Tag Archives: css alabama

Adm. Semmes gets a home

Facing a $25K-a-day fine from the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, the City of Mobile has moved the recently toppled statue of the former U.S. Navy CDR/C.S. Navy ADM/C.S. Army B. Gen., Raphael Semmes, to the city’s museum, where it belongs.

Notably, the museum also holds numerous relics of the commerce raider CSS Alabama, which Semmes helmed to 66 naval victories and one crushing defeat, as well as artifacts from the officer’s own life, including an ornate French-made Houllier-Blanchard revolver I chronicled in the past.

You don’t see these every day. 

Warship Wednesday, May 26, 2021: Baked New Hampshire

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, May 26, 2021: Baked New Hampshire

Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation; Collection of W. Beverley Mason, Jr., 1962. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 51182

Here we see the lead ship of the Ossipee-class sloop of war, USS Ossipee, off Honolulu in the then-Kingdom of Hawaiʻi during the Kamehameha dynasty, with her crew manning the yards, in early 1867. Our sloop would range far and wide in her naval service, including damming the torpedoes and coping with fainting Russian princesses.

Built for the budding war between the states, the four vessels of the Ossipee-class were wooden-hulled steam-powered warships of some 1,200 tons, running some 207 feet long overall. With a ~140-man crew, they were designed to carry a 100-pounder Parrott pivot gun, an 11-inch Dahlgren shell gun, a trio of 30-pounder rifles, six 32-pounders, and a couple of 12-pounders, giving them the nominal rank of a 13-gun sloop.

Class leader Ossipee was laid down at Portsmouth Naval Yard in Kittery, Maine in June 1861, just as the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the Shenandoah were being formed, while her sisters USS Adirondack, USS Housatonic, and USS Juniata, were subsequently laid down the Navy Yards in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, respectively and near-simultaneously.

A good sketch profile of the class in their Civil War layout. USS Housatonic, Wash drawing by R.G. Skerrett, 1902. NH 53573

The class was named for geographical features i.e., mountains and rivers, with Ossipee being the first (and thus far only) Navy warship to carry the name of the Ossipee River that runs through New Hampshire and part of Maine.

Ossipee Falls, Ossipee, N.H. LC-DIG-stereo-1s13770

Commissioned on 6 November 1862, Ossipee spent a few months with the North Atlantic Squadron before shipping south on 18 May 1863 to join Farragut’s West Gulf Blockading Squadron off Mobile, Alabama. While operating in the Northern Gulf, she pulled off a hattrick of captures, hauling over the schooner Helena on 30 June and the blockade runners James Battle and William Bagley two weeks later, with the latter two packed with cotton and headed abroad.

Damn the Torpedos!

On the early morning of 5 August 1864, Ossipee was part of the 14-vessel task force assigned to sweep Mobile Bay, pushing past Battery Powell and Forts Gaines and Morgan at the mouth of the Bay, despite the threat of underwater torpedoes (mines).

Plan of the battle of August 5, 1864. [Mobile Bay] From Harper’s Weekly, v. 8, Sept. 24, 1864. p. 613, via the LOC CN 99447253. Ossipee is marked No. 11 on the plan, taking the Bay mouth aside from the gunboat USS Itasca.

About those Torpedos
 
The Confederates sowed dozens of fixed mines of several types in defense of Mobile Bay, with at least 67 of the “infernal devices” across the mouth of the Bay alone. (See: Gabriel Rains and the Confederate Torpedo Bureau: Waters, W. Davis, Brown, Joseph, for more details than below). 

An example of the Confederate Type 7 Frame-fixed torpedo (mine). Some 28.5-inches long and 12.2-inches across, they weighed 440-pounds of which just 27 of that was black powder explosive charge. Using a Type G1A adjustable triple Rains-pattern primer style torpedo fuze, these cast iron mines were set into a wedge-shaped frame and typically laid in sets of three with the thought that, if the first was missed, a passing ship would possibly hit the second or third or, if spotting the last in the chain, attempt to back off and run over the first. The rebels used what Brig. Gen Gabriel J. Rains, head of the Confederate Torpedo Bureau, described as a “Torpedo Mortar Battery” at Mobile, some 60 feet long and 35 feet wide, constructed of these frame-type mine arrays. Towed into place once constructed, it was angled from the bottom of the sea bed with the fuzed shells facing just under the surface of the water at low tide.

An example of a Confederate Fretwell-Singer-type torpedo, common to Mobile Bay, at the Fort Morgan Museum.

The Confederate Rains “keg type” mines were made from everything from Demi jugs, beer barrels, and even 1,500-gallon boilers in at least one case, with conical ends fitted. Waterproofed with pitch and tar, they were anchored in place and used with chemical/pressure style fuzes or could be command-detonated via an electrical circuit ashore.

 
Heeling Tennessee

Besides the mines, Farragut had to face off and do combat with the fearsome albeit semi-complete Confederate ironclad ram CSS Tennessee. During the engagement, Ossipee suffered 1 killed (SN Owen Manes) and 7 wounded, mostly with splinter wounds, against the fleet’s total losses of 135 dead (including 94 who went down with the Canonicus-class monitor USS Tecumseh, one of 43 American vessels sunk by rebel mines in the conflict) and 88 sent to the surgeon.

At the end of the morning, Farragut’s fleet had lost Tecumseh to causes still not fully known but captured the gunboat CSS Selma with 90 officers and men as well as the battered CSS Tennessee, with 190 officers and men aboard to include Confederate ADM. Franklin Buchanan. Tennessee’s skipper, CDR James D. Johnson, was a prisoner on Ossipee by dusk on the 5th. Just out of Farragut’s reach, the sinking gunboat CSS Gaines lay grounded and abandoned.

Ossipee went down in history as being the last Union ship to get a bite at Tennessee, moving in to ram the rebel ironclad in the final moments before Johnson poked up a white flag from her wheelhouse. Unfortunately, the momentum of the sloop continued under Newton’s first law of motion and collided with the surrendered beast.

Battle of Mobile Bay, 5 August 1864. Line engraving after an artwork by J.O. Davidson, published in “Battles and Leaders of the Civil War”, Volume 4, page 378. Entitled “Surrender of the Tennessee, Battle of Mobile Bay”, it depicts CSS Tennessee in the center foreground, surrounded by the Union warships (from left to right): USS Lackawanna, USS Winnebago, USS Ossipee, USS Brooklyn, USS Itasca, USS Richmond, USS Hartford, and USS Chickasaw. Fort Morgan is shown at the right distance. NH 1276

“Capture of the Confederate ram Tennessee” Artwork by J.O. Davidson, depicting the surrender of CSS Tennessee after the Battle of Mobile Bay, 5 August 1864. U.S. Navy ships depicted include monitor USS Winnebago and sloop USS Monongahela, in the left background; sloop USS Ossipee “in collision with Tennessee”, in the center; monitor USS Chickasaw “lying across the stern of Tennessee”, in right foreground; gunboat USS Itasca, in the right distance; and flagship USS Hartford further to the right. NH 42394

Once Mobile had been neutralized as a rebel port, Ossipee continued her service in the Gulf enforcing the blockade off Texas and was in Union-held New Orleans in April 1865 when the side-wheel steam ram CSS Webb, darted out of the Red River and made a break for the sea via the Mississippi and gave pursuit along with other vessels with the nimble Webb ending her run burned out and abandoned by her crew.

