John Orr Boag, son
of John Boag a carpenter and Agnes Brag Orr, was born in 1842 in
Paisley, Scotland. In 1862 John and twenty-six of his friends and
comrades left Paisley under contract with the American Confederate
Government as a lithographer in the Treasury Department; to print
money for the Confederate Government. They boarded a small steamship
called the “Giraffe”, loaded with the supplies they would need and
set sail for the Confederate States. They failed in an attempt to
make port at Charleston Harbor in South Carolina, but was eventually
successful in entering Wilmington Harbor
in North Carolina.; being fired on and struck by shells and shot
from Union guns.
The “Giraffe” was
the central feature of a plan devised by Benjamin F. Ficklin, a
Confederate Treasury Agent whose responsibility was acquiring an
delivery of engraving supplies from England; who was sympathetic
towards the south. Ficklin convinced the Confederate Secretary of
Treasury, Memminger, to allow him to proceed to England with a
Confederate Naval officer, purchase a steamer, load it with Treasury
and War Department supplies and run the blockade back into the
Confederate States. The vessel he had decided upon was the
“Giraffe”, a two year old vessel, 283 feet long, schooner-rigged,
iron-hulled, oscillating-engined paddlewheel steamer with a 20 foot
bean and a 10 foot draft with two stacks and capable of doing 13.5
knots; built on the Clyde during the autumn of 1862 as a fast
Glasgow-Belfast, Scotland packet boat. Her owners had recently lost
money and it had been placed up for sale.
his plan and in late summer 1862 Ficklin and Naval Lieutenant John
Wilkinson arrived in London, England to negotiate the sale of the
“Giraffe” from it owner, Alexander Collie. Collie, a Britisn
businessman, was already operating his own blockade running
business and sold it to thenm for the sum of 32,000 pounds’ with the
provision the ship not be sold to private individuals. The “Giraffe”
was converted from a luxury ferryboat to a blockade runner and the
plan was set into motion.
“Giraffe” were munitions for the War Department, lithographic
equipment and twenty-six lithographers hired by Ficklin under orders
of the Treasury Department. Naval Lieutenant Wilkinson accompanied
them as far as Nassau, in the Bahama Islands, where he took command
of the vessel. Ficklion then retuned to the states aboard a
passenger steamer, by way of New York City from where he planned on
making his way south through Union lines to Richmond, Virginia.
The “Giraffe” left
Nassau on December 27, 1862 bound for South Carolina, but due to
foggy weather had to divert to Wilmington, North Carolina. Upon
nearing Old Inlet a Union blockade ship was sighted patrolling the
coast. Waiting until darkness fell, Wilkinson edged the “Giraffe”
close to the shore, made his way past the Union ship and made for
port at Old Inlet. The “Giraffe” ran at full speed without being
seen but befor reaching the safety of Old Inlet, ran into what was
called “the Lump”; a sand knoll some two miles outside the
protection of the bar. The collision knocked everyone down, but the
vessel remained undamaged. The lithographers were sent ashore in a
small boat while Wilkinson and the crew struggled to free the vessel
from the sand bar. Eventually, they made good their escape and the
“Giraffe” made a run into Cape Fear River, arriving off Smithville
around midnight on December 29, 1862.
It then proceeded
from there to Wilmington, North Carolina where it was quickly
unloaded and Wilkinson awaited further orders. The War Department,
refusing to give up their control of the “Giraffe” and it was given
a Confederate registery and renamed the “Robert E. Lee”; with
Lieutenant being retained as her Commander. In late January 1863,
Commander Wilkinson took the “Robert E. Lee” out of Wilmington,
completing the first of five successful round trips. She established
a legendary reputation by outracing the blockader USS “Iroquois”
were eventually taken prisoner by the Union, but were released
shortly afterwards; their printing presses, equipment and an amount
of already printed money were all destroyed or confiscated. John
Boag was to be the last surviving member of the party of twenty-six
that sailed from Scotland.
H. Gayle, CSN, assumed command of the ship in May, relieving
Lieutenant John Wilkinson., but the “Robert E. Lee's” luck ran out
on November 9, 1863; after 21 voyages in 10 months carrying out over
7,000 bales of cotton, returning with munitions invaluable to the
Confederacy. She left Bermuda five hours after her consort, the
“Cornubia”, only to be run down a few hours later by the USS “James
At the conclusion
of the Civil War, Boag entered the service of the U.S. Government as
a bookbinder, but in a short amount of time was promoted to the U.S.
Senate. Later he was transferred to the Railway Department a chief
clerk and collector, but eventually returned to his original
position which he held until he retired in 1909.
While still living
in the U.S., John met Agnes Brag from South Carolina and after a
courtship they were married. They were residing in New York when
they had a son, whom they named John Orr Boag, and in 1880 John and
Agnes were still residing in New York, where their son John Orr
celebrated his fourteenth birthday.
John Orr Boag was
living on Francis Street in the Borough of Euchua, County of Rodney
in Victoria, still working as a printer when he died at sixty-eight
years of age on August 25, 1910 while visiting his sister, Mrs.
Catherine Henderson of Echuca. He died of “Pernicious Aenemia” of
which he had been suffering for some six weeks and was so diagnosed
by Dr. Eakins. His funeral procession left the Echuca Railway
Station on Saturday at 3:50 P.M. and proceeded to Rochester, where
he was buried in the Rochester Cemetery on August 27, 1910, at
Rochester, Victoria, Australia; next to his brother-in-law Robert
Henderson. Funeral services were conducted by the Rev. Henry
Carroll, a Presbyterian Minister and his undertaker was registered
as Mr. A.B. Humphries. He had only lived in Victoria for one year.
John’s sister Catherine was later buried in Rochester alongside her
husband and brother.
Even though John
Orr Boag never served as a soldier of the Confederacy, being a
member of the Confederate Treasury Department he was considered to
be a full fledged citizen of the Confederate state of South Carolina
and a cog in the Confederate Government. As such he has to be
considered and accepted as a non-combatant member of the Confederacy
with all it bestows.
John Orr Boag was
a prominent member of the Masonic Order in America and in addition
to his brother, James Orr Boag, who lived in South Carolina, he had
two sisters who survived him; Mrs. A. McLennan and Miss Boag, both
of Cohuna, Victoria. His descendants after his death included Mrs.
C.C. Henderson, at age 71 in 1910 living at Echuca, Australia and a
son, John Orr Boag living at Moldavia, Australia. Mrs. Helen Olive
Henderson, who when married became a Humphrey, born in 1927 at
Prahran, Melbourne, was the great-great granddaughter of John Orr
and Agnes Boag.
In January 1950
the “General Drapery” business in Leitchville, Victoria, formerly
owned by J.E. & K. Boag, was owned by D. & D.M. Hawken, and on April
17, 1970 an announcement was run in the local paper by “Kath Boag”
stating….. “I, K. Boag have taken over the business of D. & D.M.
Hawken, drapers of Leitchville, formerly owned by J.E. & K. Boag---Kath
Then, on September
29, 1972 an auction was announced, to be held on October 11, 1972,
“..of business premises & dwelling house combined. Main street of
Leitchville. Corner block. General drapery business has been in the
one ownership for 23 years. Mrs. Boag retiring to Melbourne to be
with her family.”; bringing to an end the Boag legacy.