The story

The Cruise of the C.S.S. Alabama

The Cruise of the C.S.S. Alabama, showing the name and location of each ship taken

The Cruise of the C.S.S. Alabama, showing the name and location of each ship taken.

Map taken from Battles and Leaders of the Civil War: IV: The Way to Appomattox, p.604

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Alabama Slammer - recipes & history

Possibly from Alabama and usually served too long to slam but with a good, rhythmic, rhyming name. The Alabama Slammer has numerous recipes but all contain Southern Comfort and orange juice with either grenadine or sloe gin – essential to achieve the desired sunset colour.

Some Alabama Slammer recipes also have vodka and/or amaretto, and Alabama being a southern State, many Alabama Slammer recipes are Southern Comfort based with the sweet peachy liqueur providing the predominant flavour, rather than just being a flavour enhancer.

Mark Torre's 1987 The Bartender's Cherry (Second Edition)

Gary "gaz" Regan included one of the most popular recipes in his 2003 Joy of Mixology, and as he states, this "makes five shooters or one highball."
1oz / 30ml Sloe gin
1oz / 30ml Amaretto
1oz / 30ml Southern Comfort
2oz / 60ml Freshly squeezed orange juice

As Gary suggests, with its "Slammer" name, this drink was often served as a shot [Alabama Slammer shot recipe], indeed this cocktail is thought to have originated in the late 1960s-early 70s as a shot at the University of Alabama, hence "Alabama Slammer". The recipe then morphed into a long drink.

The Alabama Slammer said to have first appeared in print in the 1971 edition of the Playboy Bartender's Guide by Thomas Mario with the recipe: 1 oz Southern Comfort, ½ oz sloe gin, 1 oz amaretto and ½ oz lemon juice served in a highball glass over ice. However, the 1971 and 1972 copies we have both include only a "Alabama" (minus the Slammer) with a quite different recipe (below).

Playboy Bartender's Guide by Thomas Mario 1971

Its next written appearance, the 1984 Mr. Boston 50th Anniversary Bartender's Guide, also crucially calls for lemon juice rather than orange juice: "1oz Amaretto di Saronno, 1oz Southern Comfort, ½oz Mr Boston Sloe Gin. Stir in a highball glass over ice and a splash of lemon juice."

The balancing tart lemon juice was perhaps swapped for orange juice during the 1970s, a time when long drinks with orange juice were very fashionable, particularly the Harvey Wallbanger and Slow Comfortable Screw. Orange juice also had the advantage of being easily available as a packaged juice and better suited to batching and pitcher serves.

Sadly, it's the Alabama Slammer recipes that are heavy on sweet liqueurs and light on oomph, without the balancing lemon juice, that have endured. Tone down the liqueurs, add vodka and a splash of lemon, as per our Alabama Slammer recipe, and this is not a bad drink.

The Alabama Slammer remained popular with college goers, particularly at the University of Alabama, throughout the 1980s and such was the notoriety that it featured in Tom Cruise's jubilant "world's last barman poet" speech, delivered whist stood on his bar in the 1988 film Cocktail. Then, with the 1990s obsession for 'V'-shaped Martini glasses, inevitably Alabama Slammer straight-up recipes started to emerge before the drink became naff and unfashionable, surviving as a pitcher in the TGI Fridays chain.

Perhaps it's time you gave this vintage drink another chance, or even try your first. After all, not everything to emerge from the 1970s and 80s was in poor taste.

The Fiery Trail of the Alabama

Workers in the John Laird Shipyard at Birkenhead, near Liverpool, watched attentively on the morning of May 15, 1862, as a handsome steam bark slid into the waters of the Mersey River. The vessel was known to them as No. 290, for hers was the 290th keel laid at the Laird yards. Upon launching, she was named the Enrica, but the identity of her owners remained a subject of speculation, for she was being built to the specifications of a Royal Navy cruiser. As May turned into June, the new vessel sprouted three tall masts that would enable her to carry a broad spread of canvas and took on two 300-horsepower engines for steam propulsion.

In the waterfront bars of Liverpool, it was said with a wink that the actual purchaser of the Enrica was the Southern Confederacy, then locked in a war to establish its independence from the United States. For once, the tipsters were right on the mark. The possibility that No. 290 was destined for the Confederacy had not been lost on the U.S. minister in London, Charles Francis Adams, who was bombarding the Foreign Office with demands that the ship be seized. By mid-July, James Bulloch, the adroit Confederate naval agent who had supervised construction of the Enrica for the government in Richmond, knew that time was growing short.

The ever-imaginative Bulloch arranged for the Enrica‘s departure from England in the guise of a gala trial run. On the fine morning of July 29, the new bark sailed down the Mersey with local dignitaries on board. At dusk, however, Bulloch and his guests returned to Liverpool on a tugboat, leaving the Enrica off the coast of Wales at Moelifra Bay. British authorities had in fact been attempting to detain the Enrica, and Bulloch had thwarted them by the narrowest of margins.

On Sunday, August 10, the Enrica arrived at the island of Terceira in the Azores. Eight days later the Agrippina, a tender under charter to Bulloch, showed up with equipment for the Confederate cruiser, including a 100-pound Blakely rifle, an eight-inch smoothbore, six 32 pounders, and provisions. That afternoon a second vessel, the Bahama, arrived with officers and hands for the new vessel. Thanks to Bulloch, the complicated logistics of equipping and manning a cruiser outside British waters were carried out without a hitch. On Sunday, August 24, in the presence of the crews of the Enrica and the Bahama, the Union Jack fluttered down from the mainmast and was replaced by the naval ensign of the Confederacy. A band played “Dixie,” and the mystery ship was officially christened the Confederate steamer Alabama.

The cruiser’s designated commander was 52-year-old Raphael Semmes, a Maryland native who had taken up residence in Alabama. Semmes had entered the U.S. Navy in 1832 and by 1861 had achieved the rank of commander. He was widely read in naval history and marine law and had written several books, including a lively narrative of his naval service during the Mexican War. A strong advocate of states’ rights, Semmes had resigned his Federal commission even before the firing on Fort Sumter.

In April 1861 Confederate secretary of the navy Stephen Mallory gave Semmes command of one of the South’s first warships, the 437-ton screw steamer Sumter. The Sumter and her more powerful successors were intended to tackle one of two missions that Mallory had established for the Confederate navy: to attack the North’s merchant marine, so as to increase the cost of the war to the enemy and thus encourage Lincoln to acknowledge Southern independence. The navy’s other mission–to construct a fleet of ironclads capable of breaking the Federal blockade–was beyond Confederate capabilities, but the first was not.

It had taken Semmes about two months to convert the Sumter into a warship, but he assembled a nucleus of able officers-no mean feat in the agrarian South, with its limited seafaring tradition. The Sumter broke the Federal blockade off New Orleans on June 30, 1861, and reached the open sea. Thereafter, during a six-month cruise, the little raider burned eight Northern ships and released ten others on bond–a procedure under which the owners of an American ship’s neutral cargo were expected to reimburse the Confederacy for goods not destroyed.

Eventually, boiler problems and a need for coal obliged the Sumter to call at Gibraltar. There she was blockaded by three Federal warships, with no prospect of escape. Having made the most of his ship’s limited capabilities, Semmes directed that the Sumter be sold, and set out to Britain with most of his officers. There, to the disappointment of Bulloch, who had hoped for the command, Semmes was given the far more powerful Alabama.

Semmes’s first challenge in the Azores was to persuade enough British sailors to sign aboard the Alabama. So that he could take his new command to sea. He assured the hands of the Alabama and the Bahama that they were free to return to Britain if they chose, but he painted a glowing picture of life aboard the Alabama. He offered good pay–£4 10s, a month in gold for seamen, and £7 for firemen–plus grog twice a day and the prospect of prize money. He touched only briefly on the issues of the American war, but promised excitement and adventure. To his relief, he was able to sign on 80 British crewmen–enough to take the Alabama to sea. As time went on, he would supplement this nucleus with recruits from captured vessels.

Once Semmes had his officers and crew, he turned his attention to his ship. The Alabama represented the zenith of a hybrid marine form: ships powered by both sail and steam. She measured 220 feet in length, had a beam of 32 feet, and displaced 1,040 tons. She carried enough coal for 18 days’ steaming and had an innovation found on few ships of her day a condenser that provided a gallon of fresh water per day for each man on board, enabling her to remain at sea for extended periods. Her two-bladed screw could be raised into a well when she was under sail, thus posing no drag in the water. She could make about 12 knots under sail alone, to which her engines could add another three knots.

She came with a year’s supply of spare gear. In the words of one of her officers, Lieutenant Arthur Sinclair, the Alabama “was at the same time a perfect steamer and a perfect sailing vessel, each entirely independent of the other.” The ship’s armament also was impressive: six 32-pounders and two pivot guns. A visitor to the Alabama would comment, “What strikes one most . . . is to see so small a vessel carrying such large metal.”

Semmes was under orders to avoid engagements with enemy warships, for his was a special mission. The Alabama, as her commander wrote later, “was the first steamship in the history of the world–the defective little Sumter excepted–that was let loose against the commerce of a great commercial people.” And Semmes set to his mission with a vengeance.

The Alabama had been at sea for only 10 days when, on September 5, she sighted the first of the 65 victims she would claim over the next 22 months. The ship was a whaler–the Ocmulgee, of Edgartown, Massachusetts–and the capture was easy, for the Ocmulgee had a whale lashed alongside when the Alabama approached. The raider had been flying the American flag-an accepted ruse in war-and in Semmes’s recollection, nothing could exceed the Yankee skipper’s “blank stare of astonishment” when the Alabama finally ran up the Confederate ensign.

The Ocmulgee‘s crew was transferred to the Alabama, along with some provisions officers were permitted to bring one trunk with them, others a single bag. Semmes prepared to burn the whaler, but with the guile that would become his trademark, he waited until daylight: Whalers operated in clusters, and he did not want to scatter them with an unexplained fire at night.

The Alabama spent two months in the Azores, burning eight vessels in all. The American whaling fleet–or what was left of it–returned to its home ports in New England, where ship owners filled the Northern press with tales of the “pirate” Semmes. The Alabama, too, worked her way westward. Semmes briefly considered throwing a few shells into New York City, but he thought better of it and instead seized several grain carriers off the Newfoundland banks.

The Alabama‘s captures followed a pattern. The raider would hail a ship on sight. If she did not heave to, Semmes would fire a blank cartridge. If she still failed to respond, he would send a shot from a 32-pounder across her bow, and that would bring her to a halt. While the prize was boarded, Semmes stayed in his cabin the skipper of his victim was taken to him there. Any ship whose papers showed her to be of neutral ownership was released. If she was U.S.-owned, Semmes transferred her crew to the Alabama.

