Hobsons Bay City Council
Home / History / Point Gellibrand and the ‘Shenandoah’ Incident
Point Gellibrand and the ‘Shenandoah’ Incident

American visitors may be interested to know that Williamstown was the only part of Australia to play a role in the American Civil War, on the side of the Rebels (Confederates).

In 1865 the Confederate warship ‘Shenandoah’, which had successfully attacked several Union ships in the Indian Ocean, entered port at Williamstown, ostensibly for a day or two while repairs were effected. She ended up staying for a month, while the officers enjoyed the social life of the young colony, and eventually the ‘Shenandoah’ sailed, restored by repairs and illegal recruitment of crew.

She went on to sink another 25 United States merchant ships, and the incident had severe repercussions since Britain was neutral during the Civil War. Victoria’s Governor Darling persistently ignored demands from the United States Consul Blanchard that the ship be arrested, and the Colony of Victoria was seen as having provided illegal security to the South.

In 1872 reparation payments of $3,875,000 had to be made by Great Britain to the United States government.

A few books have been written about this fascinating chapter, most notably Rebel Down Under: When the ‘Shenandoah’ shook Melbourne by Cyril Pearl. A highly fictionalised bodice-ripping novel, The ‘Shenandoah’ Affair, by Paul Williams, was published in 1992.

For feedback and comments please contact the Tourism Officer at Hobsons Bay City Council on (03) 9932 1000 email visitorinformation@hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au