Shortly after the start of the war, Confederate commerce raiders began roaming
the seas to prey on Union merchant ships.
The most famous of these raiders was the
CSS Alabama, which was built for the Confederate government by the Laird shipyard
of Liverpool, England, and commissioned
off the Azores on August 24, 1862. She
was 220 feet long with a beam of 32 feet,
was powered by two 300-horsepower
engines that operated her double wheel,
and also had a full complement of sails.
Under full power, she could travel at a
speed of 13 knots. Her armament included
a 110-pounder rifled gun, an 8-inch solid-
shot gun, and six 32 pounders. The Alabama had a crew of 120 men and 24 officers,
commanded by Capt. Raphael Semmes.
The Alabama began her career by decimating the Yankee whaling fleet in the
Azores, destroying 10 ships in two weeks.
Next she sailed for Newfoundland and the
coast of New England, where she captured
11 more ships. Most of the captured ships
were burned after the crew and any needed
provisions had been removed. The Alabama
hunted down the East Coast of the United
States and in the Caribbean, and then, in January 1863, sailed the Gulf of Mexico
toward Galveston, Tex., where she attacked
and sank a blockading Union warship, the
USS Hatteras. To prevent capture by pursuing Union warships, the Alabama sailed
down the coast of South America and, after
burning a few more Yankee ships, crossed
the Atlantic to the Cape of Good Hope.
Sailing across the Indian Ocean to Singapore, the Alabama paralyzed Union trade in
that area to such an extent that U.S. ships
would not leave port. The Alabama sailed to
India, then down the east coast of Africa,
and back across the Atlantic to South