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Chapter 53:

  • The Alabama at the Cape of Good Hope
  • -- leaves on her return to Europe -- capture of the Rockingham and of the Tycoon -- crosses the equator into the Northern hemisphere, and arrives and anchors at Cherbourg on the 11th of June, 1864 -- the combat between the Alabama and the Kearsarge.

We entered Table Bay on the 20th of March, and on the next day we had the usual equinoctial gale. The wind was from the south-east, and blew very heavily for twenty-four hours. We let go a second anchor, and veered to ninety fathoms on the riding-chain. The usual phenomena accompanied this south-east gale, viz., a clear sky and a high barometer. The D—l kept his table-cloth spread on the top of the mountain during the whole of the gale, and it was wonderful to watch the unvarying size and shape of this fleecy cloud, every particle of which was being changed from moment to moment. Some boats visited us, notwithstanding the gale, and brought us off some of the delightful grapes and figs of the Cape. We were in the midst of the fruit season. Our old friend, Mr. William Anderson, of the firm of Anderson, Saxon & Co., who had acted as our agent, on the occasion of our former visit, so much to our satisfaction, also came off to arrange for further supplies. There was no occasion any longer for him to draw upon our public chest, the proceeds of the merchandise shipped by him to Europe, on our account, being sufficient to pay all bills.

The gale having moderated the next day, lighters came alongside, and we began coaling, and receiving such supplies of provisions as we needed. Visitors again thronged on board, [745] and the energies and address of Bartelli were freshly taxed. For a phlegmatic, impassible people, the English are, perhaps, the greatest sight-seekers in the world; and the Cape of Good Hope, being, as before remarked, a relay station on the principal highway of travel, is always filled with newcomers. Military and naval officers, governors, judges, superintendents of boards of trade, attorney-generals, all on their way to their missions in the Far East, came to see the Alabama. Though we were sometimes incommoded by the crowd, in the midst of our coaling and provisioning ship, scraping masts and tarring down rigging, we received everybody politely, and answered patiently their curious questions. When we were here last, we had had occasion to notice an American bark called the Urania, a trader between Boston and the Cape, which took every opportunity to display a very large and very bright ‘old flag,’ during our stay. The Urania had made a voyage to Boston and back, during our absence, and now came in, tricked out so finely in her ‘bran-new’ English flag that we hardly knew her!

In three days we were ready for sea. On the morning of the 25th, we got up steam, and moved out of Table Bay for the last time, amidst lusty cheers, and the waving of handkerchiefs from the fleet of boats by which we were surrounded. As we were going out, it so happened that a Yankee steamer was coming in. The Quang Tung, a fast steamer, recently built for the China trade, and now on her way to the Flowery Land, not dreaming that the Alabama was at the Cape, had made Table Mountain that morning, and now came steaming into the harbor. Both ships being within the marine league, we could not touch her, which was a sore trial, for the Quang Tung was a beauty, and passed so close under our guns, that the Confederate and United States flags nearly touched each other; the crews of the two ships looking on in silence. Half an hour more, and the capture of the Sea-Bride would have been repeated, to the gratification of our many friends at the Cape. Reaching the offing, we permitted our fires to go down, and put the ship, as usual, under sail. My intention now was, to make the best of my way to England or France, for the purpose of docking, and thoroughly overhauling and repairing my ship, in accordance with my previously expressed design. [746]

I had been so much occupied with business and visitors, at the Cape, that I had not even had time to read the newspapers. But my friends had brought me off a bountiful supply for sea, and I now had a little leisure to look at them. The news was not encouraging. Our people were being harder and harder pressed by the enemy, and post after post within our territory was being occupied by him. The signs of weakness, on our part, which I mentioned as becoming, for the first time, painfully apparent, after the battle of Gettysburg, and the surrender of Vicksburg, were multiplying. The blockade of the coast, by reason of the constantly increasing fleets of the enemy, was becoming more and more stringent. Our finances were rapidly deteriorating, and a general demoralization, in consequence, seemed to be spreading among our people. From the whole review of the ‘situation,’ I was very apprehensive that the cruises of the Alabama were drawing to a close. As for ourselves, we were doing the best we could, with our limited means, to harass and cripple the enemy's commerce, that important sinew of war; but the enemy seemed resolved to let his commerce go, rather than forego his purpose of subjugating us; rendering it up a willing sacrifice on the profane altar of his fanaticism, and the devilish passions which had been engendered by the war. Probably, if the alternative had been presented to him, in the beginning of the war, ‘Will you lose your commerce, or permit the Southern States to go free?’ he would have chosen the latter. But he seemed, in the earlier stages of the war, to have had no thought of losing his commerce; and when it became apparent that this misfortune would befall him, he was, as before remarked, too deeply engaged in the contest to heed it.

