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[215] enforcement of ‘neutrality,’ to replenish his ammunition. Unless the niter is more thoroughly purified than is usually, if ever, done by those who manufacture for an open market, it is sure to retain nitrate of soda, and the powder, of which it is the important ingredient, to deteriorate by long exposure to a moist atmosphere. The Kearsarge was superior to the Alabama in size, and, having been built for war in stanchness of construction, her armament was also greater, the latter being measured, not by the number of guns, but by the amount of metal she could throw at a broadside. The crew of the Kearsarge, all told, was one hundred sixtytwo; that of the Alabama, one hundred forty-nine. Captain Semmes says: ‘Still the disparity was not so great but that I might hope to beat my enemy in a fair fight. But he did not show me a fair fight, for, as it afterward turned out, his ship was iron-clad.’ This expression ‘ironclad’ refers to the fact that the Kearsarge had chains on her sides, which Captain Semmes describes as concealed by planking, the forward and after ends of which so accorded with the lines of the ship as not to be detected by telescopic observation. Many of that class of critics whose wisdom is revealed only after the event have blamed Captain Semmes for going out under the circumstances. Like most other questions, there are two sides to this. If he had gone into dock for repairs, the time required would have resulted in the dispersion of his crew, and, from the known improvidence of sailors, it would have been more than doubtful that they could have been reassembled. It was, moreover, probable that other vessels would have been sent to aid the Kearsarge in effectually blockading the port, so that, if his crew had returned, the only chance would have been to escape through the guarding fleet. Proud of his ship, and justly confiding in his crew, surely something will be conceded to the Confederate spirit so often exhibited and so often triumphant over disparity of force.

On June 19, 1864, the Alabama left the harbor of Cherbourg to engage the Kearsarge, which had been lying off and on the port for several days previously. Captain Semmes in his report of the engagement writes:

After the lapse of about one hour and ten minutes, our ship was ascertained to be in a sinking condition . . . to reach the French coast, I gave the ship all steam, and set such of the fore and aft sails as were available. The ship filled so rapidly, however, that, before we had made much progress, the fires were extinguished. I now hauled down my colors, and dispatched a boat to inform the enemy of our condition. Although we were now but four hundred yards from each other, the enemy fired upon me five times after my colors had been struck. It is charitable to suppose that a ship of war, of a Christian nation, could not have done this intentionally.

Captain Semmes states that, his waist-boats having been torn to pieces,

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