The Webb Running the Blockade, by William Lindsey Challoner, Louisiana State Museum

To the Frozen North

Laid up briefly after the war, Ossipee was one of the luckier of her class. Sister Adirondack had been lost on a reef in the Bahamas in August 1862 while looking for blockade runners. Sister Housatonic made naval history (in a bad way) by becoming the first warship sunk by an enemy submarine when CSS H.L. Hunley took her to the bottom with her off Charleston, South Carolina, 17 February 1864. Only Juniata, who had spent most of the Civil War ranging the seas in search of Confederate raiders, remained.

The 11-gun Ossipee-class steam sloop USS Juniata in 1889, Detroit Photo. Via LOC. Her class included the ill-fated USS Housatonic.

Like Juniata, Ossipee would soon see more of the earth than the Gulf of Mexico and Eastern Seaboard.

Recommissioned 27 October 1866, she was sent to the Pacific to show the flag from Central America to Alaska, then a Tsarist territory.

Following the “folly” of U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward’s treaty with Russia for the purchase of what would eventually become the 49th state for $7.2 million in gold, Ossipee was dispatched from San Francisco in September 1867 to affect the transfer. Accompanied by the third-rate gunboat USS Resaca (9 guns), who had been in Alaskan waters since August, the two vessels were on hand of the transfer on Castle Hill at Sitka (then population: 1,500) on October 18, 1867. There, Prince Dmitry Petrovich Maksutov, commissioner of the Tsar and Russian Governor of the territory, formally transferred all of Alaska to Brig. Gen. Lovell H. Rousseau, commissioner for the United States.

Ossipee’s skipper, Capt. George F. Emmons, would chronicle the transfer in his journal which is now in the Alaska State Archives as is Maksutov’s calling card given to the good captain.

Some 200 American troops, in Yankee blue, stood at attention across from a smaller number of Russian soldiers on opposite sides of the flagpole with the Russian flag dropped, and the American raised to a slow 21-gun cannon salute from Ossipee and the Russian coastal battery. Princess Maria Maksutova was famously supposed to have fainted during the transfer, as the Russian flag became stuck during the ceremony and had to be removed rather unceremoniously, although Emmons’s account dispels the fainting trope.

Old Glory Rises Over Alaska by Austin Briggs, showing Prince Maksutova and his parasol-equipped wife under the flagpole near the Tsar’s riflemen. Maksutova, who was a trained naval officer, fought during the Battle of Sinop and the siege of Petropavlovsk in the Crimean War, remained in Sitka for a year to help close things out. He died an admiral in his St. Petersburg home in 1889.

Post-Alaska

USS Ossipee in her 1873-78 configuration, with her 11-inch pivot gun mounted between the main & mizzen masts. NH 45369

Following the Sitka transfer, Ossipee would spend several years in the North Atlantic squadron. It was during this period that one of her crew, SN James Benson, would earn a rare peacetime Medal of Honor with his citation reading “Onboard the USS Ossipee, 20 June 1872. Risking his life, Benson leaped into the sea while the ship was going at a speed of 4 knots and endeavored to save John K. Smith, landsman, of the same vessel, from drowning.”

Ossipee would pick up the two-year-long Selfridge Expedition to the Isthmus of Darien (Panama) which we have covered before.

Darien Selfridge Survey. The First Reconnoitering Expedition, upon its return from the Isthmus of Darien Survey, No. 1 Commander Selfridge. No. 2. Captain Houston, USMC. No. 3. Lieutenant Goodrell, No. 4. Lieutenant Commander Schulze, No. 5 P.A. Surgeon Simonds, No. 6 P.A. Paymaster Loomis, No. 7 Lieutenant Jasper, No. 8 Mr. Sullivan Asst C.S., No. 9 Lieutenant Allen, USMC: NH 123343

Ossipee was involved in the 1873 Virginius affair with Spain after the fact, towing the notorious vessel back after the Spanish released it while her filibustering/insurgent crew would remain in custody in Havanna.

USS Ossipee in her configuration of 1884-89, with her 8-inch rifled pivot gun, mounted forward of the stack. NH 45054

USS Ossipee photographed in her 1884-89 configuration. NH 45370

Following more time in ordinary, Ossipee would once again ship off for the Pacific, remaining on Asiatic station from April 1884 to February 1887 when she arrived back in New York.

On her return, she was visited by E.H. Hart, a New York-based photographer who catered to postcard companies, and he captured her crew and decks in time. Her log held at the time that she was a 3rd rate sloop of 8 guns.

USS Ossipee Berth Deck, Cooks, in 1887. Photographed by E.H. Hart, 112 E. 24th St., New York. Note cooking gear, sausages in the roasting rack at left, tins of beef (one from New Zealand), bread, man peeling potatoes, a black sailor with bowl, coffee cups, and bearded Marine. NH 2860

USS Ossipee, Ship’s officers pose by her poop deck ladder, at the time of her arrival at New York from Asiatic service, February 1887. Note Gatling machine gun at left. CDR John F. McGlensey is in the center, in a forked beard. NH 42938

USS Ossipee, Inspection of the crew, at the time of her return from Asiatic service, February 1887. CDR John F. McGlensey, is in the right-center, beside the small boy. Note marines at left, and pumps in the lower center. NH 42939

USS Ossipee, Ship’s firemen posed by the boiler room hatch, with mascot puppy, 1887. Note breeches of 9-inch Dahlgren guns at left. NH 42940

USS Ossipee, Ship’s apprentices posed beside the engine room hatch, 1887. Note fancy bulwark paint and molding work; belaying pins holding running rigging; Gatling gun shot rack for 9-inch guns and carriage for a 3-inch landing force gun. Also ramrods and other heavy ordnance gear on bulwarks. NH 42941

USS Ossipee, Crew at quarters for inspection, February 1887, upon her arrival at New York from the Asiatic station. Marines are at the left. NH 42942

USS Ossipee, Men of the starboard watch, posed by the engine room hatch, looking forward, 1887. Note mascot puppy; engine order plaque on hatch coaming; a man with a telescope on the bridge; wire rope ladder to the shrouds; 9-inch round shot in the rack. NH 42943

USS Ossipee, Men of the port watch, posed by the engine room hatch, looking forward, in 1887. Note bugler at left, coal scuttle on deck, and cowl ventilator. Also, note landing force 3-inch gun carriage on deck. NH 42944

