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Scenes on Board the Alabama

The Illustrated London News, vol. 43, no. 1225, p. 361.

October 10, 1863

From Photographs.

The last mail from the Cape brought some news of the Confederate war-steamer Alabama. She has been cruising, together with her consort the Georgia, and her armed prize the Conrad, now named the Tuscaloosa, in the neighbourhood of the Cape of Good Hope. She had captured the Federal barque Sea Bride, in the sight of thousands of spectators, while running into Table Bay. This capture was alleged by the Federal Consul to have been made within British jurisdiction, which he considered to extend to the distance of "an Armstrong cannon-shot" from the shore, and he consequently protested. His protest was, however, disallowed by the Governor, who likewise rejected his demand that the Tuscaloosa--which he maintained to be an uncondemned prize, and consequently excluded by the Queen's proclamation from British ports--should be delivered up to him for her owners. The Confederate vessels were allowed to make some repairs and take in supplies in the Cape harbours, and it was thought that they might probably cruise very successfully for Federal vessels bound to or from the East Indies and China.

A supplement to the Cape Argus of Aug. 20 gives copious details of the excitement caused among the inhabitants of Cape Town by the presence of these two vessels in their bay. The Argus reporter gives the following list of the officers of the Alabama, some of whose portraits we have engraved:--Captain Semmes, Lieutenants M'Intyre Kell, Armstrong, Wilson, and Sinclair; Surgeon and Paymaster Galt, Master J. S. Bullock; Lieutenant Howell, Marines (brother-in-law of President Davis); Assistant Surgeon Llewellyn, Chief Engineer Freeman; Assistant Engineers Brooks, O'Brien, Pundt; Midshipmen E. A. Maffitt (son of the commander of the Florida) and E. M. Anderson; Master's Assistants Fulham and Evans; Boatswain M'Caskie, Gunner Cuddy, Carpenter Robinson, and Captain Semmes's Secretary, Mr. Smith; a young officer, Assistant Engineer. Captain Semmes he describes as being about forty-eight years of age. He wears a moustache à la Napoleon, is rather grey, and has sharp, intelligent features. He wears a military frock coat of gray colour, with very little ornament.

Captain Semmes read from his record-book to the Argus reporter a list of his captures, as follows:--"The Ocmulgee, a whaler, of 400 tons, thirty-two men on board, burned; the Starlight, of Boston, a schooner, burned off the Western Islands; the Ocean Rover, a whaler, barque, burned; the Alert, a whaler, of 700 tons, burned; the whaling-schooner Weathergauge, burned; the whaling-brig Altamaha, burned; the whaling-ship Benjamin Tucker, burned; the whaling-schooner Courser, burned; the whaling barque Virginia, burned; the barque Elisha Dunbar, a whaler, burned; the ship Brilliant, with 1000 tons of grain on board, burned; the Emily Farnum, released as a cartel, and having so many prisoners we put some of them on board her and sent them off; the Wave Crest, with a general cargo on board for Europe, burned; the Dunkirk, brig with a general cargo on board, burned; the ship Tonawanda, with a valuable freight on board, released, after taking a bond for a thousand dollars; the ship Manchester, with a cargo of grain, burned; the barque Lamplighter, with an assorted cargo, burned; the barque Lafayette, with an assorted cargo, burned; the schooner Crenshaw, with an assorted cargo on board for the West Indies, burned; the barque Lauretta, for Europe, with an assorted cargo on board, burned; the brig Baron de Castine, a bond taken and released; the whaling-ship Levi Starbuck, burned; the T. B. Wales, from Calcutta to Boston, with a valuable cargo on board, burned; the barque Martha, from Calcutta to the West Indies, with an assorted cargo, burned; the schooner Union had some English property on board, and was released on bond; the mail-steamer Ariel, running between New York and Aspinwal, released on bond; the United States gun-boat Hatteras, who came out to fight us, had the same number of guns and crew--our guns were a little heavier than hers, but we equalised that by permitting her to fight us at 300 yards--we sunk her in thirteen minutes by the watch; the barque Golden Rule, with an assorted cargo, burned; the brig Chastelaire, burned; the schooner Palmetto, burned; the barque Olive Jane, burned; the Golden Eagle, laden with guano, burned; the Washington, from the Pacific, with guano, released on bond; the Bethia Thager, from East India, with a valuable cargo on board, released on bond; the John A. Parker, with flour and lumber, from Boston to Buenos Ayres, burned; the Punjaub, from East India, found to have some English cargo on board, released on bond; the ship Morning Star, released on bond; the whaling-schooner King Fisher, burned; the ship Nora, from Liverpool to the West Indies, with salt, burned; the Charles Hill, also from Liverpool, with coal, burned; the ship Louisa Hatch, from Cardiff to the West Indies, burned; the barque Lafayette, whaler, burned; the whaling-brig Kate Cory, burned; the whaling-barque Nye, burned; the ship Dorcas Price, with a general cargo, burned; the ship Lelah, with a general cargo for the East Indies, burned; the barque Union Jack, from Boston to Shanghai, burned; the ship Gildensleeve, from New York to the East Indies, burned; the barque Justiana, released on bond to take home prisoners; the ship Jabez Snow, from New York to the East Indies, burned; the barque Amazonian, from Boston to Buenos Ayres, burned; the ship Talisman, from New York to the East Indies, burned; the barque Conrad, fitted up as a Confederate cruiser, a tender to the Alabama. We call her the Tuscaloosa. After these came the Anna F. Schmidt, the Express, and the Sea Bride you saw us take to-day. The estimated value of these captures is 4,200,000 dols."

