Battle of Monitor and Merrimack (Virginia) Ironclads

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Battle of Monitor and Merrimack: "Duel of the Ironclads"

An Eye-Witness Account of the Battle Between the U.S.S. Monitor and the C.S.S. Virginia (formerly U.S.S. Merrimack) on March 9th, 1862

by Lieutenant Samuel Dana Green, U.S.N.

Naval Historical Foundation publication
Washington, DC
n.d.

Copy of letter written by the late Lieutenant Samuel Dana Green, U. S. Navy, and now at the Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland.

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U.S. Steamer Monitor
Hampton Roads, March 14, 1862

My dear Mother and father,

I commence this now, but I don't know when I shall finish, as I have to write it at odd moments, when I can find a few minutes rest. When I bid Charley good night on Wednesday the 5th, I confidently expected to see you the next day, as I then thought it would be impossible to finish our repairs on Thursday, but the mechanics worked all night and a[t] 11 A.M. on Thursday we started down the harbor in company with the gun-boats Sachem and Currituck. We went along very nicely and when we arrived at Governor's Island, the steamer Seth Low came along side and took us in tow. We went out passed the Narrows with a light wind from the West and very smooth water. The weather continued the same all Thursday night. I turned out at six o'clock on Friday morning, and from that time until Monday at 7 P.M. I think I lived ten good years. About noon the wind freshened and the sea was quite rough. In the afternoon the sea was breaking over our decks at a great rate, and coming in our hawse pipe, forward, in perfect floods. Our berth deck hatch leaked in spite of all we could do, and the water came down under the Tower like a water fall. It would strike the pilot house and go over the Tower in most beautiful curves. The water came through the narrow eye holes in the pilot house with such force as to knock the helmsman completely round from the wheel. At 4 P.M. the water had gone down our smoke stacks and blowers to such an extent that the blowers gave out, and the Engine Room was filled with gas. Then Mother occurred a scene I shall never forget. Our Engineers behaved like heroes every one of them. They fought with the gas, endeavoring to get the blowers to work, until they dropped down--apparently as dead as men ever were. I jumped in the Engine Room with my men as soon as I could and carried them on top of the Tower to get fresh air. I was nearly suffocated with the gas myself, but got on deck after everyone was out of the Engine Room just in time to save myself. Three firemen were in the same condition as the Engineers. Then times looked rather blue I can assure you. We had no fear as long as the Engine could be kept going, to pump out the water, but when that stopped the water increased rapidly. I immediately rigged the hand pump on the berth deck, but we were obliged to lead the hose out over the Tower; there was not force enough in the pump to throw the water out. Our only resource now was to bail, and that was useless as we had to pass the buckets up through the Tower, which made it a vary long operation. What to do now we did not know. We had done all in our power and must let things take their own course. Fortunately the wind was off shore, so we hailed the tug boat, and told them to steer directly for the shore in order to get in smooth water. After five hours of hard steaming, we got near the land and in smooth water. At 8 P.M. we managed to

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get the engines to go in everything comparatively quiet again. The Captain had been up nearly all the previous night, and as we did not like to leave the deck without one of us being there, so I told him I would keep the watch from 8 to 12, he take it from 12 to 4, and I would relieve him from 4 to 8. Well the first watch passed off very nicely, smooth sea, clear sky, the moon out and the old tank going along five and six knots very nicely. All I had to do was to keep awake and think over the narrow escape we had in the afternoon. At 12 o'clock things looked so favorable, that I told the Captain he need not turn out, I would lay down with my clothes on, and if any thing happened, I would turn out and attend to it. He said very well and I went to my room and hoped to get a little nap. I had scarcely go[t] to my bunk, when I was startled by the most infernal noise that I ever heard in my life. The Merrimac's firing on Sunday last was music to it.

