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District Court Historical Society Features Partner Jennifer C. Critchley and P.J. Murphy's article "For Whom A Bell Tolled" in the Spring 2013 Edition of NUNC PRO TUNC

07.02.2015
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The Confederate States Steamer Alabama was the most elegant and decisively efficacious vessel deployed by either the Union or the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Whereas the far more famous Civil War iron-clads USS Monitor and CSS Virginia were ugly, unseaworthy, flawed experiments, the Alabama represented a beautiful marriage between the best qualities of sail, and the infant technology of naval steam propulsion. The Alabama, which was built in England for the Confederate States of America under a tenuous veil of secrecy, was designed for one purpose -- to hunt, capture, burn (preferable) or bond (if necessary) Union merchant ships. She was, therefore, a thoroughbred commerce-raider. To that predatory end, the Alabama was designed for speed, with dimensions that optimized her ability to course through the sea under sail alone. She was revolutionary, however, by virtue of her two state-of-the-art, coal-driven steamengines, which could both conquer the capricious doldrums of the open ocean, and power the Alabama’s invaluable fresh-water condensers. As a warship, the Alabama was formidable, armed primarily with two long-range, large-caliber naval cannon capable of intimidating any Union merchant vessel into submission, or if necessary, destroying them. Thus, reliant only upon periodic resupplies of coal, the Alabama was elegantly designed to cruise the world’s oceans in virtually any conditions, searching for Union prey.

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