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Theodore John Meredith was born on March 2, 1843 in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, the third son of Evan Meredith a Midshipman and later a Linen Draper and Emily Clark who deserted her husband and her oldest children and moved her youngest children to France. The children of Evan and Emily Clark were (1) a daughter Emily 1838, who married Alfred Doubble,(2) son Leslie Evan 1840 (3) Theodore John 1843 (4) Alice Leslie 1846 (5) Betty Louisa 1848 (6) Kate 1849 (7) Louisa 1851 and (8) Ellen (1852). Theodore received part of his education in France and was able to speak that language fluently and was an accomplished musician on piano who taught several of his children to play. Later in life he served in a military capacity of three different countries; Great Britain*, the Confederate States of America and in New Zealand as part of the British Forces there. He clearly fell under the influence of his brother in law Alfred Doubble and was fairly wilful as a boy.

Doubble steered Theodore towards a military career in the Navy but it didn’t last. According to oral history passed down from generation to generation, he was serving with the British Navy when he deserted and stowed away aboard a ship bound for America. In reality he was probability recruited in Liverpool to serve in the Confederate Navy and probably sailed on the Alabama on one of the early cruises. There is no doubt however he served in the Confederate Navy which was largely funded by British Industrialists. At the time of his parents marriage break up he was 14 and the Navy was his home, we are not sure if he was in the British Navy or simply working on the docks as his brother Leslie Evan was.

The Confederate Navy in the American Civil War had been building ships in and around Liverpool, including the flagship of the Navy, the “CSS Alabama”; so having arrived in America Meredith joined it.

Theodore served aboard both the “CSS Ivy” operating on the Mississippi River and later the iron-side Ram, the “CSS Louisiana”; during the Union bombardment of Confederate Forts Jackson and St Phillip.
 

The ”CSS Ivy”, formerly the “El Paraguay”, a 454 tonnage side-wheel steamer, was commissioned on May 16, 1861 at New Orleans as the Confederate privateer “V. H. Ivy”, commanded by Capt. N. B. Baker. Originally having only 2 guns, on January 22, 1862, she was outfitted with one 8 inch, 182-pdr. Rifle, two 24-pdr. brass howitzers and on February 27th and in April 1862, she again had only 2 guns. She was purchased later in the year by the Navy and placed under the command of Lt. J. Fry CSN.
 

On October 12, 1861 she joined in an attack on the Federal blockading squadron lying off the head of the Passes in the Mississippi River and achieved notable success with her long-range gun and maneuverability. On November 3, 1861 the “CSS Ivy” was solely responsible for the destruction of the Federal cutter the “USS Niagara”, near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

 

The “CSS Ivy” at one point served in a Confederate squadron led by the flagship “CSS McRae” under the command of Confederate Flag Officer Hollins, off Columbus on the Mississippi River, defending its Confederate batteries; assisted by the “General Polk”, the “Jackson” and the “Marepass”. It also assisted, after the evacuation of Columbus in early March, with the group of Confederate gunboats assisting in the defense of Island #10. After the fall of Island #10 and the Federal capture of New Madrid, the “CSS Ivy” can be traced to the occupation of New Orleans, in April 1862. The “Ivy” remained active in the Lower Mississippi until May 1863 when she was destroyed by her officers near Liverpool Landing, in the Yazoo River; in order to foil plans for her capture by the Union Navy.

In “Way's Packet Directory 1848-1983”, the last recording of the “CSS Ivy” is noted; The wrecking boat “Travis Wright” in November 1873 removed from the Yazoo River near Liverpool landing an interesting relic in the form of a vessel 19l x 28 x 9 powered by a vertical condensing engine, beam type, 44" dia. by 11 ft. stroke. It had been purposely burned by the Confederates in May 1863 to prevent its capture. This 454 ton vessel had been the C.S. privateer “V.H. IVY”, in 1861, and later after the Federal blockade of New Orleans, became a part of Hollins river fleet known simply as “CSS gunboat Ivy.”
The “CSS Louisiana” was a 1400-ton ironclad; Meredith’s second ship was built at New Orleans, Louisiana, in early October 1861. Still under construction and incomplete when Federal forces threatened the Mississippi River defenses below New Orleans, on April 20, 1862 she was towed down the river to serve as a floating battery; supporting Confederate Forts St. Philip and Jackson. Four days later, as Flag Officer David Glasgow Farragut ran his U.S. Navy squadron up the river past the forts, the “CSS Louisiana” fired on some of the attacking ships as they passed her mooring.

