Part 4 out of 8
released, and the Alabama stood out to sea under easy sail.
_At sea again--Moulded into shape--House-cleaning--Rates of pay--A
timely capture--The Parker Cook--A fix--A good night's rest--Sangfroid
--Amid jessamine bowers--Looking out for a rich prize--The Mina--"In
consequence of the Alabama."_
The Alabama was now on the look-out for a Californian steamer, and it
was quite possible that in so doing she might run into a fight. However,
should that be the case, there would be no disposition to shirk it. The
vessel was already three months in commission; and though some of her
crew had no doubt been originally a rough lot--the boys especially
picked up in the streets of Liverpool, being designated by Captain
Semmes as most incorrigible young rascals--three months of steady,
strong-handed discipline had done wonders in reducing these rough
elements to order, and making out of a set of merchant sailors, gathered
here and there at random by the prospect of high pay and stirring
adventure, as orderly and well-trained a crew as could be found on board
many a man-of-war of twice her length of service.
All hands, then, were ready and eager for a brush with the enemy. It was
necessary, of course, that the relative strength of the two ships should
not be too disproportionate; but the approach of an United States ship
of anything like their own force would have been hailed with delight by
all on board.
Considerable excitement was occasioned when, on the second day after
leaving Blanquilla, a prospect of an encounter seemed to present itself.
It was still early morning when a sail was reported on the lee bow, and
soon the stranger was made out to be a large side-wheel steamer,
barque-rigged, and standing towards the Alabama. She was of considerably
superior size, but it was determined at least to see what she was made
of; and the Alabama was luffed to the wind, while preparations were made
for lowering her propeller and getting her under steam. It was soon
perceived, however, that the stranger was keeping quietly on her course,
without paying the slightest attention to these manoeuvres; and as it
was pretty certain that no enemy's ship, so greatly superior in size,
would lose so tempting an opportunity, it was at once clear that she
must needs be a neutral, probably some French war-steamer bound for
Martinique. So the propeller was left where it was, and the Alabama
slipt away again upon her course.
At nine o'clock the same morning, the coast of Porto Rico was in sight,
and a few hours afterwards the Alabama entered the Mona Passage,
shortening sail as she did so to permit a barque to run up with her for
the purpose of ascertaining her nationality. The barque, which proved to
be English, dipped her ensign as she passed to the Stars and Stripes
which were flying from the peak of the Alabama; but the compliment not
being really intended for the Confederate vessel, but for her enemies,
was, of course, not returned.
The Mona Passage being the regular track of United States commerce, it
was looked upon as almost a certainty that at least one cruiser would be
stationed for its protection. A bright look-out, therefore, was kept,
and hopes again ran high of a speedy brush with the Yankees. Nothing,
however, appeared; and the attention of the Alabama was for the most
part devoted throughout the day to strictly domestic affairs.
To-day--says Captain Semmes, in his journal--has been a great
"house-cleaning" day with the first lieutenant, who, regardless of Mona
Passages, strange sails, &c., is busy with his holy-stones and sand. * *
Gave an order to the paymaster to-day, authorising him to pay the
increased rates agreed upon with the crew off Terceira, viz.
L s. Dollars.
Master-at-arms per month 6 0 -- 29.04
Yeoman " 6 0 -- 29.04
Ship's steward " 6 0 -- 29.04
Ship's corporal " 6 0 -- 26.62
Armorer " 6 0 -- 29.04
L s. Dollars.
Ship's cook per month 5 10 -- 26.62
Chief boatswain's mate " 6 0 -- 29.04
Second ditto " 5 10 -- 26.62
Gunner's mate " 6 0 -- 29.04
Carpenter's mate " 6 0 -- 29.04
Sailmaker's mate " 5 10 -- 26.62
Quartermaster " 5 10 -- 26.62
Quarter gunners " 5 10 -- 26.62
Cockswains " 5 10 -- 26.62
Capt. of forecastle " 5 10 -- 26.62
Capt. of top " 5 0 -- 24.20
Capt. of aftguard " 5 0 -- 24.20
Capt. of hold " 5 0 -- 24.20
Cabin steward " 5 0 -- 24.20
Ward-room steward " 5 0 -- 24.20
Seamen " 4 10 -- 21.78
O. seamen " 4 0 -- 19.36
Landsmen " 3 10 -- 14.94
Boys " 2 0 -- 9.68
Firemen " 7 0 -- 33.38
Trimmers " 5 0 -- 24.20
_Sunday, November 30th._--Mustered and inspected the crew.
At 9 A.M., sent a boat on board of a Spanish schooner twenty
days from Boston, bound to the port of San Domingo. Received
some newspapers by her as late as to the 13th inst. Soon afterwards
another sail was discovered to leeward, beating up the coast.
Ran down for her, and when within proper distance hoisted United
States colours. The stranger responded with the same; whereupon,
in accordance with our usual practice, we hoisted our own
colours and fired a blank cartridge. This hove her to, when we
sent a boat on board of her. She proved to be the barque Parker
Cook, of and from Boston, bound to Cayes. This was a very
timely capture, as we were running very short of provisions, and
the prize was provision-laden. Got on board from her a quantity
of pork, cheese, crackers, &c.; and at 10 P.M. illuminated the
shores of San Domingo with a flambeau furnished by wicked men
who would gladly see another San Domingo revolution in our
In the afternoon the weather became angry, and the wind blew
fresh, raising a considerable sea. As we were in the bight of Samana,
I felt a little uneasy about drifting too near the shore.
These are some of the anxieties of a commander that his officers
scarcely ever know anything about. Our prize was burned off
Cape Raphael. I did not turn in until near midnight; was called
two hours afterwards, upon having run a prescribed distance;
turned in again, and had just fallen comfortably asleep, when the
officer of the deck came down in great haste to inform me that a
large ship was standing down directly for us. We were hove to,
and as the moon had gone down, and the night was dark, I knew
she must be close aboard of us. I immediately ordered the maintopsail
to be filled, and hurrying on a few clothes, sprang on deck.
At a glance I saw that the danger was passed, as the intruder was
abaft the beam, running to leeward. Wore round and followed him.
_Monday, December 1st._--A stiff trade, with squall clouds. A
whirlwind passed near us. We had just time to take in the port
studding sails, which had been set in chase of the unwelcome disturber
of my rest last night. The chase proved to be a Spanish
hermaphrodite brig. * * * * Land in sight on the port
beam, and at noon the cape just ahead.
_Tuesday, December 2nd._ * * * * Running down the land.
Off the Grange at noon. Last night, at ten o'clock, a sail was reported
on the port quarter, nearly astern, running down before the
wind like ourselves. Having lights up, and looming up large, I
called all hands to quarters and cleared the ship for action, pivoting
on the port side, and loading the guns. As the stranger
ranged up nearly abeam of us, distant about eight hundred yards,
we discovered him to be a heavy steamer, under steam, and with
all studding sails set on both sides. Here was a fix! We had no
steam ourselves, and our propeller was triced up!
A few minutes, however, decided our suspense. From the quiet
movement of the steamer on her course, without shortening sail, or
otherwise, so far as we could see, making preparation for battle, it
was quite evident that he was not an enemy. He was a ship of
war--probably a Spaniard, bound from San Domingo to Cuba.
My first intention was to range up alongside and speak him, and
for this purpose I set the foresail and topgallant sails. But we
were soon left far astern, and the stranger was out of sight long
before we could have got up steam and lowered the propeller in
About 3 P.M. made the island of Tortuga. A sail reported on
the starboard bow, standing across our bows on the _port_ tack.
Through the stupidity of the look-outs the next thing we knew
was that she was off on the starboard quarter, and to windward
of us, she having been on the _starboard_ tack all the while! I
turned in to-night, hoping to get some rest, as I had been up the
greater part of last night. But after undressing, and before getting
into my cot (10 P.M.), the officer of the deck came below in a
great hurry to say there was a large vessel running down on us--we
were hove to--which appeared to be a steamer. Immediately
ordered the officer to fill away; went on deck, and at a glance
perceived that the sail was a brig running clear of us, and some
Went below again, and this time succeeded in actually getting
into bed, when I was again aroused by the announcement that a
vessel, with very white canvas, was running down upon us, a little
forward of our weather beam. Went on deck, filled away again,
and ran on under easy sail to assist the stranger's approach. The
night squally, with showers of rain, and the wind fresh. At 1.30
A.M. the stranger approached, and we spoke him. He was a small
schooner--white, as almost all the West Indian schooners are--Spanish,
&c. Turned in at two o'clock, and at daybreak down came intelligence
again that there were two sail in sight, and at 7 A.M., one of them
being within signal distance, I had again to turn out. This night will
serve as a specimen of a great many spent by me in my cruises.
_Wednesday, December 3rd._--We are cruising to-day, with the
weather very fine and clear, in the passage between San Domingo
and Cuba. Caused two neutral vessels to show their colours, and
at noon squared away for the east end of Cuba. Where can all
the enemy's cruisers be, that the important passages we have lately
passed through are all left unguarded? They are off, I suppose, in
chase of the Alabama!
At 10 P.M. a barque, having come quite near us in the bright
moonlight, we fired a blank cartridge to heave him to, and wore
ship. As he disregarded our signal, I directed a round shot to be
fired at him above his hull. This had the desired effect, our shot
passing--as we learned from him afterwards--between his fore-stay
and foremast. He proved to be the French barque, Feu Sacre,
from Port au Prince to Falmouth. When asked why he did
not heave to at the first shot, he replied that he was a Frenchman,
and was not at war with anybody! * * * At midnight made the light on
[Footnote 9: From the boarding officer's memoranda it appears that
the master of this vessel protested vehemently against being annoyed
by United States vessels--the Alabama passing in this case as the U.S.
_Thursday, December 4th._--* * * * Standing off and on
Cape Maise, waiting for our Californian friend, who should have
left Aspinwall on the 1st, and should pass this point to-day or to-night.
Fires banked, so as to give us steam at a short notice. Several
sail passing during the day. Exercised the crew at the battery
at sunset. A beautiful bright night, with the wind somewhat too
fresh from the N.E. Lying to off Cape Maise. Everybody on the
tiptoe of excitement, and a good many volunteer look-outs. As for
myself, having put the ship in the right position, I turned in at 10
P.M., giving orders not to call me for a sail-ship, and got a good
night's rest, of which I stood very much in need.
_Friday, December 5th._--A very fine morning, with highly-transparent
atmosphere. The west side of Haiti visible, though distant
ninety miles. On this fine balmy morning I enjoyed exceedingly
the cheerful notes of our canary. This is a little prisoner made on
board one of the whalers; and sometimes at early morning I fancy
myself amid "jessamine bowers," inhaling the fragrance of flowers
and listening to the notes of the wild songsters so common in our
dear Southern land. May God speedily clear it of the wicked,
fanatical hordes that are now desolating it under pretence of liberty
and free government!
If the Californian steamers still take this route, the steamer of
the 1st must have been delayed, otherwise she should have passed
us last night. Several sail in sight, but I cannot yet leave my station
to overhaul them, lest my principal object should be defeated.
At noon, a schooner would insist on stumbling right into my path,
without the necessity of a chase. I brought her to, and she proved
to be United States property. She was the Mina, of and from
Baltimore, for Port Maria, on the north side of Jamaica. Her
cargo being English, I released her on a ransom bond for 15,000
dollars. She was of ninety tons, and thirteen years old. Kept her
by me until sunset, and then permitted her to depart, having
sent on board her the prisoners from the barque Parker Cook.
