In 1861 James Dunwoody Bulloch commissioned
Lairds Shipbuilders of Birkenhead, England, to build him a ship.
There can now be no doubt that Lairds knew the true purpose of
this vessel, but she was built ostensibly as an unarmed vessel.
This was done to prevent transgression of the British Neutrality Act
, which would have resulted in the said vessels seizure by
When Bulloch chose Lairds to build his vessel he knew that he what he was
At that time they were undoubtedly the finest shipbuilders in the world.
The contract drawn up between Bulloch and Lairds simply named the vessel
neither realising the heights of fame that this number would reach.
The 290 was to be a screw steamer of some 1000 tons. Her length would be 210
feet and her beam 32 feet.
She was to be barque rigged for long distance cruising, and to
have long lower masts, which would allow for her large trysails to be set
The 290 was to be fitted with twin horizontal engines, of 300 horse power
350 tons of coal could be stored in her iron bunkers, allowing for 18
full days of
travel under steam. Both the funnel and propellor were moveable, to aid
her when running under full
sail with the wind. Her funnel could be lowered to deck level, and her
screw raised from the sea,
giving her a cruising speed of 13 knots.
Bulloch decided that she would be built of finest English oak, with iron
and a copper bottom to prevent fouling. Bulloch`s decision to build her
from wood, was based
on the fact that she could be repaired in virually any port, which was not the case with
iron or steel vessels.
She was built to British Admiralty standards, at a final cost of £42,500.
Needless to say, the United States consul was most concerned at what was
happening in Lairds yard, even managing to procure a detailed description
of the interior of the vessel.
There is also, on a lighter note, a spies report (Matthew Maguire) of meeting
some of the crew and workmen from Lairds, as they walked down Canning Street,
Liverpool ferry terminal in Birkenhead, they were playing musical instruments
and laughing and singing to the tune "Dixie`s Land". He states they kept this up on
the ferry ride, all the way across the River. This was on July 26th 1862, just
a few days
prior to the escape.
The 290 was launched on May 15th 1862, and named Enrica,
by a finely dressed lady.
Upon completion of the ceremonies, she was immediately taken to
Graving Dock No. 4,
and placed on blocks, so that work on her could commence.
On June 15th she made her first trial, running up to the Formby lightship
On July 12th 1862, the Enrica left Graving Dock Number 4, to enter the Great Float, in
preparation for her coming journey.
On the morning of July 29th ,at around
she left her berth, festooned with flags and bunting, for a "trial" sail up and down
A party was in
progress on board, with several well dressed men and ladies present,
including the two Messrs Laird,
Mr A.E. Byrne, and five or six ladies, and the two Miss Lairds. Bulloch was
accompanied by Lieutenants North and Sinclair.
Captain Butcher was in command, with John Low as his first mate, second
mate was George T Fullam
with David Herbert Llewellyn as Assistant Surgeon. At this point Butcher was
of Bulloch`s escape plan, and the fact that the Enrica was never to
return again to Liverpool. At a
point in mid river, Bulloch stated he wanted the vessel to go out for overnight trials,
and he and the accompanying dignitaries left, aboard the steam tug Hercules.
Once the Hercules had cleared the Enrica, Butcher set sail for the Enrica`s
Moelfre Bay, on the Isle of Anglesey.
The next morning at 3:00am, Bulloch attended the Woodside landing stage,
there to meet
with his agent Mr S.G.Porter, and 40 or so crewmen for the Enrica.
Bulloch was most surprised to discover
that the seamen had their wives and girlfriends with them. The current
practise at that
time on Merseyside was that the men, while on shore leave, would stay in
drinking/lodging houses free of charge, on the understanding that their
first months pay
would be collected in advance. The womenfolk would do this and hand the
over to the landlord. So all boarded the steam tug Hercules, and set sail
for Moelfre Bay,
where they arrived in mid afternoon. Bulloch was unhappy that the women
boarding his ship, but relented, and instructed that they and the crew be
fed and given drinks.
having been "fed and watered" the women then returned to the Hercules,
with their mens money,
and more than one commented what a fine ship this Enrica was.
Bulloch seemed to have a confidence in Captain Matthew J. Butcher, that
in no other "outsider", and felt quite secure in impartimg to him the true
purpose of the Enrica`s voyage. Bulloch ordered Lieutenant John Low, who had just
returned from service in the Fingal and the Florida, to join
Butcher as first officer. The second officer was George Townley Fullam.
were three more officers, Surgeon David H.Llewellyn, paymaster Clarence
R. Yonge and Chief
Engineer J. McNair.With the exception of Yonge (later to turn traitor),
they were all British. Not only were the officers and crew British, except
but everything about the vessel was British too.
Dudley and his spies had not been idle during this period, and were bringing
great pressure on British officials to make a firm stand on the Enrica.
