The Fingal


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.

The ship 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 material.

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

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