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“I’m a Southerner!”

Confederate cruiser CSS Shenandoah

At the end of the War for Southern Independence the English built cruiser CSS Shenandoah was on the high seas conducting her mission of commerce raiding against union shipping. It was not until October that she heard of the end of hostilities in April and returned to Liverpool and crossed the Mersey for the last time as a Confederate ship of war. Since the end of the war Charles Frances Adams had been in England on behalf of the radical republicans hysterically shrieking for massive reparations from the British government for having allowed so many capable raiders to be delivered to equally capable crews during the War of Northern Aggression.

William Conway Whittle the executive officer of CSS Shenandoah was and Annapolis graduate, the son of an Annapolis graduate, both of who resigned their commissions in the union navy to serve the cause of Southern independence

The British had no intention of ever paying any reparations – and in spite of one of the first cases of a ‘world court’ awarding same never did – but neither did the have any intention of giving casus belli to an Atlantic power that currently had the largest standing army in the world and, in spite of their inability to capture the CSS Shenandoah, one of the largest standing navies in the world.

In that unique British art of equivocation they decided to thumb their noses at Charles Francis Adams and the radical republicans while seeming to do justice. They decided to poll the crew for their nationalities. Those who were not British subjects would be released for lack of jurisdiction. Those who were British subjects would be hanged as pirates – for having served in the navy of a nation other than England.

While grappled to an English gunboat and under guard of 50 heavily armed royal marines the half starving, scurvy ridden crew was assembled on deck and it fell to William Conway Whittle to call the roll while the British captain James A. Paynter conducted the poll. To the question, “What countryman are you?” they answered to a man.

“I’m a Southerner!”

From England, from Boston, from Maine, from Australian stowaways, to lascars off whaling ships in the Arctic they were all Southerners! All credit is due to Payne – he was a mariner in the best sense of the term – for he knew there were Englishmen on board but he took all at their word and freed the lot. Prehaps he realized the greater truth since one of the proudest boasts we can still make is, “I am a Southerner!”

James A. Paynter, captain British Royal Navy, who accepted the answer, “I am a Southerner!”, from each crew member of the CSS Shenandoah thereby saving the British subjects in the crew from the gallows and allowing all to go free.

Last flag down : the epic journey of the last Confederate warship    New York : Crown Publishers, c 2007  John Baldwin and Ron Powers United States History Civil War, 1861-1865 Naval operations, Confederate, Shenandoah (Cruiser) Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. 354 p. : ill., map ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

As the Confederacy felt itself slipping beneath the Union juggernaut in late 1864, the South launched a desperate counteroffensive to shatter the U.S. economy and force a standoff. Its secret weapon? A state-of-the-art raiding ship whose mission was to prowl the world’s oceans and sink the U.S. merchant fleet. The raider’s name was Shenandoah, and her executive officer was Conway Whittle, a twenty-four-year-old warrior who might have stepped from the pages of Arthurian legend.

Whittle would share command with a dark and brooding veteran of the seas, Capt. James Waddell, and together with a crew of strays, misfits, and strangers, they would spend nearly a year sailing two-thirds of the way around the globe, destroying dozens of Union ships and taking more than a thousand prisoners, all while continually dodging the enemy.

Then, in August of 1865, a British ship revealed the shocking truth to the men of Shenandoah: The war had been over for months, and they were now being hunted as pirates.

What ensued was an incredible 15,000-mile journey to the one place the crew hoped to find sanctuary, only to discover that their fate would depend on how they answered a single question. Wondrously evocative and filled with drama and poignancy, Last Flag Down is a riveting story of courage, nobility, and rare comradeship forged in the quest to achieve the impossible.

A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, James Iredell Waddell resigned his commission in 1862 after two decades of service in the American military to accept an appointment in the Confederate States Navy. In 1864, he took command of the Confederate cruiser CSS Shenandoah with which he and his crew hunted union merchantmen around the globe until the end of 1865.


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