DOCUMENT 4


The Alabama fought two Union war ships during its career. The first was the USS Hatteras, off the coast of Texas, and the second was the USS Kearsarge, the ship that sank the Alabama. This entry from the journal of George Townley Fullam, an officer on the Alabama, describes how his ship lured the Hatteras away from the Union fleet and sank her.

Sunday. 11th. [January 1863] Fine moderate breeze from the eastward. Read Articles of War. Noon. 18 miles from Galveston. As I write this, some are discussing the probabilities of a fight before morning. 2.25 p.m. Light breeze. Sail discovered by the lookout on lee bow shortly after three, and at last five vessels were seen, two of which were reported to be steamers. Everyone delighted at the prospect of a fight . . . 4 p.m. A steamer reported standing out from the fleet towards us. Backed maintopsail and lowered propeller. 4.50 Everything reported ready for action. Chase bearing N.N.E. dist. 10 miles. Twilight set in about 5.45. Took in all sails. At 6.20 beat to quarters, manned the starboard battery, and loaded with five-second shell, -turned round and stood for the steamer, having previously made her out to be a two masted side wheel steamer of apparently 1200 tons, tho at the distance she was just before dark, we could not form any correct estimate of her size, &c. At 6.30 the strange steamer hailed and asked "What steamer is that?" We replied, (in order to be certain who he was)-Her Majestys Steamer "Petrel!" "What steamer is that?" Two or three times were asked the question, until we heard "This is the United States Steamer _____________, not hearing the name. However, United States was sufficient. As no doubt existed as to his character, we said at 6.35 that this was the "Confederate States Steamer 'Alabama'" accompanying the last syllable of our name with a shell fired over him. The signal being given, the other guns took up the refrain, and a tremendous volley from our whole broadside given to him, every shell striking his side, it, the shot, striking being distinctly heard on board our vessel, and thus found that she was iron. The enemy replied, and the action became general. A most sharp spirited firing was kept up on both sides, our fellows peppering away as though the action depended upon each individual. And so it did. Pistols & rifles were continually firing form our quarter deck, messengers most deadly. The distance during the hottest of the fight, not being more than 40 yards! Twas a grand though fearful sight to see the guns belching forth, in the darkness of the night, sheets of living flame, the deadly missiles striking the enemy with a force that we could feel. Then, when the shells struck her side, and especially the percussion ones, her whole side was lit up and showing rents of five or six feet in length. One shot had just struck our smokestack and wounding one man in the cheek, when the enemy eased his firing, and fired a lee gun, then a second, and a third, the order was then given to "Cease firing." This was at 6.52. A tremendous cheering commenced and it was not until everybody had cleared his throat to his own satisfaction that silence could be obtained. We then hailed him, and in reply, he stated that he had surrendered was on fire and also that he was in a sinking condition. He then sent a boat on board and surrendered the U.S. Gunboat "Hatteras," 9 guns, Lieut. Commr. Blake, 140 men.


Discuss the following:

1. How was the Alabama able to surprise the Hatteras?

2. How might a crew member of the USS Hatteras have described the battle? How would their point of view be different?