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CSS “Shenandoah”

George P. Canning was born George Baltriune Canning in Rotherhithe, in central South East London, on July 15, 1837, in "a cottage on the Rector's Island", the son of Alfred D. Canning and Anne Powell married in 1817 in Worcester, Worcestershire. Georges birth name us also spelled in other places as Boutrenne, Baltrinne, Botriune, Botrine, Botrinne, Boutrinne, Beautrine, and other variants. Rotherhithe is a district of south-east London in the London Borough of Southwark, was the port of London and home to the Arctic whaling fleet. The famous ship Mayflower's captain is buried in Rotherhithe. George was the youngest of seven children and was described as a well-educated gentleman who spoke fluent French and was considered the Beau Brummel, an English dandy who was a fashion leader, of the family. He married his wife Margaret in the United States and had two Sons; Alfred and Rafton. Alfred was an epileptic and Rafton followed the horses. Both Died in France. Baltriune lived in or very near the Faubourg Saint Germain region of Paris, France at the time his first son was born, in 1858. George worked as a Civil Engineer and a Catholic by faith..

George later joined the Confederate Navy after migrating to Australia. Baltriune Canning began using the name George Botrine Canning as early as 1860. This was discovered in the French-written birth record of his second son, "Rafton Boutrenne”. Baltriune may have used the name "George" Canning with the French government, while maintaining his Baltriune (Botrinne) Canning with the English. Civil War historians may have misread his signed name "George B. Canning" to be "George P. Canning." On the other hand, Baltriune being who he was, may have just added the P. for further obfuscation. George P. Canning, carrying a gunshot wound in his right lung which he said came from the Battle of Shiloh, let on almost nothing of his family's identity while on board the “CSS Shenandoah” except that he had a wife in Paris, and a brother in Australia.

Marinus Francis Alfred Canning, his brother in Australia, stated that he had received a visit from "a brother from England who was wounded and who returned to England and died;" weeks or months before he joined the “CSS Shenandoah” off Melbourne's coast. To say that his wounded brother "returned to England and died" was very close to the truth. George P. died off the Madeira Islands just a week outside Liverpool and safe harbor, and was buried at sea on October 30, 1865. He was 28 years old.

It was indicated in an affidavit given by William A. Temple, an officer aboard the “CSS Shenandoah”, that Canning had previously been an aide de camp to Confederate General Leonidas Polk; who organized the Army of Mississippi and the First Corps, known as "Polk's Corps", of the Army of Tennessee. Whittle, however, stated that Canning’s service was with General Albert Sidney Johnston, who had raised the ‘Army of the Mississippi’, and that Canning had been wounded by a minnie ball in the lung; at the battle of Shiloh in April 1862; and was discharged from active service as an invalid. Both may have been correct, as Polk led the First Corps of Albert Sidney Johnston’s army during the Battle of Shiloh on April 6 and April 7, 1862. The only Canning found listed in Polk’s or Johnston’s ranks is a Private George Canning, Co. “G”, 1st Mississippi Cavalry. Canning had a brother, Marinus Canning who had previously migrated to Australia in 1840, was a sheep farmer, became a millionaire, lived in Sydney and had twenty-two children; mostly twins. Marinus Canning was an influential Australian and married Elizabeth Morgan, sister of the Morgan brothers who turned Iron Mountain into The Mountain of Gold, Australia's richest gold mine. Marinus was an official, the registrar of his area in New South Wales, and eventually became a Member of Parliament in Australia. A further tidbit of history is the record of an unclaimed letter addressed to "George Canning" at the post office at that town.

Canning later migrated from England to Australia as well, where he surreptitiously went aboard the “CSS Shenandoah”, to enlist one night, with several dozen other men, while the ship was anchored off Melbourne,and shipped out as Orderly Sergeant in the Confederate States Marine Corps on February 18, 1865; placing his mark beside his name. Once on board, Georges was immediately made Sergeant and was put in charge of the "marine" (i.e., fighting) group. Like all French military men, he insisted on a great uniform, and was outfitted "cap a pie."

Midshipman John T. Mason, of the “CSS Shenandoah” indicated that he had seen Canning and a lady on the same passenger vessel that he was travelling on from Havana to Southampton, England in 1863, and stated that “although I never spoke to them on the steamer, I remember the couple perfectly well & it was said openly that he was one of General Polk’s staff officers, dangerously wounded & going abroad for his health, he was then a perfect skeleton”.