Among the speeches that met my eye, in the English papers, was another from my friend, Mr. Milner Gibson, President of the Board of Trade—him of the ‘ham and eggs,’ whom I quoted some chapters back. Mr. Gibson had risen above ham and eggs, this time, and was talking about English and American shipping. As President of the Board of Trade, he was good authority, and I was glad to learn from him, the extent to which, in conjunction with other Confederate cruisers, I had damaged the enemy's commerce. His speech was delivered at [747] Ashton-under-Lyne, on the 20th of January, 1864, and among other things he said:—

‘The number of British ships entering in, and clearing out with cargoes in the United Kingdom, has increased in the present year to an amount of something like fourteen million of tons and upward, against seven million tons of foreign shipping; thus showing, that with a great increase altogether, British shipping has kept gradually in advance of foreign shipping in the trade with the United Kingdom. But it would not be fair to take credit for this improvement in shipping, as due to any policy in this country. I am afraid that some of it is due to the transference of the carrying-trade from American ships to British ships. And why this transference from American ships to British ships? No doubt, partially in consequence of the war that prevails in America, there may not be the same power in manning and fitting out merchant vessels. But I am afraid there is something more than that. There is the fear among the American merchant shipping of attacks by certain armed vessels that are careering over the ocean, and that are burning and destroying all United States merchant ships that they find upon the high seas. The fear, therefore, of destruction by these cruisers, has caused a large transfer of American carrying to British ships. Now the decrease in the employment of American shipping is very great in the trade between England and the United States. It is something like 46 or 47 per cent. I mention these facts to show you that it is right that the attention of this great commercial nation should be seriously turned to those laws which govern the action of belligerents upon the high seas—(hear! hear!)—for if some two or three armed steamers, which a country with no pretensions to a navy, can easily send upon the ocean, armed with one or two guns, can almost clear the seas of the merchant shipping of a particular nation, what might happen to this country, with her extensive commerce over the seas, if she went to war with some nation that availed herself of the use of similar descriptions of vessels. (Hear! hear!)’

Though the subject was done up in a new form, it was still ‘ham and eggs’—British interests—as the reader sees. Mr. Milner Gibson was not over-stating the damage we had done the enemy. He was unfriendly to us, and therefore inclined to under-state it. According to his statistics, we had destroyed, or driven for protection under the English flag, in round numbers, one half of the enemy's ships engaged in the English trade. We did even greater damage to the enemy's trade with other powers. We broke up almost entirely his trade with Brazil, and the other South American States, greatly crippled [748] his Pacific trade, and as for his East India trade, it is only necessary to refer the reader to the spectacle presented at Singapore, to show him what had become of that.

I threw my ship, now, into the ‘fair way,’ leading from the Cape of Good Hope, to the equatorial crossing, east of our old trysting-place, Fernando de Noronha; shortening sail, from time to time, and see-sawing across the highway, to give any Yankee ships that might be travelling it, the opportunity to come up with me. I held myself in check, a day or two, in the vicinity of St. Helena, experiencing all the vicissitudes of weather, so feelingly complained of by the ‘Great Captive’ on that barren rock. Leaving St. Helena, we jogged along leisurely under topsails, the stream of commerce flowing past us, but there being no Yankee ships in the Stream.

Howl, ye ships of Tarshish,
For your strength is laid waste.