Our hopes of capturing a Californian steamer were considerably
damped by the intelligence given us by the mate of this schooner,
that these steamers no longer ran this route, but that the outward
bound took the Mona Passage (?), and the homeward bound the
Florida gulf passage. Still, I will wait a day or two longer to
make sure that I have not been deceived.
_Saturday, December 6th._--... At 9 A.M. hoisted
the propeller, and made sail to the northward and eastward. The
outward-bound Californian steamer is due off the Cape to-day, if
she takes this route at all; I will therefore keep the Cape in sight
all day. I glean the following paragraph from a New York letter,
published in a file of the _Baltimore Sun, _received from the
"The shipments of grain from this port during the past week
have been almost entirely in foreign bottoms, the American flag
being for the moment in disfavour in consequence of the raid of
the rebel steamer Alabama!"
_The Alabamans lucky day--A trial of speed--Brought to--The Ariel--Buying
an elephant--Prisoners of war--Prize-money--Still on the look-out
--Broken down--A dilemma--Yellow fever--Release of the Ariel
Sunday again! The Alabama's lucky day; and this time, at
least, destined to be especially marked with white chalk in the
annals of the ship. The morning passed calmly enough; the ship
in her quiet Sabbath trim; and nothing giving token of what was
about to follow, save here and there a group anxiously scanning
the horizon, or eagerly discussing the chances of a rich capture
The forenoon wore slowly away, and five bells had just sounded,
when the cry of "Sail, ho!" from the masthead put every one on
the _qui vive, _the excitement growing rapidly more and more intense
as bit by bit the description of the stranger became more
accurate and minute. She is a steamer--and a large one! That
sounded well, and the hopes of the sanguine rose higher and
higher. Brigantine rigged--and a side-wheel steamer!--so far so
good. This answers exactly to the description of the Californian
steamers. A few minutes will decide it now; the Alabama's
canvas has some time since been snugly furled, the fires spread and
well supplied with fresh fuel, the propeller lowered, and the ship's
head turned in a direction to intercept the approaching vessel.
Rapidly the chase looms larger and larger, as the two swift steamers
approach each other at almost top speed. And now the huge
walking-beam can be plainly distinguished, see-sawing up and
down between the lofty paddle-boxes, and the decks appear crowded
with hundreds of passengers, conspicuous among whom are to
be seen the gay dresses of numerous ladies; and--yes, surely that
is the glimmer of bayonets, and that military-looking array drawn
up on the hurricane-deck is a strong detachment of United States
Swiftly, and in grim silence, the Alabama approached her huge
but defenceless prey. From her open ports grinned the black
muzzles of her six 32 pounders, each with its crew standing round,
eager for the word. High above them towered the huge, black
pivot-gun, while from the mizzen-peak floated the delusive Stars
and Stripes, the sight of which was to tempt the stranger into a
confession of his own nationality.
The _ruse_ was, as usual, successful, and as the two vessels crossed,
the Alabama passing a short distance astern of the stranger, the
latter also hoisted United States colours, and expectation gave way
to certainty among the delighted crew of the Confederate steamer.
Down came the Yankee colours from her gaff, and in its stead the
white ensign of the Confederacy fluttered gaily in the breeze,
while a blank shot from the Alabama's lee bow-chaser summoned
the chase to surrender. Surrendering, however, seemed to be the
last thing in the chase's thoughts. Already she was ahead of the
Confederate cruiser, and trusting to her own well-known speed,
appeared determined to make at least one effort to escape. She
held steadily on her course, at top speed, without noticing the
pursuer's summons; the black smoke that poured in volumes from
her funnel, showing no less plainly than the rapid revolutions of
her paddles the strenuous exertions she was making to escape.
This state of things, however, could not last long. For a few
minutes the chase was permitted to try her speed against that of
her pursuer; but the latter soon found that with the highest pressure
of steam she had been able to raise during the short period
that had elapsed since the enemy first hove in sight, she was by no
means overhauling the chase as rapidly as could be desired. So
the friendly warning having been disregarded, the adoption of
more peremptory measures was decided on, and a shotted gun was
ordered to be fired over her.
Boom! went the Alabama's bow-chaser, as she yawed for a
moment to permit the gunner to take aim--and boom! at almost
the same instant went one of her broadside guns, the enthusiastic
captain of which could not contain himself until the order to fire
was given, but must needs bring down upon himself a reprimand
from the authorities of the quarter-deck for his precipitation.
Fortunately, however, this irregular shot did no harm--not improbably,
perhaps, from the very fact of its having been launched
so totally without consideration. The first, however, did its
errand most effectively, and the shower of white splinters that flew
from the chase's foremast as the shell, after grazing the funnel,
struck full against it, afforded most satisfactory evidence of the
accuracy of the line. Happily, the shell contented itself with cutting
the foremast very nearly in two, and did not explode until it
had passed safely overboard, otherwise the havoc created by it on
the crowded deck of the steamer must have been fearful.
The hint, however, was sufficient. The paddles of the chase
ceased to revolve, the huge walking-beam remained poised in midair,
and the steamer rounding to, submitted herself to her captors.
A boat was now lowered and, sent on board of the prize, which
proved to be, as anticipated, the mail steamer Ariel, from New
York to Aspinwall, having on board one hundred and forty marines
on their way to join the enemy's Pacific squadron; several
military and naval officers, among the latter of whom was Commander
Sartori, on his way to take command of the St. Mary's; and about five
hundred other passengers, a large proportion of whom were women and children.
The Alabama had "bought an elephant," and now the question
arose--what was to be done with her valuable but most unwieldy
acquisition? The first step, of course, was to send a prize
crew on board. The second to transfer to the Alabama sundry
important matters, such as the ship's papers, three large boxes of
specie, a 24 pounder rifled gun, 125 new rifles, 16 swords, and
about 1,000 rounds of ammunition. The marines and officers
were then put on parole, the former being disarmed, and all
pledged not to fight again against the Confederate States until
they should be regularly exchanged.
But this done, Captain Semmes' task was not half accomplished.
There was still the ship herself to be disposed of, and with her the
remaining five hundred and odd passengers, including among their
number a large proportion of women and children. What was to
be done? It was clear he could not fire the ship until all these
were safely out of her. It was at least equally clear that, squeeze
and contrive how he would, he could not possibly transfer such a
host of prisoners to his own already sufficiently crowded decks.
His only choice, then, was either to release the captured vessel at
once, upon a ransom bond, or to keep her by him for a time in
the hope that something might turn up to obviate the necessity of
so unsatisfactory a step. Captain Semmes decided upon the latter
course, and detaining the captain of the Ariel on board his own
ship, sent a prize crew to take charge of the Ariel, with orders to
keep company with the Alabama through the night.
This done, the Alabama returned under easy sail to her station
off the Cape, still anxiously looking out for the homeward-bound
steamer, which would of course prove a very far richer prize than
the one home-bound vessel he had captured. The following afternoon
the precaution was taken of disabling the captured vessel,
by removing from her engines the "bonnet of the steam chest
and a steam valve," which were sent into safe custody on board
the Alabama; care being also taken to prevent the Ariel from
availing herself of her sails as a means of escape should-the
Alabama have to start off in pursuit of her homeward-bound
No homeward-bound steamer, however, appeared, and it was
now determined to convey the Ariel into Kingston, Jamaica,
where it was proposed to land the passengers, and after providing
the Alabama, from the prize, with coal, provisions, and other
matters of which she stood in need, to take her out again to sea
and burn her. With this view the portions of the machinery
which had been removed during the night were restored to their
places, and the two vessels made sail towards Jamaica, on or about
the line which it was supposed would be taken by the Californian
The next morning was fine, and, with the prize in company, the
island of Navaza was made at about 9.30 A.M., on the port bow;
and five hours afterwards the two steamers were in sight of the
east end of Jamaica. By half-past seven that evening, the Alabama
was within about nine miles of Point Morant Light, and checked her
speed to enable the prize to come up with her.
And now a catastrophe occurred which, but for the most careful
and excellent management, might have had most serious results.
At about eight o'clock in the evening chase was given to
an hermaphrodite brig, on coming up with which a blank cartridge
was fired, and a boat despatched to board her and examine her
papers. At this moment, up came the engineer to report that the
engine had suddenly become entirely useless from the giving way
of some of the valve castings, and that twenty-four hours, at least,
would be required before the damage could be repaired. At this
untoward intelligence, the captain's first thought was of the chase,
and, casting a rapid glance in that direction, to his equal amazement
and disgust, he perceived that she had not obeyed the signal
to heave to, but was still standing quietly upon her course!
Here was, indeed, a pleasant predicament. Not a step could
he stir in pursuit, nor did he dare fire a shot after the departing
vessel, for fear, in the darkness of the night, of sending to the
bottom his own boat, which was now in full pursuit of her.
What if the boat should be led away too far in the ardour of the
chase, and of course taking for granted that as soon as the brigantine's
contumacy was discovered, the Alabama herself would at
once be after her? What, too, if the Ariel should get scent of
her captor's predicament, and take this favourable opportunity of
showing her a clean pair of heels, carrying off the unlucky prize
crew as a running horse might carry off the unskilful rider who
had imprudently bestridden it?
The moment was an anxious one, and great was the relief to
the minds of all who were in the secret, when the welcome sound
of oars working regularly backwards and forwards in their rowlocks
was again heard, and the boat returned, having managed to
overhaul the stranger; the wind having fortunately fallen too
light for her to escape.
The chase proved to hail from one of the German States, and
was just out of Kingston. According to her statement, this latter
port was now suffering from a severe visitation of yellow-fever.
This intelligence caused an entire change in the Alabama's plans.
It had been Captain Semmes' intention to run into Kingston, and
endeavour, at all events, to obtain permission to discharge his
numerous prisoners; this being, apparently, the only way in
which he could hope to disencumber himself of them, except by
releasing the ship at the same time. To turn some seven hundred
prisoners, however, many of them delicate women and children,
adrift in a place known to be suffering from the fearful scourge of
yellow-fever, would have been an act of inhumanity of which the
Confederate captain was quite incapable. Sorely to his disappointment,
therefore, he felt himself compelled to abandon the Kingston
scheme, and forego the pleasure of making a bonfire of the
splendid steamer that had fallen into his hands. It is an ill wind
that blows nobody any good, and to the yellow-fever were the passengers
by the Ariel indebted for an uninterrupted voyage, and her
owners for the preservation of their valuable vessel.
The question once decided in favour of the Ariel's release, it was,
of course, under existing circumstances, an object of no small importance
to get the matter concluded as speedily as possible. Had
she only known her captor's crippled condition she would have
had nothing to do but just to have steamed quietly away, taking
the prize-crew with her as compensation for the inconvenience to
which she had been put by her detention. And any moment
might reveal the all-important secret; so without delay, a boat
was again sent on board for the master, who was evidently not
a little relieved on being told that the vessel was to be released.
Some little discussion now arose as to the amount of ransom to
be exacted, but both parties were equally, though not as openly,
anxious to conclude the transaction; and the amount was finally
fixed at 261,000 dollars--a handsome sum, indeed, but one by
no means exorbitant, when the value of the vessel to be ransomed
is taken into consideration.