For a commerce raider, the Alabama operated under an unusual handicap: Because of the Federal blockade, she had no home port to which Semmes might send prizes. He thus had to burn most of the ships he captured. After appropriating any usable provisions, a Rebel boarding party would pile up furniture and mattresses, douse them with lard or some other flammable substance, and fire the ship. Semmes’s first officer was another veteran of the “Old Navy,” John McIntosh Kell. The tough, red-bearded Kell later wrote:

To watch the leaping flames on a burning ship gives an indescribable mental excitement that did not decrease with the frequency of the light, but it was always a relief to know the ships were tenantless as they disappeared in the lonely grandeur, specks of vanishing light in the “cradle of the deep.”

Between captures, the crew had ample opportunity to take the measure of their skipper. Semmes had just turned 53 and was not physically imposing some thought him past his prime for sea command. His one idiosyncrasy was a carefully cultivated mustache that led his sailors to call him “Old Beeswax,” but he was a tough disciplinarian in his postwar memoir he outlined his command philosophy:

On weekdays . . . about one fourth of the crew was exercised, either at the battery or with small arms. This not only gave them efficiency in the use of their weapons, but kept them employed–the constant employment of my men being a fundamental article of my philosophy. . . . My crew were never so happy as when they had plenty to do, and but little to think about.

Whatever the hands may have thought of Old Beeswax, Semmes appears to have enjoyed the respect of virtually all his officers. First Officer Kell worshiped his commander. And Lieutenant Sinclair later wrote that “Semmes understood just how to keep himself near the hearts and in the confidence of his men, without in the slightest degree descending from his dignity, or permitting direct approach.” Semmes also impressed everyone with his professionalism. He was a student of every facet of seamanship-he digresses in his memoir to discuss how variations in temperature affect the currents-and he had a childlike wonder at the natural beauty of the sea.

Probably only Kell glimpsed the virulent hatred that Semmes nourished for his enemy, the Yankees. Of them Semmes had written in his journal, “A people so devoid of Christian charity, and wanting in so many of the essentials of honesty, cannot be abandoned to their own folly by a just and benevolent God.” Yet not even his loathing for Northerners as a class could totally destroy his admiration for them as seamen, and as the war went on, the task of burning their ships became less satisfying to him.

Semmes dealt with his prisoners as humanely as conditions permitted. Captured crews were usually housed on deck but were afforded some protection from the elements. When the prisoners included women passengers, Semmes’s officers turned over the wardroom for their use. Prisoners received full rations, and cooks among their number had access to the Alabama‘s galley. Officers were occasionally placed in irons, generally after Semmes had heard reports of mistreatment of Confederate prisoners. Because prisoners were a nuisance, Semmes got rid of them as fast as possible. Sometimes he landed them at a neutral port, but more often he transferred them to a captured ship whose cargo he had bonded.

From Newfoundland the raider worked her way south to Martinique, where, on their first liberty, crewmen got so drunk that Semmes put some twenty sailors in irons. The incident was a reminder that while the Alabama‘s officers were reliable seamen, committed to the Confederate cause, most of the British crewmen were not. Much as the duke of Wellington once called his army the scum of the earth, Semmes called his crew

a precious set of rascals. . . faithless in . . . contracts, liars, thieves, and drunkards. There are . . . exceptions to this rule, but I am ashamed to say of the sailor class of the present day that I believe my crew to be a fair representation of it.

Kell, who supervised the boarding of every prize, had a firm rule that no member of the Alabama’s crew could board a captured vessel until any supply of spirits was thrown overboard. Even so, he and Semmes were constantly on the alert for smuggled liquor.

Semmes had passed up the temptation to show his flag off New York City the previous fall, but in the Caribbean he was inclined to stretch his orders and play a role in the ground campaign along the Texas coast. A Federal force under General Nathaniel P. Banks had captured Galveston in October 1862. Confederate forces had subsequently recaptured Galveston, but the city was blockaded by five Federal warships when the black-hulled Alabama arrived there on January 11, 1863,

Semmes considered his options. The city that he had contemplated bombarding was now in friendly hands, and he could hardly take on five enemy warships. While he deliberated, the Federals detached one of their fleet, the gunboat Hatteras, to check out the new arrival. It was a fatal error. Semmes set out toward open water, steaming slowly, luring his pursuer away from the other Federal warships.

Night had fallen by the time the Hatteras reached shouting distance of the Alabama, and Semmes, in reply to a hail from the Yankee, identified his ship as HMS Petrel. While the Federal captain dispatched a boat to check out his story, Semmes ran up the Confederate ensign and loosed a broadside at point-blank range.

The Hatteras was an underpowered side-wheeler that had no business engaging the powerful Alabama. The U.S. gunboat struck her flag after an exchange that lasted only 13 minutes a few minutes later she sank in the shallow waters of the gulf. Two of her crew had been killed and three wounded. Semmes rescued the survivors and set course for the Atlantic.

The Alabama stopped at Jamaica, where Semmes paroled his prisoners and partook of the hospitality that he would encounter in British possessions throughout the Alabama‘s two-year cruise. Then he turned his ship southeast around Brazil to work the heavily traveled trade routes of the South Atlantic. Four more ships were stopped and burned in the first weeks of 1863, raising the Alabama‘s total to 30.

However, coaling the raider was proving to be a problem. She still had the services of the Agrippina as a tender, but it was difficult for Semmes to anticipate every supply requirement, and he had little confidence in the master of the Agrippina. In southern latitudes, moreover, coal tended to be scarce as well as expensive. Fortunately for Semmes, he had a generous Supply of gold for payment of ship’s bills in remote corners of the world.

In June 1863, off the coast of South America, Semmes captured the U.S. clipper Conrad, bound for New York with wool from Argentina. He had been waiting for such a prize, and rather than burning her, he commissioned her as a Confederate cruiser, the Tuscaloosa, arming her with guns captured from another ship. This was one more example of Semmes’s creative approach to commerce raiding but the Tuscaloosa had little success as a raider.

From South America, Semmes set sail for the Cape of Good Hope. In August 1863 the Alabama reached Cape Town, where Semmes supervised some badly needed repairs on his ship. The Confederate commander found himself a celebrity in the British colony, in part because his latest seizure the Sea Bride, from Boston-had been within sight of the cape. As in Jamaica, the Alabama‘s officers were exhaustively entertained. Semmes held a shipboard “open house” that produced, in his view, “a generous outpouring of the better classes.” He also came within a day of encountering a Federal warship that had been dogging his trail, a well-armed paddlewheeler, the Vanderbilt.

For all the outrage in the Northern press concerning the Alabama‘s depredations, pursuit of the raider was disorganized and ineffectual. This was partly deliberate. The Confederacy never had more than a handful of commerce raiders at sea, and of these only the Florida–commissioned around the same time as the Alabama and destined to destroy 38 ships–was in the Alabama‘s class. The Lincoln administration regarded the maintenance and strengthening of the blockade of Southern ports as its first priority it was not willing to weaken the blockade to track down the Alabama, the Florida, or one of their lesser consorts.

Even making allowances, however, Federal pursuit of the Alabama showed little imagination. The U.S. Navy dogged Semmes’s trail as if convinced that the raider would remain in the area of its most recent capture. Semmes later wrote that had Navy Secretary Gideon Welles stationed a heavier and faster ship than the Alabama along two or three of the most traveled sea-lanes, “he must have driven me off, or greatly crippled me in my movements.”

From Cape Town, the Alabama worked her way eastward across the Indian Ocean. There, most of the ships encountered proved to be neutral, and friendly captains warned Semmes that the Federals had a warship, the Wyoming, patrolling the Sunda Strait between Sumatra and Jawa. Nevertheless, Semmes seized and burned a New York clipper, the Winged Racer, off Java, and set off in pursuit of another, the Contest, the following morning.

The pursuit of the Contest proved to be an omen. For the first time, the Alabama, employing both sail and steam, was initially unable to overtake her prey. But the sun rose higher, the morning breeze died, and the Confederate raider eventually closed in. The Contest was burned–not without regret, for several of the Alabama‘s officers vowed that they had never seen a more beautiful vessel. Only the failing wind had enabled the Alabama to make the capture, however, and Semmes realized that 18 months at sea had taken a toll on his ship,

On December 21, 1863, the Alabama anchored at Singapore. There Semmes saw new evidence of the effectiveness of his campaign: Singapore harbor was filled with U.S. ships that had taken refuge there rather than chance an encounter with the Alabama. Within days of her arrival, about half of these were sold to neutral nations and flew new flags. The Straits Times estimated that Singapore was playing host to some seventeen American vessels aggregating 12,000 tons, some of which had “been lying there for upwards of three months and most of them for at least half that period.”

On Christmas Eve 1863, the Alabama set course westward. Pickings were predictably slim, but the crewmen had their hands full with their own ship. The raider’s boilers were operating at reduced efficiency, and some of her timbers were split beyond repair. First Officer Kell observed that the Alabama was “loose at every joint, her seams were open, and the copper on her bottom was in rolls.” For all of Semmes’s skill at improvisation, nothing but a month in dry dock could restore the raider to fighting trim.

By early March the Alabama was again off Cape Town, but because a belligerent vessel could provision at the same neutral port only once in a three-month period, she had to pass ten days offshore before docking. After coaling at Cape Town, Semmes turned northward. He intended to put his ship into dry dock in France, but he must have realized that the time necessary for repairs made it likely that the Alabama would be blockaded in port as the Sumter had been.

On April 22 the raider made the second of only three captures during 1864: the Rockingham, carrying a cargo of guano from Peru to Ireland. After the crew was taken off, Semmes directed that the prize be used for target practice–the raider’s first live gun drill in many months. Sinclair later recalled that the sea was smooth and that the gun crews “amused themselves blithely’ at point-blank range. Semmes thought his gun crews fired “to good effect,” but Kell was less impressed: Of 24 rounds fired, only seven were seen to inflict damage. Ultimately, Semmes had to burn the Rockingham.

On April 27 the Alabama made her final capture, the Tycoon, out of New York with a mixed cargo. Semmes burned the Yankee vessel and resumed his northward course. He later wrote:

The poor old Alabama was. . . like the wearied fox-hound, limping back after a long chase. . . . Her commander, like herself, was well-nigh worn down. Vigils by night and by day. . . had laid, in the three years of war he had been afloat, a load of a dozen years on his shoulders. The shadows of a sorrowful future, too, began to rest upon his spirit. The last batch of newspapers captured were full of disasters. Might it not be that, after all our trials and sacrifices, the cause for which we were struggling would be lost?

On June 11, 1864, the Alabama docked at the French port of Cherbourg. Word of her arrival was telegraphed all over Europe, and three days later the U.S. Navy ship Kearsarge appeared off the breakwater. Semmes had not yet received permission to make repairs at the French navy docks at Cherbourg, but he was allowed to disembark his prisoners and take on coal.

