CSS Shenandoah

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CSS Shenandoah
In drydock at Williamstown, Australia, in 1865
Career Confederate Navy Jack
Name: 1st:Sea King, 2nd CSS Shenandoah, 3rd: El Majidi
Port of registry: Liverpool, Lloyds's A-1
Builder: Alexander Stephen & Sons,
River Clyde, Scotland
Launched: August 17, 1863
Acquired: 1863
Recommissioned: October 19, 1864
Decommissioned: November 6, 1865
Maiden voyage: Transport troops to New Zealand & return, 10 months
Renamed: CSS Shenandoah

Surrendered to British authorities at Liverpool. Turned over to the U.S. Consul, Thomas Haines Dudley. Sold at auction in April, 1866 for £17,000. *approx. ($85,000. in 1866) to the Sultan of Zanzibar.

Status: 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 feet (2.3 m)
Installed power: 200 HP A. & J. Inglis steam engine
Propulsion: 14 foot diameter bronze propellor
Sail plan: Full rigged ship

8 knots (15 km/h) under steam

16 knots (30 km/h) under sail
Complement: 109 officers and men
Armament: 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 Commander James Waddell, Confederate States Navy, a North Carolinian with twenty years' service in the United States Navy.[2]

During 12½ months of 1864–1865 the ship undertook commerce raiding resulting in the capture and sinking or bonding of thirty-eight American merchant vessels, mostly New Bedford whaleships. This ship is notable for firing the last shot of the American Civil War, at a whaler in waters off the Aleutian Islands.[3]

History and mission

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

She was designed as a British commercial transport vessel for the East Asia tea trade and troop transport. She was built on the River Clyde in Scotland. The Confederate Government purchased her in September, 1864 for use as an armed cruiser to capture and destroy Union merchant ships.

On October 8, she sailed from London ostensibly for Bombay, India, on a trading voyage. She rendezvoused at Funchal, Madeira, with the steamer Laurel, bearing officers and the nucleus of a crew for Sea King, together with naval guns, ammunition, and stores. Commanding officer Lieutenant James Iredell Waddell supervised her conversion to a ship-of-war in nearby waters. Waddell was barely able, however, to bring his crew to half strength even with additional volunteers from Sea King and Laurel.

The new cruiser was commissioned on October 19 and her name changed to Shenandoah.[2] The ship, commanded by Captain Waddell, then sailed around the Cape of Good Hope of Africa to Australia. While at Melbourne, Victoria, in January 1865, Waddell obtained additional men and supplies.[4]

In accord with operation concepts originated in the Confederate Navy Department and developed by its agents in Europe, Shenandoah was assigned to "seek out and utterly destroy" commerce in areas as yet undisturbed (i.e., attack Union ships), and thereafter her course lay in pursuit of merchantmen on the Cape of Good Hope–Australia route and of the Pacific whaling fleet.[2]

En route to the Cape she picked up six prizes (i.e., captured six ships). Five of these were put to the torch or scuttled, after Captain Waddell had safely rescued crew and passengers; the other was bonded and employed for transport of prisoners to Bahia, Brazil.

Australia stopover

File:CSS Shenandoah world travels 1865.png
Map ofShenandoah's 12½ month voyage around the world.

Still short-handed, though her crew had been increased by voluntary enlistments from prizes, Shenandoah arrived at Melbourne, Victoria, on January 25, 1865, where she filled her complement and her storerooms.[4]

She also took on 40 crew members who were stowaways from Melbourne. However, they were not enlisted until the ship was outside the legal limits of Australian waters.[4] The Shipping Articles show that all these 40 crew members enlisted on the day of her departure from Melbourne, February 18, 1865. Nineteen of her crew deserted at Melbourne, some of whom gave statements of their service to the United States Consul there. An 1871 hearing at the International Court in Geneva awarded damages of £820,000 against Britain to the US government for use of the port at Williamstown by the CSS Shenandoah.[5][6]

Vessels captured

File:Shenandoah destroying whale ships .jpg
Shenandoah destroying whale ships

Sea King departed Liverpool October 8, 1864 and on October 19, off the coast of France, was surreptitiously re-commissioned as the warship CSS Shenandoah. En route to Cape Horn, she captured and disposed of eight prizes in the Atlantic Ocean.

Shenandoah took only one prize in the Indian Ocean, but hunting became more profitable after refitting in Melbourne. Enroute 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.[7]

On June 27, 1865, he learned, from a prize Susan & Abigail, of General Robert E. Lee's surrender when her captain produced a San Francisco newspaper reporting the flight from Richmond, Virginia, of the Confederate Government 10 weeks previously. The same paper contained Confederate President Jefferson Davis's proclamation, after Lee's surrender, that the "war would be carried on with re-newed vigor."[8] He then proceeded to capture 10 more whalers in the space of 7 hours in the waters just below the Arctic Circle. It was not until August 2 that Shenandoah learned of the final Confederate collapse when she encountered the British barque Barracouta. Among the devastating news was surrender of General Johnston's, Smith's, and Magruder's armies and, crucially, the capture of Mr. Davis and a part of his cabinet.[8] Captain Waddell then disarmed the ship and proceeded back to surrender at Liverpool.[9]

Surrender of CSS Shenandoah

File:Rip Van Waddell.jpg
Editorial cartoon satirizing James Waddell still engaging in combat after the American Civil War was regarded over.