The Confederate cruiser Tuscaloosa, Lieutenant Low, commander, formerly the Conrad, of Philadelphia, captured by the Alabama, and converted by Captain Semmes into a tender to his ship, put into Simon's Bay two days before the Alabama arrived there, for the purpose of refitting. She carries two guns and ten men before the mast. About fourteen days before she fell in with the American ship Sautee, bound from Rangoon to Falmouth, and captured her; but, as the vessel was laden with cargo belonging to British owners, she was allowed to proceed on giving a bond for 150,000 dollars. A few days afterwards the Tuscaloosa fell in with the American China clipper-ship Snow Squall, 800 tons, homeward bound. It was blowing hard at the time; and the Tuscaloosa having fired at the Snow Squall without bringing her to, made chase; but the latter, being the fastest sailer, escaped.

On Sunday afternoon, Aug. 16, the Confederate steamer Georgia, Captain Maury, entered Simon's Bay for coals and repairs. She appears (says the Argus) to be an ordinary iron-built packet-boat, certainly not intended for a fighting craft; but, having a good crew, and being armed with two Whitworth rifled guns aft, one large 56-gun forward, and two 32s on her quarter-deck, and, being a fast sailer, is well suited to capture merchant ships, and run from war-vessels of superior armament but inferior speed. We are indebted to one of her officers for a history of the vessel and her exploits. The Georgia was built by Messrs. Denny and Co., of Greenock. Her officers joined her off Ushant Island on the 9th of April, on which day she finished getting her armament on board, hauled down the English, and ran up the Confederate flag. She then put to sea. On the 25th of April she captured the ship Dictator, of New York, bound to Shanghai with coal. After burning the Dictator she proceeded to the Cape de Verd Islands to land her prisoners. As she got into the entrance of the harbour of St. Vincent she discovered a man-of-war with the American colours flying, put about, and went to the north side of the island, where she lay until dark, and then stood out for sea. On the 13th of May she arrived in Bahia, where the Alabama was lying at the time. From Bahia she proceeded down the South American coast. Off Cape Frio, in sight of land, she captured the George Griswold, which vessel had a British cargo on board, and was therefore bonded. The Georgia then proceeded to the island of Trinidad, on her way capturing the barque Good Hope, of Boston, bound to Agulhas, with a general cargo. Her captain had died some days before, and his body, being preserved in salt, Captain Maury had brought on board the Georgia, read the funeral service over it, and committed it to the deep. During the service the barque J. W. Sever hove in sight, and was chased by the Georgia. She was from Boston, bound to the Amoor river with machinery for the Russian Government. The prisoners of the Good Hope were put on board and she was bonded. On June 18 the Georgia arrived at the Island of Trinidad. On June 25th she captured the ship Constitution, of New York, laden with coal for Shanghai, made a prize of her, and took her in to the island. On July 28 the Georgia captured the ship City of Bath, of Bath, from Callao to Antwerp: the cargo being neutral, she was bonded, and the prisoners of the Constitution were put on board her. On July 16 the Georgia captured the ship Prince of Wales, of Bath, from Valparaiso, bound to Antwerp with guano. The cargo being neutral, the ship was bonded.

The excitement in the bay is thus described by the Argus reporter:--"We went off in our boat in the midst of a vast fleet of dingies, cargo-boats, gigs, and wherries, all as full as they could hold. Nearly all the city was at sea. The rowing clubs, in uniform, pulled off with favoured members of their respective clubs on board. The crews feathered their oars in double-quick time. We passed the Federal barque Urania at her anchorage; and that ship, regardful of the enemy, sported all her bunting with becoming pluck. The stars and stripes floated defiantly from her mizen peak and her name from her main. On getting alongside the Alabama we found about a dozen boats before us; and we had not been on board five minutes before she was surrounded by nearly every boat in Table bay, and as boat after boat arrived, three hearty cheers were given for Captain Semmes and the Alabama."

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