First Wednesdays – CSS Shenandoah takes sail

October 1864 was the month that the CSS Shenandoah took sail on her infamous cruise N_98_1_48 James Iredell Waddellaround the world. It is, with that in mind, that the State Archives of North Carolina is happy to announce that the CSS Shenandoah Log Books have just been uploaded to the Civil War 150 Digital Collection. The log books are part of the Military Collection, and due to their delicate nature, are kept in the Archives vault, so having them now available to the public is exciting. Along with the log books, the letter of surrender that Captain James Iredell Waddell wrote to Lord John Russell is now included in the digital collection as well.

If you read over the log books of the CSS Shenandoah the story that unfolds looks somewhat like this…

October 1864, Captain Waddell rendezvoused with the Sea King, a British merchant ship that the Confederacy had secretly purchased. Waddell took command, and the ship was quickly refitted as a warship and rechristened, as the Confederate States Steamer, Shenandoah. The mission of the Shenandoah was to cruise the seas and destroy Union shipping fleets. The destruction of this type of commerce was an effort to directly affect the economy of the New England states of the Union. With a small crew of only 19 crewmen and 23 officers, the Shenandoah took sail, heading first to the Indian Ocean. A ship the size of the Shenandoah usually would require 150 men to sail, Waddell and his officers hoped to be able to recruit seamen from their prizes while on their cruise.

The Alina of Searsport, Maine, was the first ship captured by the Shenandoah. She was on the way to Buenos Aires with a load of railway iron and other supplies. The supplies were brought aboard, and they were able to recruit seven more crewmen. After that the Charter Oak from Boston was taken, an old Boston bark carrying beef and pork, The Susan from New York, Lizzie M. Stacey, of Boston, a New Bedford whaler, from which they took on many fine prizes and the Delphine, who had no cargo but from whom they received six new crew members.

In January, the Shenandoah and her crew came to port in Melbourne, Australia to make repairs and pick up provisions. While in port, Waddell had 14 men desert, but he also gained 45 “stowaways.”

Leaving Australian waters in the early spring of 1865, Waddell took the Shenandoah North toward the Okhotsk Sea. On the way, he entered the harbor of Ponape (now spelled Pohnpei) and took 4 more prizes; the Edward Carey of San Francisco, California, the Hector, of New Bedford, Connecticut, the Pearl of New London, Connecticut, and the Harvest of Oahu, Hawaii. From these prizes, Waddell was able to obtain whaling charts, which gave him a great advantage on the rest of his journey.
It was mid-April 1865, Confederate generals Joseph E. Johnston and Robert E. Lee had surrendered their armies and the war was over, however Captain Waddell and the rest of the crew of the CSS Shenandoah did not know that. They were heading north toward the Okhotsk Sea.

After six weeks they crossed into the Okhotsk Sea, the weather was getting cold and ice was starting to form. On May 27, 1865, they came across the Abigail, from her they obtained a large amount of alcohol, a new acting master’s mate, Thomas S. Manning, and 14 crew members changed their allegiance and joined the crew of the Shenandoah.

On June 6, 1865, the Shenandoah turned toward the Bering Sea. On June 22, 1865, the Shenandoah captured the William Thompson and the Euphrates. The captain of the William Thomas informed Waddell that the war was over. Waddell did not believe him and torched the ship anyway. While in the Bering Sea, the CSS Shenandoah captured and either burned or bonded another 21 ships. Some of those captains also spoke of the end of the war, but without proof, Waddell and his crew resumed their raids.

It was August 1865, when the British bark, Barracouta arrived with newspapers proving the war was over.

“Having received by the Br. Barq “Baracouta” the sad intelligence of the overthrow of the Confederate Government, all attempts to destroy shipping or property of the United States will cease from this date, in accordance with the first lieutenant William C. Whittle, Jr; received the order from the commander to strike below the battery and disarm the ship and crew.”

The efforts of the CSS Shenandoah were very successful, in the short time they were at sea; they captured 38 ships, 32 of which they destroyed, with a total worth estimated at $ 1,772,223. The issue was that of those 38 ships, 25 of them were taken after the war was over.

Waddell and his officers knew that they would be regarded as pirates if they returned to the United States and so now they had the dilemma of what to do. What they did now was set sail for Cape Horn; from there they turned north toward Britain.

On November 5, 1865, the CSS Shenandoah steamed up the Mersey River off Liverpool. The last words entered in the Log Book of the CSS Shenandoah November 6, 1865, were, “arrived in the Mersey off Liverpool and on Monday the 6th surrendered the Shenandoah with British Nation by letter to Lord John Russell premier of Great Britain-“

CSS Shenandoah Log Book number one

CSS Shenandoah Log Book number two

Letter from Captain Waddell to Lord John Russell

Image of James Iredell Waddell

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