The bond duly signed, and safely deposited among the other
securities of the kind, Captain Semmes breathed more freely, and a
feeling of satisfaction at having steered safely through a situation
of such difficulty, offered some slight compensation for the disappointment
arising from the enforced release of the prize. The two vessels now parted
company; all parties, both civil, naval, and military, on board of the
Ariel, uniting their testimony in eulogy of the quiet, orderly, and
respectful conduct of their unwelcome guests. So with mutual amenities
the two courteous enemies parted, the Ariel steering a course to the S.S.W.,
the Alabama still hard at work in the repairs of her machinery, standing off
and on within easy distance of the Jamaica coast, and keeping as far
as possible from the track of vessels until the untoward disaster
should be repaired.
_Again ready--Gloomy weather--A Norther--The Arcas--The
second Christmas at sea--The war--Plymouth rock leaven--On
the lonely island--"Splicing the main-brace"--Searching for shells--Tired
of hard service--In irons--Well disciplined--A phenomenon--The
new year--In memoriam--To sea again_.
The exciting episode of the Ariel was followed by a period altogether
devoid of incident, though by no means destitute either
of interest or anxiety for those on board the Alabama. From
daybreak to dusk the click of the hammer, and the shrill screaming
of the file, arose incessantly from the engine room, as the
engineer and his staff laboured without a pause to repair the
damage to the machinery. The task proved even longer than
had been anticipated, and it was not until the afternoon of the
third day that the mischief had been finally remedied, and the
Alabama was pronounced in a condition to resume with safety her
Meanwhile, a brighter look-out than ever was kept from her mastheads.
There was still a possibility--though but a slight one--of
falling in with the homeward-bound Californian, for which they
had been waiting so long and so anxiously; whilst it was more
than ever necessary to care against surprise from any of the
enemy's cruisers, who might fairly be expected to be in considerable
force somewhere in the neighbourhood.
The northern shores of Jamaica, however, off which the Alabama
was now lying, standing along the coast, under easy sail
during the day, and at night laying her maintopsail to the mast,
appeared to be but little frequented by vessels of any kind, and
the cruiser was permitted to carry on her repairs without a single
interruption in the way of either a chase, or a call to quarters.
And it was perhaps as well that such an interval of rest should
have been afforded after the severe strain of the previous few
days. For Captain Semmes, at all events, it was a great boon,
for on that officer's never very robust constitution, the continued
anxiety and constant night-calls on deck, in wind and rain, had
had a very serious effect, and he was fairly laid up with cold and
The evening of Friday, December the 12th, saw the repairs of
the machinery of the vessel completed, the Alabama being at,
nightfall about opposite to the little town of St. Anne's. That
evening the crew were exercised at quarters; and the next day,
after a thorough cleaning of the decks, &c., the vessel ran away
to the westward of the Island of Jamaica, _en route_ for another
point of rendezvous, at which to take in fresh coal, and other
* * * * *
_Saturday, December 13th._--... Nothing in sight, and
I intend to see nothing--unless it be a homeward-bound Californian
steamer--at present, as it is important I should make the
run I contemplate without being traced. I should have much
liked to touch at the Caymans for fruit and vegetables for the
crew, but forbear on this account.
* * * * *
_Monday, December 15th.--_Fresh trade, ship rolling along under
topsails. This running down, down, the ever-constant trade
wind--to run _up_ against it, by and by, under steam--is not very
pleasant. Still, God willing, I hope to strike a blow of some importance,
and make my way safely out of the Gulf.
_Wednesday, December 17th._--The wind blew quite fresh during
the night from about N.E. by N. To-day it is blowing a moderate
gale from about N.N.E. This is probably a _norther_ from the
American coast, modified by its contact with the N.E. trade wind.
The clouds look hard and wintry. Close-reefed at nightfall....
The gale has continued all day, with a rough sea, in
which the ship is rolling and tumbling about. Weather cloudy
and gloomy-looking, and the wind moaning and whistling through
the rigging--enough to give one the blues. These are some of
the comforts of sea-going, and we have had our share of them in
_Thursday, December 18th._--The gale continues, with dense
clouds in every direction obscuring the heavens so that we get no
meridian altitude. I got a glimpse of the sun at about nine minutes
past noon. When one's ship is in a doubtful position, how
eagerly and nervously one watches the shifting clouds near noon,
and how remorsely they sometimes close up their dense masses
just at the critical moment, shutting out from us the narrowly-watched
face of the sun! One is foolish enough sometimes almost
to feel a momentary resentment against inanimate nature--weak
mortals that we are!
The gale has drifted us so far to leeward that the wind from its
present quarter will no longer permit us to "lay through" the
Yucatan passage, so at 2 P.M. we tacked to the southward and
eastward. Weather still thick in the afternoon, with light rain at
intervals. We had a very ugly sea lashing us this morning--the
ship rolling so heavily as to awaken me frequently, though I sleep
in a swinging cot; and the water swashing over the decks, and
rushing by bucketsful down the companion-way, which we are
obliged to keep open to avoid being smothered.
_Friday, December 19th._--The gale continues with the tenacity
of a norther, this being the third day. This is but a foretaste of
the weather we may expect in the Gulf of Mexico. Being now in
the Gulf of Honduras, there is but a small strip of land between us
_Saturday, December 20th._--As ugly a day as one often sees,
with a great variety of wind and weather. In the morning the
wind was fresh from the N.E., with flying clouds, and a bright
sun, now and then obscured. At about 9 A.M. a cloud bank in
the north began to rise, and by 11.30 we had a densely overcast
sky, with heavy rain-squalls. I was running for Cape Catoche,
and was greatly disappointed at not getting a meridian altitude,
especially after the promise of the morning. At about 11.30
made the land--two islands, as described by the man at the masthead.
At 4 P.M. sounded in twenty-eight fathoms. Weather threatening a gale.
At six, double-reefed the topsails, and sounded in twenty-five fathoms.
I shall endeavour to feel my way around the Cape, and gradually bear up
for the westward. The bank is apparently clean and safe, but still
groping one's way in the dark in strange waters is a somewhat nervous operation.
_Sunday, December 21st_.--We doubled Cape Catoche very successfully
last night, hauling around it gradually in from twenty-five
to thirty fathoms, and ran along in the latter depth all night,
course W. and W. by S., sounding every hour. The wind blew
half a gale, and the weather looked threatening. This morning
the wind hauled more to the eastward, and moderated somewhat.
The sky still looks wintry, and the sun sheds a lurid light through
a semi-transparent stratum of dull grey clouds. At 11 A.M. mustered
the crews and at meridian passed a large steamer (hull down)
steering to the eastward, probably a French ship of war from Vera
_Monday, December 22nd._--Ran on during the night in a very
regular line of soundings of twenty fathoms, on a W.S.W. course.
At 9 P.M., having run within about twenty miles of the Areas,
anchored for the night in twenty fathoms.
_Tuesday, December 23rd._--At 9 A.M. called all hands up anchor;
and at ten we were under way, steering W.S.W.; at meridian
observed six miles to the northward of the Areas, and altered
course to S.W. At 1.30 P.M. made the Areas half a point on the
starboard-bow, distant about twelve miles; and at sunset came
to anchor in eleven fathoms of water, with the south Area bearing
N.W. by N. In the course of the afternoon our coal-ship,
which I had ordered to rendezvous here, hove in sight, and joined
us at the anchorage a few minutes after we came to.
_Wednesday, December 24th._--In the forenoon went out of the
harbour, and examined the entrances and anchorage. The dangers
are all visible, and it is only necessary to give a berth to the
reefs that make off from the points. There is an inner reef making
off to the westward from the northern island; but it, like the
other, is visible, and there is no danger whatever in approaching
it. The Areas are three low keys, lying in a triangle; the northern
key being the largest. We found a hut on this latter key, a
boat hauled up on the island, a net inside the hut, a boiler or two
for trying out oil, and other evidences of the inhabitancy of fishermen
or turtlers; but this not being the season for these pursuits,
everything had apparently been abandoned for some time.
Numerous birds of the gull species were the only living things
found in the island, and of these there were varieties of old birds
and their fledglings, and some of the former were still laying and
sitting. They seemed to have no fear of our men, and suffered
themselves to be caught by the hand, and knocked on the head
with sticks. The vegetation found was on the larger island, and
on that it consisted of a dense carpeting of sea-kale--not a shrub
of any kind. In the transparent waters on the inner reef, a great
variety of the living coral was found in all its beauty, imitating
the growth of the forest on a small scale. At P.M. we got
under way, and stood in and anchored under the south side of the
larger island in nine fathoms, and moored ship with an open
hawse to the north.
We entered by the S.E. passage between the south and the
north islands. The barque followed us, coming in by the S.W.
passage between the south and the west islands, and anchored a
little to the S.E. of us. Our anchorage is open to the S.E., but at
this season it does not blow from that quarter, and probably
would not bring in much sea if it did. We feel very comfortable
to-night in snug berth.
_Thursday, December 25th_.--Christmas-day!--the second Christmas
since we left our homes in the Sumter. Last year we were
buffeting the storms of the North Atlantic, near the Azores; now
we are snugly anchored, in the Arcas: and how many eventful
periods have passed in the interval! Our poor people have been
terribly pressed in this wicked and ruthless war, and they have
borne privations and sufferings which nothing but an intense patriotism
could have sustained. They will live in history as a people
worthy to be free; and future generations will be astonished at
the folly and fanaticism, wickedness and want of principle, developed
by this war among the Puritan population of the North. And in this class
may nine-tenths of the native population of the Northern States be placed,
to such an extent has the "Plymouth Rock" leaven "leavened the whole lump."
A people so devoid of Christian charity, and wanting in so many of the
essentials of honesty, cannot but be abandoned to their own folly by a just and
Our crew is keeping Christmas by a run on shore, which they
all seem to enjoy exceedingly. It is, indeed, very grateful to the
senses to ramble about over even so confined a space as the Arcas,
after tossing about at sea in a continued state of excitement for
months. Yesterday was the first time I touched the shore since I
left Liverpool on the 18th August last, and I was only one week
in Liverpool after a voyage of three weeks from the Bahamas; so
that I have in fact been but one week on shore in five months.
My thoughts naturally turn on this quiet Christmas-day, in this
lonely island, to my dear family. I can only hope, and trust them
to the protection of a merciful Providence. The only sign of a
holiday on board to-night is the usual "splicing of the
main-brace"--_Anglice_, giving Jack an extra allowance of grog.
_Friday, December 26th._--* * * Weather fine, but the barometer
has gone down the tenth of an inch to day, and is now (7 P.M.)
29.96. I shall begin to look for a norther in about twenty-four
hours. We commenced caulking our leaky decks to-day, and
despatched the launch to assist in ballasting the barque. I strolled
on the islands to-day, and amused myself searching for shells along
the beach. There are some very pretty diminutive shells to be
found, similar to those on the Florida coast; but none of a larger
size than the common "conch," of which there are a few. We
have made free with the turtle nets of the fishermen found in the
huts, and have set them. As yet, we have only caught two or three
small turtle. I landed on the south island to-day, where they are
getting off ballast. This islet is occupied exclusively by the black
man-of-war bird; whilst the north islet seems to be divided between
the white gannet (with the lower edges of its wings black)
and the black warrior; the colonies being quite distinct. The
birds are still laying and incubating.
