John Low was born in Aberdeen, Scotland on 24 January 1836.
Both parents died soon after his birth, and he was raised by relatives in Liverpool, England.
At the age of 16 he joined the British Merchant service, and was involved in seafaring, in one
form or another for the rest of his life.
In 1856, aged 20, he settled in Savannah, Georgia,
and, by the outbreak of war was operating his own merchant supply business.
Low originally enlisted as a private with the Georgia Hussars on 19 January 1861,but later
resigned from the cavalry unit, to accept an appointment in the Confederate Navy, his rank
being Acting Master. Shortly afterwards, James Dunwoody Bulloch, an acquaintance of Low`s,
arranged for Low to be sent to Liverpool. The objective being for Low to assist Bulloch in
acquiring ships, andtransporting them to Southern ports.
From Liverpool, bulloch & Low travelled to Greenock, Scotland, where he purchased the Fingal, the
first vessel ever purchased for Confederate service. The Fingal was loaded with the largest
single arms shipment, to run the blockade, of the entire conflict.A delivery that helped to place
the Southern forces on an equal footing with their adversaries. The Fingal arrived in Savannah
on November 12 1861.
Low returned to Liverpool in March of 1862, having been promoted to
Lieutenant. Bulloch then gave Low the task of delivering the Oreto (CSS Florida) to Captain
John Newlands Maffitt in Nassau, the Bahamas. low carried a letter for Maffitt, from Bulloch,
outlining the coming cruise.
By July of 1862 Low was again back in Liverpool, and on August 5, sailed for the Azores aboard
the Bahama, the vessel that was to take the Alabama her Captain and officers.
Raphael Semmes appointed Low Fourth Lieutenant on the Alabama. Semmes was obviously aware of Low`s
capabilities, awarding him command of the Tuscaloosa, previously known as the Conrad, which had
been captured by the Alabama. On 21 June 1863, Low sailed away from the Alabama, in command of
his own cruiser.
Transcript from the log of John Low, CSS Tuscaloosa.
"At 5h15 A.M. this morning made a sail on our starboard bow standing in for the land and as we
ourselves were heading in for the same land (the Island of Flores) we kept up a little and made
all plain sail to cut her off, as we neared the vessel she proved to be a fore & aft Schr at
7h15 A.M. brought the chase too by firing starboard bow gun with blank cartridge, when we sent
Lieut. Low on board, she proved to be the Schr "Courser" of Provincetown out on a whaling
voyage bound into Flores for supplies the capt & his papers were then sent on board she had a
U.S. Register so we made her a prize employed during the morning in paroling the prisoners and
getting them all ready with their baggage to go on shore as we were getting a large number of
them on board-- by 12 o'clock we had them all ready in their own boats which we had kept from
their vessels purposely to land them in, as soon as all were in their boats we passed them all
astern and took them in tow behind us (eight boats) and stood close in for the land as soon as
we got well in shore so that they would not have much of a pull we cast them off, and wore ship
and stood off from the land and were then engaged as we were standing off shore in transferring
what articles were on board of the prize that were wanted on board of us to the vessel. By 4
P.M. we had on board what articles we wanted and from 4 to 6 P.M.-- left the prize and stood
of from her, and called all hands to quarters and fired shot & shell at prize for practice for
men from 6 to 8 Secured the Battery & sent Lieut Low & prize crew on board to fire her-- Prize
bearing at 8 P.M. 8 1/2 S-- Dis 6 miles Lat at noon 39 [degrees] 40' N Long 31 [degrees] 10'
Low had difficulty finding American ships, the exploits of the Alabama had driven
U.S. merchantmen from the
sea.Finally, off the coast at Cape Town, South Africa, Low stopped and boarded the American
owned vessel "Santee".Low anchored the Tuscaloosa in Simon`s Bay, South Africa on 26 December
1863, where, at the instigationof United States authorities, she was seized by the British.
Who at first refused to accept that she was now a fully commissioned Confederate cruiser.
Low left the Tuscaloosa at simon`s Bay, and returned to Liverpool, to find that bulloch had
recommwended him for permanent promotion to 1st Lieutenant. Effective from 6 January 1864.
Throughout 1864 Low was assigned by Bulloch to oversee the construction of four Confederate
ships. Only one of these four vessels ever put to sea, she was the Ajax, a light-draft gunboat.
With Low in command she cleared Nassau in January of 1865, arriving at St. George in Bemuda on
May 4 1865. The local British officials then prevented her departure until they received
confirmation that the Confederacy had fallen. Low then sailed the Ajax back to Liverpool,
where he surrendered her on 9 June 1865.
With no amnesty for Confederate Naval officers who had served outside the borders of the
United States, and the fact that hsi wife had died in Georgia during the war, Low sent
for his son and settled once again in Liverpool. Prospering in several business ventures,
Lt. John Low passed away on 6 September 1906, after a short illnessand
is buried in Newton Le Willows, not far from Liverpool.
Some of John Low`s artifacts.
Left to Right:-
Revolver,Framed photograph of the Alabama,
Waist belt and plate,
John Low`s Cutlass
John Low`s Telescope
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