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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.

Memminger approved 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.

Aboard the “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”

The lithographers 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.

Lieutenant Richard 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 Adger”.

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 Boag”.

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. 

“Bermuda's World Heritage Town of St. George”, Keith Archibald Forbes

Birth, Marriage and Death Records, Victoria

Boag Family Tree

Department oif the Navy, Naval Historical Center

Digger Pioner Index, Victoria

Heathter Rendell, Echuca Historical Society

Immigration Records to Australia, Victoria State Government

John Orr Boag, Obituary

Leo F. Pain, Rochester, Victoria

“Lifeline of the Confederacy, King Cotton: A Tottering Throne”

Riverine Herald, August 26, 1910

U.S. Census Records 1880


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