_Saturday, December 27th_.--The barometer has risen again, and
the weather still continues fine. Ballasting the barque, and overhauling
and setting up our topmast and lower rigging, and caulking
decks. Took a stroll in the north island towards sunset. It is
dull recreation after the novelty has worn off, with the somewhat
tough walking through the sand, and the smell and filth of the
clouds of gannet.
_Sunday, December 28th_.--Weather cloudy, with the wind from
the N.E. At 8.30 descried a schooner from aloft in the N.W., the
first sail we have seen, and quite an unexpected sight at this season
of the year. After we had armed and manned the cutter, to
board the sail when it should heave in sight from the deck, it was
ascertained that the look out had been deceived, and that the supposed
sail was probably a cloud in the horizon, it having suddenly
At 11 A.M. mustered the crew and inspected the ship. A quiet
Sabbath. Strolled on the island towards sunset, with the gannets
for companions, the surf for music, and the heavy sand for a promenade.
The weather cleared at nightfall, with the breeze fresh
from the N.N.E. Some of the men are getting tired of their hard
service; the chief boatswain's-mate having applied to return to
England in the barque. Refused him permission, of course. Constant
cruising, vigilance against being surprised by the enemy,
salt provisions, and a deprivation of the pleasures of port, so
dear to the heart of a seaman, are probably what most of them
did not expect. A tight rein and plenty of work will cure the
_Monday, December 29th_.--Weather clear and fine. At daylight
hauled the barque alongside, and commenced coaling. Another
seaman got drunk to-day, and seized his bag to go on board
the barque to return to England. Confined him in double irons.
Many of my fellows no doubt thought they were shipping in a
sort of privateer, where they would have a jolly good time and
plenty of license. They have been wofully disappointed, for I
have jerked them down with a strong hand, and now have a well-disciplined
ship of war, punishment _invariably_ follows immediately
on the heels of the offence. It has taken me three or four months
to accomplish this, but when it is considered that my little kingdom
consisted of one hundred and ten of the most reckless from
the groggeries of Liverpool, this is not much.
_Tuesday, December 30th_.--The weather still continues remarkably
fine, with a moderate breeze from the E.S.E. We finished coaling to-day,
and hauled the barque off in the afternoon. Getting ready generally for
our dash at the enemy's coasts; or rather, at the enemy on our own coasts,
of which he is in possession. A brig hove in sight to-day to the S. and E.,
approaching the islands on the starboard tack, until she became
visible from the bridge, and then tacking--probably a Frenchman,
making way from Vera Cruz to the eastward on the banks.
Took my usual afternoon stroll on shore. About nightfall, the
sky assumes a peculiarly lurid aspect, becoming dark overhead,
whilst the western horizon is lighted up with the rays of the setting
sun, although there is not a cloud visible. One witnessing
such a scene elsewhere would fancy himself on the eve of a storm;
I attribute it to the reflection from the green waters of the bank.
We have cleared away all the old eggs from the gannets' nests,
and these prolific layers are now supplying us with fresh. Of fish
we can catch none, except by trolling. We have no better success
with our turtle nets.
_Wednesday, December 31st_.--The weather has been good all
day, though we have had a heavy surf on all the reefs, indicating
that there is a gale somewhere in our vicinity--probably a norther,
along the Mexican coast to the west of us. The wind is at N.N.E.
and moderate, and the barometer has been rising all day, though
it has not been a tenth below 30.21; it is now (4 P.M.) 30.15, so
we shall probably not feel the gale here.
_Thursday, January 1st_.--The first day of the new year.
What will it bring forth? The Almighty for a wise purpose hides
future events from the eyes of mortals, and all we can do is to perform
well our parts, and trust the rest to His guidance. Success,
as a general rule, attends him who is vigilant and active. It is
useful to look back on the first day of the new year and see how
we have spent the past; what errors we have committed, and of
what faults we have been guilty, that we may in the future avoid
the one and reform the other.
Although the wind blew pretty fresh during the past night, we
did not feel the gale in any force; and to-day it has moderated,
and the weather become fine again. Still caulking and painting.
The former seems to be an interminable job with our small gang
of caulkers. In the afternoon a brig approached the island, near
enough to be seen, hull up, from the deck. She was beating up
the bank to the eastward probably from Vera Cruz.
_Friday, January 2nd_.--The wind has been fresh all day from
the eastward, bringing in some sea, and as we have been riding
across the tide, the ship has had some motion. Caulking and
painting, tarring down and squaring ratlines, &c. Commenced
condensing water to supply the barque for her return voyage to
England. I must get to sea on Tuesday, though I fear we shall
not have finished caulking; but Banks' expedition must be assembling
off Galveston, and time is of importance to us if we would
strike a blow at it before it is all landed. My men will rebel a little
yet. I was obliged to-day to trice one of them up for a little insolent
_Saturday, January 3d_.--A gale opened after all from the S.E.,
which I had hoped to escape, so rare is it to have blows from this
quarter at this season of the year. We have veered to forty-five
fathoms on each chain, and are in six fathoms water astern (there
being nine where the anchors are), and are tailing directly on the
surf, with a few hundred feet only between us and it, which of
course makes me feel a little solicitude. We are open to the S.E.
winds, though these blow over the bank from landwards. Still
the water is deep and the land distant, and a considerable sea comes
in. I have ordered the fires to be lighted under another boiler to
guard against accidents. The Arcas are a dirty little anchorage
for large ships, being but an open roadstead, affording good shelter
only from the north. There is a very small basin between the two
reefs, running off from the northern island, fit for very small vessels,
where they could be made secure against northerly and southerly
winds; but everywhere they would be exposed more or less
to wind from the westward.
_Sunday, January 4th_.--Weather clear, with the wind fresh
from the S.E., dying away in the afternoon. Having determined
to get to sea this evening, we commenced getting our coal-bags on
board from the barque, omitting the usual Sunday muster. Busy
with the seamen, as usual on such occasions, sending home their
allotments, &c. The weather begins to portend a norther, so I
have directed the engineer to hold on with his steam for the present.
_Monday, January 5th_.--It did not blow last night as I expected.
This morning the wind has gone round again. I cannot wait
longer for the norther, so I must get under way. At 11 A.M.
got under way, and stood out from the anchorage under steam.
Let the steam go down, hoisted the propeller, and put the ship
[Footnote 10: One of the officers of the Alabama enters in his journal
that on this day, in anticipation of news being received of Lincoln's
proclamation, a tombstone, consisting of a board about four feet in
length and two in breadth, was sent on shore and placed in the most
prominent position the largest island afforded. Inscribed on the tombstone,
in black letters on a white ground, was the following:--"In memory of
Abraham Lincoln, President of the late United States, who died of nigger
on the brain, 1st January, 1863."--"No. 290." Upon a piece of paper,
protected from the weather, was written in Spanish--"Will the finder
kindly favour me by forwarding this tablet to the United States Consul,
at the first point he touches at?" This affair originated with, and was
executed by, the steerage officers.]
_Another mission--General Banks' expedition--To Galveston--Sunday
the 11th of January--A small mistake--Preparing for action
--The Hatteras--A fight in the dark--Sharp and decisive--Surrender
--Rescue of the crew--Sunk!--Casualties--Out of the hornet's nest._
Contrary to her usual aspirations, the principal wish of the Alabama,
as she started on this fresh cruise, was to reach her destination
without having seen a single vessel. She was now in fact on
a service of a kind altogether different from that which had yet
occupied her. In his address to the crew, upon taking command
off Terceira, Captain Semmes had promised that the first moment
they were in a condition of training and discipline, to enable them
to encounter the enemy, they should have an opportunity of doing
so. That time had come, and laying aside for a short period her
more especial _role_ of annihilating as rapidly as possible the enemy's
commerce, the Alabama set steadily out in search of a fight.
The grand expedition of General Banks, which had been the
subject of so much speculation in the United States, and of which
their newspapers had long before duly informed the Confederate
cruiser, seemed to offer the most favourable opportunity possible
for such an enterprise. The expedition would, of course, be accompanied
by one or more armed vessels, but the principal portion
of it would be composed of troop-ships, crowded with the enemy's
soldiers; and should the Alabama but prove victorious in
the fight, these transports would be a prize of more practical importance
than all the grain and all the oil ever carried in a merchantman's
It was a daring adventure certainly. To steer, with a solitary
light-armed sloop, close upon a coast, blockaded from north to
south, by hundreds of armed vessels, in deliberate quest of a
squadron, not improbably four or five times stronger than herself,
was an act of almost reckless hardihood, fully in keeping with the
rest of the Alabama's career. The event indeed proved the full
danger of the adventure; whilst, at the same time, nothing could
have more clearly showed how utterly groundless were the dastardly
imputations upon the courage and prowess of her crew, poured out daily
from the foul-mouthed organs of the Northern press. There could be no
question of the fighting qualities, or disposition, of the Confederate
cruiser, after such a test as this.
For five days the Alabama kept steadily on her course for Galveston,
where she expected to find the fleet of which she was in
search. At length, on Sunday, the 11th January--her "lucky
day"--the moment so anxiously looked for came.
* * * * *
Our position at noon--writes Captain Semmes--put us just
within thirty miles of Galveston, and I stood on, intending either
just to sight the shipping at a great distance, without being seen
myself, or else to anchor just out of sight until the moon should
rise the following night, which would be about half-past eleven,
and then run in, and attack, as I hoped, "Banks' expedition."
Owing, however, to a little carelessness in the look-out at "masthead,"
we were permitted to approach the ships anchored off the
bar in such plain sight, before they were announced, that we were
discovered, although we tacked immediately and stood off, in the
hopes of eluding the vigilance of the enemy.
There were three ships found lying off the bar--one heavily-sparred
ship, which our look-out took for a sail frigate, but which
afterwards proved to be the Brooklyn steamer, our old friend that
chased us in the Sumter, and two steamers supposed to be propellers.
Very soon one of the steamers was seen to be getting up
steam, and in about an hour and a half afterwards she was reported
to be under weigh, standing out for us.
I lowered the propeller, and directed steam to be got in readiness,
and awaited the approach of the stranger, who overhauled us
very slowly, and seemed to reconnoitre us, as he came along, with
All this time we were standing on under topsails away from the
bar, and the stranger was approaching us stern on. I gave my
ship a little motion with the engine occasionally, both to draw the
enemy--for I, of course, supposed him to be such--away from his
consorts, so that in case of a conflict the latter might not hear our
guns, and to prolong the time until dark to enable me to take in
my topsails, and close with him in so short a time that the movement
should not be noticed by him until too late to escape, which
I feared he might attempt, if he saw me turn upon him with the
intention of pursuing him.
Accordingly, soon after dark--the enemy in the meantime
having approached us so near as not to endanger our losing sight
of him--I clewed up, and furled the topsails, beat to quarters, and
doubled suddenly upon the stranger. He came in quite boldly,
and when within hailing distance of us, hailed us, and inquired--
"What ship is that?"
"Her Majesty's ship Petrel. What ship's that?"
To this inquiry there was no reply, and although we repeated
it several times there was no rejoinder.
During the colloquy, I endeavoured to place myself in a raking
position astern of him, which he as carefully avoided by keeping
his broadside to me. From this manoeuvre I knew him pretty
certainly to be an enemy, and having approached to within about
two hundred yards, I directed my First Lieutenant to repeat the
question. "What ship's that?" was accordingly again shouted,
and this time there was a reply.
