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Cheops

 

(IrcRam: t900; l. 171'10"; b. 32'8"; dr. 14'4"; s. 10k.; cl. Stonewall)

 

Cheops was sister to Sphinx (see Stonewall), built by L. Arman de Riviere in Bordeaux "for the China trade," under an involved secret contract with Comdr. James D. Bulloch, CSN, and his agent, French Capt. Eugene L. Tessier.

 

Bulloch to Secretary of the Navy Mallory, 10 June 1864, reveals: "As Denmark was then at war it had been arranged that the nominal ownership of the rams should vest in Sweden…[which had] consented to do this piece of good service for Denmark ... a Swedish naval officer was then at Bordeaux superintending the completion of the rams as if for his own Government." Delivery was to be at Gothenburg; M. Arman explained: "When the first ram is ready to sail, the American minister will no doubt ask the Swedish minister if the vessel belongs to his Government; the reply will be 'yes'; she will…arrive at her destination according to contract. This will distract all suspicion from the second ram and when she sails under like circumstances with the first, my people…will deliver her to you or your agent at sea." Also settled were "the best mode of shipping the guns, the engagement of reliable captains, and the possibility of getting seamen from the ports of Brittany." But the whole structure of intrigue was dashed when, "Mr. Arman obtained his promised or anticipated interview with the Emperor [Napoleon III], who rated him severely, threatened imprisonment, ordered him to sell the ships at once, 'bona fide,' and said if this was not done he would have him seized and carried to Rochefort…the two corvettes at Nantes [Texas and Georgia]were also ordered to be sold…The order is of the most peremptory kind, not only directing the sale but requiring the builders to furnish proof to the minister of foreign affairs that the sale is a real one ... in a style of virtuous indignation; specifies the large scantling, the power of the engines, the space allotted to fuel and the general arrangements of the ships, as proving their war-like character…une veritable corvette de guerre . . . When you call to mind the fact that this same minister of marine on the 6th day of June, 1863, wrote over his own official signature a formal authorization to arm those very ships with 14heavy guns each ('canons raye de trentes'), the affectation of having just discovered them to be suitable for purposes of war is really astonishing."

 

Cheops became Prinz Adalbert of the Prussian Navy, but Sphinx finally did get to sea as CSS Stonewall (q.v.).