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1864 July 16: The Sinking of the “Alabama” in the Battle of Cherbourg

July 16, 2014

Following is the summary of the week’s war-related news from the July 16, 1864, issue of The Polk County Press.

The Battle of Cherbourg, fought on June 19, 1864, in the English Channel off Cherbourg, France, resulted in the sinking of the famous Confederate raider CSS Alabama by the USS Kearsarge.

Following that item is news of Confederate General Jubal Early’s raid through the Shenandoah Valley and into Maryland in July, 1864, attempting to divert Union forces away from General Robert E. Lee’s army that was under siege at Petersburg, Virginia.

The News.

The following is a summary of the most important news received since our last issue :

— Hon. S. P. CHASE [Salmon P. Chase] has resigned the office of Secretary of the Treasury, and Hon. WM. P. FESSENDEN, of Maine, has succeeded him in the Cabinet.

— Congress adjourned sine die¹ at noon of Monday, the Fourth of July.  Before adjourning it passed a new Conscription bill.  Under this act, drafts may be made for one, two or three years ;  bounties of $100, $200, and $300 are to be awarded for one, 2 and 3 years’ service respectively.  Commutation is no more ;  but every one drafted may serve in person or by substitute, and fifty days’ notice must be given before enforcing the draft.  Each State is at liberty to obtain substitutes in the States in insurrection and have them credited on her quota.

— The pirate Alabama has been met by our gallant navy, and sent to “Davy Jones’ locker.”  The winning ship is the U. S. Sloop-of-war Kearsage [sic: Kearsarge].  The engagement took place on the coast of France, off Cherbourg.  SEMMES [Raphael Semmes], the pirate Captain, made his escape in an English yacht.

Destruction of the Alabama, from "Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War"²

Destruction of the Alabama, from “Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War”²

— The rebels are making a serious raid into Maryland.  The despatches³ regarding the situation are principally made up of rumors.  It appears certain, however, that a large force of rebels have invaded the North, and that several severe engagements have taken place in the vicinity of Baltimore and Washington.  Telegraph and railroad communication between Baltimore and Philadelphia, and Baltimore and Washington, has been cut off, and the greatest excitement prevails in those cities.

In Philadelphia the wildest rumors prevail, and it is reported there that Washington has been captured.  No faith is placed in the rumor, and as the last quotations show a decline in gold in New York, it is undoubtedly a secesh lie.

There is no mistake, however, but what the rebels are doing great damage in Maryland, destroying large amounts of property, both public and private.  Our forces are not idle and we trust soon to hear of the utter defeat of the rebels.

Gen. SULLIVAN [Jeremiah C. Sullivan] has re-captured Martinsburg, Va., with 1,000 prisoners and a large amount of plunder.

Gen. SHERMAN [William T. Sherman] has driven the rebel army of JOHNSON [sic: Joseph E. Johnston] across the Chattahoochee river, taking 2,000 prisoners.

GRANT [Ulysses S. Grant] is still around Petersburg, with BEAUREGARD [P.G.T. Beauregard] and his army penned up.  He is playing Vicksburg over again, and will soon have him bag and baggage.

1.  A Latin phrase meaning that Congress, in this case, had adjourned without setting a time to reconvene.
2.  “Destruction of the Alabama,” from Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War, by Alfred H. Guernsey and Henry M. Alden (Chicago: McDonnell, 1866-68):426; available in the UWRF Archives (E 468.7 .G87 1866). This also appeared in the July 23, 1864, issue of Harper’s Weekly.
3.  This is probably a good time to repeat that the newspapers of this time used “dispatch” and “despatch” interchangeably, so we do not bother putting [sic] after the later.
4.  Martinsburg is now in West Virginia.  The The Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad Roundhouse and Station Complex were located there.

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