USS Ossipee “Equipping for distant service,” hoisting out a boat and landing force gun. This view was taken at New York Navy Yard upon her return from the Asiatic station in February 1887 and may show her being un-equipped for home service. NH 42945

USS Ossipee, “Abandoned ship,” showing her cluttered decks after her return to the New York Navy Yard from the Asiatic station in February 1887. Photo looking forward from her poop deck. Note: 9-inch Dahlgren guns, pumps, hatches, and tarpaulins over hammock rails. NH 42946

USS Ossipee ship’s officers, circa 1887-1888. Her Commanding Officer, CDR William Bainbridge Hoff, is in front left-center, with coat open. Note 9-inch Dahlgren gun at right. NH 42947

USS Ossipee crew At Quarters, circa 1887-88. Note black sailor in the right-center; gun crews by their weapons at right, Marines with Trap-door Springfield rifles, drummers, dog on deck, and hammocks stowed in hammock rails over the bulwarks. NH 42949

USS Ossipee general Muster on board, circa 1887-88. The ship’s Commanding Officer, CDR William Bainbridge Hoff, is in the center, leaning on the grating rack. Note Marine sentry at the gangway, hammock stowage, and large percentage of black sailors among the crew at left. NH 42950

USS Ossipee practice with a spar torpedo, rigged abeam, February 1887. NH 42952

USS Ossipee ship’s Marine guard in formation circa the 1880s. NH 58911

With the old wooden-hulled ship increasingly anachronistic in the new steel Navy, Ossipee was decommissioned at Norfolk on 12 November 1889 and sold there on 25 March 1891 to Herbert H. Ives.

Epilogue

Ossipee’s only sister to make it out of the Civil War, USS Juniata, would famously circumnavigate the globe in 1882-85 under the command of young CDR George Dewey, but her fate was coupled to Ossipee in the end, being sold off to Mr. Ives on the same day in 1891, who no doubt got a deal.

Ossipee is preserved in maritime art

W.M.C. Philbrick (American, 19th Century) Profile View of the U.S.S. Ossipee

Likewise, her muster rolls and logs are extensively preserved and digitized online in the National Archives as are numerous items in Alaska archives.

Finally, every October 18th is regularly celebrated in “The Last Frontier,” as Alaska Day, complete with a reenactment ceremony and parade in Sitka.

Specs:
Displacement 1,240 t.
Length 207′
Beam 38′
Draft 16′
Depth of Hold 16′ 10″
Speed 10kts
Complement 141
Armament
one 100-pdr Parrott rifle
one 11″ Dahlgren smoothbore
three 30-pdr Dahlgren rifles
six 32-pdr
one heavy 12-pdr smoothbore
one 12-pdr rifle
Propulsion Sails/Steam

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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Warship Wednesday, April 7, 2021: The Curious Confederate of Barcelona

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, April 7, 2021: The Curious Confederate of Barcelona

Here we see the Spanish bark-rigged screw steam corvette (corbeta) Tornado as she sits high in the water late in her career in the port of Barcelona, circa the 1900s. You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but she had one of the most (in)famous sisterships in 19th Century naval history and would dip her hand in a bit of infamy of her own.

In 1862, as the Confederate Navy was scrambling for warships of any kind, Lt. George T. Sinclair, CSN, was dispatched to Britain to work with CDR James Dunwoody Bulloch, the Confederacy’s chief foreign agent in Liverpool, to acquire a humdinger of a commerce raider. Coupled with a scheme to trade bulk cotton carried by blockade-runners out of Rebel ports for English credit and pounds sterling, Bulloch during the war had paid for the covert construction and purchase of the commerce raiders CSS Alabama and CSS Shenandoah as well as the less well-known CSS Florida.

CSS Alabama enters Table Bay at 10:00 AM August 5, 1863. She is increasing speed to capture the Sea Bride before she can escape to within one league of S.African territorial waters. This painting was commissioned by Ken Sheppard of South Africa. Via the CSS Alabama Assoc

Many consider the vessel that Sinclair and Bulloch ordered, which was drawn to a variant of the plans for the CSS Alabama, to be sort of a “Super Alabama.” Whereas the ‘Bama ran 220-feet overall and light with a 17-foot depth of hold and 1,050-ton displacement, her successor would be 231-feet and run 1,600 tons with larger engines and a battery of three 8-inch pivot guns (Alabama only had a single 8-inch pivot) and a 5-gun broadside.

When completed and armed, the Super Alabama was to take on the identity of the CSS Texas. However, to keep the construction secret, Bulloch arranged with the Clydebank firm of James and George Thomson of Glasgow to build her as a clipper under the name of Canton, then later Pampero, ostensibly for the Turkish Government, with an expected delivery date of October 1863.

Launched but lacking a crew, the English government was pressured after Thomas H. Dudley, United States Consul in Liverpool, discovered a near twin of the CSS Alabama was in the final stages of construction, and by late November a British man-o-war was anchored alongside the “Pampero.” On 10 December 1863, the yard’s owners and the ship’s agents were charged with violations of the Foreign Enlistment Act, wrapping the vessel up in legal proceedings for the rest of the war.

Drawing of the ‘Pampero’ published in The Illustrated London News 1864

In October 1865, six months after Lee surrendered at Appomattox but while the CSS Shenandoah was still raiding Yankee whalers in the Pacific, the Canton/Pampero/Texas was awarded to the bearers of the cotton bonds issued by Bulloch and company that had been used to finance the vessel then sold to the shipping firm of Galbraith & Denny.

The thing is, all the fast ships in European ports that could mount a hastily installed armament were at that time being bought up by the Empire of Spain or the Republic of Chile, who were engaged in a war in the Pacific. The Chilean agents, led by an interesting fellow by the name of Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna, beat the Spanish to the punch and bought Pampero for £75,000 in February 1866, with the vessel soon entered on the Chilean naval list as the corvette Tornado, subsequently sailing for Hamburg.

Over the next several months, the Spanish played a cat-and-mouse game as the Tornado and a second ship with a similar backstory, the corvette Abtao (former CSS Cyclone) attempted to be armed and outfitted, moving around European ports just one step ahead of their pursuers.

By the evening of 22 August, the Spanish 1st class steam frigate Gerona (48 guns), caught up with the unarmed Tornado at Madeira off the Portuguese coast and, after a short pursuit and four warning shots, the Chilean vessel, helmed by retired RN officer Edward Montgomery Collier, struck its flag.

Ángel Cortellini Sánchez ‘s “Captura de la corbeta de hélice Tornado por la fragata de hélice Gerona”, 1881, via Museo Naval de Madrid 

With the Armada Española

The next day, Tornado sailed for Cadiz with a prize crew and soon joined the Spanish fleet. After taking part in the September 1868 naval revolt, the vessel was dispatched to service in Havana in 1870. There, she was involved in the so-called Virginius affair in 1873.

For those not aware, Virginius had an interesting Confederate connection to Tornado, being built originally in Glasgow as a blockade runner then surviving the war and being used briefly by the Revenue Cutter Service.

