Midshipman Edward Maffitt Anderson's letter to his father, Edward Clifford Anderson

Source: William Stanley Hoole Papers, William Stanley Hoole Special Collections Library, The University of Alabama


On board the C.S. Gunboat "Alabama" Lying off Port Royal, Martinique Nov. 18th 1862

My Dear Father

I now take this, the first opportunity I have had, of writing you a few lines. I told you in my last letter, that we went into commission on the 24th of August. We then steered a Ntw & Wtw course for six or seven days. We then wore ship and stood back for the Western Islands. Nothing of any importance happened except passing a few vessels, all of which proved to be foreigners, until the 5th Sept when the cry of "sail ho" was heard from aloft crowded on all sail and gave chase, fired one gun to heave her to, overhauled an boarded her, and informed her astonished Captain that his ship was a prize to the C.S. Gunboat "Alabama," and that he and his crew were our prisoners. She proved to be the Bark Ocmulgee of Martha's Vineyard on a whaling voyage. She had a very large sperm whale alongside, brought crew on board and put them in irons, brought everything that would be of use on board and then set her on fire, and then left her in her lonely position, filling the wide Ocean with smoke and standing as still to her fate as though she was calling down cruses on the head of Abe Lincon and his Cabinet, the disturber of peace and quietness and the principle cause of all our trouble. May he live long enough to be crushed to death under the Government which he now rules, and his fate be such as he merits.

[Starlight]
We then kept on for Flores, and on the 8th landed our prisoners in their own boats which we had towed astern for that especial purpose. We then stood out in chase of a sail. We fired three times at her before she would heave to, she proved to be the Schooner Starlight of Boston. She had stopped at Fayal and had some women passengers from that place to Flores. One of the Lieuts and self were sent on board to take charge, with orders to remain under the lee of the Alabama. It would have amused you to have seen me trying to speak to the women, the only way I could get them to understand me was by signs.

[Ocean Rover]
On 9th landed prisoners at Flores, and stood in chase of a sail, overhauled and boarded her. She proved to be the Bark Ocean Rover of New Bedford, on a whaling voyage, forty months out, with eleven-hundred barrels of oil on board. Lt. Low and self boarded her: her Captain abused Abe Lincon for everything that he could think of, and ended by saying that he would like to see Seward hung on the nearest tree.

[Alert and Weatherguage]
At 4 a.m. of the 10th gave chase and boarded the Bark Alert of New Bedford on a whaling voyage, sent the crews of both vessels ashore in their own boats, and at 6 P.M. set the Starlight, the Ocean Rover, and the Alert on fire and laid by them, until mast after mast topled over her side, and then left them in all brilliancy to illuminate those beautiful Western Islands, on each side of them which rises several hundred feet above the level of the Ocean. I mean Corvo and Flores. We then stood in chase of a sail which we overhauled and boarded at 8 P.M. She proved to be the Schooner Weather Gage of Provincetown on a whaling voyage. Took crew on board and put them in irons, not excepting her Captain, and set her on fire, then gave chase to another sail which proved to be Prussian. Gave our name as the U.S. Gunboat Iroquois in search of Pirate Alabama, and stood in for Flores and landed our prisoners. Gave chase and captured the Schooner Courser, brought prisoners on board and then used her as a target. Made some very good shots considering it is the first time that we have tried our guns. We then kept on our course, capturing and burning ships as we fell in with them. I was very much amused at the Capt. of the Altamaha, when I boarded him. He went into his Cabin, when he brought up a sword with him and turning to me, he said, Sir, I surrender up all my arms to you. The poor fellow could not get it out of his head that we were not the Sumter. He insisted that we had changed her name into the Alabama. On 19th gave chase and boarded the Bark E. Dunbar. This is the most exciting we have had as yet. At the time we overhauled her we were making thirteen knots under sail alone.