 

With the surrender of the forts on April 28th her crew abandoned the Confederate ironclad and set her on fire, to avoid her capture by the Union Navy. The blazing hulk of the “CSS Louisiana” drifted slowly downstream and exploded as she drifted passed Fort St. Philip.   It was during that engagement that Meredith was captured and became a prisoner of war, eventually escaping and making his way to New York. From there he made his way back to Liverpool, England,but he only had his sister Emily remaining where he was listed as a British deserter. He changed his name to Richard Doubble and made his way to Melbourne, Australia and eventually to Sydney, Australia, meeting up with his brother Leslie and his new family, there he was recruited into the second Waikato Militia being formed in Australia to occupy military settlements along the banks of the Waikato and Waipa Rivers. Records show him as Private 758 Richard Double but he signed himself with the double B; as “Doubble”. He arrived in New Zealand on the barque Charlotte Andrews in September 1863 and was involved in building forts until he was moved to Alexandria (now Pirongia) on the Waipa River inland from Hamilton. He was granted a one acre section in the town and 50 acres just outside.

Meredith married Margaret Lovett, born July 22, 1849, the daughter of a retired Irish soldier recruited as a Fencible to serve at Howick Auckland to defend the infant settlement. They moved onto their land but despite their best efforts struggled to make it pay, after 14 years they gave up the uneven struggle, moved onto another rented farm at Ohaupo south of Hamilton where their dairy herd was wiped out by Anthrax. At this time the north Island Railway was being built so Margaret and Theodore joined the construction team and for the best part of 20 years spent their life in the wilderness. They worked in advance of the construction building viaducts and tunnels with Meredith having a supervisor’s role and his wife running accommodation houses for the staff. They had 10 children Ronald Alexander 1875, Theodore Evan 1871, Douglas Irwin 1873 Kate (Bradley) 1877 Ernest (1878) Mabel (Guilford) 1881 Richmond Double (1882) Grace (Whisker)1883.Stella (Louden) 1891. All of those children worked on the rail or in the accommodation houses until their marriage.

The Meredith’s were based at Poro-o-tarao miles from civilization south of Tekuiti in uncharted King Country then at Ongarue on the banks of the river of the same name. Around the turn of the new century the railhead reached Taumaranui where the Merediths' were offered the management of the hotel that was to carry their name until it was destroyed by fire in the 1980’s. Then came retirement at Rangaroa on the hill above Taumaranui where they built a rambling house amongst their animals and exotic plants called “The Wilderness”. There they played host to their ever increasing family. Meredith’s daughter lived close to her father and on his death inherited his diaries and memorabilia including a button from a tunic given to crewmen from the Alabama. Mr. Peter Harman saw them when they were owned by Graces daughter Molly Whisker, on her passing they were tragically given away to a disinterested party. Long before the internet came to life Meredith wrote his memoirs and they are identical to the official histories so accessible today.

Theodore John Meredith died at age 85 on March 28, 1928 by his own hand and was buried in Row 5 in the Golf Road (The settlers) Cemetery in Taumaranui, New Zealand.  Margaret Meredith moved north after her husbands death to Te Awamutu to be near her family and died at 84 years of age on October 22, 1833 in a retirement facility there and is buried with her husband. They have the best plot in what is a fairly run down facility. They are survived by a large family.

Leslie Evan Meredith, Theodore’s brother arrived in Sydney, New South Wales aboard the Ellenborough on April 14, 1855 and died on September 20, 1898; and was buried in the Church of England Cemetery in Wollongong, New South Wales. Emily Theodore’s sister is buried with her father husband and some of her extended family in the historic Brompton Cemetery in London. His sister Betty Louisa married and migrated to Canada, sister Louisa’s future husband William Higginson migratede to New Zealand on the same vessel as Meredith, lived in the same village, served in the same military unit and they also had a very large family.

As an aside Meredith was a communicator with a commanding presence (a bully perhaps) who always claimed to be a direct descendant of King Theodore the first and only king of Corsica. How the king got his throne is an amazing story detailed on the Meredith family website www.harman.tribalpages.com. Password Liverpool. If the password has been changed contact Peter Harman at peter@gfb.co.nz

A special thanks goes to Mr. Peter Harman for his assistance in this memorial of Theodore John Meredith.

 
Margaret Lovett Meredith,  Theodore John Meredith Theodore John Meredith  - grave

Theodore John Meredith

(Alias Richard Doubble)

 

“A History of the Confederate Navy”

Harpers Weekly Magazine, 1861 – 1862

LDS Genealogy Archives

Meredith; The Story if a New Zealand Pioneer Family, Peter Harman

Peter Harman, Waitakere, New Zealand

“The Soldier in our Civil War”, Volume I

Theo Salt, Mt. Eden, Auckland, New Zealand

U.S. Naval Historical Center

“Way’s Packet Directory 1848-1983”

19th Century lithographs, Bowen & Company

The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period”, James Cowan

 
 

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