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Title: An Englishman's View of the Battle between the Alabama and the Kearsarge

Author: Frederick Milnes Edge

Release date: August 6, 2011 [eBook #36988]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by The Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images
generously made available by The Internet Archive/American












Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1864,
In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern
District of New York.


Printer and Stereotyper,
20 North William Street.



This Record

The Sanitary Commission of the United States,


London, July 14, 1864.




The writer of this pamphlet is an English gentleman of intelligence now residing in London, who has spent some time in this country, and is known and esteemed by many of our best citizens. He visited Cherbourg for the express purpose of making the inquiry and investigation, the results of which are embodied in the following pages, and generously devotes the pecuniary results of his copyright to the funds of the Sanitary Commission.



[Pg 5]

The Alabama and the Kearsarge.

The importance of the engagement between the United States Sloop-of-war, Kearsarge, and the Confederate Privateer, Alabama, cannot be estimated by the size of the two vessels. The conflict off Cherbourg on Sunday, the 19th of June, was the first decisive engagement between shipping propelled by steam, and the first test of the merits of modern naval artillery. It was, moreover, a contest for superiority between the ordnance of Europe and America, whilst the result furnishes us with data wherefrom to estimate the relative advantages of rifled and smooth-bore cannon at short range.

Perhaps no greater or more numerous misrepresentations were ever made in regard to an engagement than in reference to the one in question. The first news of the conflict came to us enveloped in a mass of statements, the greater part of which, not to use an unparliamentary expression, was diametrically opposed to the truth; and although several weeks have now elapsed since the Alabama followed her many defenceless victims to their watery grave, these misrepresentations obtain as much credence as ever. The victory of the Kearsarge was accounted for, and the defeat of the Alabama excused or palliated upon the following principal reasons:—

[Pg 6]

1. The superior size and speed of the Kearsarge.

2. The superiority of her armament.

3. The chain-plating at her sides.

4. The greater number of her crew.

5. The unpreparedness of the Alabama.

6. The assumed necessity of Captain Semmes’ accepting the challenge sent him (as represented) by the commander of the Kearsarge.

Besides these misstatements there have been others put forth, either in ignorance of the real facts of the case, or with a purposed intention of diminishing the merit of the victory by casting odium upon the Federals on the score of inhumanity. In the former category must be placed the remarks of the Times (June 21st); but it is just to state that the observations in question were made on receipt of the first news, and from information furnished probably by parties unconnected with the paper, and desirous of palliating the Alabama’s defeat by any means in their power. We are informed in the article above referred to that the guns of the latter vessel “had been pointed for 2,000 yards, and the second shot went right through the Kearsarge,” whereas no shot whatever went through as stated. Again, “the Kearsarge fired about 100 (shot) chiefly 11-in. shell,” the fact being that not one-third of her projectiles were of that calibre. Further on we find—“The men (of the Alabama) were all true to the last; they only ceased firing when the water came to the muzzles of their guns.” Such a declaration as this is laughable in the extreme; the[Pg 7] Alabama’s guns were all on the spar-deck, like those of the Kearsarge; and, to achieve what the Times represents, her men must have fought on until the hull of their vessel was two feet under water. The truth is—if the evidence of the prisoners saved by the Kearsarge may be taken—Captain Semmes hauled down his flag immediately after being informed by his chief engineer that the water was putting out the fires; and, within a few minutes, the water gained so rapidly on the vessel that her bow rose slowly in the air, and half her guns obtained a greater elevation than they had ever known previously. It is unfortunate to find such cheap-novel style of writing in a paper which at some future period may be referred to as an authoritative chronicler of events now transpiring.

It would be too long a task to notice all the numerous misstatements of private individuals, and of the English and French press in reference to this action: the best mode is to give the facts as they occurred, leaving the public to judge by internal evidence on which side the truth exists.

Within a few days of the fight, the writer of these pages crossed from London to Cherbourg for the purpose of obtaining by personal examination full and precise information in reference to the engagement. It would seem as though misrepresentation, if not positive falsehood, were inseparable from everything connected with the Alabama, for on reaching the French naval station he was positively assured by the people on shore that [Pg 8]nobody was permitted to board the Kearsarge. Preferring, however, to substantiate the truth of these allegations, from the officers of the vessel themselves, he hired a boat and sailed out to the sloop, receiving on his arrival an immediate and polite reception from Captain Winslow and his gallant subordinates. During the six days he remained at Cherbourg, he found the Kearsarge open to the inspection, above and below, of any and everybody who chose to visit her; and he frequently heard surprise expressed by English and French visitors alike that representations on shore were so inconsonant with the truth of the case.

I found the Kearsarge lying under the guns of the French ship-of-the-line “Napoleon,” two cables’ length from that vessel, and about a mile and a half from the harbour; she had not moved from that anchorage since entering the port of Cherbourg, and no repairs whatever had been effected in her hull since the fight. I had thus full opportunity to examine the extent of her damage, and she certainly did not look at all like a vessel which had just been engaged in one of the hottest conflicts of modern times.


The Kearsarge, in size, is by no means the terrible craft represented by those who, for some reason or other, seek to detract from the honour of her victory; she appeared to me a mere yacht in comparison with the shipping around her, and disappointed many of the[Pg 9] visitors who came to see her. The relative proportions of the two antagonists were as follows:—

   Alabama.  Kearsarge.
Length over all  220ft.  232ft.
"of keel  210"  198½"
Beam  32"  33"
Depth  17"  16½"
Horse power, 2 engines of 300 each  400 h. p.
Tonnage  1,040   1,031[1]

The Alabama was a barque-rigged screw propeller, and the heaviness of her rig, and, above all, the greater size and height of her masts would give her the appearance of a much larger vessel than her antagonist. The masts of the latter are disproportionately low and small; she has never carried more than top-sail yards, and depends for her speed upon her machinery alone. It is to be questioned whether the Alabama, with all her reputation for velocity, could, in her best trim, outsteam her rival. The log book of the Kearsarge, which I was courteously permitted to examine, frequently shows a speed of upwards of fourteen knots the hour, and her engineers state that her machinery was never in better working order than at the present time. I have not seen engines more compact in form, nor, apparently, in finer condition; looking in every part as though they were fresh from the workshop, instead of being, as they, are, half through the third year of the cruise.

[Pg 10]Ships-of-war, however, whatever may be their tonnage, are nothing more than platforms for carrying artillery. The only mode by which to judge of the strength of the two vessels is in comparing their armaments; and herein we find the equality of the antagonist as fully exemplified as in the respective proportions of their hulls and steam-power. The armaments of the Alabama and Kearsarge were are as follows:


One 7-inch Blakely rifle.
One 8-inch smooth-bore (68-pounder).
Six 32-pounders.


Two 11-inch smooth-bore guns.
One 30-pounder rifle.
Four 32-pounders.

