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{{Infobox ship |Ship image=CSS Shenandoah

|Ship caption=On a slip at Williamstown, Australia, in 1865|module= Career Confederate Navy Jack Name: 1st:Sea King, 2nd CSS Shenandoah, 3rd: El MajidiPort of registry: Liverpool, Lloyds's A-1Builder: Alexander Stephen & Sons,
River Clyde, ScotlandLaunched: August 17, 1863Acquired: 1863Recommissioned: October 19, 1864Decommissioned: November 6, 1865Maiden voyage: Transport troops to New Zealand & return, 10 monthsRenamed: CSS ShenandoahFate: As El Majidi beached during hurricane, Zanzibar, 1872 |module2= General characteristics Type: Extreme clipper hullDisplacement: 1160 tonsLength: 230 ft (70 m)Beam: 32.5 ft (9.9 m)Draft: 20 ft 6 in (6.25 m)Decks: poop, main, berthDeck clearance: 7.5 ft (2.3 m)Installed power: 200 HP A. & J. Inglis steam enginePropulsion: 14 ft-diameter (4.3 m) bronze propellerSail plan: Full rigged shipSpeed:

8 knots (15 km/h) under steam

16 knots (30 km/h) under sailComplement: 109 officers and menArmament: 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 Confederate States Navy Lieutenant Commanding James Waddell, a North Carolinian with twenty years of prior service in the United States Navy.[1] The C.S.S. Shenandoah was launched on August 17, 1863, and went on to become one of the most feared commerce raiders in the Confederate Navy. It surrendered on November 7, 1865, and its flag was the last sovereign Confederate flag to be furled, on the River Mersey Liverpool. The crew surrendered at Liverpool Town Hall, and were free to leave, much to the annoyance of the Union. During 12½ months of 1864–1865 the ship undertook commerce raiding resulting in the capture and sinking or bonding of thirty-eight Union 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.[2]

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, 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. The supply steamer Laurel sailed from Liverpool. The two ships rendezvoused at Funchal, Madeira, with 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.[1] 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.[3] 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.[1] En route to the Cape she picked up six prizes. 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

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.[3] 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.[3] 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 facilities at Williamstown by the CSS Shenandoah.[4][5]

Vessels captured

Shenandoah destroying whaleships

Editorial cartoon satirizing James Waddell still engaging in combat after the American Civil War was regarded over.

The unofficial home port of the Confederate fleet was Liverpool in England. Confederate Commander James Dunwoody Bulloch was based in the city. The city provided ships, crews, munitions and provisions of war.[6] Sea King departed from London on October 8, 1864, and after supply of arms and crew on October 19, off the coast of Madeira CSS Shenandoah headed for the Pacific Ocean. After being 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. En route 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 Liverpool barque Barracouta. Barracouta had sailed out of San Francisco; Waddell was heading to the city to attack it, believing it weakly defended.[9] Among the devastating news was surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston and his various armies (April 26), Kirby Smith's, (May 26) and Magruder's armies and, crucially, the capture of Mr. Davis and a part of his cabinet. Captain Waddell believed the crew of the Barracouta, many of whom were from the same city as many of the crew of the CSS Shenandoah.[8]

Captain Waddell then took down his Confederate flag. Immediately CSS 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.[10]

Surrender of CSS Shenandoah

The River Mersey with Liverpool on the right bank. Shenandoah surrendered approximately where the ship is in mid-river. The open sea is to the top.

Liverpool Town Hall. The very last act of the Civil War was Captain Waddell walking up the steps.

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 proved 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 an army General under Joseph E. Johnston. Semmes's former sailors surrendered as artillerymen.[12]

Captain Waddell decided to surrender his ship at the unofficial home port of Liverpool, where Confederate Commander Bulloch was stationed.

The last lowering of the Confederate flag

CSS Shenandoah sailed from off the west coast of Mexico via Cape Horn to Liverpool, a voyage of three months and over 9,000 miles (14,500 km), being pursued by Union vessels. CSS Shenandoah anchored at the Mersey Bar at the mouth of the estuary awaiting a pilot to take the ship up the river and into the enclosed docks. Not flying any flag, the pilot refused to take the ship into Liverpool unless they flew a flag. The crew raised the stainless banner. CSS Shenandoah sailed up the River Mersey with the flag fully flying.