We distinctly heard that he was an United States something or
other, but the name we could not make out. I then directed the
First Lieutenant to tell him that this was the Confederate States
steamer Alabama, and to open fire on him immediately, which we
did from our starboard battery. He returned our fire in a minute
or two, and the action was thus commenced.
We continued to run side by side at a distance ranging from
two to five hundred yards, both of us keeping up a rapid fire of
both artillery and rifles, when, after the lapse of thirteen minutes,
the enemy fired two guns from his off, or starboard side, and
showed a light above his deck in token of his being whipped.
At once we ceased firing, and approaching him still nearer,
asked him if he surrendered and needed assistance. To both of
these questions he replied in the affirmative, and we immediately
despatched our quarter boats to him; these, with his own four
boats, were busily employed in transporting the crew on board,
which had only been accomplished when the ship went down.
[Footnote 11: United States Consulate, Kingston,
Jamaica, Jan., 21, 1868.
SIR,--It is my painful duty to inform the Department of the destruction
of the United States steamer Hatteras, recently under my command, by
the rebel steamer Alabama, on the night of the 11th instant, off the coast
of Texas. The circumstances of the disaster are as follows:--
Upon the afternoon of the 11th inst., at 2.30 P.M., while at anchor in
company with the fleet under Commodore Bell, off Galveston, Texas, I
was ordered by signal from the United States flag-ship Brooklyn to chase
a sail to the southward and eastward. I got under weigh immediately,
and steamed with all speed in the direction indicated. After some time,
the strange sail could be seen from the Hatteras, and was ascertained to
be a steamer, which fact I communicated to the flag-ship by signal. I
continued the chase, and rapidly gained upon the suspicious vessel.
Knowing the slow rate of speed of the Hatteras, I at once suspected that
deception was being practised, and hence ordered the ship to be cleared
for action, with everything in readiness for a determined attack and a
When within about four miles of the vessel, I observed that she had
ceased to steam, and was lying broadside and awaiting us. It was nearly
seven o'clock, and quite dark; but notwithstanding the obscurity of the
night, I felt assured, from the general character of the vessel and her
manoeuvres, that I should soon encounter the rebel steamer Alabama.
Being able to work but four guns on the side of the Hatteras--two short
32 pounders, one 30 pounder rifled Parrot gun, and one 20 pounder rifled
gun,--I concluded to close with her that my guns might be effective, if
I came within easy speaking range--about seventy-five yards--and
upon asking "What steamer is that?" received the answer, "Her Britannic
Majesty's ship Petrel." I replied that I would send a boat aboard,
and immediately gave the order. In the meantime the vessels were
changing positions, the stranger endeavouring to gain a desirable position
for a raking fire. Almost simultaneously with the piping away of the
boat the strange craft again replied, "We are the Confederate steamer
Alabama," which was accompanied with a broadside. I at the same
moment returned the fire. Being well aware of the many vulnerable
points of the Hatteras, I hoped, by closing with the Alabama, to be able
to board her, and thus rid the seas of the piratical craft. I steamed
directly for the Alabama, but she was enabled by her great speed and the
foulness of the bottom of the Hatteras, and consequently her diminished
speed, to thwart my attempt when I had gained a distance of but thirty
yards from her. At this range musket and pistol shots were exchanged.
The firing continued with great vigour on both sides. At length a shell
entered amidships in the hold, setting fire to it, and at the same instant
--as I can hardly divide the time--a shell passed through the sick bay,
exploding in an adjoining compartment, also producing fire. Another
entered the cylinder, filling the engine-room and deck with steam, and
depriving me of my power to manoeuvre the vessel, or to work the pumps,
upon which the reduction of the fire depended.
With the vessel on fire in two places, and beyond human power, a
hopeless wreck upon the waters, with her walking-beam shot away, and
her engine rendered useless, I still maintained an active five, with the
double hope of disabling the Alabama and attracting the attention of the
fleet off Galveston, which was only twenty-eight miles distant.
It was soon reported to me that the shells had entered the Hatteras at
the water-line, tearing off entire sheets of iron, and that the water was
rushing in, utterly defying every attempt to remedy the evil, and that
she was rapidly sinking. Learning the melancholy truth, and observing
that the Alabama was on my port bow, entirely beyond the range of my
guns, doubtless preparing for a raking fire of the deck, I felt I had no
light to sacrifice uselessly, and without any desirable result, the lives
of all under my command.
To prevent the blowing up of the Hatteras from the fire, which was
making much progress, I ordered the magazine to be flooded, and afterwards
a lee gun was fired. The Alabama then asked if assistance was desired,
to which an affirmative answer was given.
The Hatteras was then going down, and in order to save the lives of my
officers and men, I caused the armament on the port side to be thrown
overboard. Had I not done so, I am confident the vessel would have
gone down with many brave hearts and valuable lives. After considerable
delay, caused by the report that a steamer was seen coming from
Galveston, the Alabama sent us assistance; and I have the pleasure of
informing the Department that every living being was conveyed safely
from the Hatteras to the Alabama.
Two minutes after leaving the Hatteras, she went down, bow first,
with her pennant at the masthead, with all her muskets and stores of
every description, the enemy not being able, owing to her rapid sinking,
to obtain a single weapon.
The battery upon the Alabama brought into action against the Hatteras
numbered nine guns, consisting of six long 32 pounders, one
100 pounder, one 68 pounder, and one 24 pounder rifled gun. The great
superiority of the Alabama, with her powerful battery, and her machinery
under the water-line, must be at once recognized by the Department, who
are familiar with the construction of the Hatteras, and her total unfitness
for a conflict with a regular built vessel of war.
The distance between the Hatteras and the Alabama during the action
varied from twenty-five to one hundred yards. Nearly fifty shots were
fired from the Hatteras, and I presume a greater number from the Alabama.
I desire to refer to the efficient and active manner in which
Acting-master Porter, executive officer, performed his duty. The conduct
of the Assistant-surgeon, Edward S. Matthews, both during the action
and afterwards, in attending to the wounded, demands my unqualified
commendation. I would also bring to the favourable notice of the Department
Acting-master's mate McGrath, temporarily performing duty as gunner.
Owing to the darkness of the night and the peculiar construction of the
Hatteras, I am only able to refer to the conduct of those officers who came
under my especial attention; but from the character of the contest, and
the amount of damage done to the Alabama, I have personally no reason
to believe that any officer failed in his duty.
To the men of the Hatteras I cannot give too much praise. Their
enthusiasm and bravery were of the highest order.
I enclose the report of Assistant-surgeon E.S. Matthews, by which you
will observe that five men were wounded and two killed. The missing, it
is hoped, reached the fleet at Galveston.
I shall communicate to the Department, in a separate report, the movements
of myself and my command from the time of our transfer to the
Alabama until the departure of the earliest mail from this place to the
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, Washington.
For a further account of this action from the journal of one of the
junior officers, see Appendix.]
The prize proved to be the United States gunboat Hatteras,
Lieut.-Commanding H.C. Blake, which officer came on board after his crew
had been transported, and delivered up his sword. I said to him:--
"I am glad to see you on board the Alabama, and we will endeavour to
make your time as comfortable as possible."
The Hatteras had the following armament, viz.:--32 pounders of 27 cwt.,
4; 30 pounders, rifled, 2; 20 pounders, rifled, 1; 12 pounders,
howitzer, 1: total, 8.
The armament of the Alabama was:--32 pounders of 52 cwt., 6; 100
pounders, rifled, 1; 24 pounders, rifled, 1; 8-inch shell gun, 1: total,
A great disparity in weight of metal in our power; but we equalized this
to a considerable extent by the fair fight which we showed the enemy in
approaching him so very close as to render his small guns almost as
efficient as larger ones.
The tonnage of the Hatteras was eleven hundred tons; material, iron,
with watertight compartments; age, eighteen months. Her crew numbered a
hundred and eight men, and eighteen officers; our own numbering a
hundred and eleven men, and twenty-six officers.
The casualties on both sides were slight. On board the enemy two were
missing (firemen), supposed to have been killed in the fire-room, and
three wounded, one of them severely, and two slightly. On board
ourselves, only two slightly wounded.
After the action had been over an hour or more, and whilst I was
steaming off on my course, it was reported to me that a boat of the
enemy, containing an acting master and five men, which had been lowered
before we opened fire upon him, to board "Her Majesty's steamer Petrel,"
had escaped. As the sea was smooth and the wind blowing gently towards
the shore, distant only about nineteen miles, this boat probably reached
the shore in safety in five or six hours. The night was clear and
starlit, and it would have no difficulty in shaping its course. But for
these circumstances, I should have turned back to look for it, hopeless
as this task must have proved in the dark. The weather continued
moderate all night, and the wind to blow on shore.
It was ascertained that Galveston had been retaken by us, and that the
Brooklyn and four of the enemy's steam-sloops were off the port,
awaiting a reinforcement of three other ships from New Orleans to
cannonade the place. So there was no "Banks' expedition," with its
transports, heavily laden with troops, &c., to be attacked, and but for
the bad look-out of our man at the masthead, we should have got instead
into a hornet's nest.
_Crowded with prisoners--Chasing a friend--At Jamaica--Enthusiastic
reception--Rest on shore--Speech making--Up anchor!--A prize--Case of
the Golden Rule--Reinstating the discipline--Capture of the
Chastelain--San Domingo--The Palmetto--Men of the day in the United
The Alabama's little fighting holiday was over, and she returned to her
appointed task of annoying the enemy's commerce. Her course lay towards
Jamaica, the captain being anxious to relieve himself as soon as
possible of the nest of prisoners that crowded his decks, and were
necessarily the occasion of considerable inconvenience to both men and
officers. The latter especially were most uncomfortably crowded, the
captain setting the example of self-sacrifice, by giving up his
state-room for the benefit of Lieutenant Blake, Commander of the sunken
It may be supposed that, under these circumstances, the Alabama was not
very anxious to increase the number of her involuntary passengers. Still
duty was duty, and when, on the day following the engagement, a sail was
reported from aloft, chase was at once given, and expectation again on
tiptoe at the thought of a prize. No prize, however, was to be taken
that day. At about half-past two, the Alabama came within
signal-distance of the chase, and was already busy exchanging the usual
information, when the "stranger" barque was discovered to be no other
than their old friend and faithful tender the Agrippina; and the Alabama
continued her course, not a little amused at her own blunder in thus
chasing her most particular friend.
Another week passed by with no event of interest, the Alabama working
her way towards Jamaica, through a succession of more or less heavy
gales, which, in the crowded state of the ship, were anything but
comfortable. On the 20th January, she sighted land a little before
daybreak, passing Portland at about 3 P.M., and arriving off the
lighthouse on Plum Point at half-past four. Here French colours were
displayed in case of accident, and a gun fired for a pilot. At about
halt-past six, that important individual made his appearance, and in
about three-quarters of an hour more the Alabama was safely at anchor in
Port Royal harbour.
* * * * *
_Wednesday, January 21st_.--Found here several English men-of-war--the
Jason, the Challenger, the Greyhound, &c., the Commanders of all of
which called on us. I saw the Commodore (Dunlop) this morning, and
requested of the Governor through him permission to land my prisoners,
&c., which was readily granted. Made arrangements for coaling and
provisioning the ship, and for repairing damages; and in the afternoon
ran up to Kingston, and thence proceeded to the mountains with Mr. Fyfe.