The Confederate commander faced a crucial decision. He knew his ship needed a refit, and he probably realized that the prudent course would be to do as he had with the Sumter: put her up for sale and fight another day. But his fighting blood was up, and he had no great respect for his enemies. Nor was he inclined to solicit recommendations from his officers as skipper of the Sumter and then the Alabama, he was accustomed to making his own decisions. Shortly after the Kearsarge appeared, he called Kell to his cabin and explained his intentions:

As you know, the arrival of the Alabama at this port has been telegraphed to all parts of Europe. Within a few days, Cherbourg will be effectively blockaded by Yankee cruisers. It is uncertain whether or not we shall be permitted to repair the Alabama here, and in the meantime, the delay is to our advantage. I think we may whip the Kearsarge, the two vessels being of wood and carrying about the same number of men and guns. Besides, Mr. Kell, although the Confederate States government has ordered me to avoid engagements with the enemy’s cruisers, I am tired of running from that flaunting rag!

Kell was not sure the decision to fight was wise. He reminded Semmes that in the Rockingham gun drill only one in three fuses had seemed effective. But Semmes was not to be deterred. He sent a message to Captain John A. Winslow of the Kearsarge, whom he had known in the Old Navy: He intended to fight.

Sunday, June 19, 1864, was a bright, cloudless day of Cherbourg. Aboard the Alabama, boilers were fired at daybreak, and Semmes inspected his crew at muster. Decks and brasswork were immaculate, and the crewmen were dressed in blue trousers and white tops. By 9:45 the cruiser was under way, cheered on by the crews of two French warships in the harbor.

The clash between the Alabama and the Kearsarge was, among other things, pure theater. It seemed that everyone in France wanted to watch what would prove to be the last one-on-one duel of the era of wooden ships. Excursion trains brought the curious, and throngs of small craft hovered outside the breakwater. Painter Edouard Manet, with brushes, paints, and easel, was on one of them,

The two ships were almost equal in size and armament. Both were hybrid steamers of about the same tonnage. The Alabama carried 149 crewmen and mounted eight guns the Kearsarge had a crew of 163 and mounted seven guns. The outcome of the battle would depend largely on the skill of the gun crews and the condition of the ships, but the Kearsarge had an ace in the hole: The enterprising Winslow had made imaginative use of his ship’s chains, draping them along vulnerable parts of the hull as impromptu armor and concealing them behind wood paneling. Semmes later denied knowledge of the chains, but there is evidence that he was warned about it.

After the Alabama entered the English Channel, Semmes steered directly for his antagonist, some four miles away. He rotated his two pivot guns to starboard and prepared to engage the enemy on that side. The Alabama opened fire at about 11:00 a.m., and soon both ships were exchanging shots from their starboard batteries. The Kearsarge sought to run under the Alabama‘s stern, but Semmes parried this move by turning to starboard.

The two antagonists thus fought on a circular track, much of the time at a range of about 500 yards. They made seven complete circles during the course of the action, reminding one Northern sailor of “two flies crawling around on the rim of a saucer.” Semmes may initially have wanted to put his ship alongside the Kearsarge for boarding, but the Yankee’s greater speed ruled out this option.

From the first, the firing from the Alabama was rapid and wild. The Confederate cruiser fired more than 300 rounds, only 28 of which struck the Kearsarge, many of them in the rigging. In their excitement, the Alabama‘s gunners fired some shot without removing the caps on their fuses-preventing them from exploding-and in other cases fired ramrods as well. It was not a disciplined performance. One of the Alabama‘s crew conceded that the Confederate batteries were badly served: “The men all fought well, but the gunners did not know how to point and elevate the guns.” In addition, the dark smoke emitted by the Alabama‘s guns lent credence to Kell’s fear that the raider’s powder had deteriorated.

In contrast, Winslow and his crew fought with disciplined professionalism. Kell later conceded that the Yankee guns were “aimed with precision, and deliberate in fire.”

“The firing now became very hot,” Semmes related, “and . . . soon began to tell upon our hull, knocking down, killing and disabling a number of men. . . in different parts of the ship.” Semmes ordered his gunners to use solid shot as well as shell, but to no effect. Meanwhile, the Alabama‘s rudder was destroyed, forcing the Confederates to steer with tackles. In desperation, Semmes offered a reward to anyone who could put the Kearsarge‘s forward pivot gun out of action.

Sinclair recalled how an 11-inch shell from that weapon entered the Alabama at the waterline and exploded in the engine room, “in its passage throwing a volume of water on board, hiding for a moment the guns of my division.” With his fires out, Semmes attempted to steer for land, only to have the Kearsarge station herself between the Alabama and the coast.

Shortly after noon, Semmes gave the order to abandon ship. The Alabama had suffered only nine killed in the battle, but some 20 others, including Semmes, had been wounded twelve more would be drowned. Semmes and Kell, along with about 40 others of the Alabama‘s complement, had the good fortune to be rescued from the water by a British yacht, the Deerhound, which took them to England rather than turn them over to the Kearsarge, 70 more were picked up by the Kearsarge, and another 15 by excursion boats,

Semmes was lionized in England–British admirers replaced the sword that he had cast into the English Channel–but he was bitter over the loss of his ship, blaming the debacle on his defective powder and the Kearsarge‘s protective chains. In point of fact, the battle off Cherbourg was the Civil War in microcosm: the gallant but outgunned South, ignoring its own shortcomings, heedlessly taking on a superior force.

During her 22 months at sea, the Alabama had burned 54 Federal merchant ships and had bonded ten others. When, after the war, British and U.S. negotiators determined that Britain owed the United States a total of 815.5 million for damage caused by ships sold to the Confederacy, the amount charged to the Alabama–86.75 million–was much the highest. In addition to her remarkable toll in merchant shipping, the Alabama had sunk an enemy gunboat, the luckless Hatteras, and had brought untold embarrassment to the Federal navy. Semmes’s record with the Alabama would not be approached by any raider in modern times.

Yet the raider’s influence on the outcome of the Civil War was almost imperceptible. Its toll, however remarkable, represented only about 5 percent of U.S. shipping the bulk of the U.S. merchant fleet stayed in port, transferred to neutral flags, or took their chances on the high seas. After all, the Confederacy’s three or four commerce raiders could not be everywhere. Soaring rates for marine insurance added to the North’s cost of waging war, but such economic damage was insignificant alongside the cost of the ground fighting in terms of either lives or matériel. The Northern states–economically self-sufficient–could ignore the depredations of Confederate raiders.

After the war, Semmes suggested that the North at first could not comprehend the threat posed by Confederate commerce destroyers. Yet when the threat materialized, he noted ruefully, the North was “too deeply engaged in the contest to heed it.”

By the summer of 1864, there was no possibility of a replacement for the Alabama, and Semmes could have lived out the war comfortably in England. Instead, he made his way back to the Confederacy by way of Cuba and Mexico. In Richmond he was promoted to admiral and assigned to the command of the James River squadron in Virginia. Following the evacuation of Richmond, he burned his boats and formed his men into a naval brigade that served under General Joseph E. Johnston in the final weeks of the war. After the war Semmes was briefly under arrest, but he was never brought to trial and supported himself with a small law practice until his death in 1877.

Raphael Semmes was not the first commerce raider in the history of naval warfare, but he was the first to operate in the age of steam and he may have been the best of all time. Notwithstanding the unavailability of any home port, he managed to keep a wooden ship at sea for nearly two years without an overhaul and without losing either a crewman or a prisoner to disease.

As a strategist, he demonstrated that a nation with a weak navy could nevertheless inflict great damage on any foe with a substantial merchant fleet. It is hardly surprising that Kaiser Wilhelm II made Semmes’s postwar memoirs required reading for his admirals. In both world wars, German submarine and surface raiders would refine the qualities of speed, surprise, and endurance demonstrated by the Alabama, but with little of Semmes’s regard for the lives of prisoners and crew.

In taking on the Kearsarge, however, Semmes had let his emotions control his judgment. His gun crews were insufficiently trained, he underestimated the enemy, and he committed a cardinal sin: He didn’t keep his powder dry.

JOHN M. TAYLOR has written extensively on historical subjects. His most recent book is Confederate Raider: Raphael Semmes of the Alabama (1994). MHQ

This article originally appeared in the Summer 1991 issue (Vol. 3, No. 4) of MHQ—The Quarterly Journal of Military History with the headline: The Fiery Trail of the Alabama

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Alabama claims

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Alabama claims, maritime grievances of the United States against Great Britain, accumulated during and after the American Civil War (1861–65). The claims are significant in international law for furthering the use of arbitration to settle disputes peacefully and for delineating certain responsibilities of neutrals toward belligerents. The dispute centred on the Confederate cruiser Alabama, built in England and used against the Union as a commerce destroyer, which captured, sank, or burned 68 ships in 22 months before being sunk by the USS Kearsarge off Cherbourg, Fr. (June 1864).

At the outset of the war, a Federal blockade of Southern ports and coasts automatically extended belligerent status to the Confederacy. To protect its own interests, Britain took the lead among European countries in proclaiming its neutrality (May 14, 1861). The Confederacy immediately set about building a navy to engage the Union’s naval power and to destroy its merchant marine. Along with several other ships, the Alabama was built or fitted out privately on British territory and put to sea despite the belated intervention of the British government.

As early as October 1863, the U.S. minister to Great Britain, Charles Francis Adams, protested that the British must take responsibility for the damages caused by British-built Confederate raiders, but he conceded that his government would be willing to submit the matter to arbitration. Amid bombastic U.S. threats of annexing Canada, Anglo-American misunderstanding was exacerbated after the end of the Civil War by unsettled disputes over Canadian fisheries and the northwestern boundary. A proposed settlement in the Johnson-Clarendon Convention was angrily rejected by the United States. To avoid further deterioration of Anglo-American relations, a joint high commission was set up, and on May 8, 1871, the parties signed the Treaty of Washington, which, by establishing four separate arbitrations, afforded the most ambitious arbitral undertaking the world had experienced up to that time. In addition, Great Britain expressed official regret over the matter.

Certain wartime maritime obligations of neutrals, already agreed to in article 6 of the treaty, were outlined in the principal arbitration of the Alabama claims, meeting at Geneva, as follows: that a neutral government must use “due diligence” to prevent the fitting out, arming, or equipping, within its jurisdiction, of any vessel believed to be intended to carry a war against a power with which it was at peace and to prevent the departure of such a vessel (the substance of this clause was included in article 8 of the 1907 Hague Convention) and that a neutral must not permit its ports or waters to be used as a base of naval operations for similar purposes. In addition, on Sept. 14, 1872, the tribunal voted unanimously that Britain was legally liable for direct losses caused by the Alabama and other ships and awarded the United States damages of $15,500,000 in gold.

This settlement gave new impetus to the process of arbitration, which had been latent for many years.


Before Alabama, bands were usually relegated to a supporting role in country music. In the first part of the century, bands were popular with audiences across the country, but as recordings became available, nearly every popular recording artist was a vocalist, not a group. Alabama was the group that made country bands popular again. Emerging in the late '70s, the band had roots in both country and rock in fact, many of Alabama's musical concepts, particularly the idea of a performing band, owed more to rock and pop than hardcore country. However, there is no denying that Alabama is a country band -- the bandmembers' pop instincts may come from rock, but their harmonies, songwriting, and approach are indebted to country, particularly the Bakersfield sound of Merle Haggard, bluegrass, and the sound of Nashville pop. A sleek country-rock sound made the group the most popular country group in history, selling more records than any other artist of the '80s and earning stacks of awards.

