They rowed quietly across the placid waters of dark Melbourne Harbor until a huge black hull, towering masts, and tracery of rigging loomed above, blotting out shore lights. Behind their boat, at the end of a line, floated a cask containing 250 pounds of black powder with a cocked revolver and cord attached. With the only sounds from the sleeping ship being occasional soft voices and the footsteps of the watch on deck, they secured the cask to the hull with a chain and rowed away. But there would be no explosion; the chain broke, and the operation was aborted.
Pirate, Privateer, or Man-of-War?
The CSS Shenandoah’s three-week stay at Melbourne, Australia, threw into relief the controversial and slippery international status of such Rebel commerce raiders.
By Lieutenant Commander Dwight S. Hughes, U.S. Navy (Retired)