CSS Shenandoah "Terror On The High Seas" October 19, 1864 - November 6, 1865
On October 8, 1864, the British merchant vessel Sea King sailed from London for Bombay carrying coal as ballast. At the same time the fast steamer Laurel left Liverpool with a cargo of six guns and 19 passengers. The two ships rendezvoused in the Madeira Islands, where the guns and passengers were transferred to the Sea King. The passengers were actually Confederate naval officers, and the Sea King had been bought for the Confederate government to be a commerce raider and to prey on the North's merchant marine.
At 220 feet long and 32.5 feet wide, the Shenandoah weighed 1,018 tons and was propeller-driven by a 250-horsepower steam engine with a top speed of eight knots. That speed could be doubled with the use of sails. She was armed with two 32-pounders and six 68-pounders.
The former Sea King, now the newly commissioned CSS Shenandoah, set out on October 19 on a 58,000-mile round-the-world cruise under the command of Capt. James I. Waddell. On the way to Melbourne, Australia, where they arrived on January 25, 1865, Waddell and his crew burned seven Yankee ships and ransomed two. After refitting and taking on more crew, the Shenandoah sailed north into the Pacific, capturing four more ships by the end of May. There was no way for Waddell and his crew to know that the Confederate states had lost their bid for independence and that the raider was now fighting for a cause that was already lost. In June the Shenandoah sailed into the Bering Sea, where it decimated the New Bradford whaling fleet, capturing 25 whalers and burning 21 of them. On June 23, Waddell learned from an April 14 newspaper found on one of the ships that Richmond had fallen, but as of the date of the paper, the war had still been going on. Not until August 2 did Waddell find out from a British vessel that the war was over.
Fascinating Fact: Afraid that the United States might hang him as a pirate, Waddell stowed the ship's guns and set out on a 17,000-mile voyage to England. On November 5, the Shenandoah sailed into Liverpool, where Waddell surrendered his ship to the British government.
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