_Thursday, January 22nd_.--Had a delightful ride over a fine, natural
McAdamized road, for about ten miles, and thence by horse and
bridle-path through the most picturesque of mountainous regions, with
its lovely valleys, abrupt precipices, streams of water, luxuriant
foliage, &c., to Flamstead, the residence of the Rev. Mr. Fyfe, who soon
returned from town and received me most hospitably. Spent a
delightful, quiet day, riding to Flamstead, and walking in the afternoon
along the winding mountain paths. Jamaica--that is, the south side--is a
wilderness, and the town of Kingston a ruin. The negro population idle,
thriftless, and greatly subject to diseases of an inflammatory kind. No
morals--gross superstition, &c.
[Footnote 12: As soon as our arrival became known the most intense
excitement prevailed. It is impossible to describe the hospitable
welcome we received, every one placing their houses at our disposal. Up
to 9 P.M. visitors were constantly received, all expressing a most
hearty, encouraging sympathy for our cause, and speaking hopefully for
our prospects. Still the same enthusiasm prevails: visitors of each sex
and every class coming on board, officers and men going on shore, and
receiving the most flattering attentions.]
_Friday, January 23rd_.--Rode over to, and spent a day and night at,
Blocksburgh, visiting _en route_ the English-looking cottage of Captain
Kent, now absent in England. Had some lady-visitors at Blocksburgh in
_Saturday, January 24th_.--Returned to town to-day by the way of Mr.
Mais' fairy little cottage, kept in the nicest of order, and in a
perfect picture of a country. Upon my arrival in town I found that my
friends had _kindly_ put a notice in the papers, informing the good
people that I would be at the Exchange at noon, &c. &c. Was obliged to
go, and made a speech to the people, which was well received. Returned
on board in the evening.
_Sunday, January 25th_.--Workmen still engaged trying to get the ship
ready for sea to-night. Returned my visits to the English Captains, all
of whom I found very agreeable. Settling the ship's bills, and getting
the drunken portion of my crew on board by aid of the police. Three of
them in broad daylight jumped into a shore boat and tried to escape; but
we pursued and captured them. Work all done, and fires lighted at 5
P.M., and at half-past eight we steamed out of the harbour.
_Monday, January 26th_.--At 10.30 A.M. descried a sail, which we came up
with at 1.20 P.M. She proved to be the Golden Rule, from New York for
Aspinwall. Captured and burned her, there being no certificate on board
of the neutrality of the cargo. This vessel had on board masts, spars,
and a complete set of rigging, for the United States brig Bainbridge,
lately obliged to cut away her masts in a gale at Aspinwall. Nine
prisoners. At about 6 P.M., the prize being well on fire, steamed on
* * * * *
CASE OF THE GOLDEN RULE.
No certificate of the neutral ownership of any portion of the cargo. The
only bills of lading found on board are the following:--
Marcial and Co. to Gregorio Miro and Co., 2069.28 dollars; insured
against war risk.
Keeler and Vonhiss to John Wilson, 724.20 dollars. Consigned to _order_,
and for account and risk of "whom it may concern."
Woolsey, consigned to _order_. Amount not stated, and no letter of
Berner to Field. Amount not stated, and no letter of advice.
Herques and Maseras to Juan Melendez, 41.58 dollars.
F. Hernias to Gillas. Amount not stated, and no letter.
* * * * *
The Golden Rule furnished a supply of papers containing an abundance of
welcome news. From them the Alabama learned of the safe escape of her
sister cruiser, the Florida, from Mobile, as well as of the foundering
of the United States gunboat Monitor in a gale, during her passage down
the coast. The good news was also received of the entire failure of an
attack on Vicksburg.
The time was now pretty much taken up in reinstating the discipline
which had been somewhat shaken by the brief stay at Port Royal, and in
awarding due punishment for the various offences there committed. On the
whole, however, considering the hard service the men had undergone, and
the length of the confinement they had sustained without a single
"spell" on shore, the offences could not be considered very numerous. A
few of the petty officers were disrated, and various minor penalties
inflicted, and on the 31st of January the court-martial, which had been
employed on this unpleasant but necessary service, terminated its
sittings and was dissolved.
Meanwhile another prize had fallen into the Alabama's hands, in the
shape of the United States brig Chastelain, of Boston, from Martinique
and Guadaloupe for Cienfuegos; and the following day, after duly
committing her prize to the flames, the Alabama arrived at San Domingo,
dropping anchor off the town at 6 P.M.
In the harbour were two other vessels: one a New York brig, under
English colours. The anchor had not been long down when a visit was
received from the Captain of the Port, who proved to be an old
acquaintance of Captain Semmes, he having piloted the brig Porpoise
about the island at the time when the latter officer was First
Lieutenant of that vessel. He seemed much pleased to renew the
acquaintance, and volunteered to take on shore, to the Governor, Captain
Semmes' request for permission to land his prisoners.
Soon he returned, bringing with him a commander of the Spanish navy with
the required permission. The prisoners were accordingly sent on shore,
from whence they shortly returned, somewhat crestfallen, with the
intelligence that no one was allowed to land after dark. The Captain,
however, being anxious to depart, application was made to the
authorities, who courteously permitted the prisoners to be sent for the
night to the government vessel, undertaking to send them on shore in the
This matter was settled, the Alabama again stood out, having thus
displayed for the first time, in San Domingo, the flag of the young
The only excitement of the next few days was an alarm of fire, which, on
the 2nd of February, occasioned for a short time very considerable
anxiety. It came from the carelessness of the captain of the hold, who,
in direct violation of the written rules of the ship, took a naked light
into the spirit-room to pump off liquor by. The moment he commenced
operations, the fumes of the spirit took fire, placing the ship for a
few minutes in imminent peril. The danger, however, was brief, for the
captain happened to be on deck at the time, and at once gave the order
to beat to quarters; before it could be obeyed the fire was
extinguished, and the ship's company _quitte pour la peur_. Not so,
however, the delinquent captain of the hold, who was at once sent to
expiate his fault in the durance vile of a suit of double irons.
The 3rd February brought a small prize in the United States schooner
Palmetto, from New York for St. John's, Porto Rico, with a mixed cargo
of provisions. She, too, laid claim to immunity on the ground of
neutrality of cargo; but inquiry soon led to condemnation, and after
taking from her a large quantity of biscuit, cheese, &c., the crew were
removed on board the Alabama, and the schooner burned.
* * * * *
CASE OF THE PALMETTO.
The schooner was U.S., per register and flag. The cargo was shipped by
Herques and Maseras, of New York, to Vincente Brothers, in San Juan,
Porto Rico. There was no affidavit or certificate of neutral property on
board, and the cargo would have been condemnable on this ground alone.
It being in an enemy's ship, it is presumed to be enemy's property until
the contrary be shown by proper evidence under oath. The Master, upon
examination, testified that he had no knowledge of the ownership of the
cargo; and this, though he was the agent and charterer of the ship, as
well as Master. The correspondence found on board--that is to say, a
letter from the shippers to the consignee--states that the cargo is
shipped, two thirds on account of the consignee, and one third on
account of the shippers--the parties being the joint owners of the
_undivided_ cargo in these proportions. Therefore, whatever may be the
general business-relations of the parties, they are, _quoad_ this
shipment, partners; and the house in the enemy's country having shipped
the goods, the other partner's share is condemnable, notwithstanding his
residence in a neutral country. See 3rd Phillimore, 605; and the
Vigilantia, 1 Rob., pp. 1-14, 19; the Susa, ib., p. 255.
* * * * *
Several days now passed without adventure of any kind, the monotony of
alternate gales and calms being only varied by the receipt of a few old
newspapers from the schooner Hero, of Yarmouth, N.S., giving news of the
angry "resolutions" passed by the New York Chamber of Commerce with
reference to the Alabama; and also--which was of considerably more
importance--the information that the Vanderbilt and Sacramento were both
to sail towards the end of January, in pursuit of the Confederate
Sunday, the 15th February, dawned dark and gloomy, the wind blowing
nearly a whole gale from the north, and the Alabama dashing along, with
the wind well abeam, under reefed topsails.
This boisterous Sabbath, writes Captain Semmes, is the second
anniversary of my resignation from the United States navy, and of course
it has called up many reminiscences. I have more and more reason, as
time rolls on, to be gratified at my prompt determination to quit the
service of a corrupt and fanatical majority, which even then had
overridden the constitution, and shown itself in so aggressive and
unscrupulous a form as to give us just cause of alarm.
But what shall we say of its course since? If the historian perform his
duty faithfully, posterity will be amazed at the wickedness and
corruption of the Northern and Western peoples, and will wonder by what
process such a depth of infamy was reached in so short a time.
The secret lies here. The politicians had become political
stock-jobbers, and the seekers of wealth had become usurers and
swindlers; and into these two classes may be divided nearly the whole
Yankee population. Such is "Plymouth Rock" in our day, with its Beechers
in the pulpit, and its Lincoln in the chair of Washington! With its
Sumners and its Lovejoys in Congress, and its Simmonses _et id genus
omne_ in the contract market!
_Not easily baffled--Two prizes--The Olive Jane--The Golden Eagle--The
white ensign saluted--In trepidation--Obstinacy--The Washington--The
William Edward--Patience Rewarded--Case of the John S. Parks._
More than a week passed without the occurrence of any event worthy of
record. Saturday, the 21st February, however, brought an exciting chase.
By 8 A.M. four vessels had been reported in sight. The first seen proved
too far ahead and to windward, to be worth chasing, and sail was then
made in the direction of two others, which were observed to be
exchanging signals with considerable diligence. Their conversation
ended, they parted company and sailed off in different directions,
evidently with the object of distracting the attention of the Alabama
which was now in full chase.
But the Alabama was not so easily to be baffled. Devoting her attention
first to the vessel which appeared by her slower rate of sailing to
offer the promise of an easier capture, she got up steam as she went
along, and the black smoke was already poured from her funnel and the
propeller beginning to revolve as she came within hail of the chase. A
blank cartridge was fired as usual; but the stranger kept doggedly upon
his way, evidently determined, if he could not escape himself, at all
events to do his best to increase the chances of his consort.
Even this chivalrous determination, however, was of no avail. A second
gun from the pursuer quickly followed upon the first, and this time the
command was pointed by the emphatic accompaniment of a round shot which
went whizzing through the rigging of the chase. Finding his enemy in
earnest, the ship now gave up the game, and hove to with the United
States colours at her peak. Putting a prize crew on board, the Alabama
wore round, and started at full speed in the direction of the second
vessel, which was making the best of her way off, and was by this time
some fifteen miles distant. The Alabama was now, however, under a full
head of steam, flying through the water at the rate of three to one of
the chase, and by the end of a couple of hours, she also was brought to,
with the Stars and Stripes flying, and her maintopsail to the mast.
A rapid investigation of papers resulted in the decision that the claim
of neutral ownership of the cargo was totally unsustained by evidence,
and the crew of the Olive Jane were transferred to the Alabama, and
the barque set on fire, whilst her captor again came round and ran down
to meet his other prize. On communicating with the prize-master in
charge she proved to be the United States ship Golden Eagle, from
Howland's Island in the Pacific Ocean to Cork for orders.
[Footnote 13: Of Boston, from Bordeaux to New York, with a partial cargo
of French wines and "knickknackeries."]
The following particulars relating to these two vessels, are given in
Captain Semmes' journal:--
CASE OF THE OLIVE JANE.
