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Sea of Gray: The Around-the-World Odyssey of the Confederate Raider Shenandoah Paperback – May 29, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When the Union navy blockaded Southern ports during the Civil War, the Confederates dispatched commercial raiders to prey on private Union ships. One of these raiders was the C.S.S. Shenandoah, a British auxiliary steamer purchased by Confederate agents and refitted as a man-of-war. Chaffin (Pathfinder; Fatal Glory) recounts the Shenandoah's round-the-world journey in a compelling narrative based upon Civil War–era logbooks, journals, letters and memoirs. Commissioned to lay waste to New England's Pacific whaling fleet, the Shenandoah sailed from Liverpool in 1864. Thirteen months and 58,000 miles later, it sailed back. Along the way, the ship survived storms, ice jams and a near mutiny while capturing 40 Union vessels, taking 1,053 prisoners and destroying cargo valued in 1865 at $1.4 million. En route to the Bering Sea when the war ended in April 1865, the Shenandoah continued to fight until June for lack of " 'reliable evidence.' " Thereafter, it dodged capture as it raced for the safety of a British port. Sure to satisfy Civil War and nautical fans, Chaffin's history describes these adventures in gratifying detail. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Chaffin chronicles the remarkable story of the Shenandoah's 58,000-mile voyage around the world during the Civil War. Along the way, it sunk 32 Union merchant and whaling ships heavily laden with cargo, including brandy, rum, and whiskey. After the vessel rounded Africa's Cape of Good Hope, it stopped in Australia and then navigated the ice floes of Siberia's Sea of Okhotsk, the Bering Sea, and the Arctic Ocean--much of it through gales, ice fields, subfreezing temperatures, fog, and rain. The ship's crew hoped to destroy the Yankees' western Arctic whaling fleet, but four months after the war ended, the Shenandoah's captain learned that he had been fighting a war "without cause or state." He had gone from being an enemy combatant to a pirate, an offense that could get him hanged. He camouflaged the vessel, circumnavigated the globe, and attempted to surrender in England. Chaffin drew on hundreds of original documents in researching this riveting narrative of one episode of the Civil War. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; 1st edition (May 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809085046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809085040
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #712,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Historian Tom Chaffin recently published two new books--"Giant's Causeway: Frederick Douglass's Irish Odyssey and the Making of an American Visionary" and "Met His Every Goal? James K. Polk and the Legends of Manifest Destiny." (For more information, please visit:www.tomchaffin.com) The author of four other books, Chaffin, who was born and grew up in Atlanta, spent his early professional years in journalism, living in, among other places, New York City, San Francisco, and Paris. His writings have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Time, Harper's, the Oxford American, and other publications. He is also a frequent contributor to the New York Times' acclaimed "Disunion" series on the American Civil War. In 2012, he was a Fulbright fellow in Ireland. Chaffin lives in Atlanta.(author photo copyright ©2014 by Meta Larsson).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"Just as war will have its heroes and its tragedies, so, inevitably, will it have its ironies," writes Tom Chaffin in _Sea of Gray: The Around-the-World Odyssey of the Confederate Raider Shenandoah_ (Hill and Wang). The story of the _Shenandoah_ is full of ironies. From October 1864 to November 1865, she had what could look like an extraordinary successful voyage. She was the only Confederate ship to circumnavigate the globe, logging 58,000 miles. She destroyed 32 vessels belonging to Yankees, ransomed six others, took over a thousand prisoners, and gained over a million dollars in prizes. She safely got back to port at the end of her conquests. Of course the cause for the Confederacy was doomed, but the _Shenandoah_'s story is especially ironic; her greatest conquests happened after Lee had surrendered to Grant, so that the cause dear to her sailors' hearts simply did not exist as they fought for it. It is a unique story and a sad one, and while the irony is thick, Chaffin has not forgotten to tell a rousing tale of the sea, full of battles, heroism, confusion, storms, and starvation.

The Confederacy's sea strategy was to destroy Union merchant ships by privateers, private vessels that would prey on the commercial fleet, cost the Union in ships and cargoes lost, and cause Union military ships to be drawn from other theaters of war to protect the endangered merchantmen. The _Shenandoah_ was converted from a collier to a gunship, secretly at sea. The captain, James Waddell, a graduate of the relatively new Naval Academy at Annapolis, was given the vaguest of orders. His men were to harass Union merchantmen, to take prisoners and prizes, and to sink or burn the evacuated vessels. Captives were left at the next port of call, and some were persuaded to join the _Shenandoah_'s crew.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book will make a great movie; it has it all, real history made exciting, character studies, naval battles, survival, enchanted islands and alluring women, little known Civil War information, international intrigue, lessons in leadership, raging storms, nautical commerce,and all this is true stuff; it seems like pure fiction but all the sources and documentation are in the back. I look forward to seeing this on the silver screen and the sooner the better.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Art Vandenberg on April 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Tom Chaffin's "Sea of Gray" puts you right on deck, smelling the sea, hearing the wash of the bow wave, tasting the salt spray. Having grown up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, this book brought me a beautiful evocation and reminder of life on the water. Mr. Chaffin relates wonderful details of an incredible chapter of the American Civil War: intrigue around the world, hidden coves, tactics and strategy, treasure and bounty, gallantry toward the foe, even lost civilizations. It's a testament to real-life's ability to match any imagined fantasy. Tom Chaffin's command of language and the facts, details and nuances of historical events brings this real-life experience vividly to life.

A fine, quality volume with maps of the voyage, pictures and engravings make this a truly satisfying read and a complete experience. The end plates - schematics of the Shenadoah's hull and decks and its sail plan - are especially wonderful, satisfying extras. This is a great book about a true adventure, evocatively written, a finely told tale.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Late Reader on June 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sea of Gray is simply the most complete and best written account of a Civil War event that I have read. I came away from this book feeling that I knew what day to day life on the Shenandoah was like. Mr. Chaffin's ability to reveal the minutia of the Civil War era sailor's toils and troubles is unsurpassed. It brought back many memories of my days at sea while serving in the U. S. Navy. Indeed, Mr. Chaffin is a master storyteller. I wholeheartedly recommend this book . . . a BIG 5 stars!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Tuan Robo on March 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The February 1996 issue of Civil War magazine featured "The Civil War 200," contributing writher Gary W. Gallagher's list of texts "worthy of inclusion in any student's library." I used that list as a guideline when I began assembling my own Civil War library. While I haven't seen if Gallagher has updated his list, I would definitely include Tom Chaffin's Sea of Gray: The Around-The-World Odyssey of the Confederate Raider Shenandoah, on my own list.

In Sea of Gray, Chaffin presents an account of the C.S.S. Shenandoah, the last of the Confederate commerce raiders. Over two months after the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered and more than a month after Federal troops captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis at Irwinville, Georgia, the Shenandoah was making war on the Union merchant marine, in particular New England's lucrative Arctic whaling fleet, ultimately becoming the only Confederate vessel to circumnavigate the globe.

Whereas many histories of shilps begin with dry discussions of shipbuilders and docks, Sea of Gray begins as a cloak-and-dagger tale of the Liverpudlian intrigues of Southern agent James Bulloch and U.S. Consul Thomas H. Dudley as the Confederate Navy seeks to navigate the labyrinth of legal obstacles involved in getting a British-built shilp to sea and fitted for war.

What then follows is a nautical adventure led by James Waddell, Shenandoah's seemingly unadventurous skipper. Chaffin examines the conflicts between Waddell and his officers. He also chronicles the constant struggle to recruit sailors for a ship plagued by low morale on a dangerous mission for a nation whose survival seems doomed.
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