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 showed to be accurate. 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 a Ground General under General Johnston. Semme's former sailors surrendered as artillerymen.[11]

After the surrender of Shenandoah to the British, the British had to decide what to do with the Confederate crew, knowing the consequences of piracy charges.[12]

Barracouta had come from San Francisco; Waddell was heading to the city to attack it, believing it weakly defended. Immediately Shenandoah underwent physical alteration. She was dismantled as a man-of-war; her battery was dismounted and struck below, and her hull repainted to resemble an ordinary merchant vessel. The Captain of HMS Donegal took the last surrender of the American Civil War on November 6, 1865 when CSS Shenandoah under Captain Waddell surrendered after travelling 9,000 miles (14,500 km) to Liverpool to do so.

She was then turned over to the United States government. Shenandoah had been in the Pacific Ocean when news reached her of the end of the Civil War, necessitating such a long voyage.

[14] Extracts from the United States Naval War Records published by the United States Printing Office The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of Rebellion of 1894 says, "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."[15]


File:CSS Shenandoah-art.jpg
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 sunk 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 diseases. The reason the vessel did not have any war casualties was because it was never involved in a battle against any Union Naval vessel, as was the CSS Alabama, but instead took United States merchant vessels.[16]

In 1866 the US, having taken possession of Shenandoah, sold her to the first Sultan of Zanzibar, who renamed her after himself (El Majidi).[17] 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.[18]


During her year-long service as a commerce raider, Shenandoah caused disorder and devastation across the globe for Union merchant shipping. The Confederate cruiser claimed more than 20 prizes valued at nearly $1,400,000 ($16,500,000 in 2007 dollars).[19] 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 (Liverpool, UK on November 6, 1865).[20]

The Shenandoah's battle ensign has been in the Museum of the Confederacy’s collection since 1907 and is currently on display (recent photo). Lieutenant Dabney 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” x 136.” [21][22]

See also



  1. "Confederate Vessels Sold in Liverpool-1866". The Confederate Cruiser Shenandoah. Southern Crossroads. pp. Sale of the Shenandoah. http://www.csa-dixie.com/liverpool_dixie/sale.htm. Retrieved 1-23-2010. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Baldwin, pp. 6–11
  3. Baldwin, p. 255
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Baldwin, p. 85
  5. Department of the Navy. "CSS Shenandoah (1864–1865) - The Seagulls". http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-us-cs/csa-sh/csash-sz/shendoah.htm. Retrieved 2008-02-03. 
  6. Australian Heritage. "Historical Towns Directory - Williamstown". http://www.heritageaustralia.com.au/search.php?state=VIC&region=52&view=307. Retrieved 2008-02-03. 
  7. Baldwin, pp. 238–254
  8. 8.0 8.1 LAST CONFEDERATE CRUISER by CORNELIUS E. HUNT one of her officers. 267
  9. 9.0 9.1 Gaines, W. Craig (2008). Encyclopedia of Civil War shipwrecks. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. pp. 13–25. ISBN 9780807132746 0807132748. OCLC 255822065. http://books.google.com/books?id=90d2LcmfpCcC&pg=PA20&dq=CSS+Shenandoah+-com&ei=WPlbS-iRFaegygTlmtXNCA&client=safari&cd=5#v=onepage&q=%22CSS%20Shenandoah%22%20-com&f=false. 
  10. Thomsen, Brian M. (2004). "Abstract Log of C.S.S.Shenandoah, Lieutenant Commanding J.I. Waddell, C.S. Navy Commanding". Blue & Gray at Sea: Naval Memoirs of the Civil War. Extracts from the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of Rebellion. New York: Forge. pp. 279–287. ISBN 0765308967 9780765308962. OCLC 173166438. http://books.google.com/books?id=rb202b80x6sC&pg=PA279&dq=CSS+Shenandoah+-com&ei=TXFcS9vJJqLGNcDDycAJ&client=safari&cd=8#v=onepage&q=CSS%20Shenandoah%20-com&f=false. 
  11. "The Pursuit p 123"
  12. "Last Flag Down"
  13. "Tribute by Capt. W. C. Whittle CSN to John T. Mason and the Shenandoah". The Cruise of the CSS Shenandoah. Southern Crossroads. October 1904. http://www.csa-dixie.com/liverpool_dixie/whittle.htm. Retrieved 24 January 2010. 
  14. The confederate surrender
  15. United States Government Printing Office, 1894
  16. Baldwin, p. 302
  17. http://americancivilwar.com/tcwn/civil_war/Navy_Ships/CSS_Shenandoah.html
  18. "Great Britain & Zanzibar" British and Foreign State Papers Page 551
  19. Baldwin, 225
  20. Baldwin, 319
  21. "0985.03.0194". Museum of the Confederacy (MOC) Collections. Richmond, VA: Museum of the Confederacy. 2010. pp. Accession# 0985.03.0194. http://www.moc.org/site/DocServer/Flag_Table_for_Website.pdf?docID=5741. Retrieved 23 January 2010. 
  22. source: Robert F. Hancock, Director of Collections & Senior Curator, The Museum of the Confederacy


  • Baldwin, John, Last Flag Down: The Epic Journey of the Last Confederate Warship, Crown Publishers, 2007, ISBN 5-5577608-5-7, Random House, Incorporated, 2007, ISBN 0-7393271-8-6
  • 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 includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

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