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Last Confederate Sailor Buried
When the CSS Alabama was sunk by the Union sloop Kearsarge shortly before noon on 19 June 1864 off the French coast near Cherbourg, it took 9 men with it. On Saturday 28 July 2007, the remains of one of them (which had been found encrusted to the bottom of a cannon that was raised in 2002) was buried as an unknown Confederate sailor in the Magnolia Cemetery, Mobile, AL.
Raphael Semmes, captain of the Alabama, was picked up by the English yacht, the Deerhound, and taken to England to recover from his wounds. From Southampton on 21 June 1864, he reported that "Our total loss in killed and wounded is 30, to wit, 9 killed and 21 wounded." Previously in this same report, Semmes indicated that, "Accompanying you will find lists of the killed and wounded, and of those who were picked up by the Deerhound. The remainder there is reason to hope were picked up by the enemy and a couple of French pilot boats ..." This report is found at http:/history.navy.mil/docs/civilwar/64-6-19.htm. Unfortunately, the list of killed and wounded is not included.
On 4 June 2007, George Werneth reported on the attempts to identify the skeletal remains of the unknown sailor (http://dofundodomar.blogspot.com). Attorney Robert Edington, president of the Mobile-based CSS Alabama Association said that the remains were definitely those of a Confederate sailor. Shea McLean, the Museum of Mobile's curator of collections, said that the remains were sent to the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii, where DNA samples were taken and efforts would be made to trace the sailor's descendants.
The remains, however, may not actually be those of a sailor - or even of a Confederate. Among the crew of the Alabama were several British seamen, including Dr. David H. Llewellyn who refused to stay with the wounded who had been picked up by the Kearsarge, but who returned to the sinking Alabama even though he could not swim. Another drowning victim was David White, a young slave whom Semmes had freed when he captured the Tonawanda in 1862. Semmes paid tribute to Dr. Llewellyn personally, and David White is mentioned in The Saga of C.S.S. Alabama: A Forgotten Episode of the Civil War by Christopher Henze. A third man, who enlisted with the Alabama at the paymaster's steward in August 1862, was Frederick Matthew Johns, born in Newport, Wales in 1840. He drowned and his body was never recovered, although there is a memorial headstone in St. James Cemetery, Church of England, presumably in Hale near Liverpool, where his father died several months later (http://www.americancivilwar.org.uk/news_css-alabama).
We do indeed hope that this soul can be identified (whether he was from this side of the pond or the other; whether he was black or white) and an appropriate headstone inscription provided. But he may, after all, remain "unknown".
- Cherbourg, France and Mobile, AL
- 19 June 1864-28 July 2007