Raider seduces Victorians
armament, her speed and her dashing crew. Even her flag called for comment and praise.
Her commander, James Waddell, allowed 40 000 members of the Victorian public to inspect Shenandoah during the ship’s time in Victoria.
The crew’s stories of Shenandoah’s adventures entranced Melburnians. Her dressuniformed officers and crew attended dinners and balls given in their honour.
Churchill Island, off Philip Island, still holds a signal cannon from Shenandoah presented to the island’s former owners by Captain Waddell as thanks for a formal dinner hosted by them.
In truth, Shenandoah had hurriedly set sail with barely enough crew to work her after being purchased at sea by the Confederacy for $90 000.
She was crewed initially by young men who had been travelling on board nearby ships. In Melbourne, 19 deserted.
However, when the raider left Port Philip Bay nearly a month later, she was fully crewed. Such was Victoria’s enthusiasm for the Southern cause, that Victorians by the dozens signed on to fight for the Confederacy.
Once it left Melbourne, Shenandoah preyed on Union shipping, mainly whaling and fishing vessels, for the rest of the war. She sank 38 merchant vessels.
Six months after the Confederacy surrendered, Shenandoah fired the last shot of the American Civil War across the bows of a whaler off the Aleutian Islands.
With her war over, Shenandoah faced a difficult decision.
To surrender in a US port could mean piracy charges.
Confederacy raiders were not covered by the surrender amnesty.
To surrender to the British meant its Victorian crew could face treason or armed rebellion charges.
Before a crowd, CSS Shenandoah surrendered in Liverpool in Britain in November 1865, flying a defunct state’s last sovereign flag.
Many Victorian crew members swam ashore charges.
A judicial inquiry was held. It decided that all crew members who acknowledged the United States of America, even the southern States, would be freed.
Each member of the crew was asked what country they acknowledged. All answered they were ‘‘southern citizens’’. They were freed.
Nothing further is known of the crew or its Victorians. Shenandoah was returned to the Union as the Confederacy’s successor.
The United States government later won $15.5 million in damages against Britain. The British empire had violated neutrality.
All raiders had been built in British docks and sold secretly to the Confederacy. Also, British subjects from Victoria had manned Shenandoah.
— John Barry, ANZAC Commemorative Working Party, Coo-ee — Honouring our WWI
heroes to avoid criminal
Lieutenant John Grimball