Liverpool, the Wirral, Lancashire and most of the surrounding area, had strong political, emotional and financial connections and sympathies with the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War (1861-1865). Indeed, so strong were these connections that it has been quoted that at one time "more Confederate flags fluttered above Liverpool than over Richmond" (the Confederate capital in Virginia).1
One of the main reasons for the link was economical, based on the importance of cotton, upon which both the Southern States and the Lancashire mills depended. However, the ties were much deeper and emotional than purely economical ones, and the History
of this relationship is still able to raise controversy and argument even today.
The outbreak of hostilities in 1861 found the Southern States in the worst position with the North having more manufacturing, arms production and industrial power. The South, because of its lack of resources, was forced to look to Europe. The already strong links from the cotton trade, made Liverpool the obvious choice for organising supplies and aid for the Confederacy. It was also important to keep open the supply line for cotton upon which the South and the Lancashire cotton mills depended. A fleet of Confederate blockade-runners and naval cruisers were built on Merseyside to keep this vital supply line open.
James Dunwoody Bulloch, a Confederate naval officer, arrived in Liverpool on 4 June 1861 with orders to buy or have constructed 6 steam vessels suitable for use as commerce destroyers against the Union, to be delivered, unarmed, under the British flag at any Southern port. In addition, he was to purchase and blockade run arms for the cruisers. He was assisted by Fraser, Trenholm and Co, foreign bankers to the Confederacy.
His first contract was with Fawcett & Preston Engineers and WC Miller and Son, Ship Builders, to build a steam sloop, CSS Florida, which was delivered in 1861. The second contract was signed in July 1861 with Laird
Brothers, for number 290 (known as Enrica). On 29 July 1862, Enrica sailed to Anglesey for trials with various dignitaries on board, and after putting them off by a tug, quietly sailed off for the Azores to take on armaments and ammunition from the Agrippina, and to begin life as the CSS Alabama.
Alabama had mostly British and mainly Liverpool crew on board, as when she had left Liverpool under secrecy, after being given the choice, most of her c30 Liverpool crew signed on for the Confederate Navy.