The C.S.S. Alabama Claims Project features over 100 documents that explore the American Civil War's international legal dimensions. Boston attorney and future U.S. Congressman William W. Crapo corresponded with numerous fellow lawyers and clients between 1870 and 1876 to secure restitution from the British government over British-built Confederate ships that attacked United States commercial and naval vessels during the war. Crapo (pronounced "Cray-poe") worked on litigation concerning the C.S.S. Alabama. Constructed in England in 1862, the Alabama wrought havoc on Union shipping and supply lines before the U.S.S. Kearsarge sank her off the coast of France two years later. After the war the U.S. government held its British counterpart liable for damages caused by the Alabama and her sister ships. The 1871 Treaty of Washington between the two nations established an international arbitration process for resolving these disputes, a significant moment in the development of modern international law.
This joint project between the UVA Law Library and the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History asks the community to refine an existing transcription of these documents. The letters and telegrams record how lawyers lobbied Congress and President Ulysses S. Grant's administration on behalf of their clients. Crapo corresponded principally with attorneys Henry A. Barling and A.H. Davis. He also worked with bankers, insurance officials, and individual claimants.
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Prominent people who appear in this collection include:
- Treasury Secretary George S. Boutwell
- Ambassador Caleb Cushing
- Assistant Secretary of State Bancroft Davis
- Attorney General William M. Evarts
- Secretary of State Hamilton Fish
- President Ulysses Grant