DAAR KOM DIE ALABAMA (There comes the Alabama…) – Dr Dawn Gould

The above is a song still sung in Afrikaans. It refers to the arrival in 1863 in Table Bay of the Confederate ship The Alabama. The American civil war (1861-1865) was at its height and the Confederates (those eleven southern states who tried to secede from the United States) were using “hit and run” tactics on the high seas.  The Alabama, under command of Raphael Semmes, seized 66 ships in 22 months over a distance of 67,000 nautical miles.


After sailing the Atlantic Ocean, the ship anchored in Saldanha Bay for repairs then sailed to Table Bay capturing the barque The Sea Bride, just off Green Point and under the gaze of many excited Cape Town citizens.


Semmes later sailed the ship to Simon’s Bay and called on and dined with the British Admiral stationed at Simon’s Town. While there The Alabama took on coal, some sailors deserted, leaving local waters on 24 September 1863. After reaching Cherbourg, France the Alabama was once more in attack mode but this time, in 1864, the ship, originally named Enrica was sunk by the Keersage.   Rescue boats brought 41 men, including Semmes, ashore. They were sent to England and later returned to America. Semmes was made a Rear Admiral in 1865. He continued his involvement with the Confedrate states but when they were defeated in 1865 he turned in a different direction. He became professor of philosophy, a country judge and later newspaper editor. He died in 1877.


The Alabama’s name was once more in the news when some time in 1994 the remains of Lieutenant Simeon Cummings of the Alabama were exhumed from Kliprug Farm, Saldanha Bay and returned to the United States. When the ship had anchored in Saldanha Bay, Cummings had evidently died accidentally after an ostrich hunt in the area.  A descendant of Raphael Semmes, Robert Betterton, accompanied the remains back to the United States of America for a military funeral in Elm Springs, Columbia, Tennesse.


DAAR KOM DIE ALABAMA                        There comes the Alabama

Die ALABAMA KOM OOR DIE SEE             The Alabama comes over the sea