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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND
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Shenandoah

 

(ScStr: t. 1,160; l. 230'; b. 32'; dph. 20'6"; s. 9 k. under steam; cpl. 109; a. 4 8" sb., 2 32-pdr. r., 2 12-pdr.)

 

CSS Shenandoah, formerly Sea King, was an iron-framed, teak-planked, full-rigged vessel with auxiliary steam power. She was designed as a British transport for troops to the East, and was built on the River Clyde, Scotland, but the Confederate Government purchased her in 1864 for use as an armed cruiser. On 8 October 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 Lt. J. I. Waddell, CSN, 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 19 October and her name changed to Shenandoah.

 

In accord with operation concepts originated in the Confederate Navy Department and developed by its agents in Europe, Shenandoah was assigned to destroy commerce in areas as yet undisturbed, and thereafter her course lay in pursuit of merchantmen on the Cape of Good Hope-Australia route and of the Pacific whaling fleet. En route to the Cape she picked up six prizes. Five of these were put to the torch or scuttled; the other was bonded and employed for transport of prisoners to Bahia, Brazil. Still short-handed, though her crew had been increased by forced enlistments from prizes, Shenandoah arrived at Melbourne, Australia, on 25 January 1865, where she filled her complement and her storerooms.

 

Shenandoah had taken but a single prize in the Indian Ocean, but hunting became more profitable as she approached the whaling grounds. Waddell burned four whalers in the Carolines and another off the Kuriles. After a 3-week cruise in the ice and fog of the Sea of Okhotsk failed to yield 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. On 23 June he learned from a prize of Lee's surrender and the flight from Richmond of the Confederate Government 10 weeks previously. Nevertheless, he elected to continue hostilities, and captured 21 more prizes, the last 11 being taken in the space of 7 hours in the waters just below the Arctic Circle.

 

Waddell then ran south to intercept commerce bound from the West Coast to the Far East and Latin America, and on 2 August received intelligence from a British bark of the war's termination some 4 months before. Immediately Shenandoah underwent physical alteration. She was dismantled as a man-of-war; her battery was dismounted and struck below, and her hull painted to resemble an ordinary merchant vessel. Waddell brought her into Liverpool on 6 November and surrendered her to British authorities who turned her over to the United States.

 

Shenandoah had remained at sea for 12 months and 17 days, had traversed 58,000 miles and captured 38 prizes, mostly whalers, and two-thirds of them after the close of hostilities.

CSS Shenandoah