Ships of War

Ships of War looks into the role of ships during times of war from 1860-2000. War brings all aspects of life into it. From homefront rationing to frontline fighting. The great ships of the oceans were not spared the horrors of war. During the American War Between the States a naval blockade produce the first iron sided ships in the world. The Confederate CSS Alabama, a British-built ship for the Confederacy was the fastest and strongest ship in the Atlantic in 1863. World War I found its way onto the ocean with the invention of the U-boats. Trans-Atlantic liners were soon targeted by German Captains and sunk. The liners though heard the call and were enlisted to service the Army and also sported the wild "dazzle" camo. The Second World War the liners again serviced the Allies. The Queens Mary and Elizabeth were credited to shortening the war by a year or more. Truly these floating palaces can when needed become floating bases for military.

U.S.S. Maine

The USS Maine is one of the most important ships in United States history. Launched on November 13, 1890 the Maine was one of the first steel ships launched by the US Navy. With tensions flaring in Cuba, the Navy sent the Maine to Havana for a show of strength. Arriving on January 25, 1898 the Maine docked in Havana Harbor while Cubans were fighting for their independence from Spain. On February 15, 1898 an explosion rocked the Maine. Killing 258 men the explosion rocked the world and brought war to the United States and Spain. The Spanish-American war resulted and thus flung the United States into the world spotlight as an imperial power. The Maine was raised on February 2, 1912 and sunk in the Gulf of Mexico with Naval honors on March 16, 1912. The masts of the Maine were placed in Arlington National Cemetary in Virginia and at the Naval Academy in Anapolis, Maryland. For detailed information on the USS Maine please check out the USS Maine web page, or the Navy Historical Center.

Photo source: Summersell Collections Library, The University of Alabama

C.S.S. Alabama

Fighting to stay alive, the Confederate States of America turned to England for help in their fight for independence. The Confederate Navy was largely built by the John Laird Sons and Company shipbuilders in Liverpool, England. Such as the case of the C.S.S. Alabama. Commisioned on August 24, 1862, the Alabama was under command of Captain Raphael Semmes. The Alabama went out and captured and burned ships in the North Atlantic. The Alabama toured the West Indies burning and destroying Union ships. The U.S.S. Hatteras was sunk by the Alabama off the Texas coast in 1863. June 11, 1864 the Alabama arrived in Cherbourg, France for an overhaul. A few days later the U.S.S. Kearsarge arrived off the coast of France to meet her Southern foe. On June 19, 1864 the two ships met in combat. The Alabama came in fighting while the Kearsarge waited until the Alabama was within 1000 yards before opening fire. Within an hour the Alabama was on her way to the bottom. Semmes and 41 other crew members were picked up by the British yacht Deerhound, while the others were carried off on the Kearsarge. In all the Alabama had 60 prizes of war amounting to $6,000,000 of damage. In the 1980's a joint French-American group dived on the Alabama and salvaged artifacts.

Read on the fascinating history of the Capital Navy: A new book published and sold at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia. The link is a description of the book and gives you a chance to check out the Museum of the Confederacy.

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Page last updated 25 May, 1998