Accounts of the loss of whaling vessels during the Civil War

May 13, 2010

CIvil War Confederate Merchant Raiders


I'm doing some research about the loss of whaling vessels during the Civil War and am particularly interested in first hand accounts from any of these encounters. I am particularly interested in whalers out of New England and the two raiders Alabama and Shenandoah. It may help you to know that I am writing for an audience of 4th-6th graders studying whaling history for whom personal accounts tend to make history much more accessible.

Do you have any suggestions for sources I might tap for personal accounts (aside from the Library of Congress
which I am tapping already)?

Any guidance would be appreciated.

Thank You, Jennifer Estabrook


Two books about CSS Shenandoah I have found useful are:

Sea of Gray: The Around-the-World Odyssey of the Confederate Raider Shenandoah
By Tom Chaffin Publisher: Hill and Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2006.


Morgan, M Confederate Raider in th North Pacific. The Saga of the CSS Shenandoah, 1864-65.
Washington State University Press, Pullman, Washington. 1995.

If you go to this URL:

CSS Shenandoah on my AHOY site you will find my piece on the Shenandoah's history, it names a number of the whalers caught and sunk in the North Pacific by Captain Waddell, some after the Civil War had actually been concluded, but that news was not available to Shenandoah until she captured some newspapers with a report of the end of the war therein.

CSS Shenandoah high and dry on the slip at Williamstown,
a suburb of my own city of Melbourne. February, 1865
  US Naval Historical Center Photograph Shenandoah on the Williamstown slip in February of 1865.

See this URL:
CSS Alabama for Alabama's story on AHOY.

Useful sites: http://www.lionsgrip.com/famshenandoah.html





I probably have not been of much help for your project, but trust it helps a little.

Best wishes,


I very much appreciate your quick reply. I have the Chaffin book and am reading The Lost Fleet by Marc Songini which is also a great resource. The link to the journals of officers from the Shenandoah is particularly helpful because the excerpts give a taste for the character of the men involved and the authentic language is so much more alive than a third party re-telling. I just love the way the Doctor describes the overtaking of the Edward...  "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 that pond just then. So the whaling barque Edward, of New Bedford, went up in flame and smoke.  That's language any 6th grader can relate to!

In any case, the other link that was exciting to me is the one about Lincoln's letter.

Sharing images of primary source documents with children is the next best thing to having them handle the actual documents themselves and this is a great source.

Your site is quite a treasure trove and I've read and re-read the Marauders piece and followed many leads from

Thank you so much for your help,

Jennifer Estabrook

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