Under United States colours and register--from Bordeaux for New
York--cargo consigned generally to houses in New York, with the
exception of five of the shipments which are consigned to _order_; but
there is no claim among the papers of French property, even in these
latter shipments, and _non constat_ but that the property is American,
and that the consignment on the face of the papers was made in this
manner to give a semblance of French ownership, until the property
should reach its destination, when the real owner would claim it under a
duly-indorsed bill of lading, forwarded to him by steamer. At all
events, the presumption of law is, that all property found on board an
enemy is enemy's property, until the contrary be shown by proper
evidence; and no evidence has been presented in this case at all. The
master, though quarter owner of the barque, and who, consequently,
should be well informed as to her cargo, &c., knows nothing, except that
one of the shippers--a Frenchman--told him that forty casks of wine,
worth, perhaps, twenty dollars per cask, belonged to him. Vessel and
* * * * *
CASE OF THE GOLDEN EAGLE.
Ship under United States colours and register. From San Francisco, _via_
Howland's Island, for Cork, laden with guano by the American Guano
Company. Cargo consigned to "orders." There is no question, therefore,
of property. Ship and cargo condemned.
* * * * *
On the morning of the 23rd February four vessels were in sight; but on
overhauling them they one and all proved to be under the protection of
neutral flags. One of them, however--a Frenchman from Buenos Ayres to
Havre--relieved the Alabama of two French prisoners, an artist and his
son, captured on board one of the late prizes. One of the other
vessels--the Prince of Wales, from Melbourne to England--dipped her
ensign to the Yankee colours displayed from the Alabama, on which the
latter, unwilling to appropriate a compliment intended for another,
lowered the Stars and Stripes and hoisted her own ensign. Hardly had the
change been effected when a bustle was observed on board the English
vessel, and passengers and crew crowded on deck to have a look at the
renowned Confederate. The formal compliment accorded to the flag first
displayed was renewed with hearty good-will, and this time accompanied
by the most enthusiastic demonstrations from all on board, the men
cheering and the ladies waving their handkerchiefs in honour of the
gallant little cruiser of which they had heard so much.
The next day, the Alabama being in the vicinity of the crossing of the
30th parallel by the San Roque and India-bound United States ships, sail
was shortened, and a bright look-out kept, but until nearly sunset
nothing was seen; and when, at length, "Sail, ho!" was cried, and the
Confederate cruiser on nearing the stranger showed the Yankee colours,
it was replied to by the tricolour of France. Again, at 9.30 P.M., when
another vessel was descried, there was still no prize, although it
required two cartridges, a chase of three-quarters of an hour, and
vociferous demands in both English and French to compel the vessel to
heave to. When, at last, the Master obeyed the command, it was
discovered that the brig was a Portuguese, bound from Pernambuco to
Lisbon. The officer despatched to overhaul the chase found, on stepping
on board, everything in the wildest confusion, and everybody so alarmed,
that neither skipper, mates, nor seamen seemed to know what they were
about. So great, indeed, was their trepidation, that upon an explanation
being asked of their strange conduct, the excuse given was that they
were too frightened to heave to!
The 25th February was a blank, only two sail being seen; the one a
Dutchman, the other English. The master of the latter coolly asked the
Alabama to take to England a discharged British seaman, and on the
following morning another master of an English ship made a similar
request--both being met with a refusal. On the 26th, no less than
thirteen sail were sighted by the Alabama, but not one of them displayed
the Yankee flag. The only excitement of the day was an obstinate
Hamburgh barque, which refused to show colours until the Confederate
cruiser was nearly upon her, and even then a blank cartridge was
required to bring her to.
After the large number of neutrals that the Alabama had overhauled, came
a prize. On the morning of the 27th February, the United States ship
Washington was captured. The vessel was the property of the enemy, but
as she carried a cargo of guano from the Chincha Islands, on account of
the Peruvian government, consigned to their agents at Antwerp, the
Washington was released on giving a ransom bond for 50,000 dollars. The
prisoners on board the Alabama having been transferred to the capture,
the two vessels parted company; the United States ship going on its
course, rejoicing that the neutral cargo she carried had saved her from
a fiery end. Two days after, another prize was taken. On the 1st March,
the Bethia Thayer, of Rockland, Maine, was overhauled, and like the
Washington, having on board guano the property of the Peruvian
government, was released on a bond of 50,000 dollars.
Shortly after, a suspicious barque, with the English flag at the peak,
hove in sight. Immediately the Alabama set every stitch of canvas, the
stranger did the same, and away the two dashed before the fresh
south-wester that was blowing. The chase was most exciting, and lasted
seven hours; but gradually the Alabama overhauled the suspicious craft,
and at 4.30 P.M. was enabled to signal it. The Confederate hoisted the
United States flag, and announced herself by an assumed name. The barque
replied that she was the William Edward, from Bahia, for Liverpool.
After some further communication, which convinced the Alabama that the
barque was English, the cruiser announced her real name, and permitted
the William Edward to proceed on her course. At nightfall another ship
was chased, which, upon being brought to, also proved to be English, the
Nile, bound from Akyab to London. The master of this vessel informed the
boarding-officer that a United States man-of-war, supposed to be the
Ino, was in the South Atlantic, in eager search of the Alabama!
At daybreak, on the 2d March, a sail was made out through the hazy
atmosphere, slowly steering towards the cruiser. Patiently the
Confederate waited, as the light wind from the south bore the stranger
towards them; their patience, too, was rewarded, for at 6 A.M., a
boarding-officer stepped on board the ship John S. Parks, of Hallowall,
Maine. The skipper, his wife, and crew, were transferred to the cruiser,
together with sundry stores and provisions; and then, after Captain
Semmes had carefully examined the papers of the capture, the prize was
set fire to, making number thirty-five on the list of the Alabama's
successes. With respect to the cargo of the Parks, there was a plea of
neutrality set up, to which, as the following extracts will show,
Captain Semmes gave the fullest consideration:--
CASE OF THE SHIP JOHN S. PARKS.
Ship under U.S. colours and register. Cargo, white pine lumber, laden on
board at the port of New York. The cargo was shipped by Edward F.
Davidson, who appears, from the statement of the master, to be a large
lumber dealer, and is consigned to Messrs. Zimmerman, Faris, and Co., at
Monte Video, or Buenos Ayres. Annexed to the bill of lading is what
purports to be an affidavit sworn to before "Pierrepont Edwards," who
signs himself as "vice-consul." Above his name are the words, "by the
consul," from which it appears he professes to act for the consul, and
not for himself as "vice-consul." The affiant is Joseph H. Snyder,
who describes himself as of "128, Pearl Street, New York." He states
that the cargo was shipped by Edward F. Davidson, "for and on account of
John Fair and Co., of London, &c." First, as to the _form_ of this
affidavit. A vice-consul is one who acts in place of a consul when the
latter is absent from his post; and when this is the case, he signs
himself as vice-consul, and his acts take effect _proprio vigore_, and
not as the acts of the consul--which this act purports to do. Further,
the Master was unable to verify this document, which, to give it
validity, he should have been able to do--he declaring that he could not
say whether it was a forgery or not. "Although, as has been said, the
ship's papers found on board are proper evidence, yet they are so only
when properly verified; for papers by themselves prove nothing, and are
a mere dead letter if they are not supported by the oaths of persons in
a situation to give them validity." 3rd Phillimore, 394. Further, "Valin
sur l'Ordonnance" says, "Il y a plus, et parceque les pieces en forme
trouvees abord, peuvent encore avoir ete concertees en fraude, il a ete
ordonne par arret de conseil du 26 Octobre, 1692, que les depositions
contraires des gens de l'equipage pris, prevaudrojent a ces pieces." The
latter authority is express to the point, that papers found on board a
ship are not to be credited, if contradicted by the oath of any of the
crew, and I take it that an inability to verify amounts to the same
thing. For if this had been a _bona fide_ transaction, it was the duty
of the party interested to take the master before the consul to witness
the taking of the deposition, so that he might verify "the paper," if
captured. But why should Mr. Snyder be the party to make this
affidavit? He was not the shipper, but Davidson, a lumber dealer; and
Davidson, who, if he sold the lumber at all, must have known to whom he
sold it, was the proper person to testify to the fact. Further: the
master says that Snyder bought the lumber from Davidson, as he was
informed by his (the master's) brother, who was the owner of the ship.
If so, then Snyder being the owner of the lumber (whether on his own or
foreign account, it matters not) was the real shipper, and not Davidson,
and the proper person to consign it to the consignees, either in his own
name, or in the name of his principal, if he were an agent. But the bill
of lading, and Davidson's letter to the consignees, show that Davidson
was both the shipper and the consignor. The ship was also chartered by
Davidson, and 13,000,000 dollars freight-money paid in advance, for
which Davidson required the owner of the ship to secure him by a policy
of insurance against both marine and _war_ risk--the policy made payable
to him (Davidson) in case of loss. Two questions arise upon that policy:
1st--why, if the property were _bona fide_ neutral (the cargo itself was
also insured in London) the war clause should be inserted? and, 2nd--why
Davidson should make the policy payable to himself? If he advanced this
freight money on the credit of the London house, he had no insurable
interest in it; and if the lumber really belonged to the London house,
and was going to their partners or agents at the port of delivery, why
should Davidson pay the freight in advance at all? And if Snyder
purchased the lumber of Davidson, why should Snyder not have made the
advance for his principal instead of Davidson? The conclusion would seem
to be, that Davidson was shipping this lumber on his own account to
agents, in whose hands he had no funds or credit, and as the lumber
might not be sold readily, the ship could not be paid her freight unless
it were paid in advance? Further: the ship had a contingent destination.
She was either to go to Monte Video or Buenos Ayres, as the consignees
might find most advantageous. This looks very much like hunting for a
market. But further still. Although Davidson prepared a formal letter of
consignment to Zimmerman, Faris, and Co., to accompany the consular
certificate, he at the same time writes another letter, in which he
says, "The cargo of John S. Parks I shall have certified to by the
British Consul as the property of British subjects. You will find it a
very good cargo, and should command the highest prices." How is Davidson
interested in the price which this cargo will bring, if it belongs, as
pretended, to the house in London? And if Davidson sold to Snyder, and
Snyder was the agent of the house in London, Davidson should have still
less concern with it. In that same letter in which a general account of
recent lumber shipments is given, the following remarks occur:--"Messrs.
Harbeck and Co. have a new barque, Anne Sherwood, in Portland, for
which they have picked up in small lots a cargo of lumber costing 20,000
dollars. I have tried to make an arrangement for it to go to you (on
account of John Fair and Co., of London?); but they as yet only propose
to do so, you taking half-interest at twenty-five dollars, and freight
at eighteen dollars, payable at yours (port?), which is too much. If I
can arrange it on any fair terms, I will do so for the sake of keeping
up your correspondence with H. and Co."
