In April 1862, Federal Admiral Farragut, with a fleet of 38 warships, among them 18 new mortar schooners, captured the city of New Orleans, and thus gave the Army a base from which they could capture the lower part of the Mississippi river as far as Vicksburg. The Confederates possessed a small flotilla of gunboats, including the all-metal-ram. CSS Manassas, which was used to strike at the wooden hulls of the federal warships with great effect. The upper part of the Mississippi river system was captured by General Ulyssis S.Grant who made use of a flotilla of large gunboats in order to capture the Confederate fortifications such as Fort Henry and Donelson. He was then able to finally capture the last river fortress at Vicksburg with the assistance of the Navy on 4th July 1863.
An interesting historical sidelight is the fact that afterwards the population of Vicksburg refused to celebrate the 4th July, Independence Day, for the next 81 years.
By the end of 1861 the blockade of southern ports was starting to hurt the Confederacy, 'and in consequence the Government sanctioned the building of a number of seagoing cruisers in Gt. Britain which afterwards could be easily commissioned and fitted out as warships, and cruised the oceans of the world to strike at the undefended Union Commercial Fleet. The most fa- mous of these was the CSS Alabama which became part of our heritage through the famous Malay folksong "da kom die Alibama", when she called on Cape Town in August of 1863. The Alabama, together with the Florida, Georgia and the Shenandoah and half a dozen other warships succeeded in sinking a total 257 Federal commercial vessels in all the oceans of the world.
After the war the U.S. Government claimed 130 million dollars from Gt.Britain at the Alabama claims court held in Switzer- land in 1871/1873, because the ships were built for the Confederacy in British dockyards in contravention of British neu- trality and subsequently converted into warships. Eventually an amount of 15 million dollars was paid out in compensation. It is amazing that the Confederate Navy performed so well against the might and massive infrastructure of the North, and served the young country with the limited resources at its disposal both in manpower and raw materials. With a great number of excellent and rare slides Stan brought this most exciting period of American history to life, and the extended Q & A session afterwards undoubtedly proved how well his talk had been received by all present.
Meetings of the Cape Town Branch are normally held on the second Thursday of each month (barring December) at 20h00 (8.00 pm sharp), in the Recreation Hall of the SA LEGION'S ROSEDALE COMPLEX, Lower Nursery Road, Rosebank, (off Alma Road), opposite the Rosebank railway station, below the line. Visitors are welcome. Donation R 3.00. Scholars and Students free. Tea and biscuits will be served.
John Mahncke, (Vice-Chairman/Scribe), (021) 797 5167