Cruise of the Shenandoah
The Stirring Story of Her Circumnavigation of the Globe and Many Conquests on the High Sea. From the Pen of Her Executive Officer, Captain William C. Whittle.
William C. Whittle, CSN
From: Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. XXXV, Richmond, Va. December, 1907, Pages 235-258.
The following is taken from the Confederate Column of the
Porstmouth Star, conducted by Colonel William H. Stewart, published in serial
issues of March 13, April 3, 1907:
We are pleased to announce that the marvelous story of the
Confederate States ship Shenandoah, from the pen of the executive
officer, commences with this issue of The Star and will be continued until
On May 1, 1863, the Confederate Congress adopted the design of the
second national flag with the battle flag for the union and a pure white
field. The first flag made was sent by President Davis to enfold the body of
Stonewall Jackson, and from this fact it was sometimes called "Jackson's
flag." Its other name was "Stainless Banner."
This was the only Confederate flag that circumnavigated the globe
and waved on every ocean except the Antarctic. It was carried at the peak of
the Shenandoah in the most wonderful cruise that the world has ever
known and was hauled down in Liverpool on the morning of November 6, 1865, six
months after the war was over.
That gallant naval officer, William Conway Whittle, who has made
this most valuable contribution to Southern history, was born in Norfolk, Va.,
in 1840. In 1854 he entered the United States Naval Academy, from which he was
graduated in 1858 and was ordered to the flagship of the Gulf squadron, at Key
West. In part of 1858, 1859 and 1860 he served on the frigate Roanake and
sloop-of-war Perble in the Carribean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.
In December, 1860, he was ordered to Annapolis for examination, and
upon passing was promoted to passed midshipman and sailing master,
respectively. Upon the secession of Virginia he resigned and tendered his
services to Governor Letcher and was commissioned a lieutenant in the State
navy, and later in the Confederate States Navy.
1861 he was stationed at a naval battery at West Point, York River, Va., and
there reported to General Magruder at Yorktown to drill soldiers at the navy
guns covering the Williamsburg Road. Later he was ordered on similar duty at a
naval battery on Sprat-ley's farm, on James River, and thence to Charleston,
S. C., as the third lieutenant of the
C. S. S. Nashville, and made her cruise to England and back to
Beaufort, N. C., where he was left in command of the vessel until her
purchasers could send a crew to her. Upon the capture of Newberne by the
Federals he ran the ship through the blockade and into Georgetown, S. C., and
there delivered her to her purchasers.
He was, in March, 1862, ordered to New Orleans as third lieutenant
of the Confederate States Steamer Louisiana and commanded her bow division in
the desperate fight with Farragut's fleet in passing Fort Jackson and St.
Phillip. After this conflict, when the Louisiana was destroyed to prevent her
falling into the enemy's hands, he was captured and sent to Fort Warren, at
Boston. He was exchanged in August, 1862, and ordered as first lieutenant of
the gunboat abroad Chattahoochee, on the Chattahoochee River. Later he was
ordered abroad to join a Confederate vessel. While awaiting her, he was
selected to take dispatches form the Confederate commissioners in England and
France, and Captain Bulloch, in charge of equipping cruisers, to the Richmond
government. These dispatches were taken through the blockade and delivered,
and he was sent back to the commissioners with return dispatches.
In October, 1864, he was ordered as executive officer of the C. S.
S. Shenanadoah, and after her unique cruise surrendered to the British
Government in Liverpool, Eng., in November, 1865. In December, 1865, he went
to Buenos Ayres, and remained in the Argentine Confederation until 1876, when
he returned to his home in Virginia.
In 1868 he was appointed captain of one of the Bay Line steamers
between Baltimore and Norfolk and Portsmouth. He served in that capacity until
1890, when he resigned to become superintendent of the floating equipment of
the Norfolk and Western Railroad Company. After this fleet was sold, in 1901,
he assisted, in 1902, in organizing the Virginia Bank and Trust Company, of
which he became cashier, and is now a vice president and a director.-W. S.
From time immemorial one of the most effective and damaging means
resorted to in wars between nations and peoples has been an attack upon the
commercial marine of an adversary. It as a mode of warfare legitimatized by
being resorted to all through the ages. It was adopted by our colonial
cruisers during the revolutionary war, and during the war of 1812, 1813 and
1814 seventy-four British merchant vessels were captured by the United States
Navy direct orders from their Navy Department and President Madison. Such
depredations only became "piratical," in the minds of the Federal
Government, when their own interests were jeopardized during our late war.
Situated and conditioned as we were when that war began and during its
continuance, such means of warfare were peculiarly alluring and suggestive of
many and great results. The Southern Confederacy had no commerce and was at
war with the United States, which had a large commercial marine. To attack it
was not only to inflict heavy pecuniary loss from vessels destroyed, but to
force upon them great expense in insurance against these ravages and marine
was this all. The United States had a formidable navy with every facility to
increase it; utilized most disastrously to the South by blockading its ports
and closing the doors through which to receive, from the outside world,
materials its sea-board cities and towns. Every cruiser put on the ocean must
and did have the effect to divert a force to protect as far as might be their
But the South had no vessels of war, nor such as could be converted
into cruisers. The quickest, best and well nigh only way to procure them was
by purchase aborad, from the proceeds of sale of their cotton. Early in the
beginning of the war this was seen and the course adopted. To manage this
difficult and important work a man of professional ability, clear business
capacity, wise judgment and discretion in selecting and dealing with men, a
knowledge of maritime and international law, calm equanimity and great
sagacity was needed. To find such a man meant such a measure of success as all
the difficulties and counteracting efforts would admit of. To select the wrong
man meant foreign entanglements, prejudice of cause and failure.
