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Ships of the World: An Historical Encyclopedia

USS Kearsarge

Mohican-class screw sloop (3m). L/B/D: 198.5 bp × 33.8 × 15.8 (60.5m × 10.3m × 4.8m). Tons: 1,550 disp.; 1,031 burden. Hull: wood. Comp.: 160. Arm.: 2 × 11, 4 × 32pdr. Mach.: horizontal back-acting engines, 842 ihp, 1 screw; 11 kts. Built: Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Me.; 1862.

Ordered under the emergency war program of 1861, USS Kearsarge (named for a New Hampshire mountain) had a rather commonplace career in the European Squadron of the U.S. Navy. Under Captain Charles W. Pickering, she departed Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on January 24, 1862, and took part in the blockade of CSS Sumter at Gibraltar; Sumter's commander, Captain Raphael Semmes, thereupon left the ship. Thereafter Kearsarge patrolled the western Atlantic in pursuit of Semmes's new ship, CSS Alabama, and other raiders. In June 1864, Kearsarge was at Flushing, Holland, under Captain John A. Winslow, when word arrived that the notorious Confederate raider had put into Cherbourg on June 11. Three days later, Kearsarge arrived off the French coast. Local officials told him that any attempt to embark U.S. sailors put ashore from Alabama would violate French neutrality, so Winslow—a shipmate of Semmes before the war—put to sea to await Alabama's inevitable departure. On the morning of June 19, Alabama stood out of Cherbourg and opened fire on Kearsarge at 1057. Fitted with protective chain cables and fighting with better-quality munitions, Kearsarge was more than a match for the war-weary Alabama, which began to sink after an hour. Kearsarge rescued most of Alabama's crew except for Semmes and about forty others, who escaped aboard a British yacht. This single engagement against the Confederacy's most notorious commerce raider made Kearsarge one of the best-known ships in the U.S. Navy.

After an unsuccessful effort to locate CSS Florida, Kearsarge proceeded to the Caribbean and from there to Boston where she was decommissioned for repairs. Kearsarge continued in service for another thirty years, seeing service in virtually every sphere of U.S. interest around the world: the Mediterranean, South America, the Pacific, and the China Station. She wrecked on Roncador Reef off Central America while en route from Haiti to Bluefields, Nicaragua, on February 2, 1894, without loss of life. Deemed unsalvageable, she was stricken from the Navy list the same year.

Guérout, "Engagement between the C.S.S. Alabama and the U.S.S. Kearsarge." Leary, "Alabama vs. Kearsarge."

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