We were just passing a shoal and the sea suddenly became very rough and right ahead. It came up with tremendous force through our anchor-well and forced the air through our hawse pipe where the chain comes and then the water would come through in a perfect stream clear to our berth deck over the Ward Room table. The noise resembled the death groans of twenty men, and certainly was the most dismal, awful sound I ever heard. Of course the Captain and myself were on our feet in a moment and endeavoring to stop the hawse pipe. We succeeded partially but now the water commenced to come down our blowers again and we feared the same accident that happened in the afternoon. We tried to hail the Tug Boat, but the wind being directly ahead, they could not hear us, and we had no way of signalling to them as the steam whistle which father recommend had not been put on. We commenced to think then the Monitor would never see day light. We watched carefully every drop of water that went down the blowers and sent continually to ask the Firemen how the blowers were going. His only answer was slowly, but could not be kept going much longer unless we could stop the water from coming down. The sea was washing completely over our decks and it was dangerous for a man to go on them so we could do nothing to the blowers. In the midst of all this our wheel ropes jumped off the steering wheel (owing to the pitching of the ship) and became jambed. She now commenced to sheer about at awful rate and we thought our hawser must certainly part. Fortunately it was a new one and held on well. In the course of half an hour we fixed the wheel ropes and now our blowers were the only difficulty. About 3 o'clock on Saturday morning, the sea became a little smoother, though still rough, and going down our blowers to some extent. The never failing answer from the Engine Room, "Blowers going slowly, but cant go much longer. From 4 A. M. until day light, was certainly the longest hour and a half, I ever spent. I certainly thought old Sol had stopped in China and never intended to pay us another visit. At last however we could see and made the Tug Boat understand to go nearer in shore and get in smooth water, which we did at about 8 A.M. Things were again a little quiet, but every thing wet and uncomfortable below. The decks and air Ports leaked and the water still came down the hatches and under the Tower. I was busy all day, making out my Station Bills and attending to different things that constantly required my attention. At 3 P.M.

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we parted our hawser, but fortunately it was quite smooth, and we secured it without difficulty. At 4 P.M. we passed Cape Henry and heard heavy firing in the direction of Fortress Monroe. As we approached it increased, and we immediately cleated ship for action. When about half way between Fortress Monroe and Cape Henry, we spoke a pilot boat. He told us the Cumberland was sunk and the Congress was on fire and had surrendered to the Merrimac. We did not credit it, at first, but as we approached Hampton Roads, we could see the fine old Congress burning brightly, and we knew then it must be so. Badly indeed did we feel, to think those two fine old vessels had gone to their last homes, with so many of their brave crews. Our hearts were very full and we vowed vengeance on the "Merrimac", if it should ever be our lot to fall in with her. At 9 P.M. we anchored near the Frigate Roanoke, the flag ship, Captain Marston (the Major's brother.) Captain Worden immediately went on board, and received orders to proceed to New Port News, and protect the Minnesota (which was aground) from the Merrimac. We immediately got underweigh and arrived at the Minnesota at 11 P.M. I went all board in our cutter and asked the Captain what his prospects were of getting off. He said he should try to get afloat at 2 A. M. when it was high water. I asked him if we could render him any assistance, to which he replied No. I then told him we should do all in our power to protect him from the attacks of the Merrimac. He thanked me kindly and wished us success. Just as I arrived back to the Monitor, the Congress blew up, and certainly a grander sight was never seen, but it went straight to the marrow of our bones. Not a word was said, but deep did each man think, and wish he was by the side of the Merrimac. At 1 A.M. we anchored near the Minnesota. The Captain and myself remained on deck, waiting for the Merrimac. At 3 A.M. we thought the Minnesota was afloat and coming down on us, so we got underweigh as soon as possible and stood out of the Channel. After backing and filling about for an hour we found we were mistaken and anchored again. At day light we discovered the Merrimac at anchor with several vessels under Sewell's Point. We immediately made every preparation for battle. At 8 A.M. on Sunday the Merrimac got underweigh, accompanied by several Steamers, and started direct for the Minnesota. When a mile distant she fired two guns at the Minnesota. By this time our anchor was up, the men at quarters, the guns loaded, and everything ready for action. As the Merrimac came closer, the Captain passed the word to commence firing. I triced up the port, run the gun out, and fired the first gun, and thus commenced the great battle between the" Monitor" and the" Merrimac".

Now mark the condition our men and officers were in. Since Friday morning, 48 hours, they had had no rest, and very little food, as we could not conveniently cook. They had been hard at work all night, and nothing to eat for breakfast except hard bread, and were thoroughly worn out. As for myself, I had not slept a wink for 51 hours, and had been on my feet almost constantly. But after the first gun was fired, we forgot all fatigues, hard work and every thing else, and went to work fighting as hard as men ever fought. We loaded and fired as fast as we could. I pointed and fired the guns myself. Every shot I would ask the Captain the effect, and the majority of them were

