At the end of that year the battalion of 136 Marines under Maj Addison Garland were not so successful. Embarking at New York on the mail steamer Ariel on December 1, they were assigned as a permanent garrison for the new naval base at Mare Island, California. Six days into her voyage the Ariel was off Cape Maysi, on the eastern tip of Cuba, when she was intercepted by the Confederate commerce raider Alabama, commanded by Capt Raphael Semmes. Initially forming his Marines to repel boarders, Garland changed his mind when shots from the Alabama
The crew of the ironclad USS Galena gather for the photographer after the engagement at Drewry's Bluff in May 1862. Several Marines are seated on the bulwark in the foreground. (Naval Historical Center photo NH53984)
came crashing into the rigging of the crowded steamer, endangering the lives of the civilian passengers aboard. The Ariel's flag was struck, and moments later the Confederate boarding party, led by Lt Richard F.Armstrong, CSN, climbed aboard. Garland ignominiouslv surrendered the weapons of his command, which consisted of over 200 new Enfield rifles with accoutrements, 2,000 rounds of ammunition, plus the officers' sidearms. The whole battalion was required to sign a parole, agreeing not to take up arms against the Confederacy again until formally exchanged.
Captain Semrnes originally planned to land the ArMs passengers on Jamaica, but changed his mind when he learned that yellow fever had broken out on the island. Thus the vessel was released on December 10, under a bond that $261,000 - the appraised value of the ship and its cargo — would be paid to the Confederate government within 30 days of the end of the war. With control returned to its crew, the Ariel continued its voyage, and the Marines reached Aspinwall on the Isthmus of Panama two days later. Crossing the isthmus by train, they embarked on the steamer Constitution, finally arriving in San Francisco on December 27. They were officially "exchanged" on January J, 1863.
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