UK Heritage

CSS Alabama - Crew of the British Isles

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By Maurice Rigby

(additional material: Pat O'Driscoll & Michael Barrett)

 

Webmaster's Note: ACWRT (UK) member Maurice Rigby has done a great deal of research into sailors from the British Isles who took part in the Civil War. Maurice kindly prepared a series of biographies for those who served aboard the Confederate Raider C.S.S. Alabama which appeared in 'Crossfire', the magazine of the ACWRT (UK) between issues 50 to 57. Those biographies are brought together here, with accompanying pictures (chosen by the webmaster.)

 

Further Note: Interested readers might also like to see our list derived from 'Crossfire' of Britons serving in Virginia Infantry regiments, 'Britons for Virginia!'

 

 


Henry William ALLCOT - Born in Liverpool, England June 3 1833.

 

Henry Allcot was the son of a seaman John Henry and Elizabeth Allcot, and was one of the original warrant officers who enlisted on board the CSS Alabama at the Azores, holding the rank of sailmaker, a commission he received from Captain Semmes. Sinclair speaks of Allcot as being like "Pat's parrot, slow of speech but profound of thought", and hard "to convince that canvas was not the most important part of the Alabama". And yet that importance to the care and upkeep of the Alabama's sails which Allcot had so contributed to, put him to the test (luring the hurricane of October 16 1862, when many of the sails were torn to pieces as the mainyard crashed down to the deck below, causing many weeks of hard work for Allcot and his mates to repair them.

 

Allcot served on board the Alabama for the full cruise, and took part in the shot and shell division during the engagement with the USS Kearsarge on June 19 1864. He was among the last to leave the sinking Alabama, and was rescued from the Channel by the crew of a French pilot boat, possibly under the command of its pilot Monsieur Mauger, and taken to Cherbourg Harbour, where he received his discharge papers and pay from the Confederate naval service.

 

On June 24 1864, Allcot left Cherbourg on board the South Western Company's steamer Havre, Captain Smith commanding, calling at Southampton before he made his own way back home to Liverpool. After a brief convalescence, Allcot left Liverpool aboard the S.S. Laurel on October 8 1864, for a voyage to Funchal, Madeira, and a rendezvous with the Sea King.

 

On arrival at Funchal, Allcot assisted in the fitting out of the Sea King into the CSS Shenandoah, and after enlisting on board as its sail maker, served on board for the full cruise, and was present during her surrender to the captain of HMS Donegal, in Liverpool, on November 6 1865.

 

With the end of the War Between the States, Allcot returned to more peaceful duties as an ordinary seaman in the employ of the English merchant service, a position he held until his death on March 3 1891, at the age of 53, at his residence at 101, Esmond Street, Anfield, Liverpool. He was buried in a private grave at the Liverpool (Anfield) cemetery in section 7, grave 138, Nonconformist Division, marked by a memorial.

 

Allcot was married twice, the first time to Kent-born Elizabeth 'Betsy' Hicklin, the daughter of Thomas and Rosamond Hicklin, at the parish church of St Alban, Burroughs Gardens, Liverpool, on July 11 1864. Sadly their marriage was cut short by the death of his wife at the hospital, of consumption, on May 12 1884, aged 41. She was buried in a private grave at the Liverpool (Anfield) Cemetery, in section 2, grave 682, Nonconformist Division, where a memorial marks her grave. Allcot remarried on 20th May of the following year to Liverpool-born Lilias May Radcliff, the daughter of a grocer Stephen Basil and Margaret Radcliff nee Cowell, at the parish church of St Peter, Everton. Following Allcots's death, she remarried in 1895.

 

Added Information

 

Lilias May Radcliff was baptised at St John The Baptist Church on May 24 1863, and her father was buried in a public grave at the Kirkdale Cemetery on October 30 1915, aged 75, section 9, grave 97, Church of England Division; Last known next of kin, William Joseph & Gladys D. Rooney of 4, Duddingston Avenue, Liverpool L18, in 1970, connected to Annie Margaret Mahoney nee Radcliff, sister of Lilias May, and wife of Lawrence, buried Kirkdale Cemetery, section 21, grave 134, Church of England Division.

