Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 38.djvu/46
Southern Historical Society Papers.
did not have a fair fight. He thought, as he had every reason to believe, that he was engaging a wooden vessel, when, as it afterwards turned out, the Kearsarge was practically an iron-clad—heavy chain cables having been strung vertically from the top of her deck to the water's edge, which had been cleverly disguised by a covering of deal boards, thus completely protecting her sides, and, at the same time, giving her the appearance of a wooden vessel. This deception, added to the damaged condition of the Alabama's ammunition, no doubt lost her the battle, as it was shown by the ripped and torn boards, shattered cables and indentations made by the same upon the sides of the Kearsarge that the Alabama's shot and shell failed to make any penetration into the Kearsarge's hull. In a little over an hour Captain Semmes, finding that the Alabama was sinking, hauled down his colors, indicative of surrender—notwithstanding which, five broadsides were afterwards fired by the enemy—and turned to the saving of the wounded and landsmen who were unable to swim by hurrying them off in his few remaining boats; then, throwing his sword into the sea, he commanded his crew to assemble upon the edge of the Alabama's deck, and just before she made her final plunge he gave the order and every soul leaped into the whirling waters. Captain Semmes and about forty of his crew were picked up by the English yacht Deerhound, owned by Mr. Lancaster, and, thus escaped capture by being taken to England. Most of the remaining officers and crew were rescued by a couple of French fishing boats and the boats of the Kearsarge, which, after a tardy wait, finally came to their succor. Thus did the brave, good, old ship find a hero's grave instead of falling into the hands of the enemy. Her sacred bones lie buried at the bottom of that vast ocean, over the surface of which she once careered so gracefully, the scourge and terror of her foe's merchant-marine, where her requiem will forever be sung by the embracing waves, an example to all nations and all generations to come, of what one little craft, commanded by genius, probity and bravery, can accomplish, when pitted even against a powerful nation.
One of the most valuable and, at the same time, dramatic captures of the Alabama was that of the Vanderbilt "Liner," plying.