On the 5th the Union, of Baltimore, was captured, but she had a neutral
cargo, and her captain having given a ransom bond and consented to receive
on board the prisoners from the Parker Cooke, she was suffered to proceed
on her voyage.

A sharp lookout was now kept for a steamer which it was expected would be
on her way from the Isthmus of Panama to New York with a million dollars
or upward of California gold. This money, if captured, would be lawful
prize, and the portion of it which would go to officers and crew would be
a welcome addition to the pay received from the Confederate government.
The Alabama held her post in the passage between Cuba and San Domingo
from December 3d to December 7th, but no steamer approached from the
south. Many vessels were overhauled, but all were neutrals except the
Union, which ran into the Alabama's arms without the necessity of a chase.
The 7th was Sunday, and while the Captain was at breakfast and the crew
preparing for the usual Sunday muster, the lookout raised his shout of

"Where-away?" demanded the officer of the deck.

"Broad on the port bow, sir!" was the reply.

"What does she look like?"

"She is a large steamer, brig-rigged, sir."

Here was a steamer at last, but not in the expected quarter. This one was
south bound, and visions of California gold vanished into air.
Nevertheless, she might prove a good prize.

"All hands work ship," called the boatswain, and Lieutenant Kell, seizing
his trumpet, directed the furling of sails and the lowering of the
propeller. The firemen worked like beavers, and in twenty minutes a
sailing vessel had been transformed into a steamer. At a distance of
three or four miles the United States flag was run up, and the stranger
responded with the same ensign. The rapidity with which the latter
approached showed that she was swift, but it was soon ascertained that she
carried no guns. The Alabama ran down across her path as if to speak her,
but the stranger kept away a little and swept by within a stone's throw.
The great packet-steamer had all her awnings set, and under these was a
crowd of passengers of both sexes. Groups of soldiers were also seen and
several officers in uniform. Many passengers with opera glasses could be
seen curiously studying the construction and appointments of the false
Union war ship. As the Alabama passed the wake of the packet, she wheeled
in pursuit, ran up the Confederate flag, and fired a blank cartridge.
Instantly the state of amused curiosity on the stranger's deck gave way to
panic. Ladies ran screaming below, and male passengers were by no means
slow in keeping them company. Great clouds of black smoke poured from the
smoke stacks of the fleeing monster, and her huge walking beam responded
still more rapidly to the strain of her engines. A run of less than a mile
convinced Captain Semmes that the stranger had the speed of him, and that
if he wished to capture her he must resort to heroic measures. The
"Persuader," was cleared away. The Alabama was yawed a little to enable
the gunner to take accurate aim, and a hundred-pound shell splintered the
foremast of the fugitive ten feet above the deck. Her master declined to
expose his passengers to a second shot, and the stranger's engines were
stopped, and she soon lay motionless awaiting the approach of her captor.

The prize proved to be the California mail-steamer Ariel, Captain Jones,
bound to the Isthmus of Panama with five hundred and thirty-two
passengers, mostly women and children, on board, a battallion of one
hundred and forty-five United States marines, and a number of naval
officers, including Commander Sartori, who was on his way to the Pacific
to take command of the United States sailing sloop St. Marys. The boarding
officer reported great consternation among the passengers. Many of them
were hastily secreting articles of value, and the ladies were inclined to
hysterics, not knowing to what indignities they might be subjected by the
"pirates." At this juncture Lieutenant Armstrong was ordered to take the
captain's gig and a boat's crew rigged out in white duck, and proceed on
board arrayed in his best uniform and brightest smile, and endeavor to
restore a feeling of security. The young lieutenant found the most serious
obstacle to the success of his mission in the person of the commander of
the marines, who strenuously objected to having his men considered as
prisoners of war and put on parole. But the lieutenant had a clinching
argument in the muzzles of the Alabama's guns, then distant but a few
yards, and the marines finally stacked their arms and took the oath not to
bear arms against the Confederacy until exchanged. $8,000 in United States
treasury notes and $1,500 in silver were found in the safe, which Captain
Jones admitted to be the property of the vessel's owner, and this was
turned over to Captain Semmes. The boats' crews behaved very well, and
none of the personal effects of the prisoners were seized.


The captain and engineers of the Ariel were sent on board the Alabama, and
a number of the Alabama's engineers took possession of the Ariel's
engines. Lieutenant Armstrong and Midshipman Sinclair, who acted as his
executive officer, were not long in ingratiating themselves with the
ladies, and when they finally left the prize two days later, nearly all
the buttons on their coats had been given away as mementoes. They occupied
respectively the head and foot of the long dining table. When champagne
was brought in they proposed the health of Jefferson Davis, which they
requested should be drunk standing. Their request was complied with amid
considerable merriment, and then the Yankee girls retaliated by proposing
the health of President Lincoln, which was drunk with a storm of hurrahs.

The next day after the capture of the Ariel the prize crew was hastily
withdrawn from her, bringing away certain small fixtures from the engines,
which rendered them temporarily useless. The reason for this move was the
appearance of another steamer on the horizon, which it was hoped would
prove to be the treasure steamer for which the Alabama had been waiting
for a week past. Captain Semmes was doomed to another disappointment,
however, for she was neutral. About eight o'clock the next evening, while
in chase of a brig, which was afterward found to be from one of the German
states, a valve casting broke in one of the Alabama's engines, and the
chief engineer reported that it would take at least twenty-four hours to
repair the damage. Captain Semmes had been extremely loth to release the
Ariel. To get her into a Confederate port was, of course, impossible, and
the Alabama could not possibly accommodate such an immense number of
passengers, even for the short time necessary to run into the nearest
neutral port. He was debating in his own mind whether it might not be
possible to get his prize into Kingston, Jamaica, long enough to get his
prisoners ashore, when the accident happened to the engine, and a boat
sent to board the German brig brought back the information that there was
yellow fever at Kingston. A bond for the value of the prize and her cargo
was therefore exacted from Captain Jones, and the Ariel was suffered to
proceed on her voyage.



The Alabama coasted along the secluded north shore of Jamaica for the next
forty-eight hours, while the engine was undergoing repair. It was now the
12th day of December, and Captain Semmes proceeded to carry out his plan
of getting into the Gulf of Mexico without being seen. On the 13th he
writes in his journal:

     Weather fine. Passed the west end of Jamaica about noon.
     Ship-cleaning day. Nothing in sight, and I desire to see nothing
     (unless it be a homeward bound California Steamer) at present, as it
     is important I should make the run I contemplate without being
     traced. I should like to touch at the Caymans for fruits and
     vegetables for the crew, but forbear on this account.

And on the 15th he makes this entry:

     Fresh trade; ship running along under topsails. This running down,
     down, before the ever constant trade wind, to run up against it by
     and by under steam is not pleasant. Still, God willing, I hope to
     strike a blow of some importance and make my retreat safely out of
     the gulf.

Have a care, Captain Semmes! Rear Admiral Wilkes, with the Wachusett and
the Sonoma, is hot on your trail, and his scent is improving. He is only
three days behind the Agrippina at the Grand Cayman, where thrifty Captain
McQueen has touched to do a little trading on his own account.

[Illustration: U. S. STEAMSHIP WACHUSETT.]

December 17th to 19th the Alabama struggled with a three days' gale about
midway between the westerly end of Cuba and the coast of Honduras. In this
gale the Wachusett burst her boiler tubes and the Sonoma rolled away her
smokestack, but this fortunately did not go overboard, and when the
weather cleared it was put in place again. On the 20th the Alabama's
lookout sighted the islands near the north-east point of Yucatan, and the
same night Captain Semmes groped his way through the Yucatan Channel by
means of the lead, finding himself next morning in the Gulf of Mexico,
without having seen a human being by whom the whereabouts of his vessel
could be reported. On the 23d the Agrippina was overhauled, and the two
vessels ran together to the Arcas Keys.

These little islands are of coral formation, and are three in number,
forming a triangle. The Alabama and her consort found very good anchorage
inside the triangle, with no danger from gales unless they should blow
from the southeast, which Captain Semmes decided would be unlikely at this
time of the year. Here he made his preparations to pounce upon the Banks
transport fleet. The remainder of the coal which had been left in the
Agrippina's hold at Blanquilla, was now transferred to the Alabama's
bunkers, and Captain McQueen was directed to proceed to England for
another supply. The next rendezvous was never reached by the Agrippina,
however, and from this time forward Captain Semmes had to supply himself
with coal as best he could. The Alabama was careened and her bottom
scrubbed as well as possible under the circumstances, and various repairs
were made to the sails and about decks.

The water was very transparent, and the anchor could be plainly seen at
seven fathoms depth. Fish and turtles were observed swimming about, and
all the wonders of coral architecture were visible below. There was no
vegetation on the islands except sea kale and a few stunted bushes and
cactus. Birds were in abundance, and the whole surface of the island was
covered with their nests, containing eggs and young birds in all stages of
growth. The older birds were very tame and usually refused to leave the
nests until pushed off.

Two days after the arrival of the Alabama was Christmas day, and the crew
were given shore liberty. Captain Semmes makes this entry in his journal:

     Christmas day, the second Christmas since we left our homes in the
     Sumter. Last year we were buffetting the storms of the North Atlantic
     near the Azores. Now we are snugly anchored in the Arcas; and how
     many eventful periods have passed in the interval. Our poor people
     have been terribly pressed in this wicked and ruthless war, and they
     have borne privations and sufferings which nothing but an intense
     patriotism could have sustained. They will live in history as a
     people worthy to be free, and future generations will be astonished
     at the folly and fanaticism, want of principle and wickedness,
     developed by this war among the Puritan population of the North; and
     in this class nine-tenths of the native population of the northern
     states may be placed, to such an extent has the "Plymouth Rock"
     leaven "leavened the whole loaf." A people so devoid of Christian
     charity, and wanting in so many of the essentials of honesty, cannot
     but be abandoned to their own folly by a just and benevolent God. Our
     crew is keeping Christmas by a run on shore, which they all seem to
     enjoy exceedingly. It is indeed very grateful to the senses to ramble
     about over even so confined a space as the Arcas, after tossing about
     at sea in a continual state of excitement for months. Yesterday was
     the first time I touched the shore since I left Liverpool on the 13th
     of August last, and I was only one week in Liverpool after a voyage
     of three weeks from the Bahamas, so that I have in fact been but one
     week on shore in five months. My thoughts naturally turn on this
     quiet Christmas day, in this lonely island, to my dear family. I can
     only hope, and trust them to the protection of a merciful Providence.
     The only sign of a holiday on board tonight is the usual "splicing of
     the main brace," _anglice_, giving Jack an extra allowance of grog.

Meanwhile "Jack's" thoughts were taking quite a different turn, if reports
are to be trusted. Shore leave with no opportunity for a drunken carousal,
was to him like the play of Hamlet with the principal character altogether

"Liberty on Christmas, the old pirate!" cried one of the crew, kicking up
the carpet of sea kale. "Well, here goes for a quiet life. I can lick any
man in the starboard watch."

His challenge was immediately accepted, and the net result was a number of
broken heads and several men nearly incapacitated for duty.

The largest island contained a salt water lake, which was connected by an
outlet with the sea at high tide, and at other times had a depth of about
two and one-half feet of water. This pond was alive with fish, and on one
occasion a group of junior and petty officers were fishing here in one of
the small boats, when a shark was discovered swimming leisurely along with
a fin exposed and evidently gorged with fish. The chief engineer, Miles J.
Freeman, was bathing, and had waded about a hundred yards from the shore,
when his attention was called to the man eater by the party in the boat.
The shark had no intention of attacking him, but the engineer did not stop
to investigate the state of his sharkship's appetite, and struck out
lustily for the shore. Not feeling that he was making satisfactory
progress, he got on his feet and tried to wade. The water was just at that
depth where no method of locomotion seems best, and so he floundered
along, sometimes swimming, sometimes trying to run, until he finally
reached the shore and threw himself on the sand utterly exhausted, while
the party in the boat held their sides and screamed with laughter.

An Irishman named Michael Mars pushed the boat toward the shark, and
jumping into the water, plunged his sheath knife into the belly of the big
fish. The shark snapped his great jaws and slapped the water with his
tail, but, disregarding all orders to get into the boat and let the shark
alone, Mars kept up the fight until his enemy was vanquished, and the body
was towed ashore in triumph.

After some days the sojourners discovered that by driving off the birds
from a certain area and breaking all the stale eggs, the nests were soon
supplied with fresh ones by these prolific layers, and a palatable
addition to ship fare was the result.

