Wolf of the Deep: Raphael Semmes and the Notorious Confederate Raider CSS Alabama by Stephen FoxThe electrifying story of Raphael Semmes and the CSS Alabama, the Confederate raider that destroyed Union ocean shipping and took more prizes than any other raider in naval history.
In July, 1862, Semmes received orders to take command of a secret new British-built steam warship, the Alabama. At its helm, he would become the most hated and feared man in ports up and down the Union coast—and a Confederate legend. Now, with unparalleled authority and depth, and with a vivid sense of the excitement and danger of the time, Stephen Fox tells the story of Captain Semmess remarkable wartime exploits. From vicious naval battles off the coast of France, to plundering the cargo of Union ships in the Caribbean, this is a thrilling tale of an often overlooked chapter of the Civil War.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Operating in England, Confederate agent James Bulloch was tasked with establishing contacts and finding vessels for the fledgling Confederate Navy. As the British government remained officially neutral in the American Civil War , Bulloch was unable to purchase ships outright for military use. Laid down in , the new hull was designated and launched on July 29, Initially named Enrica , the new ship was powered by a direct-acting, horizontal condensing steam engine with twin horizontal cylinders which powered a retractable propeller. In addition, Enrica was rigged as a three-masted barque and was capable of employing a large spread of canvas. As Enrica completed fitting out, Bulloch hired a civilian crew to sail the new vessel to Terceira in the Azores. Reaching the island, the ship was soon met by its new commander, Captain Raphael Semmes , and the supply vessel Agrippina which was carrying guns for Enrica.
One hundred forty years ago, one of the most celebrated naval battles of the American Civil War was fought not in the South, but on the other side of the Atlantic. It was a long awaited duel at the end of a long frustrating chase held off the coast of France. Two ships - the notorious Confederate commerce raider Alabama faced the Portsmouth-built U. Kearsarge for a fight to the finish. The Kearsarge took shape on the building ways of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in the spring of without even a name - it was just another warship being rushed to completion to deal with the crisis of the Civil War.
It was Captain Semmes' intention to drydock his ship and receive repairs at the French port. She was manned by around sailors and officers. Kearsarge had a form of makeshift armor-cladding, medium-weight chain cable triced in tiers along her port and starboard midsections, basically acting as the equivalent of chain mail for vulnerable sections of her hull, where shot could potentially penetrate and hit her boilers or steam engine. This armor protection potentially gave the Union warship a definitive advantage over the Confederate raider; however, the armor was only capable of stopping shots from Alabama' s lighter pound balls; either of her heavier guns could easily penetrate such light-weight protection. In the event, it was a moot point, as Alabama only managed to score two hits in this area, both of which were well above the waterline and the vulnerable engineering areas, and would have done little lasting damage even if they had successfully penetrated the hull.
Subsequent ships were later named Kearsarge in honor of the ship. Pickering in command. Soon after, she was hunting for Confederate raiders in European waters. Kearsarge departed Portsmouth on 5 February for the coast of Spain. From there, Alabama went on to become the most successful commerce raider in naval history.