The Alabama & the Kearsarge: The Sailor's Civil War

By William Marvel | Go to book overview
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"Farewell, my Spain! a long farewell!" he cried, "Perhaps I may revisit thee no more."

-- Byron, Don Juan

A few of the Kearsarge crewmen still lounged on the forecastle after their noon meal on December 26 when someone shouted that the Florida was moving. A tug had the raider in tow, dragging it from its anchorage beside the hulk in the basin. The Confederate steamer's twin stacks belched no smoke, so excitement aboard the Federal sloop remained somewhat less than uncontrollable, but, when the Florida anchored in the roadstead, everyone understood that her engines were thought to be ready.

Two days later the Florida beean taking powder and shells back aboard, and loading provisions. Nervous about Captain Winslow's ambition to sink the cruiser, the port admiral sent a line-of-battle ship to anchor between the two, but after the scandal that his Queenstown venture had raised, Winslow had no intention of defying another neutral nation's laws. If he could not leave the port for twenty-four hours after the Florida, he would leave before she sailed. On the afternoon of December 29 the Kearsarge steamed out to sea to wait.

With her went a mysterious character who told the crew he had deserted from the Georgia as that ship lay in Cherbourg harbor. He had been captured near the Canary Islands aboard the Boston collier Bold Hunter, early in October, and when the Confederates landed their prisoners at Tenerife, he had opted to ship with his captors, ostensibly because he preferred not to


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