CSS Alabama, Terror of the Seas

Aboard_CSS_Alabama_1863

On October 18, 1862, Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy under President Abraham Lincoln, fumed into his diary, “The ravages by the roving steamer 290, alias Alabama, are enormous. England should be held accountable for these outrages. The vessel was built in England and has never been in the ports of any other nation. British authorities were warned of her true character repeatedly before she left.”

To Gideon Welles, the CSS Alabama (image onboard, above) was no better than a “pirate vessel.” The ship was a screw sloop-of-war built for the Confederate States Navy at Birkenhead, England in 1862 by John Laird Sons and Company. The ship had been built in secrecy under the arrangement of Confederate agent James Dunwoody Bulloch. (This person was an ancestor of the later President Theodore Roosevelt and of Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.) In England the ship was yet unarmed and known only as hull number 290. At its launch on May 15, 1862 it carried the name Enrica. The Number 290/Enrica sailed  to Terceira Island in the Azores, in the North Atlantic. There it took on 350 tons of coal and was equipped with cannons. It was designated a “commerce raider”, for the Confederate States of America. Then followed her commissioning as CSS Alabama. (“CSS Alabama”, Wikipedia, April 5, 2013)

Bulloch had arranged the building of Number 290/Enrica/CSS Alabama through Fraser, Trenholm Company, a cotton broker in Liverpool with ties to the Confederacy. The manufacturing mills in Britain desperately needed cotton. A Union blockade seemed to promise to stifle the cotton trade from the southern United States. Yet it was a “sham blockade” – with the proviso of licensed monopolies especially connected with New York City allowed to slip through. The so-called “neutral nations”, such as France and Great Britain, however, were not privileged to be in the “licensed monopoly.” (Background: “Civil War Licensed Monopolies”, Ersjdamoo’s Blog entry of April 5, 2013)

Crooked deals were rampant. John D. Rockefeller made money by inflating food prices, then used his gains to enter the oil business. Some Northern Windbag Patriots invented an inferior type of wool called “shoddy”, from which the word shoddy itself originates. Union soldiers wearing “shoddy” uniforms and carrying “shoddy” knapsacks found that it quickly fell apart. J. Pierpont Morgan, Sr., bought 5,000 condemned carbines from the federal government at $3.50 each, then sold them back to the same government at $22.00 apiece. (Redman, Brian. What Would Millard Do?, e-book available via several venues, including Lulu.com)

But Gideon Welles was focused on winning the war. As Navy Secretary he was trying to completely blockade the South. Except, from the rear, came “licensed monopolists” who were to be allowed to ignore the blockade. And then came along, courtesy of the helpful British, a sleek, fast-sailing ship, the CSS Alabama, which dared to attack Union merchant ships outside the blockade. The Alabama never anchored in a Southern port, but wreaked her havoc on the high seas. By December 29, 1862, Gideon Welles was tearing his hair and wringing his hands. The “British pirate craft Alabama” had struck again! This time she had captured the Ariel, on her passage from New York south to Cuba. “Abuse of the Navy Department will follow,” fretted Welles. “It will give the mercenaries who are prostituted correspondents [i.e., the “presstitutes”], and who have not been permitted to plunder the Government by fraudulent contracts, an opportunity to wreak vengeance for their disappointments.”

Union ships on blockade duty had to be detached to hunt down “this wolf from Liverpool. We shall, however, have a day of reckoning with Great Britain for these wrongs…” (Diary of Gideon Welles)

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About ersjdamoo

Editor of Conspiracy Nation, later renamed Melchizedek Communique. Close associate of the late Sherman H. Skolnick. Jack of all trades, master of none. Sagittarius, with Sagittarius rising. I'm not a bum, I'm a philosopher.
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One Response to CSS Alabama, Terror of the Seas

  1. Pingback: Privateers, Then and Now | Ersjdamoo's Blog

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