13 April 2015: As promised in the previous post, here is the story of the second Confederate raider - the one with the longest and probably the most successful record of all the raiders fighting for the South: CSS Shenandoah.
Built on the banks for the River Clyde in Scotland, she was launched in August of 1863 as Sea King, a British commercial transport vessel for the Asian tea trade and troop transport.
As happened with Alabama, the ship sailed, ostensibly for India, on a trading voyage and was followed closely out by the supply steamer, Laurel. In the latter was the Confederate officers and the nucleus of her military crew along with naval guns, munitions, and ships stores. And as with Alabama, she sailed toward the Azores, but unlike the other ship, the transformation into a warship occurred at sea. Her commander would be Lieutenant James Waddell and even with volunteers from both the supply ship and the original crew of Sea King, Waddell was barely able to bring the crew to half strength.
He sailed around the Cape of Good Hope to Australia, capturing a prize in the Indian Ocean and once in Australia, took on more supplies and additional crew.
With orders to seek out and 'utterly destroy' commerce from the North, Waddell chose to sail the Cape of Good Hope-to-Australia route as well as pay a visit to the American Pacific whale fishery - not unlike David Porter in Essex in 1813 did to the British. He was marginally successful, burning 4 whalers, before he headed north to the Aleutians and then on to the Bering Sea. There he managed to capture and burn 11 more ships.
In June 1865, he learned from the captain of a prize ship that the Civil War had ended with Lee's surrender that previous April. Waddell would have none of it, in spite of the offer of a San Francisco newspaper from 10 weeks before which talked about Lee's flight from Richmond. He went on to capture and burn 10 more whalers in just 7 hours, all below the Arctic Circle. On 2 August, Waddell finally learned the truth, believed it, and lowered the Confederate flag. He then proceeded to transform his ship into an ordinary merchant vessel, the guns struck below. He determined that to avoid trial in a U.S. court for piracy, he would surrender the ship in Liverpool. He was required to fly his Confederate flag while entering, as the pilot refused to guide the ship in without a flag. He sailed up the Mersey under Confederate colors. Once there, Waddell surrendered his ship to the captain of HMS Donegal on 6 November 1865, lowering for the last time, his Confederate flag.
The British government released the crew, many of whom were English, unconditionally.
The ship was later sold to the Sultan of Zanzibar, and was lost in a hurricane on 15 April 1872.
As a hint of what's just over the horizon, this week marks the anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic. Perhaps we'll have a look at that vessel next.