VIRGINIUS (Merchant steamer, 1864-1873) Built in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1864 as a blockade runner. 1864-1867: SS VIRGIN; 1867-1870: U.S. revenue cutter VIRGIN; 1870-1873: SS VIRGINIUS. For more data, see Erik Heyl, Early American Steamers, vol. I. Watercolor by Erik Heyl, 1951. NH 63845

For three years starting in 1870, Virginius was used to run rebels under Cuban insurgent Gen. Manuel Quesada from the U.S. to the Spanish colony, with the somewhat tacit blind-eye and occasional support of the U.S. Navy. In October 1873, the steamer, skippered by Captain Joseph Fry, (USNA 1846, ex-USN, ex-CSN) and with a mixed British and American crew, was carrying 103 armed Cuban rebels when Tornado encountered her six miles off the Cuban coast.

Pursuit of Virginius by the Spanish gunboat Tornado, October 30, 1873.

Spanish man-of-war Tornado chasing the American steamer Virginius nypl.digitalcollections

1873 el Virginius, pirata estadounidense, es abordado por la corbeta española Tornado

The resulting chase and one-sided battle were short, with Fry striking his flag and Virginius sailed to Santiago de Cuba under armed guard.

There, the Spanish treated the crew and the insurgents as outlaws and pirates, executing 53 against the wall at the Santiago slaughterhouse, including Fry and the teenage son of Quesada, the lurid details of which were well-publicized by the press in the states, souring the relations between Washington and Madrid and pouring the foundation for the Spanish-American War.

Moving past Virginius

As for Tornado, she continued to serve the Spanish fleet for generations.

In 1878, she and the cruiser Jorge Juan stalked the pirate ship Montezuma, a mail steamer that had been taken by mutineers and Cuban rebels who turned to privateer against the Spanish. After a pursuit that spanned the Caribbean, Tornado found the Montezuma burned in Nicaragua.

Returning to Spain in 1879, Tornado was used as a training ship taking part in several lengthy summer cruises around the Med for the next few years, including escorting King Alphonso XII. By 1886, the aging bark was disarmed and used at Cartagena as a torpedo school for the rest of the century.

Home for boys

In 1900, Tornado was moved to Barcelona and assigned a new task– that of being a floating schoolship and barracks for orphan lads whose fathers had been lost at Manila Bay, Manzanillo, San Juan, and Santiago against the Americans. Remember, while U.S. naval historian largely covers these engagements as a tactical walkover and highlights Dewey, Sampson, and Schley as heroes, they left thousands of homes back in Spain missing a father.

Museu Maritim de Barcelona: The Tornado’s orphan cadets

Tornado would remain in Barcelona, moving past the education of the sons of 1898 to taking in general orphans and those of lost mariners and fishermen. Enduring well into the Spanish Civil War, she was sent to the bottom on 28 November 1938 by an air raid from Nationalist forces. Her wreck was scrapped in 1940.

Today, the Museu Maritim de Barcelona has her name board, recovered from the harbor in 1940, on display.

Via Museu Maritim de Barcelona

She is also remembered in a variety of maritime art.

Via Museu Maritim de Barcelona

For more on the Tornado, please read, “The Capture of Tornado: The History of a Diplomatic Dispute,” by Alejandro Anca Alamillo, Warship International, Vol. 45, No. 1 (2008), pp. 65-77. Keep in mind that old issues of WI are available on JSTOR to which access is open to INRO members.

Specs:
Displacement: 2,100 tons
Length: 231 ft
Beam: 33 ft
Draft: 16 ft
Machinery: Four boilers, 328 hp steam engine, one prop
Speed: 14 knots
Range: 1,700 miles
Complement: 202 men
Armament: (Spanish 1870)
1 × 7.8 in Parrott gun
2 × 160/15 cal gun
2 × 5 in bronze gun
2 × 3″/24 cal Hontoria breechloading guns

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Admiral Semmes statue to be shuffled to local museum

Facing a $25K-a-day fine from the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, the City of Mobile has decided to move the recently toppled statue of the former U.S. Navy CDR/C.S. Navy ADM/C.S. Army B. Gen., Raphael Semmes, to the city’s museum, where it belongs.

Notably, the museum also holds numerous relics of the commerce raider CSS Alabama, which Semmes helmed to 66 naval victories and one crushing defeat, as well as artifacts from the officer’s own life, including an ornate  French-made Houllier-Blanchard revolver I chronicled in the past.

You don’t see these every day. 

Update: It is still gonna cost the city some big bucks to be woke.

A link to Kearsarge, up at auction

We’ve talked extensively in passed Warship Wednesdays and other posts about the epic contest off France between the British-built steam privateer CSS Alabama, under the swashbuckling Capt. Raphael Semmes and the Mohican-class screw sloop of war USS Kearsarge on June 19, 1864.

The Battle of the USS Kearsarge and the CSS Alabama By Claude Monet, hanging today at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Aboard Kearsarge that day was Acting Master James R. Wheeler, a Massachusetts man who later went on command, as a volunteer lieutenant, the captured blockade runner-turned-Union gunboat USS Preston in the tail end of the war before serving as U.S. consul to Jamaica under President Grant, where he died in 1870. Importantly, Wheeler commanded the crew of the Union vessel’s key 11-inch Dahlgren shell gun, which pummeled Alabama into the sea at relatively close range.

This guy:

Well, sometime after Alabama and before Preston, Wheeler was presented a custom Ames Model 1852 Officer’s Sword by popular subscription among Boston gentlemen, complete with acanthus scrollwork, naval battle scenes and the likes of both Amphitrite and Poseidon.

Interestingly, it is well preserved and is coming up at auction in May, after once being part of the esteemed collection of Norm Flayderman.

(Photo: RIA)

More here:

Estimate Price: $75,000 – $125,000.

Combat Gallery Sunday : The Martial Art of Tom W. Freeman

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sunday, I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday : The Martial Art of Tom W. Freeman

Born in 1952 in Pontiac, Michigan, Tom’s family moved to the East Coast when he was 12. At age 18, Freeman joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in 1970 and left the military during the post-Vietnam draw down in 1977.

Although not professionally trained as an artist, Tom was skilled and had an eye for naval subjects, visiting the offices of the U.S. Naval Institute and pitching artwork that went on to grace the cover of the USNI’s journal, Proceedings (I’ve had a subscription since 9th grade NJROTC and encourage you to do the same!)

In all, he did the covers for 9 issues of Proceedings and 22 issues of Naval History magazine. He became the first artist in residence to the United States Naval Institute.

Freeman's first cover, Feb. 1977, Proceedings.

Freeman’s first cover, Feb. 1977, Proceedings.

He went on to become widely accepted and painted portraits for the White House, National Museum of the U.S. Navy, Annapolis, the SECNAV’s office, the Naval Historical Command, CNET, the NROTC program, and others as well as publish extensively.