For this work the Confederate Government selected Captain James D.
Bulloch, formerly an officer in the United States Navy, from Georgia, who,
when the war began, commanded a merchant steamer running between New York and
a Southern port. They might have searched the world over and would have failed
to find another combining all the qualifications needed, as preeminently as he
did. His heart was thoroughly in the cause and he threw his whole body and
soul into his work. To his judgment, sagacity, energy and tact, was due the
possession and fitting out of the Alabama, Georgia, Florida,
Rappahannock, Stonewall, Shenandoah, and the building of
the ironclad rams at Liverpool and the vessels in France.
Such of these vessels as took the sea, took it not as privateers,
as they were called by some; not as pirates, as our enemies opprobriously
spoke of us, but as armed government vessels of war, commanded and officered
by men born in the South and holding commissions in the Confederate States
Navy, of a government whose belligerent rights were acknowledged by the
kingdoms of the earth-commissions as valid as those held in the United States
The Confederate States had, as I said, no naval vessels and none or
very few that could be converted into cruisers. They had, however, a fine,
loyal, able and true personnel, composed of officers educated and commissioned
in the United States Navy before the war. They were Southern-born men, who
represented their respective States in the United States Navy, just as their
representative in Congress and other governmental branches represented them in
their respective spheres. The expense of educating and qualifying them for
their positions was borne from the general fund collected from all the States,
their respective States bearing their just proportion for the qualifying of
their quota. These men were not politicians, but when the war clouds gathered
felt bound by every sense of duty, love and devotion, many of them against
their judgment as to the judiciousness of disruption, and all of them against
the professional hopes, aspirations and pecuniary interests, when their mother
States withdrew, to rally to their standard, resigned and tendered their
services. They were accepted and given commissions properly signed by the
executive and confirmed by the Congress of the Confederate States. No more
loyal men live and earth. Let no slanderous tongues or libelous pens impugn
their motives. Let not their reputation for purity of purpose, as to their
duty, be handed down to posterity with any stain, but let their children have
perpetuated in their minds and hearts the fact that their fathers were neither
knaves, fools, cowards nor traitors. These men were ready and anxious to
served their country in her hour of peril, in any honorable field that they
might be called to by her. These men officered the cruisers of the Confederate
The Confederate States Steamers Sumter, Alabama, Florida,
Tallahassee, Nashville, Georgia, and others, had gone out
and done damaging service against the United States merchant marine. There
was, however, one branch of that marine, a large and remunerative interest,
prolific with gain and profit, against which no special expedition had been
sent. That interest was the whaling fleet of the United States.
The conception of the judiciousness of such a special expedition
came, I think, primarily from Lieutenants John Mercer Brooke and the late
Robert R. Carter, two distinguished officers of the United States Navy, who,
upon the secession of their native State, Virginia, had resigned and joined
her cause. Captain Brooke is now, and has been for years, a professor at the
Virginia Military Institute at Lexington. They had, as members of a scientific
expedition fitted out by the United States, become acquainted with the extent
and cruising grounds of the whaling fleet. Lieutenant Carter, afterwards
associated with Captain Bulloch, talked the matter over with him, and to home
it was due, from his knowledge of the field, that a comprehensive letter and
general plan was formulated for such a cruise.
Of course if could only be an outline of an expedition which
constant and unavoidable emergencies and exigencies must qualify, shape and
control. But the sequel to its general observance by Commander Waddell, of the
Shenandoah, proves with what masterly hand it was drawn up. Captain
Bulloch also procured from the distinguished Commodore Matthew F. Maury,
"the pathfinder on the ocean," who had likewise followed the
standard of Virginia, a full set of "whaling charts." This
expedition was to be the work of another vessel. It was to operate in distant
and extensive fields and against vessels whose voyages were not finished until
they were filled with oil. For such work, remote form every source of supply
of coal or other stores, a cruiser of peculiar construction, etc., was needed.
She must have good sail power and sailing qualities to economize coal, and she
must have auxiliary steam power to carry her through calms of the tropic and
to get her out of any peril in which Arctic ice might place her. She must have
a propeller that cold be, when not in use, detached and hoisted out of water,
so as not to impede her headway under sail. She must have a means of
condensing steam into fresh water, for drinking purposes. She must have
comfortable and healthy quarters for her crew and strength of construction to
carry her battery.
very vigilant professional eyes of Captain Bulloch and Lieutenant R. R.
Carter, who was associated with him at that time, fell upon the trim new
British steamship Sea King, when just on the eve of sailing from the
Clyde for the East Indies on her first voyage. They, as far as circumstances
permitted, possessed themselves of thorough knowledge of her. She was built
for an East Indian trader, with capacity, etc., to carry government troops, if
desired. They were greatly impressed by her fine lines, sail power, deck
capacity, arrangement of machinery, her hoisting propeller, etc., and Captain
Bulloch saw in her the very vessel he wanted to convert into a cruiser against
the whaling fleet. He kept track of her, laid his plans for purchase and
quietly awaited her return to carry them out, making, ad interim, all
arrangements to speedily equip and dispatch her.
This end all his work required great caution, tact and judgment,
for a sharp system of espionage surrounded him all the time.