In June, at the insistance of the U.S., British customs officials examined the Enrica
but could find no trace of any armaments or weapons, not even a signal pistol was on board.
Then in July Dudley and Adams submitted documentary proof to British officials
(including William Passmore`s report). Bulloch
received word, "from a private but very reliable source,"
that it would not be safe to keep the ship in Liverpool for another 48 hours.
He was warned that the U.S.S. Tuscarora was prowling the English coast
looking for the Confederate cruiser.
Much has been written about this warning, some writers speculating that
members of Her Majesty`s Government, with financial interests in the
Confederacy, or its cotton, gave the warning.
Bulloch later defended Price Edwards, a local British official, against
that Edwards aided the cruisers escape.
The Alabama rides out a huricane, 16 October 1862
Captain Butcher then sailed the Enrica North from Moelfre Bay at 3 am,
his passage was
to be around the North of Ireland, to keep clear of the USS Tuscaloosa, which was at that
time searching British waters. Off the Giants Causeway, Butcher hailed a
and Bulloch and his agent left the Enrica to go meet her destiny.
The USS Tuscaloosa eventually arrived at Moelfre Bay, but her quarry was
the first of many such occurrences for the United States Warships.
interesting to speculate what might have happened had the Tuscaloosa
located and sunk the Enrica. As a British registered vessel, with
British crew in command. Would this have been seen as an act of war against
Bulloch returned to Liverpool on 3rd August, to await the arrival of Raphael Semmes,
who was to commision
the CSS Alabama into the service of the Confederate States Navy.
Semmes finally arrived in Liverpool on 8th August 1862, with
Lt. John McIntosh Kell and other officers after their passage from Nassau.
He had been forced to leave the first, and possibly the most
gallant of all the Confederate Cruisers, The CSS Sumter in Gibralter.
Spending a few days in Liverpool, Semmes re-assembled some of his crew from
and through Bulloch made financial arrangements for
the cruise to come, with Fraser, Trenholm & Co.
It is also extremely likely that Bulloch and Semmes met to discuss
tactics in the Liver Inn, Waterloo, Liverpool.
On August 13th 1862, Bulloch, Semmes, and his officers departed Liverpool
aboard the steamer Bahama
joining her downriver from a tug. The tug crew cheered the Southern
Naval men on their way,
and were probably from the tug Hercules, which had already assisted
Bulloch immensely. The Captain of the Bahama was one Captain Tessier, a
with whom Semmes had already travelled from Nassau to Liverpool.
The Enrica had left Liverpool as an unarmed vessel, to satisfy
British legal requirements, her armaments and warlike equipment, were to
be sent to a pre-arranged meeting point.
Towards the end of May 1862,
Bulloch hired an agent to locate a good strong sailing vessel, that could
accomodate heavy weights. A bark of around 350 tons was soon purchased,
for the sum of £1,400. She was the Agrippina, and her captain was a
boastful and hard drinking Scot named Alexander McQueen. The Agrippina
went to London docks and was loaded with all the equipment to be sent
out for the new Confederate cruiser. Guns, ordnance supplies, large
amounts of men`s clothing, general stores and 350 tons of coal
were loaded, without attracting any kind of suspicion.
All three vessels having a date with destiny, at Terceira, in the Azores
After a seven day voyage from Liverpool, the Enrica and the Agrippina were
spotted in the harbour at Terciera on 20th August. Arrangements for the
transfer of the Enrica`s ordnance began immediately.
On August 21st 1862, the Agrippina, Bahama & Enrica all gathered to the
leeward of the Azores, in International waters
And so the transfer began, in relatively calm waters.
There followed 3 days of intense and backbreaking work, as the latest
Confederate vessel was brought up to scratch, finally, on August 24th she
was ready for sea.
All three vessels put to sea, to unfurl for the first time the flag of the
Confederate States of America over a purpose built warship. With the
exception of the working crews, all the men from the accompanying vessels
were transferred to the deck of the Enrica, where all of her officers were
in full uniform.
Captain Raphael Semmes mounted a gun-carriage, and proceeded to read his
commission from President Jefferson Davis, authorizing him to take command
of the ship.
Upon completion of the reading, the stops to the halliards at the
peak and mainmast were broken, and the flag and pennant of this young nation
floated on the breeze, at the same moment a gun boomed out, and the quartermaster
hauled down the English colours.
Captain Semmes then made a speech to the assembled persons, asking for men
to sign on as crew, for a voyage of unknown quantity.
signed on that day, many of them completing the full cruise, up to Cherbourg,
in June of 1864.
Bulloch returned to the Bahama, on his way back toLiverpool, and so began
the momentous cruise of what is now recognised as the greatest commerce
raider of all time.