The Civil War Ended in Alaska?
There are a lot of great reasons to live in Alaska. Among them, is not getting dragged into emotional debates based on our history -- or lack of it.
For example, as the South struggles with the debate over whether to tear down monuments to the Confederacy, there’s nothing in Alaska for us to decide. We have the occasional war of words over the display of the Confederate battle flag, but other than that, we’ve got no connection with the war between the states, because we weren’t a state at the time.
So the Civil War -- not really a factor here in the Last Frontier. With one small exception. Historians tell us the last shot of the Civil War was fired across the bow of a Yankee Whaler in the waters of the Bering Sea.
The 230-foot Confederate ship Shenandoah was the most feared raider of its time. In the final year of the war, she captured 38 Union merchant ships, sinking and burning most of them.
With most Northern cargo ships scared out of the water, the Shenandoah went hunting for Yankee whalers in the Bering Sea, and the hunting was good.
On one day alone, she captured and burned nine whalers -- among the 22 taken in Alaska waters in the summer of 1865. All of them destroyed 14 weeks after General Robert E. Lee surrendered in Virginia.
After learning of the War’s end from a ship they were about to attack, the Shenandoah lowered its colors, sailed to England and surrendered.
In her one-year campaign, she captured more than 1,000 Union sailors, without harming a single one. To my knowledge, there’s no monument to the Shenandoah. It’s just an overlooked footnote in the Civil War history books.
For me, the most enduring legacy of the Civil War has been in evidence this past week in Texas and Louisiana. Volunteers from every corner of the country, including our fellow Alaskans, pulling together to rescue and shelter their fellow Americans -- one country, Indivisible.
We can debate Confederate monuments and battle flags later, but right now, the debate just doesn’t seem that important.