The Sea King was a composite built vessel. That is, had iron
frame and teak wood planking about six inches thick. She was 220 feet long, 35
feet breadth of beam and was of about, 1,160 tons. She had a single,
detachable and hoisting propeller. Direct
acting engines; two cylinders of 47 inch diameter and of two feet nine
inch stroke; of 850 indicated horse power. She had three masts, the lower
masts and bowsprit being of iron and hollow. She was a full rigged ship, of
full sail power with royals, rolling, self-reefing topsails and royal
topgallant, topmast and lower studding sails, with all proper fore and aft
By October 6, 1864, the officers of the Confederate Navy who were
to go on her had been quietly collected at Liverpool, Eng., by Commodore
Samuel Barron, commanding Confederate Navy officer abroad, to hold themselves
in readiness, without a clear knowledge of for what, but simply at Captain
Bulloch's call. On October 6, 1864, I was ordered by Captain Bulloch to take
the 5 P. M. train from Liverpool for London, and on arrival to register at
Wood's Hotel, Furnival Inn, High Holbron, as Mr. W. C. Brown. I was to appear
the next morning for breakfast in the restaurant of the hotel, and while
reading a morning paper to have a napkin passed through a button hole of my
coat. So seated, I would be approached by a stranger with, "Is this Mr.
Brown?" to which I was to reply, "Is this Mr.-?" Upon an
affirmative reply I was to say "Yes," and Mr.-and I, after finishing
breakfast, were to retire to my room.
All this was done, and on October 7 A. M., Mr.-and I were in my
room arranging for my getting on board the Sea King, which was then in
port ready to sail. I went with Mr.-, and at an unsuspicious distance viewed
the ship, and later, at a safe rendezvous, was introduced to her captain,
Corbett. The ship was loaded with coal and cleared for Bombay by the captain,
who had been given a power of attorney to sell her, at any time after leaving
London, should a suitable offer be made for her. As I had been selected to be
her executive officer after her transfer, naturally much, in every way, would
devolve upon me, in the transportation of the vessel and her equipment, it was
deemed expedient that I should observe her qualities, see her interior
arrangements of space, etc., and formulate and devise for a utilization and
adaptation of all the room in her. Captain Bulloch wisely deemed it best that
I should thus have all opportunity of familiarizing myself with her, and hit
on the plan of letting me join her in London.
the early morn of October 8, 1864, I crawled over her side, at the forerigging,
and the ship in a few moments left the dock and went down the Thames. To
everybody on board except Captain Corbett, who was in our confidence, I was
Mr. Brown, a super-cargo, representing the owners of the coal with which she
was laden. We were fully instructed to proceed to Madeira, where we were to
call, a fact only known on board to Captain Corbet and myself, and not to
exchange signals with passing Captain Corbett's assistance, I possessed myself
of much information that served a good purpose afterwards. No one on board
suspected anything out of the usual course.
preconcerted arrangement, on the same October 8, 1864, the propeller steamer Laurel
J. F. Ramsay, Confederate States Navy, commanding, sailed from
Liverpool for Havana, with passengers and general cargo. The Laurel was
to call also at Madeira and get there sufficiently ahead of the Sea King
to enable her to coal up. The Laurel arrived at Madeira on October 15
and coaled all ready for moving, upon the appearance of the Sea King.
The "general cargo" of the Laurel consisted, as afterwards
found, of the guns, carriages, ammunition, etc., and stores for the future
cruiser, and her passengers were the commander, officers and small nucleus for
her crew. On the early morn of October 18, the Seal King arrived off Funchal,
Madeira, and running in sight of the harbor, displayed a private preconcerted
signal. This was answered by her little consort and he two moved off
successively to the Desertas, a rocky, uninhabited island not far from
Madeira. There the Sea King anchored and her consort was secured
alongside. It was perfectly smooth and a sequestered place, where there was
little chance of observation or interruption. A rapid transfer of everything
from the hold of the Laurel to the deck and hold of the Sea King
was made, on October 19.
officers were: Lieutenant Commanding James I. Waddell, C. S. N., from North
Carolina; W. C. Whittle, Virginia, first lieutenant and executive officer;
Lieutenants John Grimball, South Carolina; Sidney Smith Lee, Jr., Virginia; F.
T. Chew, Missouri, and D.
M. Scales, Tennessee; Irvine S. Bulloch, Georgia, sailing master;
C. E. Lining, South Carolina, surgeon; Matthew O'Brien, Louisiana, chief
engineer; W. B. Smith, Louisiana, paymaster; Orris A. Brown, Virginia, and
John T. Mason, Virginia, passed midshipmen, all regular officers in the
Confederate States Navy, and F. J, McNulty, Ireland, acting assistant surgeon,
and C. H. Codd, Maryland, acting first assistant engineer; John Hutchinson,
Scotland, acting second assistant engineer; E. Mugguffiny, Ireland, acting
third assistant engineer; Acting Master's Maser John F. Minor, Virginia; C. E.
Hunt, Virginia; Lodge Cotton, Maryland; George Hardwood, England, acting
boatswain; John L. Guy, England, acting gunner; H. Alcott, England, acting
sailmaker; John O'Shea, Ireland, acting carpenter, were given the said acting
appointments in the Confederates States Navy by proper authority. These
twenty-three men were the officers who were transferred to the Sea King,
all except myself and two engineers who joined from the Sea King, went
out on the Laurel.
Waddell read his commission and addressed both crews, calling for volunteers.
Only nineteen men, including the small nucleus from the Laurel,
volunteered, making, with the twenty-three officers, forty-two in all. Captain
Waddell had the Confederate flag hoisted at the peak, received a bill of sale
and christened the Sea King the C. S. S. Shenandoah. I do not
know why the name Shenandoah was chosen, unless because of the
constantly recurring conflicts, retreats and advances through the Shenandoah
Valley in Virginia, where the brave Stonewall Jackson always so discomforted
the enemy, causing, it is said, one of the distinguished Federal generals to
say of that valley that it must be made such a waste that a crow to fly over
it would have to take its rations. The burning there of homes over defenseless
women and children made the selection of the name not inappropriate for a
cruiser, which was to lead a torch-light procession around the world and into
Guns, carriages and their fittings, ammunition, of powder, shot and
shell; stores of all kinds, all in boxes, were transferred from the Laurel
to the Sea King. All was confusion and chaos. Everything had to be
unpacked and stored for safety. No gun mounted, no breeching or tackle bolts
driven, no portholes cut, no magazine for powder or shell room for shell
provided. All was hurriedly transferred and in a lumbering, confused mass was
an board. Every particle of work, of bringing order out of chaos and providing
for efficiently putting everything in a condition for service, and of
converting this ship into an armed cruiser at sea, admits wind and storm, if
encountered, stared us in the face.
