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Marauders of the Sea, Confederate Merchant Raiders During the American Civil War
CSS Georgia. 1863. Captain William Lewis Maury

CSS Georgia.

An interesting Confederate Naval Officer, was Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury, born in Virginia, he had entered the United States Navy, as a Midshipman, in 1825, when he was 19.

CSS Georgia
CSS Georgia

He had a crippling injury which confined him to duty ashore, but he became the Superintendent of the Navy’s Depot of Charts and Instruments in 1842, and in 1844, added the overseeing of the new Naval Observatory in Washington D.C.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Maury resigned his post at the Observatory, and joined the Virginia Governor’s advisory council, and was appointed as a Commander in the CS Navy. He was a strident critic of Mallory, Secretary of the Confederate Navy, and to get him out of his hair, Mallory shipped Maury off to England in October 1862, no exact orders as to his duties seem to exist, but the vague: “ On secret service.” was used.

Maury arrived in Liverpool on the 23rd. of November, where he met Bulloch for the first time, he also met Captain Marin Jansen of the Royal Nederlands Navy in London , where he moved with his 13 year old son who had travelled with his father.

It does appear that Mallory had briefed Maury about building and purchasing vessels in England for the Confederate Navy, and this subject had been discussed with Jansen, who, when visiting ship building yards in both England and Scotland, kept his eyes open for a suitable vessel for his friend Maury.

Maury’s cousin, Thomas Bold of Liverpool, supplied arms to the Confederacy as a ship chandler, in his own name, her purchased the merchant ship Japan, under construction at Dumbarton in Scotland. Maury himself never went near the building site, in lieu, he sent another cousin, Lieutenant William Lewis Maury posing as being on a holiday in a nearby village, but he too did not visit the ship.

Marin Jansen looked after all the necessary details, had the ship ready to sail by the end of March. With the Alexandra seized by the British, the Confederate Naval Officers earmarked to serve in her, were now available for service in Japan.

On the 1st. of April 1863, she cleared the Clyde, a very ordinary merchant ship, inspected, and cleared by British Customs. The Alar, a small ship usually engaged trading to the Channel Islands was used for transporting arms, ammunition, and after five days of hard work, Lieutenant William Maury commissioned CSS Georgia off the French port of Brest.

The ship was enroute for the South Atlantic before the US Consul at Glasgow could ask Lord Russell to detain her, all far too late. Records of Georgia were scant, she was a screw steamer of about 500 tons, had a

Civil War P 90.

squat thick funnel. Her guns consisted of two by 100 pounders, two by 24 pounders, and a single 32 pounder, all Whitworth guns. She was esentially a steam ship carrying only auxiliary sails.

As he was restricted to coaling at neutral ports at 90 day intervals, Maury spent a good deal of his time with the boilers banked, the ship immobilized, he was forever hopeful of a ship load of coal coming his way awaiting capture, but he did not have the luck of an Alabama, and her fortunate Captain.

At last, he captured Constitution on the 25th. of June 1863, but it entailed two weeks hard slog to transfer the coal to his ship via buckets.

He took Georgia into Cherbourg on the 28th. of October, and took the train to Paris to meet with his Flag Officer Samuel Barron. Seven lonely months at sea had yielded little, he told his tale of woe, the sails did not have enough power to allow enemy ships to be captured under sail, of necessity, steam had to be used, and this soon exhausted the coal supply, he asked to be relieved of this command, and Lieutenant Evans was given temporary command.

From a log extract of Georgia, Maury recorded he bonded prizes valued at $240,000, and that he had destroyed by fire another four ships with a value of $191,270.

At the Geneva Tribunal, Northern shippers claimed damages of $406,000 attributable to the actions of Georgia.

But the ship was not the success of Florida or Alabama, even Sumter did much better. Mallory was impressed at the speed at which Maury had come up with the finding, buying and converting Japan, into the Georgia, and he was ordered to repeat the dose.


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