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CHAPTER XXX.

JUNE, 1864.

BUILDING AND FITTING OUT OF THE ALABAMA IN AN ENGLISH PORT- COM

PLAINT BY OUR GOVERNMENT---THE TWO YEARS' CRUISE-RETURNS TO CHERBOURG, FRANCE-BLOCKADED BY WINSLOW-SEMMES CHALLENGES WINSLOW-MORNING OF THE COMBAT-SPECTATORS COMING DOWN FROM PARIS

TO WITNESS 11-THE ALABAMA STEAMS OUT OF THE HARBOR-THE COMBAT

LUDICROUS BY-PLAY ON THE KEARSARGESUPERIOR FIRING OF THE FED

ERAL SHIP-SURRENDER OF THE ALABAMA IN A SINKING STATE-PICKING

UP OF THE CREW AND CAPTAIN BY THE ENGLISH YACHT DERRHOUND-THE DEERHOUND SAILS OFF WITH THE PRISONERS TO SOUTHAMPTON-SEMMES'

REPORT OF THE FIGHT HIS

SLANDERS AND FALSEHOODS-THE TWO VES

SELS COMPARED-DEFENSE OF THE COMMANDER OF THE ENGLISH YACHT EXCITEMENT IN EUROPE OVER THE ENGAGEMENT WINSLOW AND THE SEC

RETARY OF THE NAVY.

THE KEARSARGE AND ALABAMA.

BUT

UT while the month of June was pregnant with such

great events in our own borders, there occurred a sea. fight on the other side of the Atlantic, that will ever occupy a prominent place in our naval history. On Sunday, the 19th of June, the same Sabbath that followed the last grand assault on Petersburg, and while we were gathering up our wounded, and burying our dead, that fell in front of the rebel works, and while Sherman was lying at the base of Kenesaw Mountain, preparing to storm its impregnable de. fenses, the Kearsarge and Alabama were engaged in mortal combat, off the quiet port of Cherbourg, in France. The Alabama, with other vessels, had been built by private enterprise, in England, ostensibly for neutral powers, or commercial purposes, but, after clearing the English coast, took

420

TEE ALABAMA,

in their armaments and crews, and hoisting the Confederate flag, preyed upon our commerce.

The Alabama was a powerful steamer, a swift sailer, and carrying guns of the heaviest kind. She had been a bold, successful cruiser for two years, though she had carefully avoided a contest with our war vessels, except in the singly instance, when she attacked and sunk the Hatteras, which was no match for her, off Galveston harbor. Standing fearlessly along the track of our commerce, on the Atlantic, she had made the ocean lurid with the flames of burning merchantmen. Our fastest vessels had been sent in search of her, and the Vanderbilt had steamed half-way round the globe in the vain effort to capture her.

۱۶۲۲ ۰ Down the coast of the Eastern Continent, around the Capo of Good Hope, into the Indian Ocean, she had proudly flaunted her hated flag, and destroyed our merchantmen. She with others, had well-nigh driven our ships from the océan, so that our commerce was carried on almost entirely in foreign bottoms.

Her launch from an English dock-yard, had caused the most serious complaints to be made, by our Government, against Great Britain ; such conduct being denounced as a breach of neutrality. The discussion of the question is not ended yet, and though the steamer lies at the bottom of the sea, she may, in the end, be the cause of the gravest difficulties between the two nations.

Unable to carry her prizes into any port, she plundered them of what she needed, sparing some, on the captains' giving bonds to pay a certain sum of money after the establishment of Southern independence, and burning the rest on the high seas.

She had been the terror of our commerce, as far as the Indian Ocean, from which she had just returned and entered the port of Cherbourg for repairs. Captain Winslow, commanding the Kearsarge, had long been in search of her,

CHALLENGE OF SEMMES.

421

and the moment he heard of her arrival, set sail, and lay off the mouth of the harbor, for the purpose of following her to sea when she again left port, and forcing her to a combat.