First cousins Randy Owen (born December 14, 1949 lead vocal, rhythm guitar) and Teddy Gentry (born January 22, 1952 vocals, bass) form the core of Alabama. Owen and Gentry grew up on separate cotton farms on Lookout Mountain in Alabama, but the pair learned how to play guitar together the duo had also sung in church together before they were six years old. On their own, Gentry and Owen played in a number of different bands during the '60s, playing country, bluegrass, and pop on different occasions. During high school, the duo teamed with another cousin, Jeff Cook (born August 27, 1949 lead guitar, vocals, keyboards, fiddle), to form Young Country in 1969. Before joining his cousins, Cook had played in a number of bands and was a rock & roll DJ. Young Country's first gig was at a high-school talent contest performing a Merle Haggard song, the band won first prize -- a trip to the Grand Ole Opry. However, the group was fairly inactive as Owen and Cook went to college.

After Owen and Cook graduated from college, they moved with Gentry to Anniston, Alabama, with the intention of keeping the band together. Sharing an apartment, the band practiced at night and performed manual labor during the day. They changed their name to Wildcountry in 1972, adding drummer Bennett Vartanian to the lineup. The following year, they made the decision to become professional musicians, quitting their jobs and playing a number of bars in the Southeast. During this time, they began writing their own songs, including "My Home's in Alabama." Vartanian left soon after the band turned professional after losing four more drummers, Rick Scott was added to the lineup in 1974.

Wildcountry changed its name to Alabama in 1977, the same year the band signed a one-record contract with GRT. The resulting single, "I Wanna Be with You Tonight," was a minor success, peaking in the Top 80. Nevertheless, the single's performance was an indication that Alabama was one of the most popular bands in the Southeast at the end of the decade, the band was playing over 300 shows a year. After "I Wanna Be with You Tonight," the group borrowed $4,000 from a Fort Payne bank, using the money to record and release its own records, which were sold at shows. When GRT declared bankruptcy a year after the release of "I Wanna Be with You Tonight," the bandmembers discovered that they were forbidden from recording with another label because of a hidden clause in their contract. For two years, Alabama raised money to buy out their contract. In 1979, the group was finally able to begin recording again. That same year, Scott left the band. Scott was replaced by Mark Herndon, a former rock drummer who helped give Alabama their signature sound.

Later in 1979, Alabama self-recorded and released an album, hiring an independent record promoter to help get radio play for the single "I Wanna Come Over." The band also sent hundreds of handwritten letters to program directors and DJs across the country. "I Wanna Come Over" gained the attention of MDJ Records, a small label based in Dallas. MDJ released the single, and it reached number 33 on the charts. In 1980, MDJ released "My Home's in Alabama," which made it into the Top 20. Based on the single's success, Alabama performed at the Country Music New Faces show, where the band was spotted by an RCA Records talent scout, who signed the group after the show.

Alabama released its first RCA single, "Tennessee River," late in 1980. Produced by Harold Shedd, the song began a remarkable streak of 21 number one hits (interrupted by the 1982 holiday single "Christmas in Dixie"), which ran until 1987 after one number seven hit, the streak resumed for another six singles, resulting in a total of 27 number one singles during the decade. Taken alone, the amount of chart-topping singles is proof of Alabama's popularity, but the band also won numerous awards, had seven multi-platinum albums, and crossed over to the pop charts nine times during the '80s.

In the '90s, their popularity declined somewhat, yet they were still having hit singles and gold and platinum albums with regularity, and it's unlikely that any other country group will be able to surpass the success of Alabama. The group disbanded in 2006 following a farewell tour and two albums of gospel , 2006's Songs of Inspiration and 2007's Songs of Inspiration, Vol. 2, but reunited in 2011. A third gospel album, Angels Among Us: Hymns & Gospel Favorites, was released by Gaither Music in 2014. In September 2015, Alabama further sealed the relaunch of their career, delivering Southern Drawl, their first album of all new material in 14 years.

The Diplomats Who Sank a Fleet

By Kevin J. Foster

Thomas Haines Dudley, the U.S. consul in Liverpool, had grown desperate. He had failed to stop one Confederate raider, CSS Florida, from departing Liverpool. He had spent months gathering information about a second suspicious vessel, reported to be a warship destined for the Confederates. Not knowing her name, Dudley referred to her by the hull number at the shipyard, No. 290. On May 16, 1862, he reported the launch of the ship to Washington. A month later he reported the trial trip and the expected imminent departure of No. 290. Then Dudley traveled to London to confer personally with Charles Francis Adams, U.S. minister to the Court of St. James. Adams, recognizing the urgency, pressed British Foreign Office Secretary Earl Russell to stop the ship. Russell started the ponderous wheels of government toward resolving the question of the destination and legality of No. 290's building and departure. The British government was on the case.

Dudley provided more information on July 5, including a full description of the ship's appearance along with the news that the construction was being overseen by Capt. [sic] J. D. Bulloch of the Confederate States Navy. British government officers could not act because the evidence was not in the proper form and depended upon anonymous informants. Consul Dudley consulted British attorneys and opened direct communication with the collector of customs in the Port of Liverpool and other officials. They explained the requirements of British domestic law so that the evidence could be presented in acceptable forms. Informants were persuaded to give notarized depositions. U.S. suspicions were presented in a logical, precisely legal form.1 By July 29 sufficient evidence had been presented for the law officers of the Crown to opine that "the vessel, cargo, and stores, may be properly condemned."2

The order to seize the ship was given— just too late. No. 290, for the moment named Enrica, had sailed the day before. Shortly afterward, two supply ships met her in the Azores. She was armed and commissioned CSS Alabama. The raider would go on to sink more U.S. merchant vessels than any other warship before or since. Consul Dudley and Minister Adams had failed, but they had learned valuable lessons.

During the American Civil War, 1861 - 1865, the Confederate States of America created a modern naval force within a few years. More than sixty armored vessels were begun at home dozens of gunboats were built, and many more river and commercial craft were modified and armed. A vital component in this military buildup was the willingness of several European nations to sell arms, equipment, and ships to the South. Despite neutrality laws intended to prevent the outfitting of belligerent expeditions and warships, the South enjoyed considerable success in acquiring and arming vessels abroad. Southern efforts did not, however, meet with universal success. The Confederates desired far more vessels than reached their hands. Some of these foreign-built vessels were considered but not purchased some were built on speculation for potential sale to the South others were ordered but not delivered. They included ironclads, cruising ships, gunboats, torpedo boats, blockade-runners, and supply ships.

Many factors kept the South from acquiring all of the ships that it was offered— or the vessels it most desired. Inexperienced diplomats, disorganization, widespread European popular opposition to slavery, uncertain credit, weak central economic planning, and competition from other ship buyers all prevented ships from reaching Confederate hands. But the greatest cause of the overall Confederate failure in Europe was the activity of the United States Department of State, particularly the consuls, a small group of dedicated government employees working abroad.

Confederate ship acquisition developed haphazardly. The new national government and individual states sent a bewildering variety of diplomatic, purchasing, propaganda, and military agents to Europe. Often these agents worked at crossed purposes, driving up prices, encouraging petty disputes, and damaging their creditability. This confusion caused difficulties with governments and suppliers alike. Despite initial problems however, by the end of the conflict, many elements of a balanced modern fleet had been acquired, if not actually delivered, to Confederate hands.

The Confederate naval officer in charge of acquisition in Europe was Comdr. James Dunwoody Bulloch. He arrived in Liverpool, England, on June 3, 1861, under orders to procure "six steam propellers" to act as commerce raiders. One million Confederate dollars had been appropriated for this activity, but little of this amount had arrived when Bulloch began his work. Despite financial handicaps he worked quickly. With the assistance of an Anglo-Confederate banking and shipping company, Fraser, Trenholm & Company of Liverpool, Bulloch contracted for the ships that would become CSS Florida and CSS Alabama. They were sailing vessels with auxiliary steam engines, a combination that allowed them to cruise widely for Northern merchant ships. These ships and others to follow soon earned reputations as fearsome commerce destroyers.3

Bulloch's work set the pattern for most further ship purchasing by Confederates. He had to exercise extreme care to avoid violating British domestic law designed to prevent the fitting out of military vessels and expeditions in British territory. In particular, the Foreign Enlistment Act forbade British subjects from "equipping, furnishing, fitting out, or arming, of any ship or vessel, with intent or in order that such ship or vessel shall be employed in the service" of a belligerent. Penalties for violation included punishment of individuals and forfeiture of vessels.4 The law failed, however, in requiring overwhelming legal proof rather than mere suspicion before a vessel could be seized. Once the problem was recognized, the British government was reluctant to change the policy because it would tend to show culpability in allowing Florida and Alabama to escape.5

Bulloch used the loophole by contracting with ordinary British, and later French and Swedish, business houses for ships, acting on behalf of the Confederate government. The vessels were designed as warships but left the building yards with no armament actually fitted. Once at sea under a British merchant captain, the prospective cruiser would be met by another vessel carrying the guns, Confederate naval and marine officers, and a large crew. After transfer, the Confederate captain placed the ship under commission and recruited a crew from among both ships' companies. This process avoided restrictions posed by existing British neutrality law by moving the actual outfitting outside British territory.6

Bulloch's careful purchasing system was challenged by Union diplomats. They recognized that the legal loophole could allow entire fleets of vessels to be purchased in Europe. United States Secretary of State William H. Seward coordinated what was to become a worldwide effort aimed at hampering Confederate efforts abroad. Seward sought to prevent recognition of the rebel South as a belligerent or as a nation and to prevent as far as possible foreign trade with the rebellious states. When it suited his purposes he threatened neutrals in various ways. Seward carefully instructed U.S. ambassadors about the course he wished them to take. The ambassadors, particularly the brilliant Charles Francis Adams, U.S. minister in Great Britain, ably communicated the views of the Union administration. Adams presented a case that the British sale of warships to the South was a warlike act against the United States. Seward added veiled mention of the likelihood of Union privateers being unleashed on British ships trading with the rebellious states. Congressional debate about such a law strengthened his case. Adams clearly demanded decisive action to prevent the creation of any more Alabamas or Floridas in British shipyards. Adams also laid the groundwork for later claims against the British empire for damages caused by the building, outfitting, and sale of ships to the Confederacy.7

