Year
1864
Month Day
June 19

USS Kearsarge sinks CSS Alabama

The most successful and feared Confederate commerce raider of the war, the CSS Alabama, sinks after a spectacular battle off the coast of France with the USS Kearsarge.

Built in an English shipyard and sold to the Confederates in 1861, the Alabama was a state-of-the-art ship—220 feet long, with a speed of up to 13 knots. The cruiser was equipped with a machine shop and could carry enough coal to steam for 18 days, but its sails could greatly extend that time. Under its captain, Raphael Semmes, the Alabama prowled the world for three years, capturing U.S. commercial ships. It sailed around the globe, usually working out of the West Indies, but taking prizes and bungling Union shipping in the Caribbean, off Newfoundland, and around the coast of South America. In January 1863, Semmes sunk a Union warship, the Hatteras, after luring it out of Galveston, Texas. The Union navy spent an enormous amount of time and effort trying to track down the Alabama.

The ship sailed around South America, across the Pacific, and docked in India in 1864. By the summer, Semmes realized that after three years and 75,000 miles his vessel needed overhauling in a modern shipyard. He sailed around Africa to France, where the French denied him access to a dry dock. Semmes moved out of Cherbourg Harbor and found the USS Kearsarge waiting. In a spectacular battle, the Kearsarge bested and sank the Alabama. During its career, the Alabama captured 66 ships and was hunted by more than 20 Federal warships.

READ MORE: The Civil War Comes to France

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Vincent Chin is murdered

Chinese American Vincent Chin, 27, is beaten in the head with a baseball bat by two white autoworkers in Detroit on June 19, 1982. Chin died in a hospital four days later, on June 23.  During his bachelor party at a club on the night of June 19, Chin and three friends were ...read more

Juneteenth-GettyImages-90002188

Abolition of slavery announced in Texas on "Juneteenth"

In what is now known as Juneteenth, on June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrive in Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War is over and slavery in the United States is abolished. A mix of June and 19th, Juneteenth has become a day to commemorate the end of slavery in America. ...read more

Felipe VI becomes king of Spain after Juan Carlos I abdicates

When the clock struck midnight on June 19, 2014, King Juan Carlos I of Spain’s nearly 40-year reign came to an end. Two weeks after abdicating the Spanish throne amidst sagging approval ratings, Juan Carlos symbolically removed his red sash—signifying his status as leader of the ...read more

James Gandolfini, TV’s Tony Soprano, dies at 51

On June 19, 2013, James Gandolfini, the actor best known for his role as New Jersey crime boss Tony Soprano on the TV series “The Sopranos,” which debuted in 1999 and ran for six seasons, dies of a heart attack while vacationing in Rome, Italy. He was 51. The son of working-class ...read more

Emperor of Mexico executed

Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, installed as emperor of Mexico by French Emperor Napoleon III in 1864, is executed on the orders of Benito Juarez, the president of the Mexican Republic. In 1861, the liberal Mexican Benito Juarez became president of a country in financial ...read more

First Republican national convention ends

In Music Fund Hall in Philadelphia, the first national convention of the Republican Party, founded two years before, comes to its conclusion. John Charles Fremont of California, the famous explorer of the West, was nominated for the presidency, and William Lewis Dayton of New ...read more

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg executed for espionage

On June 19, 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of conspiring to pass U.S. atomic secrets to the Soviets, are executed at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. Both refused to admit any wrongdoing and proclaimed their innocence right up to the time of their ...read more

United States scores major victory against Japanese in Battle of the Philippine Sea

On June 19, 1944, in what would become known as the “Marianas Turkey Shoot,” U.S. carrier-based fighters decimate the Japanese Fleet with only a minimum of losses in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The security of the Marianas Islands, in the western Pacific, were vital to ...read more

Father De Smet talks peace with Sitting Bull

Attempting to convince local Native Americans to make peace with the United States, the Jesuit missionary Pierre-Jean De Smet meets with the great Sioux leader Sitting Bull in present-day Montana. A native of Belgium, De Smet came to the United States in 1821 at the age of 20. ...read more

Carole King has her first #1 hit as a performer

Carole King began her career in music as a young newlywed and college graduate, working a 9-to-5 shift alongside her then-husband, Gerry Goffin, in Don Kirshner’s songwriting factory, Aldon Music. It was there, working in a cubicle with a piano, staff paper and tape recorder that ...read more

First nickelodeon opens

On June 19, 1905, some 450 people attend the opening day of the world’s first nickelodeon, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and developed by the showman Harry Davis. The storefront theater boasted 96 seats and charged each patron five cents. Nickelodeons (named for a ...read more

A bloody fingerprint elicits a mother’s evil tale in Argentina

Francesca Rojas’ two young children are killed in their home in the small town of Necochea, Argentina. According to Rojas, a man named Velasquez had threatened her when she rejected his sexual advances earlier in the day. Upon returning home later, Rojas claimed to have seen ...read more

Controversy at U.S. Grand Prix

After 14 Formula One race car drivers withdraw due to safety concerns over the Michelin-made tires on their vehicles, German driver Michael Schumacher wins a less-than-satisfying victory at the United States Grand Prix on June 19, 2005. The race, held at the Indianapolis Motor ...read more

Britain’s King George V changes royal surname

On June 19, 1917, during the third year of World War I, Britain’s King George V orders the British royal family to dispense with the use of German titles and surnames, changing the surname of his own family, the decidedly Germanic Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, to Windsor. The second son of ...read more