Shenandoah Down Under

Shenandoah Down Under Episode 44

As the Shenandoah sails further into the Southern Pacific heading for Cape Horn there is trouble aboard for Lieutenant Lee. Surely this couldn’t be worse than hearing the news that his uncle (General Lee) had surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House?No, not worse than that, but pretty close, as Sydney Smith Lee is caught smoking on watch. Within a day the Ship is embroiled in dissension, other officers are telling the Captain that they also smoke on watch, and Lieutenant Cornelius Hunt is informing the men that they are only to be paid five percent of their wages owed on the return to Liverpool (which, even if true, is unhelpful).

With this series of direct challenges to his authority what will  Captain Waddell do? Will he start out autocratic and then back down weakly? Will he dig a hole and then just keep digging?. Find out in episode 44 of Shenandoah Down Under, the one with the smoking.



Shenandoah Down Under Episode 43

As the Shenandoah continues through the Pacific on the way back to Liverpool, Captain Waddell’s behaviour grows increasingly erratic, and, to quote Surgeon Lining, things are going “from worse to worst”. First Lieutenant Debney Minor Scales is removed from his watch for the terrible crime of sleeping in, and then Lieutenant Cornelius Hunt is also removed from his command, because reasons. This leaves the ship so short of officers that the Captain takes a watch himself, a very bad state of affairs.

Rob and Mob then quote from Cornelius Hunt’s memoirs of happier times before the end of the war, when the Shenandoah captured the Abigail and it’s tremendous quantity of alcohol. On that occasion Captain Nye of the Abigail asked why the Shenandoah was so far north, and got the following reply:

“Why, the fact of the business is, Captain,” replied the officer, facetiously, ” we have entered into a treaty offensive and defensive with the whales, and are up here by special agreement to disperse their mortal enemies.”

What pretty sentiments from men now driven to bickering and fighting. Will the officers of the Ship pull themselves together? Find out in this weeks episode of Shenandoah Down Under.


Shenandoah Down Under Episode 42

After a brief hiatus, MOB and Rob return to find the CSS Shenandoah in the Pacific at the equator, still half the world away from Liverpool, their final destination. However there are none of the jolly japes of their previous crossing of the line: all of the crew are feeling ‘very blue’ as they contemplate their fate being branded pirates. To suit the sombre mood, there is a long discussion drawn from the journal of Midshipman Mason about the best way to be hung by the neck until dead. The conclusion is reached that, if it has to happen, a knot behind the neck is best. This further brings up the unfortunate case of the Lincoln conspirators, who did not have Mason’s up to the minute information.

With Mason’s diary retired hurt and depressed, some excerpts are given from the diary of Ship’s Surgeon Lining, including his account of reading “The Deerslayer” by James Fenimore Cooper, reviewed by Mark Twain as one of the worst books ever written. When Surgeon Lining has finished being transported by Cooper back to the wilds of upstate New York, he finds that Assistant Surgeon McNulty is once again giving trouble. Does this trouble involve alcohol? Find out in episode 42 of Shenandoah Down Under, the one with the drunk Assistant Surgeon!

Shenandoah Down Under Episode 41

As the Shenandoah cruises towards San Francisco, looking for intelligence before launching a frankly ambitious attack on that famous seaport, the worst of all possible news is bought to them by the English ship Barracuda. The American Civil war has been over for several months, during which time  they have taken most of their prizes in the Arctic and Alaska. Oops. Worse, the news of the Shenandoah’s depredations have reached the Yankees, and as a result they are not the most popular of fellows. The Shenandoah is now a ship without a country, without a government, without a flag, and without any firm idea what to do next. As to the prospect of being hung for pirates? As Midshipman Mason says, ‘the prospect causes a certain choking sensation in the throat.’ What will the last surviving unit of the Confederacy do next? Find out on episode 41 of Shenandoah Down Under!

Shenandoah Down Under Episode 40

As the Shenandoah travels further back into the Pacific and closer to the American mainland the weather is warmer, and the ship is travelling at a fair clip, but all is not well in the hearts of men. After a month where whaling crews have been trying to tell them, with increasing stridency that the war is over, are the crew of the Shenandoah beginning to suspect that, perhaps, the war is over?

