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Two Germans on the Alabama by Maurice Rigby

Maurice again comes up trumps with some excellent research on the two Germans that served on the CSS Alabama.

Carl Ferdinand Wilhem Maximilian Mulnier was born in Labiau, East Prussia, on September 21 1838, the son of Fritz and Emma Mulnier née Hardenach. The Mulnier family name originates from France, and can be traced back as far as the 18th century. Being Huguenots, they were of course persecuted by the then King of France, Louis XIV, who on October 22 1685 issued a decree revoking the edict of Nantes and forcing many Protestants to renounce their faith. Protestants who found themselves deprived of all their rights and privileges, had caused hundreds of thousands of Huguenots to leave France and escape to other parts of the world, such as Germany, Holland, England, and South Africa.

With very little information known on his naval period, his briefly documented maritime career began at the age of twenty, when he was part of a fifteen-man crew on the 326 ton bark 'Bertha', of Bremen, Captain Klamp commanding. He was mustered out on March 24 1858, having signed aboard as the ship's sailmaker on a passage from Bremen to the East Indies via Cardiff. Not long after he returned home from the voyage, on November 2 1860 he became a citizen of the "Free City" of Bremen, before shipping out again in May 1861 on board the 117 ton Bremen barque 'Sirene', Captain Arfmann, for Honolulu, via Liverpool.

In quite a few of the published sources to date on the cruise of the 'Alabama', it had been written that before joining her crew Mulnier, and Johann Schrader, had been shipwrecked while on a tour of the world during their furlough from the Prussian Navy, even though no such evidence of any naval service has been found at the time of writing. In fact both men had shipped out as officers in April 1863, aboard the Bremen brig 'Elise', 264 tons, Captain Arfmann commanding, carrying a cargo of patent fuel via the Cape. Late into the evening of Friday, August 7, she got into distress on her approach into the Cape, as a result of one of the strong gales so common in this region, and left the captain of the 'Elise' with no other option but to fire her signal guns for assistance. Two or three Table Bay anchor boatmen cruising the bay, were immediately dispatched to her aid as she started to break up on a reef off Mouillé Point, Table Bay. Fortunately, all the nine members of the crew, and her captain, were saved.

I think I would be failing in my duty if i didn't mention in a brief paragraph, one such incident concerning these Cape boatmen, and whose only reward was in saving life, and property, while putting their own lives at great risk.

In July 1865 these heroic Cape boatmen who risked life and limb to save all distressed seamen of these shores would lose six of their best men in one of the most violent storms ever to hit Table Bay. It was caused when their anchor-boat 'Stag', the largest in the Bay, was offering aid and assistance to prevent a large number of shipping in the Bay from being wrecked on the rocks. She became so heavily swamped with water that she soon sank with just two of the seamen from their eight manned crew being the only survivors. Even the anchor-boat 'Providence' was eventually left to the ravages of the sea after her mast was snapped off during the rescue of the crew from a Hamburg schooner. Offers of five hundred and then a thousand pounds, to run anchors to a number of the ships to save them went unaided as the risk was far too great to try. At a rough estimate the storm would wreck around eighteen vessels while a further nine could do nothing else but ride out the storm. Over three-fourths of the hundred and ten destitute seamen now occupying the Sailor's Home, had come from the wrecked ships. Within a few days a fund was set up in order to aid the distressed seamen, the widows and orphans of the boatmen who died, and the many boatmen who lost their livelihood during that night.

After a brief respite on shore, Mulnier and Schrader decided to visit the 'Alabama' at Simon's Bay, with the intention of joining her crew. On arrival they paid their respects to Captain Semmes, who in return questioned both men meticulously and prudently. Finding them confident, and well-educated officers in their field, but most of all with an integral part to play on the 'Alabama', Mulnier and Schrader were appointed master's mates on August 14 1863. Because of the risk of violating the Foreign Enlistment Act, both men remained below decks until the 'Alabama' was well out to sea, and far away from the inquisitive eyes of the Federal spies.

Mulnier, according to Sinclair, was also important to the ship as "he was familiar with the language of most places it might be necessary for us to visit". The two enlistments had come at a time before the 'Alabama' would eventually leave the African coast at the latter end of September, when up to 16 of her men would desert the ship in less than a week, out of a total of maybe 20 men who had been at liberty on shore, the majority of whom they could ill afford to lose. Nevertheless, Semmes had managed to engage 13 new recruits, thus keeping his losses to a minimum. But all his new "vagabonds" as he called them, were in a state of hunger, needed a wash, and new clothes, would have to be retrained, and this could take time.

