Lesser Remembered Industrial Warfare: Civil War Whaling

Another reminder that technology was a big deal long before high-tech came on the scene.

Via Andy Revkin’s Dot Earth blog you can read about a modern whaling fighter paying his respects to a 19th-century forbear.  The fellow in the video is Paul Watson, who’s televised exploits are on the Discovery Channel series Whale Wars.

That’s right, while the Civil War was raging on land, the Union whaling fleets had their own problems.  While Watson and others focus on the Shenandoah and vessels that engaged whaling vessels in the Pacific, the New England whaling fleet (which refers to the origin of the ships rather than the waters where they hunted) and other Union shipping vessels had their own challenges.  Besides the Shenandoah, the Confederate vessels Alabama and Florida were also key in the Confederacy’s naval strategies against U.S. shipping.

The Shenandoah was most known for its fights against whaling ships.  The prizes it collected over its 13-month career remain impressive.  Thirty-eight ships seized (32 burned), no casualties.  Twenty-four of those thirty-eight seizures where Pacific whaling vessels, and were done over the course of a single week in June 1865 (like then-General Andrew Jackson in 1814, the word of the war’s end was slow to travel).  To top it all off, the Shenandoah managed to circumnavigate the globe before surrendering the vessel to the British.

While whaling was on the decline by the time of the Civil War, actions of Confederate vessels during the war accelerated the process.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.