Report from the Liverpool Mercury for Tuesday 7th Nov. 1865:

Considerable excitement was caused on "Change" yesterday morning by circulation of the report that the Confederate cruiser Shenandoah, of whose exploits amongst the American whalers in the North Pacific so much has been heard, was passed about 8 o'clock by the steamer Douglas at anchor at the bar, of Victoria Channel, apparently waiting for high water. By many the report was discredited, it being thought that those on board the Douglas were in error, and had mistaken some other craft for the celebrated ex-Confederate cruiser. At half past ten, however, all doubts on the point were set at rest, with the Shenandoah steaming up the Victoria Channel with the Palmetto flag flying from her masthead.[9]

HMS Donegal happened to be anchored in mid-river between Toxteth in Liverpool and Tranmere in Birkenhead. Captain Waddell manoeuvred his ship near to the British man-of-war dropping anchor. The CSS Shenandoah was surrendered by Captain Waddell to Captain Paynter of HMS Donegal on November 6, 1865. The stainless banner was lowered again for the very last time, in front of the crew and a Royal Navy detachment who boarded the vessel.

CSS Shenandoah had struck her colours twice. This marked the last surrender of the American Civil War and the last official lowering of the Confederate flag. The very last act of the Civil War was Captain Waddell walking up the steps of Liverpool Town Hall with a letter to present to the mayor surrendering his vessel to the British government.[9] In so doing, the Shenandoah became the only Confederate States Ship to circumnavigate the globe.

The United States Naval War Records published in 1894:

The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of Rebellion
"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."[13]

After surrender the CSS Shenandoah was berthed in the partially constructed Herculaneum Dock awaiting her fate. After settling the international legalities, she was turned over to the United States government.[14]

The fate of the crew

After the surrender of Shenandoah to the British government, a decision had to be made of what to do with the Confederate crew, knowing the consequences of piracy charges. Clearly many of the crew originated from the United Kingdom and its colonies and three had swum ashore in the cold November waters fearing the worst.[15]

After a full investigation by law officers of the Crown, it was decided that the officers and crew did not infringe the rules of war or the laws of nations to justify being held as prisoners, so they were unconditionally released. But the authorities of the United States considered them pirates and would have treated them as such if they had fallen into their hands.

Liverpool Mercury Thursday 9th Nov. 1865.
The government have at length taken a decided step in regard to the crew of this vessel. For the last two days the authorities in Liverpool have been in communication with the Secretary of State in reference to the detention of the ship and her crew. The Government seem to have been decided as to the necessity of retaining the vessel, pending an inquiry as to the action which her commander and crew have taken during the last few months, but there seems to have been some doubt as to the proper course to adopt with reference to the men on board. On inquiry at the CustomHouse yesterday morning, we were informed that the authorities had not received further instructions as to the vessel or her crew.
However, about 6 o`clock last night a telegram was received from Government by Captain Paynter, of her Majesty’s ship Donegal, to whom the Shenandoah was surrendered, that the whole of the officers and crew, who were not British subjects were to be immediately paroled. Captain Paynter immediately proceeded to the Rock Ferry slip, and applied for a steamboat. The Rock Ferry steamer Bee was placed at his disposal by Mr. Thwaites, in which he immediately proceeded alongside the Shenandoah. Captain Paynter went on board and communicated to the officers the object of his visit. The crew were mustered on the quarterdeck by the officers of the ship, the roll book was brought out, and the names of the men called out as they occurred. As each man answered to his name he was asked what countryman he was. In not one instance did any of them acknowledge to be British citizens. Many nations were represented among them, but the majority claimed to be natives of the Southern States of America or "Southern citizens". Several of those however, who purported to be Americans, had an unmistakably Scotch accent, and seemed more likely to have hailed from the banks of the Clyde than the Mississippi. Captain Paynter informed the men that by order of the Government they were all paroled, and might proceed at once to shore. This intelligence was received by the men with every demonstration of joy, and they seemed to be delighted at the prospect of leaving the craft in which they had hoped to be able to assist the Southern Confederacy. They commenced to pack up their bedding and other articles as fast as possible, and conveyed on board the Bee, which was to take them to the landing stage. Before leaving the vessel, however, they gave three lusty cheers, for Captain Waddell, their late commander. Captain Waddell, in feeling terms, acknowledged the compliment, and said that he hoped the men would always behave themselves, as brave sailors ought to do. The men then went aboard the Bee, and were conveyed to the landing stage. This separated the Shenandoah and her crew, and the vessel now rides at anchor in the Sloyne in charge of some men from the Donegal, under the command of Lieutenant Cheek.[9]