 

 

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Edward Dean BURRELL - Born on July 8, 1837 at 3 St John Street, Birkenhead, England

 

The son of Edward and Esther Burrell, nee Dean, he was not one of the original crewmen of the Alabama, only having enlisted as an ordinary seaman on 9 May, 1864, after his ship, the SS Tycoon, was captured as a prize on 27 April and put to the torch that same day.

 

Burrell had the distinction of being the last man to ship aboard the Alabama as she made her way to Cherbourg and it seemed appropriate therefore, that the last man to ship aboard the Birkenhead-built vessel could only be a local man. He served on board for the remainder of the cruise, and took part in the engagement against the USS Kearsarge on 19 June, 1864. He was among the survivors who were rescued from the Channel by the crew of the Kearsarge and was held on board until her arrival at Cherbourg, where he received the offer of parole from Captain Winslow.

 

It was in Cherbourg on 22 June that Burrell received his pay and discharge papers from the Confederate Naval Service, before returning home to Birkenhead. After a brief convalescence he went back to sea through the English Merchant Service, and it was while at sea on 28 November, 1865, that Burrell lost his life on board the SS Alfred from 'Phthisis Pulmonalis' (tuberculosis of the lung). He was buried the following day in Colaba, Bombay, by the Reverend Ward Maule.

 

Added Information

 

Edward Burrell was baptised at St Peter's Church, Church Street, Liverpool on 11 August, 1837. His mother died at Oxton Hall, Oxton, on 16 November 1887, aged 72.

 

 

John CAREN - Born in Douglas, Isle of Man, circa 1840

 

The son of Charles and Elizabeth Caren nee Kelly. He was one of the original crewmen of the CSS Alabama, enlisting in the Azores on August 24th 1862 as an ordinary seaman, and remained on board for the full cruise, taking part in the engagement against the USS Kearsarge on June 11th 1864.

 

During the fight with the Kearsarge, Caren was slightly wounded, and was among other injured seamen who were placed in the Alabama's whaleboat and rowed over to the Kearsarge where, after being transferred on board, were later removed to the L'Hôpital De La Marine at Cherbourg, to be tended there by French doctors.

 

Following his release from the French hospital, Caren received his discharge papers and pay from the Confederate Naval Service in Cherbourg and then returned to Liverpool, where he found work as a cotton porter up until his death at his daughter's residence, 15 Monastery Road, Anfield, at the age of 73. He was buried in a public grave at the Liverpool (Anfield) Cemetery on March 11th, 1914, in section 7, grave 642, Church of England Division.

 

Added Information

 

He had been married on two occasions, the first being to Manchester-born Agnes Harrison, the daughter of John Harrison, at the parish church of St Columba, Pleasant Street, Liverpool, on May 21st, 1866. Born circa 1846, she died some years before her husband, at her residence at 69, St Andrew Street, and was also buried in a public grave at the Liverpool (Anfield) Cemetery on July 3rd, 1881 aged 35, in section 12, grave 935, Church of England Division.

 

His second marriage was to the widow Jane Hesketh, nee Mance, at the parish church of St Peter, Church Street, Liverpool, on February 5th, 1885. Born in Liverpool circa 1841 the daughter of William Mance, but her death has not been traced.

 

Charles Caren, John's father, married Elizabeth Kelly at Braddan, I.o.M. on January 14th in 1838. Charles was buried at Anfield Cemetery on April 16th,1893, aged 78 in section 12, grave 1090, Church of England Division. Elizabeth died in 1895 aged 80.

 

Children known to John and Agnes Caren; Elizabeth, born March 23rd, 1867 (married John F. Jenkins at St Mary's Kirkdale, April 7th, 1890) & died February 23rd, 1947; Jane, born September 22nd, 1869; Alfred, born September 8th, 1872 (married at St. Polycarp December 24th, 1899, to Elizabeth Jane Lloyd) & died January 1941; Agnes, born October 1st 1873; Olivia, born September 29th, 1875; Hannah, born circa 1878; John Mason Caren, born 1881.

 

 

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John O'GRADY - Born in Wexford, Ireland, circa 1847

 

The son of shoemaker Thomas and Ellen O'Grady was one of the original crewmen who enlisted on board the CSS Alabama, at the Azores, on August 24th 1862 as a boy seaman having arrived there by shipping on board the SS Bahama as a member of the crew.

