Tag Archives: Pirates

Kingstons Growing Up to Fill the Role(s) After 25 Years

This week in 1996, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Kingston (700) was commissioned to Canada’s Atlantic Fleet.

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Kingston, while deployed on Operation CARIBBE on November 8, 2016. Photo By: 12 Wing Imaging Services XC03-2016-1002-566

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Kingston, while deployed on Operation CARIBBE on November 8, 2016. Photo By: 12 Wing Imaging Services XC03-2016-1002-571

With the motto: “Pro Rege et Grege” (For Sovereign and People), HMCS Kingston was the first of 12 Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (MCDV).

For the maximum price of $750 million (in 1995 Canadian dollars), Ottawa bought 12 ships including design, construction, outfitting, equipment (85 percent of Canadian origin), and 22 sets of remote training equipment for inland reserve centers.

These 181-foot ships were designed to commercial standards and intended “to conduct coastal patrols, minesweeping, law enforcement, pollution surveillance and response as well as search and rescue duties,” able to pinch-hit between these wildly diverse assignments via modular mission payloads in the same way that the littoral combat ships would later try.

That is one chunky monkey. These boats, despite the fact they have deployed from Hawaii to the Baltic and West Africa, are reportedly slow and ride terribly. I mean, look at that hull form

Like the LCS, the modules weren’t very good and are rarely fielded because they never really lived up to the intended design. In all, the RCN has enough minesweeping modules to fully equip just two Kingstons as minehunters and partially equip four or five others. 

When it came to MCM, they were to run mechanical minesweeping (single Oropesa, double Oropesa, or team sweep) at 8 to 10 knots, Full degaussing (DG) capability was only fitted in three ships, although the cables were fitted in all vessels. The route survey system– of which only four modules were ever procured– was to be capable of performing at speeds of up to 10 knots with a resolution as high as 12 centimeters per pixel in any ocean of the world.

It is joked that the bulk of the force could act as a minesweeper– but only do it once.

Armed with surplus manually-trained Canadian Army Bofors 40mm/L60 Boffins (formerly Naval guns leftover from HMCS Bonaventure), which had been used for base air defense in West Germany for CFB Lahr/CFB Baden during the Cold War, they never had a lot of punch. Later removed, these WWII relics were installed ashore as monuments, and the Kingstons were left with just a couple of .50 cal M2s as topside armament.

Manned with hybrid reserve/active crews in a model similar to the U.S. Navy’s NRF frigate program, their availability suffered, much like the Navy’s now-canceled NRF frigate program. This usually consisted of two active rates– one engineering, one electrical– and 30 or so drilling reservists per hull. Designed to operate with a crew of 24 for coastal surveillance missions with accommodation for up to 37 for mine warfare or training, the complement was housed in staterooms with no more than three souls per compartment. 

With 12 ships, six are maintained on each coast in squadrons, with one or two “alert” ships fully manned and/or deployed at a time and one or two in extended maintenance/overhaul.

Canadian Kingston-class coastal defense vessel HMCS Saskatoon (709), note 40mm gun forward, bridge wing .50 cals, and CEU container– the hallmark of “modular” designs. They could accept three 20 foot ISO containers.

Intended to have a 15-year service life, these 970-ton ships have almost doubled that with no signs of stopping anytime soon. They have recently been given a series of two-year (and shorter) refits that included upgrades to their hull, galley, HVAC, and fire fighting systems while the RCN is spitballing better armament to include remote-operated stabilized .50 cal mounts. Notably, they are getting new degaussing systems. 

Canadian Kingston class Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel with remote 50 cal that may replace the old 40mm mounts that were removed.

With all that out there in the sunlight, these shoestring surface combatants have been pushed into spaces and places no one could have foreseen and they have pulled off a lot– often overseas despite their official “type” and original intention.

Besides coastal training and ho-hum sovereignty and fisheries patrols, the ships of the class are tapped to deploy regularly as part of narcotics interdiction missions in Operation Caribbe in the Caribbean and the Central American Pacific coast, with they work hand-in-hand with SOUTHCOM and the U.S. Fourth Fleet.

