Exerpts from an interview with James Magee, a sailor on the Kearsarge.
"When within about a mile of her, she fired her bow chaser, the shot dropping very carelessly alongside our forward pivot port within about four feet of our ship's side, and doing no damage. The next shot she fired struck us in the port bow and glanced off, doing no harm. She fired some two or three shots very wildly, that went whistling above our mastheads. During this time we did not fire one shot, but when within half a mile we hove round and gave her a broadside. Here we had it, broadside and broadside, both ships under a full head of steam, the Alabama firing two or three shots to our one. We engaged her at seven hundred yards, and as we fought in a circle we `closed in' to about five hundred yards, and held this position for about half an hour. Then, finding that we were getting the best of the fight, the Captain, desiring to bring the thing to an end, closed into about two hundred and fifty yards, and discharged a full broadside."
"One of the shots went through our smoke pipe, and a sixty-eight pounder lodged in our stern post, doing no other damage as it did not explode. . ."
"We did not fire on them after they struck their flag. The boat from the Alabama came alongside, and Lieutenant Wilson delivered up his sword and surrendered the ship, and told the Captain that if he did not make haste and get out boats to save life, that there would be a good many go down in the Alabama."
"All our boats were disabled but two. They were lowered and manned. Just as the boats left the ship, the Alabama gave two surges forward and down she went. I was in one of the boats that went to pick up the prisoners. As we began to pick them up, we heard them say that they had rather drown than to be hanged on board of that ship. Some of the men we tried to save would throw up their hands and sink down, so we were obliged to take the boat-hook and reach down three or four feet and hook them up, and some were so far gone that they died in the boats. While we were picking up the men, the Deerhound, one of the Royal Yacht Squadron, teamed up to within hailing distance of the ship, and the Captain asked him if he would be kind enough to assist in picking up the men and deliver them up to him, as they were his prisoners. He said he would, and steamed in among them and picked up quite a number, and among them was Captain Semmes. He then steamed off as fast as he could, taking advantage while a good part of our men were off in the boats . . ."
In your discussions, consider:
1. This interview was conducted in 1921. The events Magee describes occurred 57 years earlier in 1864. Why is this important?
2. How might Magee's memories of the battle be different from those of a sailor on the CSS Alabama?
3. How might they differ from the description of a sailor in a nearby boat that was not involved in the action?
4. Which do you think would be most accurate, the account of a USS Kearsarge sailor, a CSS Alabama sailor, or a bystander? Why?