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Last Flag Down

2007 non-fiction book by John Baldwin and Ron Powers

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Gripping saga of the year long, around the world trek of the Shenandoah.

  • Dec 8, 2009
The vessel had begun life as "Sea King".  That would all change in the fall of 1864 when a wealthy British industrialist named Richard Wright purchased the sleek three-masted racing clipper with a very specific purpose in mind.  You see Richard Wright had made his fortune in the textile business in England.  Like so many other businessmen of his day his success depended on an uninterrupted flow of the cotton that was grown in what was at that time the fledgling Confederate States of America.  Prospects for a Confederate victory in the Civil War had dimmed considerably by this time and Wright concocted a plan in a desperate attempt to turn the tide in favor of the Confederacy.  And so it was that on October 8, 1864 the good ship "Sea King" slipped out of London.  Within days the vessel would be turned over to the Confederate Navy and renamed "Shenandoah".  Her mission:  to wreak havoc with Yankee shipping interests all over the world.  "Last Flag Down: The Epic Journey of the Last Confederate Warship" is the compelling account of the journey of "Shenandoah" that would take her all the way around the world and last for an entire year.  It is a book that I could simply not put down.

Much of the source material for "Last Flag Down" comes from the meticulously written journals of the Executive Officer of the "Shenandoah" Conway Whittle.  At just 24 years of age Whittle was already a seasoned veteran having served with distinction on the CSS "Nashville".  His journal entries reveal the exact nature of the mission of the "Shenandoah" as well as the hardships and triumphs that the officers and crew would experience over the next twelve months.  To me this is absolutely the best kind of history.  I would compare it most favorably to a pair of very important books from the past few years.  David McCullough's sensational "John Adams" was based largely on the copious letters written by 
John and Abigail Adams.  Likewise Charles Rappleye's splendid "Sons of Providence"  features the letters between the brothers John and Moses Brown.  Such source material is really invaluable because it not only reveals what went on but also helps to explain why things happened the way they did.

Prior to reading "Last Flag Down" I had never even heard of the "Shenandoah".  I am not quite sure if this is simply ignorance on my part or if there has not been all that much written about this incredible ship.  In any event, I found "Last Flag Down:  The Epic Journey Of The Last Confederate Warship" to be absolutely spellbinding.  John Baldwin and Ron Powers have certainly done an admirable job of bringing to life an important piece of American history here.  This is a book that history buffs will relish and general audiences will enjoy. 
Very highly recommended!
Gripping saga of the year long, around the world trek of the Shenandoah. Gripping saga of the year long, around the world trek of the Shenandoah. Gripping saga of the year long, around the world trek of the Shenandoah. Gripping saga of the year long, around the world trek of the Shenandoah.

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Quick Tip by . June 29, 2010
Amzing how history unfolds.
About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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As the Confederacy felt itself slipping beneath the Union juggernaut in late 1864, the South launched a desperate counteroffensive to shatter the U.S. economy and force a standoff. Its secret weapon? A state-of-the-art raiding ship whose mission was to prowl the world's oceans and sink the U.S. merchant fleet. The raider's name was Shenandoah, and her executive officer was Conway Whittle, a twenty-four-year-old warrior who might have stepped from the pages of Arthurian legend. Whittle would share command with a dark and brooding veteran of the seas, Capt. James Waddell, and together with a crew of strays, misfits, and strangers, they would spend nearly a year sailing two-thirds of the way around the globe, destroying dozens of Union ships and taking more than a thousand prisoners, all while continually dodging the enemy.

Then, in August of 1865, a British ship revealed the shocking truth to the men of Shenandoah: The war had been over for months, and they were now being hunted as pirates.

What ensued was an incredible 15,000-mile journey to the one place the crew hoped to find sanctuary, only to discover that their fate would depend on how they answered a single question. Wondrously evocative and filled with drama and poignancy, Last Flag Down is a riveting story of courage, nobility, and rare comradeship forged in the quest to achieve the impossible.

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ISBN-10: 0307236552
ISBN-13: 978-0307236555
Author: John Baldwin and Ron Powers
Genre: History, Civil War
Publisher: Crown
Date Published: May 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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