Monday, November 3, 2014

Tale of Two Raiders: Goodbye, CSS Chickamauga, Hello CSS Shenandoah

150 years ago: A Tale of Two Raiders: Goodbye, CSS Chickamauga, Hello CSS Shenandoah

150 Years Ago this week the storied Confederate blockade runner captain, John Wilkinson, went a-raiding aboard the mighty CSS Chickamauga.  In four days of raiding off Long Island, he burned, bonded or scuttled seven Union merchant ships - but as his raider burned coal at such a voracious rate, on November 3 he had to cut short the raid and go in search of coal.  The governor of Bermuda refused to sell Wilkinson a load, claiming he had new orders in regards to the neutrality acts.  Fortunately, Wilkinson, an old hand at this sort of thing, was able to bribe a lesser official (after first getting him roaring drunk), but while taking on coal nearly half his crew jumped ship.  The governor, moreover, got wind of all of this, and put a stop to the coaling.  Warned that four Union cruisers were converging on Bermuda,  Wilkinson upped anchor and set a course for Wilmington, the last major port still open to the raiders and runners.

As the CSS Chickamauga neared Wilmington, a Union squadron intercepted her.   Despite being heavily outgunned, Wilkinson refused to surrender, and fired shot and shell in an unequal duel with four Yankee warships, all while pouring on speed to seek safety under the guns of Fort Fisher.  Although he made it, his ship would never raid or go to sea again.  The CSS Chickamauga, however, did have one last fight left in her:  when the Union finally stormed Fisher, the Rebel raider was there, adding her guns to the fort's in defense.  When it was obvious that the fort would fall, the raider retreated to Wilmington, where she was scuttled and burned let she become a prize of war.

Just as CSS Chickamauga was ending her career as a raider, however, the last - and in may ways the greatest and also the most tragic of the raiders began hers.  CSS Shenandoah made her first capture on October 30  (the day as CSS Chickamauga also made her first capture).  The bark Alina was Captain James I. Waddell's first victory, and while there would be 37 more, 2/3s of those were taken after the end of the war - which Waddell did not know had concluded until reading newspapers found aboard his final prize, the bark Covington, which he burned on June 28, 1865.   Fearful of being held accountable for piracy, Waddell spent months seeking a harbor where he could safely retire his ship and crew, which he did on November 6, 1865....149 years ago this week.

While in my strategic naval game of the Civil War, Rebel Raiders on the High Seas,  the CSS Chickamauga is represented by a generic Raider counter, the CSS Shenandoah has her own counter and card, CSN Card 64:

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