It will therefore be seen that the Alabama had the advantage of the Kearsarge—at all events in the number of her guns; whilst the weight of the latter’s broadside was only some 20 per cent. greater than her own. This disparity, however, was more than made up by the greater rapidity of the Alabama’s firing, and, above all, by the superiority of her artillerymen. The Times informs us that Capt. Semmes asserts, “he owes his best men to the training they received on board the ‘Excellent;’” and trained gunners must naturally be superior to the volunteer gunners on board the Kearsarge.[Pg 11] Each vessel fought all her guns, with the exception in either case of one 32-pounder, on the starboard side; but the struggle was really decided by the two 11-inch Dahlgren smooth-bores of the Kearsarge against the 7-inch Blakely rifle and the heavy 68-pounder pivot of the Alabama. The Kearsarge certainly carried a small 30-pounder rifled Dahlgren in pivot on her forecastle, and this gun was fired several times before the rest were brought into play; but the gun in question was never regarded as aught than a failure, and the Ordnance Department of the United States’ Navy has given up its manufacture.


Great stress has been laid upon the chain-plating of the Kearsarge, and it is assumed by interested parties that, but for this armour, the contest would have resulted differently. A pamphlet lately published in this city, entitled “The Career of the Alabama,”[2] makes the following statements:

“The Federal Government had fitted out the Kearsarge, a new vessel of great speed, iron-coated,” &c. (p. 23).

“She,” the Kearsarge, “appeared to be temporarily plated with iron chains.” (p. 38.) (In the previous quotation, it would appear she had so been plated by the Federal Government: both statements are absolutely incorrect, as will shortly be seen.)

“It was frequently observed that shot and shell struck[Pg 12] against the Kearsarge’s side, and harmlessly rebounded, bursting outside, and doing no damage to the Federal crew.”

“Another advantage accruing from this was that it sank her very low in the water, so low in fact, that the heads of the men who were in the boats were on the level of the Kearsarge’s deck.” (p. 39.)

“As before observed, the sides of the Kearsarge were trailed all over with chain cables.” (p. 41).

The author of the pamphlet in question has judiciously refrained from giving his name. A greater number of more unblushing misrepresentations never were contained in an equal space.

In his official report to the Confederate Envoy, Mr. Mason, Captain Semmes makes the following statements:

“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 water’s edge, the whole covered over by a thin outer planking, which gave no indication of the armour 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 most effectually guarded, however, in this section from penetration.”

[Pg 13]“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.”

“Those of our officers who went alongside the enemy’s ship with our wounded.” As soon as Captain Semmes reached the Deerhound, the yacht steamed off at full speed towards Southampton, and Semmes wrote his report of the fight either in England, or on board the English vessel. Probably the former, for he dates his communication to Mr. Mason—“Southampton, June 21, 1864.” How did he obtain intelligence from those of his officers “who went alongside the enemy’s ship,” and who would naturally be detained as prisoners of war? It was impossible for anybody to reach Southampton in the time specified; nevertheless he did obtain such information. One of his officers—George T. Fullam, an Englishman unfortunately—came to the Kearsarge in a boat at the close of the action, representing the Alabama to be sinking, and that if the Kearsarge did not hasten to get out boats to save life, the crew must go down with her. Not a moment was to be lost, and he offered to go back to his own vessel to bring off prisoners, pledging his honour to return when the object was accomplished. After picking up several men struggling in the water, he steered directly for the Deerhound, and on reaching her actually cast his boat adrift. It was subsequently picked up by the Kearsarge. Fullam’s name appears amongst the list of “saved” by the Deerhound; and he, with others of the Alabama’s[Pg 14] officers who had received a similar permission from their captors, and had similarly broken their troth, of course gave the above information to their veracious Captain.

The chain-plating of the Kearsarge was decided upon in this wise. The vessel lay off Fayal towards the latter part of April, 1863, on the look out for a notorious blockade-runner, named the “Juno.” The Kearsarge being short of coal, and, fearing some attempts at opposition on the part of her prey, the first officer of the sloop, Lieutenant-commander James S. Thornton, suggested to Captain Winslow the advisability of hanging her two sheet-anchor cables over her sides, so as to protect her midship section. Mr. Thornton had served on board the flag-ship of Admiral Farragut, the “Hartford” when she and the rest of the Federal fleet ran the forts of the Mississippi to reach New Orleans; and he made the suggestion at Fayal through having seen the advantage gained by it on that occasion. I now copy the following extract from the log-book of the Kearsarge:

Horta Bay, Fayal (May 1st, 1863.)

From 8 to Merid. Wind E.N.E. (F 2). Weather b. c. Strapped, loaded, and fused (5 sec. fuse) 13 XI-inch shell. Commenced armour plating ship, using sheet chain. Weighed kedge anchor.

“(Signed) E. M. Stoddard, Acting Master.”

This operation of chain-armouring took three days, and was effected without assistance from the shore and at an expense of material of seventy-five dollars (£15).[Pg 15] In order to make the addition less unsightly, the chains were boxed over with ¾-inch deal boards, forming a case, or box, which stood out at right angles from the vessel’s sides. This box would naturally excite curiosity in every port where the Kearsarge touched, and no mystery was made as to what the boarding covered. Captain Semmes was perfectly cognizant of the entire affair, notwithstanding his shameless assertion of ignorance; for he spoke about it to his officers and crew several days prior to the 19th of June, declaring that the chains were only attached together with rope-yarns, and would drop into the water when struck with the first shot. I was so informed by his own wounded men lying in the naval hospital at Cherbourg. Whatever might be the value for defence of this chain-plating, it was only struck once during the engagement, so far as I could discover by a long and close inspection. Some of the officers of the Kearsarge asserted to me that it was struck twice, whilst others deny that declaration: in one spot, however, a 32-pounder shot broke in the deal covering and smashed a single link, two-thirds of which fell into the water. The remainder is in my possession, and proves to be of the ordinary 5¼-inch chain. Had the cable been struck by the rifled 120-pounder instead of by a 32, the result might have been different; but in any case the damage would have amounted to nothing serious, for the vessel’s side was hit five feet above the water-line and nowhere in the vicinity of the boilers or machinery. Captain Semmes[Pg 16] evidently regarded this protection of the chains as little worth, for he might have adopted the same plan before engaging the Kearsarge; but he confined himself to taking on board 150 tons of coal as a protection to his boilers, which, in addition to the 200 tons already in his bunkers, would bring him pretty low in the water. The Kearsarge, on the contrary, was deficient in her coal, and she took what was necessary on board during my stay at Cherbourg.

