Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ships of Rebel Raiders: CSS Alabama


The Raiders   - CSS Alabama 

Rebel Raiders on the High Seas is a strategic game of the Civil War which focuses on the role of the navies on the rivers, along the coasts and on the oceans.  While most ships are represented by generic counters for Ironclads, Blockade Runners, Gunboats, Screw Sloops and, of course Raiders, there are cards and corresponding counters for many individual vessels.  This series presents those cards and offers a glimpse into the history of these storied ships.


Arguably the most iconic of the fleet of cruisers that sailed the high seas as commerce raiders, the CSS Alabama is not only represented by a card (CSN Card 63) but also graces the box cover.   Under Captain Raphael Semmes, already notorious for commanding the Confederacy’s first (and only domestically armed) raider, CSS Sumter, the CSS Alabama began her career as a raider in the North Atlantic in August 1862.  By year’s end Semmes had taken over two dozen prizes, including a mail steamer packed with passengers off Cuba in December. 

Semmes headed into the Gulf and in January fought and sunk a Union warship, the converted heavy steamer USS Hatteras, (USN Card 16 in Rebel Raiders) near Galveston.  Over the course of 1863 he hunted down and captured or sank more than 40 merchantmen.  By the spring of 1864, however, the ship (and the now ailing Semmes) were badly in need of repair and refit, and the CSS Alabama put into port in Cherbourg, France.

The USS Kearsarge (USN Card 14) followed, and its captain issued a challenge to Semmes, whom the Federal government and Union newspapers derided as a “pirate.”   His sense of honor as a naval officer piqued, Semmes responded to the taunts by sailing out on June 19 to do unequal battle.  Semmes fought his ship for nearly an hour against the much more heavily armed Union warship whose Yankee Guns  (USN Card 3)   reduced her to a fiery wreck.

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