CSS Shenandoah

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CSS Shenandoah
CSS Shenandoah
On a slip at Williamstown, Australia, in 1865
Confederate States
Name: Sea King, Shenandoah, El Majidi
Port of registry: Liverpool, Lloyds's A-1
Yard number: 42[1]
Launched: August 17, 1863
Acquired: 1863
Recommissioned: October 19, 1864
Decommissioned: November 6, 1865
Maiden voyage: Transport troops to New Zealand and return, 10 months
Renamed: CSS Shenandoah

As El Majidi beached during hurricane, Zanzibar, 1872

General characteristics
Type: Extreme clipper hull
Displacement: 1160 tons
Length: 230 ft (70 m)
Beam: 32.5 ft (9.9 m)
Draft: 20 ft 6 in (6.25 m)
Decks: poop, main, berth
Deck clearance: 7.5 ft (2.3 m)
Installed power: 200 HP A. & J. Inglis steam engine
Propulsion: 14 ft-diameter (4.3 m) bronze propeller
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
  • 8 knots (15 km/h) under steam
  • 16 knots (30 km/h) under sail
Complement: 109 officers and men
  • 4 × 8 in (203 mm) smoothbore cannons,
  • 2 × 12 pounder (5 kg) rifled Whitworth cannons,
  • 2 × 32 pounder (15 kg) cannons

CSS Shenandoah, formerly Sea King, was an iron-framed, teak-planked, full-rigged ship, with auxiliary steam power, captained by Confederate States Navy Lieutenant Commander James Waddell, a North Carolinian with twenty years of prior service in the United States Navy.[3]

The Shenandoah was launched as Sea King on August 17, 1863, and would become one of the most feared commerce raiders in the Confederate Navy. She surrendered on the River Mersey, Liverpool, England, on November 6, 1865. Her flag was the last sovereign Confederate flag to be officially furled.

During 12 12 months of 1864–1865 the ship undertook commerce raiding resulting in the capture and sinking or bonding of thirty-eight Union merchant vessels, mostly New Bedford whaleships. The Shenandoah fired the last shot of the American Civil War, across the bow of a whaler in waters off the Aleutian Islands.[4]

History and mission

A pencil sketch of CSS Shenandoah, from the inside cover of a notebook kept by her Commanding Officer, James I. Waddell

The vessel had three names and many owners in her lifetime of nine years. She had been designed as an auxiliary composite passenger cargo vessel of 1,018 tons being built in 1863 by Alexander Stephen & Sons, Glasgow, Scotland, for Robertson & Co., Glasgow to be named Sea King. The vessel was intended for the East Asia tea trade and as a troop transport. On being fitted out at the builders the Northern Union assessed the ship for purchase.[5] After change of owner and a number trips to the Far East carrying cargo and to New Zealand transporting troops to the Maori War, the Confederate Navy assessed and purchased her from Wallace Bros of Liverpool in secret with the signing on 18 October 1864, one day before being renamed CSS Shenandoah. The ship was to be converted into an armed cruiser with a mission to capture and destroy Union merchant ships.[citation needed]

Sea King sailed from London on 8 October 1864, ostensibly for Bombay, India, on a trading voyage. The supply steamer Laurel sailed from Liverpool the same day. The two ships rendezvoused at Funchal, Madeira, with the Laurel carrying the officers and the nucleus of the commerce raider's crew, together with naval guns, ammunition, and ship's stores. Her commander, Lieutenant James Iredell Waddell supervised her conversion to a man-o-war in nearby waters. However, Waddell was barely able to bring his crew to even half strength, despite additional volunteers from the merchant sailors on the Sea King and from Laurel.[citation needed]

The Confederate cruiser was commissioned on 19 October 1864, lowering the Union Jack and raising the "Stainless Banner", and renaming the vessel CSS Shenandoah.[3]

As developed in the Confederate Navy Department and developed by its agents in Europe, CSS Shenandoah was tasked to strike at the Union's economy and "seek out and utterly destroy" commerce in areas yet undisturbed. Captain Waddell began seeking enemy merchant ships on the Cape of Good Hope–Australia route and in the Pacific whaling fleet.[3] Captain Waddell sailed her around the Cape of Good Hope of Africa and headed across the Indian Ocean for Australia, destroying Union vessels he encountered on the route.[citation needed]

Australia stopover

Map of Shenandoah's 12½ month voyage around the world (21st-century boundaries).

Still short-handed, the Shenandoah arrived at Melbourne, Victoria, on January 25, 1865, where she filled her complement and her storerooms.[6]

She also signed on 40 crew members who had been stowaways from Melbourne. They were not enlisted until the ship was outside Australian territorial waters.[6] The Shipping Articles show all 40 crew members had enlisted on the day of her departure from Melbourne, February 18, 1865. However, nineteen of Waddell's crew deserted at Melbourne, some giving statements of their service to the United States Consul. An 1871 hearing at the International Court in Geneva awarded damages of £820,000 against Britain to the US government for allowing the use of the Melbourne port facilities at Williamstown by the CSS Shenandoah.[7][8]

Vessels captured

Shenandoah destroying whaleships
Editorial cartoon satirizing James Waddell still engaging in combat after the American Civil War was regarded over.

The unofficial home port of the Confederate overseas fleet was Liverpool in England. Confederate Commander James Dunwoody Bulloch was based in the city. The city provided ships, crews, munitions and provisions of war.[9] Sea King departed from London on October 8, 1864, and after supply of arms and crew on October 19, off the coast of Madeira CSS Shenandoah headed for the Pacific Ocean via the Indian Ocean. En route to the Cape, the Confederates captured six prizes. Five were burned or scuttled, once the crew and passengers had been removed. The sixth was bonded and used to transport the prisoners to Bahia, Brazil, where they were released.

Shenandoah took only one prize in the Indian Ocean, but hunting became more profitable after refitting in Melbourne. En route to the North Pacific whaling grounds, on April 3–4, Waddell burned four whalers in the Caroline Islands. After a 3-week cruise to the ice and fog of the Sea of Okhotsk yielded only a single prize, due to a warning which had preceded him, Waddell headed north past the Aleutian Islands into the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean. Shenandoah then proceeded to capture 11 more prizes.[10]

On June 27, 1865, he learned from a prize, the Susan & Abigail, that General Robert E. Lee had surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia. Her captain produced a San Francisco newspaper reporting the flight from Richmond, Virginia, of the Confederate Government 10 weeks previously. However, the newspaper also contained Confederate President Jefferson Davis's proclamation that the "war would be carried on with re-newed vigor."[11] Waddell then captured 10 more whalers in the space of 7 hours just below the Arctic Circle.

On August 3, 1865, Waddell finally learned of the war's end when he met at sea the Liverpool barque Barracouta, which was bound for San Francisco.[12] He received the devastating news of the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston's army on April 26, Kirby Smith's army's surrender on May 26, and crucially the capture of President Davis and a part of his cabinet. Captain Waddell then knew the war over.[11]

Captain Waddell lowered his Confederate flag, and the CSS Shenandoah underwent physical alteration. Her guns were dismounted and stored below deck, and her hull was painted to look like an ordinary merchant vessel.[13]

Surrender of CSS Shenandoah

The River Mersey with Liverpool on the right bank. CSS Shenandoah surrendered approximately where the ship is in mid-river. The open sea is to the top.
Liverpool Town Hall. The very last act of the Civil War was Captain Waddell walking up the steps.

Regardless of Davis's proclamation and knowing the unreliability of newspapers at the time, Captain Waddell and the crew knew returning to a US port would mean facing a Union court with a Northern perspective of the war. They correctly predicted the risk of being tried in a US court and hanged as pirates. This later proved to be accurate.[discuss] Commerce raiders were not included in the reconciliation and amnesty that Confederate soldiers were given. Captain Raphael Semmes of CSS Alabama escaped charges of piracy by surrendering May 1, 1865, as an army general under Joseph E. Johnston. Semmes's former sailors surrendered as artillerymen.[16]

Captain Waddell decided to surrender his ship at the unofficial home port of Liverpool, where Confederate Commander Bulloch was stationed.[citation needed]

Last lowering of the Confederate flag

CSS Shenandoah sailed from off the west coast of Mexico via Cape Horn to Liverpool, a voyage of three months and over 9,000 nautical miles (10,000 mi; 17,000 km), being pursued by Union vessels. CSS Shenandoah anchored at the Mersey Bar at the mouth of the estuary awaiting a pilot to board to guide the ship up the river and into the enclosed docks. Not flying any flag, the pilot refused to take the ship into Liverpool unless they flew a flag. The crew raised the Confederate flag. CSS Shenandoah sailed up the River Mersey with the flag fully flying to crowds on the riverbanks.[citation needed]

The Liverpool Mercury reported the event on Tuesday, 7 November 1865:


Considerable excitement was caused on "Change" yesterday morning by circulation of the report that the Confederate cruiser Shenandoah, of whose exploits amongst the American whalers in the North Pacific so much has been heard, was passed about 8 o'clock by the steamer Douglas at anchor at the bar, of Victoria Channel, apparently waiting for high water. By many the report was discredited, it being thought that those on board the Douglas were in error, and had mistaken some other craft for the celebrated ex-Confederate cruiser. At half past ten, however, all doubts on the point were set at rest, with the Shenandoah steaming up the Victoria Channel with the Palmetto flag flying from her masthead.[12]

HMS Donegal happened to be anchored in mid-river between Toxteth in Liverpool and Tranmere in Birkenhead. Captain Waddell manoeuvred his ship near to the British man-of-war dropping anchor. The CSS Shenandoah was surrendered by Captain Waddell to Captain Paynter of HMS Donegal on 6 November 1865. The Confederate flag was lowered again for the very last time, under the watch of a Royal Navy detachment and the crew.[citation needed]

CSS Shenandoah had struck her colors twice. This marked the last surrender of the American Civil War and the last official lowering of the Confederate flag. The very last act of the Civil War was Captain Waddell walking up the steps of Liverpool Town Hall with a letter to present to the mayor surrendering his vessel to the British government.[12] In so doing, the Shenandoah became the only Confederate warship to circumnavigate the globe.[citation needed]

The United States Naval War Records published in 1894:

The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of Rebellion

November 5 - Arrived in the Mersey, off Liverpool, and on Monday, the 6th, surrendered the Shenandoah to the British nation, by letter to Lord John Russell, premier of Great Britain. (signed) JAMES I WADDELL.[17]

After the surrender, the CSS Shenandoah was berthed in the partially constructed Herculaneum Dock awaiting her fate. After settling the international legalities, she was turned over to the United States government.[18]

Fate of the crew

After the surrender of Shenandoah to the British government, a decision had to be made of what to do with the Confederate crew, knowing the consequences of piracy charges. Clearly many of the crew originated from the United Kingdom and its colonies and three had swum ashore in the cold November waters fearing the worst.[19]

After a full investigation by law officers of the Crown, it was decided that the officers and crew did not infringe the rules of war or the laws of nations to justify being held as prisoners, so they were unconditionally released.[citation needed]

Liverpool Mercury Thursday 9th Nov. 1865.


The government have at length taken a decided step in regard to the crew of this vessel. For the last two days the authorities in Liverpool have been in communication with the Secretary of State in reference to the detention of the ship and her crew. The Government seem to have been decided as to the necessity of retaining the vessel, pending an inquiry as to the action which her commander and crew have taken during the last few months, but there seems to have been some doubt as to the proper course to adopt with reference to the men on board. On inquiry at the CustomHouse yesterday morning, we were informed that the authorities had not received further instructions as to the vessel or her crew.

However, about 6 o'clock last night a telegram was received from Government by Captain Paynter, of her Majesty’s ship Donegal, to whom the Shenandoah was surrendered, that the whole of the officers and crew, who were not British subjects were to be immediately paroled. Captain Paynter immediately proceeded to the Rock Ferry slip, and applied for a steamboat. The Rock Ferry steamer Bee was placed at his disposal by Mr. Thwaites, in which he immediately proceeded alongside the Shenandoah. Captain Paynter went on board and communicated to the officers the object of his visit. The crew were mustered on the quarterdeck by the officers of the ship, the roll book was brought out, and the names of the men called out as they occurred. As each man answered to his name he was asked what countryman he was. In not one instance did any of them acknowledge to be British citizens. Many nations were represented among them, but the majority claimed to be natives of the Southern States of America or "Southern citizens". Several of those however, who purported to be Americans, had an unmistakably Scotch accent, and seemed more likely to have hailed from the banks of the Clyde than the Mississippi. Captain Paynter informed the men that by order of the Government they were all paroled, and might proceed at once to shore. This intelligence was received by the men with every demonstration of joy, and they seemed to be delighted at the prospect of leaving the craft in which they had hoped to be able to assist the Southern Confederacy. They commenced to pack up their bedding and other articles as fast as possible, and conveyed on board the Bee, which was to take them to the landing stage. Before leaving the vessel, however, they gave three lusty cheers, for Captain Waddell, their late commander. Captain Waddell, in feeling terms, acknowledged the compliment, and said that he hoped the men would always behave themselves, as brave sailors ought to do. The men then went aboard the Bee, and were conveyed to the landing stage. This separated the Shenandoah and her crew, and the vessel now rides at anchor in the Sloyne in charge of some men from the Donegal, under the command of Lieutenant Cheek.[12]

S. S. Lee, Orris M. Brown, John T. Mason and W. C. Whittle sometime in December 1865 sailed from Liverpool to Buenos Aires, via Bahia, Rio de Janeiro and Montevideo. After prospecting for a while, they went to Rosario, upon Paraná River, and near there bought a small place and began farming.[citation needed]

As the animosity of the United States Government began to soften towards them, Brown and Mason returned home; Lee and Whittle returned sometime later.[citation needed]

On returning home, Mason took a law course at the University of Virginia, graduated, and was successful at his profession. He settled in Baltimore, and married Miss Helen Jackson, of New York, daughter of the late Lieutenant Alonzo Jackson of the U. S. Navy.[20]

Ship’s Executive Officer Whittle returned home to Virginia from Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1867. Born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1840, an 1858 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and an officer in the U.S. Navy before resigning his commission to accept a commission in the Confederate States Navy, Whittle was appointed Captain of one of the Bay line steamers running between Baltimore, Norfolk and Portsmouth in 1868 shortly after returning to Virginia and continued in this capacity until 1890. After, he was a Superintendent for the Norfolk and Western Railway Company. In 1902 he became an organizer of the Virginia Bank and Trust Company, Virginia Bank and Trust Building, and served as its Vice President and one of its directors thereafter.[21]

Born in 1824, Captain Waddell, a former U.S. Navy officer of decades sailing experience and a Mexican-American War naval combat veteran before resigning his commission to accept a commission in the Confederate States Navy, returned from England to the United States in 1875 to captain the San Francisco for the Pacific Mail Company. He later took command of a force that policed the oyster fleets in the Chesapeake Bay. In 1886, Waddell died of a brain disorder and was buried at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Annapolis, Maryland.[22]

Dr. Frederick J. McNulty, the ship’s assistant surgeon, eventually became resident in Boston, Massachusetts where he was first employed as Superintendent of the City Lunatic Asylum at Austin Farm and, later, opened there a private sanitarium called Pine Grove Retreat at Roslindale while continuing to reside at 706 Huntington Avenue, Boston and becoming a primary historical source for chroniclers of the adventures of the Shenandoah. A man of adventurous and irascible temper, who the executive officer of the Shenandoah Whittle recounts laid the ship’s barber out with a single blow when the barber shoved shaving soap in his mouth as part of the crews’ hazing of the ship’s officers in celebration of crossing the equator, McNulty enlisted as a surgical officer in the Chilean Navy immediately after the surrender of the Shenandoah and later in 1869 accepted a commission in the Cuban Patriot Army but was repeatedly prevented from traveling to join the Army by U.S. Government authorities before settling in Boston in 1879. McNulty is variously reported to have been a native of Ireland, the District of Columbia and Richmond, Virginia, but was most likely a native of Ireland. He graduated from the Georgetown University School of Medicine in the District of Columbia and lived in Richmond, Virginia before resigning his commission in the medical service of the U.S. Navy to accept a commission in the Confederate States Navy. McNulty died at his home in Boston on June 14, 1897 at the age of 62.[23][24][25][26][27]


Nineteenth Century artwork, depicting Shenandoah under sail

Shenandoah remained at sea for 12 months and 17 days, traversed 58,000 miles (carrying the Confederate flag around the globe for the only time) and sank or captured 38 ships, mostly whalers. Waddell took close to one thousand prisoners, without a single war casualty among his crew; two men died of disease. The vessel was never involved in conflict against any Union Naval vessel, as was the CSS Alabama. She captured and sank United States merchant vessels.[28]

In 1866 the United States government, having taken possession of Shenandoah, sold her to the first Sultan of Zanzibar, who renamed her after himself (El Majidi).[29] On April 15, 1872, a hurricane hit Zanzibar. Shenandoah (El Majidi) was one of 6 ships owned by Seyed Burgash which were blown on shore and seriously damaged.[30]


During her year-long service as a commerce raider, Shenandoah caused disorder and devastation around the globe for Union merchant shipping. The Confederate cruiser claimed more than 20 prizes valued at nearly $1,400,000 ($21.6 million in today's dollars).[31] In an important development in international law, the U.S. Government pursued claims (collectively called the Alabama Claims) against the British Government, and, following a court of arbitration, won heavy damages.

Battle ensign

The battle ensign of CSS Shenandoah is unique amongst all of the flags of the Confederate States of America as it was the only Confederate flag to circumnavigate the Earth during the Confederacy, and it was the last Confederate flag to be lowered by a combatant unit in the Civil War (in mid-river on the River Mersey at Liverpool, UK, on November 6, 1865).[32]

Shenandoah's battle ensign has been in the Museum of the Confederacy's collection since 1907 and is currently on display. Lieutenant Dabney [Minor] Scales CSN, gave the flag to a cousin, Eliza Hull Maury, for safekeeping. Eliza Hull Maury was a daughter of, and Richard Launcelot Maury was the eldest son of, Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury. Colonel Richard Launcelot Maury CSA, Eliza's brother, brought the flag from England in 1873, and donated it to the Museum in 1907. The flag itself measures 88 by 136 inches (220 cm × 350 cm).[33][34]

From the Southern Historical Society Papers:

The flag of the Shenandoah, reverently preserved by the late Colonel Richard Launcelot Maury, C. S. A., son of Commissioner Matthew Fontaine Maury, was recently deposited with the Confederate Memorial Literary Society, and is preserved in the Museum Building at Richmond, Va.—Ed.[35]

See also



  1. Cameron, Stuart. "ss SEA KING". Clydebuilt Ships Database. Clydebuilt Ships Database. Retrieved 6 November 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Confederate Vessels Sold in Liverpool-1866". The Confederate Cruiser Shenandoah. Southern Crossroads. pp. Sale of the Shenandoah. Retrieved 2010-01-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Baldwin, pp. 6–11
  4. Baldwin, p. 255
  5. http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?59741#87503
  6. 6.0 6.1 Baldwin, p. 85
  7. Department of the Navy. "CSS Shenandoah (1864–1865) - The Seagulls". Retrieved 2008-02-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Australian Heritage. "Historical Towns Directory - Williamstown". Retrieved 2008-02-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. http://www.whenliverpoolwasdixie.org.uk/index.htm
  10. Baldwin, pp. 238–254
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 LAST CONFEDERATE CRUISER by CORNELIUS E. HUNT one of her officers. 267
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Surrender of the Shenandoah
  13. 13.0 13.1 Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  14. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  15. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  16. "The Pursuit p 123"
  17. United States Government Printing Office, 1894
  18. The confederate surrender
  19. "Last Flag Down"
  20. "Tribute by Capt. W. C. Whittle CSN to John T. Mason and the Shenandoah". The Cruise of the CSS Shenandoah. Southern Crossroads. October 1904. Retrieved 24 January 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. William C. Whittle “The Cruise of the Shenandoah” published in series on March 13 and April 3, 1907 in the Confederate Column of the Portsmouth Star. Southern Historical Society Papers. (1907) (R.A. Brock, Ed.). Richmond, Virginia: Southern Historical Society, Vol. 35, pp. 235-237
  22. Dictionary of North Carolina Biography. (1996). (William S. Powell, Ed.). Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, Vol. 6, p. 106 ISBN 0-8078-2225-6
  23. Medical Record Vol. 51, No. 25 , June 19, 1897, “Obituary Notes Dr. Frederick J. McNulty”, p. 884 (Google digitized Dec. 11, 2013)
  24. William C. Whittle “The Cruise of the Shenandoah”, published in series on March 13 and April 3, 1907 in Confederate Column of the Portsmouth Star. Southern Historical Society Papers. (1907) (R.A. Brock, Ed.). Richmond, Virginia: Southern Historical Society, Vol. 35, p. 243, 247 (Google digitized Dec. 17, 2007).
  25. James Riley “The Shenandoah” as recounted to the author by Dr. F.J. McNulty and originally published in the Atlanta Constitution, November, 1893, Southern Historical Papers. (1893). (R.A. Brock, Ed.). Richmond, Virginia: Southern Historical Society, Vol. 21, p. 165-176 (Google digitized January 5, 2008)
  26. Eleventh Annual Report of the State Board of Lunacy and Charity of Massachusetts. 1890. Public Doc. No. 17. Boston, Massachusetts: Wright & Potter, p. 43 (Google digitized Dec. 2, 2008)
  27. Confederate Veteran, Vol. 12, No. 10, October, 1904, Nashville, Tennessee, “The Cruise of the Shenandoah” pp. 489-490
  28. Baldwin, p. 302
  29. http://americancivilwar.com/tcwn/civil_war/Navy_Ships/CSS_Shenandoah.html
  30. "Great Britain & Zanzibar" British and Foreign State Papers Page 551
  31. Baldwin, 225
  32. Baldwin, 319
  33. "0985.03.0194" (PDF). Museum of the Confederacy (MOC) Collections. Richmond, Virginia: Museum of the Confederacy. 2010. pp. Accession# 0985.03.0194. Retrieved 23 January 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. source: Robert F. Hancock, Director of Collections & Senior Curator, The Museum of the Confederacy
  35. Southern Historical Society Papers volume 35


  • Baldwin, John, Last Flag Down: The Epic Journey of the Last Confederate Warship, Crown Publishers, 2007, ISBN 5-557-76085-7, Random House, Incorporated, 2007, ISBN 0-7393-2718-6
  • Chaffin, Tom, Sea of Gray: The Around-the-World Odyssey of the Confederate Raider Shenandoah, Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006. ISBN 0-8090-9511-4
  • Schooler, Lynn, The Last Shot: The Incredible Story of the CSS Shenandoah and the True Conclusion of the Civil War, HarperCollins, 2005. ISBN 0-06-052333-6
  • United States Government Printing Office, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, United States Naval War Records Office, United States Office of Naval Records and Library, 1894

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. 290 Foundation BVI Inc. https://sites.google.com/site/290foundation/history/css-shenandoah

External links