6th November 2015 is the 150th anniversary of the last act of the American Civil War, when the CSS Shenandoah lowered its flag and surrendered in the River Mersey. Commemorations are taking place in the city, which was the home of the Confederate embassy in Britain during the war and where one of the key players and some servicemen are buried.
Although hostilities had ceased in April, the Shenandoah had continued to target Union ships off the coast of Alaska, the Captain not having known the war had ended. Knowing he faced being tried as a pirate Captain James Waddell sailed for England and on reaching the mouth of the Mersey asked to be taken to a British war vessel. After being escorted by a pilot to the HMS Donegal, where a formal surrender took place and the captain, officers and crew were taken ashore. Despite appeals by the American authorities, the British government refused to extradite any of the Shenandoah crew.
The Shenandoah had originally been called the Sea King and was purchased by James Dunwoody Bulloch in October 1864. The vessel then sailed from London apparently for India, but at Madeira was fitted out as a warship and troops taken aboard. The Union Jack was then lowered, the Stainless Banner raised and the ship then sailed to Melbourne for supplies, before hunting down whaling ships in the North Pacific and Arctic oceans.
In August 1865 Captain Waddell was shown a newspaper confirming that the war had ended by the captain of the Barracouta, a San Francisco bound ship that had sailed from of Liverpool. the flag was lowered, guns stored below deck and the Shenandoah then spent three months evading Union ships on its way to Liverpool. The Confederate flag was raised again for entry to the River Mersey on the orders of the pilot who refused to escort the ship unless it was flying one.
James Dunwoody Bulloch, who arranged the purchase of the Shenadoah, was born in 1823 in Georgia, a southern US state heavily dependent on its cotton-based economy and the slaves on its plantations. He joined the US Navy at the age of 16, but by the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, was commanding a passenger mail ship for the Cromwell Steam Company. Asked to carry Unionist soldiers being sent to the South to crush the Confederacy rebellion, Bulloch resigned his commission and enlisted in the Confederate States Navy.
Bulloch arrived in Liverpool on 4 June 1861, charged with the task of buying or building ships for the Confederate Navy to help in its struggle against the Unionists. This was a sensitive and dangerous mission as English law prohibited the supply of armed war vessels to foreign countries at war. Investigated several times for illegal activity, he managed to stay one step ahead of the authorities. He built a relationship with the shipping firm Fraser & Trenholm and worked from its offices in Rumford Place in Liverpool city centre. His role included arranging for cotton to be smuggled past the Union blockade and providing the Confederacy with its only real source of income throughout the conflict.
In 1862, he commissioned the building of the CSS Alabama from John Laird Sons & Company (Cammell Laird, Birkenhead). This was used successfully for commerce raiding, attacking Union merchant ships and disrupting trade. After the collapse of the Confederacy the US authorities never forgave Bulloch for his role in the Civil War. He chose to remain in Liverpool, living out his days as a successful cotton importer and broker. During the war he had lived in Waterloo but he later moved to Toxteth, living at 30 Sydenham Avenue. He died at his son-in-law’s home at 76 Canning Street in 1901 at the age of 77 and is buried in Toxteth Cemetery.
The sesquicentennial of the Shenandoah surrender is being commemorated in Liverpool, events including a service of remembrance at the Church of Our Lady and St Nicholas on 6th November and a dinner at the Adelphi Hotel on 7th November. On the same say at Anfield Crematorium a service of remembrance is being held, commemorating the three Shenandoah crew members buried in the cemetery there.