Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
The other day I was looking at a photo taken from Pam Clark’s old house of Shenandoah, at anchor in back of the Black Dog, and waxing nostalgic. Then today I read about Shenandoah’s namesake, and the original Alabama. I had thought they had been Confederate blockade runners, sort of romantic vessels. But, no. They were deadly privateers. It seems especially ironic that Shenandoah is anchored at Vineyard Haven. She destroyed half the New England whaling fleet around the globe, and took 1,000 Vineyarders and Nantucket sailors prisoner.
The following is from a website for Lynn Schooler’s book about the history of Shenandoah; The Last Shot:
The raider CSS Shenandoah, the Confederate Navy’s secret weapon in its drive to crush the Union’s economy, which was then dependent on the Arctic whaling fleet as it provided the virtual equivalent of what fossil-fuel oil is today. Whale oil filled most of the lamps that lit the country (and, of course, women’s fashion required whalebone corsets in huge numbers).
From the ship’s log, periodicals of the time, daily journals and the eventual memoirs of the captain and six of his officers, Schooler lets the principals do most of the talking. When he does interject to narrate, it is with confidence in the subject and an engaging wit. Schooler twines together the various threads with such skill that the reader is put on deck with the crew, taking each wild wave and overhearing the scuttlebutt first-hand.
Burning and looting its way around the world, the Shenandoah initially destroyed at least four ships without ever firing a live shot. It went on to sink half the whaling fleet with its valuable oil, and capture 1,000 prisoners, all without losing a single man to hostilities. It also holds the distinction of being the only Confederate vessel to circumnavigate the globe.
Half of its adventures occurred months after the War Between the States ended; but the crew of the Shenandoah had no way of knowing this and went blithely on in its mission to cripple the enemy’s means to make war. (Destroying the economy of Cape Cod and the Islands first).
When Capt. James Waddell finally heard the news (that the South had surrendered) at a point just after he had decided against sacking the city of San Francisco, he refused to believe the South had fallen. In continuing to pursue the rebel cause, he was branded a pirate by newspapers around the globe.
David Ebert, North Sutton, N.H.