Foreign accounts of the fight.
Letter from Secretary of State, transmitting copy of despatch no. 302 of the United States Consul at Liverpool.
Despatch of U. S. Consul at Liverpool.
London times accounts.
Liverpool “courier” account.
When the meagre telegrams from Cherbourg
were received on Sunday night, stating that an engagement was reported to have taken place between the Alabama
and the Kearsarge
, and that the confederate vessel had been sunk, the statement was regarded as an idle rumor without the slightest foundation in fact.
people were very reluctant to give credence to the report, and the baldness of the telegrams almost justified their rejection.
The first impulse, therefore, was to regard the alleged fight as altogether mythical.
But as people began to arrive in town for business yesterday morning, the second edition of the Daily Courier
informed them that the Alabama
and the Kearsarge
had really met in stubborn conflict, that the confederate cruiser had proved unequal to her adversary in strength of hull and weight of armament, and that gallantly fighting until their vessel was half engulfed, Captain Semmes
and the remnant of his crew were at length constrained to jump into the sea to avoid being carried to the bottom in their sinking craft.
The naval duel between the Alabama
and the Kearsarge
is not one of the least brilliant incidents in the American
war. Even prejudiced Federalists will not deny Captain Semmes
credit for almost romantic gallantry in the struggle.
He accepted a challenge from a far more powerful adversary; he knew his antagonist was in good repair and better armed, and he also knew that his own vessel was in a wretched state of dilapidation, the inevitable result of a world-wide cruise.
Under such circumstances, it is no disgrace to Captain Semmes
that he was worsted.
Preponderance of force, not superior bravery or skill, was the cause of failure, and this was beyond his control.
All persons may not be disposed to concur in the propriety of the mission in which Captain Semmes
was employed, but after reading the account of Sunday's encounter, they must feel convinced that he is a chivalrous officer, on whose fame the term “pirate” is a foul aspersion.
The accounts of the fight are still somewhat meagre, but we must wait until some of those on board the vessels have had an opportunity of supplying the details.
These will be looked forward to with considerable interest, and in the mean time the particulars which we are able to publish, will, no doubt, be eagerly read.
The following telegrams were received at the Liver-pool underwriters' rooms from Lloyd
's agent at Cherbourg
Cherbourg, Sunday, ten minutes past twelve
P. M.--The Alabama
left this morning, and is now engaged with the Kearsarge
A brisk cannonade is heard.
Forty minutes past one
P. M.--The Kearsarge
has just sunk the Alabama
An English yacht has saved the crew.
The telegraph company's express from Southampton
was to the following effect.
It contains the account furnished to the newspapers by Mr. John Lancaster
, of the steam-yacht Deerhound
, which, by the way, is one of the Royal Mersey
Southampton, June twentieth
.--The steamyacht Deerhound
has arrived off Cowes
with Captain Semmes
and the crew of the confederate steamer Alabama
The following are the details of the engagement, which took place yesterday:
At half-past 10, the Alabama was observed steaming out of Cherbourg harbor toward the Federal steamer Kearsarge.
At ten minutes past eleven, the Alabama commenced the action by firing with her starboard battery at a distance of about one mile. The Kearsarge also opened fire immediately with her starboard guns, and a sharp engagement, with rapid firing from both ships, was kept up, both shot and shell being discharged.
In the manoeuvring, both vessels made seven complete circles at a distance of from a quarter to half a mile.
At twelve o'clock, the firing from the Alabama was observed to slacken, and she appeared to be making head-sail and shaping her course for land, which was distant about nine miles. At half-past 12, the confederate vessel was in a disabled and sinking state.
The Deerhound immediately made toward her, and on passing the Kearsarge, was requested to assist in saving the crew of the Alabama.
When the Deerhound was still at a distance of two hundred yards the Alabama sank, and the Deerhound then lowered her boats, and with the assistance of those from the sinking vessel, succeeded in saving about forty men, including Captain Semmes and thirteen officers.
The Kearsarge was apparently very much disabled.
The Alabama's loss in killed and wounded is as follows: Drowned, one officer and one man; killed, six men; wounded, one officer and sixteen men. Captain Semmes is slightly wounded in the hand.
The Kearsarge's boats were lowered, and, with the assistance of the French pilot, succeeded in picking up the remainder of the crew.
Southampton, June twentieth
.--From further particulars received here of yesterday's engagement, it appears that Captain Semmes
accepted the challenge of the Kearsarge
to fight, although aware that his adversary carried fifty more men than his own vessel, and was a larger ship with heavier guns.
was not, however, aware that the Kearsarge
was chain-plated under her outside planking.
