Were there 2 CSS Shenandoahs?

January 25, 2010

Recently I read the book "The Shenandoah Incident". It is a novel published in the 1990s based on the story of the visit of the Shenandoah to Melbourne. Although it is written as fiction, it is obvious that the author [whose name I cannot recall just now, but he  is an Australian] has done a large amount of painstaking research. At  the end of the book, he has some notes on the sources. In these notes he explains the strange end to the novel.

According to his story, after leaving Port Philip Bay, Captain Waddell had a rendezvous with another ship in
Westernport Bay, scuttled the Shenandoah and  transferred to the other ship which was then named  Shenandoah. He  admits in the no(t)es that this is speculative, but says that this explains two anomalies. The first is the fact that there is a cannon, reputedly from the Shenandoah on Churchill Island. The second is that  there are two photos in existence of the Shenandoah, and that they are clearly of different ships.

He also thinks that the reason for the visit of the Shenandoah to Melbourne may have been to pick up gold from Ballarat that America miners had gathered to support the Southern cause.

What do you think?

Geraldine Moore


In my view there was but one Confederate Raider named Shenandoah and she visited Melbourne in 1865.

I think the basic reasons she came into Melbourne were as stated, to make repairs and obtain supplies, and to try and top up her crew shortage, this was managed by recruiting about 42 from here, they eluded police as they
made their way from Sandridge now known as Port Melbourne to Williamstown.

Here is a piece about the cannon on Churchill Island and how it came to be there is explained.

The island was subsequently owned by the founder of the Melbourne store Buckley and Nunn. In 1976 it was bought by the Victorian Conservation Trust and it is now known as Churchill Island National Park. Its principal attractions include the structures built by Rogers and Amess and the outbuildings, lawns, fragrant herb and flower gardens. A Norfolk pine planted by Amess in 1872 has now grown to 25 metres with a girth of 4.4 metres. Also in his garden is a cannon from the US ship the Shenandoah (see entry on Williamstown) which was given to Amess by the ship's officers in his appreciation of his hospitality when the ship visited Melbourne in 1865.

There are also historical displays, including a museum of old farming machinery. The island is a working farm with highland cattle, sheep, ducks, chickens and Clydesdale horses. There are ranger talks, machinery
demonstrations and festivals throughout the year. You can enjoy morning tea at the homestead or a BYO picnic on the lawns. There are toilets, disabled facilities, souvenirs, refreshments and barbecue facilities.

Do you please have a picture of the second Shenandoah?

It sounds to me as if the author of the novel has taken some literary licence with his use of Shenandoah.

Thank you for an interesting story.


January 25, 2010


I do not have another picture of the Shenandoah, although there is a different one shown on the following website if you hover your mouse over the "info-box" beside the reference to the visit of the Shenandoah.


You can see an obvious difference in the height of the funnel. It is hard to compare the two because of the fact that the one that was used in The Age shows the ship from a different angle.

At the Williamstown historical museum there  is a large [but fuzzy] photograph of the Shenandoah at Williamstown. One day I plan to go back and compare it with the one from the U.S. Navy archives.

When I locate the book I mentioned, I will email you with further details.

A cannon does seem to be an odd gift for the captain of a belligerent ship to make for a variety of reasons. The author seems to think it was retrieved from the sea-bed. There ought to be some way of checking this information.

In the picture shown in the Age, they have cropped the left side of the picture, but this picture [which is available on a lot of websites] shows the prow of another ship very close to the Shenandoah.

It would be interesting to know what was going on there. Was this ship blocking the Shenandoah from making an escape?

Geraldine Moore


The caption above the photo says Shenandoah is hauled out of the water for repairs, but she seems to be alongside a wharf.

CSS Shenandoah high and dry on the slip at Williamstown, a suburb of my own city of Melbourne. February, 1865
US Naval Historical Center Photograph
CSS Shenandoah high and dry in the graving dock at Williamstown, a suburb of my own city of Melbourne. February, 1865.

The bow of the other vessel is on the other side of the wharf, and if this is the one you refer to, it could not block any movement from Shenandoah.

Here is another photo of the ship.

The funnel does seem higher, but it may have been possible to lower it.

It is the one ship, I am sure of that, and I am very strongly of the view that the two photos are of the one Confederaste Raider Shenamndoah.


Williams, Paul
The Shenandoah Affair, 1992 (A maritime historical romance based on the factual visit of the successful Confederate raider SHENANDOAH (JamesWaddell) to the port of Melbourne, Australia for repairs during the Civil War. A bodice-ripper complete with embossed title and a purple cover that matches the prose within, featuring a Scarlet O'Hara-like character abducted from one of the Union ships Waddell sinks.)

This looks like your fiction work.



back to letters index


This site was created as a resource for educational use and the promotion of historical awareness. All rights of publicity of the individuals named herein are expressly reserved, and, should be respected consistent with the reverence in which this memorial site was established.

Copyright© 1984/2014 Mackenzie J. Gregory All rights reserved