Meanwhile Admiral Wilkes was cruising off the westerly end of Cuba,
thinking the Alabama would probably be there, trying to intercept the
homeward bound California steamer. Doubtless she would have been there,
had it not seemed to her commander that a more important duty called him
to the gulf. Admiral Wilkes reasoned that the Agrippina could never have
reached an easterly port against the heavy gale, and decided to look into
the harbor of Mugeres Island in the narrowest part of Yucatan Channel, in
the hope of finding her. Here he discovered a vessel which was at first
thought to be the Alabama, but which proved to be the Virginia, formerly
the Noe-Daquy, which was being fitted up to run the blockade. A Mexican
officer had seized her, on the ground that she was engaged in the slave
trade, and was not disposed to permit her being sent before a prize court
at Key West. The complications arising in the case of this vessel kept
Admiral Wilkes at Mugeres Island until January 18th, except that he made
one trip to Havana for coal. Two days' sail to the westward would have
brought him to the Arcas Keys, but he had no means of knowing that the
Alabama had passed into the gulf.



On the 5th of January, 1863, the Alabama left the Arcas Keys for her
cruise to the northward. Full descriptions of the Banks expedition and its
destination had appeared in the northern newspapers, and Captain Semmes
was well supplied with information as to the character of the transport
fleet and the time when it might be expected to arrive off Galveston. It
was not likely that the transports would be accompanied by a great number
of war vessels, as the Confederacy had no fleet in the gulf, and the
northern papers had reported the Alabama as well on her way to the coast
of Brazil. As there was only twelve feet of water on the bar, most of the
transports would be obliged to anchor outside. A night attack--a quick
dash--firebrands flung from deck to deck--and the fleet might be half
destroyed before the gunboats could get up steam to pursue.

Semmes determined to run in by daylight far enough to get the bearings of
the fleet, and then draw off and wait for darkness. He had permitted
enough of his plan to leak through the ward room to the forecastle to put
his people on their mettle, and the entire crew were eager for the fray.
On January 11th the man at the masthead was instructed to keep a lookout
for a large fleet anchored near a lighthouse. His "sail ho! land ho!" came
almost simultaneously, and the captain began to feel certain of his game.
But later questioning brought the answer that there was no fleet of
transports--only five steamers, which looked like vessels of war. Soon
after a shell thrown by one of the steamers was distinctly seen to burst
over the city. It could not be that the Federals would be firing upon a
city which was in their own possession, and Semmes immediately came to the
correct conclusion that Galveston had been recaptured by the Confederates.
That the Banks expedition had been diverted to New Orleans, and would
proceed toward Texas by way of the Red River he could not know, but that
it had not reached Galveston was sufficiently apparent.

The Alabama's prow was turned off shore again, and presently the lookout
called down that one of the steamers was in pursuit. Commodore Bell, of
the Federal fleet had discovered the strange actions of the sail in the
offing, and had suspected an intention of running the blockade. The
gunboat Hatteras was therefore signalled to go in chase of the intruder.
The Alabama flew away under sail, but not so fast as to discourage her
pursuer. The propeller was finally let down, and about twenty miles out
she turned to meet the Hatteras. The engines on both vessels stopped at a
distance of about a hundred yards, and the Federal hailed.

"What ship is that?"

"This is Her Britannic Majesty's ship Petrel," shouted Lieutenant Kell.

He then demanded the name of the pursuer. The first answer was not clearly
heard. A second summons brought the reply:

"This is the United States ship--"

Again those on the Alabama failed to catch the name, and the people on the
Hatteras seemed to be in a like predicament, for her officer shouted:

"I don't understand you."

"I don't understand _you_," rejoined Kell.

After a few moments' delay the Hatteras hailed again.

"If you please, I will send a boat on board of you."

"Certainly," was the reply, "we shall be happy to receive your boat."

Word was passed to the gunners that the signal to fire would be the word
"Alabama." The creaking of the tackle as the boat was lowered was
distinctly heard. Meanwhile the Alabama's engines were started and she was
deftly maneuvered to get her into position for a raking fire. But
Lieutenant Blake, of the Hatteras, was not to be caught napping, and as
the boat cleared her side, the engines of the Hatteras were again started,
giving her headway enough so that she could again present her port
broadside. Seeing that further concealment was useless, Lieutenant Kell,
at a word from his captain, placed the trumpet to his lips and shouted
with all his lungs:

"This is the Confederate States steamer Alabama!"

Almost at the same instant the whole starboard broadside was fired. At
fifty yards there was little chance to miss, and the sharp clang of shot
and shell against the Hatteras' iron plates added to the din. The fire was
immediately returned by the Hatteras, and both vessels sprang forward at
full speed, leaving Master L. H. Partridge and his boat's crew making vain
endeavors to regain their own deck.

Although the Hatteras was built of iron, she was not iron clad. Her plates
had been made merely to resist the sea, not cannon shot, and the terrific
pounding which the Alabama's guns gave her was effective from the first.

Her walking beam was shot away, and great gaps appeared in her sides.
Gunners on the Alabama revelled in the chance to revenge the long suffered
newspaper abuse.

"That's from 'the scum of England'!" "That stops your wind!" "That's a
British pill for you to swallow!" were some of the expressions hurled at
the Hatteras along with the shot and shell.

[Illustration: "THAT'S FROM THE 'SCUM OF ENGLAND'!"]

Meanwhile the Alabama was not escaping punishment entirely, although none
of her wounds were of a serious nature. One shot through the stern passed
through the lamp room, smashing everything within it. A shell striking a
few feet abaft the foremast, ripped up the deck and lodged in the port
bulwarks without exploding. A shot a few feet forward of the bridge tore
up the deck. Two shells cut the main rigging and dropped into the coal
bunkers, and one of these in exploding made a hole through the side. A
shot demolished one of the boats and went completely through the smoke
stack, making the iron splinters fly like hail. Another shot struck the
muzzle of a 32-pounder gun and caused the truck to run back over a man's
foot. There was no damage below the water line.

The Hatteras was on fire in two places, and a shell broke the cylinder of
her engine, thus making it impossible either to handle the vessel or to
put out the fire. Finding his craft a helpless wreck, Lieutenant Blake
ordered the magazine flooded to prevent an explosion and fired a lee gun
in token of surrender.

To the inquiry from the Alabama whether he needed assistance Lieutenant
Blake gave an affirmative reply, and the Alabama lowered her boats. But
they were hastily hoisted again when it was reported that a steamer was
coming from Galveston. In this emergency the commander of the Hatteras
ordered her port battery thrown overboard, and this proceeding doubtless
kept her afloat during the few minutes needed for the Alabama's boats to
be again lowered and reach her side. Every man was taken off, and ten
minutes later she went down bow foremost. The action lasted less than
fifteen minutes.

Partridge and his boat's crew drew near as the battle closed, but the
officer having satisfied himself that the Hatteras had been defeated,
ordered his men to pull for Galveston. He was without a compass, but the
night was clear and starlit, and the tired crew succeeded in reaching a
Federal vessel near the city at daybreak.

Meanwhile Commodore Bell had heard the noise of the conflict, and had
started out with two of his remaining ships to give assistance to the
Hatteras. An all-night search revealed nothing, and returning next day, he
discovered the tops of the masts of his unlucky consort projecting a few
feet above the water.



To get out of the gulf before the exits could be guarded was now the
all-important thing for the Alabama. Had Captain Semmes known that the
Sonoma was off the north shore of Yucatan, that the Wachusett was at
Mugeres Island still keeping watch over the Virginia, and that the
Santiago de Cuba, another steamer of Admiral Wilkes' fleet, was cruising
off the west end of Cuba, he might have had some hesitation in steering
for the Yucatan Channel. But, luckily for the Alabama, Admiral Wilkes and
his captains were as ignorant of Captain Semmes' presence in the gulf as
he was of theirs in the channel. For five days the Alabama battled with
contrary winds, overhauling the Agrippina, which had not yet succeeded in
getting out of the gulf, and on the 16th reached the Yucatan bank, along
which she worked her way until 11:30 o'clock that night, when she slid off
into the channel, and before daylight was beyond the reach of any hostile
glass which might be leveled at her from the Yucatan coast or Mugeres
Island. An observation on the 17th showed the Alabama's position in the
middle of the channel, where she was slowly making her way southward
against wind and current. Nothing was seen of the Santiago de Cuba. The
next day the R. R. Cuyler, of Admiral Farragut's squadron, arrived in the
channel in hot pursuit of the Florida, which had just made her escape from
Mobile Bay. The Cuyler and the Santiago de Cuba proceeded together across
the Channel to Mugeres Island in a vain search for the Florida, but by
this time the Alabama was out of the channel and well on her way to
Jamaica. The Florida had run into Havana.

On the afternoon of January 21st, 1863, the Alabama was off Port Royal,
Jamaica, and anchored in the harbor as it grew dark. If Captain Semmes had
any misgivings as to the reception which would be accorded him in an
English port, his fears were soon set at rest. He writes:

     We were boarded by a lieutenant from the English flag-ship,
     immediately upon anchoring, and the news spread like wildfire through
     all Port Royal that the Alabama had arrived, with the officers and
     crew of a Federal gunboat, which she had sunk in battle, on board as
     prisoners. Night as it was, we were soon swarmed with visitors, come
     off to welcome us to the port, and tender their congratulations. The
     next morning I called on Commodore Dunlap, who commanded a squadron
     of Admiral Milne's fleet, and was the commanding naval officer
     present. This was the first English port I had entered since the
     Alabama had been commissioned, and no question whatever as to the
     antecedents of my ship was raised. I had, in fact, brought in pretty
     substantial credentials that I was a ship of war--130 of the officers
     and men of one of the enemy's sunken ships. * * * I forwarded,
     through Commodore Dunlap, an official report of my arrival to the
     governor of the island, with a request to be permitted to land my
     prisoners, and put some slight repairs upon my ship, both of which
     requests were promptly granted.

With three British men-of-war in the harbor, the Alabama was safe from any
hostile movement even by the most reckless of Federal commanders, and
Captain Semmes accepted the invitation of an English gentleman to visit
his country home, where he took a much needed rest. His officers had their
hands full in his absence. The ship's bunkers were refilled with coal, a
proceeding which barred the Alabama from again receiving the same courtesy
in any British port for three months. Crowds of curious visitors had to
be entertained, and a constant watch must be kept to prevent liquor from
being smuggled to the men, at least until the arduous labor of coaling
ship was over. When shore leave was finally granted, the majority of the
crew celebrated the occasion as usual by getting uproarously drunk, and
many of them might be seen assisting their late adversaries of the
Hatteras to get into a like condition.

The Alabama's paymaster, Clarence R. Yonge, hitherto a trusted officer,
was accused of drunkenness, and also with traitorous intercourse with the
United States consul. Lieutenant Kell had him arrested, and when the
captain returned he was dismissed from the Confederate service.

Returning to Kingston from his tour of recreation on January 24th, Captain
Semmes found himself the hero of the hour, and felt obliged to comply with
the general request for a speech to the people of the town.

The task of getting the crew on board the Alabama proved to be a
formidable one. Few could be persuaded to abandon their debauch by any
persuasion or threat of punishment. Most of them were arrested by the
police and delivered to the Alabama's officers in all stages of
intoxication. Two of them even attempted to escape after getting on board,
by jumping into a shore boat. Captain Semmes gives the following account
of this occurrence:

     A couple of them, not liking the appearance of things on board,
     jumped into a dug-out alongside, and seizing the paddles from the
     negroes, shoved off in great haste, and put out for the shore. It was
     night, and there was a bright moon lighting up the bay. A cutter was
     manned as speedily as possible, and sent in pursuit of the fugitives.
     Jack had grog and Moll ahead of him, and irons and a court-martial
     behind him, and he paddled like a good fellow. He had gotten a good
     start before the cutter was well under way, but still the cutter,
     with her long sweeping oars, was rather too much for the dug-out,
     especially as there were five oars to two paddles. She gained and
     gained, coming nearer and nearer, when presently the officer of the
     cutter heard one of the sailors in the dug-out say to the other:

     "I'll tell you what it is, Bill, there's too much cargo in this here
     d--d craft, and I'm going to lighten ship a little."

     And at the same instant he saw the two men lay in their paddles,
     seize one of the negroes, and pitch him head foremost overboard! They
     then seized their paddles again, and away darted the dug-out with
     renewed speed.

