Thursday, August 7, 2014


James Waddell

Confederate Navy Lt. James Waddell, from North Carolina, had only one mission : make life hell for Union merchant ships wherever he found them.  Mind you; these merchant ships were not warships and were unarmed.  But war is war and the Confederacy wanted to hamper Union commercial activity and weaken the enemy in every way.

His ship, the CSS Shenandoah, was bought in Britain so it sailed first in the Atlantic. Then Waddell sailed to Australia and Singapore, which were under the British. Afterwards, towards the end of 1864, he sailed up to the Marianas, then under Spain.

From the Marianas, he went east towards Ponape. Ponape was in frequent contact with Hawaii in those days. Protestant missionaries, usually from New England, worked in Hawaii and also in the Marshalls, Kosrae and Ponape.  Hawaii was an independent monarchy in 1864, but many Americans, usually from Union states, worked for the Hawaiian government.

In Ponape, Waddell found a ship flying the Hawaiian flag. But, as predicted, the ship's officers were Americans from Union states. The crew was made up mostly of Hawaiian natives.

Waddell insisted that the commander of that Hawaiian ship surrender to him. Under protest, but unable to fight militarily, the commander agreed and vacated the ship. Waddell proceeded to board that ship, take what he wanted and then burned it down. Leaving Ponape, Waddell went on to destroy a dozen or so Union merchant ships in the North Pacific.

Waddell's ship
CSS Shenandoah

The American officers and the Hawaiian crew lived on Ponape, supported by those islanders. During this time, they repaired an abandoned whale boat and, when ready, set sail for Guam. From there they hoped to meet more seafaring traffic.

They arrived on Guam in July of 1865 and had to wait for six months before they could get a ride elsewhere. For those six months, they were well-received by the Spanish authorities on Guam. When a British ship touched at Guam, the Spanish Governor agreed to pay half the price of the transportation for these stranded Americans/Hawaiians, the other half to be paid by the American and Hawaiian consulates where they should land. Eventually, the Spanish Governor was reimbursed.

For six months, a few American seamen and a larger crew of Hawaiians, lived on Guam. Chamorros saw them on a daily basis. In Spanish times, a Chamorro knew who a kanaka was. It was a common term, not intended to be derogatory at the time, for Hawaiian natives.

Waddell, by the way, later surrendered the Shenandoah to a British officer at the end of the Civil War; the last Confederate vessel to take down its "bars and stars" flag. Waddell returned to the U.S. some time later, but stayed far away from Hawaii, where he was liable to be arrested for piracy.

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