Leave a comment

No one who is not a seaman can realize the blow which falls upon the human heart of a commander, upon the sinking of his ship. It is not merely the loss of a battle – it is the overwhelming of his household… The ALABAMA had not only been my battle-field, but my home, in which I had lived two long years, and in which I had experienced many vicissitudes… My officers and crew formed a great military family, every face of which was familiar to me; and when I looked upon my gory deck… and saw so many manly forms stretched upon it… I felt as a father feels who has lost his children – his children who had followed him to the utmost ends of the earth… Rear Adm. Raphael Semmes

The Alabama & the Kearsarge : the sailor’s Civil War William Marvel Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c 1996 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. x, 337 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 315-323) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG


On June 19, 1864, the Confederate cruiser Alabama and the USS Kearsarge faced off in the English Channel outside the French port of Cherbourg. About an hour after the Alabama fired the first shot, it began to sink, and its crew was forced to surrender.


Working with personal papers and diaries and contemporary reports, historian William Marvel interweaves the stories of these two celebrated Civil War warships, from their construction to their climactic encounter off Cherbourg. Just as importantly, he illuminates the day-to-day experiences of their crews. From cabin boys to officers, sailors have been one of the most ignored groups of the Civil War.


The sailors’ lot was one of constant discomfort and monotony, interspersed with riotous frolics ashore and, occasionally, a few minutes of intense excitement and danger. Housed in damp, crowded quarters, their wartime mortality rate did not reach that of their army counterparts, but service-connected diseases shortened their postwar lives disproportionately. Most of the crewmen ended their lives in nameless obscurity, and their story has remained unwritten.


Statue of Rear Admiral Semmes of the C.S. Navy, Mobile, Alabama

Rear Admiral Raphael Semmes (1809-1877) was an officer in the United States Navy from 1826 to 1860 and the Confederate States Navy from 1860 to 1865. During the American Civil War he was captain of the famous commerce raider CSS Alabama, taking a record sixty-nine prizes. Late in the war he was promoted to admiral and also served briefly as a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: