CSS Shenandoah entering the River Mersey

This magnificent artwork is used with the kind permission of Ted Walker

William Kenyon was born on September 30, 1844 in Sorrento, Victoria; the son of Richard and Jane Courtney Kenyon. He was baptized December 21, 1849 at St. James Parish, Melbourne. One source states it was at Rye, Port Philip Heads, also known as ‘The Heads’ in Victoria, Australia.  His mother, Jane, later remarried, in 1853, to John Penlington and his mother once indicated to the Police Department at Melbourne, Victoria in early 1865, that Kenyon had once been in the Victorian Naval Brigade. 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 a supposed commercial voyage and permission was granted over the objections of the U.S. consul. Captain J. I. Waddell on the “Shenandoah” 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, while 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 crewmembers; among who 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 the war, and after further attacks on shipping by the “Shenandoah”. Damages amounted to 800,000 pounds -- millions of dollars in today's money. 

The “Shenandoah” 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? Kenyon boarded the CSS Shenandoah at Sandridge, in Melbourne, sometime between 10 and 11 p.m. on the night of February 17, 1865 and shipped out as a private in the Confederate States Marine Corps aboard the cruiser, February 18th, 1865, at the rate of $18.00; placing his mark against his name.

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. Kenyon left the vessel at the end of her cruise, on November 6, 1865, at Liverpool, England. When the “CSS Shenandoah” was surrendered to British Captain Paynter, commanding her Majesty’s ship “Donegal. William remained in the United Kingdom for several months, before taking occupation as a seaman aboard the Martha Birnie, sailing from Plymouth and London, England on June 15, 1867, bound for Sydney, New South Wales; arriving on September 3, 1867. From there he returned to Melbourne, and was employed as a wood and coal dealer in 1869 & 1870, then took became the landlord of the Happy Home Hotel, at Sandridge.

William Kenyon after returning to Melbourne, Victoria married his wife Sarah Caroline Stenneken on June 13, 1872, at Sandridge, Port Melbourne. William and Sara had five children, three of whom survived their father; Benjamin born c. 1879, Ann Elizabeth born in 1881, and Maria born in 1885. On March 25, 1872 Kenyon reported to the United States Consulate at Melbourne for an interview with the consul, Thomas Adamson, Jr., about his service aboard the CSS Shenandoah, in 1865. He gave details relating to his enlistment and service, but, when asked to sign a declaration about his service, he became indecisive and refused to sign unless a large sum of money was forthcoming.

On Monday, April 9, 1872, Kenyon was fined 40 shillings, at the Sandridge Police Court, for allowing liquor to be sold on a Sunday, at the Happy Home Hotel.  He and his family lived for many years on Nott Street in Sandridge, before removing, to Rouse Street, also in Sandridge, in 1898. His occupation between 1898 and 191 was that of a butcher.

William Kenyon died of vascular disease of the heart and heart failure, at his home at 188/190 Rouse Street, Port Melbourne, Victoria, as a Master Mariner, at age 71 on November 14, 1915 and was buried in Melbourne General Cemetery, Church of England Section NN, grave number 540; as an Australian Confederate.



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

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