About half of Caribbe deployments have been by the Kingstons. Note that this chart is from 2016, and at least a dozen more deployments have been chalked up since then

They also regularly deploy to the Arctic as part of the annual Operation Nanook exercises.

HMCS Summerside Kingston-class coastal defense vessel. While not robust ice-going vessels, the ships are nevertheless built to operate safely in 40 centimeters of first-year ice, which puts them capable of summer cruises in the Arctic. 

With a small footprint (just 25~ man typical complement, mostly of naval reservists on temporary active duty) they often deploy in pairs.

Recently, they have been experimenting with UAV operations from their decks, as well as working closely with USN and USCG helicopter detachments for HOISTEXs and HIFR while, especially in Caribbe deployments, with embarked USCG Law Enforcement Detachments.

One could argue that these “coastal defense” vessels have spent more time off the coasts of other countries than their own.

Some highlights:

Kingston, in company with HMCS Anticosti and her sister-ship HMCS Glace Bay (701), in 1999 was deployed to the Baltic Sea to participate in Exercise BLUE GAME, a major minesweeping exercise with other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) units. They were the smallest Canadian warships to cross the Atlantic since the Second World War. In 2003, Kingston spent 144 days at sea, sailing over 19,000 nautical miles in SAR missions, training Maritime Surface Operations Naval cadets, operating with the RCMP, and, with sister-ship HMCS Moncton, plucked two Marine Corps F-18 pilots from the Atlantic after the two Hornets collided in an exercise. In 2014, Kingston was part of the expedition that searched for and found one of the ships that disappeared during Franklin’s lost expedition. In 2018, she and sistership HMCS Summerside sailed for West Africa to take part in Obangame Express 2018 with the U.S. Navy and several African navies, a trip that was repeated in 2019 for Operation Projection.

Glace Bay (701) has also helped after the crash of Swissair Flight 111 off Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia in 1998 and, with MCM gear, was part of a team searching in Lake Ontario in 2004 for some of the last remnants of the legendary CF-105 Avro Arrow. In 2014, she seized $84 million worth of drugs with working as part of Operation Caribbe. In 2018, she pulled down a Baltic minesweeping deployment. In 2020, Glace Bay and sistership HMCS Shawinigan departed Halifax as part of Operation Projection off West Africa.

Northern Lights shimmer above HMCS GLACE BAY during Operation NANOOK 2020 on August 18, 2020. CPL DAVID VELDMAN, CAF PHOTO

HMCS Nanaimo (702) has been part of two RIMPACs and, while deployed on Caribbe in 2017, made two large busts at sea with a USCG LEDET aboard, seizing almost three tons of blow. She doubled down as a narco buster in her 2018 Caribbe deployment.

HMCS Edmonton (703), and participated in RIMPAC 2002. This voyage to Hawaii was the longest non-stop distance traveled by vessels of the Kingston class at that time, and they acted in route clearance roles for the larger task force. She has also had three very successful Caribbe deployments. From August to September 2017, Edmonton and sistership Yellowknife sailed to the Arctic Ocean to perform surveillance of Canada’s northern waters as part of Operation Limpid.

HMCS Shawinigan (704) has operated alongside Canadian submarine assets, been part of NATO international mine warfare exercises, and was the HQ platform for the Route Halifax Saint-Pierre 2006. In 2014, Shawinigan’s Operation Nanook deployment set the record for traveling the furthest north of any ship in the history of the Royal Canadian Navy, reaching a maximum latitude of 80 degrees and 28 minutes north. She went to West Africa in 2020 and down to SOUTHCOM’s neck of the woods twice.

HMCS Whitehorse (705) has survived a hurricane at sea and, in 2006, while conducting route survey operations, rescued a group of local teenagers from the waters in the approaches to Nanoose Harbour B.C. then rescued another group stranded on Maude Island. She has participated in at least two RIMPACs and three Caribbe deployments. One of the latter, with sistership HMCS Brandon in 2015, made seven different seizures from smugglers, totaling 10 tons of cocaine.

