August 2, 2012 - The Civil War Finally Ends—Again!

– 1865

On this date in 1865, the Confederate ship C.S.S. Shenandoah finally stopped fighting the Civil War, more than three months after Lee surrendered his Confederate army!

You see, the ship had been in the Pacific Ocean, finding and attacking Union whalers and other merchant vessels. This is a kind of warfare called “commerce raiding,” and it's meant to steal wealth from an enemy, to make the ocean unsafe for enemy ships—unsafe for whaling or trading—to discourage and maybe even terrorize. The Shenandoah burned or scuttled most of the ships they captured, and bonded the rest to be used carrying prisoners to Brazil. (The prisoners were the ships' crew and passengers who wouldn't join the Confederate navy. Many men did join the Shenandoah's crew!)

Being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, back in the 1800s, meant that Captain Waddell and the other officers aboard the Shenandoah were pretty cut off from news. However, on June 27, Captain Waddell was shown a newspaper article about Lee's surrender. However, the same paper contained Confederate President Jefferson Davis's proclamation that the war would be carried on with renewed vigor.

So Waddell continued to attack whalers—capturing ten more before he heard that Confederate generals Johnston and Smith and Magruder also surrendered, and that Mr. Davis and his cabinet had been captured.

At that point, Captain Waddell disarmed the ship and went back to England to surrender his ship.

Hmm...back to England?

Captain Waddell did not go back to the United States because he feared that he and his crew would be tried and executed as pirates. I mean, what they'd done on the high seas WAS piracy, pretty much, but it was supposedly LEGAL piracy, if you look at it from the Confederate government's point of view.

Waddell suspected that Yankee courts would not see it from the Confederate point of view!

Also, the C.S.S. Shenandoah was built in Scotland as a British trading ship. So Liverpool, in Great Britain, was home for the ship. (By the way, the Shenandoah was the only Confederate ship that circumnavigated the globe.)

When did the war REALLY end?

I'd always accepted that the U.S. Civil War ended when Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865. Apparently that is the “official” ending date.

However, other dates are:
  • the last battle of the Civil War was in Texas on May 12 and 13.
  • the last significant Confederate army to surrender was Cherokee Brig. General Stand Watie and his Indian soldiers, on June 23.
  • the very last Confederate surrender was Captain Waddell's surrender of the Shenandoah—which happened months after he disarmed and started back to England. Apparently the ship didn't reach Liverpool until November 6, 1865!

Also on this date:

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