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The Cruise of the Alabama and the Sumter   By: (1809-1877)

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First Page:

[Illustration: RAPHAEL SEMMES.]

THE CRUISE OF THE ALABAMA AND THE SUMTER.

FROM THE PRIVATE JOURNALS AND OTHER PAPERS OF COMMANDER R. SEMMES, C.S.N. AND OTHER OFFICERS.

Two Volumes in One.

NEW YORK:

MDCCCLXIV.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1864, by

GEO. W. CARLETON,

in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.

ADVERTISEMENT

TO THE LONDON EDITION.

The following account of the cruise of the two Confederate States steamers Sumter and Alabama is taken from the private journals and other papers of Captain Semmes. It has been found necessary occasionally to adopt a narrative form, but the endeavour has been throughout to adhere as closely as possible to that officer's own words.

Information has also been most kindly afforded by other officers of the two vessels, and especially Lieutenant R.F. Armstrong, and Master's Mate G. Townley Fullam, from whose private journals and other papers much valuable assistance has been obtained.

A good deal of controversy has arisen respecting the legality of the course pursued by the Alabama, in the case of certain vessels claiming to carry a neutral cargo. In all these cases, however, great care was taken by Captain Semmes to enter in his journal full particulars of the claims, and of the grounds on which it was refused admission. These cases will be found quoted in full in the following volumes.

CRUISE OF

THE ALABAMA AND THE SUMTER.

CHAPTER I.

The Question at issue An unexpected point of attack Captain Semmes The President's instructions Creating a navy From the old to the new An important mission Appointed to the Sumter True character of the Confederate "pirate."

The President of the American States in Confederation was gathering an army for the defence of Southern liberty. Where valour is a national inheritance, and an enthusiastic unanimity prevails, this will not prove a difficult task. It is otherwise with the formation of a navy. Soldiers of Southern blood had thrown up their commissions in a body; but sailors love their ships as well as their country, and appear to owe some allegiance to them likewise. Nevertheless, if Mr. Davis had not a great choice of officers, he had eminent men to serve him, as the young history of the South has abundantly shown. To obtain experienced and trusty seamen was easier to him in such a crisis than to give them a command. The Atlantic and the ports of America were ruled at that time absolutely by President Lincoln. The South had not a voice upon the sea. The merchants of New York and Boston looked upon the war as something which concerned them very little. Not a dream of any damage possibly to be inflicted on them, disturbed the serenity of their votes for the invasion of the South. Their fleets entered harbour proudly; their marine swam the ocean unmolested. Though there was war imminent, the insurance offices were content to maintain their terms upon a peace standard. What, indeed, was to be feared? The South had not a single vessel. Here and there a packet steamer might be caught up and armed, but what would they avail against such fleet and powerful ships as the Brooklyn, the Powhattan, and dozens of others? There was, then, a condition of perfect security, according to the ideas of all American commercial men. The arrangement, as they understood it, was that they were to strike the blow, and that no one was to give them the value in return.

It happened that Mr. Davis was of another mind. He perceived where a blow could be struck, on his part, with terrible emphasis, and how. The obstacles in his way were colossal; but we have learnt that obstacles do not appal his indomitable genius. On the 14th February, 1861, Captain Semmes, being then at his residence in the city of Washington, a Commander in the Federal navy, received the following telegram from Montgomery:

SIR, On behalf of the Committee on Naval Affairs, I beg leave to request that you will repair to this place at your earliest convenience... Continue reading book >>




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