Saturday, January 11, 2014

We Are The Alabama

The USS Hatteras a Union gunboat was sunk off the coast of Galveston, Texas January 11th 1863 by the CSS Alabama.

The USS Hatteras was a1450 ton iron hulled side wheeled steamer, which was outfitted with four 32 pounder cannon as a gunboat.  She started life as the St Mary and was purchased by the Union Navy September 25th 1861.  Fitted out at the Philadelphia Navy Yard she was commissioned the USS Hatteras and place in command of Commander George F Emmons October 1861.

Serving as a part of the blockading fleet near the coast of Galveston, Texas on January 11th 1863 the USS Hatteras was ordered to give chase to as unknown ship that had been sighted on the horizon.  Beginning the pursuit about 3 pm the Hatteras followed the other ship as it moved closer to shore.  Finally coming into hailing distance of the other ship Hatteras’ Captain Homer C Blake made a request of identity.  The reply was, "Her Britannic Majesty’s Ship Vixen."  The commander of the Hatteras was suspicious and ordered the British inspected.  Once the longboat from the Hatteras moved toward the mysterious ship, a new reply came, "We are the CSS Alabama."

At this point the CSS Alabama which was commanded by Raphael Semmes pulled down the Union Jack and raised the Confederate flag.  She opened on the Hatteras with heavy cannon.  For 20 minutes the two ships exchanged fire at a distance of less than 200 yards.  Hearing the guns and seeing the flashes the Union squadron now about 15 miles away sent the USS Brooklyn a cruiser to find out what was going on.

By this time the Hatteras was already on fire and beginning to go down.  The Captain had the magazines flooded to prevent an explosion, then had a single shot fired with the bow gun to admit surrender and request assistance.  The Alabama sent over boats to remove the Hatteras’ crew, removing the last of them as the ship went under.  The whole action took only about 45 minutes.  Of the 126 crew members on the Hatteras 2 were killed and 5 wounded.  Six men managed to escape back to the squadron.  The Alabama had only 2 men wounded in the action.

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