Williamstown and the American Civil War

I went across the bridge to Williamstown to take a few pictures. Got a bit sidetracked and seemed to concentrate on pubs. Williamstown is just a stone’s throw from Melbourne and it was thought for a while that it would be the site for Melbourne. As it was Melbourne was built a little further up the river. But Williamstown was the main port for some time. And being a port meant sailors and dock workers et al and that of course meant hotels.

The gold rushes that began in early 1850s was the main impetus for development and the pubs were built around that time, firstly as rough buildings but very soon as substantial structures.

The Steampacket Inn is not on the waterfront but just back one block.

And by the way, I don’t wish to hear derogatory comments about Victorian Beer. I’m not a fan of the commercial brews myself, but at least they are better than some.

This is the Yacht Club Hotel is on the main street next to some fine old buildings, most of which are now restaurants and other such establishments and they cater for many visitors.

The Custom House Hotel is here because it is one of the pubs but it does not have a particularly enticing fascade and I wasn’t in the mood to go inside at the time.

The Rose of Australia does look quite plain but it is very welcoming.

Further down the street there is a rather different Hotel, built about one hundred years ago to celebrate (commemorate would be a better word) a major disaster.

While I’m talking about commemorating things I want to refer to the growing debate about memorials to past historical events that some people want to pull down. I’m not in the business of re-writing history to suit current sensibilities. I know that someone’s hero is another person’s enemy. But, hero or enemy, the facts of the specific events cannot and should not be whitewashed. Now that I have delivered my customary diatribe, back to the pictures.

This plaque is on the side of a building that does have a bit of history and because of that I want to show the building before it is pulled down to make way for housing developments. At least I hope it wont be destroyed.

It is hard to see clearly the mural of the CSS Shenandoah, although the next picture show thw mural on the other wall which is obscured but in better condition.

In 1865,at the height of the American civil war the CSS Shenandoah, skippered by Captain James Waddell, arrived in Williamstown to repair the ship’s propeller shaft and to buy supplies and send mail. (Please note the very fine correction to my casual reference to dates that appears in the comment below by his eminence The Lord Beari Of Bow.)

When the ship arrived crowd flocked to see it. On its way to Victoria it captured nine US merchant ships and destroyed eight of them.

As one can imagine the visit caused a lot of diplomatic unrest. The United States consul in Melbourne did his very best to make sure that they would be prevented from going any further.

Of the three Melbourne newspapers at the time two thought that the Shenandoah was a hero and one of the newspapers thought that the Shenandoah was nothing but a pirate.”

After touring parts of Melbourne the crew were invited up to Ballarat, where they toured mines and went to a ball at Craig’s Hotel where they danced until 4 o’clock in the morning and had a great time.

 

 

A close reading of the plaque shows that after the Civil war the US government brought an action against the British Government for damages and Britain had to pay an amount which today would be Billions.  Any way, there you go.

The pubs of Williams Town.

26 thoughts on “Williamstown and the American Civil War

  1. I agree with you about the statues and memorials. They were meaningful at the time and who are we to judge what should or shouldn’t be kept.

    I love these old buildings and pubs. I really do hope the developers don’t get their dirty mitts on them!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. 1865 the American Civil War was winding down and ended; General Robert E lee surrendered his army to General Ulysses S Grant on the 9th April 1865,.
    On 14th April Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
    I love old pubs; The first pub I ever had a drink in was the Mitre Tavern in Bank Place on the 17th May 1951. The Mitre is the oldest pub in Victoria, I believe.
    I lived quite close to Williamstown from 51-58 at Sunshine/Braybrook, in those railway houses; and never ever, got to Williamstown.
    I understand that it’s opened up quite a lot now, bg housing developemnets and McMansions.
    One of my nephew lives there I’m told. He’s a schoolteacher wouldn’t you know! Like mother like son!

    Like

    1. I will change the phrase “At the height of” to read “Towards the end of” .
      I am very pleased I didn’t have you sitting in the front row of my history classes. I was never a great fan of dates. The underlying foundations were more important. On the other hand we could have been ‘team-teachers’ and I would paint the picture and you could fill in the fine detail while I wandered back to the staff room for another cup of coffee.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. At school the only subject I really enjoyed was history; for the past 10-15 years I’ve taken a great interest in the U S of American history.
        I’v never heard the expression team-teachers before however I get the idea. you might just have well stayed in the staff room had a couple of whisky’s with your coffee as you probably wouldn’t have got a word in with me getting all wound up and enthusiastic!

        Like

  3. I appreciate what you said here in the post on tearing historical monuments:
    “While I’m talking about commemorating things I want to refer to the growing debate about memorials to past historical events that some people want to pull down. I’m not in the business of re-writing history to suit current sensibilities. I know that someone’s hero is another person’s enemy. But, hero or enemy, the facts of the specific events cannot and should not be whitewashed.”
    You explain it so well and I would like to remember these sentences.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m not in favor or either forgetting or whitewashing the past, but I’m also not in favor of rubbing people’s noses in it. When I read about people objecting to Confederate monuments being taken down, I find myself wondering what they had to say when statues of Lenin were being toppled.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think that comparing the leaders of a Civil war in America and a dictatorship in Russia would take a big long look at the history of both conflicts and that would require, for my satisfaction, going back to Uni for another three or four years.

    Like

  5. Yep. My first thought was – was about all those statues of Stalin? All the same, it will be several more decades for the buildings of his era collapse or are torn down worldwide. Great self control to visit those pubs as a dispassionate observer. Well done you.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s