CSS Alabama‎ > ‎

Bulloch and the Alabama - Part 2:

        James Bulloch would have found his task even more difficult if he had not enjoyed the co-operation of Fraser, Trenholm & Co; and the Charleston based company’s senior partner, George Alfred Trenholm. George Trenholm had made his fortune through several successful enterprises and plantations he owned in the South. Rich and influential, not surprisingly, he threw the full weight of his significant business interests behind the southern cause; and when hostilities eventually did break out, the company was already operating a regular packet service between Liverpool and Charleston. Fraser, Trenholm & Co. owned four other sailing ships at this time. One, the most well remembered, was the 'Emily St Pierre' named after George Trenholm's daughter. The 'Emily St Pierre' was captured by Union forces and would have been made a prize of war had it not been for the tenacity of it's Captain, William Wilson who, with two others, a cook and steward, overpowered the prize-crew and sailed the ship back to Liverpool to an enthusiastic reception.

        Bulloch’s main worry was how he could avoid detection by Union agents, watching for any Confederate activity in the town. As a precaution; and in order to 'muddy the waters', the order for the Oreto on behalf of the Confederate government, was contracted through Fawcett, Preston and Co., who had accepted the job of supplying the scantling, engines and other structures; but passed the building of the hull onto W. C. Millers of Toxteth. This process ensured Bulloch's name would not be found on any contract for the construction of the vessel; and would instead show Fraser, Trenholm & Co., as the intended owners.

        On Bulloch’s arrival, Charles K. Prioleau, another influential partner with Fraser Trenholm; and who’s family had long established ties and business ventures in Liverpool, took the Confederate Purchasing Agent on trust, offering to back him until such times, the promised funding of $1m became available from the Southern government. Prioleau himself, later became a naturalised British subject and married Mary Elizabeth Wright, widely considered to be the most beautiful woman in Liverpool at that time..

        Unlike the complex arrangements entered into for the building of the Oreto, Bulloch himself ordered the construction of Hull #290 with John Lairds Shipyard (then known as the Birkenhead Iron Works) under a private contract. This was a calculated risk, for although he was taking advantage of a loophole in the law, he was well aware by this time, spies for the North were watching his every move. One of these, a former police superintendent and now private investigator named Matthew Maguire, was employed by the new consul Thomas Dudley, to monitor the activities of several known Confederate agents; but especially those of James Bulloch.

        Under pressure from Ambassador Adams in London and Dudley in Liverpool, British Customs officials were also monitoring the build of the #290 and, at the North's insistence, are known to have visited the shipyard on three occasions prior to the launch, ostensibly looking for evidence to support Union inspired claims, the vessel was actually intended as an armed, blockade runner for the Confederate Navy; and therefore in contravention of British Foreign Enlistment Act. Bulloch himself ensured nothing of a war-like nature was aboard; and certainly nothing was reported that gave rise to any 'official' reaction. Two days after the Customs official's final visit, the newly completed 'Enrica' slid easily into the water on the fifteenth day of May, 1862.

To be continued...