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CSS Shenandoah

William Swanton, whose first name William A. Temple incorrectly recorded as ‘Thomas’, was born in England, migrated to Victoria, Australia and made his home in the vicinity of Melbourne.

He was residing there when the “CSS Shenandoah”, a Confederate Cruiser during the American Civil War, arrived in Port Phillip Bay off Melbourne on January 25, 1865.

In February, Swanton like many others living in the area joined the thousands that went down to the Williamstown docks to see the Confederate warship, but Swanton wanted more; hearing the “Shenandoah” was also trying to recruit new crewmembers, Swanton wanted to be among those to be recruited.

On the night of February 17, 1865, Swanton secretly went aboard the “CSS Shenandoah”, in violation of the Victorian mandate not to do so, and was aided by the crew who hid him below decks. He had to remain hidden so not to be found, until the “Shenandoah” had returned to sea, leaving Australian waters. On February 18, 1865, after the ship was well into international waters, Swanton came out of hiding and joined forty-one others who signed aboard the “Shenandoah”. Swanton signed on as a seaman for a rate of $29.10; and by placing his mark beside his name in the logbook, Swanton became a “Shenandoah” crewmember. On Saturday, May 27, 1865 Swanton was a member of a “Shenandoah” boarding party who boarded the Abigail, a captured prize vessel. Searching the captured ship, Swanton found a large quantity of liquor aboard and together with his fellow boarders managed to get quite intoxicated. Subsequently, as Swanton was leaving the Abigail to return to the “Shenandoah”, for reasons only known to him, in a drunken state he deliberately jumped overboard; but he was quickly hauled in and lashed to the bottom of the boat as punishment.

William Swanton was, however, one of the signatories who expressed their confidence in the command of Lieutenant James I. Waddell, in a petition dated September 1865; and he remained aboard the “Shenandoah” until the end of her epic voyage. 

With the surrender of the “CSS Shenandoah” by Lieutenant James I. Waddell, on November 6, 1865 to British Captain Paynter commanding Her Majesty’s ship “Donegal, at Liverpool, England, Swanton accompanied the crew as they disembarked and was given quarters ashore. 


Alabama Claims, “Correspondence Concerning Claims Against Great Britain

   transmitted to the Senate of the United States in answer to the Resolutions of 

   December 4, and 10, 1867, and of May 27, 1868”, Washington; 1869

Eleanor S. Brockenbrough Library, Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia.

The Confederate soldier in the Civil War, 1861-1865, 1897

Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion

The Cruise of the Shenandoah, Captain William C. Whittle, CSN

William A. Temple, affidavit


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