HMCS WHITEHORSE conducts weapon maintenance during Operation CARIBBE on February 10, 2020

HMCS Yellowknife (706) earned a Canadian Forces Unit Commendation for saving the F/V Salmon King in 2001. In 2002, she and three of her sister ships deployed to Mexico and for the first time in 25 years, conducting two weeks of operations with the Mexican Navy. The next year, she joined a task force of French and Canadian ships in the Pacific and joined a U.S. task force in 2014. She has taken part in at least three RIMPACs and, during her 2019 Caribbe deployment with sistership Whitehorse, seized three tons of coke.

HMCS Goose Bay (707) in 2001 accompanied by sister ship HMCS Moncton, took part in the NATO naval exercise Blue Game off the coasts of Norway and Denmark. The next summer, along with sister HMCS Summerside, marked the first Arctic visit by RCN naval vessels in 13 years as part of Operation Narwhal Ranger, an area that later became her regular stomping ground in successive Nanook deployments. She has been to warmer waters with Caribbe and deployed with the USCG for their Operations Tradewinds through the Caribbean for training with local forces there.

HMCS Moncton (708) besides multiple Nanook and Caribbe deployments, has been very active in the Baltic as part of Trident Juncture. She has also worked off West Africa in Neptune Trident. In 2017, with sistership HMCS Summerside, conducted missions against pirates and illegal fishing off the African coast, along with making port visits to Sierra Leone, Senegal, Liberia, and Ivory Coast. She has recently been sporting a North Atlantic WWII scheme. 

Kingston-class coastal defense vessel HMCS Moncton (708) with her Atlantic WWII camo, 2019

HMCS Saskatoon (709) in addition to Nanook and Caribbe, she has been in at least one RIMPAC and Pacific Guardian exercise, the latter with the USCG “involving various scenarios focused on drug or immigrant smuggling, pollution detection, marine mammal sightings, shellfish poaching, illegal logging, and criminal activities,” along the Pac Northwest coastline.

HMCS Brandon (710) has been in several Caribbe deployments.

HMCS Summerside (711) the newest Kingston, is still 21 years old. Her credits include a Narwhal Ranger deployment, followed by later Nanook trips, at least four Caribbe deployments, NATO exercise Cutlass Fury (North Atlantic) and Trident Juncture (Baltic), as well as a Neptune Trident cruise to West Africa which notably involved joint training exercises with naval vessels from Morocco and Senegal.

One could spitball that, when you calculate the bang for the buck that penny-pinching Canada has gotten from these humble vessels over the past quarter-century, perhaps the U.S. Navy should have gone with a similar concept for the LCS and put the billions saved into, I don’t know, actual frigates.

Since you came this far, the RCN offers a free paper model for download, should you be interested. 

The last surface action of World War II

While the daring overnight anti-shipping raid in July 1945 by the nine American destroyers of DesRon 61in Tokyo Bay, an action remembered today as the Battle of Sagami Bay, is largely seen as the last fleet combat involving commissioned warships in WWII as they tied up with a Japanese minesweeper and submarine chaser, it was not the last surface action.

No, that claim goes to a scrap between (sail-powered) gunned-up junks off the coast of China 75 years ago today, a full week after VJ Day. Ironically, by American military personnel who were previously training pirates to fight to the common enemy.

A junk in Chinese waters, prior to World War I. A U.S. Navy armored cruiser is in the background. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, Corte Madera, California, 1973. NHHC Catalog #: NH 77414

A force of two Ningpo junks with Chinese fishermen crews under the command of one LT Livingston “Swede” Swentzel, Jr., USNR manned by six other Americans along with 20 Chinese guerrillas, were set upon by a heavily-armed Japanese junk– carrying a crew of 83 as well as a 75mm pack gun– while at sea between Haimen and Shanghai, China.

From Swentzel’s citation:

The first round from the 75-mm. howitzer struck Swentzel’s junk shearing off the foremast. The Chinese crew left their posts and Swentzel took over the helm. Meanwhile, he established contact by means of handy talkie with his second junk and gave orders to close with the enemy. He also ran up the American Flag…

The ensuing 45-minute action saw the Americans fight it out with everything from bazookas and Thompson submachine guns to carefully tossed grenades. When the smoke cleared, the Allied junk force counted 10 casualties across their two vessels while the Japanese craft, boarded by a prize crew while dead in the water and smoking, held 45 dead and another 35 injured.

