June 22, 1865: Last Shot Fired in the American Civil War

 

The Confederate commerce raider CSS Shenandoah, a converted steam merchant ship, steamed out of London on October 8, 1864.  Her skipper was James Iredell Waddell, a veteran of twenty years in the United States Navy prior to the Civil War, and a graduate of Annapolis.  Under Waddell, the Shenandoah would spend the next year at sea taking or sinking 38 ships, mostly New Bedford whaling ships, virtually destroying the American whaling fleet.  The last shot of the War was a blank fired on June 22, 1865 in the Bering Strait, to indicate to a Union whaling ship the wisdom of surrender.  Some of the captured Yankee seamen claimed the War was over, but Waddell assumed they were lying.

Waddell remained unconvinced that the War was over until he encountered a British ship on August 2, 1865.  Fearing imprisonment or worse for his men, Waddell then embarked on an epic three month voyage, pursued by the US Navy, to Liverpool where Waddell surrendered his ship and lowered the Confederate flag for the last time on November 6, 1865.  The Union wished to try Waddell and his men as pirates.  The British decided to parole Waddell and his men, as reported by The Liverpool Mercury on November 9, 1865:

THE SHENANDOAH. PAROLE OF THE CREW.

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.

Waddell would not return to the United States until 1875.  He would end his career in charge of the State of Maryland’s oyster regulation force.

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Published in: on June 22, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on June 22, 1865: Last Shot Fired in the American Civil War  
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