European Waters

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British vessels sailed from Europe to supply the Confederacy with arms and supplies during the American Civil War. Confederate vessels were built in England and Scotland. The most famous Confederate raider, the CSS Alabama, met its fate off the French coast.

CSS Alabama (290). Confederate. Wooden steam screw sloop, bark-rigged, 1,050 tons. Length 211 feet 6 inches, beam 31 feet 8 inches, depth 17 feet 8 inches loaded, depth aft 15 feet 4 inches, trial speed 12.8 knots, 2 engines. Complement of 24 officers and 120 seamen, with a battery of one 100-pounder, one 68-pounder, and six 32-pounders. Built in 1862 at Liverpool, England, for the Confederate government. Became the most successful Confederate commerce raider, capturing or destroying sixty Union vessels worth more than $6 million. Was sunk by the USS Kearsarge on June 19, 1864, off Cherbourg, France, after a one-hour fight. The CSS Alabama and USS Kearsarge approached to within 900 and 1,200 yards of each other. The CSS Alabama's powder was bad, making its fire against the USS Kearsarge ineffective.

The Confederates lost nine killed, twenty-one wounded, and thirteen missing. The USS Kearsarge had only three wounded, including one who later died. The English yacht Deerhound rescued Capt. Raphael Semmes and forty-one Confederates, including twelve officers, and landed them at Southampton, England. A French fishing boat picked up three Confederate officers and six crewmen, taking them to France. The USS Kearsarge captured four officers and about sixty crewmen. The Confederate crewmen were paroled and landed at Cherbourg. Most of the captured crewmen were not Americans. The vessel was discovered by the French navy minesweeper Circe in October 1984. It is at a 30° angle on its starboard side in 195 feet of water about 6 miles off the French coast. About 30 percent of the vessel is still intact. A joint French/American expedition investigated the wreck, which has been undergoing salvage since 1988. The U.S. Navy Historical Center signed an agreement with the Association CSS Alabama as operator of the investigation for five years. A number of artifacts, including a Blakely cannon, have been recovered under very difficult diving conditions. (ORN, 3:57-83; ser. 2, 1:247; 2:631, 813; Lambert, "CSS 'Alabama' Lost and Found," American History Illustrated, 32-37; Semmes, Service Afloat, 755-84; Guer-out, "Wreck of the C.S.S. Alabama," National Geographic, 66-83; National Historical Center Web site, "Field Work on CSS Alabama Site, Summer 1995," "CSS Alabama.")

Anglo Saxon. Union. Collier. Cargo of coal from Liverpool, England. Out of New York City. Was captured and burned by the CSS Florida on August 21, 1863, off Brest, France. (ORN, 2:659-60; Owsley, C.S.S. Florida, 76.)

Harvey Birch. Union. Clipper ship, 1,482 tons. In ballast. En route from Le Havre, France, to New York City. Was captured and burned by the CSS Nashville on October 19, 1861, near latitude 49° 6' north, longitude 9° 52' west, in the Atlantic Ocean west of France and southwest of England. (ORN, 1:221, 230, 746.)


Iona. British. Iron side-wheel steamer blockade-runner, 325 gross tons, 174 registered tons. Length 225 feet 2 inches, beam 20 feet 5 inches, depth 9 feet. Built in 1855 at Govan, Scotland. Collided with the Chanticleer and sank in the Firth of Clyde on October 2, 1862. (LLC, 305.)

Iona. British. Iron side-wheel steamer blockade-runner, 368 gross tons, 173 registered tons. Length 249 feet 2 inches, beam 25 feet, depth 9 feet 1 inch. Built in 1863 at Govan, Scotland. En route to Nassau, Bahamas. Foundered on February 2, 1864, in the Bristol Channel off Lundy Island, twenty-four hours after leaving Queenstown. Some items from the wreck were recovered in 1983 and sent to the McLean Museum in Greenock, Scotland. (ORN, 9:539; LLC, 306; "Civil War Relic," Treasure Search, 29.)

Lelia. British. Steel side-wheel steamer blockade-runner, 1,100 bulk tons, 430 registered tons, 640 gross tons. Built in 1865 in Liverpool, England. Was lost on January 14, 1865, at the mouth of the Mersey River with Cdr. Arthur Sinclair and Gunner P. C. Cuddy of the Confederate navy. (LLC, 308; Shomette, Civil War Shipwrecks, 440.)

Matilda. Confederate. Iron twin screw steamer, 390 registered tons. Length 228 feet, beam 25 feet, depth 12 feet. Built in 1864 at Renfrew, Scotland. On April 4, 1864, it sank in the Firth of Clyde on Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel. (LLC, 312.)

Neapolitan. Union. Bark, 322 tons. Cargo of dried and fresh fruit and fifty tons of sulfur. Out of Kingston, Mass. En route from Messina to Boston. Was captured and burned by the CSS Sumter inside the Strait of Gibraltar in the Mediterranean Sea, within a mile and a half of Ceuta, Morocco, on January 18, 1862. (ORN, 1:370-71, 737-38; Semmes, Service Afloat, 308; Hearn, Gray Raiders, 36-37.)

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