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The 1050-ton ship, originally designated simply by the number "290" was built in Liverpool, England by John Laird and Sons Company in 1862.

Building the CSS Alabama

England's textile industry relied heavily on Southern cotton and England was a quiet supporter of the C.S.A. Since it violated international laws of neutrality for England to build warships for the Confederate cause, England simply constructed the ships but had them armed in other locations. After leaving England, the CSS Alabama was commissioned and outfitted for combat by the Confederate navy in the Azores.