On the 22d of April, having reached the track of the homeward-bound Pacific ships of the enemy, we descried an unlucky Yankee, to whom we immediately gave chase. The chase continued the whole night, the moon shining brightly, the breeze being gentle, and the sea smooth. The Yankee worked like a good fellow to get away, piling clouds of canvas upon his ship, and handling her with the usual skill, but it was of no use. When the day dawned we were within a couple of miles of him. It was the old spectacle of the panting, breathless fawn, and the inexorable stag-hound. A gun brought his colors to the peak, and his main-yard to the mast. The prize proved to be the ship Rockingham, from Callao, bound to Cork for orders. Her cargo consisted of guano from the Chincha Islands, and there was an attempt to protect it. It was shipped by the ‘Guano Consignment Company of Great Britain.’ Among the papers was a certificate, of which the following is the purport: One Joseph A. Danino, who signs for Danino & Moscosa, certifies that the guano belongs to the Peruvian Government; and Her Britannic Majesty's Consul at Lima, certifies that the said Joseph A. Danino appeared before him, and ‘voluntarily declared, that the foregoing signature is of his own handwriting, and also, that the cargo above mentioned [749] is truly and verily the property of the Peruvian Government.’ This was about equal to some of the Yankee attempts, that have been noticed, to cover cargoes. With the most perfect unconcern for the laws of nations, no one swore to anything. Mr. Danino certified, and the Consul certified that Mr. Danino had certified. Voila tout! We transferred to the Alabama such stores and provisions as we could make room for, and the weather being fine, we made a target of the prize, firing some shot and shell into her with good effect; and at five P. M. we burned her, and filled away on our course.

A few days afterward—on the 27th of April—being in latitude 11° 16′ S. and longitude 32° 07′ W., the weather being fine, and the wind light from the south-east, we descried, at three P. M., a large ship standing directly for us. Neither ship changed tack or sheet until we were within speaking distance. Nor had we shown the stranger any colors. We now hailed, and ordered him to heave to, whilst we should send aboard of him, hoisting our colors at the same time. We had previously seen the Yankee colors in the hands of one of his seamen, ready to be hoisted. The whole thing was done so quietly, that one would have thought it was two friends meeting. The prize proved to be the Tycoon, from New York, for San Francisco. She had the usual valuable and assorted cargo. There was no claim of neutral property among the papers. The ship being only thirty-six days from New York, we received from her a batch of late newspapers; and a portion of her cargo consisting of clothing, the paymaster was enabled to replenish his store-rooms with every variety of wearing apparel. We applied the torch to her soon after nightfall.

On the 2d of May, we recrossed the equator into the northern hemisphere, took the north-east trade-wind, after the usual interval of calm, and the usual amount of thunder, lightning, and rain, and with it, ran up to our old toll-gate, at the crossing of the 30th parallel, where, as the reader will recollect, we halted, on our outward passage, and vised the passports of so many travellers. The poor old Alabama was not now what she had been then. She was like the wearied fox-hound, limping back after a long chase, foot-sore, and longing for quiet and repose. Her commander, like herself, was well-nigh worn down. Vigils by [750] night and by day, the storm and the drenching rain, the frequent and rapid change of climate, now freezing, now melting or broiling, and the constant excitement of the chase and capture, had laid, in the three years of war he had been afloat, a load of a dozen years on his shoulders. The shadows of a sorrowful future, too, began to rest upon his spirit. The last batch of newspapers captured were full of disasters. Might it not be, that, after all our trials and sacrifices, the cause for which we were struggling would be lost? Might not our federal system of government be destroyed, and State independence become a phrase of the past; the glorious fabric of our American liberty sinking, as so many others had done before it, under a new invasion of Brennuses and Attilas? The thought was hard to bear.

We passed through our old cruising-ground, the Azores, sighting several of the islands which called up reminiscences of the christening of our ship, and of the sturdy blows she had struck at the enemy's whaling fleet, in the first days of her career. Thence we stretched over to the coasts of Spain and Portugal, and thence to the British Channel, making the Lizard on the 10th of June, and being fortunate enough to get a channel pilot on board, just as night was setting in, with a thick south-wester brewing. By eleven P. M., we were up with the ‘Start’ light, and at ten the next morning, we made Cape La Hague, on the coast of France. We were now boarded by a French pilot, and at thirty minutes past noon, we let go our anchor in the port of Cherbourg.