     Port Royal Bay is a large sheet of water, and is, besides, as every
     reader of Marryatt's incomparable tales knows, full of ravenous
     sharks. It would not do, of course, for the cutter to permit the
     negro either to drown or to be eaten by the sharks, and so, as she
     came up with him, sputtering and floundering for his life, she was
     obliged to "back of all" and take him in. The sailor who grabbed at
     him first missed him, and the boat shot ahead of him, which rendered
     it necessary for her to turn and pull back a short distance before
     she could rescue him. This done, he was flung into the bottom of the
     cutter, and the pursuit renewed. By this time the dug-out had gotten
     even a better start than she had had at first, and the two fugitive
     sailors, encouraged by the prospect of escape, were paddling more
     vigorously than ever. Fast flew the dugout, but faster flew the
     cutter. Both parties now had their blood up, and a more beautiful and
     exciting moonlight race has not often been seen. We had watched it
     from the Alabama, until in the gloaming of the night it had passed
     out of sight. We had seen the first manoeuvre of the halting, and
     pulling back of the cutter, but did not know what to make of it. The
     cutter began now to come up again with the chase. She had no musket
     on board, or in imitation of the Alabama, she might have "hove the
     chase to" with a blank cartridge or a ball. When she had gotten
     within a few yards of her a second time, in went the paddles again,
     and overboard went the other negro! and away went the dugout! A
     similar delay on the part of the cutter ensued as before, and a
     similar advantage was gained by the dug-out! But all things come to
     an end, and so did this race. The cutter finally captured the
     dug-out, and brought back Tom Bowse and Bill Bower to their admiring
     shipmates on board the Alabama. This was the only violation of
     neutrality I was guilty of in Port Royal--chasing and capturing a
     neutral craft in neutral waters.

The recalcitrant sailors protested that they had no intention of deserting
the ship or of drowning the negroes; they only wanted to say goodby to
their feminine acquaintances ashore--and so got off with a reprimand and a
night spent in irons.



The next field of the Alabama's operations was to be the great highway of
commerce off the coast of Brazil, and the mid-Atlantic to the northward.
Hardly a day out from Port Royal she fell in with the Golden Rule, and
made a bonfire of her. This vessel had on board an outfit of masts and
rigging for a United States gun boat, which had been dismantled in a gale.
The flames from the bark were distinctly visible on the islands of Jamaica
and San Domingo. The next night the torch was applied to the Chastelaine
near the Dominican coast. The prisoners from these two vessels were landed
at San Domingo.

February 2d there was an alarm of fire on board, caused by the
carelessness of one of the petty officers, who had carried a lighted
candle into the spirit room, producing an explosion. No great damage was
done, however. The Alabama shaped her course northward from San Domingo
and crossed the Tropic of Cancer with a good breeze, a rather unusual
experience. Early on the morning of February 3d the Alabama gave chase to
the schooner Palmetto, but the latter made good use of a favorable breeze,
and was not overhauled until one o'clock in the afternoon. The cargo of
the prize consisted largely of provisions, of which the Alabama
appropriated a goodly supply, and then the torch was applied.

The Alabama was now working her way eastward on the thirtieth parallel of
latitude, and had got well into the middle of the Atlantic. The Azores,
where she had begun her adventurous career, were only a few degrees to the
north and east. On February 21st a light breeze was blowing from the
southeast when the lookout reported a sail in sight and then another and
then a third and a fourth. The Alabama gave chase to the one first
announced, but she ran away before the wind, and, fearing that the others
would escape, Captain Semmes gave his attention to two which had every
appearance of being Union, and which had been in close company. In order
to distract the cruiser's attention, the two ships fled in opposite
directions, but, the wind continuing light, the Alabama soon overhauled
the one which sailed eastward; and, putting Master's Mate Fullam with a
prize crew on board, with orders to follow, gave chase to the other, then
some fifteen miles distant. The cruiser came up with the second ship about
three o'clock p. m. She was the Olive Jane, of New York, homeward bound
from Bordeaux with a cargo of French wines and brandies, sardines, olives
and other delicacies. Her master was ordered on board the Alabama with his
ship's papers, and soon stood in the presence of Captain Semmes. No
certificates of foreign ownership were found, and the verbal assurance of
the master that the French owner of certain casks of wine had pointed out
his property before the ship sailed, counted for nothing. Fifth Lieutenant
Sinclair was ordered with a boat's crew to proceed on board the prize and
secure a quantity of the provisions, and then to set fire to her, but on
no account to permit any intoxicants to be brought away. The young
lieutenant assumed the task with many misgivings. To take such a
susceptible boat's crew into a hold filled with wines and brandies and
forbid them to touch a drop would be to invite a riot. Having reached the
deck of the prize Sinclair took his coxswain aside and explained to him
the nature of the cargo and the scheme which he had in mind. The boat's
crew were invited to lunch at the cabin table on the viands prepared for
New York's aristocracy, with sundry bottles of brandy, burgundy and claret
added thereto, and then appealed to not to get their officer into trouble
by becoming intoxicated. The sailors being thus put upon their honor, not
a single cask of wine was broken open nor a bottle conveyed to the
Alabama. As the work of securing the provisions proceeded, numerous
temporary adjournments to the cabin took place, but when the time came for
applying the torch, the crew returned to their ship, feeling a little gay
perhaps, but amply able to clamber up the cruiser's side without

The Olive Jane, having been seen to be well on fire, the Alabama made her
way back to the first prize, which, in charge of the prize crew, was doing
her best to follow. This vessel was the Golden Eagle. She had sailed in
ballast from San Francisco, had taken on a cargo of guano on a small
island in the Pacific Ocean, rounded Cape Horn, crossed the equator and
the calm belt, and was just catching the breezes which were expected to
waft her to her destination at Cork, Ireland, when she fell in with the
merciless destroyer, and was condemned to be burned.

The Alabama was now approaching a locality where active operation might be
looked for. Says Captain Semmes:

     We were now in latitude 30° and longitude 40°, and * * * on the
     charmed "crossing," leading to the coast of Brazil. By "crossing" is
     meant the point at which the ship's course crosses a given parallel
     of latitude. We must not, for instance, cross the thirtieth parallel,
     going southward, until we have reached a certain meridian--say that
     of forty degrees west. If we do, the north-east trade wind will pinch
     us, and perhaps prevent us from weathering Cape St. Roque. And when
     we reach the equator there is another crossing recommended to the
     mariner, as being most appropriate to his purpose. Thus it is that
     the roads upon the sea have been blazed out, as it were--the blazes
     not being exactly cut upon the forest trees, but upon parallels and

The Alabama was now kept exceedingly busy examining flags and papers of
the passers by, to make sure that no Yankee should get past her unawares.
February 27th the Washington fell into the Alabama's net, but she had a
cargo of guano belonging to the Peruvian government; and her master having
given a ransom bond of $50,000 and taken the Alabama's prisoners on board,
was suffered to proceed on his voyage. March 1st the Bethia Thayer, with
more Peruvian guano, was also released on bond. The next victim was the
John A. Parks, of Hallowell, Maine, with a cargo of lumber for ports in
Argentine or Uruguay. The cargo was certified in proper form to be English
property, but some tell-tale letters in the mail bag showed that these
certificates had been obtained for the sole purpose of preventing
confiscation in case of capture, and ship and cargo were consigned to the

The Alabama now ran southward to the equator. In the vicinity of the line
she was seldom out of sight of vessels, and frequently there were a half
dozen or more within sight at one time. United States vessels were apt
to avoid the "crossings," however, and had taken to the fields and back
alleys, as it were. In some cases they sailed hundreds of miles out of
their way in order to keep out of the ordinary track of commerce, where it
was suspected that a Confederate cruiser might be lying in wait.


About midnight on March 15th the sky being cloudy, the lookout called,
"Sail ho! close aboard," and a large ship passed by running on the
opposite tack. The Alabama wheeled to follow, and succeeded in getting
within range just before daybreak. A gunshot induced the chase to heave
to. She proved to be the Punjaub, of Boston, on her way from Calcutta to
London with a cargo of jute and linseed, which was properly certified as
British property. She was released on a ransom bond, and took with her the
last batch of prisoners, consisting of the crew of the John A. Parks. On
the morning of March 23d the Morning Star was captured. She also was on
her way from India to England with a neutral cargo, and not being able to
find any flaw in her papers, Captain Semmes released her on a ransom
bond. On the afternoon of the same day the Kingfisher, a whaling schooner,
of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, was captured and burned. Two days later two
large ships were seen approaching in close company. At the sight of the
Alabama they separated and made more sail, but were both overhauled and
proved to be American. The Charles Hill was bound from Liverpool to
Argentine with salt. The Nora, also laden with salt, was bound from
Liverpool to Calcutta. Probably both cargoes were actually owned by
English citizens, but no proper proof of that fact being found among their
papers, both vessels were condemned. The whole night and most of the
following day were consumed in getting about forty tons of coal out of the
prizes, after which they were burned. Nine men from these two ships
enlisted on the Alabama.

On April 4th the Alabama chased a fine large ship all day, and, the wind
having failed, sent a boarding crew in a whale boat to her at five o'clock
p. m., although she was still two miles distant. Just before dark the ship
was seen to turn her head toward the Alabama, and in a few hours she was
alongside. The prize was the Louisa Hatch, of Rockland, Maine, with a
cargo of coal, and bound from Cardiff, Wales, to the island of Ceylon.
There was a certificate of foreign ownership among her papers, but not
being sworn to, it was treated as so much waste paper. Coal on the coast
of Brazil was worth seventeen dollars per ton. The Alabama's supply of
that necessary article was running low, but the Agrippina was expected
soon, and the appointed rendezvous was close at hand. The character of the
Agrippina, however, as a supply ship to the Alabama was becoming pretty
well known, and it was stated that at least one Union captain had
threatened to treat her as a hostile craft, notwithstanding her English
flag. It was therefore quite possible that she might not be able to reach
the place designated by Captain Semmes for the transfer of her cargo. On
the other hand, Captain Semmes knew from experience that to transfer coal
from the Louisa Hatch to the Alabama in the open sea would be a slow and
difficult process in the best weather, and impossible in even a moderate

Under the circumstances he determined to take the prize in tow and enter
the port of Fernando de Noronha, an island belonging to Brazil, and used
as a penal colony by that government, and run the risk of official
interference. It was fortunate for the Alabama that the Louisa Hatch was
not destroyed. The Agrippina was several weeks behind the appointed time
In reaching the coast of Brazil. Besides her cargo of coal she had on
board two more guns for the Alabama's armament. Those guns were never
delivered, and the Alabama went into her final combat with her original
eight guns only.

Captain Semmes ran boldly into the harbor of Fernando de Noronha in the
afternoon of April 10th, 1863, followed by the Louisa Hatch, and after
dark began taking coal from the prize. The next day he visited the
governor of the island, and found that official disposed to be very
friendly. He took the Confederate captain on a tour of inspection about
the island, and invited him to dine with the aristocracy of the place,
consisting chiefly of gentlemanly forgers and other polite convicts,
together with a few army officers from the battalion under his command.
To the mind of the gentleman of Southern breeding the climax of
incongruity was reached when he was introduced to the governor's mulatto
wife. The opinion of Captain Semmes in regard to the black and mixed
inhabitants of Brazil may be gathered from the following excerpt from his

     The effete Portuguese race has been ingrafted upon a stupid, stolid
     Indian stock in that country. The freed negro is, besides, the equal
     of the white man, and as there seems to be no repugnance on the part
     of the white race--so called--to mix with the black race, and with
     the Indian, amalgamation will go on in that country, until a mongrel
     set of curs will cover the whole land. This might be a suitable field
     enough for the New England school-ma'am and carpet-bagger, but no
     Southern gentleman should think of mixing his blood or casting his
     lot with such a race of people.

The fiery "Southern gentleman" was, however, able for the time being to
accommodate his feelings to the requirements of diplomacy, and his
sentiments did not prevent him from making himself agreeable to the
handsome mulatto lady and patting the kinky heads of her children. From
this time forward the influence of the governor's wife was thrown on the
side of an exceedingly liberal interpretation of the law of nations,
wherever the Confederate captain was concerned, that lady little
imagining the storm which was gathering about her husband's head, as a
result of too much official complaisance.

The Alabama remained at this island until April 22d. As the anchorage was
nothing but an open roadstead, it was soon found that the swell of the sea
was too great to permit the two vessels to lie side by side without
damage; and resort was had to the tedious operation of transferring the
coal in boats, thus consuming five days. Meanwhile Captain Semmes was
enjoying fat turkeys, fruit and bouquets sent him by the governor and his
wife, or making agreeable visits to the government house and other places
on the island.

April 15th two vessels were discovered to the southward, and soon after
two whale boats were seen approaching from that direction. Each was in
charge of the captain of one of the vessels in the offing, and they seemed
somewhat apprehensive as to the company into which they had fallen. One of
them hailed the Louisa Hatch and inquired her name and the port she was
from, to which questions correct answers were given by Master's Mate
Fullam, the prize officer in charge. The other captain broke in by asking
if the steamer in the harbor was not the Alabama.

"Certainly not," was the reply, "she is the United States steamer

"Have you any news of the Alabama?"

"Yes; we have heard of her being in the West Indies, at Jamaica and Costa

The prize master then engaged them in conversation, with the idea of
detaining them until the Alabama could get up steam, which he felt sure
would be done with all speed. Considerably reassured, the whaling captains
accepted an invitation to go on board the prize, and had approached within
a few yards when the officer in the forward boat uttered a cry of alarm.

