• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 33s

Story Time w/ Aunt Phil: Civil War in the Bering Sea

By Laurel Downing Bill 3:10 PM June 19, 2017

Two years before the United States purchased Alaska, and almost two months after the Confederate Army stopped fighting on land, the last gun of the Civil War was fired in the Bering Sea.

In late spring 1865, a Confederate ship named The Shenandoah had slipped into Alaska waters in search of whalers. The commerce raider’s mission was to cripple the whale oil industry, which was essential for modern life in the nation’s growing cities. America ran on whale oil back in the day, so it would be like destroying petroleum tankers today.

Not knowing that the war had ended in Appomattox 74 days earlier, Capt. James Waddell, commander of the English-built vessel, fired upon several whalers near St. Lawrence Island on June 22. Vessels flying British, French and Hawaiian flags were inspected and let pass, but American whalers were seized.

For several days, The Shenandoah captured many American ships. The captain put the prisoners into small whaleboats, tied the boats end to end, hooked them to The Shenandoah and then pulled them along behind him.

On June 28, he hit the mother load when they came across a whaler that had crashed into ice. It was surrounded by about a dozen other whalers participating in an auction of the valuable whale oil and bone on board the stricken ship.

Waddell burned all but two of the ships, which he left intact to carry all his prisoners. The whalers’ captains showed Waddell newspapers that announced Robert E. Lee’s surrender and told him the war had ended in April. But Waddell presumed the war was continuing on other fronts.

The Shenandoah then sailed down the Aleutian Chain and set a course for the coast of California. On Aug. 2, just 13 days out of San Francisco, she overtook the English bark Barracouta. That’s when the crew learned that Lincoln was dead, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was a prisoner and the war really was over.

Waddell also learned that most rebel soldiers had received a pardon, but he and his crew were to be caught and hung for decimating the American whaling industry and causing insurance rates for American shippers to skyrocket. Many went out of business. British shippers bought up American cargo ships for pennies on the dollar and ruled the waves until the age of U-boats.

Capt. Waddell managed to escape the noose with his ship and crew intact.  With every navy in the world looking for him, he still managed to race across three oceans without being detected and dropped anchor in Mersey off Liverpool, England, on Nov. 6 – 123 days after leaving the Aleutians – and thus escaped prosecution.

During its 13-month saga with the Confederate Navy, The Shenandoah covered around 60,000 miles, captured and burned dozens of Yankee ships, including 25 after the war was over, and captured more than 1,000 sailors. And all without a single casualty on either side!

 

Latest Stories

  • Politics

    Immigration law experts react to SCOTUS decision on travel ban

    by Steffi Lee on Jun 26, 20:40

    The Supreme Court of the United States will hear full arguments on President Donald Trump’s travel ban on six Muslim-majority countries while letting parts of it go into effect. The decision came down Monday. It impacts foreign nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In the 9-0 ruling, justices will not allow the ban […]

  • Politics

    Impasse on oil tax bill stalls special session

    by Liz Raines on Jun 26, 20:33

    Lawmakers are still in special session, but only a handful are in Juneau. The capitol building will likely stay empty for the rest of the week, perhaps longer. That’s because Gov. Bill Walker has only put one item on the agenda– and it isn’t the one either side wanted. Lawmakers were expecting to take up […]

  • News

    Klatt Road roundabout design concerns some drivers

    by Heather Hintze on Jun 26, 17:54

    Drivers in South Anchorage are learning to navigate a new roundabout. Alaska Department of Transportation crews spent more than one month constructing a new traffic circle at the intersection of West Klatt Road and Johns Road. Some people took to social media to voice their complaints about the roundabout’s design, saying the concrete barriers in […]

  • News

    State gets approval for survey work for Cold Bay roadway

    by Lauren Maxwell on Jun 26, 17:49

    Governor Walker announced Monday the state has received permission to begin survey work that could lead to a road between King Cove and Cold Bay. Walker said he got a personal phone call Monday morning from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke letting him know the state could begin survey work to seek a route with the […]

  • News

    2 Marines badly burned in ground flash fire on U.S. base

    by CBS News on Jun 26, 15:13

    MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. — A ground flash fire on Marine Corps Air Station Miramar injured two Marines performing aircraft maintenance on an F/A-18 Sunday night, base officials say. The region has been experiencing extremely high temperatures, notes CBS San Diego affiliate KFMB-TV. “Both Marines are currently being treated for severe burns at […]

  • News

    Duck pond at Cuddy Park is much cleaner

    by Lauren Maxwell on Jun 26, 13:50

    A “Don’t Feed the Birds” campaign seems to be making a difference when it comes to the duck pond at Cuddy Park. Thom Eley with the Anchorage Waterways Council said levels of fecal coliform, the bacteria that comes from bird feces, is normally sky-high this time of year, but two recent tests show the levels […]

  • Man wanted for failing to appear on assault charge

    by KTVA Web Staff on Jun 26, 13:47

    A 19-year-old man is wanted by Anchorage Police for failing to appear in court. Dominik Lacell Spivey has an outstanding warrant for failure to appear related to an assault charge from last March. Spivey is described as 5-foot-10, weighing 170 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. If you have information on his whereabouts, you’re asked […]

  • Humpback whale breaches super-close to boat off NJ coast

    by CBS News on Jun 26, 13:22

    A New Jersey man videotaped a humpback whale surging out of the water right alongside his small fishing boat last week, and the footage has gone viral. The whale showed up in the waters just a mile or so off the northern coast of New Jersey. Paul Ziolkowski, of Union Beach, caught the moment on […]