Battle of Cherbourg 1864 Saturday, Mar 16 2013 

Kearsage Cottage, St Lawrence

Kearsage Cottage, St Lawrence

The Confederate ship the “Alabama” built at John Laird and Sons, Birkenhead in 1862 with some controversy as Britain was supposed to be a neutral force in the Civil War, this and other actions lead to the Americans successfully suing for compensation in what was to be known as the “Alabama Claims” which was settled with a $15.5 million payment in 1872. The vessel was at sea for 534 days out of 657, never visiting a single Confederate port. She boarded nearly 450 vessels, captured or burned 65 Union merchant ships, and took more than 2,000 prisoners without a single loss of life from either prisoners or her own crew. Her last port of call was Cherbourg where she was to leave to face battle with the Union ship the “Kearsarge” which was to sink her in the following battle.

Sinking of the "Alabama"

Sinking of the “Alabama”

This encounter created some interest in Jersey as the following was published in the “British Press and Jersey Times” the 8th July 1864

The following letter from Captain Saumarez, R.N., who is well known in Jersey, has appeared in the “Times”

Sir, – Having just returned from Cherbourg, the following account of the Kearsage and the damage done to her in her late engagement may prove of some interest to your naval readers :-

The Kearsage is a vessel of 1,030 tons, and lies very low in the water. Her armament consists of two 11 inch Dahlgrens, four 32 pounders, and one rifled 30 pounder which she carries up on her gallant forecastle. Her engines are of 30 horse power, working up to 1,200, having 14 furnaces, the staff of which consists of 32 stokers, five engineers, and one chief engineer, and I never witnessed engines in more perfect and compact order, or kept so beautifully clean. Her two Dahlgrens throw shell and hollow shot of 138 lb. The gun weighs eight tons, and owing to the simplicity of the carriage and its slide, is most easily worked. Her officers and crew consist inall of 160. She is very lightly rigged, spars very small, and her boats very high above her bulwarks. Her speed is very great, having steamed at 13 knots for 48 hours consecutively, and her chief engineer informed me, he has got 16 knots out of her. When I boarded her I found she had no armour plates or protection of any kind beyond having used her chain cable about seventy fathoms on each side in the wake of the engines, stopped up and down to the eye bolts driven in outside of the ship, and covered over by very thin planking. I found she had eight shots in her hull. Two had struck this on her starboard side, and had merely broken the links, but had not penetrated. A shell (3) had entered her starboard main chains, and exploded close to the 11 inch gun, but only wounding three men, one since dead; one (4) shot took of the top of her hurricane house, over her engine room, carrying away her port dead eye in the main rigging. A shot (5) struck her inboard near the mizzen mast, on the port side, passing outboard, and doing but little damage. A shot (6) struck her under the starboard counter, merely starting a deck plank . A shell (7) struck and now remains two feet above water in her stern post. Which they have merely covered over with a piece of painted canvas; and this is all the damage done to her beyond three shot through her funnel, and her rigging cut up a little aloft. She has not been into dock, nor does she require it, and need never have gone into port for repairs, so little effect has the Alabama’s fire had on her. The following account of the action I heard from an old friend, a French captain, who witnessed every manoeuvre from the centre fort of the breakwater; but I must premise by saying that a very strong feeling existed against the Northeners at Cherbourg during the late naval engagement:- The Kearsage some days previously entered at the east of the breakwater, and passed through the west end without anchoring, the Alabama being then at anchor, and anyone could see her outside protection. On the evening of Sunday the Alabama steamed straight out towards her enemy, who steamed down in tack, with the evident intention of forcing the Alabama to attack her on her starboard side, and kept her side towards her the whole action, working round in circles. The Alabama’s fire was very fast, but very bad shots going over and over her antagonist, and her shells seemed not to explode. Not so the Kearsage; nearly every shot told, and they saw terrific explosions from her shells, splinters being plainly visible. The fight in this way lasted one hour and ten minutes, when the Alabama struck her flag. To their astonishment they saw the Kearsage fire four or five shots after the ship had struck. The Kearsage then steamed past the Alabama and remained astern, not even lowering a boat until she was in the act of sinking, and it was exactly 18 minutes from the time the last shot was fired till she sank. The average speed was eight knots during the action. Such is my friend’s account. On convening with the wounded men we heard that the Alabama was very leaky and sadly required caulking – obliged to use the pumps even at anchor; that her powder was very bad and damp, a quantity of which they threw overboard, that the fuses to her shells were much the same, and proved so on former occasions; and after the first shot had struck the ship she made a quantity of water. The officers of the Kearsage state that they at once lowered their boats and saved 71 men. One French pilot boat saved nine and another two men, and the rest the Deerhound saved. In justice to them I must say that every question was replied to, that were received in the most friendly and courteous manner, and everything thrown open for our inspection; and there can be but one opinion. – The Kearsage did her work most efficiently, and now remains in the same efficient state.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

T. Saumarez, Captain R.N. The Firs, St. Laurence, Jersey, June 30th

The “Firs” is a property off Mont Felard where the current Hotel Cristina now is. The local papers also printed a letter from a resident at Gorey telling how he had invited some friends from St Helier for afternoon tea but they had declined, and he said it was unfortunate as he had listened to guns of the distant battle.