"Give way, men; give way for your lives," he shouted, and hastily turned
the boat's head toward the shore.

To the frantic appeals of the other captain to explain his conduct he
would only point to the mizzen rigging of the ship and ejaculate:

"There! there!"

Closer inspection revealed a small Confederate flag which a puff of wind
had just displayed. The fears of the excited captain were soon realized.
The Alabama steamed out of the anchorage and before dark had fired the
bark Lafayette (the second vessel of this name destroyed) and returned
with the Kate Cory in tow. Captain Semmes says that these two ships were
captured outside the three-mile limit, but the crews of the captured
vessels assert that they were clearly in Brazilian waters. The easy going
governor contented himself with a written statement of Captain Semmes that
the captures were made outside of the marine league. Fullam wrote in his

     Whilst at Bahia I was shown a letter from the master of one of the
     whaling barks to an agent, in which he wrote that he would spare no
     money or time to follow to the uttermost ends of the earth, and bring
     to justice the man who had so cruelly deceived him. This sentence had
     reference to my denial of the Alabama and the substitution of the U.
     S. steamer Iroquois for that of C. S. steamer Alabama. The
     ingratitude of some people!

The prisoners were paroled and sent to Pernambuco in a Brazilian schooner.
Captain Semmes waited a week longer for the Agrippina, and then steamed
out into the track of commerce once more.



As the Alabama left the anchorage of Fernando de Noronha four whale boats
were successively cast adrift, and the islanders made a grand scramble for
the possession of them. The successful ones became capitalists in the eyes
of their fellows, as the boats were better than any others about the
place. The second night at sea, about two hours after midnight a whaling
bark was sighted, and after an hour's chase succumbed to a blank
cartridge. She was the Nye, of New Bedford, and had spent thirty-one
months in the Pacific Ocean. She had sent home one or two cargoes of oil,
and was now homeward bound with 425 barrels more. Everything about the
ship was saturated with oil, and she made a magnificent bonfire. The
sailors were chiefly interested in the store of Virginia tobacco which she
brought them.

April 26th the Dorcas Prince, of New York, bound for Shanghai with a cargo
of coal, was overhauled. The Alabama had her bunkers full of coal, and
consequently this cargo was given to the flames along with the vessel. The
master of the Dorcas Prince had his wife with him, and one of the
Alabama's lieutenants was turned out of his stateroom to make room for the
lady. The lookouts were kept busy reporting sails, but Evans gave little
comfort as to nationality.

"Think she's English, sir," was his frequent answer to queries; or "Not
Yankee, sir--think she's Austrian."

Hardly a nation with any shipping at all that was not represented in this
great ocean roadway. Hanoverian and Uruguayan vessels, both of which were
overhauled, were not identified until they showed their flags.

On Sunday, the third day of May, the Union Jack, of Boston, was chased and
captured. The prize crew having gained her deck, away went the Alabama in
chase of another ship, which was also overhauled in about an hour. She
proved to be the Sea Lark, of New York. The Union Jack was bound for the
coast of China, and her master was taking his family out to make a
temporary home for them somewhere in the far east so long as his business
should require his presence in that part of the world. Rev. Franklin
Wright, just appointed United States consul at Foo Chow, was also a
passenger. Captain Semmes took possession of the new consul's official
documents, intending thus to delay his entering upon his new duties.
Before night both prizes were well on fire.

May 11th Captain Semmes ran into Bahia to land his prisoners. The news of
the Alabama's exploits had preceded her. Acting under orders from Rio
Janeiro, the president of the province of Pernambuco had recalled the
governor of Fernando de Noronha and commenced legal proceedings against
him. Three war vessels had also been dispatched to the island to prevent
further breaches of international law. While the case of the Alabama was
undergoing investigation matters were further complicated by the arrival
of the Confederate steamer Georgia, which had left British jurisdiction
under the name of the Japan, and received her armament off Ushant. News
was also received that the Florida had arrived at Pernambuco, so that
there was now quite a Confederate fleet in Brazilian ports. The final
decision of the Brazilian government was to the effect that the Alabama
had violated the neutrality of Brazilian waters, and henceforth should not
be permitted to enter any of the ports of the empire. In the meantime
Captain Semmes had received all the supplies he needed. He put to sea May
21st. Two weeks later the Agrippina arrived at Bahia, and was blockaded
there together with another ship, the Castor, which had supplies for the
Georgia, by the United States gunboat Onward. The Castor had succeeded in
delivering some coal to the Georgia, but owing to the vigorous protest of
the United States Consul, Thomas F. Wilson, who had received information
leading him to believe that there was ammunition and also two large rifled
cannon on board the Castor, the president of the province had forbidden
the two vessels to lie alongside of each other, and the Georgia was
obliged to take coal from lighters sent from the shore.

The Georgia put to sea April 23d, but the next day the United States war
steamer Mohican arrived, and kept the Castor in port until the arrival of
the Onward. The Onward kept watch over the Castor and the Agrippina until
their masters gave up the contest and sold and discharged their cargoes,
after which they were released from espionage.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the latter part of January the Vanderbilt, a large and swift side-wheel
steamer carrying fifteen guns, was ordered by Secretary Welles to go in
search of the Alabama. The instructions to Lieutenant Baldwin, who was in
command of her, were as follows:

     Navy Department, January 27, 1863.

     Sir: As soon as the U. S. S. Vanderbilt is ready you will proceed
     with her to sea and resume the search for the steamer Alabama, or
     290. You will first visit Havana, where you may obtain information to
     govern your future movements. You can then visit any of the islands
     of the West Indies or any part of the Gulf at which you think you
     would be most likely to overtake the Alabama or procure information
     of her.

     When you are perfectly satisfied that the Alabama has left the Gulf
     or the West Indies and gone to some other locality, you will proceed
     along the coast of Brazil to Fernando de Noronha and Rio de Janeiro,
     making enquiry at such places as you may think advisable. From Rio
     continue your course to the Cape of Good Hope, thence back to St.
     Helena, Cape Verde, the Canaries, Madeira, Lisbon, Western Islands,
     and New York.

     If at any point word is obtained of the Alabama, or any other rebel
     craft, you will pursue her without regard to these instructions; and
     if the Alabama should be captured by any of our vessels, you will
     regard these instructions as void, and return at once to New York,
     unless you are in pursuit of some other rebel craft.

     The U. S. bark Ino is cruising in the vicinity of St. Helena, and the
     U. S. S. Mohican near the Cape Verde. Endeavor to obtain all the
     information possible at points where the mail steamers touch, and
     communicate with the department as opportunity offers.

     I am respectfully, etc.,

         Secretary of the Navy.

     Acting Lieutenant Chas. H. Baldwin,
       Commanding U. S. S. Vanderbilt, Hampton Roads.

It will be noticed that the route thus mapped out for the Vanderbilt
corresponded very closely to the one actually taken by the Alabama. The
next day the secretary was informed of the Alabama's fight with the
Hatteras, and the Florida's escape from Mobile, and telegraphed Lieutenant
Baldwin as follows:

     * * * proceed with all possible dispatch to Havana, and there be
     governed by circumstances, but do not leave the West Indies as long
     as the Florida or Alabama are there.

[Illustration: _United States Steamer Vanderbilt._]

Acting Rear Admiral Wilkes, commanding the West India squadron, had come
very near plunging his country into a foreign war in November, 1861. He
then held the rank of Captain, and was in command of the San Jacinto. He
overhauled the British steamer Trent at sea and forcibly removed from her
the Confederate commissioners Mason and Slidell. This act would have been
perfectly justifiable if the Trent had been attempting to run the
blockade, but as she was bound from the neutral port of Havana to an
English port, there was no excuse for the seizure, and the act was
disavowed and the prisoners released by order of President Lincoln.
Nevertheless, Captain Wilkes was advanced to the rank of commodore, and in
September, 1862, made an acting rear admiral and assigned to the command
of the West India fleet, consisting of the Wachusett, Dacotah, Cimarron,
Sonoma, Tioga, Octorara and Santiago de Cuba. Almost from the time of
taking command he had been sending frequent requests to Secretary Welles
for more and better vessels. He felt sure that the Alabama might soon be
captured if his requests were complied with. He complained bitterly
because the Dacotah had been sent on an independent cruise, and because
the San Jacinto, although cruising in the West Indies, was not placed
under his command. He was inclined to make use of any stragglers from
other squadrons which came within his reach. The R. R. Cuyler and the
Oneida, of Admiral Farragut's squadron, after chasing the Florida out of
Mobile, got within the sphere of Admiral Wilkes' influence, and the former
did not get back to her station for six weeks. The Oneida did not get back
at all while Wilkes retained his command. When the Vanderbilt reached the
West Indies Wilkes took possession of her and retained her as his flag
ship until the 13th of June. He persisted in the belief that the main
object of the Alabama and the Florida would be the capture of the
California treasure steamers, although those steamers had long since been
furnished with an armed convoy. When the news of the Alabama's
depredations on the coast of Brazil reached the United States and the
shipping interests began to clamor for protection in that quarter,
Secretary Welles at first replied that the Vanderbilt had already gone
thither. When later reports showed that she was still retained by Wilkes,
the secretary's stock of patience was exhausted, and he relieved Wilkes of
his command.



The Alabama had now made some fifty captures, and American vessels were
taking circuitous routes in order to avoid her. In some cases they had
been sold to British owners, and doubtless there were many pretended sales
for the purpose of obtaining the protection of the neutral flag. Several
vessels were overhauled off the Brazilian coast by the Alabama, where a
real or pretended transfer to neutral owners had been made. The papers
being regular in each case, Captain Semmes had no alternative but to
release them. But woe to any ship or cargo in whose papers any technical
flaw could be made to justify him in disregarding them!

In the afternoon of May 25th the Alabama's lookout reported a sail in
sight and the cruiser had hardly made ready to pursue before another sail
was descried. On nearer approach both were pronounced Yankee, but the
Alabama was not able to overhaul them until after sunset. The first ship
boarded was the S. Gildersleeve, of New York, with a cargo of coal. The
cargo was from London, and was probably owned there, but no proper
certificate of that fact being found, ship and cargo were condemned to the
flames. The other vessel was the bark Justina, of Baltimore, with a
neutral cargo, properly certified. The Justina was released on ransom bond
and the crew of the S. Gildersleeve transferred to her. The sea was very
rough, and the transfer of the prisoners after dark was no easy task. The
light having gone out on one of the boats, it came very near being run
down by the Alabama while changing position. At eleven o'clock that night
the Gildersleeve was ready for the torch.

The next night about 8:30 the Alabama began a chase by moonlight which
lasted all night. With very careful handling the cruiser was able to gain
slightly on the chase, which was also well handled and carrying a press of
sail. After daylight the next morning the chase obeyed the signal of a
blank cartridge and proved to be--a Dutch vessel!

Forty-eight hours later another night chase yielded better results. The
vessel overhauled this time was the Jabez Snow, of Rockport, Maine, with a
cargo of coal, and bound from Cardiff, Wales, to Uruguay. A certificate of
neutral ownership of the cargo was produced by the master, but not being
sworn to, no attention was paid to it, and the ship was burned.

June 2d at half past three o'clock in the morning the Alabama passed a
large ship on the opposite tack. The cruiser made sail in pursuit. At
daylight the fugitive was still six or seven miles distant, and refused to
obey the Alabama's gun. At 10:30 the cruiser had crept up within four
miles, and a shot from the "Persuader" brought the chase to a stop. This
prize was the Amazonian, of Boston, also bound for the coast of Uruguay.
The cargo was an assorted one, and there were two claims of neutral
property; but Captain Semmes picked flaws in both of them, and the ship
was condemned to be burned. In searching for some boxes of soap and
candles which were needed on the Alabama, the ocean was strewn with boxes
and bales, many of them containing articles of high value. Pianos, cases
of fine shoes, and the like, were dumped like so much rubbish until the
coveted soap was brought to light. Having secured what was deemed
necessary, the ship was set on fire. The next day an English brigantine
was boarded, and by presenting her master with a chronometer, of which
there were now a great number on the cruiser, taken from prizes, and a
considerable quantity of provisions, Captain Semmes persuaded him to take
the Alabama's prisoners, about forty in number, to Rio Janeiro.

June 5th just before daylight the fine clipper ship Talisman ran within
gunshot of the Alabama before discovering her presence. She was bound from
New York to the coast of China, and had on board four brass twelve-pounder
cannon and ammunition for them. Two of these cannon were transferred to
the Alabama, with the ammunition and some provisions, and the vessel was
then burned.

