The full-rigged sailing ship known as Sea King was a British merchant ship that was re-purposed as a raiding ship by the Confederate States Navy during the Civil War. The ship was renamed CSS Shenandoah and was deployed to raid Union commercial ships in the Pacific Ocean. Captain James Waddell served as the ship’s captain and commander.
For a full year the ship terrorized Union commercial ships around the globe. All told, it either captured, sunk, or bonded (captured and held for ransom) a total of 38 Union ships. In particular, the ship reeked havoc among the whaling fleets that sailed the waters of the Bering Sea between Siberia and Alaska. Those waters had beforehand provided safety for Union ships, but the CSS Shenandoah’s arrival there changed that quickly as the Shenandoah captured 20 of the 58 Union ships that sailed those waters during the summer of 1865.
The tragic thing, however, about all the CSS Shenandoah’s success during that time was the fact that General Robert E. Lee had surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant months earlier, on April 14, 1865. That surrender, in effect, had ended the Civil War as over the next few weeks all the other Confederate forces had surrendered as well.
Interestingly, Captain Waddell first heard about Lee’s surrender by way of the captain of the Union ship Susan & Abigail. On June 27, 1865, after the CSS Shenandoah had captured that ship, the ship’s captain showed Waddell an article from a San Francisco newspaper. The article told how the Confederate government had been forced to flee from the city of Richmond, Virginia, two and a half months earlier. While Waddell was inclined to believe the report of the Confederacy’s defeat, he chose to fixate upon a quote the article featured from Confederate President Jefferson Davis. That quote from Davis proclaimed that the war should be carried on with renewed vigor. In keeping with that idea of renewed vigor, Waddell and his crew proceeded to capture ten more whaling ships over the course of the next seven hours. That’s what you call picking up speed after you’ve heard that you are going in the wrong direction!
Finally, on August 3, 1865, as Waddell and his crew were sailing for the city of San Francisco to attack it, they encountered the British vessel Barracouta and learned from that crew that the Civil War was indeed officially over. In addition to the rest of the Confederate armies having surrendered in the weeks following Lee’s surrender, Jefferson Davis had been captured on May 10, 1865. Only after hearing this news did Captain Waddell officially lower the Confederate flag from his ship. The crew then moved the ship’s guns below deck and painted the hull to give the ship the appearance of a merchant ship.
Fearing what might happen to them if they surrendered at a port in America, Waddell and his crew took three months to sail their ship to Liverpool, England, even as Union ships searched for them diligently. Upon the arrival of the CSS Shenandoah in Liverpool, Waddell had the ship’s Confederate flag raised again. He surrendered the ship to the captain of the Royal Navy’s ship HMS Donegal and lowered the Confederate flag for the last time. He then made his way to the Liverpool Town Hall and presented the city’s mayor with a letter that officially surrendered his ship to the British government. After a full investigation and trial, Waddell and his entire crew were unconditionally released to resume their lives as they saw fit.
Perhaps by now you are saying, “Okay, Russell, that’s an interesting story, but what does it have to do with my walk with the Lord?” Well, I’m glad you asked. What the story vividly illustrates is that, like Captain Waddell and the crew of the CSS Shenandoah, it is possible for you to fight battles that you shouldn’t be fighting. For that matter, you can even win them! In the end, though, what good does it do you to fight a battle that God doesn’t want you to fight? That’s why I advise you to pray long and hard before you go to war against someone. Speaking as a person who has fought some battles that God wanted me to fight, I can assure you that every battle takes a toll on you even if that battle is God sanctioned. You can imagine, then, the toll any battle takes when it is your idea rather than God’s.