Last shots of the Civil War fired in Alaska

A unique battle flag hangs in the Confederate Museum in Richmond, Va. It's the flag of the only ship in the southern navy to have circumnavigated the globe. The one that fluttered as cannons fired the final volleys in the war. The last to be lowered in surrender.

And the only Civil War ensign -- Yankee or rebel -- to have flown in action in Alaska.

The 150th anniversary of the first shot of America's deadliest conflict has been widely noted this month. Few people are aware, however, that the last shot was fired off Alaska's shores.

Yet the roar of the guns of the CSS Shenandoah -- like those of Fort Sumter -- continue to echo in our world after a century and a half.

Built as a supposed troop transport in supposedly neutral Great Britain, the 1,160-ton screw steamer Sea King was designed with subterfuge in mind. Its smokestack could be lowered, its masts and sails switched to look like a different ship.

In October 1864, it was secretly transferred to the Confederate Navy in a black-ops rendezvous off the coast of Africa. A skeleton crew rigged the ship for battle and renamed it Shenandoah.

Its mission was to disrupt Union shipping and commerce. It burned American-flagged ships in the South Atlantic and Indian oceans. Then it sailed into the Pacific and laid a course for the Bering Sea.

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