Confederate Raiders, cont.

The Confederate warships or raiders that did the most damage to New England whaleships were named the CSS Alabama and the CSS Shenandoah. The Alabama destroyed over a dozen whaling vessels cruising off the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean while the Shenandoah captured almost forty whaleships in the Pacific Ocean. An officer aboard the Shenandoah wrote in his journal, describing his delight at the sight of an oil-soaked vessel set on fire: One day we overhauled a New Bedford whaler attached to a whale. It was the case of the big fish eating up the little one, and we were the largest in the pond just then. So the whaling barque Edward… went up in flame and smoke.Whaleships, with their greasy wooden hulls and flammable cargoes of oil, burned easily.

Captains of the Alabama and Shenandoah used tactics that caused the greatest damage to New England whaleships with the least risk to themselves. Flying the American flag, Confederate warships sailed close to whalers. Once the whaling bark had no easy means of escape, the military captains surprised the whalemen by raising the Confederate flag and demanding immediate surrender. The whaling captain and his crew, suddenly aware of their vulnerability, surrendered without fighting. They became Confederate prisoners and typically boarded the enemy ship.

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Jim Richardson