Not a lot of ballistic protection in a junk, it would seem.

The story ran in the October 5 Stars & Stripes (CBI Edition) and was picked up by papers stateside. 

Both Swentzel and Gunner’s Mate Third Class James Ralph Reid, Jr., USNR each received the Navy Cross in February 1946 from Commander Naval Group China, “in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.” They were the last two Navy Crosses issued in WWII.

The Pirate Connection

The reason why Swentzel and Company were in China was that they were assigned to the Sino-American Special Technical Cooperative Organization (SACO), working at Camp Eight training local forces against the Japanese, with their first clients being the rather infamous Chang Kwei Fong’s pirate group, the “Green Circle Brotherhood.” 

It would seem that Swentzel and his boys learned a little bit from the pirates as well.

Of course, it would not be the last time the U.S. Navy fought from junks– with Tommy guns.

Tommy guns, aviators, and khakis! “Ensign Caldwell of Houlton, Maine, stands guard in a motor whaleboat with a .45 caliber submachine gun M1928AL (it is actually an M1A1) off the coast of South Vietnam. The Vietnamese men wait as their junk is searched by USS FORSTER (DER-334) crewmembers, 15 April 1966.” Catalog #: K-31208. Copyright Owner: National Archives Original Creator: Photographer, Chief Journalist Robert D. Moeser

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.

Pirates and terrorist small boats popping back up

Galicia Spirit. Photo: MarineTraffic.com/

Galicia Spirit. Photo: MarineTraffic.com/

Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the water…

On Oct.25, there was a LNG tanker, Galicia Spirit, which was attacked by a skiff off the Yemen coast. While at first thought, you may think pirates, but there is much more to the story.

From gCaptian last week:

In an update on Thursday, Teekay said it had now conducted an investigation with security experts. This indicated that “the skiff (small boat) that engaged in an attack on the Galicia Spirit using small arms was also carrying a substantial amount of explosives.”

It added: “While the intentions of the attackers and the use of the explosives is unknown, the investigation findings indicate that the explosives would have been sufficient to have caused significant damage to the vessel.

“It appears, however, that when the skiff was approximately 20m (meters) from the vessel, the explosives detonated, destroying the skiff and ending the attack.”

Also last week, came news that a crew of a South Korean chemical tanker recently thwarted the first attack the pirates of the Somali coast in over two years.

Reuters:

European Union’s counter-piracy naval force (EU Navfor) confirmed on Nov. 4 that six armed men attacked chemical tanker CPO Korea 330 nautical miles (610 km) east of Somalia on Oct. 22, the first reported attack on a major vessel off the country for two and a half years.

The last reported attack was in February 2014 and involved a container ship which came under fire from gunmen in waters near Somalia, EU Navfor said.

Pirates at 21 year low (at least those that are reported)

somalipirate

According to a new report from the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB), piracy and armed robbery at sea has fallen to its lowest levels since 1995, despite a surge in kidnappings off West Africa:

IMB’s global piracy report shows 98 incidents in the first half of 2016, compared with 134 for the same period in 2015. When piracy was at its highest, in 2010 and 2003, IMB recorded 445 attacks a year.

In the first half of 2016, IMB recorded 72 vessels boarded, five hijackings, and a further 12 attempted attacks. Nine ships were fired upon. Sixty-four crew were taken hostage onboard, down from 250 in the same period last year.

“This drop in world piracy is encouraging news. Two main factors are recent improvements around Indonesia, and the continued deterrence of Somali pirates off East Africa,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB, whose global Piracy Reporting Centre has supported the shipping industry, authorities and navies for 25 years.

“But ships need to stay vigilant, maintain security and report all attacks, as the threat of piracy remains, particularly off Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea,” he said.

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

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
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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.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, 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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Free Horror Zombies Biowar Novelette on Amazon!

Chimera-44
Free Horror Novelette by Christopher Eger

Sundra Trench – Indian Ocean

“A Russian research vessel is studying giant amphipods that live in one of the deepest parts of the sea. Or so the world thinks…

All the crew wants to do is get back to Jakarta and some well-deserved shore leave. But something is quickly approaching the rear of their ship. The crew will soon find out that their shore leave is canceled and the Hell brewing in the deepest bowls of their ship will soon emerge and bring with it the destruction of humanity as we know it.

