Sunday, February 07, 2010


Over The last couple weeks you may have noticed I have been doing a lot on the CSS Alabama, the last one was on the Controversy over the photos of the Alabama, which you can read by taking this link:, This page was updated Feb. 17, 2010, As I was posting these last letters I began to read some of them. I found what some of what Mr. Francois Crevel was saying was true while the other side says No.

So I decided to go back over the records and find as many descriptions of the Alabama as I could. After going over 300 or so pages I found very little descriptions of the Alabama , but I found enough to give you a good idea on what the ship looked like. Now these descriptions are not taken other writing but from the official records of the British Government and of the American Consulates station there. After reading the descriptions here and by following the links of each page you may be able to decided which side to take?

Then you may not care about this Controversy, and only whish to learn as much as you can about this ship, and write your own story? In either case you will find a lot of interesting information on these pages. On some of these pages I have given Captain Semmes side of the battle, but it wasn’t a full story. So after these descriptions I will give a more fuller story given by Captain Semmes, as he told it to the ( London Times.)

The descriptions of the CSS Alabama.

Liverpool June 18, 1862

Her engines are 350 horse-power, oscillating in principle. She will draw 14 feet when loaded, and is 1,050 tons burden, has one funnel or smoke-stack painted black, forward of the mainmast, two ventilators forward of the funnel, also painted black. The hull painted black; billet-head gilt, with a shield painted red. The stern is round, with black galley windows. The stern has carvings on it of gilt. She has three masts, bark-rigged; the masts and spars very bright. Her propeller is a screw, so arranged that it can be raised by steam from the water.

Liverpool July 5, 1862.

Is built of oak and coppered, about two hundred feet long and eighteen feet deep, will draw from ten to fourteen feet loaded, 1,050 tons, bark-rigged; has no name, but is called No. 290. Has two oscillating cylinders working almost at the bottom of the vessel.

Custom House, July 1, 1862.

Her dimensions are as follows: length 211 feet 6 inches; breadth, 31 feet 8 inches; depth, 17 feet 8 inches, and her gross tonnage, by the present rule of admeasurement, is 682 tons.

Liverpool July 25, 1862.

I have procured a photographer to take her as she now lies in the dock, but boat 290, had left dock before the photographer got there.

Liverpool, July 30, 1862.

I much regret my inability to procure a photograph of her.

July 21, 1862.

Deposition of William Passmore, Seaman.

The said vessel is a screw steamer of about 1,100 tons burden, as far as I can judge, and is built and fitted up as a fighting ship in all respects. She has a magazine, and shot and canister racks on deck, and is pierced for gulls, the sockets for the bolts for which are laid down. The said vessel has a large quantity of stores and provisions on board, she has taken in about three hundred tons of coal.

Side note. The Alabama was also known as Boat 290, Eureka, and other names.


Deposition of Henry Redden, seaman.

we arrived an English bark,. —, Captain Quinn, arrived from London with six guns, two of them 98-pounders (one rifled and the other smooth bore) pivot guns, and four 38-pounder breech guns, smooth-bore broadside guns, two hundred or three hundred barrels of powder, several cases of shot, a quantity of slops, two hundred tons of coal. The Bahama also brought two 38-pounder guns, smooth-bore, and two safes full of money in gold. She had a safe on board before……

Deposition of Samuel B. Doane.
September 19, 1862

Master of schooner Starlight, of Deer Island.

When I got aboard the steamer I was taken to the cabin, when the lieutenant said to me, presenting me to the commander, “This is Captain the lieutenant said to me, presenting me to the commander, “This is Captain Semmes.” The commander was a medium size man, slim, with grey hair, moustache, and imperial, dressed all in grey. The officers were in blue with navy buttons.

The steamer is wooden, and not iron-plated, long, narrow, and straight, low in the water, bark-rigged; some think her barkantine-rigged when her mainsail is not set, as the mainmast has a long drop; but I am positive that the mainsail is square. Her armament consists of six 32-pounders, and two large 8-inch pivot guns amidships, the forward rifled. I saw the rifling. Hemp sails, wire rigging. She may be known by the long drop to her fore and mainsails, and her topgallant sails being broad, and with very short hoist.

I counted fifty-two seamen and twelve firemen. All the men forward are English and Irish, no Americans. The officers are southerners.

Deposition of Theodore Julius.
Master of the ship Tonawanda, of Philadelphia.

The Alabama, or 290, is two hundred and twenty-five feet long, entirely built of wood—they say on board of teak. She is calculated to remain at sea as long as they like, as they condense all the water they use; it takes one pound of coal to make a gallon of water. Her armament consists of six 32-pounders broadside guns, one 68-pounder midships between main and mizenmasts, and one 100-pounder rifled cannon midships forward of the mainmast. I judged there were about one hundred persons on board, mostly English man-of-war’s men.

Deposition of Clarence B. Yonge, Paymaster.

We received from, the bark Agrippina four broadside guns, each 32-pounders, and two pivot guns—one 68-pounder solid-shot gnu, and one 100-pounder rifled gull—one hundred barrels of gunpowder, a number of Enfield rifles, two cases of pistols, and cartridges for the same. All the clothing for the men was also received from the Agrippina, and the fuses, primers; signals, rockets, shot, shell, and other munitions of war needed by the ship; also a quantity of coal. We received from the Bahama two 32- pounder broadside guns, a bale of blue flannel for sailors’ wear, and a fire-proof chest with fifty thousand dollars in English sovereigns and fifty thousand dollars in bank bills.

[From the London Times of June 3, 1864]


“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 9 and 10 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 a distance of about seven miles. We were three-quarters of an hour in coining up with him. I had previously pivoted my guns to starboard, and made all my 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 engagement 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 light in a circle, the two ships steaming around a common center, arid preserving a distance from each other of from a quarter to half a mile. When we got within good shell range we opened upon him with shell. Some tenor 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 mizenmast-head. 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 in different parts of the ship.

“Perceiving that our shell, though apparently exploding against the enemy’s sides were doing him but little damage, returned to solid-shot firing, and from this tune onward attended [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 sonic 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 nation could not have done this intentionally.

“We now turned all our exertions towards saving the wounded and such of the boys of the ship who were unable to swim. These were dispatched in my quarter-boats, the only boats remaining to rue, the waist-boats having been torn to pieces.

“Some twenty minutes after my furnace fires had been extinguished, and the slip being 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 after my ship went down. Fortunately, 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. 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 rip 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 the enemy’s ship with the wounded, that 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 edge, the whole covered over by a thin outer planking, which ‘rave no indication of the armor beneath.

“This planking had been ripped o 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 most 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 tell; it is believed lie was 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
udginent 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, 21 wounded.
“I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
“R. SEMMES, Captain.”

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