A third branch of the Union State Department also worked aggressively to halt or hinder Confederate efforts by gathering intelligence about rebel efforts abroad. These were the United States consuls in various cities and seaports around the world. Consuls assisted trade and shipping, collecting fees for their services and submitting regular reports about everyday events as well as shipwrecks, mutinies, and piracy. Many took on new duties in wartime, providing valuable intelligence and other services useful to the Union. Consuls utilized a range of informants that included abolitionists, dockhand thugs, shipyard apprentices, members of the clergy, watermen, dock masters, unemployed mariners, and Lloyd's Register inspectors. Among the most valuable materials gathered were "intercepted letters and papers" given, purchased, and stolen by consuls and their agents. Consuls gathered and collated all sorts of information, including their estimates of the value and trustworthiness of various sources of information in reports to Washington and to each other.8 They usually sent reports containing intelligence information back to Secretary Seward in Washington, who distributed it where needed. Much of the resulting evidence of un-neutral acts was passed on to Minister Adams, who remonstrated with the British government, the most frequent offender.9

Seward's office gathered, collated, and transmitted the information to the military. Some navy commands, such as the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, printed bulletins for distribution: a blockader off Charleston might know the name and description of a new blockade-runner before it could finish its voyage across the Atlantic. On rare occasions the information transmitted included plans, a sketch, or a photograph of a ship or of a notorious rebel officer.10 This consular intelligence gathering system grew from the efforts of a few individuals, working out of their own pockets, into a government enterprise that employed dozens of agents and required tens of thousands of dollars to finance.11 The consuls kept up a constant barrage of sighting reports, affidavits, vessel descriptions, repeated rumors, and supposition about Confederate activity abroad. While most of these ships did have Southern connections, many did not, and the British government was constantly investigating reports of vessels that proved to have no Confederate connections.12


Timely communication of important intelligence was vital to the war effort. Most communication was by mail, traveling on scheduled steamship routes. This method limited both Union and rebel communications severely, requiring a minimum of about three weeks for a reply across the Atlantic. Mail by steamer allowed regular communication but limited the frequency of trans-Atlantic messages from most points to about two or three times a week, each taking over a week to reach Washington via New York. The letters had then to be read, copied, and passed on to the Navy Department and then to the relevant blockading fleets. Letters to the Confederate leadership in Richmond took longer, going by British steamers by way of Halifax, Havana, Nassau, or Bermuda.

Some consular stations used the telegraph for important messages to speed the process. However, they might be intercepted or copied in route on commercial telegraph services. Coded messages for sensitive information became common. Still, despite its utility, the expense of telegraph communication led the State Department to severely limit its use.13 Consuls also sometimes communicated directly with the Union navy when time was too short for information to be transmitted through Washington. On several occasions Samuel Whiting, the consul in Nassau, sped communications by hiring a swift pilot schooner to carry messages directly to the naval station at Key West.14 Despite the utility of the method, his entreaties to the State Department failed to produce a despatch boat for his use. His successor, Seth C. Hawley, tried harder, securing an estimate for purchase and operation of a small pilot schooner to carry despatches. His efforts were no more successful than his predecessor's, and the department never provided a despatch boat.15

The first success of the Union consular espionage system prevented a small wooden steam gunboat from service with the South. Alexandra was built by William C. Miller of Liverpool as a gift to the Confederacy from Fraser, Trenholm & Company. As such it would have joined a few other Confederate vessels built as contributions to the war effort by citizens and not part of the regular procurement program. Consul Thomas H. Dudley of Liverpool gathered information directly, hired experienced legal counsel, and prepared a case based on his experience of the British legal system gained while trying to prevent the sailing of CSS Florida and CSS Alabama. Minister Adams used Dudley's information to force the British government to bring court proceedings that, while failing to seize the ship, ultimately so delayed Alexandra that the gunboat was never placed in service. The Alexandra case and its resulting newspaper coverage also brought considerable attention to Confederate operations in Great Britain and to the inadequate British neutrality laws. This attention forced the government to take decisive action to enforce neutral behavior upon its citizens during later crises: policy prevailed over law. The loss of the gunboat did little real damage to Confederate plans, but the legal precedent and attention devoted to rebel purchasing permanently hindered Southern procurement in Europe.16

The Confederate agent Bulloch extended his ambitions when he contracted with Birkenhead shipbuilders, Laird and Sons, to construct two turreted ironclad rams. Bulloch based the rams upon the ideas of Capt. Cowper Coles of the Royal Navy, an outspoken British ironclad designer. They were impressive ships displacing 1,423 tons (light) and were 224.5 feet long. Their iron hulls had ram bows supporting two turrets carrying 220-pounder Armstrong guns lighter guns were mounted on raised forecastles and quarterdecks. Bark sailing rigs gave them range powerful twin-screw engines combined with ram bows gave them ability to fight the most imposing Union ships.17

But the intended use of the rams could not be hidden or misdirected. Due to their ram bows, the ships were dangerous weapons platforms even before guns were mounted. In locations around Europe, Union consuls gathered depositions and other evidence sufficient to prove the rams' connection with the Confederate government. The persistent Liverpool consul, Thomas Haines Dudley, dogged Bulloch, employing private detectives, sympathetic sea captains, knowledgeable attorneys, and Confederate turncoats. He obtained copies of Confederate correspondence and internal Laird documents to gain knowledge of Bulloch's every move. The London consul, Freeman H. Morse, managed to induce a young London mechanic to get a job in the Laird shipyards with a promise of a recommendation to a U.S. shipbuilder. (The boy's mother found out and stopped the spying by threatening to expose him and the U.S. government's role in his activities.) In London, at the Court of St. James, Minister Adams once again ably presented Dudley's evidence and explained the U.S. government's view that release of the ironclad rams might be considered an act of war.18

From Washington, Secretary Seward coordinated the action by mail and telegraph to stop the rams' delivery. Both rams were seized before completion to prevent them from slipping out of the country. Even a last-minute sham sale, ostensibly to a French company for delivery to Egypt, failed to free the two ships for the south. Caught in an awkward gap between domestic law and foreign policy, the British Crown ultimately bought the Laird rams and commissioned them HMS Scorpion and HMS Wivern. Brilliant cooperation between the three main branches of the State Department had prevented two dangerous warships from reaching the Confederate navy.19

The British difficulty in maintaining strict neutrality had its roots in a conflict between two principles of law. Under the precepts of international law, neutral Great Britain had an obligation to prevent the building and outfitting of armed warships for any belligerent in its ports. The critical point was that the wording of the law and accepted international practice to that time prohibited sales of armed vessels only. The tenet of domestic law that held that a defendant is "innocent until proven guilty" allowed secretly built Confederate cruisers to be dispatched from British ports because positive proof of the cruiser's destination was nearly impossible to ascertain and arming took place outside British jurisdiction. Following the commissioning of Florida and Alabama, Great Britain was forced to prevent the departure of other vessels merely on justifiable suspicion that they were violating British domestic law.20

Bulloch was disappointed by the loss of the Laird rams but had already expanded his operations beyond Great Britain. Negotiations with the French government produced a conditional agreement to provide four modern wood and iron composite steam clipper corvettes for long-distance cruising. These screw corvettes would have been the equal of any U.S. Navy cruisers. Further negotiations allowed contracts for two more powerful ironclad rams. These shallow-draft ironclad wooden ships were designed with a brig sailing rig and twin-screw steam auxiliary propulsion. With the screw corvettes they could present a dangerous challenge to the Union navy on the high seas, potentially capable of overwhelming smaller squadrons on individual blockading stations.21

All six ships were contracted through Lucien Arman, a shipbuilder with a seat in the French legislature and strong political connections to the Emperor Louis Napoleon III. They were built in the yards of Arman in Bordeaux and, through engine-builder and fellow legislator M. Voruz, at the yards of Jollett & Babin and Dubigeon Brothers in Nantes. The sale was understood to have been approved by the emperor and permitted by the minister of the navy. The ostensible purpose was to start a steam packet line between San Francisco and Japan and China. The armament was said to enable them to fight off pirate attacks in eastern waters and to allow potential sale to the Japanese or Chinese governments.22

But Consul General John Bigelow in Paris had been preparing to ward off any shipbuilding efforts for the Confederacy in France. He had gathered rumors and credited reports from other consuls that Southern agents had contacted French shipbuilders. But Bigelow had not expected the intelligence windfall that walked into his consular office on September 10, 1863. The man, a disloyal senior shipyard employee named Trémont, offered proof in the form of incriminating documents and assurance that his information would be sufficient to force the arrest of the ships under French law. Called "Mr. X" by Bigelow, Trémont asked for twenty thousand francs, a considerable sum of money, if his material should stop the ships from reaching the Confederates. Trémont delivered twenty-one documents that proved not only that the contract was for the Confederate navy but that it was approved by the French government.23

Bigelow acted quickly. He delivered the documents to U.S. Minister to France William L. Dayton. Dayton and Seward used the same approach taken with Great Britain, namely to present as full a public case as possible proving un-neutral behavior. They also subtly threatened the French adventure to install Maximilian as ruler of Mexico and to delay the lucrative French government tobacco shipment from Virginia. French Foreign Affairs Minister Edouard Drouyn de Lhuys perceived the threat, and the danger of growing Northern sentiment against France, and acted to force his emperor and country back toward a neutral posture. He forced the shipbuilders to sell all six vessels to governments then at peace. Two corvettes were sold to Peru two corvettes and a ram were sold to Prussia and one ram was sold to Sweden, or so the French government believed. The wily Arman had sold the ironclad to a Swedish banker, who was to sell it to Denmark. But when the Danes refused the ship, Arman was able to sell it back to the Confederacy. It was delayed so much by storms and an unwilling crew that the ironclad, commissioned CSS Stonewall, never played a part in the war.24

Reports on every likely foreign shipbuilding contract were diligently transmitted to Washington. But by mid-1862, several of the most active consuls had spent small fortunes to pay informers and spies— without reimbursement by the government— and could do no more. Consul M. M. Jackson in Halifax, Nova Scotia, had used his personal funds to hire others to assist him in his intelligence gathering. When funding requirements for intelligence gathering increased beyond his personal means, Jackson sought reimbursement for his expenses in supporting this work. On December 9, 1863, he wrote Secretary Seward:

Consul John Young in Belfast wrote:

When he was unsuccessful, Young wrote Seward again the next year:

The State Department found a way to meet the need by establishing a budget for secret service work by certain consuls. For instance, William T. Minor, the Federal consul in Havana, Cuba, paid several spies and informers to gather intelligence on Confederate activities. A special account, the "secret service fund," was used to pay for these activities. As an example of the high rate of pay enjoyed by spies, in December 1864 Minor paid three hundred dollars in gold to S. B. Haynes for his services during the past month.28

The Confederates also ordered two groups of steam-powered spar torpedo boats from Great Britain. These included six iron twin-screw torpedo boats built in London and six more large steel torpedo boats built in Liverpool. The London torpedo boats were lightly armored and capable of partial submersion to lower their silhouette. No records have been located documenting the arrival of these vessels in Southern ports, but at least one of the boats was tested on the Thames, and three others were mentioned leaving Great Britain as deck cargo on blockade-runners. Union consuls reported these vessels to Washington and to Ambassador Adams, but they were apparently thought too minor to deserve specific complaint from the Union government. Warnings were passed to the Union navy to be on the lookout for the blockade-runners carrying these boats as deck cargo.29