This was to be the Alabama's last port. She had run her career, her record had been made up, and in a few days more, she would lay her bones beneath the waters of the British Channel, and be a thing of the past. I had brought back with me all my officers, except the paymaster, whom I had discharged at the island of Jamaica, as related in a former chapter, and the young engineer, who had been accidentally killed at Saldanha Bay. Many changes had taken place, of course, among my crew, as is always the case with sailors, but still a large proportion of my old men had come back with me. These were faithful and true, and took more than an ordinary interest in their ship and their flag. There were harmony [751] and mutual confidence between officers and men. Our discipline had been rigid, but mercy had always tempered justice, and the sailors understood and appreciated this. I had been successful with the health of my men beyond precedent. In my two ships, the Sumter and Alabama, I had had, first and last, say five hundred men under my command. The ships were small and crowded. As many as two thousand prisoners were confined, for longer or shorter periods, on board the two ships; and yet, out of the total of twenty-five hundred men, I had not lost a single man by disease. I had skilful and attentive surgeons, I gave them carte blanche with regard to medicines and diet, and my first lieutenant understood it to be an important part of his duty to husband the strength of his men. The means which were resorted to by all these officers, for preserving the health of the crew, have been detailed. The reader has seen, not only how their clothing was changed as we changed our latitude, but how it was changed every evening, when we were in warm climates. He has seen how sedulously we guarded against intemperance, at the same time that we gave the sailor his regular allowance of grog. And last, though by no means least, he has seen how we endeavored to promote a cheerful and hilarious spirit among them, being present at, and encouraging them in their diversions.

Immediately upon anchoring, I sent an officer to call on the Port Admiral, and ask leave to land my prisoners from the two last ships captured. This was readily granted, and the next day I went on shore to see him myself, in relation to docking and repairing my ship. My arrival had, of course, been telegraphed to Paris, and indeed, by this time, had been spread all over Europe. The Admiral regretted that I had not gone into Havre, or some other commercial port, where I would have found private docks. Cherbourg being exclusively a naval station, the docks all belonged to the Government, and the Government would have preferred not to dock and repair a belligerent ship. No positive objection was made, however, and the matter was laid over, until the Emperor could be communicated with. The Emperor was then at Biarritz, a small watering-place on the south coast, and would not be back in Paris for several days. It was my intention, if I had been [752] admitted promptly into dock, to give my crew a leave of absence for a couple of months. They would have been discharged, and dispersed, in the first twenty-four hours after my arrival, but for this temporary absence of the Emperor. The combat, therefore, which ensued, may be said to be due to the Emperor's accidental absence from Paris.

When the Alabama arrived in Cherbourg, the enemy's steamer Kearsarge was lying at Flushing. On the 14th of June, or three days after our arrival, she steamed into the harbor of Cherbourg, sent a boat on shore to communicate with the authorities, and, without anchoring, steamed out again, and took her station off the breakwater. We had heard, a day or two before, of the expected arrival of this ship, and it was generally understood among my crew that I intended to engage her. Her appearance, therefore, produced no little excitement on board. The object which the Kearsarge had in view, in communicating with the authorities, was to request that the prisoners I had sent on shore might be delivered up to her. To this I objected, on the ground, that it would augment her crew, which she had no right to do, in neutral waters, and especially in the face of her enemy. Captain Winslow's request was refused, and the prisoners were not permitted to go on board of him. I now addressed a note to Mr. Bonfils, our agent, requesting him to inform Captain Winslow, through the United States Consul, that if he would wait until I could receive some coal on board—my supply having been nearly exhausted, by my late cruising—I would come out and give him battle. This message was duly conveyed, and the defiance was understood to have been accepted.

We commenced coaling ship immediately, and making other preparations for battle; as sending down all useless yards and top-hamper, examining the gun equipments, and overhauling the magazine and shell-rooms. My crew seemed not only willing, but anxious for the combat, and I had every confidence in their steadiness and drill; but they labored under one serious disadvantage. They had had but very limited opportunities of actual practice at target-firing, with shot and shell. The reason is obvious. I had no means of replenishing either shot or shell, and was obliged, therefore, to husband the store [753] I had on hand, for actual conflict. The stories that ran the round of the Federal papers at the time, that my crew was composed mainly of trained gunners from the British practiceship Excellent, were entirely without foundation. I had on board some half dozen British seamen, who had served in ships of war in former years, but they were in no respect superior to the rest of the crew. As for the two ships, though the enemy was superior to me, both in size, stanchness of construction, and armament, they were of force so nearly equal, that I cannot be charged with rashness in having offered battle. The Kearsarge mounted seven guns:—two eleven-inch Dahlgrens, four 32-pounders, and a rifled 28-pounder. The Alabama mounted eight:—one eight-inch, one rifled 100-pounder, and six 32-pounders. Though the Alabama carried one gun more than her antagonist, it is seen that the battery of the latter enabled her to throw more metal at a broadside—there being a difference of three inches in the bore of the shell-guns of the two ships.