The battle was survive in name with a vessel taking up the name of “Alabama” and two houses on the front at Beaumont, St Lawrence still bear the names of the ships involved as pictured above.

Another connection with Jersey was the following report in England in the “Globe” and the “London Review” where the engineer of the “Wonder” had relayed some gossip that he had heard in St Helier that someone had seen a telegraph from Gorey that a battle had taken place between the “Kearsarge” and the Confederate ship “Florida” which ended up with the “Kearsarge” putting into Gorey for shelter and repairs. The report was a total hoax as the “Kearsarge” was at the time at anchor off Dover.

“Stories of Jersey Ships” by John Jean states that two Jerseymen were on board the “Alabama” one a carpenter named William Robinson, on the 1851 Jersey census there is a William Robinson born in St Helier 1832.

Interesting pictures and account of the event: http://www.searlecanada.org/hemy/kearsargealabama5.html

Jersey named vessel “Alabama” http://www.maritime.je/#/boat-for-february-2012/4558994752

French account by Betrand Sciboz: http://www.le-petit-manchot.fr/ces-bateaux-disparus/200-naufrage-de-l-alabama/les-cahiers-du-petit-manchot/

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Maria Spelterini first woman to cross the Niagara Falls Monday, Mar 11 2013 

Maria Spelterini

Maria Spelterini

Maria Spelterini 1853-1912 was an Italian tightrope walker being the only woman to cross the Niagara Falls which she did in 1876, she also crossedon following occassions: blindfolded, manacled, and with peach baskets strapped to her feet. She was known as the female “Blondin” and the details of her earlier appearance in Jersey are very limited, her appearances at St Aubin in 1872 were to help the small harbour maintain its status as a busy and thriving part of the island and support the railway link with St Helier. She put on several performances some of which included illumination and fireworks. This was at the start of her career.  There is little detail of her exploits before her performance in Jersey, she also performed in St Petersburg, Moscow, and Catalonia.

Maria Spelterini 1872 at St Aubin

Maria Spelterini 1872 at St Aubin

Prints from the “Univers Illustre” 1873

The first Chinese junk to visit Europe in March 1848 Sunday, Mar 10 2013 

Chinese junk "Keying"

Chinese junk “Keying”

The Chinese Junk “Keying”

In August 1846 at Canton, China a group of enterprising English business men invested in a Chinese junk in the hope of using the vessel as a floating trade exhibition, with the view of attracting tourists and trade to Hong Kong which had been ceded to Britain by the “Treaty of Nanjing” in 1842 at the end of the first opium war of 1839–42. The junk was named after the noble Qiying (Keying) a Manchu mandarin of the dynasty of Purity who was entrusted by the Emperor to deal with westerners in Hong Kong. The purchase may have been against Chinese law under the Manchu Dynasty which forbade in several ways interaction with foreigners, what is interesting that a mandarin known as He sing and a well known Chinese artist Sam Sing were picked to go on the voyage, and it is suggested that the Emperor was aware of the project from the start and secretly kept informed about it, and that the mandarin served as an informer to report back in detail.

The junk “Keying” was a 160 feet long, with a hold depth of 19 feet, 800 tons (Chinese), mainsail 9 tons, mainmast 85 feet long from the deck of the ship is made of teak. The rudder was suspended by a series of ropes and weighed 7 tons and could be lifted by two winches. She was painted black and white, with a large eagle on her stern and two eyes on her bow which give its hideous assemblage of planks and appearance of a great marine monster. She cost $ 75,000.

After the Governor His Excellency Sir John Davis, Admiral Sir Thomas Cochrane and all the Officers of the Fleet had visited the “Keying” the vessel left Hong Kong on the 6th of December, 1846 bound for London under the command of Captain Charles Auckland Kellett (born Plymouth 1820) with a crew including 30 Chinese and 12 English, she rounded Cape Horn on the 6th of March and after being at sea for four and half months she put into St Helena on the 17th of April, 1847 and leaving on the 23rd. She carried on her passage but was driven westward and running low on supplies she instead made for New York, arriving there on the 9th of July, 212 days from Canton. She created a great deal of interest with seven to eight thousand visitors per day initially, and paying 25 cents each. She left New York for Boston and arrived there on the 18th of November and on Thanksgiving day attracted four to five thousand visitors.