The 'Alabama' found very little in the way of prizes after departing from the Cape, and had boarded her first ship coming from the Sunda Straits on October 26. The 555 ton bark 'Alma', of Aberdeen, which had been making her way to Amsterdam from Surabaya in the Java Sea, had brought with her important news and useful intelligence to Semmes on the shipping in that area. Following up on this information, just after midday on Monday, November 2 1863, the Alabama boarded the 711 ton English ship 'Janet Mitchell' of Glasgow, from Foo-Chow to London, with her captain also reporting seeing a three mastered vessel in the vicinity of the Gaspar Strait. By Friday morning of November 6, another English ship was boarded, the 887 ton Liverpool registered 'Beemah', Thomas Johnson commanding, also from Foo-Chow to London, with a cargo of tea. The captain informed the 'Alabama' officer in charge of the boat crew that he saw the American vessel 'Winged Racer' a few days ago heading for the straits, much to the disgust of the 'Beemah's third mate, and some of her crew, who had been watching on deck.

Around 5 p.m. that same day, the 'Alabama', with her new Confederate flag flying in the breeze, captured her first prize in the Indian Ocean, the 598 ton American bark 'Amanda' of Bangor, Maine, Isaiah Larrabee commanding, destined for Queenstown in Ireland, with a cargo of hemp and sugar. She was eventually put to the torch just before midnight, after being first stripped of all her valuables.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, November 10, the 'Alabama' captured her next prize off the coast of Sumatra, the 1768 ton clipper ship 'Winged Racer' of New York, Captain George Cumming, from Manila to New York with a cargo of sugar, Chinese camphor hides, and 5,810 bales of Manila hemp. She too was put to the torch, during the early hours of the next day. Before his ship was burned, Captain Cumming took up the offer of an evening meal on board the 'Alabama', if only to discover how they knew exactly where to find him. This he learned from one of the German officers on board, who had told him during the meal, that they had stopped an English ship on its voyage home, and her captain had informed them of his whereabouts. Captain Cumming remembered the vessel distinctly, as he recalls raising "Old Glory", in response to the English ships Union Jack, despite his wife's pleas not to raise it, as she had misgivings resulting from a dream she had earlier concerning the voyage home.

In the Sunday morning issue of the San Francisco Call of May 31 1896, page 24, columns 1-6, George Cumming relates the story of his capture by the 'Alabama' in detail, under the head line "Caught By A Rebel In Sunda Straits". This can be found free online at the California Digital Newspaper archive website. An interesting follow-up to this story, found in the same article, is that the third mate of the 'Beemah', Cheltenham born Edwin Charles Bennett, (1843-1920) now Captain Bennett of the steamer 'Talus', had met up with Captain Cumming years later while in San Francisco, suggesting to him that if he had "hoisted a 'sweab' instead of your own flag you would have saved your ship but-" It seems even in those days sometimes it pays to listen to your wife!

The 'Alabama', now lying at anchor off the west end of Serutu Island, near the Carimata Strait, Indonesia, had been flying the Dutch flag when she was first approached by the London bound barque 'Avalanche', of Liverpool, Captain James Russell (1821-79) commanding. On Thursday, November 19, at around 3.30 in the afternoon, a boarding party was dispatched to her, and discovered that she had been three days out of Singapore, with news that most of the American ships in the area had not only been nervous in leaving the safety of the harbour, but that their diminishing trade was noticeably becoming severely affected too. She brought with her as well, some recent English newspapers, about forty days old, carrying further news of the war back home. For the price of a chronometer, the Maryport-born captain was only too willing to take the 'Alabama's prisoners, and her former commander, Frederick George Lucas, from the late 1098 ton clipper ship 'Contest', of, and to, New York.

She had been captured on the afternoon of November 11 in the Java Seas, and with the arrival of the 'Avalanche', her captain took his newly acquired passengers to Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East Indies. Amongst the boarding party on the 899 ton 'Avalanche', was Master's Mate Mulnier, sent under the pretext that they were a Dutch surveying vessel. This, however, didn't wash at all with the English captain, who not only recoqnized her fine lines, but remembered being on board of her not long after her launching in Liverpool in 1862. (It's worth noting here, that in the ORN 1-2 page 782, Semmes had stated in his journal that they were a Dutch ship of war, whereas in the Fullam journal, edited by Charles Summersell, says on page 161 that they were a "Dutch surveying vessel", as does the newspaper article on the capture and burning of the prize 'Contest', found in The Glasgow Daily Herald, Saturday, January 30 1864, page 6, column 4).

Mulnier served on board the 'Alabama' for the remainder of the cruise, and upon arriving at Cherbourg on June 11 1864, he, and Schrader, were paid off and discharged from the ship. They both travelled by train to Paris on their journey home, but when learning of the forthcoming duel with the 'Kearsarge', they immediately returned to Cherbourg, where, with the permission of the French authorities, they were allowed to re-board the 'Alabama' after showing proof of their arrival into the port.

