Friday, June 1, 2012

CSS Sumter Cruise Comes to an End

After a successful cruise across the Atlantic, the Confederate cruiser CSS Sumter made port in Cadiz, Spain to fix a leaky hull in January 1862. Her captain Raphel Semmes expected a friendly greeting (as he always did at European ports), but in this case he did not. Spanish authorities expelled the cruiser from the port. The rejection did not phase Semmes as he simply took his ship over to the British port of Gibraltar (captured two more ships along the way, pictured above) where he and his company recieved a much warmer welcome.
Unforuntaley for Semmes, events started to go wrong a short time later. While travelling back to Cadiz to buy coal, two of Sumter's officers were arrested by Morrican authorities after the American consulate filed a formal complaint with local authorities. Then, two U.S. Navy warships, the steamer USS Tuscarora and USS Ino, an "extreme clipper" design sail ship, entered Algeciras Roads near Gibraltar. A few days later, the brand new steam sloop USS Kearsarge, follwed by the sail sloop-of-war USS St. Louis arrived to reinforce the squadron. The four ship squadron proceed to set up a blockade of sorts to prevent Sumter from escaping. With little coal left (and none at Gibrlatar to be purchased), the ship in bad shape, and the military odds against him, Semmes wrote to James Bolluch in Enlgand that he intended to sell Sumter and simply walk away from the ship. He did what he could to harras U.S. Naval officers diplomatically, but the Confederate captain concluded Sumter was done for. In April 11, 1862, Sumter's cruise officially came to an end. Sumter's officers made their way north to England where a ship titled "Hull No. 290" awaited them. Sumter (and later Alabama's) executive officer John Keel wrote a very good account of Sumter's cruise in his work Recollections of a Naval Life.

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