The quantity of chain used on each side of the vessel in this much-talked-of armouring is only 120 fathoms, and it covers a space amidships of 49 ft. 6 in. in length, by 6 ft. 2 in. in depth.[3] The chain, which is single, not double, was and is stopped to eye-bolts with rope-yarn and by iron dogs.[4] Is it reasonable to suppose that this plating of 1710-inch iron (the thickness of the links of the chain) could offer any serious resistance to the heavy 68-pounder and the 7 in. Blakely rifle of the Alabama—at the comparatively close range of 700 yards? What then becomes of the mistaken remark of the Times that the Kearsarge was “provided, as it turned out, with some special contrivances for protection,” or Semmes’ declaration that she was “iron-clad?” “The Career of the Alabama,” in referring to this chain-plating, says—“Another advantage accruing from this was that it sank[Pg 17] her very low in the water, so low in fact, that the heads of the men who were in the boats were on the level of the Kearsarge’s deck.” It is simply ridiculous to suppose that the weight of 240 fathoms of chain could have any such effect upon a vessel of one thousand tons burden; whilst, in addition, the cable itself was part of the ordinary equipment of the ship. Further, the supply of coal on board the Kearsarge at the time of action was only 120 tons, while the Alabama had 350 tons on board.

The objection that the Alabama was short-handed does not appear to be borne out by the facts of the case; while, on the other hand, a greater number of men than were necessary to work the guns and ship would be more of a detriment than a benefit to the Kearsarge. The latter vessel had 22 officers on board, and 140 men: the Alabama is represented to have had only 120 in her crew, (Mr. Mason’s statement,) but if her officers be included in this number, the assertion is obviously incorrect, for the Kearsarge saved 67,[5] the Deerhound 41, and the French pilot-boats 12, and this, without mentioning the 13 accounted for as killed and wounded,[6] and others who went down with the ship. When the Alabama arrived at Cherbourg, her officers and crew numbered 149. This information was given by captains of American vessels who were held as prisoners on board the privateer after the destruction of their ships; and their information is indorsed by the[Pg 18] captured officers of the Alabama now on board the Kearsarge. It is known also that many persons tried to get on board the Alabama while she lay in Cherbourg; but this the police prevented as far as lay in their power. If Captain Semmes’ representation were correct in regard to his being short-handed, he certainly ought not to be trusted with the command of a vessel again, however much he may be esteemed by some parties for his Quixotism in challenging an antagonist—to use his own words—“heavier than myself both in ship, battery, and crew.”

The asserted unpreparedness of the Alabama is about as truthful as the other representations, if we may take Captain Semmes’ report, and certain facts, in rebutting evidence. The Captain writes to Mr. Mason, “I cannot deny myself the pleasure of saying that Mr. Kell, my First Lieutenant, deserves great credit for the fine condition the ship was in when she went into action;” but if Captain Semmes were right in the alleged want of preparation, he himself is alone to blame. He had ample time for protecting his vessel and crew in all possible manners; he, not the Kearsarge was the aggressor; and but for his forcing the fight, the Alabama might still be riding inside Cherbourg breakwater. Notwithstanding the horrible cause for which he is struggling, and the atrocious depredations he has committed upon helpless merchantmen, we can still admire the daring he evinced in sallying forth from a secure haven and gallantly attacking his opponent; but when[Pg 19] he professes ignorance of the character of his antagonist, and unworthily attempts to disparage the victory of his foe, we forget all our first sympathies, and condemn the moral nature of the man, as he has forced us to do his judgment.

Nor must it be forgotten that the Kearsarge has had fewer opportunities for repairs than the Alabama, and that she has been cruising around in all seas for a much longer period than her antagonist.[7] The Alabama, on the contrary, had lain for many days in Cherbourg, and she only steamed forth when her Captain supposed her to be in, at all events, as good a condition as the enemy.


Finally, the challenge to fight was given by the Alabama to the Kearsarge, not by the Kearsarge to the Alabama. “The Career of the Alabama,” above referred to makes the following romantic statement:

“When he (Semmes) was challenged by the commander of the Kearsarge, everybody in Cherbourg, it appears, said it would be disgraceful if he refused the challenge, and this, coupled with his belief that the Kearsarge was not so strong as she really proved to be, made him agree to fight.” (p. 41.)

On the Tuesday after the battle, and before leaving London for Cherbourg, I was shown a telegram by a member of the House of Commons, forwarded to him[Pg 20] that morning. The telegram was addressed to one of the gentleman’s constituents by his son, a sailor on board the Alabama, and was dated “C. S. S. Alabama, Cherbourg, June 14th,” the sender stating that they were about to engage the Kearsarge on the morrow, or next day. I have not a copy of this telegram, but “The Career of the Alabama” gives a letter to the like effect from the surgeon of the privateer, addressed to a gentleman of this city. The letter reads as follows:

Cherbourg, June 14, 1864.

Dear Travers—Here we are. I send this by a gentleman coming to London. An enemy is outside. If she only stays long enough, we go out and fight her. If I live, expect to see me in London shortly. If I die, give my best love to all who know me. If Monsieur A. de Caillet should call on you, please show him every attention.

“I remain, dear Travers, ever yours,
D. H. Llewellyn.

There were two brave gentlemen on board the Alabama—poor Llewellyn, who nobly refused to save his own life, by leaving his wounded, and a young Lieutenant, Mr. Joseph Wilson, who honourably delivered up his sword on the deck of the Kearsarge, when the other officers threw theirs into the water.

The most unanswerable proof of Captain Semmes having challenged the commander of the Kearsarge is to be found in the following letter addressed by him to[Pg 21] the Confederate consul, or agent, at Cherbourg. After the publication of this document, it is to be hoped we shall hear no more of Captain Winslow’s having committed such a breach of discipline and etiquette as that of challenging a rebel against his Government.


C. S. S. Alabama,
Cherbourg, June 14, 1864.

“To Ad. Bonfils, Cherbourg:

Sir—I hear that you were informed by the U. S. Consul, that the Kearsarge was to come to this port solely for the prisoners landed by me,[8] and that she was to depart in twenty-four hours. I desire you to say to the U. S. Consul, that my intention is to fight the Kearsarge as soon as I can make the necessary arrangements. I hope these will not detain me more than until tomorrow evening, or after the morrow morning at 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.”

Numerous facts serve to prove that Captain Semmes had made every preparation to engage the Kearsarge, and that wide-spread publicity had been given to his intention. As soon as the arrival of the Federal vessel was known at Paris, an American gentleman of high[Pg 22] position came down to Cherbourg, with instructions for Captain Winslow; but so desirous were the French authorities to preserve a really honest neutrality, that permission was only granted to him to sail to her after his promise to return to shore immediately on the delivery of his message. Once back in Cherbourg, and about to return to Paris, he was advised to remain over night, as the Alabama intended to fight the Kearsarge next day (Sunday). On Sunday morning, an excursion train arrived from the Capital, and the visitors were received at the terminus of the railway by the boatmen of the port, who offered them boats for the purpose of seeing a genuine naval battle which was to take place during the day. Turning such a memorable occurrence to practical uses, Monsieur Rondin, a celebrated photographic artist on the Place d’Armes at Cherbourg, prepared the necessary chemicals, plates, and camera, and placed himself on the summit of the old church tower which the whilome denizens of Cherbourg had very properly built in happy juxtaposition with his establishment. I was only able to see the negative, but that was quite sufficient to show that the artist had obtained a very fine view indeed of the exciting contest. Five days, however, had elapsed since Captain Semmes sent his challenge to Captain Winslow through the Confederate agent, Monsieur Bonfils; surely time sufficient for him to make all the preparations which he considered necessary. Meanwhile the Kearsarge was cruising to and fro at sea, outside the breakwater.

