The following was published in the Straits Times (Singapore)
Saturday, December 26, 1863
The Alabama was open for inspection on Wednesday, and no doubt many availed
themselves of the opportunity to inspect a ship that will possess a place in
the history of the present age. The Alabama once seen will not be readily
forgotten. She is not large, being, we should say, barely 1,000 tons
register; but still she has the air of a dare-devil craft that would hesitate
but little to test her strength against a much stronger enemy. She is very
low in the water, extremely long, being according to our measurement at the
wharf 215 feet from stem to stern; but the most remarkable feature of her
build is her extreme narrowness, her beam amid-ship we should set down at
very little if anything over 30 feet. She is barque rigged with long raking
spars; but not full barque rigged, as her main and fore top masts and top
gallant masts are of one spar. Her greatest spread of canvas is in her fore
and aft sails, which are of gigantic proportions; she has no square mainsail, and she sets no royals. Under canvas alone she has gone as much as 132 knots. Her funnel is short and stumpy, having a considerable rake aft, and with steam pipes both before and abaft, - like her hull, her funnel is painted black.
Early in the morning we were shewn over her deck, and the narrowness of
her beam was again most strikingly apparent. Her armament consists of six 32
pounder smooth bore broad side guns, and two large pivot guns one forward
and the other aft; the former is a rifled gun throwing 110 lb shot, and the
latter a smooth bore 68 pounder. Everything on deck is in splendid order and
of the very best material. Her engine room is also a picture of neatness; she
has double cylinders, working transversely, and is nominally of 300
horse-power, but capable of working up to very considerably over that.
Her speed under steam alone is between 14 and 15 knots.
The impression which an inspection of the Alabama gives, is that she is
essentially a handy craft, capable of the most rapid movements, and
thoroughly effective to the extent of her strength. We had been accustomed
to think that she was slightly built; and unfit to stand fire; but this is
a mistake, she is wooden built and presents a side equal in strength, we
should say, to that of any modern war vessel of her size, so that she can
fight as well as run from an enemy; though the former is not her policy when
she has the alternative left to her. Three or four places are pointed out
where the fire of the Hatteras off Galveston took effect upon her, one is
just under the main chains, one a little before the foremast - low down,
one on the deck close beside her broadside gun on the starboard side, and
another has torn a fragment out of the funnel. It will be remembered that
in this engagement she sunk the Hatteras, but not with one broadside as is
generously stated, she fired eight broadsides before her enemy sank.
Whatever may be our impressions when we sedately view the mission of the
Alabama it is impossible in the presence of the little craft not to be
momentarily carried away by an enthusiastic sympathy for her cause.
When talked to here of the hard push the South had for it, Captain Semmes,
pointing to the Confederate ensign floating above him, said “It is no matter,
that Flag never comes “down.” It is a bold and confident boast; - time will
tell us if it be a true one. No one who will visit her, can deny that the
Alabama is officered by gentlemen, corteous(sic) and obliging.