At Stephen Mallory`s urging, and well in advance of the settlement
of the Laird Rams situation, Bulloch agreed to try and have ships
built in France.
In March 1863, he contacted French shipbuilder and naval architect M. L. Arman.
Mr. Arman was confident that the Napolean the Third, Emporer of France
had no objections to building
vessels for the Confederacy, even if doing so violated the French Neutrality
Bulloch made a contract with Arman, for four clipper corvettes, of some 500
tons each, and 400 horsepower. Each vessel to be armed with twelve or
fourteen 6 inch rifled guns. The design and plans were agreed on
15th April 1863. These vessels however, would be required to make a 5,000
mile journey to the Mississippi River, a requirement that would affect their
Arman subcontracted out for two of the corvettes with J. Voruz of
Nantes, France.In a secret act, the Confederate Government allocated
£2 million to construct warships in Southern Europe. Bulloch heard of
this in a despatch from Mallory, dated 6th May 1863.
In September of 1863, the United States Consul-general in Paris,
John M. Bigelow obtained original papers from the office of Voruz.
These papers disclosed the arrangements that his company had with
the Confederates. United States Minister William Dayton approached the
French Foreign Ministry with this information. Napolean, feigning shock,
ordered work on the two vessels to cease forthwith.
In October of 1863, Mr Henri Arman de Riviere offered to sell Bulloch one
of the Arman rams, an offer which was rejected with some fortitude. Bulloch
later changed his mind, and on 16th December 1864 de Riviere wrote to
Bulloch, telling him that the armor-clad ram Sphinx, built by Messrs Arman
of Bordeaux, lay at Copenhagen, Sweden. She was fully equipped for sea,
with her scheduled battery, one 300 pounder Armstrong, and two 70 pounder Armstrong
guns mounted and in place.
The Sphinx had originally been sold to the Danish Government, but then,
while in transit to Denmark, she was taken into a Swedish port and
"nominally" sold to a Swedish gentleman, and then, flying the Swedish flag,
proceeded to Copenhagen. In Copenahagen she was in the charge of Mr. Rudolph
a banker of that city. De Riviere was the man in charge of negotiations with
the Danish Government, about the purchase. He contrived to ensure that the
negotiations would fail, and on the pretext of the vessel returning to
Bordeaux, offered her to Bulloch. The price to be paid to de Riviere was
375,000 francs, and a further 80,000 francs for Mr Puggard.
Bulloch and de Riviere set up a series of coded telegraph messages,
allegedly relating to shares, to cover the sale and eventual departure of
the Sphinx. Bulloch communicated with Commodore Barron, the senior C S Navy
officer in Europe, he requested that Captain Thomas Jefferson Page be sent
to Copenhagen, to take command of the ram, while Bulloch himself would
take Lt R. R. Carter off special service, and send him to Copenhagen with
Bulloch wrote to Lt. George S. Shryock, on the CSS Rappahannock, then in Brest,
France, informing him that he, and all the ex-Florida crew on the
Rappahannock, were to proceed to Greenhithe, there to join the CSS
City of Richmond, the vessel
scheduled to meet the ironclad at a secret location, where the men from the
Rappahannock would join the crew of the ironclad.
Bulloch also chose the name for the new Confederate vessel, stating it was
"a name not inconsistent with her character, and one which will appeal to
the feelings and sympathies of those back home."
She was to be known as the Confederate States
The ironclad ram Stonewall left Copenhagen on 17th January 1865, with Captain
Page, Lt Carter and a temporary crew on board. She was immediately delayed by
a snowstorm, and had to take cover in Elsinore. Commander Hunter Davidson,
CSN, was in command of the City of Richmond, although flying an English flag. The arrangement was that the
secret rendezvous would be at Quiberon Bay, Belle Isle.
Davidson left Cherbourg on 18th January 1865, arriving at Quiberon on the
20th. On the morning of the 24th, the Stonewall came into view, to the
rapturous delight of the Confederates present. Capt Paige was accompanied by
Henri de Riviere. On the 26th de Riviere left aboard a small steamer, that
was supposed to supply the Stonewall with coal, either her own supply, or
some from the nearby port of Nantes (Unfortunately, de Riviere also took
with him the plans for the ship, that he should have passed to Paige.
This was to be to the detriment of the vessel and her crew).
She never offered any coal, or returned
with a supply. Hunter Davidsons description of the Stonewall was less than
"She was in a horribly filthy condition, and required more
labour to clean her, than to receive and get things in order afterwards."
Weather conditions seemed quite favourable on Jan. 28th, and both vessels
left Quiberon. Davidson and Paige had decided to make it look as though
the vessels were headed for different destinations, the Stonewall to
Madeira, and the City of Richmond to San Miguel. the plan was as soon as
Davidson was out of sight, Paige would alter course to follow him. On
his arrival at San Miguel, Davidson was to order such coals and supplies
as the Stonewall required, and, upon the Stonewalls arrival, put to sea
to effect the exchange. Thus avoiding any unwanted enquiries by the
The very next day, 29th January 1865, a storm blew up, of such severity
that both vessels were labouring. by the 30th the Stonewall was that short
of coal, it was decided that she should head for the Spanish port of Ferrol,
leaving the City of Richmond to head for Bermuda. Things did not go well at
Ferrol, the United States minister in Madrid informed the Spanish Government
that the Stonewall had been illegaly sold, and stated that the French had sent
several warships after her. They were to return her to a French port.
This was an outright lie, but served its purpose in delaying the Stonewall
being allowed facilities in the port of Ferrol.
The CSS Stonewall at Ferrol, Spain.
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