The University of Alabama
Brief History of the CSS Alabama
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Few ships in recent history have captured the imaginations of so many for so long as the CSS Alabama. Built in secrecy for the Confederacy in the Liverpool shipyards of John Laird Sons and Company, the Alabama became the subject of controversy even as her keel was laid. The Union did not take kindly to this expression of British sympathy for the cotton-producing South, and much diplomatic subterfuge was required to complete and launch "290," the Alabama's nom de guerre. Afloat on the high seas by the summer of 1862, the CSS Alabama harried Yankee traders and took nearly 60 prizes, dealing a blow to the American merchant marine from which it never truly recovered. The Alabama cruised the Atlantic, rounded Africa, and visited Southeast Asia before she was finally sunk by the USS Kearsarge off the French coast near Cherbourg in June, 1864.

The Alabama's brief but brilliant career has been well-documented for over a century. Contemporaneous news sources, the memoirs of her captain and officers, and official Confederate documents provide a chronicle of the Alabama at sea. Professional historians have ruminated at length on the vessel and her exploits. More recently both National Geographic and the Learning Channel covered the international effort to dive the wreck of the Alabama. The sheer beauty of the Alabama's bark rigging inspired artists of her era, including French painter Eduard Manet, and continues to fascinate modelers today. In the final analysis, children of all ages love to go down to the sea in ships.