S. S. Lee, Orris M. Brown, John T. Mason and W. C. Whittle sometime in December 1865 sailed from Liverpool to Buenos Aires, via Bahia, Rio de Janeiro and Montevideo. After prospecting for a while, they went to Rosario, upon Paraná River, and near there bought a small place and began farming.

As the animosity of the United States Government began to soften towards them, Brown and Mason returned home; Lee and Whittle returned sometime later.

On returning home, Mason took a law course at the University of Virginia, graduated, and was successful at his profession. He settled in Baltimore, and married Miss Helen Jackson, of New York, daughter of the late Lieutenant Alonzo Jackson of the U. S. Navy.[16]


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 sank 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 disease. The vessel was never involved in conflict against any Union Naval vessel, as was the CSS Alabama. She captured and sunk United States merchant vessels.[17]

In 1866 the US, having taken possession of Shenandoah, sold her to the first Sultan of Zanzibar, who renamed her after himself (El Majidi).[18] 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.[19]


During her year-long service as a commerce raider, Shenandoah caused disorder and devastation around the globe for Union merchant shipping. The Confederate cruiser claimed more than 20 prizes valued at nearly $1,400,000 ($21.6 million in today's dollars).[20] 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 Second Confederate Navy Ensign, 1863–1865 (photo:#0985.03.0193)

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 in mid-river on the River Mersey at Liverpool, UK, on November 6, 1865).[21] Shenandoah's battle ensign has been in the Museum of the Confederacy's collection since 1907 and is currently on display. 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." [22][23]

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Baldwin, pp. 6–11
  2. Baldwin, p. 255
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Baldwin, p. 85
  4. Department of the Navy. "CSS Shenandoah (1864–1865) - The Seagulls". Retrieved 2008-02-03. 
  5. Australian Heritage. "Historical Towns Directory - Williamstown". Retrieved 2008-02-03. 
  7. Baldwin, pp. 238–254
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 LAST CONFEDERATE CRUISER by CORNELIUS E. HUNT one of her officers. 267
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4
  10. 10.0 10.1 Gaines, W. Craig (2008). Encyclopedia of Civil War shipwrecks. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. pp. 13–25. ISBN 978-0-8071-3274-6 0807132748. OCLC 255822065. 
  11. 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 0-7653-0896-7 9780765308962. OCLC 173166438. 
  12. "The Pursuit p 123"
  13. United States Government Printing Office, 1894
  14. The confederate surrender
  15. "Last Flag Down"
  16. "Tribute by Capt. W. C. Whittle CSN to John T. Mason and the Shenandoah". The Cruise of the CSS Shenandoah. Southern Crossroads. October 1904. Retrieved 24 January 2010. 
  17. Baldwin, p. 302
  19. "Great Britain & Zanzibar" British and Foreign State Papers Page 551
  20. Baldwin, 225
  21. Baldwin, 319
  22. "0985.03.0194". Museum of the Confederacy (MOC) Collections. Richmond, Virginia: Museum of the Confederacy. 2010. pp. Accession# 0985.03.0194. Retrieved 23 January 2010. 
  23. 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 5-557-76085-7, Random House, Incorporated, 2007, ISBN 0-7393-2718-6
  • 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 incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. 290 Foundation BVI Inc.

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