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William Kenyon was born in 1844 in Sorrento, Victoria. William was a native born Australian, unlike many who participated in the American Civil War, choosing for reasons of his own to volunteer to fight for the Confederacy. His service, however was not with the Confederate States in America, but from the deck of one of the most famous ships of the period; the CSS Shenandoah. Some may disagree with his status of being a combatant in the service of the Confederate Government, but it is an accepted fact that any individual who served on a Confederate naval vessel during the time of war with the Union, after the cessation of hostilities, that individual is viewed by both the south and the north as a Confederate veteran. William Kenyon was just such a case and earned the right to be called a Confederate veteran; by serving as a Confederate Marine aboard the CSS Shenandoah.

The Confederate naval ship “Shenandoah” sailed into Hobson's Bay at the mouth of the Yarra River at Melbourne, Victoria on the afternoon of January 25, 1865. The Captain requested permission to dock at Williamstown in 1865, after developing propeller problems during asupposed commercial voyage and permission was granted over the objections of the US consul. Captain J. I. Waddell said he only wanted to put the ship onto the Williamstown slip for repairs, and to take on food and water; a legitimate undertaking for any ship in a neutral port. Melbourne residents flocked to view the famous Confederate raider, some to cheer, and newspapers openly advocated the arrest of the crew and the confiscation of the ship. But the Victorian government ignored it all; as well as police reports of the attempted recruitment of crewmen.

While in port, however, Captain Waddell of the Shenandoah did call for volunteers to compliment his ships crew and was rewarded with some 42 new crew members; among whom was William Kenyon. His acceptance of a berth on the CSS Shenandoah and his acceptance of a position among her crew, in fact made Kenyon a Confederate Marine in the service of the Confederacy. It was though a breech of Victoria's neutrality and later proved costly to the British government; when an international tribunal awarded damages against Britain, after further attacks on shipping by the “Shenandoah”. Damages amounted to 800,000 pounds -- millions of dollars in today's money.

It left port after 22 days, before the U.S. consul could enforce plans to seize the enemy ship and went on to decimate Union shipping among the North Pacific American whaling fleet; some say an act of piracy as its raiding continued on after the end of the American Civil War. How though, would the crew of the Shenandoah know of the wars end, being continually at sea? After capturing or sinking 38 Union ships, Captain Waddell learned of the conclusion of the war and ceased all hostilities; immediately sailing to a neutral port in Liverpool, England.

 

Sue Mandarino, Melbourne General Cemetery

Birth, Marriage and Death Records, Victoria

“The Confederate Soldier in the Civil War”, pg. 47

Declaration of Thomas Adamson, Jr. U.S. Consul, Sydney

Melbourne General Cemetery Records

National Archives, Washington, D.C.

 

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