Yamato's Final Voyage

Yamato’s Final Voyage

USS Tennessee

USS Tennessee

USS Houston, CA 30 valiantly fights on alone during the night of February 27-28, 1942 against an overwhelming Japanese Naval Force. “They Sold Their Lives Dearly” by Tom Freeman.

USS Houston, CA 30 valiantly fights on alone during the night of February 27-28, 1942 against an overwhelming Japanese Naval Force. “They Sold Their Lives Dearly” by Tom Freeman.

USCG Hamilton, (WMSL-753) interdicts drug runners by tom freeman

USCG Hamilton, (WMSL-753) interdicts drug runners by tom freeman

Pioneers

Pioneers

Pawn Takes Castle during Battle of Midway by Tom Freeman (Akagi means red castle)

Pawn Takes Castle during Battle of Midway by Tom Freeman (Akagi means red castle)

Oil on canvas by the artist Tom Freeman entitled The Harder (SS-257) Rescues Ensign John Gavlin. Date is 1 April 1944. Image via Navsource

Oil on canvas by the artist Tom Freeman entitled The Harder (SS-257) Rescues Ensign John Gavlin. Date is 1 April 1944. Image via Navsource

Too Close

Too Close

Action in the Slot PT-109

Action in the Slot PT-109

IJN Soryu (Blue Dragon) by Tom Freeman

IJN Soryu (Blue Dragon) by Tom Freeman

French helicopter carrier Jeanne d'Arc

French helicopter carrier Jeanne d’Arc

(16 June 2003) Award-winning artist Tom W. Freeman presents his painting "Payment in Iron" to the Honorable Hansford T. Johnson, Acting Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV). The artwork will hang in the main entrance to the Acting SECNAV’s office. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Craig P. Strawser.

(16 June 2003) Award-winning artist Tom W. Freeman presents his painting “Payment in Iron” to the Honorable Hansford T. Johnson, Acting Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV). The artwork will hang in the main entrance to the Acting SECNAV’s office. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Craig P. Strawser.

He delved extensively into Civil War maritime history, a subject that is often left uncovered.

You Can Run, CSS Alabama chases down Yankee clipper.

You Can Run, CSS Alabama chases down Yankee clipper.

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The Fatal Chase by Tom Freeman. The USS Hatteras engages the Confederate raider CSS Alabama. Hatteras was sunk in the ensuing battle

The Fatal Chase by Tom Freeman. The USS Hatteras engages the Confederate raider CSS Alabama. Hatteras was sunk in the ensuing battle

"Gunfight on the Roanoke," The gun crew of the U.S.S. Miami witnesses the sinking to the U.S.S. Southfield by the C.S.S. Albemarle, April 19, 1864. Via TomFreemanArt.com

“Gunfight on the Roanoke,” The gun crew of the U.S.S. Miami witnesses the sinking to the U.S.S. Southfield by the C.S.S. Albemarle, April 19, 1864. Via TomFreemanArt.com

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CSS Fredericksburg at Trent's Reach - Tom Freeman

CSS Fredericksburg at Trent’s Reach – Tom Freeman

Freeman’s magnum opus was a series of 42 paintings and a mural covering the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 for the USS Arizona Museum, who display them prominently in their collection, seen by millions.

Attack on the Tang

Attack on the Tang

Tom_Freeman.jpg~original

Nakajima B5N2 attack bomber taking off from aircraft carrier Akagi, 7 December 1941. Artwork by Tom Freeman.

Nakajima B5N2 attack bomber taking off from aircraft carrier Akagi, 7 December 1941. Artwork by Tom Freeman.

The Last Mooring

The Last Mooring

Fuchida's planes cross the coast, by Tom Freeman.

Fuchida’s planes cross the coast, by Tom Freeman.

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Sadly, Mr. Freeman crossed the bar last month on June 18 at age 62. Freeman is survived by his wife Ann, five children and 13 grandchildren.

Artist Tom Freeman at Pearl Harbor

Artist Tom Freeman at Pearl Harbor

His official website, Tom Freeman Art.com is up and running and I encourage you visit it.

'A Guest of the King' USS Enterprise arrives in Bahrain for a port call. Tom Freeman

‘A Guest of the King’ USS Enterprise arrives in Bahrain for a port call. Tom Freeman

This month’s Proceedings has a salute to Freeman included and is repeated on their website and they note that his “Guest of the King” might well be the only American painting gracing the palace of King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa of Bahrain.

Thank you for your work, sir.

More on the Semmes gun

Back in June I covered the famous raider CSS Alabama which, under the command of the Pirate of the Confederacy, Capt. (later Admiral/Brig. Gen.) Raphael Semmes, CSN (USN, resigned), captured an amazing 65 prizes and destroyed the side-wheeler gunboat USS Hatteras.

In that piece I gave you a sneak peak of his uber rare Houllier-Blanchard revolver.

Well, I’m back with a little more info on that piece after getting with the city-run History Museum of Mobile.

Click to big up

Click to big up

The gun is a cap and ball black powder .36 caliber wheelgun held in a rosewood case that holds the handgun and accessories, the metal plate on the lid reads, “Presented to Captain Raphael Semmes, Belsize Park, 14 May 1862.”

Click to big up

Click to big up

More here in my column at Guns.com

Warship Wednesday June 3, 2015 Roll Tide, Roll

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, June 3, 2015 Roll Tide

youcanrunCSS Alabama da caza al clíper Contest, Noviembre 1863, Tom FreemanHere we see “You Can Run” by naval artist Tom Freeman depicting the screw sloop-of-war Confederate States Ship Alabama chasing down the Yankee clipper Contest in November 1863. The Alabama, who captured an amazing 64 ships, of which she burned and sank 45 and paroled another ten, was the most successful surface raider in naval history.

In addition, perhaps no ship saw a greater number of ironies in her brief life (see how many you can spot).

Although the Confederate Navy picked up a few captured U.S. Naval ships (included the burned out frigate Merrimack) and Revenue Service Cutters, as well as a good number of naval officers of Southern heritage, they were short of legitimate combat ships. Further, most of the naval yards worth anything were in New England, which meant that they simply could not be built. With this, Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen Russell Mallory sent agents abroad looking for warships. In the end, the best bet turned out to be in Great Britain where Commander James Dunwoody Bulloch, CSN, arranged for at least three commerce raiders and a pair of ironclads to be completed.

Arguably, the most famous and successful of this handful of ships was the CSS Alabama.

Bulloch, whose primary job was turning raw Southern cotton smuggled past the Union blockade into cash for guns, munitions and other supplies for the Confederate government, which in turn would be ran back through the U.S. fleet, managed to contract with John Laird Sons & Company (today’s Cammell Laird) to construct a steamship with a sloop auxiliary rig (and weight and space reserved for naval guns) on August 1, 1861, just months after Bull Run. Constructed in Liverpool as hull number 290, and christened in 1862 with the bogus name Enrica, she ran her trials at sea in June 1862.

