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Ch. XIV.] THE REBEL PRIVATEER ALABAMA. 477
NAVAL OPERATIONS: KEARSARGE AND ALABAMA: FARRAGUT AND MOBILE BAT.
The famous cruiser "290 " or Alabama — Her career of destruction — Arrives at Cherbourg — The Kearsarge looks after her — Semmes says he wishes to fight — Winslow's course — Account of the battle — Alabama sunk — Semmes's dishonorable conduct — Effect of the contest — Other cruisers captured — The Florida taken in Bahia, Bay of San Salvador — Position of Mobile and its defences — Determination to attack them — Farragut's fleet, and the attack, August 5th — The ram Tennessee captured — Fort Powell evacu ated — Fort Gaines reduced — Attack on Fort Morgan — Surrendered — Unmanly behavior — Effect ot these successes — National salutes ordered — President's congratulatory order on this occasion.
The noted piratical cruiser, the " 290" or Alabama, who had been so exceedingly successful in preying upon the commerce of the loyal states (see p. 396), met, at last, with a deserved fate, in June of the present year. Semmes, her commander, after destroying the Hatteras (p. 278), made his way across the Atlantic, and passing beyond the Cape of Good Hope, continued his depredations with very great effect npon American commerce in the eastern seas. From time to time he found refuge in sympathizing British harbors, whence, refitted and supplied anew, he sallied forth to plunder and destroy; and as the " Confederacy" had no port into which to take his prizes for legal adjudication, Semmes set up an admiralty court on the deck of his own ship, and setting fire to the merchant vessels, he took the crews prisoners and put them ashore at any place most convenient in his roving career. By his activity and shrewdness, aided, as he was, by our professedly " neutral"
English friends, in every way in their power, Semmes managed to escape the various ships sent to seek after and catch him, and after a prosperous cruise in the Southern Atlantic and Indian Oceans, returned to northern waters early in the summer of 1864. The Alabama put into Cherbourg, expecting to refit and start anew on her mission of robbery and ruin. Mr. Dayton, at Paris, having remonstrated against this use of a French harbor, Semmes was notified that he must leave so soon as he had taken on board coal and provisions. Outside the port was the U. S steamer Kearsarge, Capt. J. A. Wins low, arrived, June 14th, from Holland in the hope of meeting with the Ala bama. Semmes, desirous, apparently of putting himself on a respectable footing, and aware that he could not with any decency escape a contest, sent word to Capt. Winslow, begging him not to depart, as he intended to fight the Kearsarge within a day or two.
As this was what Winslow especially desired, he very gladly awaited the further action of Seinmes. Accordingly, on Sunday morning, June 19th, the Alabama ventured out to meet something else than defenceless merchant vessels.* She was accompanied by the French iron clad Couronne, some five miles out to sea, and was followed by a steam yacht, Deerhound, belonging to a person named Lancaster, ostensibly as a looker on, but in reality to act as a tender to the Alabama, Capt. Winslow, on discovering the approach of the privateer, steamed further out, so as to avoid any possibility as to being within the line of jurisdiction. When about seven miles from the Cherbourg breakwater, the Kearsarge was rounded to, and steered directly for the Alabama, who opened fire at a mile range. "Immediately," says Captain Winslow, "I ordered more speed; but in two minutes the Alabama had again loaded, and fired another broadside, and following it with others, without damaging us except in rigging. We had now arrived within 900 yards of her, and I was apprehensive that another broadside, nearly raking as it was, would prove disastrous. I accordingly ordered the Kearsarge sheered, and opened on the Alabama. The positions of the vessels were now broadside to broadside, but it was soon apparent that Capt. Semmes did not seek close action. I became then fearful lest, after
* Semmes, with a sort of consciousness that ho might find the Kearsarge too much for him, took care to deposit in Cherbourg, in a place of safekeeping, not only whatever personal property he was honestly possessed of, but also between sixty and 100 chronometers, tho fruits of his thieving and pilfering of merchant vessels on the high
make for the shore. To defeat this I determined to keep full speed on, and with a port helm to run under the stern of the Alabama and rake, if he did not prevent it, by sheering and keeping his broadside to us. He adopted this mode as a preventive, and, as-a consequence, the Alabama was forced with a full head of steam, into a circular track, during the engagement. The effect of this manoeuvre was such that, at the last of the action, when the Alabama would have made off, she was nearly five miles from the shore; and had the action continued from the first in parallel lines, with her head to shore, the line of jurisdiction would no doubt have been reached. . . . The effect of the training of our men was evident; nearly every shot from our guns was telling fearfully on the Alabama, and on the seventh rotation on the circular track, she winded, setting foretrysail and two jibs, with head in shore." Iso doubt, Semmes would have been only too glad to get off in this way, but his vessel was now at the mercy of the Kearsarge, and a few more shots settled the affair. A white flag was run up; an officer came on board the Kearsarge and said the Alabama was sinking; Winslow ordered instant aid to save life, and begged Lancaster, who had come alongside in the Deerhound, to take part in the same work of humanity; and in fifteen or twenty minutes, the noted cruiser went down to her ignoble grave. To Capt. Winslow's astonishment and disgust, the Deerhound, having picked up Semmes and some forty of the crew, sneaked away
three or four days, boarding all vessels that approached the island. On the 10th of July, she captured the Electric Spark, near our coast, while several vessels were cruising for her, but she escaped, and was next heard from at Teneriffe, on the 4th of August. Subsequently, early in October, she entered Bahia, in the Bay of San Salvador, where she found the U. S. gun boat Wachusett, Commander N. Collins. This latter thought the opportunity too good to be lost, and so, without being too nice in regard to a neutral harbor, he determined to attack the Florida, and either sink her or carry her off. Accordingly, very early on the morning of October 7th, the Wachusett steered for the Florida, striking her on the quarter without doing any great injury. On demand, the cruiser surrendered; a hawser was made fast, the chain shipped, and the vessel towed out to sea. About seventy, including officers, were captured with the Florida, and brought to the United States as prisoners. While the subject of the capture of the Florida and its attendant circumstances were under discussion between our government and that of Brazil, the vessel was run into, at the close of November, in Hampton Roads, by an army transport and sunk.* Turning from the story of privateers and privateering, we shall now proceed to give some account of naval and military operations in Mobile Bay, during the
* The Tallahassee, an English built ship for running the blockade, was fitted out at Wilmington in August, 1864, as a rebel cruiser, and began her depredations along the coast. Numerous vessels started in search of her, but she succeeded, after getting supplies at Halifax, in reaching Wilmington again.
