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The CSS Shenandoah: The History of the Famous Confederate Raider That Surrendered over Half a Year After the Civil War Ended

Narrated by: Scott Clem
Length: 1 hr and 33 mins
5 out of 5 stars (1 rating)
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Publisher's Summary

After the first year of the Civil War, the Confederacy was faced with a serious problem. While the South had enjoyed some stunning victories on land, they had been all but cut off from the world at sea. The more industrialized North had realized that in case of an extended war, the best way to defeat the Confederacy was to starve it of supplies. The rebels started the war with no real navy to speak of, and so the federal government quickly set up a blockade of all Southern ports and river mouths. By depriving the South of revenues derived from its main export, cotton, the North seriously injured the Southern economy.

Without European intervention and the ability to build a navy that could rival the Union’s, the Confederacy was mostly reduced to token resistance and using fast-moving ships that could evade the blockade and import and export goods. Again, that was only partially successful, and today, the blockade runners are better known for their extracurricular activities; most notably, some of the crews also acted as privateers on the high seas, attacking US shipping and taking any loot for themselves. The daring exploits of these commerce raiders caught the imagination of Southern soldiers and civilians and buoyed up morale, even as the war news turned increasingly grim.

Given how deadly the war was, what makes the history of the CSS Shenandoah, the last ship of the Civil War to surrender, all the more remarkable is that it was one of the only forces not to inflict casualties. It is also an intriguing story, for it begins with a tale of spies at work in England. There, the Sea King was purchased and became a different type of ship with a different name, rigged for fighting and rebranded the CSS Shenandoah

Of course, the Shenandoah was also responsible for millions of dollars’ worth of destruction to private civilians’ property, actions the Confederates justified in late 1864 by pointing to the total war promoted by General Ulysses S. Grant, and especially General William Tecumseh Sherman, who was cutting a wide swathe through Georgia around the time the Shenandoah set sail from Liverpool in late 1864. As Sherman completed the March to the Sea, Lieutenant Commander James Waddell aboard the Shenandoah drove whalers from their ships, took their cargo, and then destroyed their vessels. 

In the end, it was not what the Shenandoah did that made it controversial so much as when it did it, because thanks to the painfully slow communications of the 19th century, the crew of the ship wrought some of the most serious damage in the weeks after the war was over. 

The CSS Shenandoah: The History of the Famous Confederate Raider That Surrendered over Half a Year After the Civil War Ended examines how the legendary ship preyed on Union shipping across the globe during and after the war. You will learn about the CSS Shenandoah like never before.

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

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