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American Civil War

31 March 2011 by Sarah Starkey

Image of a seafarers discharge certificate from ship Alabama

Certificate of Discharge from the CSS Alabama, Confederate States Navy for George Freemantle, DX/1841.

The Merseyside Maritime Museum is commemorating Liverpool’s involvement in the American Civil War, which took place 150 years ago, 1861-1865.  There are various text panels and a trail leaflet that allows you to find related exhibits throughout the building, including in the International Slavery Museum.  My task has been to put together a display of items from the archive collections for our showcases outside the Maritime Archives & Library on the second floor.  We’ve got a lot of relevant stuff, so we’re going to have changing displays until 2015. 

The current exhibition includes this discharge certificate from the Confederate States Steamer Alabama, built secretly in 1862 for the South by Lairds in Birkenhead and finally sunk by the United States ship Kearsarge off the coast of France in 1864.  The crew, many of whom were from Liverpool, were picked up by a British yacht and landed at Southampton.  Then they were signed off and given a certificate of discharge.  These certificates acted as a record of service for seafarers and were essential when they were trying to find their next job. 

Liverpool’s important involvement in the American Civil War may surprise some people, so it’s worth a visit to see the exhibition.

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