Author: Christine Little

On the 25th of January 1865 the Confederate States Steamer C.S.S. Shenandoah arrived in Hobsons Bay, Victoria,  seeking repairs, provisions, and to land its prisoners.  The month of January 2015 marks the 150th anniversary since the arrival of C.S.S. Shenandoah.  The Shenandoah’s arrival created a great deal of controversy and raised serious diplomatic concerns. 

This Archival Snapshot highlights some of the archived correspondence held at Public Record Office Victoria regarding the C.S.S. Shenandoah and its time in Victoria.

C.S.S. Shenandoah - VPRS 8357P1 Unit 6 Harbour Trust Photographic Collection


A piece of warship history

The American Civil War was fought from 1861 to 1865. The Confederate States of America was formed when individual States declared their secession from the United States of America.

British colonies and British subjects, as directed by Queen Victoria in a proclamation on Wednesday 17 July 1861, were to remain neutral in the North American conflict. No British subject was to enlist to serve in a foreign service, and the supply, fitting out or equipping of vessels for warlike purposes, in His Majesty’s dominions, was prohibited.

C.S.S. Shenandoah correspondence files within the Public Record office Victoria collection

During the stay of the C.S.S Shenandoah there was daily correspondence between the United States Consul William Blanchard, and the Government, with Blanchard protesting most stridently on the support provided to the vessel by the Colony of Victoria and the Governor.

There was also a protest by Shenandoah’s captain, Lieutenant Commanding James J. Waddell C.S.N., to the Commissioner of Trade and Customs on the 14th February 1865 in relation to the execution of a search warrant. Aid, assistance and work on the steamer was suspended after the Commander and officers refused to allow police to search the ship for alleged stowaways.

The correspondence files also include daily repair reports from the Harbour and Tides Master at Williamstown, United States Consul correspondence, affidavits of deserters and prisoners, Crown Law Office correspondence, police correspondence, military correspondence, and papers from the Trades and Customs Commissioner and the Governor of Victoria, Sir Charles Darling.

The correspondence provides a fascinating insight into the event given the historical context of the time. It’s a story full of intrigue, chivalry, piracy and stowaways.

WEB v2- VPRS 1095_P0_Unit 31 Special files Carton 1 No 2 Warship Shenandoah 5 IHK pt1WEB - VPRS 1095_P0_Unit 31 Special files Carton 1 No 2 Warship Shenandoah 5 IHK pt2

 The C.S.S. Shenandoah was in port for a total of 25 days, sailing out of Port Phillip in the early morning of the 18th February 1865 with a number of alleged stowaways on board.

VPRS 1095/P0 Unit 31 Special Files - Carton 1: No. 2 Warship Shenandoah

Creating Agency:
Governor (including Lieutenant Governor 1851 – 1855 and Governor’s Office): VA 466, 1851 - continued

Agency currently responsible:
Governor (including Lieutenant Governor 1851 – 1855 and Governor’s Office): VA 466, 1854 - continued

Other records used:
VPRS 8357/P1 Unit 6 Harbour Trust Photographic Collection, Historical: Ships
VPRS 1226/P0 Unit 44, C3151 Remarks on conduct of Police during the visit of the ‘Shenandoah’ Geneva Arbitration Award, Alabama Arbitration.


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