Book review Book Review: "CSS ALABAMA - Anatomy of a Confederate Raider" by Andrew Bowcock


Staff member
Dec 25, 2017

Vienna, Austria
Book Review:
CSS Alabama - Anatomy of a Confederate Raider
by Andrew Bowcock

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  • Hardcover: 191 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Inst Pr; 1st US edition (September 1, 2002) or Chatham Publishing (1. Juli 2003)
  • Language: English
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.8 x 11.8 inches, 1,9 x 29,5 x 25,1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds


Built secretly by Laird's on the Mersey, to the order of the Confederate States during the American Civil War, the Alabama embarked on a hugely destructive world-wide campaign against Federal shipping that made the ship a household name. Eventually tracked down by the Union sloop Kearsarge, the raider was sunk off Cherbourg in an epic ship-to-ship action. However, the almost legendary quality of the ship's career was further enhanced post-war by a bestselling autobiography by Alabama's captain, Raphael Semmes. Nor did the ship's impact on history finish with her sinking, as her depredations caused a diplomatic row between the USA and Britain that was not resolved until the latter agreed to substantial compensation in 1871. Despite enduring interest in the ship, many details of her structure and fitting are still a matter of debate. The clandestine nature of the ship's construction and the fact that she was only armed after leaving British waters produced minimal and contradictory evidence. For this book the author responded to the challenge by sifting contemporary photographs, paintings, models and plans - as well as consulting the archaeologists working on the wreck - to develop a set of drawings on the ship. Furthermore, the visual evidence is also reproduced, with the author's commentary on their accuracy.
With more than 250 illustrations, plans, and line drawings, the work will delight naval historians, Civil War enthusiasts, and model-makers alike.

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About the Author

Andrew Bowcock became interested in the ship while working as a draughtsman for Cammell Laird, the direct descendant of the company that had built the ship over a century before. Although he had access to their records, significant details were missing, and his research led him to many other archives, and contacts with the diving group working on the wreck. He has written a number of articles, but this was his first book.

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The Proposed Ship - The Ship as Built - In Service
VISUAL EVIDENCE (page 48 to 65)
Photographs - Paintings - Models
DRAWINGS (page 66 to 181)
Hull and Decks (page 66 to 82)
Hull - Upper Deck - Lower Deck - Below Lower Deack
Sails and Rigging (page 83 to 103)
General - Masts and Yards - Sails and Rigging - Flags
Armament (page 104 to 138)
Guns - Ammunition & Stores - Operating a Pivot gun - Firing a Broadside gun
Machinery (page 139 to 181)
Engine - Boilers & Funnel - Propeller - Miscelaneous, Pumps, valves etc. - Speed
Appendices (page 182 to 190)
Iron-work Capabilities of Liverpool - Speed and Power - Propeller - Powder - Masts, Sails and Sail Areas - Hull Form

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First of all a short summary: This book is even better than the books from The "Anatomy of Ships" - series!
It is a pure technical information about the ship by itself and describing her service history only in such a way, where it is helpful to understand the technique of the vessel.
Like a detective the author was searching and comparing different sources (first and secundary like Construction contracts, specifications, photographs, paintings, models) and explaing in detail his own assumptions for a detailed reconstruction of the ship. A very comprehensive documentation in text, photo and drawing.
The book includes photographs and paintings, line drawings in every conceivable level detail (hull, decks, sails and rigging, armament, and machinery), descriptions, as well as measurement and weight specifications, equipment descriptions and lists. Theoretically you could rebuilt also the complete engine, all drawings are available in detail.
If someone wished to rebuild Alabama - either as a scale model or operating duplicate, this could be the blueprint.
The book is not for the faint hearted, but "project detail" and highly recommended for historians, model builders, naval engineers or architects, etc.

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More Look Inside photos you can find in the following post

Some historical info about the Battle of Cherbourg, or sometimes the Battle off Cherbourg or the Sinking of CSS Alabama you can find in the "Today in Naval History of the 19th June"

There are / were kits available from

Revell (plastic) in scale 1:96 and also

Mamoli (wood) POB in scale 1:120


Nov 29, 2017

I had the Mamoli kit of CSS Alabama. Sold it only a few months ago. Looked like a decent little kit but not the kind I wanted to build anymore. Bluejacket also have this kit. Limited edition of 150 at 1/96 scale and looks the best avaliable.