Shortly after the action commenced, a shot from the Kearsarge
killed three men on board the Alabama
, cutting them to pieces, and a second shot wounded three more men and killed another, while a third shot carried away the blade of the Alabama
's fan and part of the rudder, on her deck disabling a gun, and causing much damage below and forward.
Her compartments were all carried away, and the fire-room was filled with water.
fought under sail, first using her
starboard battery, and afterwards her port battery; she continued the engagement with the muzzles of her guns under water, and one part of her deck covered with dead and wounded.
When found in a sinking state, the Alabama
ceased fighting and lowered her boats, in which the dead and wounded were placed.
Shortly afterward the Alabama
sank, the officers and crew jumping into the sea, when the Kearsarge
's boats came up to assist in saving the crew.
The officer in command of the boats inquired for Semmes
, and was told that he was drowned, whereas he had already been picked up by the yacht Deerhound
and stowed away, the yacht having then steamed off with all speed, expecting the Kearsarge
would attempt to capture those on board.
Before the Alabama
to engage the Kearsarge
, Captain Semmes
sent on shore an iron chest containing specie, sixty chronometers, and other valuables.
The engagement is described by the owner of the yacht Deerhound
as a most brilliant affair, the fighting being severe and at short distance.
's guns were served rapidly but doing less execution.
, however, is said to have sustained much damage, her sides being torn open, showing the chain-plating.
The officers of the Alabama
estimate their loss in killed and wounded at from thirty to forty men. Captain Semmes
is very unwell, from being in the water a considerable time, and in consequence of the wound in his hand.
visited several shops in Southampton
this morning to procure a personal outfit.
Another account from Southampton
says the Kearsarge
had a chain-cable triced along her sides to break the force of the Alabama
was almost one thousand yards from the Kearsarge
when she fired the first shot at half-past 10; being the fastest ship, she was able to steam round her antagonist in continually narrowing circles, but when within five hundred yards of the Kearsarge
the rudder and screw of the Alabama
were shot away and she was rendered helpless.
Her colors were shot away.
Captain Semmes's Report: the Alabama and the Kearsarge.
London “daily news” account.
It will hardly be denied by the most fervid admirers of the Alabama
's “daring and brilliant career” that her surviving commander is more
fortunate not only than the brave captains who lived before Agamemnon
, but than many who had lived and fought in modern times.
If many gallant soldiers and sailors in the mythical age died unwept for want of a “reporter,” your modern hero of a hundred escapes and of half an hour's ducking after his first and last fair fight, seems likely to be drowned after all in torrents of sympathetic ink. There was, perhaps, a little difficulty in making any thing very heroic out of the Alabama
's career while she lived.
Running away from men-of-war and burning unarmed and defenceless merchantmen may be a profitable and useful business, but courage is not precisely the quality one admires in the hawk or the hound when the victory is a partridge or a hare.
No doubt there is something romantic and interesting in the mere ubiquity of a sea-rover; no romances are more irresistible than those of “Rovers” and “Waterwitches ;” and even a “Pirate” who combines speed and seamanship with something of the personal charm of a destroying angel, is the favorite ideal of all young boys and girls, and even of maturer women with well-regulated imaginations.
It was commonly supposed that paddle-wheels and screws and funnels (not to speak of diplomacy) had put an end to all the romance and picturesqueness of sea life; the celebrity of the Alabama
proves the fallacy of that apprehension.
For in what has that celebrity consisted, if not in being heard of here, there, and everywhere, and sometimes in half a dozen latitudes at once; in the Channel
, in the Mediterranean, in the Atlantic
, in the Pacific
, in the Indian ocean
, in the China seas
, at the Cape, in the Channel
What a wonderful vessel!
The Flying Dutchman was a galliot compared with her!
What a wonderful captain, to be always pursuing and never caught!
And certainly the simple feat of keeping at sea in all weathers for two years without intermission, or breaking down, or repairs, may well strike with admiring wonder a public accustomed to read in their “naval intelligence” of powerful squadrons docking and repairing after six weeks cruise in the Bay of Biscay
or the North
sea. Let the captain of the Alabama
have his due by all means.
Without reference to Federals or confederates, let us, as Englishmen, do justice to smart and skilful seamanship wherever we find it. But let not the nation that once owned a Nelson sink to paying equal homage to a sunk Alabama
and a surviving victor.
To worship success is bad enough; to worship the remains of a runaway smuggler and a nimble-heeled buccaneer because he has come to a legitimate end, is something very different from an honest sympathy with defeat.