[Pg 23]The Kearsarge reached Cherbourg on the 14th, and her Captain only heard of Captain Semmes’ intention to fight him on the following day. Five days, however, elapsed before the Alabama put in an appearance, and her exit from the harbour was heralded by the English yacht Deerhound. The officer on watch aboard the Kearsarge made out a three-masted vessel steaming from the harbour, the movements of which were somewhat mysterious; after remaining a short time only, this steamer, which subsequently proved to be the Deerhound, went back into port; only returning to sea a few minutes in advance of the Alabama, and the French iron-clad La Couronne. Mr. Lancaster, her owner, sends a copy of his log to the Times, the first two entries being as follows:

“Sunday, June 19, 9 A. M.—Got up steam and proceeded out of Cherbourg harbour.

“10.30.—Observed the ‘Alabama’ steaming out of the harbour towards the Federal steamer ‘Kearsarge.’”[9]

Mr. Lancaster does not inform us why an English[Pg 24] gentleman should choose a Sunday morning, of all days in the week, to cruise about at an early hour with ladies on board, nor does he supply the public with information as to the movements of the Deerhound during the hour and a half which elapsed between his exit from the harbour and the appearance of the Alabama. The preceding paragraph, however, supplies the omission.


At length the Alabama made her appearance in company with the Couronne, the latter vessel conveying her outside the limit of French waters. Here let me pay a tribute to the careful neutrality of the French authorities. No sooner was the limit of jurisdiction reached, than the Couronne put down her helm, and without any delay, steamed back into port, not even lingering outside the breakwater to witness the fight. Curiosity, if not worse, anchored the English vessel in[Pg 25] handy vicinity to the combatants. Her presence proved to be of much utility, for she picked up no less than fourteen of the Alabama’s officers, and among them the redoubtable Semmes himself.

So soon as the Alabama was made out, the Kearsarge immediately headed seaward and steamed off the coast, the object being to get a sufficient distance from the land so as to obviate any possible infringement of French jurisdiction; and, secondly, that in case of the battle going against the Alabama, the latter could not retreat into port. When this was accomplished, the Kearsarge was turned shortly round and steered immediately for the Alabama, Captain Winslow desiring to get within close range, as his guns were shotted with five-seconds shell. The interval between the two vessels being reduced to a mile, or thereabouts, the Alabama sheered and discharged a broadside, nearly a raking fire, at the Kearsarge. More speed was given to the latter to shorten the distance, and a slight sheer to prevent raking. The Alabama fired a second broadside and part of a third while her antagonist was closing; and at the expiration of ten or twelve minutes from the Alabama’s opening shot, the Kearsarge discharged her first broadside. The action henceforward continued in a circle, the distance between the two vessels being about seven hundred yards; this, at all events, is the opinion of the Federal commander and his officers, for their guns were sighted at that range, and their shell burst in and over the privateer. The speed of the two vessels[Pg 26] during the engagement did not exceed eight knots the hour.

At the expiration of one hour and two minutes from the first gun, the Alabama hauled down her colours and fired a lee gun (according to the statements of her officers), in token of surrender. Captain Winslow could not, however, believe that the enemy had struck, as his own vessel had received so little damage, and he could not regard his antagonist as much more injured than himself; and it was only when a boat came off from the Alabama that her true condition was known. The 11-inch shell from the Kearsarge, thrown with fifteen pounds of powder at seven hundred yards range, had gone clean through the starboard side of the privateer, bursting in the port side and tearing great gaps in her timber and planking. This was plainly obvious when the Alabama settled by the stern and raised the forepart of her hull high out of water.

The Kearsarge was struck twenty-seven times during the conflict, and fired in all one hundred and seventy three (173) shots. These were as follows:


Two 11-inch guns  55  shots.
Rifle in forecastle  48"
Broadside 32-pdrs  60"
12-pdr. boat howitzer  10"
Total,  173  shots.

The last-named gun performed no part whatever in sinking the Alabama, and was only used in the action to[Pg 27] create laughter among the sailors. Two old quarter-masters, the two Dromios of the Kearsarge, were put in charge of this gun, with instructions to fire when they received the order. But the two old salts, little relishing the idea of having nothing to do while their messmates were so actively engaged, commenced peppering away with their pea-shooter of a piece, alternating their discharges with vituperation of each other. This low-comedy by-play amused the ship’s company, and the officers good-humoredly allowed the farce to continue until the single box of ammunition was exhausted.


The Kearsarge was struck as follows:

One shot through starboard quarter, taking a slanting direction aft, and lodging in the rudder post. This shot was from the Blakely rifle.

One shot, carrying away starboard life-buoy.

Three 32-pounder shots through port bulwarks, forward of mizzen-mast.

A shell, exploding after end of pivot port.

A shell, exploding after end of chain-plating.

A 68-lb. shell, passing through starboard bulwarks below main rigging, wounding three men—the only casualties amongst the crew during the engagement.

A Blakely-rifle shell, passing through the engine-room sky-light, and dropping harmlessly in the water beyond the vessel.

Two shots below plank-sheer, abreast of boiler hatch.

[Pg 28]

One forward pivot port plank sheer.

One forward foremast-rigging.

A shot striking Launch’s toping-lift.

A rifle-shell, passing through funnel, bursting without damage inside.

One, starboard forward main-shroud.

One, starboard after-shroud main-topmast rigging.

One, main topsail tye.

One, main topsail outhaul.

One, main topsail runner.

Two, through port-quarter boat.

One, through spanker (furled).

One, starboard forward shroud, mizzen rigging.

One, starboard mizzen-topmast backstay.

One, through mizzen peak-signal halyards, which cut the stops when the battle was nearly over, and for the first time let loose the flag to the breeze.

This list of damages received by the Kearsarge proves the exceedingly bad fire of the Alabama, notwithstanding the numbers of men on board the latter belonging to our “Naval Reserve,” and the trained hands from the gunnery ship “Excellent.” I was informed by some of the paroled prisoners on shore at Cherbourg that Captain Semmes fired rapidly at the commencement of the action “in order to frighten the Yankees,” nearly all the officers and crew being, as he was well aware, merely volunteers from the merchant service.[10] At the expiration[Pg 29] of twenty minutes after the Kearsarge discharged the first broadside, continuing the battle in a leisurely, cool manner, Semmes remarked: “Confound them; they’ve been fighting twenty minutes, and they’re as cool as posts.” The probabilities are that the crew of the Federal vessel had learnt not to regard as dangerous the rapid and hap-hazard practice of the Alabama.