She was handy, at 220-feet overall and light with a 17-foot depth of hold and 1,050-ton displacement. On her twin steam engines pushing a single iron screw, she could make 13-ish knots, or hoist her extensive barkentine-rig and make close that amount in the right conditions.

sail plan

Bulloch was originally to be the commander of the ship and assisted in her fitting out, acquiring stores and arms for the new cruiser but not mounting them as he was under watch by Union agents. As U.S. Ambassador Charles Adams (son and grandson respectively of 2 presidents of the same name) pressured the Brits to seize her, Bulloch weighed anchor just ahead of customs officials, claiming to just be taking her out on a brief sunset turn around. Slipping the brand new 9-gun sloop USS Tuscarora, he put to sea.

Instead of sailing under Bulloch, 52-year-old CDR Raphael Semmes (soon to be promoted to Capt.), late of the abandoned and broken-down commerce raider CSS Sumter, was dispatched from Bermuda to Porto Praya, Azores with the former officers of the Sumter, where they met Bulloch on the Enrica, which was crewed by mildly amused British merchantmen. After arming the ship and relieving the Brits, which Bulloch returned to England with, Semmes and his crew commissioned the CSS Alabama on 24 Aug, 1862.

Deck plan of Alabama, note guns

Deck plan of Alabama, note guns

Her armament, fitted above deck, was British. It consisted of a pair of “Royal Navy-style” smoothbore 6 inch 32-pounders, 4 6-inch 32-pound Blakely patent cannon cast specifically for the CSS Alabama by Fawcett, Preston & Company in Liverpool, one 7-inch 110-pounder Blakely rifle forward on a pivoting mount and a single 68-pounder (solid shot) 8-inch smoothbore pivot aft. In all, eight guns. Added to this was a stock of British and French musket rifles, revolvers, pistols, boarding hatchets, and cutlasses. However, as she only had a single gray-coated Marine, Lt Beckett K. Howell, one of only 58 appointed officers in the Confederate States Marine Corps, (and Brother in Law to President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis), these were to be used by the ship’s bluejackets.

Or should we say Jack Tars? You see, Semmes only arrived with a handful of officers and had to shop around among the Brits and other foreign sailors at hand to sign up, of which about 80 did. As her guns alone required that many men to crew them, she was shorthanded.

Although Alabama never saw a southern port, the British-built (and largely crewed) ship with her skipper from Maryland carved a name for herself in the hides of the U.S. Navy and merchant fleets for the next 22 months.

"The Pirate 'Alabama,' Alias '290,' Certified to be correct by Captain Hagar of the 'Brilliant'" Line engraving published in "Harper's Weekly", 1862, depicting CSS Alabama burning a prize in Harper's Weekly.US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 58738

“The Pirate ‘Alabama,’ Alias ‘290,’ Certified to be correct by Captain Hagar of the ‘Brilliant'” Line engraving published in “Harper’s Weekly”, 1862, depicting CSS Alabama burning a prize in Harper’s Weekly.US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 58738

Art from Harper's Weekly image

Art from Harper’s Weekly image

First, she sailed around the North Atlantic, sinking 20 Yankee ships, mainly whalers, and captured and released three others. Then, proceeding to Fort Royal, Martinique, she refueled, recruited more crew members in that colonial port, and gave the 12-gun screw frigate USS San Jacinto the slip and broke into the Gulf of Mexico. It was of note that her crew was often fleshed out by volunteers from ships she captured and sank and included men from Germany, Russia, and France.

Alabama's cruise from SCV Adm Semmes Camp

Alabama’s cruise from SCV Adm Semmes Camp

Off Texas, on 11 January 1863, she engaged the 1,126-ton paddlewheel steamer USS Hatteras off Galveston. As the Hatteras got close enough to Alabama to be sucker punched before Semmes struck her British ensign (masquerading as HMS Petrel) and raised the Confederate Stars and Bars, and the fact that the Union gunboat had less than half the armament, Alabama sent her to the bottom within 20 minutes. Ever the gentleman pirate, Semmes picked up her crew and transported them to Jamaica.

The Fatal Chase by Tom Freeman. The USS Hatteras engages the Confederate raider CSS Alabama. Hatteras was sunk in the ensuing battle

The Fatal Chase by Tom Freeman. The USS Hatteras engages the Confederate raider CSS Alabama. Hatteras was sunk in the ensuing battle

From Semmes’s postwar account:

As Captain Blake of the Hatteras (whom I had known in the old service) came on deck, he remarked upon the speed we were making, and gracefully saluted me with, “Fortune favors the brave, sir!” I wished him a pleasant voyage with us; and I am sure he, with his officers and men, received every attention while on board the Alabama.

With the Gulf too hot, she slipped into the South Atlantic and slaughtered 29 Yankee merchies in those waters, primarily off the coast of Brazil.

CSS Alabama enters Table Bay at 10:00 AM August 5, 1863. She is increasing speed in order to capture the Sea Bride before she can escape to within one league of S.African territorial waters. This painting commissioned by Ken Sheppard of South Africa. Via the CSS Alabama Assoc

CSS Alabama enters Table Bay at 10:00 AM August 5, 1863. She is increasing speed in order to capture the Sea Bride before she can escape to within one league of S.African territorial waters. This painting commissioned by Ken Sheppard of South Africa. Via the CSS Alabama Assoc

Next, she put in at Cape Town, South Africa, where most of the images of her decks were taken. It was there that she added more members to her crew to include naval adventurer and soldier of fortune Baron Maximilian von Meulnier, late of the Imperial Prussian Navy.

Captain Raphael Semmes CSN, CSS Alabama's commanding officer, standing by his ship's 110-pounder rifled gun during her visit to Capetown in August 1863. His executive officer, First Lieutenant John M. Kell CSN, is in the background, standing by the ship's wheel.US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 57256 from the collection of Rear Admiral Ammen C. Farenholt, USN(MC), 1931.

Captain Raphael Semmes CSN, CSS Alabama’s commanding officer, standing by his ship’s 68-pounder smoothbore during her visit to Capetown in August 1863. His executive officer, First Lieutenant John M. Kell CSN, is in the background, standing by the ship’s wheel. US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 57256 from the collection of Rear Admiral Ammen C. Farenholt, USN(MC), 1931. Via Navsource

Two of the CSS Alabama's officers on deck, during her visit to Capetown in August 1863. They are Lieutenant Arthur Sinclair IV, (left) and Lieutenant Richard F. Armstrong (USNA 1861). The gun beside them is a 32-pounder of Lt. Sinclair's Division. Halftone image, copied from Sinclair's book, "Two Years on the Alabama". US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 57255. via Navsource

Two of the CSS Alabama’s officers on deck, during her visit to Capetown in August 1863. They are Lieutenant Arthur Sinclair IV, (left) and Lieutenant Richard F. Armstrong (USNA 1861). The gun beside them is a 32-pounder of Lt. Sinclair’s Division. Halftone image, copied from Sinclair’s book, “Two Years on the Alabama”. US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 57255. via Navsource

Georga native Midshipman Edwin Moffat Anderson. He later went on to serve on the CSS Owl and was the next to last of Alabama’s officers to die when he passed away in 1923 in Savannah, only beaten by Sinclair who passed in 1925.