 

He served on the Alabama until her arrival at Singapore harbour on December 21st 1863, for it was while she was at anchor taking in fresh provisions, that O'Grady and a number of other seamen failed to return to the ship while out on liberty, causing Semmes to log him as a deserter when the ship sailed on December 24th.

 

Little is known of O'Grady after his desertion from the Alabama, though it's presumed he worked his passage home to Liverpool where he had been residing since the early 1850's with his father in Athol Street. He remained a seaman for some years after his return, until his death at 5 Lincoln Street, Bootle, at the age of 63. He was buried in a public grave at Ford Cemetery, Litherland, on May 6 1915.

 

Added Information

 

He is shown to have been married on two occasions. The first took place on July 16 1866 at the parish church of St Peter, Church Street, to Liverpool born Margaret Mackin, the daughter of labourer James and Jane Mackin. Their marriage however ended some years later, when his wife was admitted to the fever ward at the Brownlow Hill Workhouse Hospital on September 3rd 1870 and died there on September 12 at the age of 24. She was buried in a public grave at Ford Cemetery, Litherland, the following day.

 

On August 17 1881 he married Liverpool-born Mary Jane Rushton, the daughter of an engineer James Rushton and his wife Jane, at the parish church of St Albans, Bevington. She died at the Walton Workhouse aged 44 and was buried at Ford Cemetery, Litherland in a public grave on January 7 1899.

 

Known children: Thomas O'Grady born Liverpool 1867, he was married to Elizabeth Power at the Roman Catholic Church of St James, Bootle on April 27 1890. Four children known during their marriage: Alexander O'Grady born 20 Chaucer Street, Bootle on May 8 1891: Thomas born in November 1893 at 62 Boreland Street: Margaret born on February 14 1896 at 45 Salisbury Road, Bootle: and Ann Honor O'Grady on October 13 1901 at 38 Milton Street.

 

Bootle Town Hall and the War Memorial on Stanley Road, contain the names of A. O'Grady A.I.F., and T. O'Grady, R.N.R.. Research shows that Stoker Thomas O'Grady, 4211 RNB, HMS New Zealand died on March 3 1915 and was buried in grave 579 at Dalmeny Cemetery, West Lothian, Scotland overlooking the Firth of Forth. Private Alexander O'Grady, 5193 Australian Imperial Force, 1st Battalion, died 22nd / 25th July 1916. He has no known grave and his name appears on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, Fouilloy, ten miles east of Amiens, France.

 

Samuel HENRY (1) - Born Kirkcudbright November 11, 1834

 

The following article was taken from 'The Liverpool Echo' of 19 August 1912:

 

"An Alabama survivor, Samuel Henry, called at the 'Echo' office today and was photographed... He joined the Alabama privateer with the bulk of the crew at the Azores, remaining aboard for nearly two years, until the sinking of the Alabama by the Kearsarge.

 

While he was on the Alabama his mother drew half his pay in Liverpool, and when the ship foundered he received in Liverpool £10 as 'bag money', the whole of his kit having been lost. While aboard the Alabama, he says, he was twice tried by court-martial for alleged offences, of which on both occasions he was found not guilty.

 

After returning to Liverpool he found employment in the tug service, and has been long known among tugmen and stagemen as 'Alabama Sam'. For some weeks he has been an inmate of the Tranmere Workhouse, which he entered to undergo a serious operation, which was successfully performed on Good Friday. He has made a good recovery and wishes to resume his independence. He believes there is in existence an 'Alabama Survivors' Relief Fund' and if he could obtain help from that, as well as an old age pension, or some light employment, he would cease to burden the rates".

 

George HORWOOD - Born in Portsea, Hampshire, July 23, 1817

 

The son of Nicholas and Grace Horwood, he enlisted on board the Alabama on 24 August 1862 as the boatswain's mate, one of teh original members of the ship's company. He served aboard the Alabama until his term of service ended on 24 February 1863, and as this occurred while he was at sea, he had to wait until Captain Semmes could stop a friendly vessel before discharging him.