From the time of her first reaching Cherbourg until she finally quitted the port, the Kearsarge never received the slightest assistance from shore, with the exception of that rendered by a boiler maker in patching up her funnel. Every other repair was completed by her own hands, and she might have crossed the Atlantic immediately after the action without difficulty. So much for Mr. Lancaster’s statement that “the Kearsarge was apparently much disabled.”


The first accounts received of the action led us to suppose that Captain Semmes’ intention was to lay his vessel alongside the enemy, and to carry her by boarding. Whether this information came from the Captain himself or was made out of “whole cloth” by some of his admirers, the idea of boarding a vessel under steam—unless her engines, or screw, or rudder be disabled—is manifestly ridiculous. The days of boarding are gone by, except under the contingencies above stated; and any such attempt on the part of the Alabama would have been attended with disastrous results to herself and[Pg 30] crew. To have boarded the Kearsarge, Semmes must have possessed greater speed to enable him to run alongside her; and the moment the pursuer came near her victim, the latter would shut off steam, drop astern in a second of time, sheer off, discharge her whole broadside of grape and canister, and rake her antagonist from stern to stem. Our pro-southern sympathizers really ought not to make their protegé appear ridiculous by ascribing to him such an egregious intention.


It has frequently been asserted that the major portion of the Northern armies is composed of foreigners, and the same statement is made in reference to the crews of the American Navy. The report got abroad in Cherbourg that the victory of the Kearsarge was due to her having taken on board a number of French gunners at Brest; and an admiral of the French Navy asked me in perfectly good faith whether it were not the fact. It will not, therefore, be out of place to give the names and nationalities of the officers and crew on board the Kearsarge during her action with the Alabama.


John A. Winslow  Captain  North Carolina[11]
James S. Thornton  Lieut. Commander  New Hampshire
John M. Browne  Surgeon  "
J. Adams Smith  Paymaster  Maine
Wm. H. Cushman  Chief Engineer  Pennsylvania
[Pg 31]James R. Wheeler  Acting Master  Massachusetts
Eben. M. Stoddard  ""  Connecticut
David H. Sumner  ""  Maine
Wm. H. Badlam  2d Asst. Engr.  Massachusetts
Fred. L. Miller  3d""  "
Sidney L. Smith  """  "
Henry McConnell  """  Pennsylvania
Edward E. Preble  Midshipman  Maine
Daniel B. Sargent  Paymaster’s Clerk  "
S. E. Hartwell  Captain’s Clerk  Massachusetts
Franklin A. Graham  Gunner  Pennsylvania
James C. Walton  Boatswain  "
Wm. H. Yeaton  Acting Master’s Mate  United States
Chas. H. Danforth  """  Massachusetts
Ezra Bartlett  """  New Hampshire
George A. Tittle  Surgeon’s Steward  United States
Carsten B. De Witt  Yeoman  United States

CREW OF THE U.S.S. KEARSARGE, June 19, 1864.

Jason N. Watrus  Master-at-arms  United States
Charles Jones  Seaman  "
Daniel Charter  Landsman  "
Edward Williams  Officers’ Steward  "
George Williams  Landsman  "
Charles Butts  Quartermaster  "
Charles Redding  Landsman  "
James Wilson  Coxswain  "
William Gowen (died)  Ordinary seaman  "
James Saunders  Quartermaster  "
John W. Dempsey  Quarter-gunner  "
William D. Chapel  Landsman  "
Thomas Perry  Boatswain’s-mate  "
John Barrow  Ordinary seaman  "
William Bond  Boatswain’s-mate  "
James Haley  Capt. of Fo’castle  "
[Pg 32]Robert Strahn  Capt. Top  "
Jas. O. Stone  1st class boy  "
Jacob Barth  Landsman  "
Jno. H. McCarthey  "  "
Jas. F. Hayes  "  "
John Hayes  Coxswain  "
James Devine  Landsman  "
George H. Russell  Armourer  "
Patrick McKeever  Landsman  "
Nathan Ives  "  "
Dennis McCarty  "  "
John Boyle  Ordinary seaman  "
John C. Woodberry  "  "
George E. Read  Seaman  "
James Morey  Ordinary seaman  "
Benedict Drury  Seaman  "
William Giles  "  "
Timothy Hurley  Ship’s Cook  "
Michael Conroy  Ordinary seaman  "
Levi W. Nye  Seaman  "
James H. Lee  "  "
John E. Brady  Ordinary seaman  "
Andrew J. Rowley  Quarter-gunner  "
James Bradley  Seaman  "
William Ellis  Capt. Hold  "
Henry Cook  "After-guard  "
Charles A. Read  Seaman  "
Wm. S. Morgan  "  "
Joshua E. Carey  Sailmaker’s mate  "
James Magee  Ordinary seaman  "
Benjamin S. Davis  Officers’ Cook  "
John F. Bickford  Coxswain  "
William Gurney  Seaman  "
William Smith  Quartermaster  "
Lawrence T. Crowley  Ordinary seaman  "
Hugh McPherson  Gunner’s mate  "
Taran Phillips  Ordinary seaman  "
Joachim Pease  Seaman  "
[Pg 33]Benj. H. Blaisdell  1st Class Fireman  "
Joel B. Blaisdell  1st Class Fireman  "
Charles Fisher  Officers’ Cook  "
James Henson  Landsman  "
Wm. M. Smith  "  "
William Fisher  "  "
George Bailey  "  "
Martin Hoyt  "  "
Mark G. Ham  Carpenter’s-mate  "
William H. Bastine  Landsman  "
Leyman P. Spinney  Coal-Heaver  "
George E. Smart  2d Class Fireman  "
Charle A. Poole  Coal-Heaver  "
Timothy Lynch  "  "
Will. H. Donnally  1st Class Fireman  "
Sylvanus P. Brackett  Coal-Heaver  "
John W. Sanborn  "  "
Adoniram Littlefield  "  "
John W. Young  "  "
Will. Wainwright  "  "
Jno. E. Orchon  2d Class Fireman  "
Geo. W. Remick  1st""  "
Joel L. Sanborn  """  "
Jere Young  """  "
William Smith  """  "
Stephen Smith  2d""  "
John F. Stackpole  """  "
William Stanley  """  "
Lyman H. Hartford  """  "
True W. Priest  1st""  "
Joseph Dugan  """  "
John F. Dugan  Coal-Heaver  "
Jas. W. Sheffield  2d Class Fireman  "
Chas. T. Young  Orderly Sergeant  "
Austin Quimley  Corporal of Marines  "
Roscoe G. Dolley  Private""  "
Patrick Flood  """  "
Henry Hobson  Corporal""  "
[Pg 34]James Kerrigan  Private""  "
John McAleen  Private of Marines  "
George A. Raymond  """  "
James Tucker  """  "
Isaac Thornton  """  "
Wm. Y. Evans  Nurse  "
Wm. B. Poole  Quartermaster  "
F. J. Veannoh  Capt. Afterguard  "
Charles Hill  Landsman  "
Henry Jameson  1st Class Fireman  "
John G. Batchelder  Private of Marines  "
Jno. Dwyer  1st Class Fireman  "
Thomas Salmon  2d""  "
Patrick O. Conner  """  "
Geo. H. Harrison  Ordinary seaman  "
Geo. Andrew  ""  "
Charles Moore  Seaman  "
Geo. A. Whipple  Ordinary seaman  "
Edward Wallace  Seaman  "
Thomas Marsh  Coal-Heaver  "
Thomas Buckley  Ordinary seaman  "
Edward Wilt  Capt. Top  "
George H. Kinne  Ordinary seaman  "
Augustus Johnson  Seaman  "
Jeremiah Horrigan  "  "
Wm. O’Halloran  "  "
Wm. Turner  "  "
Joshua Collins  Ordinary seaman  "
James McBeath  ""  "
John Pope  Coal-Heaver  "
Charles Mattison  Ordinary seaman  "
George Baker  Seaman  "
Timothy G. Cauty  "  "
John Shields  "  "
Thomas Alloway  "  "
Phillip Weeks  "  "
William Barnes  Landsman  "
Wm. Alsdorf  "  Holland
[Pg 35]Clement Antoine  Coal-Heaver  Western Islands
Jose Dabney  Landsman  Western Islands
Benj. Button  Coal-Heaver  Malay"
Jean Briset  "  France
Vanburn Francois  Landsman  Holland
Peter Ludy  Seaman  "
George English  "  England
Jonathan Brien  Landsman  "
Manuel J. Gallardo  2d Class Boy  Spain
John M. Sonius  1st""  Holland

