On July 29, 1862, Hull “No. 290” steamed out of the Mersey from the Laird’s Birkenhead Yard and into Civil War history. Soon taking her given name, ALABAMA, the Commerce Raider set out on a tour with devastating results for the American North’s commercial shipping interests the world over. The screw sloop-of-war proved to be a fast, capable ship under the command of Captain Raphael Semmes, capturing or destroying 69 ships in less than two years. Measuring 220'l x 32'b, her barkentine rig and lifting screw propeller could hit 13-plus knots.
A superbly detailed portrait of the infamous sloop, this is a very important newly rediscovered fifth painting of ALABAMA by Samuel Walters. Two others are in museum collections at Birkenhead and Merseyside, Liverpool. The remaining two exist in museum collection photographs by Walters of his paintings; the location of the originals is unknown. This work shows the ship on a northern route with the Skerries before her and South Stack Lighthouse far to her starboard stern, on approach to Liverpool. She actually feigned to be on a trial when launched, since British officials sought to stop her at the request of the American counsel. The Confederate flag is shown at the hoist in its “seven stars and bars” configuration. Set upon a driven sea of active, green variations and Liverpool sparkle, it is a top quality artwork of the sail/steam powered ship moving windward. The textured bright details of the artist, as seen in the figurehead example alone, are to be marveled at.
ALABAMA met her well-documented fate off Cherbourg, France at the barrels of the U.S.S. KEARSAGE, but fewer know that she captured ships in the North Atlantic, South Pacific and China Seas. She also defeated a naval blockade ship, U.S.S. HATTERAS, in the Gulf of Texas on Jan.11, 1863 in singular naval combat in less than 17 minutes. Walters saw and sensed her importance early.
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