James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

June 19

The Alabama

By Maurice Bell

  • The Southern privateer for whose depredations during the war a sum of $15,500,000 was awarded by the Geneva Tribunal. She was sunk by the Kearsarge off Cherbourg, France, on June 19, 1864.

  • SHE has gone to the bottom! the wrath of the tide

    Now breaks in vain insolence o’er her;

    No more the rough seas like a queen shall she ride,

    While the foe flies in terror before her!

    Now captive or exiled, or silent in death,

    The forms that so bravely did man her;

    Her deck is untrod, and the gale’s stirring breath

    Flouts no more the red cross of her banner!

    She is down ’neath the waters, but still her bright name

    Is in death, as in life, ever glorious,

    And a sceptre all barren the conqueror must claim,

    Though he boasts the proud title “Victorious.”

    Her country’s lone champion, she shunned not the fight,

    Though unequal in strength, bold and fearless;

    And proved in her fate, though not matchless in might,

    In daring at least she was peerless.

    No trophy hung high in the foe’s hated hall

    Shall speak of her final disaster,

    Nor tell of the danger that could not appall,

    Nor the spirit that nothing could master!

    The death-shot has sped—she has grimly gone down,

    But left her destroyer no token,

    And the mythical wand of her mystic renown,

    Though the waters o’erwhelm, is unbroken.

    For lo! ere she settles beneath the dark wave

    On her enemies’ cheeks spreads a pallor,

    As another deck summons the swords of the brave

    To gild a new name with their valor.

    Her phantom will yet haunt the wild roaring breeze,

    Causing foemen to start and to shudder,

    While their commerce still steals like a thief o’er the seas,

    And trembles from bowsprit to rudder.

    The spirit that shed on the wave’s gleaming crest

    The light of a legend romantic

    Shall live while a sail flutters over the breast

    Of thy far-bounding billows, Atlantic!

    And as long as one swift keel the strong surges stems,

    Or “poor Jack” loves his song and his story,

    Shall shine in tradition the valor of Semmes

    And the brave ship that bore him to glory!