On the 14th, Semmes sént Captain Winslow the following challenge:

CONFEDERATE States' STEAMER ALABAMA,

CHERBOURG, June 14, 1864.5 SIR-I hear tliat you were informed by the Uhited States Consul that the Kearsarge was to come to this port solely for the prisoners landed by ine, and that she was to depart in twenty-four hours. I desire you to say to the United States Consil that my intention is to fight the Kcarsarge as soon as I can make the necessary arrangements. I hope these will not detain me more than till to-morrow evening, or after to-morrow morning, at the farthest. I beg she will not depart before I am ready to go out. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient Servant,

R. SEMMES, Captain.

He very much mistook the Commander of the Kearsarge, if he supposed it was necessary to send a challenge to get a fight out of him. He had come to Cherbourg for no other purpose, and intended, by no means, to leave till he could follow the bold corsair out on the deep, and there sink him, or be sunk himself.

The Sabbath morning, of the 19th of June, broke in all the loveliness of early Summer over the rippling sea. · A gentle breeze drifted lazily in from the ocean, and the sun, half shorn of his brightness, looked down through a hazy atmosphere, on the town and port, and revealed the Kearsarge gently swaying to the easy swell, as she lay three miles off the entrance, watching the movements of her antagonist.

News of the expected fight had spread to Paris, and, in the morning, an excursion train came down from the French Capital loaded with passengers, eager to witness the combat. The boatmen of the port swarmed like hackmen around the terminus of the railway, offering the services of their boats to those who wished " to see a genuine naval battle,

422

BEFORE THE COMBAT.

that was to come off during the day.”. A photographer, with all his apparatus and materials, perched himself on a church tower, to take an impression of the contest. Spectators swarmed upon every spot, commanding a view of the harbor and sea beyond, while boats flew about in every

direction as on a great holiday.

The bells of the churches of Cherbourg had not yet done pealing, when the rebel steamer cast off her fastenings and began to steam slowly out of port. Semmes had taken the precaution to send ashore sixty chronometers that he had taken from his prizes, his money, and bills of ransomed vessels; thus showing that he was fully aware of the desperate character of the conflict that awaited him. As the steamer slowly drifted past the end of the mole, crowded with human beings, a great shout rent the air, and “God speed you,” rolled over the waters. The next moment the drums were heard beating to quarters.

The iron-plated frigate, Couronne, accompanied her to the limit of the French waters, while the English yacht, Deerhound, followed in her wake out to sea. This was about half past ten, and Winslow, as soon as he descried his adversary approaching, turned his ship's head seaward, to avoid the question of jurisdiction, and to draw the Alabama so far off that, in case of being disabled, she could not get back into port, and thus escape capture. The Alabama followed after, till the former was about seven miles from shore, when Winslow turned short about, and steered straight for the privateer, intending to run her down. The latter immediately sheered off and slowed her engines, presenting her starboard battery to her enemy.

While the Kearsarge was still a mile off, there suddenly came sharp puñs of smoke from the side of the Alabama, followed by the heavy, dull reports of the guns that rolled heavily away over the shuddering waters.

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The ponderous shell and shot flew over the Kearsarge and cut up her rigging, but did no serious damage. Winslow made no reply, but ordered the engineer to put on more speed, and the gallant steamer rolled the foam away from her bows as she dashed silently forward to a close deathgrapple with her antagonist. In two minutes came another broadside--and then another; yet not a gun of the Kearsarge replied. Coming head on to the rebel steamer as she lay with her broadside to, she was in great danger of being raked, and so when about a half a mile distant, Winslow sheered in order to bring his own broadside to bear-and the battle commenced.

The firing now was rapid and incessant, and the two guns of the Kearsarge, carrying eleven-inch shell, sent their ponderous missiles with terrible accuracy into the hull of the Alabama. Winslow, fearing that his antagonist might after a while make again for the shore, ordered a full head of steam on, with directions to run under the stern of the Alabama and rake her. Semmes, however, discovered his design and sheered off so as to keep his broadside bearing on his antagonist. Hence the two vessels kept moving in independent circles round a common, yet ever changing centre. Sailing at the rate of nearly eight miles an hour, they thus swung steadily around each other, wrapped in the smoke of their own guns—the Alabama getting deadly blows from the calm and accurate firing of the Kearsarge, while the latter received no material injury for nearly twenty minutes. At length a sixty-eight pound Blakely shell passed through the starboard bulwarks, below the main rigging, and exploded on the quarter-deck, wounding three of the crew of the pivot gun, and among them a seaman named William Gowin, who, though suffering acutely, wore a smile on his face as he was brought to the surgeon. "It is all right," said he; “I am satisfied, for we are wligo.

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