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encouraging. The Captain was in the Pilot House directing the movements of the vessel. Acting Master Stodder was stationed at the wheel which turns the Tower, but as he could not manage it, he was relieved by Stimers. The speaking trumpet from the Tower to the pilot House was broken, so we passed the word from the Captain to myself on the berth deck, by Pay Master Keeler and Captain's Clerk Toffey. Five times during the engagement we touched each other, and each time I fired a gun at her, and I will vouche the 168 lbs. penetrated her sides. Once she tried to run us down with her iron prow, but did no damage whatever. After fighting for two hours, we hauled off for half an hour to hoist shot in the Tower. At it we went again as hard as we could. The Shot, Shell, grape, canister, musket and rifle balls flew about us in every direction but did us no damage. Our Tower was struck several times, and though the noise was pretty loud, it did not effect us any. Stodder and one of the men were carelessly leaning against the Tower, when a shot struck the Tower exactly opposite to them, and disabled them for an hour or two. At about 11:30 the Captain sent for me. I went forward, and there stood as noble a man as lives, at the foot of the ladder of the pilot house. His face was perfectly black with powder and iron, and he was apparently perfectly blind. I asked him what was the matter. He said a shot had struck the Pilot House exactly opposite his eyes and blinded him, and he thought the Pilot House was damaged. He told me to take charge of the ship and use my own discretion. I lead him to his room and laid him on the sofa, and then took his position. On examining the Pilot house I found the iron hatch on top, had been knocked about half way off, and the second iron log from the Top, on the forward side was completely cracked through. We still continued firing, the Tower being under the direction of Stimers. We were between two fires. The Minnesota on one side and the Merrimac on the other. The latter was retreating to Sewell's Point and the Minnesota had struck us twice on the Tower. I knew if another shot should strike our pilot house in the same place, our steering apparatus would be disabled and we should be at the mercy of the Batteries on Sewell's Point. The Merrimac was retreating towards the latter place. We had strict orders to act on the defensive and protect the Minnesota. We had evidently finished the Merrimac as far as the Minnesota was concerned, our pilot house was damaged and we had strict orders, not to follow the Merrimac up; therefore, after the Merrimac had retreated, I went to the Minnesota and remained by her until she was afloat. Genl. Wool and Secretary Fox both have complimented me very highly for acting as I did, and said it was the strict military plan to follow. This is the reason we did not sink the Merrimac, and everyone here capable of judging says we acted exactly right.

The fight was over now and we were victorious. My men and myself were perfectly black with smoke and powder. All my under clothes were perfectly black and my person was in the same condition. As we ran along side the Minnesota, Secretary Fox hailed us, and told us we had fought the greatest Naval battle on record and behaved as gallantly as men could. He saw the whole fight. I felt proud and happy then mother, and felt fully repaid for all I had suffered. When

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our noble Captain heard the Merrimac had retreated he said he was perfectly happy and willing to die, since he had saved the Minnesota. Oh how I love and venerate that man. Most fortunately for him his class mate and most intimate friend, Lieut. Wise saw the fight and was along side immediately after the engagement. He took him on board the Baltimore boat and carried him to Washington that night. The Minnesota was still aground and we stood by her until she floated about 4 P.M. She grounded again shortly and we anchored for the night. I was now Captain and 1st Lieutenant and had not a soul to help me in the ship as Stodder was injured and Webber useless. I had been up so long, had had so little rest and been under such a state of excitement that my nervous system was completely run down. Every bone in my body ached. My limbs and joints were so sore that I could not stand. My nerves and muscles twitched as though electric shocks were continually passing through them and my head ached as if it would burst. Some times I thought my brain would come right out over my eye brows. I laid down and tried to sleep, but I might as well have tried to fly. About 12 o'clock Acting Lieutenant Flye came on board and reported to me for duty. He lives in Topsham, opposite Brunswick, and recollects father very well. He immediately assumed the duties of 1st Luff. and I felt considerably relieved. But no sleep did I get that night, owing to my excitement. The next morning at 8 o'clock we got underweigh, and stood through our fleet. Cheer after cheer went up from the Frigates and small craft for the glorious little Monitor and happy indeed did we all feel. I was Captain then of the vessel that had saved New Port News, Hampton Roads, Fortress Monroe (as Genl. Wool himself said) and perhaps your Northern Ports. I am unable to express the happiness and joy I felt, to think I had served my country and Flag so well, at such an important time. I passed Farquar's vessel and answered his welcome salute. About 10 A.M. Genl. Wool and Mr. Fox came on board and congratulated us upon our victory, etc., etc. We have a standing invitation from Genl. Wool to dine with him, but no officer is allowed to leave the ship until we sink the Merrimac. At 8 o'clock that night Tom Selfridge came on board and took command, and brought the following letter from Fox to me,

U.S. Steamer Roanoke
Old Point, March 10th

My dear Mr. Greene,

Under the extraordinary circumstances of the contest of yesterday, and the responsibility devolving upon me, and your extreme youth, I have suggested to Captain Marston, to send on board the Monitor as temporary Comdg. Lt. Selfridge, until the arrival of Commodore Goldsborough which will be in a few days. I appreciate your position and you must appreciate mine, and serve with the same zeal and fidelity. With the kindest wishes for you all

Most truly
G. A. Fox.

