Tuesday, March 20, 2007

CSS Shenandoah

Dates: 19 October, 1864 to 6 November, 1865

Commander: Lieutenant Commanding James I. Waddell, Confederate States Navy

Prelude: When the Southern States seceded in 1861, one main deficiency was blaringly obvious, in order to match the power of the Union, the Confederacy needed to be able to take to the seas. Already, the North was beginning to station ships off Southern ports in order to blockade then, restricting trade and the flow of material needed to maintain a war effort. Seeing that, CS President Jefferson Davis authorized Letters of Marque and Reprisal, documents authorizing a ship’s master to conduct raids on Federal shipping.

The main problem with all of that was that the Confederacy did not have a sailing tradition, such as in New England. Despite having the ability to turn a cargo vessel into a warship like CSS Sumter, there was no capability to build warships beyond river and coastal vessels.

To get the vessels needed, President Davis sent James Bulloch to the United Kingdom as an agent to procure ships and material for the South. Bulloch was a US Navy veteran who was running a mail steamer at the time his native state, Georgia, seceded.

Bulloch faced several difficulties; First: The British government’s official position was of neutrality with acknowledgement of the CSA as a belligerent. However there was a matter of the Foreign Enlistment Act of 1819, which forbade British subjects from fitting out a vessel for was against a nation in which the UK was not at war with. Second: The US was represented by Ambassador Charles Francis Adams, assisted by the US Counsel at Liverpool, Thomas H. Dudley, a formidable diplomatic team. Last: The main financial backing of the Confederates was cotton, however, some savvy financial agents helped Bulloch get the cash needed.

The plan was simple, buy a ship nearing completion or contract to have one built. Have that vessel registered under one name. When possession was taken, the ship was sailed into International waters or to a neutral place where a supply vessel would meet her. When guns, ammunition, supplies, and a crew was on board, the vessel was commissioned as a CS Navy ship and that warship would be sent on the maim mission, to disrupt Northern shipping.

In December of 1861, the vessel Oreto was bought under this plan, first called Palermo, sailed to Nassau, Bahamas, and then rechristened CSS Florida.

Bulloch did it again with a ship called 290. This ship was christened Enrica, sailed to the Azores where a supply ship soon arrived. After supplies were aboard, the Enrica was rechristened CSS Alabama, the most famous of the Confederate commerce raiders.

Bulloch did try to get iron warships built but was stopped by British authorities when that government was threatened by war with the US if those ships entered Confederate service. The two ships, called the “Laird Rams” because they were built by Laird Brothers Shipbuilders in Liverpool, became HMS Wivern and HMS Scorpion in the end.

In 1864, as the fortunes of the Confederacy were waning, Bulloch found other opportunities to buy and outfit ships. The iron screw steamer Japan, soon became CSS Georgia and a surplus Royal Navy ship called Victor was to become CSS Rappahannock, but was deemed not powerful enough to take on Federal warships.

In the fall of 1864, Bulloch heard of a vessel in Glasgow called Sea King that was available. He sent another agent to Scotland with orders to purchase the vessel. Once that was done, that ship was turned over to Captain G. H. Corbett and a small crew with orders to sail to Madeira, Spain. Meanwhile, Bulloch purchased the supply ship Laurel and was filling the vessel with guns, ammunition, and other supplies. Sailing in Laurel would be the command crew for the new warship, including Waddell.

Waddell was from North Carolina who had been in the US Navy since 1841, when he entered on s direct midshipman appointment (the Naval Academy had not been established yet). While the tensions between North and South were felt mostly among the Army ranks, the Navy officers were taking a wait and see approach. He was serving aboard USS John Adams when the ship made a stop at St Helena. There, he learned of the First Battle of Bull Run and that North Carolina had seceded. Waddell tendered his resignation and after leaving the ship in New York, made his way to Richmond, VA where he received a commission in the Confederate States Navy on 27 March, 1862. After serving at New Orleans, Navy Headquarters and Charleston, Waddell was ordered to Britain to assist Bulloch.

