Thursday, November 5, 2015

150 Years Ago Nov. 6: Last Confederate Raider Surrenders

150 Years Ago Nov. 6: Last Confederate Raider Surrenders

On November 6, 1865 the Confederate raider CSS Shenandoah, her naval ensign still flying, steamed through the thick, morning fog up the Mersey into Liverpool, where Captain James Iredell Waddell offered the surrender of his vessel to the British government.  The last organized Confederate combat unit to haul down its flag, the CSS Shenandoah was also the only Confederate warship to have circumnavigated the globe,  

The CSS Shenandoah was built in Scotland, fitted out in Liverpool and officially taken into Confederate service off the English coast in October 1864.  Waddell and his crew made their first capture on the 30th of that month.  Over the next nine months they would burn or bond 37 more American-flagged vessels, including almost the entire New England whaling fleet of nearly two dozen great ships in the last week of June 1865.  They inflicted over $1.1 million in losses, making the CSS Shenandoah second only to the CSS Alabama as the most successful commerce raider of the war.  The raider's crew took over 1,000 prisoners during their voyage, but they never took a life, and the only two members of its crew to die in service did so of natural causes.

After burning the whaling ships in the Arctic in June, Waddell headed for San Francisco, which he hoped to bombard and hold for ransom. Waddell also planned to cut out and capture the only Union warship in California (the ironclad ram USS Saginaw) and hopefully intercept one of the California gold ships. On August 2, however, Waddell, now only 13 days sail from San Francisco, stopped the British merchant bank Barracouta, where he learned that Confederate Jefferson Davis had been captured, and that the armies and other warships of the southern states had surrendered.  Hostilities having formally ended before his Arctic rampage, Waddell was being hunted as a pirate.   Fearful of the fate he and his men would suffer if they fell into Federal hands,  the rebel raider captain decided to head for a British port, and to throw himself on the mercy of Her Majesty's Government.

The voyage took more than 90 days - all of it out of sight of land - but on November 5 the warship reached Ireland, where Waddell hailed a pilot boat to guide him into Liverpool.  The pilot agreed, but only on condition that the ship steam into port flying her true colors - which Waddell gladly obliged.

Waddell anchored the CSS Shenandoah alongside the English man-of-war HMS Donegal, a massive 101-gunner of the new Conqueror class.  Waddell surrendered to her captain, and hauled down his colors under the watchful eyes of armed British sailors and marines.   A hurried investigation by the British determined that Waddell and his crew had not broken the laws of war, and they were paroled and released, much to the chagrin of the United States Minister to England Charles Francis Adams.

Waddell eventually made it to San Francisco in 1875, where he captained a mail packet.  From there he returned to his native Maryland, where he commanded a squadron of patrol boats that hunted oyster poachers.  He died in 1886.

To relive the adventures of the CSS Shenandoah and other warships (of both sides) of the American Civil War, play my strategic naval game: Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, available from GMT games.