The CSS Alabama was called the ‘Wolf of the Deep’. This Confederate raider was responsible for so much damage and destruction during the Civil War. One of the more interesting developments of the war was how the Alabama came to become such a pirate of the sea. In July 1862 Captain Semmes, of the Confederate navy, was ordered to the shores of England and pick up a ship.
The English, who were Confederate sympathizers, throughout the entire war, built the ship. The goal of the south was to lay waste to the immense commercial capability of the north, and secure a wider passage for their own naval and commercial vessels. The plan went well and on August 24, 1862, the CSS Alabama was met at sea to be outfitted as a war ship.
Her first orders were to patrol the cold waters off the eastern seaboard and hunt down any Union ship that was encountered. For the rest of the year, the Alabama would sink or burn 29 Union commercial ships. These ships were the lifeblood of the Union supply system.
Although the Union had under their belt, a gigantic industrial backbone that could absorb an immense amount of lost ships, this was inflicting the war. After destroying another 40 Union merchant ships, the Alabama started to display the ravages of all those raids. The Alabama was in need of repair and re-tooling in the summer of 1864.
The south chose another friendly ally to help their cause and that was France. The French, long time Confederate sympathizers, were more than willing to help and opened the Port of Cherbourg to accept the ailing Confederate war ship. On June 11, 1864 the CSS Alabama was docked at the French port and readied for a face-lift.
Little did Captain Semmes know, but the Union had sent a tag-along to follow the Alabama overseas. That ship was the Kearsarge. The northern ship was patiently waiting just outside of the port and her Captain had only one thing on his mind, to destroy The CSS Alabama.
The Alabama was done with her repairs and steamed out to meet the Kearsarge on June 19, 1863. The Alabama immediately opened fire on the Kearsarge and the battle had commenced. The Alabama was not a very good war ship nor was it designed to be. It was created as a raiding vessel, one that would be light and fast.
No heavy guns that were the standard for warships of the Civil War on the Alabama, and this was to be her downfall. When the Alabama had closed to within 1,000 yards, the Kearsarge returned fire and hit the Alabama hard. After numerous volleys the two ships circled each other like two angry dogs awaiting the chance to attack. According to survivors, both ships fired volleys at each other until one was damaged and ceased it’s firing.
The CSS Alabama was heading to a watery grave; the ‘Wolf of the Deep’ was to be no more.
The battle took little more than an hour and the victor, The Kearsarge, would also be the rescuer of the Confederates that had either been forced into the water or jumped. The rest of the crew of the Alabama escaped with the assistance of a French yacht, The Deerhound. The fleeing sailors would find a safe refuge in England and miss the rest of the war.