- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 4, 2003

The sinking of the CSS Alabama by the USS Kearsarge outside France's Cherbourg Harbor in June 1864 was a severe blow to the Confederacy in a year when there was little to inspire optimism in the South.
Under Raphael Semmes' capable if flamboyant command, the Alabama had done more than any other raider to spread terror and destruction among the Union's mercantile shipping. The Alabama, however, had gotten into a fight she would have been wise to avoid, and now she was but a memory.
Could a worthy successor be found? In Liverpool, England, Capt. James Bulloch, who by devious means had bought the Alabama for the Confederate navy back in 1862, was sure one could. He wasted no time looking for one.
He chose the Sea King, a British merchant vessel not only fully rigged, but equipped with a screw that could be raised. Whether under sail or in steam, she was a fast ship and just what the Confederates needed. Bulloch used an English merchant captain as his purchasing agent, hoping to avoid the eagle eye of the ever-watchful Charles Francis Adams, U.S. minister to Britain, who was surprisingly well-liked there despite his steely determination to enforce British neutrality.
The Confederate navy now had its ship, but who was to command her? The choice fell on James Iredell Waddell, whose career up to that time had been undistinguished. Born in Pittsboro, N.C., in 1824, he had been appointed a midshipman in 1841. He soon fought a duel with another middy, receiving a hip wound that gave him a permanent limp.
Waddell was sent to the East India Squadron, but in December 1861, he married the daughter of James Iglehart, a fervent secessionist. This may have been the reason Waddell tendered his resignation, although he was not hostile to the Union. Whatever his motive, the Navy Department rejected his resignation and dismissed him. In March 1862, Waddell became a first lieutenant In the Confederate navy.
He saw action at Drewry's Bluff, Va., in May 1864, a battle in which Gen. Benjamin Butler hardly covered himself with glory by retreating before he was defeated and then getting himself bottled up. Waddell's big moment came in October, however, when he was ordered to run the blockade and take command of the Shenandoah, as the Sea King had been renamed. Now well-armed, she had become a Confederate fighting vessel on Oct. 19. At first undermanned, she quickly recruited all the crew she needed.
A formidable raider, the last of her kind, she began her grim task, never destroying as much shipping as had the Alabama but wreaking havoc nevertheless. She set a course for Australia, and on the way took several prizes, all of which were burned. Arriving at Melbourne, she received permission to use a private dock for much-needed repairs, having convinced the somewhat suspicious port authorities that she had no British subjects aboard, which would have been a breach of neutrality.
Once again shipshape, the Shenandoah sailed away on Feb. 8, 1865, bound for the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean. There she almost destroyed the whaling fleet. The climax came on June 28, when eight vessels were torched at the same time. It was Waddell's last act of aggression. Although he had no means of knowing it, he had been sinking ships after the war was over. He would be in an unenviable position were he to fall into Union hands.
Waddell decided to go to California next, but on Aug. 2, he encountered the Baracouta, whose British captain told him the Confederacy had surrendered and President Jefferson Davis was under arrest. That ruled out California, but the Shenandoah had to go somewhere; the chances of good treatment for all who had sailed her were remote were she to go to the States.
Waddell decided he would surrender to the British. On his way to Merseyside, he dismounted his guns and did his best to make the Shenandoah look as little like a raider as possible. At Liverpool on Nov. 6, he lowered his flag, making history as the last CSS armed vessel to do so.
An infuriated Adams wanted blood. He argued that the captain and crew were pirates and demanded that they be arrested. This the British government refused to do. Then he tried to have Waddell alone charged with piracy. Again, he was rebuffed. The decision was made that no British subjects were aboard the Shenandoah, and officers and crew were given their freedom.
The British government's decidedly lax attitude to the rules of neutrality was to cost the country dearly. After some initial haggling, the U.S. government's original demand of close to $20 million was reduced to $15.5 million paid as compensation for the loss of U.S. shipping caused by Confederate raiders.
The U.S. government also received possession of the Shenandoah, which was then sold to the sultan of Zanzibar and in 1879 went down in the Indian Ocean.
Waddell, last of the Confederacy's far-ranging raiding skippers, died in 1886.
Peter Cliffe writes from Hertfordshire, England. A retired administrator for a multinational company, he became a student of the Civil War while in this country.

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