|The Sumter running the blockade of Pass à l'Outre, by the enemy's Ship Brooklyn, on the 30th June, 1861 |
(Library of Congress)
The dashing Sumter —— how she Duped the Iroquois.
A letter from Gibralvarodate Jan. 20, gives a most interesting account of the dashing cruiser's doings in the Mediterranean:
You will have already heard by telegraph of the arrival of the Sumter in this bay. On Friday night a message was received here saying that she had left Cadiz, but that her course was not known. As the wind was
favorable for the passage of vessels through the Straits to the westward, it was thought not unlikely that she would steam for Gibraltar with the object of intercepting the many Federal merchantmen homeward bound. On Saturday morning signal was made from the lookout on the summit of the rock that the Sumter was six miles to the eastward, capturing two large Federal ships. The news, as may be imagined, caused he greatest excitement, and every body rushed out to catch a glimpse of the privateer and her prey.
|Captain Raphael Semmes|
The other vessel taken, a large bark, proved to be laden with an English cargo, so she was released, and came in here yesterday. In the evening of Saturday the Sumter anchored in this bay. On Sunday I went on board, most anxious to see the celebrated craft that has led the Federal navy a dance over so many miles of ocean. When going alongside, I could scarcely believe that so poor a vessel could have escaped so many dangers. She is a screw steamer, with three masts, a funnel strangely out of proportion to her size, and a tall, black hull, so high out of water that she gives you the idea of being insufficiently ballasted. Four 32-pounders peeped from her sides, a large 8-inch pivot gun was on her main deck forward. Before she was fitted for her present work she was a passenger ship, running between New Orleans and Havana. Her unsightly appearance arises from the alterations that have been in her decks.
In order to afford more accommodation, and give more cover to the engines and guns, a light, temporary flush deck has been built over what was originally the only deck of the ship. This raises her an additional ten feet out of water, and at the same time dwarfs her masts and funnel. She is crank and leaky. Her engines are partially above the lower deck, and, with the object of preserving them from the effects of gunshot, they are surrounded by a cylindrical casing of six-inch wood, covered with half-inch iron bars — a very poor protection against an eight-inch shot. Her officers and crew number ninety in all. The latter are a hardy, devil-me-care set of fellows, ready for any work — men who would stick at nothing — They are of all nations — even the Irish brogue was among them.
The commander, Captain Semmes, is a reserved, determined looking man, whose left hand knows not what his right deeth. He received me most courteously, and took me over his ship. I expressed my astonishment at his escape from Martinique, who, with great clearness, and with the assistance of a disgrace, he showed me how he had run the blockade, deluded the request, Capt, Palmer may be surprised to learn that he was beaten at his own weapons. The Confederates discovered the nature of the signals that were to be made from the shore when the ship got under weigh, and the trap was laid accordingly. As the evening gun fired, the cable that held the Sumter to the wharf was loosed, and she darted out under the shadow of the land, to the southward.
At the first turn of her screw the signal blue lights blazed from the shore, and at Iroquois, at full steam, made for the southerly harbor to intercept her. Keeping near the land for a few miles, Capt. Semmes suddenly put his ship about and ran in a northerly direction, while the Iroquois continued her course and in three hours, the two vessels were many miles apart. The French ship which, it will be remembered. Capt. Palmer mentions as being left the harbor at the same time, which will be happy to learn, no other than the doubling back to the northward.