She left Boston for London on the 17th February bound for London with her masts adorned with strips of red cloth that the Chinese crew believed would bring a good and safe journey to them. On about the 11th of March 1848 the vessel found herself near the Roches Douvres and was approached by the cutter “Peirson” under the command of Captain Chevalier who escorted the junk into St Aubin’s Bay, for this he was paid 60 pounds. The junk having made a quick crossing of the Atlantic in 21 days, anchored off the Island of Jersey her first European port of call where she stayed for ten days in total. Crowds gathered on the Esplanade with their glasses to view the junk in the bay of St Aubin, several boats ventured out to get a closer look of her but no women were allowed to board her as the right of the first European woman to board was reserved for Queen Victoria. Two boatmen John Stone and John Kimber took a party of onlookers out, as they neared the junk the local packet from Plymouth the “Zebra” rounded Noirmont and steered a course close to the junk to also view the marvel, in doing so she swamped the boat of Stone and Kimber and the party were thrown into the water with Lieutenant Bassen of the Royal Navy, Boatman Kimber, and a boy George Hamon drowning, and those of the party that survived were as follows: Josue Brayn, George Ingouville Perchard, Jean De Gruchy, Thomas De Gruchy, M. Boisnet (of the Pomme D’Or), with his chef and commisionnaire, Elias Tinckam, Samuel Tinckam, (George Hamon was their apprentice) George Hamon, James Murphy, and others.

The “Keying” left Jersey for London with the steamer “Monarch” under Captain Priaulx as her escort, with the trip expected to take three days. She arrived at her destination and tied up at the East India Docks, adjoining the Railway and Steamboat Pier, Blackwall on the 27th of March, 477 days after leaving Canton, she created no less a stir in London as she had elsewhere with her Mandarin of rank and the artist of celebrity hosting visitors in the grand saloon, gorgeously furnished in the most approved style of the celestial empire with its collection of Chinese curiosities, the “Times” stated “There is not a more interesting exhibition in the vicinity of London than the Chinese Junk: one step across the entrance, and you are in the Chinese world; you have quitted the Thames for the vicinity of Canton.” Some notorious visitors toured the junk including the Duke of Wellington and Charles Dickens, and several of the young Chinese crew visited Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace.
From the “Jersey Times” 5th April 1850.
The Chinese Junk – On Saturday last an accident of a very serious character,but unattended with any loss of life happened to a large wooden structure which had lately been in the course of erection at the Essex pier, at the bottom of Essex street, Strand, London, for the purpose of exhibiting the Chinese Junk. This building was erected on piles driven down into the river, and was 400 feet long, 60 feet high, and about 50 broad; and one side the ends, and a portion of the roof had already been enclosed in boards. Throughout Friday night the whole shook and trembled under the influence of the wind, which was very high, and about ten on Saturday morning, while half a dozen workmen were engaged in securing the woodwork, the structure fell down with a large crash. A strong gust of wind was blowing at the time from the east, and the piles were not strong enough to resist the pressure occassioned by the wind acting on the whole length of the side. All the men escaped unhurt, except one, who was precipitated from a considerable height on the mud below, into which he sank several feet; and another who received such injuries on his arm as to render it necessary to remove him to the Hospital. Men had been employed on this building nearly a month, and the cost will be about £500.
The “Keying”l was eventually taken up to Liverpool where she was scrapped and her timbers used in the building of ferry boats for the River Mersey.

Captain Charles Alfred Auckland Kellett was born around 1820 in Plymouth and married Jane in 1840 at Liverpool. They had 6 children

****

"Keying"

“Keying”