latter part of this year. The city of Mobile, at the head of the bay, thirty miles from the Gulf, was protected bj a series of redoubts, batteries and entrenchments, covering the approaches by land from above and on either side, while the shallow waters of the bay rendered defence ea£y from below. The city, it was understood, was garrisoned by a force sufficient to man the fortifications; but the main dependence against attack was placed in the iron-clad fleet which had been diligently prepared, and which was under the command of Buchanan. This, with the powerful aid of the forts at the mouth of the bay, was relied upon for warding off any assault by sea, and keeping open the communication of the fort by the blockade runners for the much needed supplies from abroad. The rebel fleet was composed of the powerful iron-clad ram, the Tennessee, the iron-clad gun boats Selma, Morgan and Gaines, and other vessels of lighter construction, suited for harbor defence. There were two avenues of approach to the bay from the Gulf, and both were well guarded by fortifications. The main entrance on t he south, by the passage about three miles wide between the eastern extremity of Dauphin Island and Mobile Point, was protected by Fort Morgan on the latter and Fort Gaines on the island; while the other passage from Mississippi Sound on the south-west, known as Grant's Pass, was protected by Fort Powell and a battery and earthworks on the mainland. With these means of defence, and a liberal use of obstructions in the channel, the operations of our fleet had not as vet Ch. XIV.]
been productive of any special result against the rebels. It was determined, however, at this date, to make a combined movement against Mobile and its defences, by the land and naval forces of the department.
By an arrangement between Gen. Cauby and Admiral Farragut, troops were landed on Dauphin Island, and early on the morning of August 5th, Admiral Farragut began the attack with the fleet. Five of the irou-clads were already within the bar, and fourteen others, two and two abreast and lashed together, followed up the main ship channel. About seven o'clock, the fort opened fire, and the action soon became general. For particulars we must refer to Farragut's report, which is a plain and sensibly written narrative and worthy the reader's attention. It must suffice here to state, that, in an hour's time Fort Morgan was passed, and the great ram, Tennessee, dashed out against the Hartford, Farragut's flag-ship. The rebel gun boat Selma was captured, the Gaines was run ashore and destroyed, and the Morgan escaped to Mobile. Farragut declares the fight with the ram to have been " one of the fiercest naval combats on record;" but aided by the gun boats and monitors, admirably handled as they were, the Tennessee could not hold out. As the old admiral says, looking down upon matters from the main rigging near the top, and speaking of the latter part of the combat, the ram " was at this time sore beset; the Chickasaw was pounding away at her stern, the Ossipee was approaching her at full speed, and the Monongahela, Lackawanna, and this
ship, were bearing down upon her, determined upon her destruction. Her smoke-stack had been shot away, her steering chains were gone, compelling a resort to her relieving tackles; and several of the port-shutters were jammed. Indeed, from the time the Hartford struck her until her surrender, she never fired a gun. As the Ossipee was about to strike her, she hoisted the white flag, and that vessel immediately stopped her engine, though not in time to avoid a glancing blow. During the contest with the rebel gun boats and the ram Tennessee, and which terminated by her surrender at ten o'clock, we lost many more men than from the fire of the batteries of Fort Morgan." The total casualties were about 250j twenty officers, including Buchanan, and about 170 men were captured in the Tennessee, and ninety officers and men in the Selma.
Having attained this great success, the reduction of the forts was soon after secured. Fort Powell, protecting Grant's Pass, was evacuated and dismantled the night after the naval engagement, the garrison escaping, but leaving all the guns, eighteen in number, in excellent condition for immediate service. Fort Gaines, on Dauphin Island, after a bombardment by one of the iron-clads, was unconditionally surrendered on the 6th of August. The articles of capitulation were signed on board the flag-ship Hartford by Admiral Farragut and Gen. Granger, on the part of the Union forces, and by Col. Anderson, the rebel officer in command of the post. By this surrender 818 prisoners of war were captured; to
ll AM TENNESSEE CAPTURED.