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The Confederate Raider Alabama in action with the U.S.S. Kearsage, 19th June 1864
Of all the ships commissioned into the Confederacy's service, Alabama is the only one to have assumed the status of legend in her own lifetime as well as in the years that followed the bitter defeat of the Southern States of America.
Built in secret by Laird's at Birkenhead, she was launched in July 1862 at a cost of £51,000. Designed for speed and lightly armed with 6-32 pdrs. and one enormous 100pdr. Blakely rifled gun, she was classed as a wooden corvette of 1,050 tons and measured 220 feet in length with a 32 foot beam. Originally named Enrica in order to mislead both the Union Secret Service and the British Foreign Office, she only assumed the name Alabama once she was at sea even though, as she approached completion, it became a "close run thing" to prevent discovery of her true purpose. 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 trial when in fact she was heading for the open sea. So began her two year reign of terror, 1862-64, during which she captured or sank sixty-seven Union ships valued at nearly $6 million. During these two years, Alabama eluded her pursuers many times and, rather than put into port for repairs or provisions, she preferred to rely instead on whatever she could confiscate on the high seas.
Eventually returning to European waters and by now leaking and fouled, she put into Cherbourg for repairs on 16th June 1864 where, at last,
she was cornered by the U.S.S. Kearsage, a Federal sloop-of-War
under the command of Captain Winslow. On 19th June he forced
Alabama out into the English Channel and, once free of the 3-mile
limit, engaged her in a fierce circling action which could have only
one outcome. Kearsage's superior fire-power soon gave her the
advantage and after a protracted duel during which Alabama suffered fearful damage, the raider struck her colours but sank before she could be taken.