Abstract Log of the U.S. Steamer Kearsarge, Captain John A. Winslow Commanding, recording the ship's engagement and sinking of the CSS Alabama, commanded by Captain Raphael Semmes. The epic naval engagement between the USS Kearsarge and the CSS Alabama, the most famous of the Confederate Navy cruisers, off the coast of Cherbourg France on June 19, 1864, is one of the two most famous single ship versus single ship actions of the American Civil War (the other being the duel of the ironclads CSS Virginia versus the USS Monitor). Both had significant affects on the naval actions of the Civil War and beyond. This book has descended in Winslow's family, having never before been offered at auction, and is one of several important battle related objects being offered in this auction from the Kearsarge, a 1550-ton Mohican class steam sloop of war named for Mt. Kearsarge in New Hampshire, and constructed at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine, under the 1861 Civil War emergency shipbuilding program. US Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles had placed Wilmington, North Carolina-born Captain John Ancrum Winslow in command of the Kearsarge in December, 1862 with a direct imperative: to find and destroy the CSS Alabama. The most feared and successful raider of the Confederacy had been attacking Union merchant ships since her launch on May 15,1862, significantly cutting off international commerce and income for the Union. Her commander, Semmes, was Winslow's former friend and one-time roommate on the USS Raritan (some historians have speculated that Winslow's familiarity with Semmes was among the reasons Welles selected him for this specific command). The log's hand-written entries commence April 27, 1864, as the Kearsarge "got underway and steamed out of Dover roads", and end at 12:05 AM on Nov. 8, 1864, when Winslow and his crew returned as American heroes, anchoring at the Charleston Navy Yard. Winslow received intelligence on June 12, 1864 that the Alabama was docked at Cherbourg, France for repairs and immediately ordered the Kearsarge in that direction. The entry on June 14, 1864 reads: "Steering in for Cherbourg Breakwater. Stopped the engines off the eastern entrance and sent a boat ashore to communicate with the Am. Consul. Found the rebel privateer "Alabama" lying at anchor in the Roads." Winslow held off on an attack, however, as Semmes was in a neutral port, and the log book records Winslow making several boat trips between the Kearsarge and shore to "communicate" and plan his attack, while his crew prepared the ship for action and waited tensely for the battle to begin. Admiral Semmes knew the Kearsarge had him essentially boxed in, but had no intention of surrender, sending a message to Winslow asking the Kearsarge not to depart, as he intended to fight her. On June 19, with a large crowd of spectators watching from shore, the Alabama steamed out of port and the Kearsarge made her move, with Winslow hoping to draw Semmes far enough from shore that if disabled, the Alabama could not return to port. "We altered our course and approached the Alabama," the log book reports in its entry for the day. "...At 10:57 the Alabama commenced the action with her starboard broadside at 1000 yards range. At 11 we returned her fire and came fairly into action... When observing signs of distress in the enemy together with a cessation of her fire, our fire was withheld. At 12:10 a boat with an officer from the Alabama came alongside and surrendered his vessel with the information that she was rapidly sinking and a request for assistance. Sent the launch and 2nd cutter, the other boats having been disabled during the engagement. The English yacht [Deerhound] before-mentioned coming within hail was requested by the Captain to render assistance in saving the lives of the officers and crew of the surrendered vessel." The entry goes on to record the dramatic rescue of some of the Alabama's crew. Ironically, instead of delivering the Alabama's officers to Winslow as requested, "the English yacht steamed rapidly away..." allowing Semmes and several of his Confederate officers to escape and avoid imprisonment. The log goes on to report the aftermath of the battle, including damage and repairs to the ship, injuries, burials, and treatment of prisoners. The crew numbered approximately 150 on the Kearsarge (including 15 Black crewmen); the Alabama's crew at one time had numbered 170 but was said to have been recently reduced due to desertions. 3 Kearsarge sailors were injured in the battle (with one dying later), compared to 40 sailors of the Alabama killed in the conflict. Approximately 70 surviving sailors were picked up by Kearsarge boats, while Semmes escaped with 30 or so others. 17 of Kearsarge's crew received the Medal of Honor for their actions. This log book provides a rare and fascinating glimpse of life at sea for Winslow and his crew, even in the less dramatic pre-battle months and days: various crewmen being disciplined, for example, and an incident May 6 of 1862, when the ship incurred damage from striking a dolphin or a group of protective pilings near a dock, at Vlissingen (Flushing), Netherlands. (Repairs were completed on May 9th and the Kearsarge departed the following day). Vellum and paper wrapped boards, marbled fore edges and endpapers. Measures overall 12 1/2" x 8 1/2". Note: this book descended in Winslow's family through his only surviving grandson, U.S. Army Brig. Genl. E.E. Winslow, who settled in Memphis, Tennessee, and is being offered along with numerous other items from the family including at least one Kearsarge related battle flag and a watercolor painting of the ship in the following lots. This lot will include a copy of a notarized provenance letter from the direct descendant of Admiral Winslow.
Binding remains largely intact despite wear and deterioration to spine. Grime, losses, wear and some tape residue to covers. Interior pages in excellent condition with minor toning and foxing, handwriting remains bright and legible.
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Bank: Pinnacle Bank
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Nashville, TN 37201
Phone # (865) 766-3000
Swift Code: PNFPUS44
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Private TN collection, acquired March, 2023 from direct descendant of USS Kearsarge commander Admiral John Ancrum Winslow (1811-1873) through his only surviving grandson Brig. Genl. Eben Eveleth Winslow, along with other items in this auction.