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. It was the same thing, as if two men were to go out to fight a duel, and one of them, unknown to the other, were to put a shirt of mail under his outer garment. The days of chivalry being past, perhaps it would be unfair to charge Captain Winslow with deceit in withholding from me the fact that he meant to wear armor in the fight. He may have reasoned that it was my duty to find it out for myself. Besides, if he had disclosed this fact to me, and so prevented the engagement, the Federal. Secretary of the Navy would have cut his head off to a certainty. A man who could permit a ship of war, which had surrendered, to be run off with, by her crew, after they had been paroled—see the case of the Mercedita described in a former chapter—and who could contrive, or connive at the sinking of the Florida, to prevent the making of a reparation of honor to Brazil, would not be likely to be very complacent toward an officer who showed any signs of weakness on the score of honor or honesty. Judging from the tone of the Yankee press, too, when it came afterward to describe the engagement, Winslow [754] seemed to have gauged his countrymen correctly, when he came to the conclusion that it would not do to reveal his secret to me. So far from having any condemnation to offer, the press, that chivalrous exponent of the opinions of a chivalrous people, was rather pleased at the ‘Yankee trick.’ It was characteristic, ‘cute,’ ‘smart.’

Appleton's Encyclopedia of the War,’ much more liberal and fair than some of its congeners, thus speaks of Winslow's device:—‘Availing himself of an ingenious expedient for the protection of his machinery, first adopted by Admiral Farragut, in running past the rebel forts on the Mississippi in 1862, Captain Winslow had hung all his spare anchor cable over the midship section of the Kearsarge, on either side; and in order to make the addition less unsightly, the chains were boxed over with inch deal boards, forming a sort of case, which stood out at right-angles to the side of the vessel.’ One sees a twinge of honesty in this paragraph. The boxing stood out at right-angles to the side of the ship, and therefore the Alabama ought to have seen it. But unfortunately for the Alabama, the right-angles were not there. The forward and after ends of the ‘boxing,’ went off at so fine a point, in accordance with the lines of the ship, that the telescope failed to detect the cheat. Besides, when a ship is preparing for a fight, she does not care much about show. It is a fight, and not a review that she has on hand. Hence, we have another twinge, when the paragraphist remarks that the boxing was resorted to, to make the armor appear ‘less unsightly!’ And, then, what about the necessity for protecting the machinery at all? The machinery of all the enemy's new sloops was below the waterline. Was the Kearsarge an exception? The plain fact is, without any varnish, the Kearsarge, though as effectually protected as if she had been armored with the best of iron plates, was to all appearance a wooden ship of war. But, to admit this, would spoil the éclat of the victory, and hence the effort to explain away the cheat, as far as possible.

In the way of crew, the Kearsarge had 162, all told—the Alabama, 149. I had communicated my intention to fight this battle to Flag-Officer Barron, my senior officer in Paris, a few days before, and that officer had generously left the matter to my own [755] discretion. I completed my preparations on Saturday evening, the 18th of June, and notified the Port-Admiral of my intention to go out on the following morning. The next day dawned beautiful and bright. The cloudy, murky weather of some days past had cleared off, and a bright sun, a gentle breeze, and a smooth sea, were to be the concomitants of the battle. Whilst I was still in my cot, the Admiral sent an officer off to say to me that the iron-clad frigate Couronne would accompany me a part of the way out, to see that the neutrality of French waters was not violated. My crew had turned in early, and gotten a good night's rest, and I permitted them to get their breakfasts comfortably—not turning them to until nine o'clock—before any movement was made toward getting under way, beyond lighting the fires in the furnaces. I ought to mention that Midshipman Sinclair, the son of Captain Terry Sinclair, of the Confederate Navy, whom I had sent with Low, as his first lieutenant in the Tuscaloosa, being in Paris when we arrived, had come down on the eve of the engagement— accompanied by his father—and endeavored to rejoin me, but was prevented by the French authorities. It is opportune also to state, that in view of possible contingencies, I had directed Galt, my acting paymaster, to send on shore for safekeeping, the funds of the ship, and complete pay-rolls of the crew, showing the state of the account of each officer and man.