According to 2nd Assistant Engineer Matthew O'Brien, who had been on duty during the engagement with the 'Kearsarge', that Mulnier and Schrader "had command of the shot and shell passing division, and were stationed at the shell room hatch tending the "whip tackle", when a shell from the 'Kearsarge' exploded near to them. Expecting to see them badly wounded, or worse, the mutilated bodies of both men, he recalled that "as the smoke and dust cleared away" the two men could be seen still standing "hauling on the tackle as though attending an exercise drill. They were the calmest men I ever saw; the most phlegmatic lot it was ever my privilege to fight alongside of".

Mulnier was rescued from the Channel by the crew of the steam yacht 'Deerhound', and taken to Southampton where he was again discharged. From London, he returned home to Bremen, and on August 15 1864 shipped aboard the merchant vessel 'Dodo', Captain Huesmann commanding, as its first officer, sailing from Bremen on August 22 for Cardiff, calling at Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Algoa Bay, and Mauritius. It was at Mauritius on May 18 1865 that Mulnier was discharged from the 'Dodo' through ill health. At Mauritius on August 26 1865 he married Alice Jeanne Fancheur, a young bride of French extraction, who was born there on November 11 1848. They had one son, Karl Richard Friedrich Jean Mulnier, born on June 25 1866. Sadly, Mulnier didn't have the opportunity of seeing his young son grow up, for he passed away at Port Louis, Mauritius, on March 12 1868, at the young age of 29.

Johann Karl Julius Schrader, the second of our German officers, was born in Hoheneggelsen, Söhlde, near Hanover, on January 27 1838, the son of Doctor Leopald Anton Schrader. Little is known of his early childhood, other than he was brought up with his two eldest sisters, Leopoldine 1833-1907 and Klara 1836-?

He first came to prominence at the age of 17, when he shipped aboard the Bremen barque 'New York' in late October 1855, as a 'junge', (boy) on a passage to New York. Over the next four years, Schrader continued to operate out of the port of Bremen, trading between New York and Liverpool, until all trace of him appears to be briefly lost. This is partly due to the lack of records that are unavailable at the present time. Therefore, it could be speculated upon that he may have been on other commercial shipping outside of the Bremen registry, or alternatively that he may have served in the Prussian Navy, perhaps between the latter end of 1859, till the early part of 1863.

On his return to Germany, Julius Schrader shipped out of Bremen on September 29 1864 for a voyage to Cadiz, aboard the Bremen registered bark 'Kosmos' as its second officer. He was to be mustered out on three more sailings under the Bremen registry, the last known on board the bark 'August and Emma' as its first officer, in December 1867, for Bahia, Brasil. From his United States passport application made, and issued, in July 1893, he states that in 1869 he boarded a Bremen passenger ship bound for the United States, where he settled in San Francisco, California, for 22 years, uninterruptedly, from 1870 until 1893.

In the 1880 San Francisco census, he could be found living at lodgings in Clara Lane, as a 42 year old unmarried newspaper carrier, and within a few years attended the San Francisco Superior Court where he became a naturalised citizen of the United States on August 16 1882. The passport document went on to say that he is now residing in Brooklyn, Alameda County, as a farmer, and describes him as being a 6 foot tall man, aged 55, with a bald forehead, brown eyes, middling nose, small mouth and chin, with his hair possibly showing gray, though it is difficult to read the text on this, and also for that in the column 'complexion and face'. There is a photograph of him, and Mulnier, in Arthur Sinclair's book 'Two Years on The Alabama', though the pages may vary depending on the publication of the volume.

With the issue of his passport on July 31 1893, all trace of Julius Schrader after this date is, for the moment, lost. By applying for a passport it's assumed that he was planning to use it at some point, and this is indeed what he went on to do. For in the town of Blankenese, in Hamburg, Funeral Director Carl Klindwordt, had reported the death of a Blankenese resident, Johannes Carl Julius Schrader, Gentleman, and a bachelor, who was born in Hohenggelsen, and died in Blankenese on the 14 March 1921, aged 83 years. It's now my belief, (and the opinion of my learned colleague Charles Priestley, who gratefully gave me a great deal of his time to translate the German text for me), that Johann(es) Karl Julius Schrader, and Julius Schrader, are one and the same, and that this is the Schrader who went on to serve on board the 'Alabama' during the period from 1863-64.

Sinclair, in his brief biographical sketch, reflects further on Schrader, (misspelt as Schroeder through the book) in that he "had a perculiar, genial temperament, and was a great favourite with his shipmates. He was rather a phlegmatic, undemonstrative fellow, cool as a cucumber in danger and when all about him was excitement, thoroughly unselfish, always ready to take a fellow's watch or otherwise relieve a tired soul from trying duty". He goes on to say that he is "informed that he is at present a professor of mathematics in one of the great German universities", though nothing has been found at the time of writing to substantiate this.


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