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Did Australians Join the Confederation During the Civil War?

The CSS Shenandoah was a majestic vessel built for the conditions of war. Due to their renowned reputation of skillfully capturing many Union ships, the crew was warmly welcomed by the locals of Port Philip Bay in Australia. 

When the CSS Shenandoah finally reached international waters from their extended stay in Williamstown, 42 Australian recruits hid in the lower decks, joining the Confederation.

The Renowned Reputation of the CSS Shenandoah 

Constructed in 1863 in Glasglow, the iron-rigged screw steamer known as the clipper ship CSS Shenandoah, rigged with 21 fully effective sails and the ability to have 17 knots at full sail, extended up to 70 meters in length. Bought by the Confederate government to pass laws of British neutrality, the sea became its witness as it turned into a war-appropriate vessel, equipping the ship with various guns, including two Whitworth rifled guns and four 8-inch shell guns.

James Wadell, the ship’s head, soon brought in an inadequate crew of 43 sailors that lacked experience. Commanded to find and entirely damage Union merchant ships they faced, the vessel headed south.

Three months passed, and when the CSS Shenandoah reached Port Philip Bay with a damaged propeller shaft, Captain James Wadell had already proved his skill through the nine merchant crafts they captured.


The CSS Shenandoah’s visit to Port Philip Bay stirred much traction among the local people. A fleet of boats welcomed the esteemed ship before they arrived at the berth while the numerous vessels that filled the harbor awaited patiently to witness the rebel pirate ship

Of course, everyone in Melbourne had heard about the Confederacy fighting the Yankees, but nobody had ever seen an actual warship before. When the Shenandoah sailed into the harbor, with these rebels in their gray uniforms standing on the deck, it was just phenomenal. They were absolute celebrities. Nobody had ever seen anything like it.

Leigh Goodall

The rebel vessel became a tourist attraction as Captain James Wadell opened the Shenandoah to visitors, and for two whole days – people flocked the ship, crowding its rails, riggings, and masts. Warmly treated by the locals, the crew was honored by celebrations, dinners, and even made members of the most esteemed clubs in Melbourne. (Source: Club Marine

The Hidden Australian Stowaways 

Despite the US Consul William Blanchard’s opposition to the Shenandoah’s stay, Governor Charles Darling approved Captain James Wadell’s request to dock for repairs. On February 4, the ship was transferred to the government’s dock located in Williamstown.

US Consul Blanchard argued that the sole intention of Captain James Wadell for extending his stay was to recruit the locals. His belief was proven correct when he discovered the 20 recruits garnered by the Shenandoah since it docked in Williamstown, which directly violated the neutral proclamation of the Queen.

On February 14, numerous police officers and soldiers were sent to search the ship with a warrant of arrest for the recruits. When Captain James Wadell hindered the search, Governor Charles Darling instantly demanded the end of the repairs, stating the immediate need for the ship to leave port.

When the ship finally left Melbourne on February 18, more than 40 Australian recruits came out of the vessel’s lower deck, joining the Confederates. (Source: Club Marine

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