Shenandoah Down Under

Shenandoah Down Under Episode 53

All good things have to come to an end, and in  this final, elegiac bittersweet episode of Shenandoah Down Under Rob and Mob follow the story of the Shenandoah to where so many good stories end, the courtroom. First, Mob recounts the history over 53 episodes of this now award winning podcast*, Shenandoah Down Under. Rob follows up with the final bit of the story, as much as any story ever ends. This episode examines the history of the Alabama Claims tribunal, that met in 1872 to try and resolve legal liability for the depredations of the confederate raiders. Why does the Hotel-de-Ville in Switzerland  have sloping ramps instead of staircases? Where is the worlds longest wooden bench? Why was Sir Alexander Cockburn considered insane by Charles Francis Adams? Find out on this weeks (maybe) final episode of Shenandoah Down Under, the podcast with more Shenandoah than any of the others.


*WARNING. Listening to a history podcast about the history podcast itself may cause dizzyness in listeners intolerant of metaphoric recursion

Shenandoah Down Under Episode 52

In this, the 52nd and final episode in the ‘regular season’ of the Shenandoah Down Under podcast, Rob and MOB discuss the fate of the officers of the Shenandoah after the American Civil War (we’ll go on to discuss the ruinously expensive Alabama Claims in our forthcoming “Christmas Special”)

Branded as “pirates” and unable to return the US, heading south of the border proved to be a popular option. Fortunately for Mr Whittle and his fellow sailors, their comically unsuccessful attempts at farming in Argentina only had to last until lobbying in the halls of Washington DC finally got them all reprieves.

Which officers later became lawyers with rather more success? And which Captain was later recruited by the Maryland State Fisheries, finding glory at last in the so-called “Maryland Oyster War”? Did the oyster pirates flee in terror from the grizzled Confederate veteran as he attacked their boats with a bow-mounted howitzer?

Find out in this end-of-season episode of Shenandoah Down Under, the one where Captain Waddell says for the final time “burn them, burn them all!”


Shenandoah Down Under Episode 50

All things come to an end, and the 50th episode of Shenandoah Down Under sees the end drawing very close… months after the war has ended, the last Confederate cruiser slips quietly into into English territorial waters, and is therefore unlikely to be taken by a US gunboat.
This means the ship’s company can be paid off. But instead of the “buckets of gold” promised by Captain Waddell at the beginning of the adventure, each man receives the princely sum of one dollar for every seven owed. Executive Officer Whittle’s journal receives its last forlorn entry on this news, but Surgeon Lining remains an ever-reliable source of both gossip and medical details. And what of Sergeant Canning, the mysteriously ailing Englishman and putative survivor of Shiloh? Will he breath his last, just as they are returning to his homeland? Find out in this significant episode of Shenandoah Down Under.

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 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.

Shenandoah Down Under Episode 34

With the Shenandoah unable to proceed any further into the Sea of Okhotsk, the crew reluctantly abandons Siberian waters and start sailing out through the Kuril Straits, and towards the Arctic Circle. For three weeks there has been only one prize. The Officers are muttering about the captain, the mates are fighting duels (sort of) in steerage, and Captain Waddell is no doubt getting buttock clenching practice as he navigates his ship through fog without hitting ice or land. But what is that off in the distance? Is it a fleet of sails. No, it’s a fleet of whales! And if there are whales, can whalers be far away?

Shenandoah Down Under Episode 32

After a month of little excitement, the CSS Shenandoah captures the whaler Abigail, in the Okhotsk Sea off the coast of Siberia. The Abigail is carrying twenty barrels of whale oil, but also has fifty barrels of brandy, rum, whiskey and gin, together with 180 cases of ‘assorted spirits, wines and ciders’ on board. To make things plain, that is a lot more liquor than whale oil. Quite what Captain Nye of the Abigail was doing with so much alcohol has been lost to history, but it was labelled, ‘for medicinal purposes only’, so clearly he was careful of the health of his crew and of the local Inuit.

There must have been a lot of sick people on board the Shenandoah, because for the next four days there was (quote), “Hell to pay among the crew.” When Sherman said ‘War is hell”, he probably wasn’t thinking about this….


Shenandoah Down Under Episode 28

As the CSS Shenandoah scuds north, towards towards the Russian sea of Okhotsk (not to be confused with toddlers fashion label Oskosh Bigosh) they look in vain for a sail on the ‘China Path’, the route between San Francisco and the Orient. With not a prize in sight, Midshipman Mason wrestles with one of the most difficult parts of the sailors life – making himself a new pair of pants.

150 years later, Rob and MOB recount some of the strange tales found in “Leviathan, the History of Whaling in America”, by Eric Jay Dolin, including the epic tale of the great stone fleet. This was the Yankee’s plan to blockade the harbours of the South, using sunken whaling ships to block the harbour channels. What happens when BOTH sides of the Civil War are busy sinking Whaling ships? Find out in episode 28 of Shenandoah Down Under, the one with the pants.