[Footnote 14: Extract from a letter, captured on the barque Amazonian,
from Mr. Edward F. Davidson to Messrs. Zimmerman, Faris, and Co., of
"You will learn from London of the loss of the ship John S. Parks, and
collection there of insurance on her cargo: the freight is insured here,
at the Great Western Company. They have thirty days, after receipt of
the captain's protest, to pay the loss in. Captain Cooper has arrived in
Portland, and gone to his home at Hallowall; and the company require a
copy of the protest made in London, certified by the Consul, which I
have sent for. In the meantime, I have requested the captain to come to
this, and trust not to have to wait receipt of the document from
This letter would seem to show that Zimmerman, Faris, and Co. are
favourite consignees with Davidson, and that he not only consigns his
own lumber to them (for it must be remembered that he is a lumber
dealer) but endeavours to befriend them by getting them other
consignments. It may be that Davidson in New York, John Fair and Co., in
London, and Zimmerman, Faris, and Co., in Buenos Ayres, are all
connected in this lumber business, and that the trade is attempted to be
covered under the name of the London house; or it may be that Davidson
is the sole owner, or a joint owner with Zimmerman, Faris, and Co. In
either case the property is condemnable, being shipped by the house of
trade in the enemy's country. Ship and cargo condemned.
_Discomforts of life at sea--A stern chase--Seized--The Punjaub
ransomed--Rain-squalls--A luxury--The Morning Star--Neutral cargo--The
Fairhaven--The Ino on the look-out--The Charles Hill--The
Nora--Fire-water--Commercial morality--The Louisa Hatch--Black
Diamonds--Coaling at sea under difficulties--Fernando de Noronna._
Captain Cooper, of the John Parks, and his wife and two nephews, were
fortunate in not being condemned to a long period of captivity. The
burning remains of his unlucky vessel were still within sight, when an
English barque ranged up alongside of the Alabama, and an arrangement
was soon effected with her captain to convey the whole party to England.
A long interval now, with nothing but the Englishman's excitement--the
weather--to break the weary monotony of an eventless voyage. So far,
however, as gales of wind could offer a distraction, the Alabama had
little of which to complain, and the vessel rolled and tumbled about in
the heavy seas in a manner which sorely tried the endurance of, at all
events, her unfortunate captain.
The gale still continues, writes Captain Semmes, on the 11th March. Wind
E.N.E. For four days now we have been rolling and tumbling about, with
the wind roaring day and night through the rigging, and rest more or
less disturbed by the motion of the ship. Sea-life is becoming more and
more distasteful to me. The fact is, I am reaching an age when men long
for quiet and repose. During the war my services belong to my country,
and ease must not be thought of; but I trust that the end is not afar
off. The enemy, from many signs, is on the point of final discomfiture.
Nay, a just Providence will doubtless punish the wicked fanatics who
have waged this cruel and unjust war upon us, in a way to warn and
astonish the nations upon earth. Infidelity and wickedness in every
shape let loose upon themselves, must end in total destruction. The
Yankee States have yet to go through an ordeal they little dreamed of in
the beginning of their unholy crusade against the Southern people.
On the 12th, the vessel was within fourteen degrees of the equator, but
so cool did the weather still continue that all hands were still wearing
woollen clothing, and sleeping under a couple of blankets. The sky
continued grey and overcast, with an occasional slight sprinkle of rain,
and a stiff breeze. The barometer falling steadily until, on the 14th
March, it had reached as low as 29.96, about the usual standard of the
That night brought, however, a slight relief from the long dullness. It
was just midnight when the startling cry of "Sail, ho! close aboard!"
was heard from the look-out; and in less than five minutes the Alabama
was within hailing distance of a large ship standing close on a wind
towards the northward and westward.
"Ship ahoy!--what ship's that?" rang hoarsely through the
speaking-trumpet from the deck of the Alabama. But no answer came, and
the hail was repeated. Still no answer, the strange sail keeping
steadily on her course, regardless of every thing, her huge hull
towering up high and dark as she passed almost within harpooning
distance of the Alabama, and shot away again into the darkness, like a
phantom that on being spoken to, had vanished away.
But the Alabama could have brought-to the Flying Dutchman himself, if he
had attempted to pass by without answering a hail. "Hands, wear ship!"
was the order before the sound of the second summons had well died away.
Up went the helm, round came the Alabama's head in the direction in
which the stranger had disappeared; and with the reefs shaken out of her
topsails, away she went in chase like a greyhound after a hare.
By the time sail was made, and headway got on the ship, the chase was
some three miles in advance, and gliding swiftly along with a strong
breeze. But though a stern chase is proverbially a long chase, the
splendid sailing qualities of the Alabama soon made themselves felt, and
within three hours after her helm was put up, she was within a few
hundred yards of the stranger, who now hove to at the first summons from
the cruiser's bow-guns.
She proved to be the United States ship Punjaub, of Boston, from
Calcutta for London, and having an English cargo on board, as appeared
from sworn affidavits among the papers, from the nature of the
voyage--from one British port to another--and from the cargo of jute and
linseed, she was released on a ransom bond for 55,000 dollars, the
remaining prisoners from the John Parks being transferred to her for
The 21st March brought a change of weather, with heavy squalls of rain.
The variety was greatly enjoyed by all on board, Captain Semmes
recording in his journal his own pleasure at once more hearing the roll
of the thunder, for the first time for many months, and the delight with
which both officers and men paddled about on the deck with their bare
feet, enjoying, "like young ducks," the first heavy rain they had
experienced for a considerable time.
On the morning of Monday, March 23rd, a sail hove in sight, which, being
overhauled about noon, was found to be the United States ship Morning
Star, from Calcutta to London. This ship also had a neutral cargo, duly
vouched as such by the proper legal certificates; so she, too, was
released on ransom bond. A second prize, however, which fell into the
Alabama's hands the same day, was less fortunate. This was the United
States schooner Kingfisher, of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, some months out
on a whaling voyage. It was well for her that she but very recently
discharged into another vessel her second cargo of oil, and could only,
at present, boast of some twenty barrels, all of which were at once
consigned to the flames, together with the unlucky vessel.
The Kingfisher brought a piece of intelligence which afforded immense
satisfaction to all on board, being of no less a fact than the presence
of the United States sloop of war, Ino, at Ascension, where the
Kingfisher had left her but a fortnight before. This was the identical
vessel that had assisted in the piratical capture of Messrs. Myers and
Tunstall, on neutral ground, scarcely fourteen months before; and all
hands were rejoicing in the prospect of an early brush with her, when
the outrage then perpetrated might be avenged. Anxious as all were for a
fight on any terms, there was possibly not a vessel in the United States
navy they would have more gladly encountered.
It was a curious circumstance connected with this schooner, that her
master was, according to his account, one of the only three persons in
his native place, Fairhaven, who, in the last fatal election of a
President for the United States, had voted for the Southern candidate,
Two more captures were made on the following day--one, the ship Charles
Hill, of Boston, from Liverpool to Monte Video; the other, the ship
Nora, also of Boston, from Liverpool for Calcutta. In both cases the
usual claim was set up to a neutral ownership of cargo, and as usual on
investigation proved to be altogether unsupported by anything like real
The following are the cases:--
CASE OF THE CHARLES HILL.
Ship under U.S. flag and register, laden with salt (value in Liverpool
six shillings per ton), under charter party with H.E. Falk to proceed
from Liverpool to Monte Video or Buenos Ayres. No claim of neutral
property in the cargo. Ship and cargo condemned.
* * * * *
CASE OF THE NORA.
Ship under the U.S. flag; laden with salt, under charter party with W.N.
de Mattos, of London, to proceed to Calcutta. In the bill of lading the
cargo is consigned to "order;" and on the back of the bill is this
endorsement:--"I hereby certify that the salt shipped on board the Nora
is the property of W.N. de Mattos, of London, and that the said W.N. de
Mattos is a British subject, and was so at the time of shipment.
"(Signed) H.E. FALK, Agent for W.N. de Mattos."
At the bottom of the signature is "R.C. Gardner, Mayor," presumed to be
intended for the signature of the Mayor of Liverpool. As this statement
is not under oath, and as there is no seal attached to it, it does not
even amount to an _ex parte_ affidavit. Vessel and cargo condemned.
* * * * *
Some valuable supplies were extracted from these two ships, and the
prisoners--one of them a female--having been transferred to the Alabama,
the vessels were fired on the evening of the day after their capture. As
was but too frequently the case in boarding prizes, access was by some
means obtained to their strong liquor, and that evening saw a good deal
of drunkenness on board the Alabama. Unfortunately, the delinquents were
but too often some of the best men in the ship. They could be trusted
with anything in the world but rum or whisky; but against temptation of
this kind they were not proof, and the duty of boarding offered only too
easy an opportunity of indulging this true sailor's taste. However, if
the prizes had their little bit of revenge in thus creating a temporary
disorder among their captors, they in this case, at all events, more
than made up for it, by contributing an accession of half-a-dozen seamen
to the crew, which, notwithstanding the discharge of the men sent home
in the----, was now fast growing very strong.
The following extract from a letter found on board the Charles Hill may
throw some light on the pretensions of that vessel at all events, to the
protection of neutrality:--
CAPTAIN F. PERCIVAL.
DEAR SIR,--I have read your several letters from Philadelphia. As a
rebel privateer has burned several American ships, it may be well if you
can have your bills of lading endorsed as English property, and have
your cargo certified to by the English Consul, &c.
* * * * *
After crossing the equator during the night of the 29th-30th March, the
Alabama experienced a succession of calms and wet weather; at one time
chasing a vessel in so thick a mist that, though not more than a mile or
two ahead, she was more than once lost sight of for an hour at a time.
She was still involved in this misty, uncomfortable weather, when, on
the night of the 4th April, she again fell in with an United States
ship, the Louisa Hatch, deeply laden with that, to the Alabama, most
invaluable article--coal. An investigation of her papers gave the
CASE OF THE LOUISA HATCH.
Ship, under U.S. colours. Among the papers is a charter party, dated
London, 1st January, 1863, executed between John Pirie and Co., and
William Grant, the Master, by which the ship was chartered to take coal
to Point de Galle, Ceylon, or Singapore, as ordered, &c. Without any
assignment of this contract, as far as appears, the ship seems to have
been loaded by entirely new parties, to wit, by one J.R. Smith, who
describes himself as the agent of H. Worms, of Cardiff. By the bill of
lading, the ship is to proceed to the. Point de Galle, and there deliver
the coal to the company of Messageries Imperiales. On the back of the
bill of lading is the following certificate:--"I certify that the
within-mentioned cargo is French property, having been shipped by order,
for the account of the Messageries Imperiales." This certificate is
signed by Mr. Smith, but is not sworn to, nor is the order, nor any copy
of the order to ship this cargo to an account of the Messageries
Imperiales, found among the papers. As the ship was not chartered by any
agent of this company, and as the coal was not shipped by any such
agent, Smith being the agent of Worms, and Worms not being described as
the agent of the company, the presumption is that, if there was any such
order at all in the case, it was a mere general understanding that the
company would pay so much per ton for coal delivered for them at their
depots, the property remaining in the shippers until delivery. The
presumption, in the absence of proof, is, that the cargo being on board
an American ship is American; shipped on speculation to the far east, by
the owner, or his agent, in Cardiff; and we have seen that there is no
legal evidence in the case; the unsworn certificate of Mr. Smith not
even amounting to an _ex parte_ affidavit. Ship and cargo condemned.
Probable value of cargo in Cardiff, 2500 dollars. Cost of coal in
Brazil, 15 to 17 dollars per ton.
* * * * *
The Alabama now stood away in the direction of Fernando de Noronha, with
her prize in company, with the intention of there taking on board a
fresh supply of coal. The run was not a little protracted by the light
and baffling winds that still prevailed, and as though this was not
enough, fortune must needs play her a trick, by sending her off on a
chase of fourteen miles after a supposed Yankee whaler, which, when at
last overhauled, turned out to be nothing but a poor little