Cherbourg named as first US Civil Warbattle site overseas
CHERBOURG, France, Sept 23 (AFP) - The northern French port of Cherbourg on Thursday was declared the first official US Civil War site outside the United States, in honour of the spectacular naval battle off its shores in 1864.
A commemorative plaque was unveiled in the entrance hall of the Channel port’s maritime museum complex in the presence of the great-great-grandson of Captain Raphael Semmes, who commanded the Confederate cruiser CSS Alabama.
The Alabama, a Confederate ship tasked with sinking or capturing Union merchant ships, faced off with the Union warship USS Kearsarge on June 19, 1864 in the waters off Cherbourg.
The battle lasted just two hours, when the Kearsarge sunk the Confederate commerce raider. Semmes and a few of his crewmen managed to survive thanks to the British yacht Deerhound, which fished them out of the water.
Three victims of the 1864 battle — one Union soldier and two Confederates — are buried in Cherbourg.
The wreck of the Alabama, discovered in 1984, remains about seven nautical miles off the coast, at a depth of 60 meters (200 feet). Although it is in French territorial waters, the wreck remains the property of the United States.
The 1864 battle in Cherbourg fascinated French Impressionist master Edouard Manet, who later painted the victorious Kearsarge at Boulogne-sur-Mer.
Local officials are hoping that the special Civil War distinction will draw tourists to Cherbourg’s Cite de la Mer, an educational and recreational complex about the challenges of underwater exploration that opened in April 2002.
Subject: French News