The day being Sunday, and the weather fine, a large concourse of people—many having come all the way from Paris —collected on the heights above the town, in the upper stories of such of the houses as commanded a view of the sea, and on the walls and fortifications of the harbor. Several French luggers employed as pilot-boats went out, and also an English steam-yacht, called the Deerhound. Everything being in readiness between nine and ten o'clock, we got under way, and proceeded to sea, through the western entrance of the harbor; the Couronne following us. As we emerged from behind the mole, we discovered the Kearsarge at a distance of between six and seven miles from the land. She had been apprised of our intention of coming out that morning, and was awaiting us. The Couronne anchored a short distance outside of the harbor. [756] We were three quarters of an hour in running out to the Kearsarge, during which time we had gotten our people to quarters, cast loose the battery, and made all the other necessary preparations for battle. The yards had been previously slung in chains, stoppers prepared for the rigging, and preventer braces rove. It only remained to open the magazine and shell-rooms, sand down the decks, and fill the requisite number of tubs with water. The crew had been particularly neat in their dress on that morning, and the officers were all in the uniforms appropriate to their rank. As we were approaching the enemy's ship, I caused the crew to be sent aft, within convenient reach of my voice, and mounting a gun-carriage, delivered them the following brief address. I had not spoken to them in this formal way since I had addressed them on the memorable occasion of commissioning the ship.

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

The utmost silence prevailed during the delivery of this address, broken only once, in an enthusiastic outburst of Never! never! when I asked my sailors if they would permit the name of their ship to be tarnished by defeat. My official report of the engagement, addressed to Flag-Officer Barron, in Paris, will [757] describe what now took place. It was written at Southampton, England, two days after the battle.

Southampton, June 21, 1864.
Sir:—I have the honor to inform you, that, in accordance with my intention as previously announced to you, I steamed out of the harbor of Cherbourg between nine and ten o'clock on the morning of the 19th of June, for the purpose of engaging the enemy's steamer Kearsarge, which had been lying off, and on the port, for several days previously. After clearing the harbor, we descried the enemy, with his head off shore, at the distance of about seven miles. We were three quarters of an hour in coming up with him. I had previously pivotted my guns to starboard, and made all preparations for engaging the enemy on that side. When within about a mile and a quarter of the enemy, he suddenly wheeled, and, bringing his head in shore, presented his starboard battery to me. By this time, we were distant about one mile from each other, when I opened on him with solid shot, to which he replied in a few minutes, and the action became active on both sides. The enemy now pressed his ship under a full head of steam, and to prevent our passing each other too speedily, and to keep our respective broadsides bearing, it became necessary to fight in a circle; the two ships steaming around a common centre, and preserving a distance from each other of from three quarters to half a mile. When we got within good shell range, we opened upon him with shell. Some ten or fifteen minutes after the commencement of the action, our spanker-gaff was shot away, and our ensign came down by the run. This was immediately replaced by another at the mizzen-masthead. The firing now became very hot, and the enemy's shot, and shell soon began to tell upon our hull, knocking down, killing, and disabling a number of men, at the same time, in different parts of the ship. Perceiving that our shell, though apparently exploding against the enemy's sides, were doing him but little damage, I returned to solid-shot firing, and from this time onward alternated with shot, and shell.