Bulloch was not the only Confederate naval purchasing agent to seek ships in Europe. Another officer, Lt. James H. North, was dispatched to Europe at the same time as Bulloch with a similar mission. North was sent to France with the vain hope of purchasing or borrowing one of the armored frigates of the Gloire class, the most imposing ironclads built for the French navy. Should that prove impossible, he was to order the building of "one or two war steamers of the most modern and improved description." While his French visit was a bust, ultimately North oversaw the building of the largest Confederate ship laid down during the war. He contracted with James and George Thomson of Glasgow to build a large ironclad frigate. She was to be 270 feet long, carry twenty 60-pounder rifles and eight 18-pounder smooth bores. Five hundred men would be required to crew the mammoth vessel. Union observers easily connected North's ship with the South, and she was sold at a loss to Denmark to prevent seizure.30

Another Confederate agent, George Terry Sinclair, contracted with Thomsons' shipyard to build a composite iron- and wood-hulled steam auxiliary cruiser. She was reportedly built on the model of the Alabama but lengthened and improved. Named Canton while building, this ship was renamed Pampero when launched. The sale was concealed by use of a British subject, shipowner Edward Pembroke of London, who ordered the ship through Glasgow brokers Patrick Henderson and Company. Consul Underwood, with help from Liverpool consul Dudley, obtained damning evidence against the ship. British government actions following the court decision in the Alexandra case prevented delivery, and the ship languished in Glasgow.31

Due to his unique position in public life, another Confederate agent, the famous oceanographer Matthew Fontaine Maury, operated in areas too rarified for Bulloch. While touring Europe, meeting the aristocracy, and receiving awards and honors, Maury was pursuing a hidden agenda of purchasing warships and perfecting a system of submarine mines for Southern harbor defense. He was aided by a network of friends, relatives, and sympathetic associates. One of these was Capt. Marin Jansen, Royal Netherlands Navy, who searched most of the prominent shipyards in Great Britain and France for potential cruisers, ironclads, and gunboats.

The first vessel Jansen found was Japan, an iron brig-rigged propeller built on speculation by William Denny and Sons of Scotland. The ship became CSS Georgia and took nine prizes during a short cruise. With her iron hull foul, and in need of repair, she put into Cherbourg on October 28, 1863. Decommissioned as unfit for a cruiser, Georgia was sold June 1, 1864, for commercial service.32 Another Maury purchase was the second-class screw sloop HMS Victor, built in 1857, which had been declared "defective and worn out beyond economic repair." After some repairs, the sloop was renamed Scylla and slipped to sea. Once outfitted, she became CSS Rappahannock and put into Calais, France, for further repairs. There the ship was detained and prevented from receiving repairs or from recruiting a full crew, which would have blatantly violated French neutrality. Rappahannock continued in Confederate hands, rotting at dock until the end of the war.33

The grandest purchase contemplated by M. F. Maury was a twin-screw, twin-turret ironclad. Maury made arrangements through Jansen with Lucien Arman to build the ironclad at his Bordeaux shipyard. Maury specified that the ship was to have sufficient seaworthiness to cross the Atlantic, a high spread of canvas, less than fifteen feet draft, and a speed of fifteen or sixteen knots. Confederate efforts aimed at diplomatic recognition and obtaining a European loan delayed and ultimately doomed this project. Confederate diplomat John Slidell stipulated that the South could only undertake to order these expensive ships in French shipyards if they would be openly built for the South. Napoleon III did not agree to the stipulation, and the ship was sacrificed to diplomatic expediency and not built.34

Another raider project was the result of a secret Confederate congressional act that created a "volunteer navy" to provide privateer-like commissions to individuals and private vessels built at no cost to the government. The first such company formed, the Virginia Volunteer Navy Company, became the only company to purchase a vessel under the new act. They bought the auxiliary steamship Hawk, which had been built on speculation for sale by Henderson and Colborne of Renfrew, Scotland. Hawk was strongly built of iron, 230 feet long overall, with a lifting screw propeller and bark rig. After the purchase, the steamer was altered considerably to adapt her into a warship. The alterations and its owner, Thomas Sterling Begbie, a known blockade-runner owner, excited the interest of Union agents. They, however, did not provide enough information to justify seizure. Hawk sailed to Bermuda, where the company proved unable to carry their project forward, and she returned to Liverpool unarmed.

Perhaps the most ambitious attempt to purchase finished ships involved the eight vessels of the Anglo-Chinese fleet built in Great Britain for China. These warships, called the Lay-Osborne flotilla for the leaders of the enterprise, were not accepted by the emperor of China after arriving in Chinese waters. Half of the fleet returned to Great Britain. Several others put into Bombay, where they were held until arrangements could be finalized for their sale and the payment of the crews.35

There is little surviving direct evidence to connect the Lay-Osborne Anglo-Chinese fleet to the Confederacy. Circumstantial evidence supports that such a purchase was contemplated. CSS Alabama had shadowed the voyage of several ships of the flotilla from South Africa to the Strait of Malacca. The officers of Alabama and the flagship Kwang-Tung had even exchanged social visits in Simon's Bay, South Africa. A senior captain of the fleet had been a ship captain for Fraser, Trenholm & Company, the principal government business agents for the Confederacy in Europe. After the Indian government seized the ships, he returned to London and left immediately in command of the large new blockade-runner Lady Stirling. Despite the lack of contemporary evidence, the prospect of the entire mercenary fleet being sold to the Confederates led to swift action from the American diplomatic services. The British and Indian colonial governments seized the ships to prevent them from being transferred to the rebel navy. Only after the Civil War was over did the British government learn that Confederate agents had been in place in Shanghai and Bombay and that the sale might indeed have been completed. In any case, the Alabama returned to European waters alone.36

The last completed delivery to the Confederacy of a warship was another product of Bulloch's attention to detail. The steam clipper Sea King had been built on the Clyde River in Scotland as a speculation intended for long-distance commerce. Her appearance attracted the attention of Union agents, but on completion Sea King was chartered by the British government to carry troops to New Zealand. Bulloch got word when she returned and traveled to see the ship. Bulloch bought the clipper and once again armed and commissioned a cruiser at sea. Commissioned CSS Shenandoah, the new cruiser worked her way from the Atlantic into the Indian Ocean, refitted in Australia, and cut a swath through the Yankee whaling fleets in the Pacific. Off Alaska, Shenandoah learned in late June 1865 of the defeat of all other Confederate forces and the imprisonment of the Confederate leaders. The armament was dismantled and sent below decks. Shenandoah sailed around the world to Liverpool, where she was turned over on November 5, 1865, to the British government for return to the United States, the last intact Confederate military unit.37

Here are the five previous meetings between the Crimson Tide and the Sooners. Oklahoma leads, 3-1-1.

Date Winner Score Loser Location
Jan. 1, 1963
(Orange Bowl)
No. 5 Alabama 17-0 No. 8 Oklahoma Miami, Fla.
Dec. 31, 1970
(Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl)
N/A 24-24
N/A Houston, Texas
Sept. 7, 2002 No. 2 Oklahoma 37-27 Alabama Norman, Okla.
Sept. 6, 2003 No. 1 Oklahoma 20-13 Alabama Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Jan. 2, 2014
(Sugar Bowl)
No. 11 Oklahoma 45-31 No. 3 Alabama New Orleans
Dec. 29, 2018
(Orange Bowl)
TBD -- TBD Miami Gardens, Fla.

No. 5 Alabama 17, No. 8 Oklahoma 0 (Jan. 1, 1963)

President John F. Kennedy saw the Tide shut out the Sooners in the Orange Bowl. In his final game with Alabama, star linebacker Lee Roy Jordan totaled 31 tackles. About a month before the game, Jordan went No. 6 overall to the Dallas Cowboys.

No. 20 Oklahoma 24, Alabama 24 (Dec. 31, 1970)

The Sooners, 7-4 going into the game, couldn't hold onto a 21-7 lead as they tied the 6-5 Tide in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl. Greg Pruitt scored on two touchdown runs in the second quarter to give Oklahoma the two-score lead. However, Alabama eventually took the lead on a trick play when running back Johnny Musso threw a 25-yard touchdown pass. Oklahoma had to settle for a tie when Bruce Derr made a 42-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

No. 2 Oklahoma 37, Alabama 27 (Sept. 7, 2002)

It took until 2002 for the two proud programs to meet in the regular season. Oklahoma starting QB Jason White tore the ACL in his right knee during the game, forcing him to miss the entire season. The Sooners led 23-3 but had to rally late. Kejaun Jones gave OU the lead on an 8-yard run before safety Eric Bassey returned a fumble 46 yards to clinch the win.

No. 1 Oklahoma 20, Alabama 13 (Sept. 6, 2003)

Eventual Heisman winner Jason White passed for 259 yards and two touchdowns as the Sooners again beat Alabama. Oklahoma held the top spot in the rankings since losing to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game. Though OU would still play in the BCS title game, it lost to LSU 21-14.

No. 11 Oklahoma 45, No. 3 Alabama 31 (Jan. 2, 2014)

Sooners QB Trevor Knight had a huge game against Alabama, passing for 348 yards and four touchdowns with one interception in the Sugar Bowl. Going into the game, Knight had passed for only 471 yards for the season. But Alabama, with QB AJ McCarron playing his final game with the Tide, had five turnovers.

The Cruise of the CSS Alabama: Pt. 1

After the outbreak of the Civil War, the Union blockade crippled Southern commerce. Hoping to ease the pressure on blockade runners (and turn the tables on Northern shipping), the Confederate Navy contracted with British shipbuilders to construct commerce raiders – warships designed to prey on merchant shipping while evading opposing naval vessels. Denounced as a pirate in the North, Maryland-born Raphael Semmes captained the most effective commerce raider, the CSS Alabama, as the ship terrified Union merchant vessels and frustrated the Union Navy. Semmes quickly became a hero in the South and earned a reputation as a daring commander throughout the world. In Part 1, we look at the clandestine construction of the Alabama and the beginning of her career as the most successful commerce raider in naval history.

Email Portraits of Blue & Grey at [email protected] with any questions or comments about the show.

Portraits of Blue & Grey: The Biographical Civil War Podcast examines the lives of the most prominent, interesting, and influential figures of the United States Civil War Era.

Two Years on the Alabama

Built in secrecy in Liverpool, England, through the arrangement of Confederate agent Commander James Bulloch, it was built for the fledgling Confederate States Navy which was sorely in need of ships.

Under the command of Raphael Semmes it would spend the next two years terrorisi From July 1862 until June 1864 the C.S.S. Alabama was the terror of the Atlantic Ocean.

Built in secrecy in Liverpool, England, through the arrangement of Confederate agent Commander James Bulloch, it was built for the fledgling Confederate States Navy which was sorely in need of ships.

Under the command of Raphael Semmes it would spend the next two years terrorising and attacking Union shipping to help the Confederacy break the stranglehold which it found itself in.