The entertained and expressed hopes, that from the two crews a
sufficient force would be induced to volunteer, were disappointed. Only
nineteen men volunteered, which, with the twenty-three officers, made
forty-two men for this stupendous work, and to man and care for a ship whose
crew, with her battery, etc., as a cruiser, should be at least 150 men.
Captain Waddell, though brave and courageous, accustomed as a naval
officer, to step on the deck of a man-of-war fully fitted and equipped at a
navy-yard, where every facility aided to make everything perfect, was
naturally discomforted and appalled. He conferred with Captain Corbet, late
commander, and Lieutenant Ramsay, Confederate States Navy, who commanded the
consort Laurel, both experienced seamen, and he told me that they both
said they considered his taking the ocean, in such a condition, and so
shorthanded, impracticable. As his executive officer, he naturally consulted
me, saying that it was his judgment that he should take the ship to Teneriffe,
communicate with Captain Bulloch and have a crew sent to him. I knew every one
of the regular officers personally. They were all "to the manner
With the fate of the C. S. Rappahannock (which about a year
before had gone into Calais, France, for some such object, had been held there
inactive ever since) before me, and a positive conviction that our fate would
be the same and result in ignominious failure, I strenuously advised against
it. I said, "Don't confer, sir, with parties who are not going with us.
Call your young officers together and learn from their assurances what they
can and will do." They were called together; there was but one unanimous
sentiment from each and every one, "take the ocean," and so it was,
be it ever said with credit to them and to the zeal and courage of the now
lamented Waddell, we did take the ocean, as we were, and steered clear of
Teneriffe and every other port not in our cruise. Let those who hear the
sequel judge of the wisdom of the decision.
battery consisted of four eight inch smooth bore guns of 55 cwt., two rifled
Whit-worth 32-pounder guns and the two 12-pounder signal guns belonging to her
as a merchant ship. The two vessels parted company at 6 P. M., October 20,
1864, and left the Desertas, we on our southerly course and the Laurel
for Teneriffe, to report progress. Every officer and man "pulled off his
jacket and rolled up his sleeves," and whit the motto "do or
die" went to work at anything and everything. The captain took the wheel
frequently in steering to give one more pair of hands for the work to be done.
We worked systematically and intelligently, doing what was most imperatively
In twenty-four hours we had mounted and secured for sea, two eight
inch guns and two Whitworths, and the next day the other half of the battery
was similarly mounted and secured. We cleared the holds and stored and secured
everything below, and in eight days, after leaving the Desertas, had all
portholes cut and guns secured therein. Under our instructions we had to allow
sufficient time for Captain Corbett to communicate with England and have the
custom house papers canceled and all necessary legal steps connected with the
bona fide sale taken before any overt act.
On October 30, 1864, we captured the first prize, the bark Alina,
Captain Staples, of Searsport, Maine, from Newport, Wales, for Buenos Ayers,
with railroad iron. There was no notarial sea (required under law to establish
ownership) to the signature of the owner of the cargo, and so she was, as and
American vessel, with her cargo a legal prize. An order was given that nothing
on any prize should be appropriated by any officers or man without permission
from the commander through me. We determined to scuttle the prize, and after
transferring her crew and effects and saving such furniture as saw on board,
sorely needed for comfort, such as basins, pitchers, etc., we sunk her. Seven
men of her crew of twelve shipped on the Shenandoah.
On November 5 we made our second capture, the United States
Schooner Charter Oak, from Boston for San Francisco, Captain Gilman, who had
his wife and wife's sister, Mrs. Gage, and her little son Frank on board.
Captain Gilman surrendered $200 he had on board, which Captain Waddell gave to
Mrs. Gilman and her sister. The schooner, after transferring a good supply of
canned fruits and vegetables, was burned.
November 8, captured the American bark D. G. Godgfrey, Captain
Hallett, from Boston for Valpariso, which was burned. Six of her crew shipped
on the Shenandoah.
November 9, overhauled the Danish vessel Anna Jane and sent the
prisoners from the Alina and Godfrey on her, giving a full supply of
provisions for them and a chronometer (captured) as a present tot he Danish
November 10, captured the American Brig Susan, Captain Hansen, of
New York, with coal from Cardiff for Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. This cargo was
wanting in the notarial seal to the signature of the owner. She was sunk.
Three men shipped from her on the Shenandoah (two seamen and one boy).
November 12, overhauled the splendid American ship Kate Prince, of
Protsmouth, N. H., Captain Libby, from Liverpool for Bahia, Brazil, with coal.
She had notarial seal to establish a neutral cargo, and we bonded the vessel
for $40,000 and put on her all prisoners remaining with us. Captain and Mrs.
Gilman and Mrs. Gage, of the Charter Oak, were profuse in their thanks for
kindness while on board.
12, overhauled the bark Adelaide, Captain I. P. Williams, of Matthews County,
Va. The vessel was under the Argentine flag, but there was everything to show
a bogus sale. Learning, however, positively that she belonged to a Southern
sympathizer, after preparations (crew and effects removed) to burn her, we
November 13, captured and burned the schooner Lizzie M. Stacey,
Captain Archer, from Boston for Honolulu. Four men out of the seven, shipped
on the Shenandoah.