After the lapse of about one hour and ten minutes, our ship was ascertained to be in a sinking condition, the enemy's shell having exploded in our side, and between decks, opening large apertures through which the water rushed with great rapidity. For some few minutes I had hopes of being able to reach the French coast, for which purpose 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 in the furnaces, and we were evidently on the point of sinking. I now hauled down my colors, to prevent the further destruction of life, and dispatched a boat to inform the enemy of our condition. Although we were now but 400 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 [758] nation could not have done this, intentionally. We now directed all our exertions toward saving the wounded, and such of the boys of the ship as were unable to swim. These were dispatched in my quarter-boats, the only boats remaining to me; the waist-boats having been torn to pieces. Some twenty minutes after my furnace-fires had been extinguished, and when the ship was on the point of settling, every man, in obedience to a previous order which had been given the crew, jumped overboard, and endeavored to save himself. There was no appearance of any boat coming to me from the enemy, until after my ship went down. Fortunately, however, the steamyacht Deerhound, owned by a gentleman of Lancashire, EnglandMr. 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. I was fortunate enough myself thus to escape to the shelter of the neutral flag, together with about forty others, all told. 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. At the end of the engagement, it was discovered by those of our officers who went alongside of the enemy's ship, with the wounded, that her mid-ship section, on both sides, was thoroughly iron-coated; this having been done with chains, 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. This planking had been ripped off, in every direction, by our shot and shell, the chain broken, and indented in many places, and forced partly into the ship's side. She was effectually guarded, however, in this section, from penetration. The enemy was much damaged, in other parts, but to what extent it is now impossible to say. It is believed he is badly crippled. My officers and men behaved steadily and gallantly, and though they have lost their ship, they have not lost honor. Where all behaved so well, it would be invidious to particularize, but I cannot deny myself the pleasure of saying that Mr. Kell, my first lieutenant, deserves great credit for the fine condition in which the ship went into action, with regard to her battery, magazine and shell-rooms, and that he rendered me great assistance, by his coolness, and judgment, as the fight proceeded. 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. Our total loss in killed and wounded, is 30, to wit: 9 killed, and 21 wounded.

It was afterward ascertained, that as many as ten were drowned. As stated in the above despatch, I had the satisfaction of saving all my wounded men. Every one of them was passed carefully into a boat, and sent off to the enemy's ship, [759] before the final plunge into the sea was made by the unhurt portion of the crew. Here is the proper place to drop a tear over the fate of a brave officer. My surgeon, D. II. Llewellyn, of Wiltshire, England, a grandson of Lord Herbert, lost his life by drowning. It was his privilege to accompany the wounded men, in the boats, to the Kearsarge, but he did not do so. He remained and took his chance of escape, with the rest of his brethren in arms, and perished almost in sight of his home, after an absence of two years from the dear ones who were to mourn his loss. With reference to the drowning of my men, I desire to present a contrast to the reader. I sank the Hatteras off Galveston, in a night engagement. When the enemy appealed to me for assistance, telling me that his ship was sinking, I sent him all my boats, and saved every officer and man, numbering more than a hundred persons. The Alabama was sunk in open daylight—the enemy's ship being only 400 yards distant—and ten of my men were permitted to drown. Indeed, but for the friendly interposition of the Deerhound, there is no doubt that a great many more would have perished.

Captain Winslow has stated, in his despatch to his Government, that he desired to board the Alabama. He preserved a most respectful distance from her, even after he saw that she was crippled. He had greatly the speed of me, and could have laid me alongside, at any moment, but, so far from doing so, he was shy of me even after the engagement had ended. In a letter to the Secretary of the Federal Navy, published by Mr. Adams, in London, a few days after the engagement, he says:—‘I have the honor to report that, toward the close of the action between the Alabama and this vessel, all available sail was made on the former, for the purpose of regaining Cherbourg. When the object was apparent, the Kearsarge was steered across the bow of the Alabama, for a raking fire, but before reaching this point, the Alabama struck. Uncertain whether Captain Semmes was not making some ruse, the Kearsarge was stopped.’ This is probably the explanation of the whole of Captain Winslow's strange conduct at the time. He was afraid to approach us because of some ruse that we might be practising upon him. Before he could recover from [760] his bewilderment, and make up his mind that we were really beaten, my ship went down. I acquit him, therefore, entirely, of any intention of permitting my men to drown, or even of gross negligence, which would be almost as criminal. It was his judgment which was entirely at fault. I had known, and sailed with him, in the old service, and knew him then to be a humane and Christian gentleman. What the war may have made of him, it is impossible to say. It has turned a great deal of the milk of human kindness to gall and wormwood.

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