CSS Alabama - this drawing is courtesy of Lindsey Jones
August l861, James Bulloch commissioned another "merchant"
ship, from the Birkenhead company of John Laird.
Laird family had been building ships on the Mersey for many years.
John’s father founded the Birkenhead Iron Works, and the company
was already famous internationally when the Confederate Agent James
Bulloch came to visit them.
contract between Bulloch and Laird identified the vessel as No.290
- because it would be the 290th ship they had built.
you know that?
Independence Day 1840 one of the greatest events of the 18th
Century also took place in Liverpool - the first steamship
transatlantic mail service was started.
was built from finest English oak even though Lairds was famous
for their iron ships. She slipped from the Birkenhead yard into
the Mersey on May 14th, l862, and was named "Enrica".
the building of the Enrica, the US Consul in Liverpool complained
to the authorities that the purpose of the vessel was not peaceful.
He employed private investigators to collection information; they
questioned Laird’s workers, but the Consul, Thomas H. Dudley, failed
to convince the British that the Enrica was anything other than
a standard merchant vessel.
keep up the pretence, Bulloch appointed a British captain - Mathew
J. Butcher, a Cunard Officer who lived then at 112 Stanhope Street,
Toxteth. To avoid further complaints, and because of a rumour that
the US warship Tuscarora was heading for the Mersey to stop the
Enrica "one way or another", Bulloch knew it was now or never.
Image © Williamson Art Gallery & Wirral Museums.
real purpose of the Enrica was an 'open secret' on Merseyside so
it is fairly safe to assume that the seamen who signed up to crew
her knew they would be sailing on a Confederate raider ship.
July 29, 1862, the Enrica steamed up and down the Mersey, decked
out with flags and bunting. It looked like a launch party, with
local dignitaries in their finest, but after transferring the guests
to a steam tug, she set course for Anglesey.
days later, the Skipper set a course north, around the coast of
Ireland, and ran like the devil into the Atlantic. When the USS
Tuscarora arrived in Moelfre Bay, there was no trace of the Enrica
you know that?
first steamship to make the transatlantic crossing was the
Savannah in 1819, She left Savannah, Georgia on May 22nd and
arrived in Liverpool on June 20th.
next move was to equip his "merchant" vessel as a man of
Enrica was instructed to wait in the Azores, and another vessel,
the Agrippina, was loaded in London Docks, with coal, guns, ammunition,
uniforms and supplies. Bulloch also sent Captain Raphael Semmes
of the Confederate Navy, and other confederate officers.
rendezvous took place on August 20th, and the transformation was
complete. Semmes now commanded a confederate vessel to be used as
a commerce raider to strike against Union shipping.
August 24, 1862, the British Flag was pulled down, and the Confederate
Flag was raised - the ALABAMA
the first month of her service, the Alabama
took 10 vessels at a total value of 437,000 dollars. Over the next
20 months, she was called a pirate ship, her crew were referred
to as both heroes, and villans. The USA and Great Britain exchanged
insults and accusations, but the Alabama continued her reign of