There are British naval officers performing at the hour splendid but unrecorded services, who will never receive the honors paid to the captain of the Alabama
for having accepted the challenge of the captain of the Kearsarge
but not its consequences.
Probably the Alabama
was not a classical school of Roman virtue in which the heart of a Regulus could be trained to self-conquest; if the poet were to write of a Semmes Atqui sciebat
, it would not be to celebrate the prisoner of war who disdained to sacrifice his honor to his safety.
should be interpreted, “though he knew that an English yacht was ready to pick him up and carry him away to a neutral shore, where he could forget the English
surgeon who perished with his sinking ship rather than abandon the wounded sailors, but where he could fight the battle over again in safety, and defeat at leisure the fair fame of a brother sailor and an honorable enemy.”
The sceptic who called history a matter-of-fact romance should have lived in our day, when a naval action is fought off Cherbourg
on Sunday, and reported in the London
newspapers on the Monday following, no two reports agreeing in any single fact except in the result.
Mr. John Lancaster
, the owner of the Deerhound
yacht, who, in more than the French
sense of the words, “assisted at” the engagement, published on the following morning an account which materially differs in the most important points from the official report furnished to Mr. Mason
by Captain Semmes
, and published yesterday.
“At half-past 12, (we quote Mr. Lancaster
's extract from the log of the Deerhound
,) observed the Alabama
to be disabled, and in a sinking state.
We immediately made toward her, and on passing the Kearsarge
, were requested to assist in saving the Alabama
At fifty minutes past twelve, when within a distance of two hundred yards, the Alabama
We then lowered our two boats, and, with the assistance of the Alabama
's whale-boat and dingey, succeeded in saving about forty men, including Captain Semmes
and thirteen officers.”
Now what says Captain Semmes
“ There was no appearance of any boat coming to me from the enemy after my ship went down.
Ultimately, however, the steam-yacht Deerhound
, owned by a gentleman of Lancashire, England
, Mr. John Lancaster
, who was himself on board, steamed up in the midst of my drowning men, and rescued a number of both officers and men from the water.
About this time the Kearsarge
sent one, and then, tardily, another boat.
Accompanying you will find lists of the killed and wounded, and of those who were picked up by the Deerhound
The remainder, there is reason to hope, were picked up by the enemy and by a couple of French pilot-boats which were also fortunately near the scene of action.”
The odious imputation of inhumanity contained in this passage is not only altogether wanting in Mr. Lancaster
's account, it is implicitly and explicitly contradicted by Mr. Lancaster
's assertion that he was requested by the captain of the Kearsarge
to assist in “saving” the Alabama
Then, again, as to the relative tonnage and armament of the two ships, Captain Semmes
writes to Mr. Mason
The enemy was heavier than myself, both in ship, battery and crew, but I did not know until the action was over that she was also iron-clad.
Her midship section on both sides was
thoroughly iron-coated; this having been done with chain constructed for the purpose, placed Perpendicularly from the rail to the water's edge, the whole covered over by a thin outer planking, which gave no indication of the armor beneath.
A letter which we publish this morning from a gentleman just returned from a visit to the Kearsarge
, at Cherbourg
, states that the “Alabama
had eight guns, the Kearsarge
only seven ;” and that “the Kearsarge
was no more iron-clad than the Alabama
might have been, had they taken the precaution.
She simply had a double row of chains hanging over her sides to protect her machinery.
Two shots from the Alabama
struck these chains and fell harmlessly into the water.”
Again, as to the number of the respective crews, Mr Mason
writes: “She (the Alabama
) had, in fast, but one hundred and twenty, all told.”
Yet Captain Semmes
reports: “Our total loss in killed and wounded is thirty, namely, nine killed, twenty-one wounded. I was fortunate enough myself thus to escape to the shelter of a neutral flag, together with about forty others, all told.”
A correspondent who had just visited the Kearsarge
, at Cherbourg
, reports: “The Kearsarge
picked up sixty-three men, one dead body, and two who died afterward on board.
She also took five officers.”
So that one hundred and thirty (officers and men) are actually accounted for as belonging to the Alabama
, instead of Mr. Mason
's one hundred and twenty “all told.”
accuses the Kearsarge
of having fired upon the Alabama
five times after her colors had been struck.
No mention of this prodigious inhumanity is made by Mr. Lancaster
, the owner of the Deerhound
, who was within three hundred yards at the close of the action.
The following is the account referred to:
The Alabama and the Deerhound.
The following is the correspondence between Mr. Mason
and Mr. Lancaster
, the owner of the Deerhound