Liverpool and the American Civil War

12 April 2016 by Sarah Starkey

Photograph of Captain Semmes on board the ship Alabama, 1863.

One of our rare photographs taken on board the Liverpool built Confederate ship Alabama, 1863.

This week sees the anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War on 12th April 1861.  At first glance not a topic that has much to do with Liverpool.  However, because of the economic and global environment of the time, especially the importance to Great Britain of cotton, Liverpool played a major role in the conflict.I spoke recently to BBC Radio Merseyside about some of our collections that reveal the story of Liverpool and the American Civil War.  A lot of what I spoke about can be seen on our online exhibitions on our website or the original documents can be viewed during the public open days at the Maritime Archives & Library.  It really is a fascinating story involving battleships, spies and financial intrigue.  I am waiting for the day someone decides to make a multi series, high production value, TV show about it.

  1. Sharon Eisenhart Grosso, 215-675-7748 says:

    The USS Richmond was the last US ship built in Norfolk, Virginia prior to the Civil war. President Lincoln made secret arrangements with the british government and purchased armaments, canons, guns etc. Prior to the start of the war at Ft. Sumpter. The USS Richmond went on its maiden voyage to the middle east for spices. Then secretly to Liverpool to load all the amnunitions the President had ordered. In England they had to hire 60 men to load the weapons. My Great, Great Grandfather was hired along with his older brother. When the ship unloaded the spices in NY the brothers enlisted in the Massachusettes Union Army. The Richmond then proceeded to New Orleans and up the Mississippi where it strategically positioned itself as a blockade preventing the confederates from obtaining supplies. Does your museum have any information on the 60 men hired to load the ammo?

    • Sarah Starkey says:

      Dear Sharon,

      That’s a very interesting story. I don’t think we will have any records on those men, because most of our archive collections relate to the Confederates. You may be able to find some information within our library collections if you are able to visit us.
      Yours sincerely
      Sarah Starkey

  2. Stephen Pickles says:

    If someone ever does make a TV series about Liverpool and the C.S.S. Alabama, there should surely be a place in it for Able Seaman Henry Adams of the yacht Deerhound, the man who rescued the Alabama’s Captain, Raphael Semmes, from the sea after the Battle of Cherbourg. At age 12, Henry Adams had become the youngest ever employee of the Liverpool to Holyhead Telegraph at the station at Point Lynas. His father, James Adams, kept the lighthouse and telegraph on Bidston Hill during the American Civil War.

  3. Sarah Starkey says:

    Dear Stephen,
    Nice to meet you this afternoon. I agree with your comments about Henry Adams. There is a wealth of wonderful stories relating to Alabama and Henry’s shows the links between the North West and the American Civil War. Thanks for the link to the interesting article.
    Best wishes
    Sarah Starkey

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