CROSSING THE EQUATOR.
On November 15, 1864, at 11:30 A. M., we crossed the equator, or
"crossed the line," and an amusing break in routine and monotony
occurred. There were many officers and men on board who had never before gone
into the Southern hemisphere, I among the number. I was approached, as
executive officer to know if I had only objection to King Neptune's coming on
board to look after and initiate those on board who had never crossed his
domain before. I did not object. It was nearly clam. At 7:30 P. M. a loud hail
was heard from under the bows and a brilliant light shone, asking permission
from King Neptune to visit the ship. It was granted. A giant-like figure came
over the blow, with an immense harpoon in his hand, and a chafing mat for a
hat, and came aft, followed by a well disguised retinue or suite, to look
after King Neptune's new subjects.
Lieutenant Chew was first seized. The first question was,
"Where are you from?" Woe to the man who opened his mouth to answer.
It would be filled with a mixture of soap, grease and molasses. If no answer
was given your face was lathered with a mixture and you were shaved with a
long wooden razor, and then the pump was started, which nearly drowned you, to
wash it off. Dr. McNulty, on being asked where he was from, replied
"Ireland,' and his mouth was filled with the mixture. This was too much
for his Irish blood and he knocked the barber full length on the deck. I, as
executive officer, for that reason though I would be let off, particularly as
I had given permission for the fun, but I was shaved also. The sport all went
off very well and was a break in the shipboard life.
We now, from enlistments from our several prizes, had increased our
crew from nineteen to thirty-nine, or, including the officers, had all told
sixty-two souls, so that we felt quite comfortable. With such a mixture of
nationalities the most rigid discipline had to be, and was, maintained, and
the happiness of all was promoted by prompt punishment of all offenders. This,
of course, devolved on me. Justice was tempered with humane and kind
treatment, to the general good and as necessary to success.
December 8, sighted the Island of Tristan da Cunha, and while sailing for it
captured the first whaler, the bark Edward Captain Worth, of New Bedford,
Mass. Got from her a quantity of ship's stores, beef, pork, sea biscuits,
etc,. and after everything we needed at the time, or prospectively, was
removed, the vessel was destroyed. Her crew consisted of captain, three mates
and twenty-two men, or twenty-six all told. The whale ships, from the nature
of their work, have very large crews. With a three left of the crew of the
schooner Stacey we now had twenty-nine prisoners on board, which, when the
number of our own force and the manner in which it was made up, was
considered, was more than we wanted to watch. So we landed them at Tristan da
Cunha, sending off an abundant supply of stores form the last prize to
maintain them until called for by some passing vessel.
The Island of Tristan da Cunha taken its name from the Portuguese
discoverer. It was when Bonaparte was a prisoner at St. Helena, occupied by
the British as a naval station. When we were there there were thirty-five
souls on the island, divided into seven families. The island is about seven
miles each way and very high. One side of it, on the northwest, is productive
and had fine beef cattle, chickens, eggs, mile, butter and sheep. It is a good
point to call for such stores, but while the water is bold and deep, there is
a "kelp," or sea weed, growing up from the bottom and so covering
the surface, and so strong that it is hard to get through, and endangers the
disabling of a steamer by winding up the propeller wheel. The island is under
English protection. When we were there old Peter Green, a Dutchman from
Holland, who was the oldest man on the island, had been there twenty-five
years and seemed to be the leading man among them. The island is about 37
depress south latitude and 10 depress west longitude.
On December 29, while laying to in the Indian Ocean, after a heavy
gale, which had lasted two days, and just before making sail, saw a trim bark
running down towards us. As she passed she hoisted the United States flag and
we fired a shot across her bow. She hove to and we sent a boat on board and
captured the American bark Delphine, Captain Nicholas, of Bangor, Maine, from
London for Akyab, in ballast. Going as she was, had the captain the nerve he
could have saved his vessel and been out to reach of our second beyond our
power to catch her. The captain came on board with his papers. She was a
legitimate prize, but he said his wife was on board and not in a good health,
and that to remove her would de dangerous. It was suggested by me to Captain
Waddell to let our surgeon look into that. The result was the she was found in
splendid health. She came off in a boat, and as it was rough, a whip and a
boatswain's chair was gotten from the yard arm, and she, with perfect
self-possession, got into it and told men when to hoist. She was very irate
with her husband and told him that he should have saved his ship by keeping
on. We burned the ship.
An amusing incident I will here relate. Captain Nicholas was very
much depressed at the loss of his vessel and was moodily pacing the deck. It
was Lieutenant Chew's watch. Chew was a good, kind hearted fellow and he
wanted to comfort the poor captain, and approaching said some cheering words.
Poor Captain Nicholas was not to be confronted. Chew, very scientific, then
said, "captain, upon what small actions important results depend. Just
think that it at daylight this morning you had changed your course one-quarter
of a point you would have passed out of our reach or sight." The captain
turned and said, "That shows how darned little you know about it, for
this morning at daylight I just did change my course 'a quarter of a point,'
and that's what fetched me here." Chew retreated but it was heard, and it
was a long time before he heard the last of that comforting conversation. Mrs.
Nicholas and her little son, Phineas, sis years old, with her husband, had a
comfortable cabin, but she was always bitter and never appreciated our
January 25, 1865, arrived at Melbourne, Australia, and our
prisoners, after being paroled, went ashore in shore boats with their effects.
Mrs. Nichol's last words were to express a hoped that we would come to grief.
I cannot blame her much. The Shenandoah needed caulking and docking to
repair the shaft bearings. We were given permission to do the work necessary
for safety at sea. The population were generally kind and hospi table and
treated us with marked courtesy. They came on board by thousands. Soon,
however, enemies attempted to draw our men from us, but generally failed.
