The cruise of a ship is a biography. The ship becomes a personification. She not only, “walks the waters like a thing of life,” but she speaks in moving accents to those capable of interpreting her. But her interpreter must be a seaman, and not a landsman.
Admiral Raphael Semmes CSN
From the Preface: The officers of the CSS Shenandoah, along with those who sent them and those who confronted them, left an abundance of first person accounts. This embarrassment of riches in primary sources generated a daunting, but enriching, task of editing. And so, this tale can be told almost exclusively by those who lived it.
The accounts are concentrated in four personal cruise journals, two memoirs, exhaustive official documentation of post-war claims against Great Britain for supporting Confederate commerce raiders, the ever-useful Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, and contemporary newspapers. Collectively, these sources provide virtually every contemporary word written by those involved in or concerned about the events described.
The author has attempted to edit, condense, collate, paraphrase, and quote their words into a consistent narrative elucidating those events and times (as much as can be imagined) from their perspectives, and leaving judgments to the reader.
Secondary sources contribute background and context not provided by direct participants. The author’s personal training and experiences have proved helpful in clarifying the esoteric life at sea for those not familiar with it. His historical judgments beyond a love of the naval service, the sea, ships, and their history are, it is hoped, few and easily identified.
The objective of this book is to provide an entertaining and educational story not only for naval and maritime history enthusiasts, but also for anyone who would enjoy a fresh perspective on the Civil War, even if they have never looked at it from across the water.