The history of the Pampero is almost one of the hidden secrets of the
Confederate States Navy, being "officially" known as both the "Texas" and the
"Canton", she was later given the name Pampero in an attempt to conceal her
In early 1862, Lt. George T. Sinclair was sent to England, with orders to
build a "clipper propellor for cruising purposes," and to take command of
her when she was ready for sea.
His instructions were to confer with
Commander Bulloch in Liverpool, as to the design of the vessel, and the
building, fitting out and arming of her. Bulloch received orders to help
Sinclair with funds and advice.
Bulloch showed Sinclair the drawings
and specifications for the Alabama, also the contract with Lairds, and
they both decided to use these as a basis for the new cruiser.
This was a time when Bulloch was hard pressed for funds, and Sinclair,
with Bulloch`s help, had to make his own funding arrangements.
So he used the one product that was readily available to him - cotton.
What Sinclair did was to arrange, with the help of the Southern diplomat
James M. Mason, for an issue of bonds, each equal to
twenty-five bales of cotton, weight 12,500 pounds. Seven individuals took
up these bonds, and were effectively the owners of this new vessel.
new cruiser was contracted with Messrs. James and George Thomson of Glasgow,
in October of 1862. The same firm that was contracted to build an ironclad ram
for Lt. North. The Pampero was modelled on the Alabama, even though she was
The Pampero was to be 231 feet in length, 33 feet in
breadth, powered by both sail and steam. Bark rigged, she was equipped for
cruising under canvas or steam, with telescopic funnels, and a raiseable screw.
Similar, but larger engines to the Alabama were placed below the waterline
for protection. Her frame was iron, with a mixture of iron and wood for the
planking. Her armament was to be three 8-inch pivot guns, and a broadside
battery of four or more guns.
Sinclair went to Scotland, and took up
residence at Bridge of Allan, near Glasgow. The original contract called
for the Pampero to be ready fo sea by July of 1863, but the schedule could
not be maintained. Guns and gun carriages were ordered, and Sinclair
received £10,000 ($40,000) from Bulloch, and perhaps more. For his crew,
Sinclair made arrangements for some men to come out from Baltimore.
By the spring of 1863 Sinclair was becoming very concerned about the
Pampero, and feared that the British Government would not permit the
departure of any vessel suspected to be Confederate. He travelled to
Paris, to duscuss with John Slidell the possibility of transferring the
vessel to France. Slidell suggested Hamburg in Germany as a better
alernative. Sinclair investigated this, but did not proceed with it.
Meanwhile the completion of the Pampero was further delayed by labour
troubles, and the seizure of the "Alexandria", another Confederate
vessel in production at Lairds, by the British Government. The
Alexandria trial was indecisive, and Mason put off the launching of the
Pampero "until a final verdict was reached."
Stephen Mallory in
Richmond was becoming more and more anxious to have another raider at sea.
he was looking for an early departure from Scotland, and changed his original
orders of commerce-raiding at the discretion of the captain to either a bold
strike at the New England commerce, or to assist the Laird rams to raise
bolockaded Charleston or Wilmington. Due to abysmal communications with
Europe, Mallory did not understand the seriousness of the situation.
Sinclair proceeded with his project, but as departure time for the Pampero
approached, representatives of the North were preapring to call on the
British Government to keep the Pampero from sailing in violation of the
Foreign Enlistment Act. As early as December 1862, the American consul
in Dundee, Scotland discovered that Sinclair, North and two other
Confederate agents were living at the Bridge Of Allan.
herself first came to the attention of Thomas H. Dudley, United States
Consul in Liverpool, in the spring of 1863, when he made an investigative
tour of Northern England andd Scotland,looking for any warships being built
for the Confederates. He learned that Thomsons were building a screw
steamer "of about 1500 tons," designed for great speed. He was told that
she was to have an angle-iron frame and teak planking, and he found that
among the workmen it was geneally believed that she was for the South.
On his next trip to Scotland in August 1863, his suspicions increased
as new details on the vessel came to light. The builders insisted that the
boat was for the Turkish Government, but Dudley`s informants in the yard
insisted the boat was for the South, being supervised by the same men
as those who supervised the building of the ironclad ram.
Dudley left behind a spy in Thomsons yard, one John Comb, who himself was
part owner of a vessel under construction in the yard. he soon reported
that the vessel was rigged in the same manner as the Alabama, the drawings of
which, he was told, were now in Glasgow.
The Union activity did not go un-noticed by Sinclair and North. Sinclair
ordered the workmen to remove ringbolts, magazines and shot lockers, and to
close up the gunports. This caused him to delay the scheduled launch date
of October 12th 1863.
Christened the Pampero by a Mrs. Galbraith, the vessel finally slid down the
slipway on October 29th 1863.
On November 10th, the American consul in Glasgow, W. L. Underwood formally
requested that the Pampero be detained. Although the British Government did
not make any immediate legal moves, in late November a British warship
was moored abreast of the Pampero, and she was placed under a 24 hour
scrutiny by customs officers.
Court proceedings against the Pampero commenced on march 18th 1864, and
were never satisfactorily concluded.
As late as January 1865 the Pampero
was still considered to be Confederate property, and apparently remained
so until the end of the war.
Report on the Spanish vesel, the Tornado, with photgraph.
TORNADO, was apparently launched at Clydebank in 1863.
The vessel has a protective 4" armor belt surrounding her engines and boilers. She was
armed with one 220mm (7.8") muzzleloading Parrott guns, two 160,15 cal. muzzleloading guns, two 120 mm bronze muzzleloading guns, and two 87
mm/24 cal. Hontoria breechloading guns. She had a crew complement of 202 men.
The TORNADO has been built as the commerce-raider CSS TEXAS. Seized by British Government 1863,
and acquired in 1865, she was purchased
by Chile for 75,000 Pounds through Isaac Campbell & Co.in January or February of 1866, PAMPERO.
The Pampero was captured off
Madeira by the Spanish frigate GERONA on August 22,1866, during the 1864-66 war (Guerra del Pacifico), and she was renamed TORNADO.
Commissioned in Spanish Navy, she was rated as screw corvette (1870). Serving in Cuban waters during First Cuban Insurrection, she captured
insurgent blockade runner VIRGINIUS on October 31, 1873 . This action led to the "Virginius Affair" and to the Spanish-American Crisis of
1873 . She was converted to a torpedo-training vessel in 1886.
She was sunk in Barcelona by a Nationalist air raid during the Spanish Civil War, and was finally broken up after 1939.
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