We had myriads of applications to enlist, but we had had notice
given us not to violate the Queen's proclamation of neutrality, forbidding
shipping men, and we refused all. Men of their own volition, or, as we were
persuaded at the time, in many cases were secreted on board, to entrap us into
some violation of neutral laws and get us into difficulty with the local
government. We hauled out on the marine railway or slip, and at one time our
enemies so far succeeded, despite our constant efforts to keep all men not
belonging to the ship from getting on board, that one man was reported as on
board and the authorities demanded to search the ship. This was positively and
firmly refused, we saying that as a vessel of war we would not allow it, but
would search her ourselves and send anyone, not on the vessel when we came in,
ashore. This did not satisfy them, and pending reference to the law officer,
the slip or railway was embargoed and all of her majesty's subjects forbidden
to launch or work on the vessel.
A formal demand, in the same of our government, for the removal of
the embargo was being drawn up when the law officer decided in our favor and
our work continued. She was repaired and launched, and notice as requested
given of when we would sail. At request oft eh authorities I was ordered to
have her thoroughly searched for any stowaways. I selected several of the best
officers, who made a conscientious search, and reported that they had examined
carefully and could find on one not one the vessel when she came. In the
meantime, however, when we gave our men liberty, the American consul or his
emissaries persuaded several of our crew to desert. Application for assistance
to arrest them was made to the authorities, but denied. Thus it is clear that
the Victorian Government treated us badly.
We got some 250 tons of coal, and on February 18, A. M., sailed. We
had received an intimation of a suggested plot among some Americans to go an
board, go to sea and capture the vessel, but we were on the alert and never
saw anything to cause us to think that they did more than to talk of this
desperate attempt. We were numerically weak, but it would have been fatal for
all who had entered into any such plot.
Getting well to sea, outside the jurisdiction, after discharging
the pilot, forty-two men, who had stowed themselves away, some in the hollow
bowsprit and some in the coal, all where the officers of the ship could not
find them, came on deck and wanted to enlist. We wanted men after our losses
in Melbourne, but we were suspicious, after the intimated plot. The men were
black with dirt. We drew them up in a line, took their names and nationally.
Thirty-four claimed to be Americans and the other eight of various
nationalities. We shipped them all, but watched them closely. They turned out
to be good, faithful men. These gave us seventy-two men on deck. Some were
from New England. One, George P. Canning, said he had been aide-de-camp to
General (Bishop) Leonidas Polk, C. S. A., who had been discharged as an
invalid. With him as sergeant, a marine guard was organized.
Drummond's Island and learned from natives in canoes that no vessels were
there. Sighted Strong's Island and near enough to see no vessel in Charborl
Sighted McAskill Island. Sighted Ascension (Pouinipete or Ponpai
Island) of Carolina group, about six degrees north and longitude 160 depress
east, and on April 1, looking into "Lod Harbor" of that island,
found four whalers there. Took a pilot (an Englishman, named Thomas Harrocke,
from Yorkshire, who had been a convict, and had lived on this island thirteen
years) and anchored in the harbor.
Sent off four boats and boarded each vessel and made prizes of
American whalers Edward Carey, of San Francisco; Hector, of New Bedford;
Pearl, of New London, and Harvest, from New Bedford, nominally form Honolulu,
but really an American under false colors, having and American register,
having no bill of sale, and being under her original name. All four of the
captains had gone on a visit to a missionary post near by. As they returned in
their boat we intercepted them and brought them on board. It was no April fool
for them, poor fellows. We transferred everything needed from the prizes, and
taking them to a point indicated by the King where no
harm could be done the harbor, destroyed them.
King Ish-y-Paw visited the ship with his suite in a large fleet of
canoes. His royal highness drank freely of Shiedam Schnapps. He became very
friendly and communicative through the pilot as interpreter.
Before firing the prizes we furnished the King with muskets and
such things as he desired, and also sent ashore large quantities of provisions
for the prisoners, who were, on the day of our sailing, set ashore with the
King's permission. The prisoners preferred to be landed there. We shipped
eight men from the prizes. Sailed on April 13, leaving the Ladrone Islands,
Los Jardnes, Grampus and Margaret Islands to the westward, and Camira, Otra
and Marcus Islands, to the eastward, we steered to intercept vessels from San
Francisco and West Coast of South America for Hong Kond. We cruised in these
tracks, but saw no sail. Before reaching the forty-fifth parallel of north
latitude had heavy typhoons. Above that the weather settled.
On May 21, passed Moukouruski Island, and going through Amphitrite
Straits, of Kuril Islands, entered the Ohkotsk Sea. The most beautiful optical
illusions I ever witnessed were in the mirage in this latitude, about
Kamchatka. When not foggy the atmosphere was a perfect reflector. We saw
prominent points seventy miles distant. We would see a snow clad peak direct,
and above it, inverted, the reflection, peak to peak, with perfect
delineation, or we would see a ship direct, and above it, the reflection of
the same ship, inverted, masthead to masthead. Just as if you put your finger
to a mirror you would see the finger and reflection, point to point.
were in the Arctic and contiguous regions during their summer. It was most
interesting, as we went north towards the pole, to mark the days grow longer
and longer, and to experience the sun's being below the horizon, a shorter and
shorter period each twenty-four hours in its diurnal circuit, until finally we
went so far that the sun did not go out of sight at all, but would go down to
the lowest point, and without disappearing would rise again. In short, it was
In the Okhotsk we encountered thick fogs and heavy ice. On May 27,
in latitude 57 north, longitude 153, captured the American whaler Abigail, of
New Bedford, which was burned. We took her crew of thirty-five men on board.
Went up as far as Ghifinsi and Tausk Bays, but could not enter for ice from
fifteen to thirty feet thick.
June 10 and 12 twelve of the Abigail's crew enlisted. June 14 we
went out of Okholtsk Sea, through Amphitrite Straits. June 16 two more men
enlisted, and on same evening entered Bering Sea, through the Aletuiam
Islands, going north towards Captain Navarin.
June 13, captured whalers William Thompson and Susan Abigail, which
left San Francisco in April, and brought papers of April 17, giving
correspondence between Generals Grant and Lee and a statement of the surrender
of the latter to the former at Appomattox, but they also contained President
Davis' proclamation from Danville, Va., stating that the surrender would only
cause the prosecution of the war with renewed vigor. We left that the South
had sustained great reverses, but at no time did we feel a more imperative
duty to prosecute our work with vigor.
Between June 2 and June 28, inclusive, we captured twenty-four
whaling vessels, viz.: William Thompson, Euphrates, Milo, Sophia Thornton,
Jireh Swift, Susan Abigail, General Williams, Nimrod, Nye, Catherine, General
Pike, Gipsey, Isabella, Waverley, Hill-man, James Murray, Nassau, Brunswick,
Howland, Martha, Congress, Nile, Favorite and Convington, of which three,
viz.: Milo, James Murray and Nile, were bonded and the others burned, and all
prisoners put on board the bonded vessels, with ample provisions taken from
the vessels destroyed for their support. Eleven of the enumerated vessels were
captured on June 28. These were our last prizes. Some of the prisoners
expressed their opinion, on the strength of the papers brought by the Susan
Abigail, of General Lee's surrender, that war might be and probably was over,
but as an evidence that such was not believed to be the case, eight men from
these vessels enlisted on the Shenandoah.
On June 29, at 1 A. M., passed the Behring Straits into the Arctic
Ocean. At 10 A. M., finding heavy floes of ice all around ahead of us, we
turned to the southward and reentered, through Behring Straits, Behring Sea,
being at noon, or two hours after we turned around, in 66 depress 14 minutes
north latitude. Encountered very heavy ice of July 1. On July 5 passed through
Amukta Pass (172 depress west longitude) of the Aleutian Islands, from Behring
Sea into the Pacific Ocean. One of the islands by which we passed in coming
out was volcanic, for smoke was seen coming out from its peak.
This was the last land which we were destined to see for a long
time. Our course was shaped towards the coast of California, Lower California
and Mexico, with the hope of falling in with some trans-Pacific vessels, or
some of the steamships from San Francisco to Panama.
On reaching the 129th meridian of west longitude we ran down
parallel with the coast. On August 2, when in latitude 16 degrees 20 minutes
north, longitude 121 depress 11 minutes west, we made out a vessel, a sailing
bark, which we chased under steam and sail and overhauled and boarded at 4 P.
M. It proved to be the English bark Barracouta, from San Francisco for
Liverpool, thirteen days out from the former port. The sailing master, I. S.
Bulloch, was the boarding officer, and after he had examined her papers, to
establish her nationally, he asked the captain for the news about the war. The
English captain said "What war?" "The war between the United
States and Confederate States," Bulloch replied. When the Englishman
replied, "Why the war has been over since April. What ship is that
?" "The Confederate steamer Shenandoah," Bulloch
He then told of the surrender of all the Confederate forces, the
capture of President Davis and the entire collapse of the Confederate cause,
and when Bulloch returned he not only told all this, but, too, that Federal
cruisers were looking for us every-where and would deal summarily with us if
caught. Files of recent papers confirmed everything. The information given by
the captain of the Barracouta was appalling to the last degree. Coming as it
did from an Englishman, we could not doubt its accuracy. We were bereft of
country, bereft of government, bereft of ground for hope or aspiration, bereft
of a cause for which to struggle and suffer.
The pouring of hirelings from the outside world had at last
overpowered the remaining gallant Confederates. That independence for which
our brave people had so nobly fought, suffered and died, was, under God's
ruling, denied us. Our anguish of disappointed hopes cannot be described.
Naturally our minds and hearts turned to our dear ones at home. We knew the
utter impoverishment of those who survived, for surrender proved that, but
what of the fate of each and all who were dear to us. These were the harrowing
thoughts which entered into our very souls, the measure and intensity of which
can never be portrayed. Then, too, by comparing dates, we found that most of
our destruction was done, unwittingly, after hostilities had ceased at home.
We knew the intensity of feeling engendered by the war, and particularly in
the hearts of our foes towards us. We knew that every effort would be made for
our capture, and we felt that if we fell into the enemy's hands we could not
hope, fired as their hearts were, for a fair trial or judgment, and that the
testimony of the whalers, whose property we had destroyed, would all be
against us, and that the fact that we had been operating against those who had
been nearly as much cut off from channels of information as we were ourselves,
would count for naught. Even during the war we had been opprobriously called
"pirates," and we felt that if captured we would be summarily dealt
with as such.
These were disquietudes which caused no demoralization, or craven
fear, however, but were borne by true men with clear consciences, who had done
their duty as they saw it, with the powers given them by God. It was a
situation desperate to a degree, to which history furnishes no parallel.
Piracy is a crime, not against any one nation, but against all. A pirate is an
enemy to mankind, and as such is amenable to trial and punishment, under the
laws of nations, by the courts of the country into whose hands he may fall.
first thing was to suspend hostilities and to proclaim such suspension.
Captain Waddell promptly ordered me to disarm the vessel and crew. This was
done immediately and our guns were dismounted and stowed and secured below in
the hold of the ship. The captain addressed his crew and told them
unreservedly the situation and declared all warlike operations stopped.
The next step was to go into the hands of some nation strong enough
to maintain the rulings of the laws of nations and resist any demand, from our
enemies, for our surrender, that we might have a full, fair trail. There were
various opinions advanced as to the best course to pursue to promoted the
general safety. Our captain decided and made know his decision; that we would
proceed to England, learn the true situation, and if all we heard was true,
surrender to the British Government. We steered for Liverpool. Our coal supply
was short and was needed for ballast and for emergency of pursuit, and for the
last home stretch of our gauntlet of about 17,000 miles. So our long voyage
must be under sail.
The admirable discipline, sedulously enforced and maintained all
through, now, on our changed condition, brought forth good fruit. The crew,
from here, there and everywhere, many being from our prizes, behaved
splendidly and with a high loyalty to general safety. No serious disorders
arose, but every man did his duty in the effort to safety reach our selected
destination. It was a long, weary and anxious voyage, with its share of gales
and storms. We rounded Cape Horn on September 16, 1865, under top gallant
sails, but on getting to the eastward of it had heavy adverse gales, which
threw us among icebergs. We passed many sails, but exchanged no signals-we
were making no new acquaintances.
We crossed the equator, for the fourth time, on October 11, 1865.
On October 25 P. M., when about 500 miles southeast of Azores Island, we
sighted a supposed Federal cruiser. Our courses converged. The stranger was
apparently waiting for us, but to avoid suspicion we did not change ours,
until night-fall, and then we made a short detour and the next morning nothing
more was seen of her. We on that occasion got up and used steam, for the first
time on a voyage of over 13,000 miles.
On November 5, 1865, we entered St. George's Channel, making Tuskar
lighthouse, which was the first land we had seen for 122 days, after sailing
23,000 miles, and made it within a few moments of when it was expected. Could
a higher proof of the skill of our young navigator, Irvine S. Bulloch, be
desired? That night we took a Liverpool pilot, who confirmed all the news we
had heard. He was directed to take the ship to Liverpool.
On the morning of November 6 the brave ship steamed up the river
Mersey with the Confederate flag at her peak, and was anchored by the pilot,
by Captain Waddell's order, near H. B. M. guardship Donegal, Captain Paynter,
R. N., commanding. Soon after a lieutenant from the Donegal came on board to
learn the name of our vessel and advised us officially of the termination of
the war. At 10 A. M. November 6, 1865, the last Confederate flag was hauled
down and the last piece of Confederate property, the C. S. S. Shenandoah,
was surrendered to the British nation by letter to Earl Russell, from Captain
Waddell, through Captain Paynter, royal navy, commanding H. M. S. Donegal.
The gallant little ship had left London thirteen months before as
the Sea King, and had, as a Confederate cruiser, defied pursuit, for
twelve months and seventeen days, had captured thirty-eight vessels valued at
$1,172,223, bonding six and destroying thirtytwo-second only to the C. S. S.
Alabama in number; had circumnavigated the globe, carrying the brave flag
around the world and into every ocean on the globe except the Antarctic;
traveling over a distance of about 60,000 miles, without the loss of a single
Captain Waddell's letter to Earl Russell set forth the unvarnished
facts and work of our cruise and surrendered the vessel to the British nation.
The Shenandoah was placed under custody of British authorities, the
gunboat Goshawk being lashed alongside.
United States Minister Adams, on November 7 addressed a letter to
the Earl of Clarendon, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, requesting that
necessary steps be taken to secure the property on board, and to take
possession of the vessel with view to her delivery to the United States.
Minister Adams' letter, with that of Captain Waddell, with other documents
relating to the Shenandoah, were referred to the law officers off the
Crown on November 7, 1865, who advised in substance as follows:
"We think it will be proper for her Majesty's government, in
compliance with Mr. Adams' request, to deliver up to him, in behalf of the
government of the United States, the ship in question, with her tackle,
apparel, etc., and all captured chronometers or other property capable of
being identified as prize of war, which may be found on board of her . . . .
With respect to the officers and crew . . . if the facts stated by Captain
Waddell are true, there is clearly no case for any persecution on the ground
of piracy in the courts of this country, and we presume that he Majesty's
government are not in possessio of any evidence which could be produced before
any court or magistrate for the purpose of contravening the statement or
showing that the crime of piracy has, in fact, been committed . . . With
respect to any of the persons on the Shenandoah who cannot be
immediately proceeded against and detained under legal warrant upon any
criminal charge, we are not aware of any ground upon which they can properly
be prevented from going on shore and disposing of themselves as they think if,
and we cannot advise her Majesty's government to assume or exercise the power
of keeping them under any kind of restraint."
The law officers who gave this advise and these opinions, and whose
names were attached thereto, were Sir Roundell Palmer, Sir R. P. Collier and
Sir Robert Phillmore.
In consequence of these opinions of the law officer of the Crown,
instructions were sent to Captain Paynter, of her majesty's ship Donegal, to
release all officers and men who were not ascertained to be British subjects.
Captain Paynter reported on November 8 that, on receiving these instructions
he went on the Shenandoah, and being satisfied that there were no
British subjects among the crew, or at least none of whom it could be proved
were British subjects, he permitted all hands to land with their private
ended our memorable cruise-grand in its conception. Grand in its execution and
unprecedentally, awfully grand in its sad finale. To the four winds the
gallant crew scattered, most of them never to meet again until called to the
Bar of that Highest of all Tribunals.
The ship was handed over to the United States agents, a Captain
Freeman was appointed to take her to New York, but going out and encountering
high west winds, lost light spars and returned to Liverpool. It was not tried
again. The noble vessel was put and sold to the Sultan of Zanzibar. She
finally was lost on a coral reef in the Indian Ocean in 1879-fourteen years
after the last Confederate flag was hauled down.
[The flag to 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.
Return to table of contents