In the autumn of 1864, at the height of the American Civil War, the Confederate raider Shenandoah received orders to “seek out and utterly destroy” the whaling fleets of New England as part of an effort to bleed the Union of its economic strength — an undertaking that met its greatest success when the raider fell upon a fleet of whalers working the waters near Alaska’s Little Diomede Island and sank more than two dozen ships in a frenzy of destruction.
Before the Shenandoah’s voyage was over, the raider had captured or sunk thirty-eight ships. She also took more than a thousand prisoners and led the best warships of the Union navy on a twenty-seven-thousand-mile chase that ended with her escape to England, making her the only Confederate vessel to circumnavigate the globe. At the end of her journey — truly one of the most remarkable in naval history — the effects of the raider’s actions reached far beyond the glow of the flames marking the sky above the Arctic ice. The inferno signaled not only the near-demise of the New England whaling industry, but also the end of America’s growing hegemony over worldwide shipping for the next eighty years. These Civil War clashes also helped precipitate the establishment of international laws that remain in effect today.
But more important than the tally of damage was the date the final conflagration began: June 22, the longest day of the year, and almost a full three months after General Lee lay down his sword at Appomattox. Contrary to contemporary belief, it was not on the battlefield in Virginia but high in the Arctic where the last shot of the American Civil War was fired.
Blending high-seas adventure and first-rate research, Lynn Schooler’s The Last Shot is naval history of the very first order, offering a riveting account of the last Southern military force to lay down its arms.
308 pages PB