Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February 27, 1863: C.S.S. Alabama takes a prize off the coast of Brazil

Captain Raphael Semmes, CSS Alabama's commanding officer, standing by his ship's 110-pounder rifled gun

On February 27, 1863, the C.S.S. Alabama was cruising off the coast of Brazil. The Alabama's captain, Raphael Semmes, related what happened next in his "Memoirs of Service Afloat."
On the next day, being still in latitude 30°, and longitude 40°, or at the “crossing,” an English and an American ship came along. The Englishman saluted us civilly as he passed. He was from the East Indies, laden with silks and wines. But the American, seeing that we were under short sail—though the weather was fine—resting by the wayside, as it were, and remembering that there was a little unpleasantness between the North and South, fought rather shy of us, and endeavored to get out of the way of possible harm. She was a fine, large ship, and the moment she showed an intention not to pass through the toll-gate, we made sail in pursuit. She had heels, but they were not quite as clean as the Alabama’s, and we came up with her, in the course of two or three hours; she having approached pretty close, before she smelt the rat. She was obstinate, and compelled me to wet the people on her poop, by the spray of a shot, before she would acknowledge that she was beaten. The shower-bath made a stir among the bystanders; there was a running hither and thither, a letting go of sheets and halliards, and pretty soon the main-yard swung aback, and the stars and stripes were seen ascending to the stranger’s peak. When the boarding-officer brought the master of the captured ship on board, with his papers, she proved to be the ship Washington, of New York, from the Chincha Islands, bound to Antwerp, with a cargo of guano, laden on account of the Peruvian government, and consigned to its agent at Antwerp, for sale. Being unable to destroy the ship, because of the neutral ownership of her cargo, I released her on ransom-bond, sent my prisoners on board of her to be landed, and permitted her to depart. This capture was made on the 27th of February.

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