19 October, 1864: Laurel and Sea King meet off Funchal, Madeira. The crew boarding the new warship included former crewmembers of CSS Alabama as well as some English sailors looking for some adventure. As soon as the crew, weapons, and supplies were aboard, the Confederate Naval Jack was raised and the ship was officially rechristened CSS Shenandoah. Several days were then spent modifying the ship so guns could be mounted.

26 October, 1864: Shenandoah officially begins operations in the Atlantic Ocean against Northern shipping. Their first two finds turned out to be British ships and as such, left alone.

30 October, 1864: The Alena of Searsport becomes the first US vessel taken by Shenandoah. After taking equipment, dinnerware, sail material, and supplies, the merchantman was burned. The crew and passengers were taken aboard Shenandoah.

5 November, 1864: Shenandoah captures and burns the schooner Charter Oak.

8 November, 1864: Shenandoah captures and burns the bark D. Godfrey. Waddell regretted destroying the cargo, which consisted of pork and beef, but Shenandoah’s provision stores were full.

10 November, 1864: Shenandoah meets with the Danish ship Anna Jane and prisoners were transferred over. One of the gifts given to the Danish ship’s master was the chronometer from Alena.

On that same day the cargo ship Susan, loaded with coal was captured and sunk.

11 November, 1864: The CSS Shenandoah encountered the following vessels; the clipper Kate Prince, with a load of coal. The crew was ransomed. Next the Adelaide Pendergrast was captures and found to be an American vessel under Brazilian colors. American shipowners were reregistering their ships under other nationalities’ colors due to the ravages caused by CSS Alabama. However, this vessel was found to have raised the flag of Brazil under false pretenses, making it legal for Waddell to burn her. A letter found at the last minute prevented the destruction and the crew was ransomed instead.

13 November, 1864: Shenandoah captures and burns the schooner Lizzy M. Stacey.

17 November, 1864: Shenandoah crosses the Equator into the South Atlantic. They begin sailing along the Brazilian coast.

4 December, 1864: The whaler Edward is captured 50 miles off Tristan du Cunha Island and burned after being stripped of stores. The crew was taken to the island.

Waddell decides to then head for Cape Town, South Africa. He intends to have repairs made to the ship but decides to continue on to Australia.

29 December, 1864: The bark Delphine was captured near South Africa with a load of rice. After some livestock was taken off, the vessel was burned.

2 January, 1865: Shenandoah reaches the Islands of Amsterdam and St Paul, in the Indian Ocean, and there was a brief search for US ships. The warship then continued toward Australia.

26 January, 1865: Shenandoah reaches Melbourne, Australia and after a health inspection, allowed to enter. Arrangements were made for ship repairs, provisioning, and the release of prisoners.

During the stay in Melbourne, it was arranged to have Shenandoah put into dry dock. Trouble came in the form of the US Counsel, who convinced several of the crew to desert. When Waddell protested to the local authorities, he was met with a refusal. Officers who visited the town were treated to the sight of many Federal flags flown by US citizens who lived in Melbourne. The locals, however, feasted and feted the Shenandoah’s officers every chance they got.
There was a serious problem when local police came on board to check out a report of a British subject on board Shenandoah in violation of law. While the warrant was being executed, services were being withdrawn. Waddell protested, stating that he cooperated with the authorities and declared that no person signed on the Shenandoah prior to arrival in Melbourne. Because of that, he would not permit a search of Shenandoah as it was CSA territory. Soon, guns were being positioned to prevent Shenandoah from leaving. Waddell then sent a message to the Governor requesting permission to leave. This was given and Shenandoah left the dock two hours later.

19 February, 1865: Shenandoah departs Melbourne.

21 March, 1865: Shenandoah makes landfall at Drummond Island following a gale.

23 March, 1865: Shenandoah encounters a schooner from Hawaii and receives news of the US whaling fleet.

1 April, 1865: Shenandoah captures four whalers, the Pearl, Edward Carey, Hector, and Harvest at Ascension Island. Among the articles captured were maps of the North Pacific. With no idea that the war was in its last days, Waddell decides to head north.