It thus appears that out of one hundred and sixty-three (163) officers and crew of the sloop-of-war Kearsarge, there are only eleven (11) persons foreign born.

The following is the Surgeon’s report of casualties amongst the crew of the Kearsarge during the action:

U. S. S. S. Kearsarge,
Cherbourg, France,
Afternoon, June 19, 1864.

“Sir—I report the following casualties resulting from the engagement this morning with the steamer ‘Alabama.’

John W. Dempsey, Quarter-gunner. Compound comminuted fracture of right arm, lower third, and fore-arm. Arm amputated.

William Gowen, Ordinary seaman. Compound fracture of left thigh and leg. Seriously wounded.

James McBeath, Ordinary seaman. Compound fracture of left leg. Severely wounded.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

John M. Browne,
Surgeon U. S. Navy.

“Captain John A. Winslow,
“Comd’g U. S. S. S. Kearsarge, Cherbourg.”

[Pg 36]All these men were wounded by the same shot, a 68-pounder, which passed through the starboard bulwarks below main-rigging, narrowly escaping the after 11-inch pivot-gun. The fuses employed by the Alabama were villainously bad, several shells having lodged in the Kearsarge without taking effect. Had the 7-inch rifle shot exploded which entered the vessel at the starboard quarter, raising the deck by its concussion several inches and lodging in the rudder-post, the action might have lasted some time longer. It would not, however, have altered the result, for the casualty occurred towards the close of the conflict. During my visit, I witnessed the operation of cutting out a 32-pounder shell (time fuse) from the rail close forward of the fore pivot 11-inch port; the officer in charge of the piece informed me that the concussion actually raised the gun and carriage, and, had it exploded, many of the crew would have been injured by the fragments and splinters.

Among the incidents of the fight, some of our papers relate that a 11-inch shell from the Kearsarge fell upon the deck of the Alabama, and was immediately taken up and thrown overboard. Probably no fight ever occurred in modern times in which somebody didn’t pick up a live shell and throw it out of harm’s way; but we may be permitted to doubt in this case—5-second fuses take effect somewhat rapidly; the shot weighs considerably more than a hundred-weight, and is uncomfortably difficult to lay hold of. Worse than all for the probabilities of the story, fifteen pounds of [Pg 37]powder—never more nor less—were used to every shot fired from the 11-inch pivots, the Kearsarge only opening fire from them when within eight hundred yards of the Alabama. With 15 pounds of powder and fifteen degrees of elevation, I have myself seen these 11-inch Dahlgrens throw three and a half miles; and yet we are asked to credit that, with the same charge at less than half a mile, one of the shells fell upon the deck of the privateer. There are eleven marines in the crew of the Kearsarge: probably the story was made for them.


Captain Semmes makes the following statement in his official report:

“Although we were now but 400 yards from each other, the enemy fired upon me five times after my colours had been struck. It is charitable to suppose that a ship of war of a Christian nation could not have done this intentionally.”

A very nice appeal after the massacre of Fort Pillow, especially when coming from a man who has spent the previous two years of his life in destroying unresisting merchantmen.

The Captain of the Kearsarge was never aware of the Alabama having struck until a boat put off from her to his own vessel. Prisoners subsequently stated that she had fired a lee-gun, but the fact was not known on board the Federal ship, nor that the colours were hauled[Pg 38] down in token of surrender. A single fact will prove the humanity with which Captain Winslow conducted the fight. At the close of the action, his deck was found to be literally covered with grape and canister, ready for close quarters; but he had never used a single charge of all this during the contest, although within capital range for employing it.


The wounded of the two vessels were transferred shortly after the action to the Naval Hospital at Cherbourg. I paid a visit to that establishment on the Sunday following the engagement, and found the sufferers lying in comfortable beds alongside each other in a long and admirably ventilated ward on the first floor. Poor Gowen, who died the following Tuesday, was in great pain, and already had the seal of death upon his face. James McBeath, a young fellow of apparently twenty years, with a compound fracture of the leg, chatted with much animation; while Dempsey, the stump of his right arm laid on the pillow, was comfortably smoking a cigar, and laughing and talking with one of the Alabama crew, in the bed alongside him. The wounded men of the sunken privateer were unmistakably English in physiognomy, and I failed to discover any who were not countrymen of ours. I conversed with all of them, stating at the outset that I was an Englishman like themselves, and the information seemed to open their hearts to me. They represented themselves as very comfortable at the hospital, that[Pg 39] every thing they asked for was given to them, and that they were surprised at the kindness of the Kearsarge men who came to visit the establishment, when they were assured by their own officers before the action that foul treatment would only be shown them in the event of their capture. Condoling with one poor fellow who had his leg carried away by a shell, he remarked to me, “Ah, it serves me right! they won’t catch me fighting again without knowing what I’m fighting for.” “That’s me too,” said another poor Englishman alongside of him.