While they ponder this question 150 years ago, Rob and Mob turn their attention to a slightly different subject. The Shenandoah took the chronometer of every prize as a trophy. Just why was the chronometer so crucial to the operations of a ship, and why did the best minds of several centuries try (and often fail) to develop a practical method of finding longtitude?

Shenandoah Down Under Episode 39

Rob and Mob interview horticulturist, eighteenth century reenactor and polymath Michael Hagen about some fascinating relics of the civil war that can still be visited today. the first of these is the Waterbury Button Company, which cheerfully made brass buttons for both sides of the American Civil War, and is still operating today at the same location using the same equipment. The second is the Charles W. Morgan, the only surviving nineteenth century whaling ship and the oldest merchant ship in the world. The Charles W. Morgan was the sister ship, built to the same plan, of the Acushnet, the whaler that Herman Melville shipped on, and that was the inspiration for the fictional Pequod in Melville’s Moby Dick.

Meanwhile, back one hundred and fifty years ago on the Shenandoah, the Master at Arms has a very very bad no good  day. Was alcohol involved? Find out on this weeks episode, the one with the drunk Master at Arms….

Shenandoah Down Under Episode 38

In part two of Rob and MOB’s interview with author and historian Chris Gidlow, Chris continues to entertainingly detail the tortuous history of the Confederate States’ attempts to design a suitable flag – one that couldn’t be confused with the Stars & Stripes on the battlefield, or look like a flag of surrender. This somewhat contentious process had not reached a satisfactory conclusion when the war, um, ended. Chris also recounts the history of the first Confederate flag to be torn down, a trend that has just recently once again become fashionable…

Back 150 years ago on the CSS Shenandoah, the ship heads back to the relative safety of the (ice-free) Pacific. Two major events ruffle the peace of onboard life. The first is Captain Waddell’s 41st birthday, planned to be celebrated by all in the finest ‘Knobby’ style, complete with roast pig, lots of liquor, and ‘splicing the mainbrace’ (so that the crew can drink the captain’s health). What could spoil this auspicious occasion? Why, the Ship’s cat could. When pussy cat is thought to have gone overboard a terrible storm erupts, just as sailors’ superstition predicts. Will the ship turn over? Will the cat be saved? Will Lieut Whittle (not a cat fancier) be convicted of being a Jonah? Find out in episode 38 of Shenandoah Down Under, the one with the cat.

Shenandoah Down Under Episode 37

In this week’s episode of Shenandoah Down Under Robert and Michael are delighted to interview author and historian Christopher Gidlow, the Live Interpretation Manager at the Historic Royal Palaces, UK (his office is actually in the Tower of London). In a wide ranging interview that naturally manages to touch on the bad false beards in American Civil War movies, Chris explains in detail the history of the Confederate flag, the same flag that is currently causing so much controversy.

Back on the CSS Shenandoah one hundred and fifty years ago, the ship has turned back from the Arctic and is heading south towards the Pacific, hoping by doing so they’ll escape the ice. Do they do this? Find out in this topical and iceberg-filled episode of Shenandoah Down Under, aka Confederate Pirates Save the Whales.

Shenandoah Down Under Episode 36

When the American Civil War comes to Alaska the officers and crew of the CSS Shenandoah have their day in the (admittedly coolish) midsummer sun. There are unsuspecting prizes aplenty, and the only thing that can save the hapless whalers is ice and fog, which tends to be rather prevalent up towards the Arctic circle.

Amid the destruction of proud ships and valuable property Executive Officer Whittle finds time for a little moral reflection on the futility of war and comes up with a noble resolution – as long as you define ‘burn them all’ as noble.

Will Midshipman Mason get to read any more of Les Miserables when he is so busy making Yankees miserable? Which captain’s widow had her ship spared because her husband’s body was on board in a barrel of whisky? Find out in episode 36 of Shenandoah Down Under, the one with the burning. . . .

Shenandoah down Under Episode 35

It is the best of times and the worst of times for the CSS Shenandoah and her crew, in a week that is so busy that they have to have two Thursdays to fit it all in (sailing back and forth over the international date line will do that). For a start they find whalers: lots and lots of whalers, in fact too many to capture all at once! There are prizes and prisoners aplenty, but the news that the whalers carry is deeply disturbing – for the first time the crew of the Shenandoah hear of the assassination of Lincoln and the surrender of Lee. What to do when you hear such grave news? Find out in this dual Thursday episode of Shenandoah Down Under.