Jun 19

Today in Naval History

Tuesday, June 19, 2018 8:25 AM

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U.S. Kearsarge faces off against the Confederate raider Alabama in Cherbourg Harbor (By Jean-Baptiste Durand-Brager)

U.S. Kearsarge faces off against the Confederate raider Alabama in Cherbourg Harbor
(By Jean-Baptiste Durand-Brager)

On this day in 1864 – During the Civil War, USS Kearsarge, commanded by Capt. J.A. Winslow, sinks CSS Alabama, commanded by Capt. R. Semmes, off Cherbourg, France, ending the career of the Souths most famous commerce raider, which included burning 55 vessels valued at $4.5 million.

Read an excerpt from the USS Kearsarger‘s No. 1 gun’s sponger James Lee’s journal below.

Seventeen Kearsarge crew members received the Medal of Honor for their roles in the Alabama battle, include James Lee pictured here

Seventeen Kearsarge crew members received the Medal of Honor for their roles in the Alabama battle, including James Lee pictured here

 

Sunday, 19 June:

This is a fine morning, cool and pleasant, holystoned decks, and put everything in apple pie order. At 8 am the word was passed to shift in clean blue mustering clothes. At 10 am general inspection at quarters. A steamer was now seen coming out of Cherbourg harbor and she was soon made out to be the famous cruiser Alabama. We gave chase and at five minutes to eleven the battle began. Semmes opened the ball by firing seven shots at us before we replied. The firing was then kept up without intermission for one hour and five minutes, when we ceased firing for she had hauled down [her] flag and fired a gun to windward as a token of defeat. They lowered a boat and put for us. We could then see she was sinking and in fifteen minutes the celebrated rebel steamer was no more. . . . We lowered the launch and second cutter to pick up the men. There was an English yacht [the Deerhound ] out to see the fight and the Captain asked him to pick up some of the drowning men. He picked up 8 or so and it is supposed that Semmes was among that number. He then steamed off toward England but Captain Winslow sent a telegraph to the minister [Charles Francis] Adams at London to have them seized.

At 3 pm we took a pilot and proceeded into Cherbourg, and came to anchor. We were soon surrounded by hundreds of boats loaded with men and women to look at our steamer. The minister’s son came on board to congratulate us on our victory. Evening, all you can hear is the busy hum of voices and all hands are tired out, and I for one can hardly walk. The greatest naval fight on record is ended and victory has perched on our banners. The Kearsarge will be a name that will be remembered for time immemorial. The merchants have cause to thank us for destroying the terror of the seas to American ships.

To read more, see the full article published in the June 2014 Naval History.

https://www.usni.org/magazines/navalhistory/2014-05/victory-has-perched-our-banners