The paroled prisoners (four officers) on shore at Cherbourg, evinced no hostility whatever to their captors, but were always on the friendliest of terms with them. All alike frequented the same hotel in the town (curiously enough—“The Eagle,”) played billiards at the same café, and bought their pipes, cigars, and tobacco from the same pretty little brunette on the Quai du Port.

The following are the names of the officers and crew of the Alabama, saved by the Kearsarge:

Francis L. Galt, of Virginia, Assistant Surgeon.
Joseph Wilson, Third Lieutenant.
Miles J. Freeman, Engineer, Englishman.
John W. Pundt, Third Assistant Engineer.
Benjamin L. McCaskey, Boatswain.
William Forrestall, Quartermaster, Englishman.
Thomas Potter, Fireman, "
Samuel Williams," Welshman.
[Pg 40]Patrick Bradley," Englishman.
John Orrigin, Fireman, Irishman.
George Freemantle, Seaman, Englishman.
Edgar Tripp," "
John Neil," "
Thomas Winter, Fireman, "
Martin King, Seaman.
Joseph Pearson," "
James Hicks, Capt. Hold, "
R. Parkinson, Wardroom Steward, "
John Emory, Seaman, "
Thomas L. Parker, boy, "
Peter Hughes, Capt. Top, "

(All the above belonged to the Alabama when she first sailed from the Mersey, and John Neil, John Emory, and Peter Hughes belong to the “Royal Naval Reserve.”)

Seamen.—William Clark, David Leggett, Samuel Henry, John Russell, John Smith, Henry McCoy, Edward Bussell, James Ochure, John Casen, Henry Higgin, Frank Hammond, Michael Shields, David Thurston, George Peasey, Henry Yates.

Ordinary Seamen.—Henry Godsen, David Williams, Henry Hestlake, Thomas Watson, John Johnson, Match Maddock, Richard Evans, William Miller, George Cousey, Thomas Brandon.

Coxswains.—William McKenzie, James Broderick, William Wilson.

Edward Rawes, Master-at-Arms.
[Pg 41]Henry Tucker, Officers’ Cook.
William Barnes, Quarter-gunner.
Jacob Verbor, Seaman,}Wounded.
Robert Wright, Capt. M. Top,
Wm. McGuire, Capt. F. Top,}
Wm. McGinley, Coxswain,
John Benson, Coal-Heaver.
James McGuire,"
Frank Currian, Fireman.
Peter Laperty,"
John Riley,"
Nicholas Adams, Landsman.
James Clemens, Yeoman.
James Wilson, Boy.

These men, almost without exception, are subjects of Her Majesty the Queen. There were also three others, who died in the boats, names not known.

The following are those reported to have been killed or drowned:

David Herbert Llewellyn, Surgeon,Welshman.
William Robinson, Carpenter.
James King, Master-at-Arms,Savannah Pilot.
Peter Duncan, Fireman,Englishman.
Andrew Shillings,Scotchman.
Charles Puist, Coal-passer,German.
Frederick Johns, Purser’s Steward,Englishman.
Samuel Henry, Seaman,"
John Roberts,"Welshman.
Peter Henry,"Irishman.
[Pg 42]George Appleby, Yeoman,Englishman.
A. G. Bartelli, Seaman,Portuguese.
Henry Fisher,"Englishman.

The above all belonged to the original crew of the Alabama.

The Deerhound carried off, according to her own account, forty-one; the names of the following are known:

Raphael Semmes, Captain.
John M. Kell, First Lieutenant.
Arthur Sinclair, Jun., Second Lieutenant.
R. K. Howell, Lieutenant of Marines. (This person is brother-in-law of Mr. Jefferson Davis.)
W. H. Sinclair, Midshipman.
J. S. Bullock, Acting Master.
E. A. Maffit, Midshipman.
E. M. Anderson,"
M. O’Brien, Third Assistant Surgeon.
George T. Fullam, Master’s Mate,Englishman.
James Evans,"
Max Meulnier,"
J. Schrader,"
W. B. Smith, Captain’s Clerk.
J. O. Cuddy, Gunner.
J. G. Dent, Quartermaster.
James McFadgen, Fireman,Englishman.
Orran Duffy, Fireman,Irishman.
W. Crawford,Englishman.
Brent Johnson, Second Boat Mate,"
William Nevins,"
William Hearn, Seaman,"

The last four belong to the “Royal Naval Reserve.”


That an English yacht, one belonging to the Royal Yacht Squadron, and flying the White Ensign, too, during the conflict, should have assisted the Confederate prisoners to escape after they had formally surrendered themselves, according to their own statement, by firing a lee-gun, striking their colours, hoisting a white flag, and sending a boat to the Kearsarge—some of which signals must have been witnessed from the deck of the Deerhound, is most humiliating to the national honour. The movements of the yacht early on Sunday morning were as before shown, most suspicious; and had Captain Winslow followed the advice and reiterated requests of his officers when she steamed off, the Deerhound might now have been lying not far distant from the Alabama. Captain Winslow however, could not believe that a gentleman who was asked by himself “to save life” would use the opportunity to decamp with the officers and men who, according to their own act, were prisoners-of-war. There is high presumptive evidence that the Deerhound was at Cherbourg for the express purpose of rendering every assistance possible to the corsair; and we may be permitted to doubt whether Mr. Lancaster, the friend of Mr. Laird, and a member of the Mersey Yacht Club, would have carried Captain Winslow and his officers to Southampton if the result of the struggle had been reversed, and the Alabama had sent the Kearsarge to the bottom.

[Pg 44]The Deerhound reached Cherbourg on the 17th of June, and between that time and the night of the 18th, boats were observed from the shore passing frequently between her and the Alabama. It is reported that English gunners come over from England purposely to assist the privateer in the fight; this I heard before leaving London, and the assertion was repeated to me again at Havre, Honfleur, Cherbourg, and Paris. If this be the fact, how did the men reach Cherbourg? On the 14th of June, Captain Semmes sends his challenge to the Kearsarge through Monsieur Bonfils, stating it to be his intention to fight her “as soon as I can make the necessary arrangements.” Two full days elapse, during which he takes on board 150 tons additional of coal, and places for security in the Custom House the following valuables:

38 kilo. 700 gr. of Gold coin,
6 gr. of Jewelery and set Diamonds,
2 Gold Watches.

What then became of the pillage of a hundred merchantmen, the chronometers, etc., which the Times describes as the “spolia opima of a whole mercantile fleet?” Those could not be landed on French soil, and were not: did they go to the bottom with the ship herself, or are they saved?

Captain Semmes’ preparations are apparently completed on the 16th, but still he lingers behind the famous breakwater, much to the surprise of his men. The Deerhound arrives at length, and the preparations are rapidly[Pg 45] completed. How unfortunate that Mr. Lancaster did not favour the Times with a copy of his log-book from the 12th to the 19th of June inclusive!