Georga native Midshipman Edwin Moffat Anderson next to an RN pattern 32 pounder which may be the one on display currently in Mobile. Note the naval cutlass and gray Army type uniform. He later went on to serve on the CSS Owl and was the next to last of Alabama’s officers to die when he passed away in 1923 in Savannah, only beaten by Sinclair who passed in 1925. The unimpressed British Jack behind him is classic.

Kell and a 32. US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 57257

Kell and the 68-pounder. US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 57257

Crewmen on the deck of the Confederate commerce raider CSS Alabama off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa, 1863.

Crewmen on the deck of the Confederate commerce raider CSS Alabama off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa, 1863.

Crossing into the Indian Ocean and into the Pacific, she found her hunting grounds much reduced in those far-flung waters. In Singapore, she had her picture taken (one of just two of her profile known to be in existence) and Englishman Hugh Rowland Beaver of Cumming, Beaver, and Co. who helped whistle up enough supplies to keep Alabama in the war. After coaling and dispatching a letter to Malloy back in Virginia, Semmes was off again.

Alabama in Singapore. Note instead of the Stars and Bars she is flying the Stainless Banner

Alabama in Singapore. Note instead of the Stars and Bars she is flying the Stainless Banner

Heading back to European waters where Semmes thought the pickings would be better (and Alabama could get a much-needed refit) she arrived in Cherbourg on 11 June 1864. There Semmes noted, “Our little ship was now showing signs of the active work she had been doing. Her boilers were burned out, and her machinery was sadly in want of repairs.”

She deserved a rest; after all, she had captured no less than 64 vessels in over 500 days at sea and won a naval engagement against a (weaker) adversary while slipping dozens of stronger ones. In a sign of how dignified warfare was on the high seas in this age, Alabama paroled over 2,000 merchant sailors she captured– landing them in nearby ports rather than leaving them adrift on the waves– and not a single civilian was ever killed by the raider.

But everything has to come to an end…

Just three days after she made France, the Mohican-class screw sloop of war USS Kearsarge, steamed into the harbor, alerted to the wiley raider’s presence there by telegraph while in a Spanish port. Although shorter (201-feet) the Kearsarge was built from the keel-up with combat in mind, weighing half again as much as Alabama and mounting nine guns– including a pair of very dangerous 11-inch Dahlgren smoothbore pivot cannons that fired 130-pounder shells.

Further, where Semmes had a scratch 140 man multinational crew and a ship that was falling apart, Kearsarge’s North Carolina-born Capt. John Ancrum Winslow had a pair of aces up his sleeve. These included the fact that his 160+ man crew was highly trained, and that he had secretly wrapped his ship’s critical engineering spaces in over 700-feet of anchor chain secured to the hull and bolted into place, in effect, giving him crude armor plating. His powder was fresh, his decks were clear, and he wanted to clean Semmes’s clock.

Capt. John A. Winslow (3d from left) and officers on board the U.S.S. Kearsarge after sinking the C.S.S. Alabama, 1864

Capt. John A. Winslow (3d from left) and officers on board the U.S.S. Kearsarge after sinking the C.S.S. Alabama, 1864. Note the badass 11-inch Dahlgren

(Note: The two skippers had served together earlier in their career on the old three-master USS Raritan, Semmes as the ship’s flag lieutenant and Winslow as a division officer, even sharing a cabin).

Semmes slapped Winslow across the face with an open challenge, sending the message:

“My intention is to fight the Kearsarge as soon as I can make the necessary arrangements. I hope they 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.”

While the locals stirred about the coming scrap between the two ships, the French forced Kearsarge out to sea, where she waited for Alabama. One of the most powerful ships in the world, the 6,500-ton 30-gun French ironclad Couronne (“Crown”) stood by as her crew anxiously waited for the bloodletting. On the afternoon of June 19, the fight was on in front of a delighted host of European spectators who were thrilled to watch a pair of American vessels locked in a knife fight–and it was a barroom brawl of naval action.

Semmes fired first, trying to get the same type of fast kill as he had achieved on USS Hatteras the year before, but his shots were ineffective, likely due to poor quality powder and stale fuses as much to Kearsarge’s chainmail.

Winslow waited until the British-built cruiser was within 1,000 yards and clobbered her.

Engineers Department USS Kearsarge 1864: The crew that wrecked the CSS Alabama

The ships locked horns in a series of seven circles, slowing trying to out-maneuver each other without success. After all, their skippers had read the same naval textbooks so why not? In all, reports estimate that while Alabama got off more than 300 shots, Kearsarge was barely damaged; suffering four casualties after just three rounds hit his vessel. Alabama, on the other hand, was a wreck after less than an hour of combat and was shipping water from the big Yankee’s 11-inchers.

7-circle The Chart of the battle off Cherbourg as recorded by American landscape painter and Union Army map-maker Robert Knox Sneden in the Library of Congress. Sneden was in Andersonville at the time of the battle after being captured by Confederate troops under John S. Mosby in 1863, but produced it from logs and charts from Kearsarge after the war. This chart was lost to history for more than a century until it popped up in 1994 in a bank vault in Connecticut and donated to the Virginia Historical Society. Click to big up

7-circle chart of the battle off Cherbourg as recorded by American landscape painter and Union Army map-maker Robert Knox Sneden in the Library of Congress. Sneden was in Andersonville at the time of the battle after being captured by Confederate troops under John S. Mosby in 1863 but produced it from logs and charts from Kearsarge after the war. This chart was lost to history for more than a century until it popped up in 1994 in a bank vault in Connecticut and donated to the Virginia Historical Society. Click to big up

The battle has been a favorite of painters and perhaps the most famous work, “Kearsarge and the Alabama” was created by one of no less skill than Édouard Manet.

The Battle of the USS Kearsarge and the CSS Alabama By Claude Monet hanging today at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The Battle of the USS Kearsarge and the CSS Alabama By Claude Monet hanging today at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Click to big up

painting by Xanthus Smith, 1922, depicts Alabama sinking, at left, after her fight with Kearsarge (seen at right). NHHC Photo K-29827.

Painting by Xanthus Smith, 1922, depicts Alabama sinking by the stern, at left, after her fight with Kearsarge (seen at right). NHHC Photo K-29827.

CSS Alabama Sunday Showdown Archival Print.

CSS Alabama Sunday Showdown Archival Print.

Antonio Jacobsen's " ALABAMA vs KERSARGE" Click to big up

Antonio Jacobsen’s ” ALABAMA vs KEARSARGE” Click to big up

Nine Alabama crewmembers were killed during the battle, 12 drowned when the ship sank and 70 picked up by Kearsarge from the sea, while Semmes and a handful of officers and men managed to make it to the British yacht Deerhound who sped them away to England. There, they were celebrated.