During the next two weeks no less than three "Yankee" ships were fallen in
with, which had been sold to British owners, and an American cargo was
found bound for New York in a Bremen ship. The Confederate commander was
exultant over these multiplying proofs of the terror which his arms had

The 20th of June brought a new departure in the Alabama's career. On that
day the bark Conrad, of Philadelphia, homeward bound from Buenos Ayres
with a cargo of wool, was captured. There were declarations of English
ownership, but Captain Semmes pronounced them fraudulent. Instead of
burning this prize, however, he determined to fit her out to assist in the
work of destroying American commerce. A crew of fifteen men was sent on
board under command of Lieutenant Low, with Midshipman William H. Sinclair
as his first officer. The two twelve pounders taken from the Talisman were
transferred to her, with a supply of rifles and revolvers, and the vessel
was rechristened the Confederate States bark Tuscaloosa.

The Alabama was now south of the tropic of Capricorn and on her way to
the Cape of Good Hope. Captain Semmes still hoped to find the Agrippina on
the South African coast, but after spending some days on the voyage, the
ship's bread was discovered to be nearly destroyed by weevil, and it
became necessary to put back to Rio Janeiro for a fresh supply. On the
first day of July the Alabama was again nearing the locality where she had
parted from the Tuscaloosa. After overhauling no less than eleven neutral
ships during the day, chase was given to the twelfth at eleven o'clock
p. m. As the day broke the chase developed into a fine tall ship with
tapering spars and white canvas. At the summons of a blank cartridge, she
showed the United States flag, but her master refused to heave to, and was
evidently determined not to permit his ship to be captured until the last
resource of seamanship had failed. It was not until the cruiser had crept
near enough to throw a shell screaming across her bow, that she shortened
sail. The prize proved to be the Anna F. Schmidt, bound from Boston to San
Francisco with a valuable assorted cargo. If she had been fitted out as a
supply ship for the Alabama she could hardly have met the needs of the
hour better. An abundance of bread put an end to the need of another visit
to unfriendly Brazil. Trousers and shoes for the sailors, and plenty of
warm underclothing, so much needed in the colder region which the cruiser
was now approaching, were dug up out of the hold. The whole day was
consumed in the looting. Great quantities of crockery and glassware,
lamps, clocks, sewing machines, patent medicines and so on, were flung
overboard in order that the needed articles might be found, and at night
the match was applied to what remained.

As the cruiser stood away from the blazing ship at 9 p. m. she fired a bow
gun to bring to a large ship speeding northward. The stranger answered
also with a gun. Aha! a man-of-war. But why this haste? Why carry royals
in such a gale, unless safety depends upon it. The stranger must be a
"Yankee" gun boat and one afraid to meet us, judging from the heels he
shows. Or perhaps a valuable merchant ship playing man-of-war in order to
deceive. So reasoned Captain Semmes, and pressed on both steam and sail
to overhaul the fleeing stranger. At midnight the Alabama was near enough
to hail.

"What ship is that?" shouted Lieutenant Kell through his trumpet.

"This is her Brittanic Majesty's ship Diomede," was the reply. And so
vanished alike the captain's hope of a rich prize and the sailors'
thoughts of a battle. As ships of war are not expected to obey a summons
to heave to and show papers, the Diomede flew away on her course, and the
Alabama shortened sail and banked her fires.

July 6th the Express, of Boston, bound for Antwerp, with a cargo of guano,
said to be the property of the government of Peru, was captured. Captain
Semmes found flaws in the certificate of neutral ownership, and the vessel
was burned.

July 29th the Alabama reached the coast of South Africa and anchored at
Saldanha Bay, an excellent but secluded harbor about ninety miles north of
Cape Town. Here the Alabama was repaired and painted and word sent to the
governor of the colony that the neutrality laws would be carefully
respected. The first loss of life since the beginning of the cruise
occurred August 3d, when one of the engineers accidentally shot himself
while returning from a hunting expedition. Three days later, finding that
there were no Union cruisers about the colony, and the Agrippina not
having put in an appearance, the Alabama proceeded to Cape Town. On the
way she spoke the Tuscaloosa, and Lieutenant Low reported that he had
captured the Santee, which ship, having a neutral cargo, he had released
on bond.



The fame of the Alabama had preceded her, and her reception at the capital
of the colony was an ovation. One of the Cape Town newspapers thus
describes her arrival:

     On the 27th of July no little excitement was caused in Cape Town on
     the arrival of the coasting schooner Rover from Walwich Bay, with the
     news that the Confederate steamer Alabama had actually made her
     appearance about twenty-five miles off Green Point. * * * Nothing
     further was heard, and it was thought by some that she had proceeded
     on to the eastward; but on the afternoon of August 4 public
     excitement was again aroused on the arrival of the schooner Atlas,
     Capt. Boyce, from Saldanha Bay, with the intelligence that the
     Alabama was lying snugly at anchor in that bay repairing. * * *
     Captain Boyce also informed us that he had boarded the steamer and
     was told by her commander that it was his intention to visit both
     Table Bay and Simons Bay, and that he would be up almost as soon as
     the Atlas. This bit of news put every one on the _qui vive_, and the
     eagerly looked for arrival was the sole subject of talk. Tuesday
     passed, but the Alabama had not made her appearance yet.

     About noon on the following day (Wednesday) an American bark was
     signalled as standing into Table Bay from the southwest. Almost
     immediately after a bark-rigged steamer was made down as standing in
     from the northeast.

     The stoop of the Exchange and the space around the signalman's
     office behind the Custom House, and all other places from which the
     signals could be made out, were soon crowded; and when the name of
     the steamer was made known, the excitement passed all bounds. The
     news spread through Cape Town like wild fire:

     "The Alabama is outside the bay, in chase of an American bark!"

     Trading was forgotten--the busiest rushed out of their offices and
     shops; every cab on the stand loaded regardless of municipal
     regulations, and vanished up the Kloof road or down Somerset road.
     Horsemen galloped about the street, and then spurred their steeds
     right up the Lion's rump. Men, women and children were seized as with
     frenzy, and rushed about here, there and everywhere, asking and
     telling the most contradictory and unheard of things.

     "They were firing at each other!--at close quarters!--the smoke and
     roar of the battle could be quite distinctly heard from the

     And the shore from that point round to Camp's bay was, in an
     incredibly short space of time, lined with no inconsiderable portion
     of the madly excited citizens of Cape Town. * * * The fine bark Sea
     Bride, having run the gauntlet of the Confederate fleet on the
     Atlantic, had deemed her voyage to be approaching a happy end, and,
     with full sail set, a favoring breeze and the star-spangled banner at
     her peak, she sped onward like a thing of life and beauty, in full
     view of the port to which she was bound. Dimly in the north she
     descried a steamer standing likewise for the bay, and congratulated
     herself on her good luck in arriving just in time to receive the
     latest American news of Vicksburg or the Rappahanock by the English
     mail. Fast as the bark went, the steamer sped faster still, and in a
     very unaccountable manner seemed to be bearing down upon the Yankee.
     In less than half an hour the suspicious craft had fairly overhauled
     her, and, with the dreadful Confederate flag run up at the peak, left
     little doubt that the Sea Bride was to become the prey of the
     redoubtable cruiser, the Alabama. But still, as it appeared to us who
     witnessed the whole scene from Green Point shore, the Northerner
     determined to strain every nerve to escape his foe and reach the
     neutral waters within the charmed league from shore.

     The demand from the steamer to heave to was answered by a defiant
     pressing on of every stitch of canvas, and a still more jaunty
     display of the stars and stripes at the mizzen. The chase was then
     continued for a few seconds longer; but at no time was the issue of
     it uncertain. The Alabama seemed to cut the waters with prodigious
     speed, and a blank charge from one of her big guns brought the Sea
     Bride to a full stop. The Confederate, puffing off her steam in
     enormous volumes, moved gently round her fated victim, and seemed to
     gaze upon her with the complacent satisfaction a cat might show after
     the seizure of a tempting mouse, or a hawk which in swift descent had
     pounced on its unsuspecting prey. A boat was sent to go on board the
     bark--a few minutes longer and it was impossible to judge what was
     happening; until at last the stars and stripes were struck, and the
     Northern bark Sea Bride was manifestly proclaimed a Confederate

When the Alabama anchored in the bay, she was surrounded by boats, the
occupants all eager to view ship, officers and crew; and the Confederates
found themselves the heroes of the hour. The history of their captures and
the battle with the Hatteras had to be related over and over again, with
various grades of embellishment, according to the veracity or imagination
of the narrator. The newspaper account continues:

     Next day the excitement in town was if possible still greater. The
     day was to all intents and purposes a general holiday. The weather
     was favorable, charming; the bay was as smooth and sparkling as a
     sheet of glass, and every man, woman and child in Cape Town seemed to
     have made up their minds to get on board the Alabama in some; way or
     other. * * * The Alabama took in and discharged a living freight at
     the rate of about sixty in the minute from eight o'clock in the
     morning till four or five in the afternoon. * * * The boatmen
     quarreled, roared and swore, as their eager living cargoes tumbled
     in and out of large boats into little ones, utterly reckless of their
     lives in their mad haste to get into the ship. The ladies' crinolines
     blocked the ladders and gangways. * * * The great center of
     attraction was Captain Semmes. "Where is he?" "Might we just have a
     look at him?" "Do let us down," "Do make a little room," begged and
     prayed ladies and gentlemen all day long at the head of the companion
     ladder leading down to the cabin.

Captain Semmes seems to have borne his honors with a becoming grace, and
to have made a good impression upon his army of visitors. Bartelli, the
captain's steward, acted as master of ceremonies, and refused to admit any
one until his or her card had first been sent in, and he had very
diplomatic ways of getting rid of people who did not impress him as being
of the proper social standing. Invitations to make visits on shore were
showered upon the officers and some of them were accepted. Quires of paper
were consumed in autographs, and the officers posed for their photographs
on deck.

The Alabama remained here and at Simons Bay until August 15th under
various pretexts of needed repairs. The United States consul made the
claim that the Sea Bride had been captured within the marine league, and
also that while in charge of the prize crew she had approached within a
mile and a half of the shore. On the 8th the Tuscaloosa came into Simons
Bay, and the consul protested that her proper name was the Conrad, that
she had never been condemned in an admiralty court, that her original
cargo of wool was still on board, and that the mere fact that two brass
guns and a dozen men had been transferred to her decks could not deprive
her of the character of a prize, which it would be unlawful to bring into
a British port. Governor Wodehouse decided both of these cases in favor of
the Confederates, but having reported the facts to the British government,
his action in the case of the Tuscaloosa was disapproved. Accordingly,
when that vessel again appeared in port he caused her to be seized. This
proceeding was also disapproved at London, on the ground that having once
found an asylum in a British port, she had a right to expect similar
treatment in the future. This diplomatic controversy was many months in
progress, and before a final decision was arrived at there were no
Confederate officers at the Cape to whom she could be delivered. After the
war she was transferred to her original owners.

August 9th the Alabama steamed out from Cape Town, bound for Simons Bay.
As she passed out of the harbor two American ships were sighted by the
signalman on shore. But they were warned of their danger by some boats,
and, the weather being foggy, they got inside the marine league without
being seen by the Confederates. The same day the Alabama captured the bark
Martha Wenzel near the entrance to False Bay, but, having taken his
bearings, Captain Semmes decided that the capture had been made in British
waters, and accordingly released her, much to the joy of her commander,
who had expected to witness her destruction.

August 28th the Alabama arrived at Angra Pequeña Bay, on the west coast of
Africa, more than a hundred miles north of the northern boundary of the
Cape Colony, whither the Tuscaloosa and Sea Bride had preceded her. The
harbor was good, but the country was a rainless, sandy, rock-bound desert,
without so much as a shrub or a blade of grass; and no nation had as yet
set up any claim to it.

At last Captain Semmes had found a port into which he could take a prize.
The few naked and half starved Hottentots who appeared made no
remonstrance against the violation of neutrality.

The Sea Bride and her cargo were sold to a Cape Town merchant for about
one-third of their value, he to take the risk arising from the fact that
she had never been condemned in a prize court, and the money was paid and
possession given him at this secluded place. Here also was deposited the
wool from the Tuscaloosa, to be picked up by another speculator, who was
to ship it to Europe and credit the Confederate government with two-thirds
of the proceeds. Two months later the Vanderbilt visited Angra Pequeña and
captured there the British bark Saxon, having a large part of the wool on
board, and sent her to a prize court in the United States.

The United States consul at Cape Town, having heard of the Alabama's
little mark down sales, protested against the vending of any of the goods
within the colony by the purchasers. After much delay and difficulty the
cargo of the Sea Bride was peddled out in Madagascar and elsewhere, and
the vessel herself turned adrift--for a consideration--with the
understanding that certain persons should pick her up as a derelict.

