The Alabama, a Confederate Raider during the American Civil War, was secretly built in Merseyside and launched on 31st July, 1862 at a cost of £51,000. She was laid down by John Laird, was built for speed and was lightly armed. Originally given the name Enrica to evade American street agents and the British Foreign Office, she later changed her name to Alabama. At the end of July 1862 with the British government about to seize her, she left Liverpool on what was supposed to be her final run, when in fact she was heading for the open sea. So began her two year rein of terror, capturing or sinking 67 Union vessels valued at nearly $6 million from 1862-1864. During these two years, the Alabama never put into port for repairs or provisions, instead taking fuel, food and ammunition from the merchant ships which she captured and destroyed.
She had an overall length of 220 feet, a breadth of 32 feet and her gross tonnage was 1050 and carried a complement of 145. She was a wooden corvette of fairly light scantling, with a choppered lower hull, three masts with yards on the fore and main and a single left-handed retractable brass propeller. She carried six 32-pound broadside carriage guns and one 100-pound Blakely rifled gun and was captured by Raphael Semmes.
Leaking and fouled after two years at sea, she put into Cherbourg on 16th June, 1864 for repairs. Here she was cornered by the U.S. cruiser Kearsage, a chain-clad Federal sloop of war under the command of Captain Winslow. The Alabama was forced into the English Channel and once free of the three-mile limit, a fierce and circling battle commenced, watched by spectators on the shore. The Kearsage's superior arms eventually put the Alabama out of action and sent her to the bottom of the sea.
James Wheldon was born in Hull in 1832. He worked solely as a marine artist and is known mainly for his depiction of ship's portraits. However examples are known by him of Arctic whaling scenes as well as British and American naval vessels. His style is somewhat similar to that of his contemporary hull artist, Henry Redmore. He moved down to southern England in his later years and died in London on 1895.
Examples of Wheldon's paintings can be seen at the Town Docks Museum, Hull, the Hull Maritime Museum, the Peabody Museum of Salem, Massachusetts, and the Norsk Sjfartsmuseum, Oslo.