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Shenandoah, CSS

by John R. deTreville, 2006

"CSS Shenandoah (1864-1865). Painting depicting the Confederate cruiser in the Arctic ice, circa June 1865. This image has been credited to the "Illustrated London News", though it appears to be a painting on canvas and not a line engraving.  U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph." Image Courtesy of Naval Historical Center. The CSS Shenandoah, commanded by James Iredell Waddell of North Carolina, was one of the most famous "commerce raiders" or "cruisers" commissioned by the Confederate navy to destroy northern merchant shipping during the Civil War. When European nations refused to allow Confederate privateers to sell their prizes in European ports, the Confederate navy looked for other ways to destroy Union ocean commerce and compel northern shipping interests to lobby the U.S. Congress for peace with the South. The commerce raiders supplied the means. They were Confederate naval warships less motivated by profit than privateers.

The Shenandoah's main mission was to destroy the Union whaling fleet and move the war to New England, which, according to Waddell and the South, bore much of the responsibility for the war. Between 27 May and 28 June 1865, the ship captured or destroyed about 25 northern whaling vessels, a blow from which the fleet never recovered. During this time, Waddell learned that Gen. Robert E. Lee had surrendered and Richmond had fallen, but also that President Jefferson Davis was calling for continued resistance. Waddell moved to attack Union shipping in San Francisco, but as he approached the city, a British ship confirmed that Davis had been captured and the South defeated. Rather than surrender to the Union in California or intern the Shenandoah in a neutral port remote from European civilization, Waddell decided to sail to England and end its voyage there.

The Shenandoah rounded Cape Horn and hauled down the Confederate flag for the last time in Liverpool, England. Waddell surrendered the ship to British authorities on 6 Nov. 1865, nearly seven months after Lee had surrendered at Appomattox Court House. The British released the officers and crew, but the ship itself was turned over to the Union. After an unsuccessful attempt to sail to the United States, the Shenandoah was sold to the Sultanate of Zanzibar. In 1879 the Shenandoah sank in a storm.


Murray Cromwell Morgan, Dixie Raider: The Saga of the C.S.S. Shenandoah (1948).

Warren F. Spencer, The Confederate Navy in Europe (1983).

Image Credit:

"CSS Shenandoah (1864-1865). Painting depicting the Confederate cruiser in the Arctic ice, circa June 1865. This image has been credited to the "Illustrated London News", though it appears to be a painting on canvas and not a line engraving.  U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph." Image Courtesy of Naval Historical Center. Available from (accessed May 25, 2012).




I was visiting my daughter in Australia last year when I first became aware of the Shenandoah. We were in Melbourne and learned about the ship's visit there, as well the diary of one of the men on board (Scales), which was donated to a museum in Melbourne. Had never heard this story until then and was dumbfounded.


I have just (I hope) sent you a comment. I did not, however, type the word 'cardinal into the box, not realising it's neccessity'

Have you received anything from me please. I hope so, because my comment was long and quite complicated and I don't think I may be able to reconstruct it!


If it didn't get to you, can you dig it out somehow, or is it lost forever somewhere in the ether?


Thank you so very much for letting us know. Unfortunately, your comment is lost. Please repost it so that we can help or respond in some way. 


Kelly Eubank

Government and Heritage Library


My 2nd great grandfather, Thomas Barry, may have served on the CSS Shenandoah. I am looking for a list of the crew members. Every reference I have seen only lists the officers. Tom was a licensed engineer and later served on a number of steamboats out of New Orleans, including the Robert E Lee.


Does anyone know where the Shenandoah sank? I'm interested if any one has dived the wreck? Thanks!


Actually, the CSS Shenandoah never sank. It was beached and driven aground by a sever hurricane with six other ships in the port of Zanzibar. At that pint, what was left of the ship was dismantled and lost forever.


Hi Shane,

Thanks for visiting NCpedia and sharing this question.

I have found references indicated that the CSS Shenandoah was turned over to the Royal Navy and then sold to the Sultan of Zanzibar and renamed El Majidi.  The ship was reportedly lost at sea sometime around 1872.  Unfortunately, I haven't found a vetted reference for this information.

However, here are a few books you might be interested in that may have more about the ship's history:

Baldwin, John, Last Flag Down: The Epic Journey of the Last Confederate Warship, Crown Publishers, 2007, ISBN 5-557-76085-7, Random House, Incorporated, 2007.

Chaffin, Tom, Sea of Gray: The Around-the-World Odyssey of the Confederate Raider Shenandoah, Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006. 

Schooler, Lynn, The Last Shot: The Incredible Story of the CSS Shenandoah and the True Conclusion of the Civil War, HarperCollins, 2005. 

I hope this helps!

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library

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