When the Alabama returned to Simons Town, she found the Vanderbilt had
been there, and had, moreover, taken in all the coal which was to be had
in the place. The Vanderbilt was an enormous consumer of coal, a fact
which interfered considerably with her movements in a quarter of the world
where coal was so high in price and so uncertain in supply. Lieutenant
Baldwin had fairly turned the tide of popular opinion in his favor by his
magnanimous conduct in the case of a Dutch bark, which the Vanderbilt
found in a disabled state a hundred miles from the shore, and which she
towed safely into a harbor. Lieutenant Baldwin declined to accept any part
of the salvage which he might have claimed, and although he was delayed
some twenty-four hours in his chase of Confederate cruisers by the
incident, the improved feeling toward the United States government in
South Africa was of much greater value. The three months rule was so far
relaxed that the Vanderbilt coaled three times in British ports within
three months, instead of only once, as the rule prescribed. Permission to
coal a fourth time was, however, denied.

Not being able to procure any coal at Simons Bay, Captain Semmes had a
supply sent around from Cape Town in a merchant vessel. Meanwhile the crew
were permitted to have shore liberty, and nearly the entire number,
including the petty officers, proceeded to get as drunk as possible. A
week was spent in getting the unruly fellows on board and coaling ship. On
September 24th, finding himself still fourteen hands short, Captain Semmes
shipped eleven new ones at Simons Bay, although this was in direct
violation of the British neutrality act. The Vanderbilt was reported not
far outside the bay, but the Alabama succeeded in avoiding her, and
steamed out to sea the same night in the teeth of a southeast gale.



[Illustration: _United States Steamer Wyoming._]

Running southward to the fortieth parallel, the Alabama availed herself of
both a trade wind and a current setting eastward. The following month was
spent in the eastward trip, which, aside from storms and bad weather, was
uneventful. In the latter part of October she approached the East Indies.
Passing vessels reported the United States war sloop Wyoming, a vessel of
about the same grade as the Alabama, as guarding the Strait of Sunda. The
Confederate cruiser hung round the entrance of the strait for two weeks,
and then ran through without encountering the Wyoming, which had gone to
Batavia for a fresh supply of coal. On November 6th, just before entering
the strait, the Alabama gave chase to and captured the United States bark
Amanda, laden with sugar and hemp. There was an attempt to cover the cargo
with British consular certificates, but these not being sworn to, the
vessel was burned. At the other end of the strait the fine clipper Winged
Racer was encountered and met a like fate. Here the Alabama obtained a
much needed supply of pigs, chickens and fresh vegetables from a fleet of
Malay bum boats, and proceeded on her way.

November 11th the magnificent clipper Contest led the Alabama a desperate
chase in the Sea of Java, and although the latter was under both sail and
steam, came very near escaping. Captain Semmes ordered some of the forward
guns trundled aft and the crew assembled on the quarter deck, by which
means the bow of the cruiser was lifted higher in the water; and, the wind
dying down, the Alabama got near enough to reach the chase with her guns
and compel her to heave to. Her master brought his papers on board the
Alabama, which showed both ship and cargo to be American. The beautiful
vessel, the pride of master and crew, was consigned to the flames. Her
mate was placed in irons after he had knocked down an officer of the
Alabama and offered to fight any "pirate" on board.

The American shipping trade in the East Indies was paralyzed. Few United
States vessels ventured to put to sea, and fewer still could get
profitable cargoes. At Manila, at Singapore, at Bangkok, and wherever a
snug harbor was offered, American ships were lying idly at the docks. The
Wyoming had no better success in pursuit of the Alabama than the
Vanderbilt, and never once sighted the pestiferous Confederate.

Nine days were spent by the Alabama at Pulo Condore, a small island in the
China Sea, then recently seized by the French, making some needed repairs,
and giving the men rest and shore liberty without the possibility of their
getting drunk or running away. The officers were delighted with the novel
opportunity of hunting among the strange animals of this region. One
killed an immense vampire bat, and another brought back a lizard over five
feet long. The pugilistic seamen had their propensities gratified, it is
said, by a fight with large baboons, in which the less human combatants
put the invaders to flight. The baboons threw stones and clubs with great
force, and some of the men were badly bitten.


Captain Semmes put in practice a plan similar to that which he usually
adopted in avoiding Federal cruisers. He computed the number of days which
would be required for the last ship spoken to carry the news of his
presence at Condore to Singapore, and the time the Wyoming would be likely
to take in proceeding from Singapore to Condore. The day before the
possible arrival of the Wyoming he sailed out of the harbor, and proceeded
by a circuitous route--to Singapore!

December 24th a bark was overhauled in the Strait of Malacca, which had
every appearance of being American built, but which flew the English flag
and had an English register. The boarding officer, Master's Mate Fullam,
reported that the name "Martaban" on the stern was freshly painted and the
flag perfectly new. The speech of Captain Pike proclaimed him a native of
New England, but he claimed the protection of the British flag and stoutly
refused to go on board the Alabama to exhibit his papers to the
Confederate commander. Under the circumstances Captain Semmes determined
to take upon himself for once the duties of boarding officer, and visited
the merchant ship in person.

The master of the bark was now subjected to a sharp cross-examination and
his papers given a rigid reinspection, at the conclusion of which Captain
Semmes announced that the vessel would be burned. Subsequent admissions of
Captain Pike and his crew established the fact that the ship was the Texan
Star, that the pretended sale to English parties was a sham to prevent her
destruction, and that the name on the stern had been changed since the
vessel left port.

Two days later in the same strait the torch was applied to the Sonora and
the Highlander, two large ships discovered at anchor near each other.

The Alabama ran westward across the Bay of Bengal and rounded the Island
of Ceylon without sighting an American ship. An English vessel was spoken
having on board a number of Mohammedan passengers. They had heard in
Singapore that the Alabama had a number of black giants chained up in the
hold, which were let loose upon the Yankees in time of battle. They did
not doubt the truth of the story, but they desired to ask Mr. Fullam
whether it was a fact that these giants were fed on Yankee sailors. Fullam
assured them with the utmost gravity that this diet had been tried, but
that the Yankees were so lean and tough that the giants refused to eat

January 14th, 1864, the Emma Jane was captured off the west coast of
India, and committed to the flames. A British commercial agent sent this
report of the affair to his government:

     The ship sailed from Bombay on the 6th instant under English charter
     to proceed to Moulmein to load a cargo of teak for London, and on the
     14th instant at 10 a. m., saw a sail ahead steering for them. At
     noon, light airs and calm, latitude 8° 6' north, longitude 76° 10'
     east, the stranger hoisted the United States flag, which flag was
     also run up to the mizzen peak by the Emma Jane; at 1 p. m. the bark
     fired a gun across the bows of the ship, when Captain Jordan hove his
     ship to with the main yard to the mast, believing the bark to be the
     Wyoming, U. S. N. Sent an armed boat's crew on board, and ordered the
     ship's papers to be produced. Asked where the ship was from and
     where bound for. On being furnished with these particulars, Captain
     Jordan was informed that his ship was a prize to the Alabama; they
     ordered the flag to be hauled down, which was also done on board the
     Alabama, she hoisting in its place the Confederate one. Captain
     Jordan was ordered on board the Alabama, and, on going on deck,
     Captain Semmes, after examining his papers, said that he must burn
     his ship; he questioned him closely as to his accounts, and the sums
     of money remitted to England, but there was no money on board.

[Illustration: IN THE EAST INDIES.]

     Captain Jordan was then ordered on board his own ship again, with an
     allowance of half an hour to put up some clothes, with the intimation
     that the concealment of any valuables, money, watches, &c., by
     himself, wife or crew, would be useless, as their effects and persons
     would be searched as soon as they came on board. Mrs. Jordan
     concealed her husband's and chief officer's watches in the bosom of
     her dress, with about thirty rupees in silver.

     The captain's chronometer, sextants, nautical instruments and books
     were appropriated by Captain Semmes, and, after hoisting out the
     provisions and live stock, they broke up the cabin furniture and
     piled it in the cabin, making another pile down the fore hatchway
     smeared with tar; they then set fire to the ship, and left her with
     all her sails set to sky sails. At 5:30 p. m. they arrived on board
     the Alabama, when the captain and crew were subjected to a personal
     search. Mrs. Jordan escaped this indignity, but her clothes, together
     with the others, were all turned out on deck and minutely
     scrutinized. At 6 p. m. the ship was enveloped in flame to the trucks
     fore and aft.

     From this time Captain Semmes and his officers behaved toward the
     captives with civility, and on Sunday, the 17th, ran under the land
     at Anjengo and landed them there, with a cask of pork and bag of
     bread to carry them to Cochin, Captain Semmes presenting Mrs. Jordan
     with a little canister of what was shortly before her own biscuits.

The Alabama stopped a week at the island of Johanna, off the coast of
Africa, near the north end of Madagascar. The population consisted of
negroes, with an admixture of Hindoos and Arabs. The sultan sent off his
grand vizier to welcome the visitors, with an apology for not coming
himself, being busily engaged in erecting a sugar mill--a refreshing
instance of royal industry. Most of the inhabitants wore the scantiest
clothing, and yet nearly all could read and write, and the Mohammedan
religion seemed to be universally accepted. They had heard of the war in
America, and debated upon its merits among themselves. A jet black negro
asked Captain Semmes whether he was fighting for the North or the South.

"For the South," was the answer.

Quick as thought came the reply with a frown of disapproval:

"Then you belong to the side which upholds slavery."

Through the stormy region about the Cape of Good Hope the Alabama passed
once more, and cruised there ten days without sighting a single American
vessel. As she left the harbor of Cape Town March 25th, however, she met
the United States steamer Quang Tung coming in. Fortunately for the
latter, she was already within the marine league; otherwise the
experience of the Sea Bride would have been repeated.

April 22d, off the coast of Brazil the Rockingham was captured. This
vessel was used as a target and then burned. April 27th the torch was
applied for the last time to the Tycoon, of New York. Nineteen other
vessels were overhauled between the coast of Brazil and that of France,
but none of them were American.



June 11th, 1864, the Alabama entered the port of Cherbourg, France, and
Captain Semmes made application for leave to place his vessel in a dock
for the purpose of replacing the copper sheathing, which was working loose
and retarding the speed of the vessel. The boilers also required to be
replaced or repaired. But the only docks at Cherbourg were those belonging
to the government, and as the port admiral felt some reluctance in regard
to admitting a belligerant vessel to a government dock, the matter was
referred to the emperor (Napoleon III).

       *       *       *       *       *

Sunday, June 12th, was a quiet day in the Netherlands. The shipping in the
Scheldt was lying quietly at anchor, and Sabbath stillness had settled
down upon the docks and the town. The idlers of Flushing, who were gazing
with some curiosity at the United States screw sloop Kearsarge, suddenly
became aware of some unusual stir upon her decks. Presently a signal flag
appeared at the fore, and the boom of a gun waked the river echoes. This
was notice to absent officers and seamen that work was at hand, and that
there was to be no more loitering in Holland.


The absentees hurried on board, and as soon as there was a sufficient head
of steam the vessel turned her prow toward the North Sea. The crew were
assembled, and Captain Winslow told them of a telegram from Mr. Dayton,
the United States minister at Paris, containing the information that the
Alabama had run into Cherbourg, and requesting him to run down to that
place immediately. The announcement was received with cheers, and every
one was in high spirits at the prospect of a battle with the famous

Captain Semmes was warned of the approach of the Kearsarge in ample time
to enable him to get away, but he made no attempt to do so, and it soon
became evident that he intended to fight. Commodore Barron, of the
Confederate navy, was in France at this time, impatiently awaiting the
completion of the two iron clads then building at Bordeaux, of which he
expected to have the command. Captain Semmes communicated to him his
desire to engage the Kearsarge, and was advised that he might use his own
judgment in the matter.

European partisans of the South could paint the career of the Alabama in
the most glowing colors. Captain Semmes was the "gallant," "noble,"
"chivalrous," "heroic" commander, and officers and crew shared in the
honors heaped upon him. But there were not wanting, either in Great
Britain or in France, those who were disposed to echo the cry of "pirate!"
which went up from the press of New York and Boston. The claim was made
that the Alabama waged warfare exclusively upon defenceless merchantmen,
and therefore was not entitled to be considered as a vessel of war. Her
defenders could only point to that solitary thirteen-minute fight with
the Hatteras. A Scotch paper called attention to the fact that although
Captain Semmes had "destroyed property to the value of between £3,000,000
and £4,000,000, he has never once attacked or come in the way of a vessel
of his own calibre, except under false colors, and with a lie in the mouth
of his officials."

There is no doubt that the Confederate captain chafed under criticisms of
this character. On the other hand, American shipping had been all but
driven from the ocean, and if the Alabama was to refrain from battles with
armed vessels, her usefulness, except as a mere patrol, was at an end.
And, again, if the Alabama waited to refit she might have to fight a whole
fleet in order to get to sea.

