“THE FAMOUS CONFEDERATE PRIVATEER ALABAMA”
Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, March 14, 1863, p. 385
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ON THE SAME principle that the police authorities send to their agents photographs of notorious villains, we to-day publish a most exact and elaborate picture of the famous rebel pirate ship Alabama, or as she is sometimes called, the “290.” It is from a photograph taken while she was at Liverpool where she was facetiously termed the Emperor of China’s yacht. As she is still at large, roaming about like her prototype in the Scripture, “seeking whom she may devour,” every shipmaster ought to take a copy of this number of our paper to accustom the eye to recognize her at a glance. We give the following description of her from an English paper:
The Alabama was built at Liverpool or Birkenhead, and left the latter port in August last; is about 1,200 tons burthen; draught about 14 feet; engines by Laird & Sons, of Birkenhead, 1862. She is a wooden vessel, propelled by a screw, copper bottom, bout 210 feet long, rather narrow, painted black outside and drab inside; has a round stern, billet tread, very little shear, flush deck for and aft; a bridge forward of the smoke stack carries two large black boats on cranes amidships forward of the main rigging; two black quarter boats between the main and mizen masts, one small black boat over the stern on cranes; the square spars on a gallows between the bridge and foremast show above the rail.
She carries three long 32-pounders on a side, and is pierced for two more amidships, has a 100-pound rifled pivot gun forward of the bridge, and a 68-pound pivot on the main tracks; has tracks laid forward for a pivot bow gun, and tracks aft for a pivot stern chaser, all of which she will take on board to complete her armament. Her guns are of the Blakely pattern, and manufactured by Wesley & Preston, Liverpool, 1862.
She is barque rigged; has very long, bright lower masts, and black mastheads; yards black, long yard arms, short poles-say one to two feet-with small dog-vanes on each, and a pendant to the main; studding-sail, booms on the fore and main, and has wire rigging. Carries on her foremast a square foresail, large trysail with two reefs, topgallantsail and royal. On the mizenmast a very large spanker and a short three cornered gaft topsail; has a fore and foretopmanst staysail and jib; has had no staysail to the main and mizenmast bent or royal yards aloft. Is represented to go 13 knots under canvas and 15 under steam. Can get steam in 20 minutes, but seldom uses it except in a chase or an emergency. Has all national flags, but usually set the St. George's Cross on approaching a vessel.
Her present complement of men in 120 all told, but she is anxious to ship more. Keeps a man at the mainhead from daylight to sunset. her sails are of hemp canvas, made very roaching; the topsails have 20 cloths on the head and 30 on the foot. General appearance of the hull and sails decidedly English. She is generally under two topsails, fore and main trysails, fore and foretopmast staysails; sometimes topgallant sails and jib, but seldom any sails on the mizen, except while in charge of a vessel. She is very slow in stays; generally wears ship. She was built expressly for the business. She is engaged to destroy, fight or run, as the character of her opponent may be.
She took her armament and crew and most of her officers on board near Terceira, Western Islands, from an English vessel; the officers, chivalry of the South. All the water consumed on board is condensed.
Her commander is Raphael Semmes, a biography of whom we published in FRANK LESLIE'S ILLUSTRATED NEWSPAPER for Jan. 10, No. 380.
Created and maintained by Lisle Brown, Curator
© 2007, Special Collections, Marshall University