The “Shenandoah” was in the Bering Sea in late 1865 with two ships being towed behind carrying prisoners, the others having been scuttled. Then, two days out from San Francisco the English ship “Barracoutta” encountered the “Shenandoah”. Her captain informed the “Shenandoah” boarding officer that the war was over, and produced New York and San Francisco papers depicting the surrender of Lee; the capture of Richmond; the assassination of Lincoln, and the final collapse of the Confederacy.  Waddell realized the “Shenandoah” would be sought as no other ship had been sought at sea, and in fact, the U.S. had already put out a "search and destroy at all costs" on the Shenandoah. Captain Waddell immediately swung his guns between the decks, closed the port holes, and the Shenandoah was again at long last a craft of peace.

A council of the officers was quickly held to decide what course to follow. The opinion of each was asked and given, and some were in favor of sailing to Melbourne; others though wanted to sail for Valparaiso, or New Zealand. Captain Waddell, however, decided in favor of Liverpool. the “Shenandoah” now had no flag and no country, but it had sailed from England, and to England it would then return. The crew of the Shenandoah were all called aft, and Captain Waddell, in a brief address, informed them of the “Shenandoah’s” altered condition, and of his decision to sail to Liverpool. The men gave three cheers of support and the ship was pointed to Cape Horn and England. Captain Waddell then did something never done before or since in the annals of naval history; he sailed the “Shenandoah” from the Bering Sea to Liverpool, England, a distance of thousands of miles, without once coming in sight of land.

George P. Canning is said to have died from the effects of his old wound, labelled "phthisis" which means "internal decay", on October 30th, 1865, just one week before reaching Liverpool; though William A. Temple’s affidavit records his date of death as October 29th, 1865. George supposedly died in the arms of his friend and servant with whom he had joined the ship, and for whom he had insisted on equal pay, Edward Weeks, "the old Negro." George P. Canning was said to have been buried at sea on October 31st, 1865, in the Atlantic Ocean. Ironicaly George P. Canning was destined to be the man to fire the last shots of the American Civil War. He was said to be “an ungrateful man, never thinking that any one did him a favor by doing anything for him, but rather that all things should be done for him, no matter what it might cost others.   He quarreled with every one who had much to do with him, and was generally very abusive in his epithets”.  

New research by the Canning descendants, however, tend to disprove the death and burial at sea of George P. Canning. George may well have been allowed to leave his ship, just before it arrived at Liverpool, allowing him to die with his family in Nanterre, France. Kim Salisbury, a direct descendant and researcher of the Canning family today, received a family letter, typed decades ago, summarizing the memoirs of Gustave Perrot, the French-born-and-raised nephew of George of Cleveland Canning; the son of George’s brother, Rafton Canning.  In it, he stated emphatically that his Uncle Botrinne, George P. Canning, “came home wounded, and stayed with them in their home in Nanterre, France for several months, and eventually died there”.  Thus, George P. Boutrenne Canning, as Gustave Perrot spelled it in France, may well be buried in Nanterre or some part of Paris; rather than at sea. There are a number of documented cases in England and France where a burial was faked to allow someone to die with their family; and that could be the case here, especially since George was deathly ill and the officers and crew of the “Shenandoah” expected to be incarcerated for a period of time upon their arrival in Liverpool, England.

Upon its arrival in English waters Lieutenant Waddell stood the “Shenandoah” off the entrance to Port Phillip, and requested a Pilot; the Pilot Edward Johnson. responded that orders prevented him from bringing a belligerent ship into harbour without good cause. Waddell responded he had problems with the propeller shafting on the “Shenandoah”, which was a good enough for Pilot. Capt. Waddell was asked by the pilot to ‘show their flag’; to which he responded, “We have no flag”. Without a flag, the Pilot Ships crew could not board the “Shenandoah”, so eventually it was decided to fly for the last time the sacred banner of the South; the Confederate Ensign. Waiting off the heads, a health official boarded the “Shenandoah” and reported that the Confederates would find many friends in Melbourne, but also warned they would fine enemies awaiting as well.

Just thirteen months after the departure from the Thames, and just six months, lacking four days, after the war ended, the Confederate ship-of-war, the Shenandoah." sailed towards Liverpool. Half way up the river a fleet of English men-of-war lay anchored in the channel and the pilot was directed to bring his vessel alongside the flagship, Her Majesty's frigate “Donegal”, commanded by Captain Painter; to whom Captain Waddell surrendered the “CSS Shenandoah”.

It has been said that the officers of the Shenandoah advertised in the newspapers to try to find the relatives of George P. Canning, buried at sea, and that they received a letter from Rafton Canning; but no one knows what the letter said, if it was received at all. Moreover, this Rafton Canning was the "owner of an ale and stout depot in London" and the father of George Canning of Cleveland, Ohio who was the uncle of Gustave Perrot who wrote the letter. Rafton's death record states that he was indeed a "Beer and Spirit Merchant." This is all ironic because if what George’s great-nephew, the nephew of Rafton Canning, stated in his letter was true, that may have been a final ruse to cover up George’s having left the ship before it arrived in England.


