Friday, January 11, 2013

CSS Alabama Sinks the USS Hatteras

CSS Alabama

The CSS Alabama, a commerce raider, had been launched from England in May of 1862 and in the months that followed Captain Raphel Semmes, her commander, had been successful in capturing many Union merchant vessels, but he and his crew had not yet seen combat. That would change 150 years ago today, in the encounter with the USS Hatteras.

USS Hatteras vs CSS Alabama
The Hatteras, a 5 gun steamer, was on blockade duty of Galveston when a sail was sighted about 3:00 pm. Her captain, Homer C. Blake, gave chase. The Alabama had succeeded in luring the Hatteras away from the other ships of the blockade. After a twenty mile chase the Hatteras drew near the Alabama. The Yankee ship demanded that the unknown ship identify itself. The southerners called out the HMS Spitfire to confuse the Union, but just as a launch filled with Union sailors pushed off to board the Alabama, the Confederates shouted out, “We're the CSS Alabama!” Lowering the Union Jack and raising the Stars and Bars, they fired a heavy broadside directly into the port side of the Hatteras. The surprised Union sailors soon returned fire.
Hatteras sinking
Outgunned more than two to one, the Union vessel had little chance. After exchanging broadsides for thirteen minutes, the sinking Hatteras fired a signal gun in token of surrender. Semmes sent out his boats to recover the Union crew, and just after the last boat pulled away the Hatteras sank, 45 minutes after the action began. Two Union sailors were killed and five wounded. 118 were captured, six having been able to secure a boat and escape onto shore. The Alabama successfully evaded the consorts of the Hatteras, and continued on in a glorious career until her fight with the USS Kearsarge of Cherbourg, France.

Captain Semmes on the Alabama


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