The record of the Deerhound is suggestive on the morning of that memorable Sunday. She steams out from behind the Cherbourg breakwater at an early hour,—scouts hither and thither, apparently purposeless—runs back to her anchorage—precedes the Alabama to sea—is the solitary and close spectator of the fight whilst the Couronne has the delicacy to return to port, and finally—having picked up Semmes, thirteen of his officers and a few of his men—steams off at fullest speed to Southampton, leaving the “apparently much-disabledKearsarge (Mr. Lancaster’s own words) to save two-thirds of the Alabama’s drowning crew struggling in the water.

An English gentleman’s yacht playing tender to a corsair! No one will ever believe that Deerhound to be thorough-bred.


Such are the facts relating to the memorable action off Cherbourg on the 19th of June, 1864. The Alabama went down riddled through and through with shot; and, as she sank beneath the green waves of the Channel, not a single cheer arose from the victors. The order was given, “Silence, boys,” and in perfect silence this terror of American commerce plunged to her last resting place.

There is but one key to the victory. The two vessels[Pg 46] were, as nearly as possible, equals in size, speed, armament and crew, and the contest was decided by the superiority of the 11-inch Dahlgren guns of the Kearsarge, over the Blakely rifle and the vaunted 68-pounder of the Alabama, in conjunction with the greater coolness and surer aim of the former’s crew. The Kearsarge was not, as represented, specially armed and manned for destroying her foe; but is in every respect similar to all the vessels of her class (third-rate) in the United States Navy. Moreover, the large majority of her officers are from the merchant service.

The French at Cherbourg were by no means dilatory in recognizing the value of these Dahlgren guns. Officers of all grades, naval and military alike, crowded the vessel during her stay at their port; and they were all eyes for the massive pivots and for nothing else. Guns, carriages, even rammers and sponges, were carefully measured; and, if the pieces can be made in France, many months will not elapse before their muzzles will be grinning through the port-holes of French ships-of-war.

We have no such gun in Europe as this 11-inch Dahlgren, but it is considered behind the age in America. The 68-pounder is regarded by us as a heavy piece; in the United States it is the minimum for large vessels; whilst some ships, the “New Ironsides,” “Niagara,” “Vanderbilt,” etc., carry the 11-inch in broadside. It is considered far too light, however, for the sea-going ironclads, although throwing a solid shot of 160 pounds; yet it has made a wonderful stir on both sides of the Channel.[Pg 47] What, then, will be thought of the 15-inch gun, throwing a shot of 480 pounds, or of the 200-pound Parrot, with its range of five miles?

We are arming our ironclads with 9-inch smooth-bores and 100-pounder rifles, whilst the Americans are constructing their armour-ships to resist the impact of 11 and 15-inch shot. By next June, the United States will have in commission the following ironclads:

Dunderberg,  5,090tons,  10guns.
Dictator,  3,033"  2"
Kalamazoo,  3,200"  4"
Passaconaway,  3,200"  4"
Puritan,  3,265"  4"
Quinsigamond,  3,200"  4"
Roanoke,  3,435"  6"
Shakamaxon,  3,200"  4"

These, too, without counting six others of “second class,” all alike armed with the tremendous 15-inch, and built to cross the Atlantic in any season. But it is not in ironclads alone that America is proving her energy; first, second and third-rates, wooden built, are issuing constantly from trans-Atlantic yards, and the Navy of the United States now numbers no less than six hundred vessels and upwards, seventy-three of which are ironclads.

This is, indeed, an immense fleet for one nation, but we may, at all events, rejoice that it will be used to defend—in the words of the wisest and noblest of English statesmen—“the democratic principle, or, if that term is offensive, popular sovereignty.”

[Pg 48]




U. S. S. S. ‘Kearsarge,’ Off Dover,
July 13, 1864.

My Dear Sir—I have read the proof-sheet of your pamphlet, entitled ‘The Alabama and the Kearsarge. An Account of the Naval Engagement in the British Channel on Sunday, June 19, 1864.’ I can fully endorse the pamphlet as giving a fair, unvarnished statement of all the facts both prior and subsequent to the engagement.

“With my best wishes, I remain, with feelings of obligation, very truly yours,

John A. Winslow.

Fred’k M. Edge, Esq.,




[1] The Kearsarge has a four-bladed screw, diameter 12-ft 9-in. with a pitch of 20-ft.

[2] The Career of the Alabama, “No. 290,” from July 26, 1862, to June 19, 1864. London: Dorrell and Son.

[3] Captain Winslow, in his first hurried report of the engagement, put the space covered at 20 or 25 feet, believing this to be rather over than under the mark. The above, however, is the exact measurement.

[4] There was nothing whatever between the chain and the ship’s sides.

[5] Including three dead.

[6] See page 41.

[7] The Kearsarge started on her present cruise the 4th of February, 1862; the Alabama left the Mersey at the end of July following.

[8] This information was incorrect. No such statement was ever made by the Consul of the United States at Cherbourg. F. M. E.

[9] The following is the copy of the log of the Kearsarge on the day in question:

“June 19, 1864.“From 8 to Merid.

“Moderate breeze from the Wd. weather b. c. At 10 o’clock, inspected crew at quarters. At 10.20, discovered the Alabama steaming out from the port of Cherbourg, accompanied by a French iron-clad steamer, and a fore-and-aft rigged steamer showing the white English ensign and a yacht flag. Beat to General Quarters, and cleared the ship for action. Steamed ahead standing off shore. At 10.50, being distant from the land about two leagues, altered our course and approached the Alabama. At 10.57, the Alabama commenced the action with her starboard broadside at 1,000 yards range. At 11, we returned her fire, and came fairly into action, which we continued until Merid., when observing signs of distress in the enemy, together with a cessation of her fire, our fire was withheld. At 12.10, a boat with an officer from the Alabama came alongside and surrendered his vessel, with the information that she was rapidly sinking, and a request for assistance. Sent the Launch and 2d Cutter, the other boats being disabled by the fire of the enemy. The English yacht before mentioned, coming within hail, was requested by the Captain (W.) to render assistance in saving the lives of the officers and crew of the surrendered vessel. At 2.24, the Alabama went down in forty fathoms of water, leaving most of the crew struggling in the water. Seventy persons were rescued by the boats, two pilot boats and the yacht also assisted. One pilot boat came alongside us, but the other returned to the port. The yacht steamed rapidly away to the Nd. without reporting the number of our prisoners she had picked up.

“(Signed) James S. Wheeler, Actg. Master.”

[10] According to the statement of prisoners captured, the Alabama fired no less than three hundred and seventy times (shot and shell); more than twice the number of the Kearsarge.

[11] Captain Winslow has long been a citizen of the State of Massachusetts.