Confederate agent in London James D. Bulloch received
a dispatch from Richmond in the surumer of 1861
stating that the Confederacy needed to outfit 500,000
new forces. and that agents in England were to purchase
the arms and supplies.
On 2nd September 1861, along with another Confederate agent
in Liverpool, Edward G. Anderson of the Confederate States Army,
it was decided to buy a vessel to transport arms, munitions and
supplies to the Confederacy. By 11th September Bulloch had secured
the 800-ton steamer Fingal, an
ironhulled screw steamer, to run the blockade. The cargo on board
had a value of $250,000, and clandestine measures were taken
to obscure the Fingal's true ownership, mission and cargo.
Loaded with more than 11,000 rifles, as well as pistols
swords, sabres, ammunition, four cannon, seven tons of shell,
leather, medicines and clothing, blankets and more.
Civilian second officer on the Fingal
was Bulloch`s trusted friend and assistant John Low. Bulloch sailed
with the Fingal.
Note: After the sinking of the Alabama, a French Naval officer
presented John Low with the pennant that had come loose from the
Kearsage during the battle. It remains in the Low family possession
to this day.
quietly slipped out of Greenock on the night of October 11th 1861.
Running short of water on the journey, it was decided to call
in at Terceira, in the Azores. There Bulloch discovered the
isolated harbour he would later use to fit out the Alabama.
The Fingal reached the Bermuda on November 2nd, and took on the
Savannah pilot, Mr. Macon, fresh from the CSS Nashville.
It was not until the ship left Bermuda on
November 7 that her crew were informed of their
destination, gamely they agreed to defend the ship,
if necessary against blockaders. Favoured by a thick fog
that helped to hide her, she crept towards her destination.
As the fog lifted, with Confederate flag flying high, she made
a dash for Savannah, only to wind up on an oyster bank.
With help from some Georgia vessels, she was soon clear,
and in Savannah harbour on November 14.1861.
The ship's arrival
gave the Fingal the distinction of having brought
into the Confederacy the largest, single- trip
delivery composed entirely of naval and military
Bulloch repaired to Richmond for a long conference with Stephen Mallory,
where Bullochs future plans were formulated. Mallory promoted
Bulloch to Commander, and John low to to a Master in the
Confederate Navy, effective Jan. 17th 1862.
Reloaded with Confederate cotton, the CSS Fingal
was kept inland by the constant presence of Union
blockaders. She was eventually converted into an ironclad and
renamed the CSS Atlanta, and in late May 1863 she
steamed downriver only to get stuck on a mud bank
because of her weight and deep hull. Recoated and
repaired, the Atlanta left on June 17 to attack a
fleet of Union monitors. The awkward ironclad ran
aground three times before the monitor USS Weehawken
blasted the stranded ship at close range. The Atlanta
surrendered, was taken as a prize, and assigned to
the Union fleet.
The CSS Atlanta (Fingal), trapped, and
under fire from the USS Weehawken.
Bulloch and Low returned to England, via Queenstown (Ireland),
aboard the blockade runner Annie Childs, arriving in
Liverpool on 10th March 1862.
Fascinating Fact: When leaving Scotland at night,
the Fingal accidentally struck and sank an
Austrian brig loaded with coal. The Fingal steamed
on to avoid the authorities, but the Confederate
government later compensated the owners of the
brig for their loss.
That one single journey by the Fingal,
demonstrated that the Confederate Government, could operate
its own blockade runners to its own advantage