ALABAMA. A Confederate cruiser under the command of Raphael
Semmes,* the C.S.S. Alabama (built 1862) traveled the major shipping
lanes, capturing sixty-six Northern vessels and destroying fifty-two. Almost
all of the Alabama’s conquests were merchantmen. She engaged the Union
navy only twice: the first time she sank the Hatteras; the second she was
sunk by the Kearsarge in a spectacular engagement off the coast of Cherbourg, France.
As a famous privateer, the Alabama’s story is told by Confederate and
Union naval officers in written reminiscences as well as by naval historians.
The most complete and compelling account of the cruiser’s adventures is
given by her captain, Raphael Semmes, in his Memoirs of Service Afloat during the War between the States (1869). Semmes’ Memoirs relates not only
the encounters of a Confederate privateer but also exciting experiences of
storms at sea, as well as clear explanations of the effect of weather and ocean
currents upon seamanship. Because Semmes was the only captain of the
Alabama, his Memoirs remains one of the most thorough and intriguing
accounts of her career, although her fame ensures that she will figure in any
naval history of the Civil War.