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bert1 Offline OP
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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.


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bert1 Offline OP
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CSS ALABAMA

CSS Alabama was a corvette which achieved fame as a commerce raider for the Confederate cause. She was built by Laird Brothers, Birkenhead as a fast merchantman and was most certainly partly funded by the Liverpool Cotton merchants. After leaving the yard she was equipped and armed as a vessel of war in the Azores. In a short career she was responsible for the capturing and sinking of 67 sailing ships and 1 steamer. In 1864 she was sunk off Cherbourg by USS KEARSAGE. Another Laird built yacht the DEERHOUND picked up survivors.

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HMS Wivern, a 2750-ton ironclad turret ship, was built at Birkenhead, England. Ordered by the Confederate government in 1862 as one of two sisters, her true ownership was kept secret under the "cover story" that she was to become an Egyptian warship named El Monassir. Upon delivery to the Confederacy, she was to be named Mississippi. Strong diplomatic pressure by the United States led the British government to seize the two ships in October 1863, while they was fitting out. This action undoubtedly prevented the Confederate Navy from posing an extremely dangerous threat to the Federal blockade, and to the Northern seaboard, as these two ironclads would have been more than a match for all but one of the United States Navy's seagoing warships.

Purchased for the Royal Navy in early 1864, the ship was renamed Wivern and completed in October 1865. She served with the Channel Fleet until 1868. Following a refit that eliminated her square sails in favor of a fore and aft rig, the turret ship served for several months in 1870 as coastguard ship at Hull but then spent nearly a decade in reserve. In 1880, Wivern was returned to active service and sent to Hong Kong as part of that colony's defenses. In 1904 she was reduced to harbor support service. HMS Wivern was sold for scrapping in June 1922

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At the outbreak of hostilities in 1861 between the North and South the British Government declared neutrality but it was hardly surprising owing to the strong links between the confederacy and this area that neutrality was broken. In 1873, the United States Government's demand that the British Government should pay compensation for the damage caused by the Confederate ships was settled. Known as the "Alabama Claim", because she had caused the most damage, and together with the Florida and Shenandoah, had accounted for half of the total number of Union vessels captured. It resulted in the British Government paying £3,000,000 compensation for allowing the Confederate Government to purchase the ships in England and allowing them to use British ports.

Last edited by bert1; 9th Apr 2009 3:43pm.

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Though fortunes were made in shipbuilding as the war continued the cotton trade began to struggle and workers in the cotton business fell more and more on hardships. In 1862 soup kitchens began to open in order to feed these souls. Abraham Lincoln knowing of the plight of these people and not wanting to turn the tide against the Union sent ships to Liverpool laden with flour and corn. Ironically one of those ships the Brilliant was sunk by the Alabama though many did get through.


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It has been said that one of my family sailed as carpenter on the Alabama and spent time in a french jail after it was sunk, he is also supposed to have escaped (with others) by overpowering the guard's. He was not from the Wirral but settled there in the late 1860's.
Sadly i have no evidence of this apart from what i was told when i was a kid.

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Thanks Bertie for a very interesting post and those lovely photos.Those sailing ships are magnificent, especially when their sails are up. happy

Last edited by Angela; 9th Apr 2009 6:38pm.

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The Confederacy was not a recognised government and Britain was neutral in the conflict. The Foreign Enlistment Act imposed penalties on companies building or equipping a ship destined to be used in acts of war with a country Britain was at peace with but did not make it illegal. The act concluded that there was no offence in doing so as the offence lay at the feet of those responsible for the acts, not those building the instrument used in them. The act was however very clear on the issue of British subjects serving foreign powers. A fine of £50 per person would be imposed on those who enlisted as a sailor, soldier or Marine contrary to the act’s provisions. The power was given to customs officials to detain any ship they suspected of this until the fine was paid.


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Liverpool played an active part in the beginning and the end of the civil war. Fawcett & Preston of Liverpool made the rifled cannon a 12 pounder that fired the first Confederate shots at the Union stronghold Fort Sumpter. The last shots fired in the war was made by CSS Shenandoah in the waters off the Aleutian Islands by cannon most certainly made by Fawcett & Preston. She also travelled to Liverpool to surrender herself on Nov 6th 1865 to HMS Donegal.

Css Shenandoah
HMS Donegal

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