Semmes, who recovered the Stainless Banner of Alabama, ran back into Hugh Beaver (the Singapore connection) and presented the flag to the Englishman with the deep pockets in appreciation.

Her Cherbourg flag.

Her Cherbourg flag.

The 69×34 inch wool bunting ensign still exists and was sold at auction in 2011. As the rest of her flags were lost at sea, this one was unique. Semmes had been given a beautiful and much larger silk battle-flag by English society women after the battle which he took back to the C.S. with him.

Semmes made his way back to Virginia where he was made an admiral and given commanded first the James River Squadron then a unit of infantry (as a Brig. Gen) late in the war. He later moved to Mobile, Alabama where he died of eating bad shrimp in 1877. Nevertheless, he had outlived Winslow who retired in 1872 and died the next year in Boston, buried draped in the Kearsarge ‘s own Cherbourg battle flag.

The National Museum of the U.S. Navy in Washington D.C. has one of her wheels as well as other artifacts to include a very nice toilet bowl.

Ships wheel CSS Alabama Exhibited in the Civil War section of Bldg. 76

English toilet from CSS Alabama Exhibited in the Civil War section of Bldg. 76

The City of Mobile has many Semmes artifacts in their museum, including the admiral’s sword presented to him after the war (he threw his own into the sea rather than let Winslow have it), his wartime 36 cal. Houllier & Blanchard Navy revolver, the silk flag given to him in England after the loss of his ship and Alabama‘s commissioning pennant.

Semme's presentation Admiral's saber in the City of Mobile collection. Chris Eger photo

Semme’s presentation Admiral’s sword, a copy of his book and a scrimshawed whale’s tooth captured from a Yankee whaler in the City of Mobile collection. Chris Eger photo. Click to bigup the scrimshaw work on the tooth.

This U.S. Navy 27-star commissioning pennant was used above CSS Alabama to bring her into service. Her 4th Lt. John Low had it in his possession from his father's term in the old Republic's fleet and offered it up. Low would later leave Alabama with it when he took command of the CSS Tuscaloosa (formerly the bark Conrad captured by the raider in 21 June 1863). The pennant along with Low’s dolphin-handled British pattern naval officer’s sword is in the City of Mobile collection. Chris Eger photo

This U.S. Navy 27-star commissioning pennant was used above CSS Alabama to bring her into service next to a model of the ship. Her 4th Lt., John Low had it in his possession from his father’s term in the old Republic’s fleet and offered it up. Low would later leave Alabama with it when he took command of the CSS Tuscaloosa (formerly the bark Conrad captured by the raider on 21 June 1863). The pennant along with Low’s dolphin-handled British pattern naval officer’s sword is in the City of Mobile collection. Chris Eger photo

Semmes LeMat grapeshot revolver at the City of Mobile Museum. Chris Eger photo. Click to big up.

Semmes rare 1862-issued 36 cal. Houllier & Blanchard Navy revolver at the City of Mobile Museum. Chris Eger photo. Click to big up. And YES, I will be covering this amazing weapon in more detail in a later article

Alabama’s wreck was discovered by the 152-foot French Navy mine hunter (chasseur de mines) Circé in November 1984 in 190-feet of water some 6 miles off the coast of Cherbourg. Between 1988 and 2008, with agreements of the U.S. government (who own the wreck as a war grave) and the French Republic (as its inside territorial waters) she has been extensively salvaged.

One of her RN-style 32 pounders, scrimshaw from ship’s Engineer William Param Brooks and other artifacts recovered from her wreck are in Mobile at the City Museum. The U.S. Navy has over 500 Alabama artifacts in its collection and many are spread over the world on loan, including her 7-inch gun, which is in France. In all, her wheel, seven out of eight guns, her bell, china, shells, small arms, and other items have been brought to the surface.

One of her RN pattern 32s. click to big up. Eger image

One of her RN pattern 32s. click to big up. Eger image

A better view. Note the recovered mast collar.

A better view. Note the recovered mast collar.

A statue to the Admiral, erected in 1900, stands in downtown Mobile on Government Street, within a block or so of the Federal Building, gazing towards the Bay that holds the battleship USS Alabama (BB-60), who was a much luckier lady than Semmes’s own warship.

semmesIn the artifacts recovered from Alabama were at least one set of human remains to include a jawbone. An exam of the teeth at the Smithsonian Institution revealed the jaw’s owner was likely between 25-40 and in good health, other than an apparent habit of chomping on a pipe stem. A ceremonial burial was held for the crewmember’s remains in Mobile, where the lost sailor was interred at Magnolia Cemetery accompanied by members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans of the Admiral Semmes Camp, who maintain a reference to the lost ship and the Admiral.

Internment at Magnolia Cemetery, Mobile. Via AL.com

Interment at Magnolia Cemetery, Mobile. Via AL.com

There is also a CSS Alabama Association and both the University of Alabama and Marshall University maintain special collections referencing the ship.

As for her adversary, 17 of Kearsarge ‘s crew received the Medal of Honor and the ship remained in hard service until wrecked on a reef off Roncador Cay on 2 February 1894 while her officers and crew made it safely ashore. A damaged section of her stern post, still with an intact 110-pound Blakely shell in it from Alabama, is also on display at the Navy Museum in Washington.

CSS Alabama fired this shell from its 110-pound rifle early in the action against USS Kearsarge, landing a critical blow into Kearsarge’ s stern post. However, it didn’t explode due to a faulty fuse, allowing Kearsarge to continue the battle, eventually defeating Alabama. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford/Released

CSS Alabama fired this shell from its 110-pound rifle early in the action against USS Kearsarge, landing a critical blow into Kearsarge’ s sternpost. However, it didn’t explode due to a faulty fuse, allowing Kearsarge to continue the battle, eventually defeating Alabama. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford/Released

The only USN battleship not named for a state, USS Kearsarge (BB-5), was christened 24 March 1898 in her honor and went on to serve the Navy in one form or another for 57 years.

Currently, the Navy maintains both an Alabama (SSBN-731) and a Kearsarge (LHD-3) on the Naval List. In a twist of fate, the ‘Bama was built in the North (Electric Boat, Groton) and the Mighty Kay in the South (Ingalls, Pascagoula), but it’s not likely that they will ever get in a scrap moving forward.

We’re better than that these days.

Specs:

2dbcd70744194b91b391226a65445c3aDisplacement 1,050 t.
Length 220′
Beam 31′ 8″
Depth of Hold 17′ 8″
Draft 14′
Installed power: 2 × 300 HP horizontal steam engines, auxiliary sails, bark rig
Propulsion: Single screw propeller, retractable
Speed 13 knots
Complement 145
Armament:
6 32-pdrs
1 110-pdr rifle
1 68-pdr

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