Point Gellibrand & 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 while repairs were undertaken. 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.


The Shenandoah 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 a hefty reparation payment had to be made by Great Britain to the United States government.