CANNING, GEORGE – Email from Kim Salisbury

Hello again Jim,

Another important item you might find quite interesting --- not sure if I've put it on the website somewhere or not.

George PB may well have been allowed to leave ship just before it arrived at Liverpool, allowing him to die with his family in Nanterre, France.  Two things tend to make me believe this probably happened.  First, I was contacted years ago by an historian/researcher who asked me if I thought it possible that Canning was not actually buried at sea, but rather was allowed to return home to die.  He thought this was the case, said he'd seen it several times where a burial was faked to allow someone to die with their family.  At the time, I thought it was almost impossible, due to the clarity of the ship's logs on the burial of Canning.

But a few years ago, I received a family letter, typed decades ago, summarizing the memoirs of Gustave Perrot, the French-born-and-raised nephew of George of Cleveland.  In it, he states that his Uncle Botrinne came home wounded, and stayed with them in their home in Nanterre several months, and died there.  Thus, George Boutrenne Canning (as he spelled it in France) may well be buried in Nanterre or some part of Paris. 

The author of these memoirs (Gustave, or Augustus) was the son of Louise Canning Perrot, the only sister of Rafton and George PB and Marinus Francis Alfred and Arthur Canning.  Louise was raised in the household of Madame Lannes, wife of Marshal Lannes (as was her sister-in-law Mary Anne O'Connor Canning Davidson).   

Btw, do you know about Arthur (Arturo) Canning?  We know there was a brother of Rafton and George PB who was named Arthur, who "died in Spain."  I believe this brother was the same person as the Arturo Canning whom we see on the Internet in Spain, quite a prominent scholar at the time, lecturing on Greek (literature?) at the Ateneo in Madrid. 

Rafton's wife Mary Ann O'Connor just might have served as a double for the Empress of France, Eugenia of Spain.  Reported in her obituary, if that can be taken at face value:   Mary Ann was also raised by Mme Lannes, was "introduced at Court" of Napoleon III, and "several more years of colorful Court life followed."   Mary Ann was an astoundingly good horsewoman, even riding bareback in her brother's circus we recently learned.  Eugenia was known to be an astoundingly good horsewoman as well.  Who rode her dangerous parts for her?  Mary Ann resembles the Empress facially, also.  And Mary Ann's obituary tells of her escape from France, which reads almost identically to the Empress's own escape. 

Also, I'm still inclined to believe we are descendants of Stratford Canning the diplomat, and that this may be the reason for the profound family silence about who the English Canning forebear was.  Stratford certainly made many trips between England and Constantinople, going usually through Paris.  If true, then it seems that Alfred Canning the civil engineer would have been Stratford's son, perhaps from very early in Stratford's life.   We can find no birth records for Alfred.  His death certificate 1851, I believe it was,  ("Found dead in bed") says he was "about 54."  I don't recall the years, but there is also a census record where Alfred is the head of household, putting his birth at 1800 or so.   I need to look at the website again before going into any more detail, but I'm inclined more and more to think Stratford is our mystery English forebear.  So many things match:  the genetic traits in the Australian descendants (children of MFA) matching Stratford's --- especially the inward-turning eye;  Stratford's social sphere being almost exclusively made up of commanders of naval vessels and Alfred's obsession with all things naval; Stratford's retirement to a place south of London just a few miles from Crabbet Park where the superlative Arabian horses were created and where young Rafton Canning (nephew of George PB, and whose love of horses is well-attested in family writings) goes when kicked out of his Aunt Louise's house in France; our family's obsession with horses (the Kentucky Derby was a bigger family holiday than was Christmas) --- this all assuming that Stratford had a hand in importing the greatest horses of Arabia into Crabbet Park --- he certainly was connected to its owner by an early paramour with her mother, I believe it was, and he certainly was often given gifts of supremely fine Arabian horses.

Will we ever know? 

Thank you for all the most fascinating info.  I'll be a few days in looking at it before I can comment further.  We all will be happy to receive anything you wish to donate to our collection.  It would be wonderful if there were some commemoration of George PB's efforts in the Confederacy.  And yes, please feel free to use any material from the pages of the Paris Cannings website.  If you would kindly make a hotlink back to that website from any websites you put up about it, I'd appreciate it.

Kindest regards,

Kim Salisbury

PS  You wouldn't be related to the Lord Walsinghams' by chance?     


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Kim Salisbury, Canning Descendant and Researcher

London, England Census, 1841

Lt. W. C. Whittle, Jr., CSN, Executive Officer of the C. S. S. Shenandoah

Marauders of the Sea, Confederate Merchant Raiders During the American Civil War, Mackenzie J Gregory

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The Cruise of the Shenandoah, Captain William C. Whittle, CSN

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