Charles Francis Adams, U.S. minister to Great Britain, urged British Foreign Secretary Lord John Russell to prohibit the newly constructed screw steamer Enrica from leaving Liverpool because she was suspected of being a Confederate commerce raider.
U.S. agents in Britain had protested for weeks that the Confederates were paying for the construction of a warship in a British harbor, which violated international law because Britain had proclaimed neutrality in the conflict. The Enrica was being built at Liverpool, a port known for its Confederate sympathies, and the port surveyor unsurprisingly found that the ship was not intended for hostile use against the U.S. Lord Russell urged Adams to submit any contrary evidence to the port collector.
But then, after three weeks of investigation, British officials submitted a report stating that the ship did indeed have hostile intentions, adding, “We recommend that without loss of time the vessel be seized by the proper authorities.” Lord Russell reviewed this report and decided to stop the ship from leaving Liverpool. Confederate operatives learned of Russell’s decision and notified James D. Bulloch, the Confederate agent overseeing the Enrica’s construction.
Bulloch responded by taking the Enrica out of Liverpool on a trial run on July 29, two days before Russell finally acted. Visitors aboard the ship were transferred to a tug, and the Enrica moved out onto the high seas, headed for the island of Terceira in the Azores. The ship steamed north around Ireland to avoid the U.S.S. Tuscarora, watching for her potential escape. The British colors above the ship were then lowered and replaced by the Confederate flag.
At the Azores, the Enrica was fitted with guns and loaded with ordnance and supplies from Captain Alexander McQueen’s merchant bark the Agrippina. Confederates christened the Enrica the C.S.S. Alabama, designed to attack Federal merchant shipping at sea. She proceeded to Nassau in the Bahamas, where her career as a feared commerce raider began. The birth of the Alabama would cause great tension between the U.S. and Britain for many years to come.
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