June 14th the Kearsarge steamed into Cherbourg through the east entrance
and sent a boat on shore, but kept on and went out at the west entrance
without anchoring. This was construed by some as an act of defiance, but
the real reason was to avoid coming within the provisions of the
twenty-four hour rule. Captain Semmes changed his request for a dock
permit to an order for coal, and sent the following note to Mr. Bonfils,
the Confederate commercial agent at Cherbourg:

     C. S. S. Alabama, Cherbourg, June 14, 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 tomorrow evening, or after the morrow
     morning at furthest. I beg she will not depart before I am ready to
     go out. I have the honor to be very respectfully, your obedient

       R. SEMMES,

This is the "challenge," in regard to which there was so much subsequent
discussion. A copy thereof having been transmitted to Captain Winslow, he
replied through the U. S. consul that he came to Cherbourg to fight, and
had no intention of leaving.

The Kearsarge was built in Maine in the early part of the war, and cost
about $275,000. The two vessels were very evenly matched in size and
armament. The following table shows the measurements:

                                     _Kearsarge._  _Alabama._

  Length of keel                       198-1/2        210
  Length over all                      232            220
  Beam                                  33             32
  Depth                                 16-1/2         17
  Engines (two in each) horse power    400            300
  Tonnage                             1031           1040

The Alabama carried eight guns: the hundred-pounder rifled Blakely pivoted
forward; the eight-inch gun pivoted abaft the mainmast, and six
32-pounders in broadside. The Kearsarge carried seven guns: two
eleven-inch smooth bore pivoted guns; one 28-pounder rifle, and four
32-pounders. The officers and men on the Kearsarge numbered one hundred
and sixty-three; those on the Alabama about one hundred and fifty.

On Monday the Kearsarge ran into Dover for dispatches, and on Tuesday
appeared off Cherbourg. Permission was obtained for boats to visit the
shore, but the ship did not anchor in the harbor. The officers of the
Kearsarge were very skeptical as to the desire of Captain Semmes for a
battle, and a strict watch was kept at both entrances of the harbor, lest
he should give them the slip, as he had the San Jacinto. The possibility
of a night attack was also discussed, and preparations made for repelling
it in case it should be suddenly thrust upon them.

More than a year previous while at the Azores the spare chain cable had
been hung up and down upon the sides of the vessel as an additional
protection to the engines when the coal bunkers were not full, and the
whole enclosed by a covering of inch deal boards. This was done upon the
suggestion of the executive officer, James S. Thornton, who had seen this
device used by Admiral Farragut when running past the forts on the
Mississippi to reach New Orleans. Captain Semmes says he knew nothing
about this chain armor. If he did know about it, he evidently underrated
its effectiveness.

The ports of the Kearsarge were let down, guns pivoted to starboard, and
the entire battery loaded and made ready for instant service. Thursday,
Friday and Saturday passed, but the Alabama failed to show herself outside
the breakwater. Communication with the shore had been forbidden, and the
only intelligence of events in the harbor other than what could be made
out with the glass, came through the French pilots, who reported that the
Alabama was taking in a large supply of coal, sending chronometers, specie
and other valuables on shore, and that swords, boarding pikes and
cutlasses were being sharpened.

A message from Minister Dayton was brought off by his son, who with
difficulty obtained permission from the French admiral of the district to
visit the Kearsarge. He told Captain Winslow that it was his opinion that
Captain Semmes would not fight, but admitted that the general opinion in
Cherbourg was contrary to his own. On returning to the shore, Mr. Dayton
was informed by the admiral that Captain Semmes would go out to the attack
the next morning, and he spent a considerable part of the night
endeavoring to communicate this intelligence to Captain Winslow, but the
vigilance of the Cherbourg police prevented him from accomplishing his
object. He stayed in Cherbourg the next day, witnessed the battle from a
convenient height, and telegraphed the result to his father in Paris.

Meanwhile the coaling of the Alabama was completed. Some of the officers
were given a banquet by admiring friends in the town on Saturday night,
and the party broke up with a promise to meet again in a similar way to
celebrate the victory which none seemed to doubt would soon be theirs.

Sunday morning came. The weather was fine, the air slightly hazy and a
light westerly breeze rippled the harbor. Sunday was esteemed the
Alabama's lucky day. On Sunday Captain Semmes had assumed the command of
her and the Confederate ensign first appeared at her mast head. On Sunday
many of her most important captures had been made. On Sunday she halted
the mighty Ariel, and on Sunday she sunk the Hatteras. It was inevitable
that there should grow up between decks a belief that any important
enterprise begun on Sunday had the best chance of success. As a factor in
the coming contest, a feeling in the minds of the men who were to do the
fighting that a lucky day had been pitched upon for the battle, was not to
be despised. And so on Sunday, June 19th, 1864, the Alabama sallied forth
to meet the Kearsarge. The French iron clad frigate Couronne accompanied
her to the three-mile limit in order to make sure that no fighting should
take place in French waters. A private English steam yacht, the Deerhound,
followed in the wake of the Couronne and took a position affording a good
view of the battle, and several French pilot boats did likewise. The
taller buildings, the rigging of vessels, the fortifications, and the
heights above the town, were lined with people, many of whom had come from
the interior and even from Paris to view the extraordinary spectacle. It
is said that more than fifteen thousand people had gathered for this
purpose. The great majority sympathised with the Alabama, but there was
quite a contingent of Union adherents, among whom were the captains of the
Tycoon and the Rockingham, with their families and crews, eager that
vengeance at last might fall upon the destroyer.



On board the Kearsarge the long wait had bred doubts of the martial temper
of Captain Semmes, and aside from the preparations already made affairs
had largely dropped back into the ordinary routine. Soon after ten o'clock
the officer of the deck reported a steamer approaching from the city, but
this was a frequent occurrence, and no attention was paid to the

The bell was tolling for religious services when loud shouts apprised the
crew that the long-looked-for Alabama was in sight. Captain Winslow
hastily laid aside his prayer book and seized his trumpet. The fires were
piled high with coal and the prow was turned straight out to sea. The
fight must be to the death, and the vanquished was not to be permitted to
crawl within the protection of the marine league. Moreover, the French
government had expressed a desire that the battle should take place at
least six or seven miles from the coast. Ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five
minutes passed. The Alabama kept straight on, and the Kearsarge continued
her apparent flight.

Finally, at 10:50, when six or seven miles from shore, the Kearsarge
wheeled and bore down upon her adversary. At a distance of a little over a
mile the Alabama began the fight with her Blakely rifle, and at 10:57 she
opened fire with her entire starboard broadside, which cut some of the
Kearsarge's rigging but did no material damage. The latter crowded on all
steam to get within closer range, but in two minutes a second broadside
came hurtling about her. This was quickly followed by a third, and then,
deeming the danger from a raking fire too great longer to allow the ship
to present her bow to the enemy, Captain Winslow directed his vessel
sheared, and fired his starboard battery. He then made an attempt to run
under the Alabama's stern, which she frustrated by shearing, and thus the
two ships were forced into a circular track round a common center, and the
battle went on for an hour, the distance between them varying from a half
to a quarter of a mile. During that time the vessels described seven
complete circles.

At 11:15 a sixty-eight pounder shell came through the bulwarks of the
Kearsarge, exploding on the quarter deck and badly wounding three of the
crew of the after pivot gun. Two shots entered the ports of the thirty-two
pounders, but injured no one. A shell exploded in the hammock nettings and
set fire to the ship, but those detailed for fire service extinguished it
in a short time, and so thorough was the discipline that the cannonade was
not even interrupted.

A hundred-pounder shell from the Alabama's Blakely pivot gun entered near
the stern and lodged in the stern-post. The vessel trembled from bowsprit
to rudder at the shock. The shell failed to explode, however. Had it done
so, the effect must have been serious and might have changed the result of
the battle. A thirty-two pounder shell entered forward and lodged under
the forward pivot gun, tilting it out of range, but did not explode. A
rifle shell struck the smoke stack, broke through, and exploded inside,
tearing a ragged hole three feet in diameter Only two of the boats escaped

As the battle progressed, it became evident that the terrible pounding of
the two eleven-inch Dahlgrens was having a disastrous effect on the
Alabama. The Kearsarge gunners had been instructed to aim the heavy guns
somewhat below rather than above the water line, and leave the deck
fighting to the lighter weapons. As the awful missiles opened great gaps
in the enemy's side or bored her through and through, the deck of the
Kearsarge rang with cheers. A seaman named William Gowin, with a badly
shattered leg, dragged himself to the forward hatch, refusing to permit
his comrades to leave their gun in order to assist him. Here he fainted,
but reviving after being lowered to the care of the surgeon, waved his
hand and joined feebly in the cheers which reached him from the deck.

"It is all right," he told the surgeon; "I am satisfied, for we are
whipping the Alabama."

The situation on the Alabama was indeed getting serious. It is evident
that Captain Semmes entered the fight expecting to win. On leaving the
harbor the crew were called aft, and, mounting a gun carriage, he
addressed them as follows:

     Officers and seamen of the Alabama: You have at length another
     opportunity of meeting the enemy--the first that has been presented
     to you since you sunk the Hatteras. In the meantime you have been all
     over the world, and it is not too much to say that you have destroyed
     and driven for protection under neutral flags one-half of the enemy's
     commerce, which, at the beginning of the war, covered every sea. This
     is an achievement of which you may well be proud; and a grateful
     country will not be unmindful of it. The name of your ship has become
     a household word wherever civilization extends. Shall that name be
     tarnished by defeat? The thing is impossible! Remember that you are
     in the English Channel, the theatre of so much of the naval glory of
     our race, and that the eyes of all Europe are at this moment upon
     you. The flag that floats over you is that of a young Republic, who
     bids defiance to her enemies, whenever and wherever found. Show the
     world that you know how to uphold it. Go to your quarters.

As before stated, the "Persuader" began to speak at long range-more than a
mile. But it was no peaceful merchantman that she had now to accost; no
fleeing Ariel, vomiting black smoke in a vain effort to get beyond her
range--no white winged Starlight or Sea Bride, piling sail on sail to
reach the shelter of a neutral harbor. The Kearsarge only raced toward
her with still greater speed. At the third summons the Kearsarge yawed
gracefully to port, and out of those frowning Dahlgrens blazed her answer.
The Alabama staggered at the blow, and her creaking yards shook like
branches in a tornado. Glass in hand, Captain Semmes stood upon the
horseblack abreast the mizzen mast.

"Try solid shot," he shouted; "our shell strike her side and fall into the

A little later shells were tried again, and then shot and shell were
alternated during the remainder of the battle. But no plan seemed to check
the awful regularity of the Kearsarge's after pivot gun. Captain Semmes
offered a reward for the silencing of this gun, and at one time his entire
battery was turned upon it, but although three of its men were wounded as
stated, its fire was not interrupted.

"What is the matter with the Blakely gun?" was asked; "we don't seem to be
doing her any harm."

At one time the after pivot gun of the Alabama, commanded by Lieutenant
Wilson, had been run out to be fired, when a shell came through the
port, mowing down the men and piling up a gastly mass of human flesh. One
of the thirty-two pounders had to be abandoned in order to fill up the
crew of the gun. The deck was red with blood, and much effort was
necessarily expended in getting the wounded below.


Water rushed into the Alabama through gaping holes in her sides, and she
was visibly lower in the water. There was no concealing the fact that the
vessel could not float any great length of time. Captain Semmes made one
last attempt to reach the coast--or at least that saving marine league,
whose shelter he had denied to so many of his victims. As the vessels were
making their seventh circle the foretrysail and two jibs were ordered set.
The seaman who executed the order was struck while on the jib boom by a
shell or solid shot and disembowelled. Nevertheless, he succeeded in
struggling to the spar deck, and ran shrieking to the port gangway, where
he fell dead. The guns were pivoted to port, and the battle recommenced,
with the Alabama's head turned toward the shore.

[Illustration: _Chart of Battle off Cherbourg._]

The effort was a vain one. Again the shells plowed through the Alabama's
hull, and the chief engineer came on deck to say that the water had put
out his fires. Lieutenant Kell ran below and soon satisfied himself that
the vessel could not float ten minutes. The flag was ordered hauled down
and a white flag displayed over the stern. But the gunners were unable to
realize that they were whipped. Semmes and Kell were immediately
surrounded by excited seamen protesting against surrender. Even a
statement of the condition of things below decks failed to convince all of
them of the futility of further fighting. It is said that two of the
junior officers, swearing that they would never surrender, rushed to the
two port guns and reopened fire on the Kearsarge. At this point there is a
flat contradiction in the statements of eye witnesses. Lieutenant Kell
denies that there was any firing of the Alabama's guns after the colors
had been hauled down, and that her discipline would not have permitted it.
Semmes and Kell both aver that the Kearsarge fired five shots into them
after their flag had been hauled down.

