The Duel Between the "Alabama" and the "Kearsarge"

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The Duel Between The "Alabama" And The "Kearsarge"




On Sunday, the 12th of June, 1864, the Kearsarge, Captain John A. Winslow, was lying at anchor in the Scheldt, off Flushing, Holland. The cornet suddenly appeared at the fore, and a gun was fired. These were unexpected signals that compelled absent officers and men to return to the ship. Steam was raised, and as soon as we were off, and all hands called, Captain Winslow gave the welcome news of a telegram from Mr. Dayton, our minister to France, announcing that the Alabama had arrived the day previous at Cherbourg; hence the urgency of departure, the probability of an encounter, and the expectation of her capture or destruction. The crew responded with cheers. The succeeding day witnessed the arrival of the Kearsarge at Dover for dispatches, and the day after (Tuesday) her appearance off Cherbourg, where we saw the Confederate flag flying within the breakwater. 

The Kearsarge

As we approached, officers and men gathered in groups on deck, and looked intently at the "daring rover" that had been able for two years to escape numerous foes and to inflict immense damage on our commerce. She was a beautiful specimen of naval architecture. The surgeon went on shore and obtained pratique (permission to visit the port) for boats. Owing to the neutrality limitation, which would not allow us to remain in the harbor longer than twenty-four hours, it was inexpedient to enter the port. We placed a vigilant watch by turns at each of the harbor entrances, and continued it to the moment of the engagement.

On Wednesday Captain Winslow paid an official visit to the French admiral commanding the maritime district, and to the United States commercial agent, bringing on his return the unanticipated news that Captain Semmes had declared his intention to fight. At first the assertion was barely credited, the policy of the Alabama being regarded as opposed to a conflict, and to escape rather than to be exposed to injury, perhaps destruction; but the doubters were half convinced when the so-called challenge was known to read as follows:

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