 

On February 27 the Alabama stopped and boarded the London-bound vessel SS Glendower, carrying a valuable cargo of tea and silks, and after checking her papers, and its captain agreeing to take Horwood, the Glendower was allowed to proceed on her journey. Before the two ships parted, Horwood was handed a document containing a list of all the vessels bonded or destroyed up to that date, a copy of which appeared in 'The Liverpool Mercury' of March 21 1863.

 

Horwood was a former Royal Navy veteran, and may have served in one of Her Majesty's men-o-war during the Crimean War of 1854-6. Little is known about him after his return to this country, though it is thought he may have served on board the Southerner, which was launched in Liverpool in June 1863, for the Liverpool-Charleston run. On 8 October 1864 Horwood shipped aboard the Laurel for a voyage to Funchal, Madeira, and a rendezvous with the Sea King. He assisted in the fitting out of the Sea King as the CSS Shenandoah, and after enlisting on board as boatswain, served throughout the cruise, and was present during her surrender to Captain Paynter of HMS Donegal at Liverpool on 6 November 1865.

 

George Horwood settled in Liverpool after the war, and with the help of his wife ran a lodging house at 5 Kent Square, until his death on October 5 1888. He was buried in St James's Cemetery (section C, grave 28), where a york headstone used to mark his grave.

 

He was married to Eliza Naylor, the widow of Thomas Joseph Naylor, and daughter of John and Elizabeth Furze, at the parish church of St Mark, Duke Street, on July 8 1869. Born at Clannaborough, Devon, in 1824, she survived her husband by only a few months, dying also at Kent Square, aged 66, and was buried in St James's Cemetery on March 19 1889.

 

 

Frederick Matthew JOHNS - Born Newport, Wales in 1840

 

One of four children of Matthew Augustus Johns, a coal agent, and Eliza, his wife he enlisted on board the CSS Alabama in the Azores, on August 24, 1862 as the paymaster's steward.

 

It was during the cruise on February 2, 1863, that Johns had noticed a small fire in the spirit room next to the magazine and immediately ran to the spar deck where he reported to the officer of the deck. Within seconds the officer had called all hands to quarters to help put out the fire, but fortunately for everyone on board the captain of the hold, Higgs, managed to extinguish the flames with a blanket before it became serious. It began when Higgs lit a naked candle, contrary to orders, and the vapour from the liquor casks then ignited. Needless to say it could have resulted in dire consequences for the whole of the ship's crew had the fire spread.

 

Johns continued to serve on board the Alabama, and took part in the engagement against the USS Kearsarge on June 19, 1864 off the coast of Cherbourg. Sadly, Johns lost his life through drowning on that fateful day and his body was never recovered, though a memorial headstone in St James Cemetery bears not only his name, but that of his family as well. His father was still trying to get over the loss of his second wife Ann Maria Johns of Cardiff a few months before, when he received news of the death of his eldest son. His health began to deteriorate rapidly thereafter, and on March 19, 1865 he died at his residence in Hale, near Liverpool. He was buried in the family grave at St James, section C grave 432, Church of England.

 

With the death of the father, his remaining children, Julia Martha and Alfred George Augustus Johns, were placed in the care of a family friend, Francis George Harbord of Oxton, Cheshire. Little is known of the former, but the latter died in Plymouth aged 26 on September 20, 1872.

 

Added Information

 

Frederick M Johns was baptised at St John the Baptist Church, Toxteth, on May 2 1848, as were Julia Martha and Alfred G. A. Johns. Wilfred B. Johns was baptised on March 23, 1853.

 

John LOW - Born ? 1835 (2)

 

Low hailed from Aberdeen and obtained his Master's Certificate at the minimum age. Chief Officer on the Alabama when she sailed from Liverpool, he continued as an officer after she commenced her commerce-raiding career. He was known as 'The Devil of the Alabama' and was noted for his fearlessness under fire. On his retirement from the sea, he went into business in Liverpool and devoted his spare time to charitable institutions connected with the merchant service.

 

The shipping newspaper 'Lloyds List' for 14 September 1906 recorded Low's death and elaborate funeral, attended by many nautical organisations.