When the firing had ceased Master's Mate Fullam was sent to the Kearsarge
with a boat's crew and a few of the wounded in the dingey (the only boat
entirely unharmed) to say that the Alabama was sinking and to ask for
assistance in transferring the wounded. He told Captain Winslow that
Captain Semmes had surrendered. But during the interval the Alabama was
rapidly filling, and the wounded and boys who could not swim were hastily
placed in two of the quarter boats, which were only partially injured, and
sent to the Kearsarge in command of F. L. Galt, surgeon of the Alabama,
and at that time also acting as paymaster.

The order was then given for every man to jump overboard with a spar and
save himself as best he could. The sea was quite smooth, and the active
young officers and men found no difficulty in keeping afloat. Captain
Semmes had on a life preserver, and Lieutenant Kell supported himself on a
grating. Assistant Surgeon Llewelyn, an Englishman, had tied some empty
shell boxes around his waist, and although these prevented his body from
sinking, he was unable to keep his head above water, never having learned
to swim. One of the men swam to him a little later and found him dead.

The Alabama settled at the stern. The water entering the berth deck ports
forced the air upward, and the huge hulk sighed like a living creature
hunted to its death. The shattered mainmast broke and fell. The great guns
and everything movable came thundering aft, increasing the weight at the
stern, and, throwing her bow high in the air, she made her final plunge.
The end of the jib boom was the last to disappear beneath the waters, and
the career of the famous cruiser was ended forever.

The Deerhound having approached at the close of the battle, Captain
Winslow hailed her and requested her owner, Mr. John Lancaster, to run
down and assist in saving the survivors, which he hastened to do. Steaming
in among the men struggling in the water, the boats of the Deerhound were
dispatched to their assistance, and ropes were also thrown to them from
the decks. Master's Mate Fullam asked permission of Captain Winslow to
take his boat and assist in the rescue, which was granted. Two French
pilot boats also appeared on the scene and assisted in the work. One of
these pilot boats took the men saved by it on board the Kearsarge, but the
other, having rescued Second Lieutenant Armstrong and a number of seamen,
went ashore. Those taken to the Kearsarge, including the wounded, numbered
seventy, among whom were several subordinate officers and Third Lieutenant
Joseph D. Wilson. Captain Semmes had been slightly wounded in the arm and
was pulled into one of the Deerhound's boats in a thoroughly exhausted
condition. Lieutenant Kell was rescued by the same boat. Fifth Lieutenant
Sinclair and a sailor, having been picked up by one of the Kearsarge's
boats, quietly dropped overboard and reached one of the Deerhound's boats
in safety. The Deerhound, having picked up about forty officers and men,
steamed rapidly away and landed them on the coast of England at



Although the deal covering of the chain armor on the Kearsarge was ripped
off in many places and some of the links themselves broken, a close
inspection showed that no shot which struck them would have been likely to
reach a vital part, had they been absent. The only really dangerous shot
which reached the Kearsarge was the shell in the stern-post. Captain
Semmes rails at his opponent for adopting unusual methods for the safety
of his vessel. He says:

     Notwithstanding my enemy went out chivalrously armored to encounter a
     ship whose wooden sides were entirely without protection, I should
     have beaten him in the first thirty minutes of the engagement, but
     for the defect of my ammunition, which had been two years on board,
     and become much deteriorated by cruising in a variety of climates. I
     had directed my men to fire low, telling them that it was better to
     fire too low than too high, as the ricochet in the former case--the
     water being smooth--would remedy the defect of their aim, whereas it
     was of no importance to cripple the masts and spars of a steamer. By
     Captain Winslow's own account, the Kearsarge was struck twenty-eight
     times; but his ship being armored, of course my shot and shell,
     except in so far as fragments of the latter may have damaged his
     spars and rigging, fell harmless into the sea. The Alabama was not
     mortally wounded, as the reader has seen, until after the Kearsarge
     had been firing at her an hour and ten minutes. In the meantime, in
     spite of the armor of the Kearsarge, I had mortally wounded that ship
     in the first thirty minutes of the engagement. I say "mortally
     wounded her," because the wound would have proved mortal, but for the
     defect of my ammunition above spoken of. I lodged a rifled percussion
     shell near her stern post--where there were no chains--which failed
     to explode because of the defect of the cap. If the cap had performed
     its duty, and exploded the shell, I should have been called upon to
     save Captain Winslow's crew from drowning, instead of his being
     called upon to save mine. On so slight an incident--the defect of a
     percussion cap--did the battle hinge. The enemy were very proud of
     this shell. It was the only trophy they ever got of the Alabama! We
     fought her until she would no longer swim, and then we gave her to
     the waves. This shell, thus imbedded in the hull of the ship, was
     carefully cut out along with some of the timber, and sent to the Navy
     Department in Washington, to be exhibited to admiring Yankees. It
     should call up the blush of shame to the cheek of every northern man
     who looks upon it. It should remind him of his ship going into action
     with concealed armor; it should remind him that his ship fired into a
     beaten antagonist five times, after her colors had been struck and
     when she was sinking; and it should remind him of the drowning of
     helpless men, struggling in the water for their lives! Perhaps this
     latter spectacle was something for a Yankee to gloat upon. The
     Alabama had been a scourge and a terror to them for two years. She
     had seized their property! Yankee property! Curse upon the "pirates,"
     let them drown!

There is scarcely a doubt that Captain Semmes owed his life to the
forbearance of Captain Winslow. Had he been captured during the heat of
the war, a military court would doubtless have ordered his execution. The
commander of the Kearsarge was several times warned by his officers that
Semmes and many of his people were on board the Deerhound and likely to
escape, but he said the yacht was "simply coming round," and took no steps
to prevent her departure.[3]

At 3:10 p. m. the Kearsarge again dropped anchor in Cherbourg harbor. The
wounded of both vessels were transferred to the French Marine hospital,
where the brave seaman, William Gowin, died. The prisoners, with the
exception of four officers, were paroled and sent on shore before sunset,
a proceeding which Secretary Welles promptly disavowed, as he was resolved
to commit no act which could be construed into an acknowledgement that
the Alabama was a regular vessel of war. Lieutenant Wilson was, however,
released on parole a few weeks later.

The news of the destruction of the Alabama was received with the greatest
demonstrations of delight throughout the North and among her friends
abroad. Captain Semmes was roundly denounced for making his escape after
his vessel had been surrendered. Mr. John Lancaster was likewise assailed
for his part in the affair, and stories told by the prisoners to the
effect that the Deerhound had been acting as a sort of tender to the
Alabama were readily believed in the United States. Other preposterous
inventions, one of which assumes to describe a visit of Captain Semmes to
the Kearsarge in disguise before the battle, have not even yet ceased to
circulate. The ready pen of Captain Semmes and those of his journalistic
friends in England were busily impaling Captain Winslow for two offenses:
First, he was guilty of armoring his ship and concealing the fact that he
had done so; and, secondly, he had fired upon the Alabama after her
colors had been struck.

On the first point it may be said that the existence of the chain armor on
the Kearsarge was pretty well known in ports where she had touched, and it
would be strange indeed if Captain Semmes should have allowed this fact to
escape his notice. Moreover, we have the direct statement of Lieutenant
Sinclair, of the Alabama, that Semmes knew all about the chain armor
before the battle.[4]

As to the second point, it was stated by prisoners from the Alabama that
the unauthorized firing by junior officers of the Alabama after her flag
had been hauled down had provoked the fire complained of. Lieutenant
Sinclair admits the clamorous protests of the gunners against surrender.
Taken with the positive testimony of the officers of the Kearsarge that
such firing actually took place, these statements would appear to be
tolerably conclusive.

Notwithstanding the loss of his ship, Captain Semmes was treated as a
hero. He was petted and féted by the London clubs, and the Junior United
Service Club presented him with a magnificent sword, artistically engraved
with naval and Confederate symbols, to take the place of the sword which
he had cast into the sea. Reports flew broadcast that he would very soon
be in command of a larger and more powerful "Alabama." English youths and
school boys wrote to him by the score, imploring permission to serve under
him in his new ship. But the Confederate government took a different view
of the matter. Moreover Captain Semmes' health had been impaired by his
three years of arduous service. Although at this time the Confederates had
strong hopes of getting to sea one or more iron clads, Semmes was not
named for the command, and received instructions to return to the southern

Not caring to take the chances of running the blockade, which had by this
time become well nigh impenetrable, Captain Semmes took passage for Havana
and thence to the mouth of the Rio Grande, from which point he made his
way overland through Texas and Louisiana, and arrived in Richmond in
January, 1865. Here, in consideration of his services to the Confederate
cause, he was raised to the rank of rear admiral and ordered to take
command of the James River fleet. When General Lee evacuated Richmond
Admiral Semmes set fire to his fleet, seized a railroad train, and
transferred his command to Danville. His forces became a part of the army
of General Joseph E. Johnston, and were paroled with the rest when that
army surrendered to General Sherman.

December 15th, 1865, Semmes was arrested at his home in Mobile, Alabama,
and taken to Washington, where he was confined for several months, while
the propriety of trying him by court martial was undergoing consideration.
No name connected with the Rebellion was more thoroughly detested along
the seaboard than that of Raphael Semmes. He was accused of cruelty to his
prisoners, and many believed that he often sunk vessels with all on board.
His conduct at Cherbourg was considered to be contrary to the rules of
war, first in the alleged firing after the vessel had been surrendered,
and secondly in escaping and throwing his sword into the sea. Mr. John A.
Bolles, the solicitor general, made careful investigation of the charges
on behalf of the United States government, and came to the conclusion that
prosecution would not be warranted in time of peace, especially
considering the fact that greater offenders were escaping prosecution.
Captain Semmes' cruelty to prisoners seems to have consisted chiefly of
confining many of them in irons, an occasional display of his fiery
temper, and certain outbursts of profanity. What the prisoners complained
of most was the burning of their ships. But all southern ports being
closed by the blockade, this is manifestly the only disposition he could
make of them. Escaping after surrendering his ship was doubtless contrary
to the usages of war, but considering the fact that he was likely to be
treated as a pirate, rather than as a prisoner of war, he could hardly be
expected to act differently.

The question of the liability of the English government for the escape of
the Alabama, the Florida, the Shenandoah, the Sallie, the Boston, and six
other vessels which were converted into Confederate war vessels, was
referred to a Tribunal of Arbitration, which assembled at Geneva,
Switzerland, December 15th, 1871. One member of the Tribunal was appointed
by the president of the United States, one by the queen of England, and
one each by the king of Italy, the president of Switzerland, and the
emperor of Brazil. This court gave judgment against Great Britain for the
value of all the ships and cargoes destroyed by the five vessels named,
amounting in all with interest to $15,500,000. The losses inflicted by the
Alabama, according to claims presented by the losers amounted to

The Kearsarge was repaired at Cherbourg, and continued in the United
States service throughout the war. Long after other vessels would have
been broken up as too old for service she continued to receive repairs,
once amounting almost to rebuilding. January 30th, 1894, she sailed from
Port au Prince, Hayti, for Bluefields, Nicaragua. On the evening of
Friday, February 2d, she struck on Roncador Reef in the Carribean Sea.
The ship had to be lightened, and accordingly the guns were thrown
overboard. She held together during the night, however, and the crew
remained on board. The next morning a line was run ashore, and all hands
were safely landed on the island, from which place one of the boats was
sent to Colon for assistance. A steamer was dispatched to take off the
shipwrecked mariners. Every person having been rescued, officers and crew
watched the wave-lashed hulk slowly disappear from view, and the wreck of
the old Kearsarge was left to the mercy of the sea.


[1] "Aid thyself and God will aid thee."

[2] Report of Consul Lawless to the British foreign office.

[3] In reviewing an autobiography of Sir George F. Bowen, at one time
governor of New Zealand, the London Spectator says (vol. 65, p. 20): "The
visit of the United States ship Kearsarge at this time brought to light a
bit of history which Sir George Bowen has done well to preserve. The
Captain informed his host that after the Alabama was sunk, its commander,
Semmes, was seen floating in the sea with the help of a life-belt. He
could easily have been captured, but it was thought better to let him be
saved by a passing British vessel, since, if taken to America, he would
probably have been hanged, and the officers of the Kearsarge wished to
save a gallant enemy from such a fate."

[4] Two years on the Alabama, p. 263.

Transcriber's Notes:

Passages in italics are indicated by _italics_.

Punctuation has been corrected without note.

The following misprints have been corrected:
  "Republcan" corrected to "Republican" (page 7)
  "tranferred" corrected to "transferred" (page 40)
  "Ronckendorf" corrected to "Ronckendorff" (page 84)
  "vesels" corrected to "vessels" (page 142)
  "hiusband's" corrected to "husband's" (page 177)

Other than the corrections listed above, inconsistencies in spelling and
hyphenation have been retained from the original.

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