- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: University Alabama Press; 6th ed. edition (May 8, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0817314512
- ISBN-13: 978-0817314514
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,331,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Voyage of the CSS Shenandoah: A Memorable Cruise 6th ed. Edition
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The journal kept by Whittle on board the Confederate States Steamer Shenandoah was found in the 1980s by his granddaughter, Mary Whittle Chapman, in her grandfather's attic. It consists of 300 pages of daily entries, plus 5 pages of prayers. The entries cover most of the voyage of the cruiser, deployed to prey on Union ships in the Pacific Ocean during the Civil War. Lt. Whittle, the executive officer, was responsible for directing the crew's work and maintaining discipline during the 13 months at sea. The journal was begun on October 21, 1864, and ended on November 3, 1865. An informative 44-page introduction by D. Alan Harris and Anne B. Harris offers background on the ship, the crew, their diet (mostly salt horse, beans, and salt pork), and the games they played (chess, backgammon, dominoes, and whist). The book brings a little-known event in Civil War history vividly to life. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Journal of Southern History
Students of the Confederate Navy will want this volume for its detailed observations of an historic, albeit strategically sterile, cruise and its insights into the personnel and operations of the service. For others, it will provide both authentic seagoing adventure and food for thought on the nature of command at sea.”
Civil War Book Review
Civil War News
All told, The Voyage of the CSS Shenandoah is a good read, very well annotated, and a must for anyone interested in Civil War or Confederate naval history. It will no doubt take a rightful place as a cornerstone volume in the study of Confederate naval history.”
International Journal of Naval History
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Whittle's journal is composed of numerous short entries, interspersed with some longer ones. Each has basic data of temperature, wind, the days sailing, longitude and latitude. The journal shows him to be a good officer (he was executive officer). He also fairly frequently describes disciplining crew members--usually for small offenses such as drunkenness, disrespect and now and then, refusal to do their duty. Punishments were usually being clapped in irons, sometimes gagging; Whittle repeatedly observes that sailors had to be shown that lack of discipline would be punished quickly, as a way of keeping the crew effective. Yet he also often praises the ship's company as a fine bunch.
The journal also shows him a man of his times, concerned with honor and later in the voyage wishing he was a Christian (presumably meaning he wises he had been formally born again in a church ashore). He also shows a romantic side, often mentioning longing for his sweetie and describing reading on Sunday from a religious book she had given him. He may also have bee a bit of a prude, not mentioning anything sexual despite the ship being in port and much of the crew ashore, in Melbourne and again on a Pacific island. The ship appears to have been exceptionally healthy, losing only two men, very late in the voyage, from illness. They overall ate well--from their second prize they got 2,000 pounds of canned tomatoes and 600 of canned lobster, as well as furniture and coal.
One odd juxtaposition is he repeatedly excoriates Yankees as money grubbers devoid of honor, and yet has no trouble flying the British flag to lull prospective prizes, even lying (he mentions "fibs") in the cause. The journal also offers details of a long voyage at sea in all kinds of weather, including storms, ice, sleet, and very dangerous waters (such as the Bering Strait). You read of his feeling bored and then of the excitement of taking Yankee ships. Prisoners were generally well-treated, most of them sent on their way in prizes "bonded" rather than burned at sea.
One entry is unusually interesting. A born Virginian, he held the typical views about race common to that time, but on July 4, 1865 in an extended entry on the birth of the nation and how the Yankees have perverted the institutions (arguments identical to some circulating today), he says he'd rather be ruled by the President of Liberia than by Yankees, and that "let us free and arm our slaves." They got definite news of the South's defeat on a ship sailing from San Francisco, on August 2, 1865 (they had intended the ship as another prize). From that point the journal is concerned with returning, avoiding probably Yankee vengeance and wondering how his family in Virginia were surviving. The Shenandoah was at sea after this for an extended period, having disarmed itself and sailing to Britain (the officers had debated between Britain and South Africa).
This ship was purchased in England, converted to a raider, and set sail for the pacific ocean with 42 men on board (a ship of this size would normally need a crew of 150). From October 8, 1864 until two months after the war was over (no communications) the Shenandoah captured thirty-eight Yankee vessels valued at over one million dollars. After the war she sailed back to England.
Lt. Whittle's diary varies from short position reports with the direction of the winds, to reports of the ships captured, and other activities. Surprising to me was the constant referencing to the weather -- important if you're in a sailing ship, but not something I realized. Almost every entry begins with the two words "At sea." The Shenandoah didn't spend much time in port, the longest was a visit to Melbourne, Australia for about a month.
Lt. Whittle's writing is clear and to the point. You are left with a better understanding of what it was like to operate a warship during these, the last days of sail.