[Emily Farnum and Brilliant]
On the 3rd Oct. gave chase and captured the Packet Ship Brilliant of New York, bound to Liverpool with a cargo of wheat and flour. I was the Midmn sent aboard of her. Her Captain acted like a child. When I told him to give up his arms, and all his nautical equipment, he said that he never expected to be treated like this by his own countrymen. He got very little consolation from me, for I told him that he was on the wrong side of the question and that I was ashamed of him, for I was disgusted with him when I saw him commence to cry. We sent him and his crew on board of the E. Farnum which we had captured a few hours previous, but we released her, after sending all of our prisoners on account of her having an English cargo. We are now about 1,000 miles from New York and steering for Sandy Hook. We get the mail very regular from New York, the Brilliant only being six days out. We captured one of the Philadelphia Packets with 40 women on board, so that we could not burn her, we having no room for so many women, so we put all of our prisoners on board of her and brought the Captain on board and told his Mate to follow in our wake. We kept her as a cartelle for several days, When we capture the Packet Ship Manchester of New York, put her crew on board of the Tonowanda and set her on fire. We then ransomed the Tonowonda for eighty-thousand dollars, and let her go. On the 23rd Oct we captured the ship Lafayette of New Haven 3 days out bound to Liverpool, with a cargo of grain, brought crew on board and set her on fire. I was nearly suffocated by the smoke of the Manchester. On 26th captured Schooner Crenshaw of New York. She formerly ran between Savannah and New York. Set her on fire and stood out course. On 28th captured Bark Lauretta of Boston. When Eugene boarded her one of the crew came up to him, and said, for God's sake spare my life. We set her on fire and stood on for New York. On 29th today we got up steam for the first time since we have been out. We got it up today on account of smoke being reported from the masthead, and we being only 200 miles from New York and only 100 from land we were afraid it might be a Man of War. At 12 A.M. sail reported, gave chase and boarded her. She proved to be the Brig Baron De Custine of Bangor with a cargo of Lumber bound to the West Indies. I had the pleasure of boarding her. The Mate's wife was aboard, and she commenced crying and asked me not to kill her husband and herself. She took us for pirates from the accounts she had heard of us. The following is taken from the New York Herald. "In all cases where Captain Semmes captures a vessel, he sends an armed boat on board and order the unfortunate Captain on board the Alabama with his papers. On his arrival he is ushered into the presence of the pirate Semmes, who receives him in the most pompous and overbearing manner. He is questioned as to the name of the ship, where from , where bound and the character of his cargo. Captain Hazard (of the Brilliant) in reply to the latter question, said that some of his cargo was on English account. On his giving this reply Semmes scowled at him and remarked, "Do you take me for a damned fool? Where are the proofs that part of your cargo is on English account?" The papers unfortunately not having the consular seal attached, were not considered proof and the Brilliant and her cargo were seized by Semmes as a prize." On the 8th Nov captured the ship Thos. B. Wales of Boston, from Calcutta bound to Boston. She has the American Consul from Mauritius with his wife and Children on Board. her Captain also had his wife on board. We brought the women on board and gave them the Dr. and Pri. rooms, confined crew in Irons, and set her on fire. She was valued at two hundred and forty-five thousand dollars.

[Martinique and Escape from the San Jacinto]
We then kept on to Martinique, where we arrived safely this morning. We have been very kindly received, and when we passed any of the Soldiers, they saluted us. Nov. 19th. We were all startled this morning by the cry that a Yankee Gunboat was coming into harbor. We immediately prepared for action, but on examining her, we found that she had 14 guns so we changed our mind, but we hope to run past her tonight and to giver her a broadside as we go past. This is the same Island and at the same time last year when the Sumter was blockaded last year, but we do not fear anything now, for we think we can ship her if we are put to the trial. All of our men are anxious for a fight. The Gunboat now blockading us is the San Jacinto. She is very heavily armed, having sixty eight pounders broadside, and 2 11 inch pivots. We have not learned to commands her, he refusing to give his name, when he was boarded by the Pilot. At sea Nov 21st. We ran the blockade safely on the night of the 19th. The Captain of the French Man of War that was lying in harbor boarded the San Jacinto and told her either to come to an Anchor or to go out three miles. She refused to do the former, so she was obliged to do the latter, so that as soon as it was dark, we put out all our lights, called all hands to quarters and loaded our guns with shot and shell, and started out. We did not have any trouble at all. The French showed us every kindness imaginable, giving us charts of the harbor, and inviting us up to their club rooms . . . The night that we ran the Blockade from Martinique we made twelve knots, with only 11 pound of steam on. Sail ho has just been cried from aloft and we are now in pursuit of her. Love to Mother, Nina, Georgia, and my relations. Tell Mom Binah that I have not forgotten her. Remember me to all of the Servants and the people in the country. The weather is very warm here, being in latt. 12N. I do not know whether we intend crossing the line, but we are bound for some port where we can coal, the coal being sent from England for us, the Bark having it on board being in sight. With much love to all, I remain your affectionate Son, E.M. Anderson, C.S.N.

Land just reported, so we gave up the chase and are now standing in for land. It is the Island of Blanquilla. Eugene desires to be remembered to you all.

Eddie.


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