3 April, 1865: Shenandoah holds a reception for the King of Ascension Island.

13 April, 1865: Shenandoah departs on their new mission, destroy the US whaling fleet.

21 May, 1865: Shenandoah sails into the Sea of Okhotsk and then up the coast of Kamchatka.

27 May, 1865: The whaler Abigail was captured and burned off Shantarski Island.

As the Shenandoah kept going north, ice was a problem as the Arctic Circle was neared. They did manage to gather enough to melt and replenish their water storage.

16 June, 1865: Shenandoah enters the Bering Sea.

22 June, 1865: The whalers William Thompson and Euphrates are captured in the Bering Sea near Cape Navarin. Later that day the Sophia Thornton and Jiveh Swift are also captured.

23-26 June, 1865: Shenandoah makes a big score, capturing the following vessels; William C. Nye, Nimrod, Catherine, Gypsey, Isabella, General Pike, General Williams, and Susan Abigail.

During the capture of the vessels, it was brought to Waddell’s attention that the war was over. Waddell rejected that out of lack of evidence, but paroled the prisoners.

Upon capturing the Susan Abigail several California newspapers were found. They told of the Southern Government’s removal to Danville, VA and of President Davis’ proclamation to fight on. Waddell takes it as a sign to go on.

28 June, 1865: Shenandoah captures the following vessels: Favorite, Congress, Hillman, Howland, Nassau, Martha, Waverly, Covington, Brunswick, Murray, Milo, and Nile. This effectively put the entire US whaling fleet out of service. This was a colossal victory for CSS Shenandoah, however, this took place after the end of hostilities.

Waddell decides to take Shenandoah back into the open Pacific Ocean, planning to head for San Francisco and at least throw a few shells into the town.

While enroute, the British vessel Barracouta was spotted and after being allowed to board her, Waddell learns that not only was the war over, but the CSA, the country he was fighting for, no longer exists. Ordering the guns dismounted and stowed, Waddell decides not to surrender to a Union port or ship, but instead to surrender to English authorities.

Shenandoah was sailed south, around Cape Horn, and finally north. Despite the hull and boilers being fouled, she made good time.

6 November, 1865: Shenandoah enters the Mersey River and heads into Liverpool Harbor. The warship is tied next to HMS Donegal. The Captain of the Donegal boards Shenandoah and informs Waddell that the war was indeed over and that since the CSA no longer exists, he was no longer recognized as a belligerent. Waddell orders the Confederate Naval Jack lowered, and officially surrenders to British authorities. On 10 November, 1865, the officers and crew of CSS Shenandoah were paid off and released from duty.

There was a brief diplomatic exchange between the US and UK governments as to the disposition of the Shenandoah. It was decided to turn the vessel to US authorities. On 21 November, 1865, Shenandoah was sailed out of Liverpool headed for New York but problems forced a return. Because another crew could not be hired for a second attempt, the Shenandoah was eventually sold to the Sultan of Zanzibar for $108,632.18. The Sultan wanted to outfit the ship as a pleasure yacht, but ended up using her as a freighter, renaming her the Majidi. The vessel was wrecked in a hurricane in 1872. After repairs, the vessel sunk in the Mozambique Channel in July, 1872.

Waddell returned to the US in 1875 after all charges of piracy against him dropped in exchange for the British Government paying for the monetary damages Shenandoah had caused. He soon found work as captain of the liner San Francisco on the New York-Melbourne run. On the liner’s maiden voyage, she struck an uncharted reef off Mexico and sunk. After retirement, he was hired by the State of Maryland to rid the Chesapeake Bay of oyster pirates. He publishes his memoirs before dying on 15 March, 1886.

The one amazing fact from the voyage of the CSS Shenandoah was that when it was done, Shenandoah became the only ship of the Confederate States Navy to circumnavigate the globe, flying the Confederate flag the entire time.

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