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chimera small

Have you read Chimera-44?

“Sundra Trench – Indian Ocean-

A Russian research vessel is studying giant amphipods that live in one of the deepest parts of the sea. Or so the world thinks…

All the crew wants to do is get back to Jakarta and some well-deserved shore leave. But something is quickly approaching the rear of their ship. The crew will soon find out that their shore leave is canceled and the Hell brewing in the deepest bowls of their ship will soon emerge and bring with it the destruction of humanity as we know it.

Chimera-44 is the exciting prequel novelette to the hit novel Last Stand on Zombie Island by Christopher Eger. See how the end of the world began. “

You Can Download it for FREE at Smashwords (Click link here! ) with Online reading in Java or HTML, or download in Kindle, Epub, PDF, RTF, LRF, Palm Doc (PDB), or Plain Text format

Did I mention that its F R E E ?

Shameless Promotion Here, Get your Shameless Promotion

Just taking a five second, two-hundred work break to self-promo my fiction to all the loyal blog followers:

My Zombie Novel (Hey it IS 2012)

Last Stand on Zombie Island (Snazzy title, eh?)

New Zombie Book set in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi during the last world War.

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On Smashwords (link!) you can find it in with Online reading in Java or HTML, or download in Kindle, Epub, PDF, RTF, LRF, Palm Doc (PDB), or Plain Text format, still all just $4.99

Description:

WELCOME TO THE END OF THE WORLD!

Disease-K has decimated the world leaving its victims shambling homicidal maniacs. And nestled along the warm Gulf waters sits Gulf Shores…the last outpost of civilization. With looters and thieves preying on the shocked survivors, it’s up to the retirees and bank tellers, phone repairmen and charter-boat captains to put the town back together.

THE SHADOWS ARE GATHERING OUTSIDE OF TOWN!

There, in the sands and marshes of the Gulf of Mexico, the citizens of Gulf Shores along with scattered military units, a downed Air Force pilot, and a lone Coast Guard cutter form the last line of defense against the amassing horde of the infected marching its way toward the sea destroying what is left of humanity along the way.
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….”The description of this novel as being based “upon totally ordinary people” is 100% TRUE. In all the Z stories I have read (lots), I have never before read a story which SO CAPTIVATED ME without the presence of A SINGLE “PURELY HEROIC…LARGER THAN LIFE” personality. There are multiple possible explanations

….I should warn that the “infected” are NOT Romero Zs: They’re faster, they actively seek out and destroy any element of civilization, they are sick, sexual predators, and they kill in new ways.

….I was frustrated THAT I COULD NOT SPEND ALL MY TIME READING IT! I was captivated to the end. This was a case of a “whole greater than the sum of its parts”. I cannot explain more without revealing spoilers. This is a surprisingly RIVETING STORY–BE WARNED!”

Also available as a Trade Paperback and Hardcover from Necro Publications.

If you buy a paperback or hardcover and send it to me I will sign it and send it back to you for free….!

Enjoy, and get your shamble on!

 

Also don’t forget about the FREE PREQUEL NOVELETTE :

 

Chimera-44

Free Horror Novelette by Christopher Eger

Sundra Trench – Indian Ocean

A Russian research vessel is studying giant amphipods that live in one of the deepest parts of the sea. Or so the world thinks…

All the crew wants to do is get back to Jakarta and some well-deserved shore leave. But something is quickly approaching the rear of their ship. The crew will soon find out that their shore leave is canceled and the Hell brewing in the deepest bowls of their ship will soon emerge and bring with it the destruction of humanity as we know it.

Chimera-44 is the exciting prequel novelette to the hit novel Last Stand on Zombie Island by Christopher Eger. See how the end of the world began.

You Can Download it for FREE at Smashwords (Click link here! http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/211132 ) with Online reading in Java or HTML, or download in Kindle, Epub, PDF, RTF, LRF, Palm Doc (PDB), or Plain Text format

Did I mention that its F R E E ?

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