Letter by Charles Dickens
he tried Broadstairs once more, having no important writing in hand: but in the brief interval before leaving he saw a thing of celebrity in those days, the Chinese junk; and I had all the details in so good a description that I could not resist the temptation of using some parts of it at the time. “Drive down to the Blackwall railway,” he wrote to me, “and for a matter of eighteen-pence you are at the Chinese Empire in no time. In half a score of minutes, the tiles and chimney-pots, backs of squalid houses, frowsy pieces of waste ground, narrow courts and streets, swamps, ditches, masts of ships, gardens of duckweed, and unwholesome little bowers of scarlet beans, whirl away in a flying dream, and nothing is left but China. How the flowery region ever came into this latitude and longitude is the first thing one asks; and it is not certainly the least of the marvel. As Aladdin’s palace was transported hither and thither by the rubbing of a lamp, so the crew of Chinamen aboard the Keying devoutly believed that their good ship would turn up, quite safe, at the desired port, if they only tied red rags enough upon the mast, rudder, and cable. Somehow they did not succeed. Perhaps they ran short of rag; at any rate they hadn’t enough on board to keep them above water; and to the bottom they would undoubtedly have gone but for the skill and coolness of a dozen English sailors, who brought them over the ocean in safety. Well, if there be any one thing in the world that this extraordinary craft is not at all like, that thing is a ship of any kind. So narrow, so long, so grotesque; so low in the middle, so high at each end, like a China pen-tray; with no rigging, with nowhere to go to aloft; with mats for sails, great warped cigars for masts, gaudy dragons and sea-monsters disporting themselves from stem to stern, and on the stern a gigantic cock of impossible aspect, defying the world (as well he may) to produce his equal, — it would look more at home at the top of a public building, or at the top of a mountain, or in an avenue of trees, or down in a mine, than afloat on the water. As for the Chinese lounging on the deck, the most extravagant imagination would never dare to suppose them to be mariners. Imagine a ship’s crew, without a profile among them, in gauze pinafores aud plaited hair; wearing stiff clogs a quarter of a foot thick in the sole; and lying at night in little scented boxes, like backgammon men or chess-pieces, or mother-of-pearl counters! But by Jove! even this is nothing to your surprise when you go down into the cabin. There you get into a torture of perplexity. As, what became of all those lanterns hanging to the roof when the Junk was out at sea? Whether they dangled there, banging and beating against each other, like so many jesters’ baubles? Whether the idol Chin Tee, of the eighteen arms, enshrined in a celestial Punch’s Show, in the place of honour, ever tumbled out in heavy weather? Whether the incense and the joss-stick still burnt before her, with a faint perfume and a little thread of smoke, while the mighty waves were roaring all around? Whether that preposterous tissue-paper umbrella in the corner was always spread, as being a convenient maritime instrument for walking about the decks with in a storm? Whether all the cool and shiny little chairs and tables were continually sliding about and bruising each other, and if not why not? Whether anybody on the voyage ever read those two books printed in characters like bird-cages and fly-traps? Whether the Mandarin passenger, He Sing, who had never been ten miles from home in his life before, lying sick on a bamboo couch in a private china closet of his own (where he is now perpetually writing autographs for inquisitive barbarians), ever began to doubt the potency of the Goddess of the Sea, whose counterfeit presentment, like a flowery monthly nurse, occupies the sailors’ joss-house in the second gallery? Whether it is possible that the said Mandarin, or the artist of the ship, Sam Sing, Esquire, R.A. of Canton, can ever go ashore without a walking-staff of cinnamon, agreeably to the usage of their likenesses in British tea-shops? Above all, whether the hoarse old ocean could ever have been seriously in earnest with this floating toy-shop; or had merely played with it in lightness of spirit — roughly, but meaning no harm — as the bull did with another kind of china-shop on St. Patrick’s day in the morning.”
The reply made on this brought back comment and sequel not less amusing. “Yes, there can be no question that this is Finality in perfection; and it is a great advantage to have the doctrine so beautifully worked out, and shut up in a corner of a dock near a fashionable white-bait house for the edification of man. Thousands of years have passed away since the first junk was built on this model, and the last junk ever launched was no better for that waste and desert of time. The mimic eye painted on their prows to assist them in finding their way, has opened as wide and seen as far as any actual organ of sight in all the interval through the whole immense extent of that strange country. It has been set in the flowery head to as little purpose for thousands of years. With all their patient and ingenious but never advancing art, and with all their rich and diligent agricultural cultivation, not a new twist or curve has been given to a ball of ivory, and not a blade of experience has been grown. There is a genuine finality in that; and when one comes from behind the wooden screen that encloses the curious sight, to look again upon the river and the mighty signs on its banks of life, enterprise, and progress, the question that comes nearest is beyond doubt a home one. Whether we ever by any chance, in storms, trust to red rags; or burn joss-sticks before idols; or grope our way by the help of conventional eyes that have no sight in them; or sacrifice substantial facts for absurd forms? The ignorant crew of the Keying refused to enter on the ship’s books, until ‘a considerable amount of silvered-paper, tin-foil, and joss-stick’ had been laid in by the owners for the purposes of their worship. And I wonder whether our seamen, let alone our bishops and deacons, ever stand out upon points of silvered-paper and tin-foil and joss-sticks. To be sure Christianity is not Chin-Teeism, and that I suppose is why we never lose sight of the end in contemptible and insignificant quarrels about the means. There is enough matter for reflection aboard the Keying at any rate to last one’s voyage home to England again.”

Coin "Boston to Jersey in 21 days"

Coin “Boston to Jersey in 21 days”

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