 

 

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George YEOMAN - Born Dover, Kent, England on August 3 1844

 

The son of Richard and Jane Yeoman nee Adley, and had his first experience of the sea at the age of 12, as a cabin boy. It was on November 25 1862 however, that Yeoman first shipped aboard the CSS Alabama as an ordinary seaman from the tender Agrippina, at Blanquilla Island, Venezuela, when he was exchanged together with two other seamen, for crew members from the Alabama who had been discharged either through illness or some other sort of incapacity.

 

Yeoman remained on board the Alabama for the full cruise, and had taken part in the engagement against the USS Kearsarge off Cherbourg Harbour on June 19 1864. Whilst in the fight with the USS Kearsarge, Yeoman suffered a serious head wound, and was also swept overboard. He was rescued from the waters of the Channel by the crew of the yacht Deerhound, and taken to the port of Southampton, where his wound was attended to by doctors Ware and Wiblin

 

His injuries treated Yeoman, together with a number of other seamen, accompanied the officers of the stricken Alabama back to the Confederate States, where they were treated like conquering heroes rather than a defeated foe. Whilst there, each crewman was reputed to have received a plot of land for their services aboard the Alabama.

 

With the end of the American Civil War, Yeoman returned to England, where he enlisted in the British Army, being posted to India with his regiment, where he served for 12 years, carrying out the position of barber, amongst his other duties. By early 1879 Yeoman was back in Kent, taking up residence in Canterbury, where he carried on a business as barber and chiropodist not far from Canterbury Cathedral, and having the Archbishop among his clients for chiropody. In his spare time, Yeoman's other interest was breeding budgerigars, and it was this interest of his that tended to attract quite a number of respectable people and their families connected with the Cathedral to his home.

 

Around 1890 he moved back to Dover where he opened a barbershop at 5, Tower Hamlets Road, within the Parish of St. Bartholomew, before moving again to 105, High Street by 1908. In 1910 he moved again, this time to 4, Chapel Lane where he remained until his death on April 8, 1924, aged 79 years. His funeral at Charlton Cemetery was attended by members of his family, friends and neighbours, and by the brothers of the "Sir John Falstaff" Lodge of Oddfellows, of which he was a member. The Reverend C.S.M. Playfair was the officiating minister, and Messrs H.R.Smith carried out the funeral arrangements.

 

Added Information

 

George Yeoman was married twice. The first time to London born Jessy Bruford Le Serve, daughter of Alfred Le Serve, at the Parish Church of Holy Trinity, Margate, on March 17 1879. When she died in 1899 at the age of 49, he married again, on November 6 1899, to Jessie Isabella Sarah Ann Nichols.

 

© ACWRT(UK) 1996-1999, 2002

 

(Minor corrections added August 2002: courtesy John Bennett)

 

Sources:

 

Arthur Sinclair's 'Two Years on the Alabama' 1896, London, Cay & Bird; St Helen's Library, Victoria Square, St Helen's; Central Libraries, William Brown Street, Liverpool; 'The Cruise of the Alabama', from the private journal of an officer, 1863, Lee & Nightingale; Liverpool Weekly Mercury July 2 1864, List of Alabama survivors; Parliamentary Papers on the crew list of the Shenandoah LXXV 555 1866.

 

(1) Michael Barrett, former ACWRT(UK) Secretary - 'Crossfire' Issue 38 (1990)

(2) Pat O'Driscoll, ACWRT(UK) member - 'Crossfire' Issue 35 (March 1989)

Picture Credits:

 

All images, with grateful thanks to US Naval Historical Centre. With special thanks to Mr John E. Ellis, Founder, CS Navy Museum, Library & Research Institute, Mobile, Alabama

 

i) 'Capt Semmes & Lt Kell aboard CSS Alabama 1863' (Photo # NH57256)

 

ii) "The Approach of the British Pirate 'Alabama'", by 'Homer' (Photo # NH59351)

 

iii) Two of Alabama's officers on deck, during her visit to Cape Town in August 1863. (Photo # NH57255)

They are: Lieutenant Arthur Sinclair IV, (left) and Lieutenant Richard F. Armstrong. The gun beside them is a 32-pounder of Lt. Sinclair's Division.

 

iv) 'The action between the Alabama and the Kearsarge' (Photo # NH65736)