Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 1-10-1963

The Capture of the California Steamer Ariel by the Rebel Pirate Ship Alabama.

We are indebted to Mr. Thomas, first officer of the Ariel, for some very interesting sketches of the last and most audacious exploits of the pirate Alabama. The purser says:

On the 7th of December, at 1:30 P.M., when rounding Cape Maysi, the eastern point of Cuba, we saw a vessel about four miles to the westward, close under the high land of Cuba, bark-rigged and under canvas. As there was nothing in her appearance indicating her to be a steamer, her smokepipe being down, no suspicions were aroused, till in a short time we saw she had furled her sails, raised her smokestack, and was rapidly nearing us under steam, the American flag flying at her peak. Such was her speed in comparison to ours, that in about half an hour she had come up within half a mile of us, when she fired a lee gun, hauled down the American ensign and ran up the rebel flag. No attention was paid to the summons, and the Ariel was pushed to her utmost speed. She then sailed across our wake, took a position on our port quarter about 400 yards distant, and fired two guns almost simultaneously, on shot passing over the hurricane deck, between the walking-beam and smokestack, and the other hitting the foremast, and cutting it half away.

A body of United States Marines, consisting of 126 men, passengers on board the Ariel, had been drawn up and armed; but the officers in command deemed it worse than folly to resist, as we could plainly see they were training a full broadside to bear upon us, and Capt. Jones gave orders to stop the ship and haul down the ensign.

A boat then put off to us, and the boarding officer, on coming aboard, at once assured the passengers that none should be molested, and that all baggage and private property should be respected. He then demanded the keys of the special locker, together with all the ship's papers and letters, and informed the captain he must be in readiness to go on board the Alabama with him, where he was detained as a hostage until the next day.

The money in the ship, amounting to $9,500 was taken off, and the prize crew, 20 in number, all well armed, put on board. The engine-room was taken in charge by two engineers from the Alabama. The officers and marines on board the Ariel were paroled, and there arms taken, as well as some belonging to the ship.

Finding it was dangerous to venture into Kingston, Jamaica, to land the passengers, Capt. Semmes took a bond for $260,000, payable six months after the recognition of the Southern Confederacy, and released the Ariel. The accuracy of the rebel gunnery was proved by the fact that one of the two shots went clean through the foremast . . . The buttons of the officers are of the best Birmingham manufacture.


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