Through these two years it completed seven highly successful expeditionary raids, and it had been at sea for 534 days out of 657, never visiting a single Confederate port. They boarded nearly 450 vessels, captured or burned 65 Union merchant ships, and took more than 2,000 prisoners without a single loss of life from either prisoners or their own crew.

Fifth Lieutenant Arthur Sinclair, who served under Semmes on the Alabama for the entirety of its existence, documents a fascinating first-person account of life on board this Confederate raider.

As they crisscrossed over the oceans Sinclair notes the ships they attacked, prisoners they took and various places they visited, from Brazil to South Africa.

Powered by both sail and steam, the Alabama was one of the quickest ships of its era, reaching speeds of over 13 knots. But in the quest for speed there had been sacrifices, notably the lack of heavy armor-cladding and larger guns, which were to prove fatal during the Battle of Cherbourg in 1864 against the U.S.S. Kearsage.

Two Years on the Alabama is an excellent account of naval operations of the confederacy during the American Civil War. It provides brilliant details into the revolutionary changes that were occurring in late-nineteenth century maritime developments.

After the Alabama was sunk Sinclair was rescued by the English yacht Deerhound and taken to Southampton. He later served as an officer of the inactive cruiser CSS Rappahannock at Calais, France. Following the Civil War, he primarily lived in Baltimore, Maryland, where he was a merchant. In 1896 he published Two Years on the Alabama. Arthur Sinclair died in Baltimore in November 1925. . more

Although it lasted but a short time (1861-1865) and won no major victories against the Union Navy which disrupted the Union blockade, the Confederate States Navy achieved a reputation for daring, innovation, and professionalism. At its high point it counted over 100 ships, most of which operated in American coastal waters and rivers.

It produced one of the first ironclad warships, which sank one US wooden ship, ran another aground, and would have done more damage if not for the timely arrival of a suitable opponent for its new technology. It produced the first submarine which sank an enemy vessel in combat, although it sank itself in the process, killing its crew. The Navy was supplemented by the use of privateers &ndash contracted commerce raiders to capture or destroy enemy ships &ndash which operated mainly out of the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, despite Lincoln&rsquos pronouncement that captured privateers would be treated as pirates (they weren&rsquot).

In conjunction with the Navy the Confederate government operated the Confederate States Lighthouse Board, which worked with the Navy but was officially part of the Treasury Department. It was tasked with maintaining operational safe navigation beacons along the coast. It also formed the Confederate States Marine Corps, which adopted many of the traditions of the United States Marine Corps.

The Navy&rsquos greatest success and certainly its greatest fame &ndash other than the ironclad Virginia &ndash came from its commerce raiders, CSS Alabama and CSS Shenandoah. Alabama was built in Birkenhead, England and completed a raiding cruise under Captain Raphael Semmes in which it captured or destroyed 65 Union ships. Although a commissioned ship of the Confederate Navy it never in its career entered a Confederate port. It was caught and destroyed by USS Kearsgarge.

CSS Shenandoah was built in the Clyde in Scotland and transferred to the Confederate Navy while at sea before undertaking a voyage to the Indian and Pacific Oceans to destroy Union commercial ships and whalers. In late June 1865 its Captain, James Waddell, learned of Lee&rsquos surrender from a captured crew, later in August he learned that the war was over from the crew of a British ship. Waddell took his ship to Liverpool, surrendering there on November 6 1865, the last surrender of a Confederate unit of the Civil War. Like Alabama, Shenandoah never entered a Confederate port during its service in the Confederate States Navy.


Civil War Edit

Though the surrounding area was settled much earlier, the mineral resources in the area of Anniston were not exploited until the Civil War. The Confederate States of America then operated an iron furnace near present-day downtown Anniston, [6] until it was finally destroyed by raiding Union cavalry in early 1865. Later, cast iron for sewer systems became the focus of Anniston's industrial output. Cast iron pipe, also called soil pipe, was popular until the advent of plastic pipe in the 1960s. [ citation needed ]

Woodstock Iron Company Edit

In 1872, the Woodstock Iron Company, organized by Samuel Noble and Union Gen. Daniel Tyler, rebuilt the furnace on a much larger scale, [7] and started a planned community named Woodstock, soon renamed "Annie's Town" for Annie Scott Tyler, Daniel's daughter-in-law and wife of railroad president Alfred L. Tyler. Anniston was chartered as a town in 1873. [8]

Though the roots of the town's economy were in iron, steel, and clay pipe, planners touted it as a health resort, and several hotels began operating. Schools also appeared, including the Noble Institute, a school for girls established in 1886, [9] and the Alabama Presbyterian College for Men, founded in 1905. [7] Careful planning and easy access to rail transportation helped grow Anniston. In 1882, Anniston was the first city in Alabama to be lit by electricity. [10] By 1941, Anniston was Alabama's fifth largest city. [11]

World War I and II Edit

In 1917, at the start of World War I, the United States Army established a training camp at Fort McClellan. On the other side of town, the Anniston Army Depot opened during World War II as a major weapons storage and maintenance site, a role it continues to serve as munitions-incineration progresses. Most of the site of Fort McClellan was incorporated into Anniston in the late 1990s, and the Army closed the fort in 1999 following the Base Realignment and Closure round of 1995.

Civil Rights era Edit

Anniston was the center of national controversy in 1961 when a mob bombed a bus filled with civilian Freedom Riders during the American Civil Rights Movement. As two Freedom buses were setting out to travel the south in protest of their civil rights following the Supreme Court case saying bus segregation was unconstitutional, one headed to Anniston, and one to Birmingham, Alabama, before finishing in New Orleans. The Freedom Riders were riding an integrated bus to protest Alabama's Jim Crow segregation laws that denied African Americans their civil rights. One of the buses was attacked and firebombed by a mob outside Anniston on Mother's Day, Sunday, May 14, 1961. Prior to the bus being firebombed, attackers broke windows, and slashed tires, using metal pipes, clubs, chains and crowbars, before the police came to escort the bus away. [12] The bus was forced to a stop just outside of Anniston, in front of Forsyth and Sons grocery, by more mob members. [13] As more windows were broken, rocks and eventually a firebomb were thrown into the bus. As the bus burned, the mob held the doors shut, intent on burning the riders to death. An exploding fuel tank caused the mob to retreat, allowing the riders to escape the bus. The riders were viciously beaten as they tried to flee, where warning shots fired into the air by highway patrolmen prevented the riders from being lynched on the spot. [12] A 12-year-old girl, Janie Forsyth, set out against the mob with a bucket of water and cups to help the Riders, first tending to the one who had looked like her own nanny. [14] Forsyth and Son grocery is located along Alabama Highway 202 about 5 miles (8 km) west of downtown. The site today is home to a historic marker and was designated Freedom Riders National Monument by President Barack Obama in January 2017. [15] [16]

In response to the violence, the city formed a bi-racial Human Relations Council (HRC) made up of prominent white business and religious leaders, but when they attempted to integrate the "whites-only" public library on Sunday afternoon, September 15, 1963 (the same day as the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham), further violence ensued and two black ministers, N.Q. Reynolds and Bob McClain, were severely beaten by a mob. The HRC chairman, white Presbyterian minister Rev. Phil Noble, worked with an elder of his church, Anniston City Commissioner Miller Sproull, to avoid KKK mob domination of the city. In a telephone conference with President John F. Kennedy, the President informed the HRC that after the Birmingham church bombing he had stationed additional federal troops at Fort McClellan. On September 16, 1963, with city police present, Noble and Sproull escorted black ministers into the library. [17] In February 1964, Anniston Hardware, owned by the Sproull family, was bombed, presumably in retaliation for Commissioner Sproull's integration efforts.

On the night of July 15, 1965, a white racist rally was held in Anniston, after which Willie Brewster, a black foundry worker, was shot and killed while driving home from work. A $20,000 reward was raised by Anniston civic leaders, and resulted in the apprehension, trial and conviction of the accused killer, Damon Strange, who worked for a leader of the Ku Klux Klan. [18] Historian Taylor Branch called the conviction of Damon Strange a "breakthrough verdict" on p. 391 of his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, At Canaan's Edge. Strange was convicted by an all-white Calhoun County jury to the surprise of many people, including civil rights leaders who had planned to protest an acquittal. This was the first conviction of a white person for killing a black person in civil rights era Alabama. [19]

PCB contamination Edit

PCBs were produced in Anniston from 1929 to 1971, initially as the Swann Chemical Company. In 1935 Monsanto Industrial Chemicals Co. bought the plant and took over production. In 1969, the plant was discharging about 250 pounds of the chemicals into Snow Creek per day, according to internal company documents. [20]

In 2002, an investigation by 60 Minutes [21] revealed Anniston had been among the most toxic cities in the country. The primary source of local contamination was a Monsanto chemical factory, which had already been closed. The EPA description [22] of the site reads in part:

The Anniston PCB site consists of residential, commercial, and public properties located in and around Anniston, Calhoun County, Alabama, that contain or may contain hazardous substances, including polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) impacted media. The Site is not listed on the NPL, but is considered to be a NPL-caliber site. Solutia Inc.'s Anniston plant encompasses approximately 70 acres (28 ha) of land and is located about 1 mile west of downtown Anniston, Alabama. The plant is bounded to the north by the Norfolk Southern and Erie railroads, to the east by Clydesdale Avenue, to the west by First Avenue, and to the south by Highway 202. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were produced at the plant from 1929 until 1971.

At the southernmost length of the Blue Ridge, part of the Appalachian Mountains, Anniston's environment is home to diverse species of birds, reptiles and mammals. Part of the former Fort McClellan is now operating as Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge to protect endangered Southern Longleaf Pine species. [ citation needed ]

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 45.7 square miles (118.4 km 2 ), of which 45.6 square miles (118.2 km 2 ) is land and 0.08 square miles (0.2 km 2 ), or 0.15%, is water. [4]

In 2003, part of the town of Blue Mountain was annexed into the city of Anniston, while the remaining portion of the town reverted to unincorporated Calhoun County. [23]

Part of the city limits extend down to Interstate 20, with access from exit 188. Via I-20, Birmingham is 65 mi (105 km) west, and Atlanta is 91 mi (146 km) east.

Climate Edit

The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Anniston has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps. [24]

Climate data for Anniston, Alabama (Anniston Regional Airport) 1991–2020 normals, extremes 1903–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 80
Average high °F (°C) 54.7
Daily mean °F (°C) 44.4
Average low °F (°C) 34.0
Record low °F (°C) −5
Average precipitation inches (mm) 4.84
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 10.9 10.7 11.1 9.3 9.6 11.5 12.2 9.6 7.1 7.6 8.5 10.7 118.8
Source: NOAA [25] [26]
Historical population
Census Pop.
18909,998 961.4%
19009,695 −3.0%
191012,794 32.0%
192017,734 38.6%
193022,345 26.0%
194025,523 14.2%
195031,066 21.7%
196033,320 7.3%
197031,533 −5.4%
198029,135 −7.6%
199026,623 −8.6%
200024,276 −8.8%
201023,106 −4.8%
2019 (est.)21,287 [3] −7.9%
U.S. Decennial Census [27]
2018 Estimate [28]

Anniston first appeared on the 1880 U.S. Census [29] as an incorporated town.

2010 Census data Edit

As of the census of 2010, there were 23,106 people living in the city. The population density was 506.3 inhabitants per square mile (195.5/km 2 ). There were 11,599 housing units at an average density of 281.5 per square mile (108.7/km 2 ). The racial makeup of the city was 43.6% Non-Hispanic White, 51.5% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.8% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, and 1.7% from two or more races. 2.7% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 9,603 households, out of which 20.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.0% were married couples living together, 21.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.6% were non-families. 34.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 15.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.91.

In the city, the age distribution of the population shows 21.7% under the age of 18, 8.7% from 18 to 24, 25.7% from 25 to 44, 23.3% from 45 to 64, and 17.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females, there were 83.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,400, and the median income for a family was $37,067. Males had a median income of $31,429 versus $21,614 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,689. About 25.1% of families and 29.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 35.2% of those under age 18 and 16.2% of those age 65 or over.

Anniston Precinct/Division (1880-) Edit

Historical population
Census Pop.
189010,918 679.3%
190011,008 0.8%
191014,602 32.6%
192018,185 24.5%
193022,807 25.4%
194028,836 26.4%
195037,457 29.9%
196033,689 −10.1%
197031,637 −6.1%
198083,265 163.2%
199075,674 −9.1%
200069,376 −8.3%
201068,662 −1.0%
U.S. Decennial Census [30]

Anniston Beat (Precinct) (Calhoun County 15th Beat) first appeared on the 1880 U.S. Census. In 1890, "beat" was changed to "precinct." In 1960, the precinct was changed to "census division" as part of a general reorganization of counties. [31] In 1980, three additional census divisions were consolidated into Anniston, including Oxford, Weaver and West End. [32]

Crime Edit

Homicides Edit

Year 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Homicides (city, number) [33] 7 2 6 5 14 9 13 5 3 11 5 5 4 8 7
Homicides (city, rate) [33] 28.6 8.4 25.1 20.9 58.4 37.9 55.0 21.2 12.7 47.4 21.7 22.1 17.7 35.9 31.5
Homicides (US, rate) [33] 5.6 5.7 5.5 5.7 5.8 5.7 5.4 5.0 4.8 4.7 4.7 4.5 4.4 4.9 5.1

In 1899, the county seat of Calhoun County moved from Jacksonville to Anniston. More than 100 years later, the community is a bustling center of industry and commerce with more than 22,000 residents. Over the years, city officials and local citizens have worked to retain the environmental beauty of the area while allowing it to thrive economically and to preserve its history. The Spirit of Anniston Main Street Program, Inc., a nonprofit organization started in 1993, spearheaded the restoration and revitalization of historic downtown Anniston, with a focus on the city's main thoroughfare, Noble Street.

The Noble Streetscape Project encouraged local business owners to refurbish storefront façades, while historic homes throughout the downtown area have been repaired and returned to their former condition. The preservation effort included the historic Calhoun County Courthouse, located on the corner of 11th Street and Gurnee Avenue since 1900. The original building burned down in 1931, but the courthouse was rebuilt a year later. Thanks to a complete restoration in 1990, the stately structure is still in use today.

Anniston has long been a cultural center for northeastern Alabama. The Alabama Shakespeare Festival was founded in the city in 1972 and remained there until moving to Montgomery in 1985 seeking more robust financial support. The Knox Concert Series produces an annual season of world-renowned musical and dance productions, and the Community Actors' Studio Theatre community theatre organization performs plays, musicals, and revues featuring local performers, actors, and musicians. CAST also features specially funded programs to educate area children in the arts for free. The city is home to the Anniston Museum of Natural History and the Berman Museum of World History. These institutions house mummies, dioramas of wildlife, and artifacts from a bygone age in contemporary, professional displays and exhibits. The Alabama Symphony Orchestra since 2004 has performed a summer series of outdoor concerts, Music at McClellan, at the former Fort McClellan.

The city has many examples of Victorian-style homes, some of which have been restored or preserved. Several of the city's churches are architecturally significant or historic, including the Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Grace Episcopal Church, Parker Memorial Baptist Church, and the Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, a predominantly African-American church in what is known as the Zion Hill community. Temple Beth El, dedicated in 1893, is the oldest building in the state continuously used for Jewish worship.

The original main street, Noble Street, is seeing a rebirth as a shopping and dining district in the heart of downtown.

The Chief Ladiga Trail, part of a 90-mile (140 km) paved rail trail with the Silver Comet Trail of Georgia, has its western terminus in Anniston.

Fort McClellan Edit

Fort McClellan—former site of the U.S. Army Military Police Training Academy, a Vietnam era Infantry Training Center, Chemical Corps Regimental Headquarters, Chemical Warfare training center, and Women's Army Corps Headquarters—was decommissioned in the 1990s. A portion of the former fort is now home to the Alabama National Guard Training Center. Another 9,000 acres (36 km 2 ) of the fort were set aside for the Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge in 2003. The Department of Homeland Security also uses a portion of the decommissioned fort for the Center for Domestic Preparedness, the nation's only civilian "live agent" training center emergency response providers from all over the world come to Fort McClellan to be trained in dealing with live agents and weapons in a real-time, monitored setting. [ citation needed ]

Anniston is governed by Alabama's "weak mayor" form of city government. Four city council members are elected to represent the city's four wards, and the mayor is elected at-large. Day-to-day functions of city government are carried out by the city manager, who is appointed by the mayor and city council.

The current five-member city council are Jack Draper (mayor), Jay Jenkins (Ward 1), David Reddick (Ward 2), Ben Little (Ward 3), and Millie Harris (Ward 4). [34]

Anniston is the county seat of Calhoun County, Alabama. Circuit and district courts for the county and the district attorney's office are located in the Calhoun County Courthouse at the corner of 11th Street and Gurnee Avenue. Other county administrative offices are in the Calhoun County Administrative Building at the corner of 17th and Noble streets, and a United States Courthouse, part of the U.S. Alabama Northern District Court, is located at the corner of 12th and Noble streets.

Public schools in Anniston are operated by Anniston City Schools. These include:

  • Anniston High School (Grades 9–12)
  • Anniston Middle School (Grades 6–8)
  • Golden Springs Elementary School (Grades K–5)
  • Randolph Park Elementary School (Grades K–5)
  • Tenth Street Elementary School (Grades K–5)
  • Cobb Pre-School Academy (Pre-K)

Statewide testing ranks the schools in Alabama. Those in the bottom six percent are listed as "failing". As of early 2018, Anniston High School was included in this category. [35]

The school system boasts one of the most high-tech computing capabilities in the state, according to representatives from Huntsville as well as various news agencies [ citation needed ] . Every school is equipped with labs featuring Macintosh computers, 55-inch (1,397 mm) plasma displays, and interactive whiteboards. Some schools have more computer labs, and Anniston High School also has an ACCESS Lab that allows for videoconferencing based classes involving other schools, supported by a high speed fiber network.

A public four-year institution of higher learning, Jacksonville State University, is located 12 miles (19 km) to the north in Jacksonville. Anniston is home to some satellite campuses of Gadsden State Community College, both at the former Fort McClellan and at the Ayers campus in southern Anniston.

There are several private primary and secondary schools in Anniston, including:

An obelisk installed in 1905 commemorates "Dr. Clarence J. Owens, president of the Anniston College for Young Ladies". [36]

% Black Note
Anniston City Population 52% [27]
The Donoho School (Private) 8% [37]
Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School (Private) 14% [38]
Faith Christian School (Private) 6% [39]
Anniston High School (Public) 95% [40]
Anniston Middle School (Public) 88% [41]
Golden Springs Elementary School (Public) 81% [42]
Randolph Park Elementary School (Public) 95% [43]
Tenth Street Elementary School (Public) 84% [44]

Anniston is served by two daily newspapers: The Birmingham News statewide edition, and the local 25,000 circulation daily paper, The Anniston Star. Anniston-based Consolidated Publishing Co., publisher of The Anniston Star, also owns and operates advertising-supported newspapers in nearby Jacksonville, Piedmont and Cleburne County. Local radio stations include WHMA AM and FM and WHOG 1120 AM.

WEAC-CD is the only television station that directly broadcasts from the Anniston area, but many Birmingham stations have towers and news bureaus here, such as WJSU-TV (WJSU is a local broadcast station for Birmingham-based ABC 33/40), WBRC-TV (Fox), and WVTM-TV (NBC). Alabama Public Television erected its tallest tower atop Cheaha Mountain 12 miles (19 km) south of Anniston. WJSU-TV 40 was historically a local CBS affiliate, broadcasting local newscasts daily.

Formerly its own Arbitron-defined broadcast market, today Anniston is a part of the Birmingham-Anniston-Tuscaloosa television designated market area. Radio stations are divided into three sub markets within that market Anniston is in the Anniston-Gadsden–Talladega radio sub market.

Transportation Edit

The following major highways pass through Anniston:

The Anniston Western Bypass runs from Interstate 20 in Oxford (the Coldwater exit) and runs north into the present State Route 202. It is five lanes wide, handling Anniston Army Depot traffic. Future plans will extend it on the present County Road 109 by widening it to connect with US 431. State Route 202 follows this route from CR 109 (Bynum-Leatherwood Road) southward.

The Anniston Eastern Bypass was a stalled project of the Alabama Department of Transportation to build a four-lane highway in Calhoun County until revived by the 2009 federal stimulus package. [45] It was the largest influx of federal money into the local economy since Fort McClellan closed. More than $21 million was earmarked for this project in 2005. This funding was spent acquiring rights of way and grading a section of the proposed bypass from Oxford to the community of Golden Springs. As of April 2009, the section was a graded, but undriveable, clay dirt road bed. The Eastern Bypass was revived by the 2009 Federal Stimulus Package and was opened to traffic into McClellan on the northwest end in January 2011. As of December 2015, the route is now open to traffic and carries US-431 from the Saks community southward.

Amtrak serves Anniston with its Crescent service, operating to and from New Orleans and New York. Southbound trains depart at 10:00am, and northbound trains depart at 3:59pm (central time). [46] Daily service has been suspended, and currently southbound trains destined for New Orleans arrive on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Northbound trains, destined for New York arrive on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday.

Anniston Army Depot Edit

Anniston is home to the Anniston Army Depot which is used for the maintenance of most Army tracked vehicles. The depot also housed a major chemical weapons storage facility, the Anniston Chemical Activity, and a program to destroy those weapons, the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility. In 2003, the Anniston Army Depot began the process of destroying the chemical weapons it had stored at the depot and at Fort McClellan. An incinerator was built to destroy the stockpile of Sarin, VX nerve agent, and mustard blister agent stored at the depot. Destruction of the weapons was completed in 2011. [47] The incinerator and related operations were officially closed in May 2013, and the incinerator was disassembled and removed from the depot at the end of 2013. [47]