Of course I was a little taken aback at first, but (soon saw the) on a second thought, I saw it was as it should be. You must recollect the immense responsibility resting upon this vessel. We literally

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hold all the property, ashore and afloat in these regions, as the wooden vessels are useless against the Merrimac. At no time during the war either in the Navy or Army, has any one position been so important as this vessel. You may think I am exaggerating some what, because I am in the Monitor, but the President, Secretary, Genl. Wool all think the same and have telegraphed to that effect, for us to be vigilant, etc., etc. The Captain receives every day numbers of anonymous letters from all parts of the Country, suggesting plans to him, etc. and I think some people North of the Mason and Dixon's line have a little fear of the Merrimac. Under these circumstances it was perfectly right and proper in Mr. Fox to relieve me from the command, for you must recollect I had never performed any but midshipman's duty before this: but between you and me, I would kept the command with all its responsibility, if had my choice, and either the Merrimac or the Monitor should have gone down in our next engagement. But then you know all young people are vain, conceited and without judgement. Even the President telegraphed to Mr. Fox to do so and so, Mr. President I suppose thinking Mr. Fox rather young, he being only about 40. Mr. Fox however, had already done what the President telegraphed him several hours before.

Selfridge was only in command for two days, until Lt. Jeffers arrived from Roanoke Island. Mr. Jeffers is every thing desirable. Talented, educated, energetic and Experienced in Battle. Well I believe I have about finished. Buttsy, my old room mate, was on board the Merrimac; little did we ever think at the Academy, we should be firing 150 lbs. shot at each other, but so goes the World. Our pilot house is nearly completed. We have now solid oak, extending from three inches below the eye holes in the Pilot House, to 5 feet out on the deck. This makes an angle of 27 degrees from the horizontal. This is to be covered with 3 inches of iron. It looks exactly like a pyramid. We will now be invulnerable at every point. The deepest indentation on our sides was 4 inches. Tower 2 inches the deck 1/2 inch. We were not at all damaged except the Pilot House. No one was affected by the concussion in the Tower, either by our own guns or the shots of the enemy. This is a pretty long letter for me, for you recollect my writing abilities. Wish much love to you all, I remain

Your aff. son & brother
Dana

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Source: Green, Samuel Dana. An Eye-Witness Account of the Battle Between the U.S.S. Monitor and the C.S.S. Virginia (formerly U.S.S. Merrimack) on March 9th, 1862. Washington, DC: Naval Historical Foundation, n.d.


Acknowledgements: To the Naval Historical Center and the Naval Historical Foundation for their support and encouragement in posting this online edition.

Recommended Reading: The Battle of Hampton Roads: New Perspectives on the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (Mariner's Museum). Description: On March 8 and 9, 1862, a sea battle off the Virginia coast changed naval warfare forever. It began when the Confederate States Navy’s CSS Virginia led a task force to break the Union blockade of Hampton Roads. The Virginia sank the USS Cumberland and forced the frigate Congress to surrender. Damaged by shore batteries, the Virginia retreated, returning the next day to find her way blocked by the newly arrived USS Monitor. The clash of ironclads was underway. Continued below…

After fighting for nine hours, both ships withdrew, neither seriously damaged, with both sides claiming victory. Although the battle may have been a draw and the Monitor sank in a storm later that year, this first encounter between powered, ironclad warships spelled the end of wooden warships—and the dawn of a new navy. This book takes a new look at this historic battle. The ten original essays, written by leading historians, explore every aspect of the battle—from the building of the warships and life aboard these “iron coffins” to tactics, strategy, and the debates about who really won the battle of Hampton Roads. Co-published with The Mariners’ Museum, home to the USS Monitor Center, this authoritative guide to the military, political, technological, and cultural dimensions of this historic battle also features a portfolio of classic lithographs, drawings, and paintings. Harold Holzer is one of the country’s leading experts on the Civil War.

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Recommended Reading: Ironclad Down: USS Merrimack-CSS Virginia from Design to Destruction (Hardcover). Description: The result of more than fifteen years of research, Ironclad Down is a treasure trove of detailed information about one of history s most famous vessels. Describing the fascinating people--Stephen Russell Mallory, John Mercer Brooke, John Luke Porter, et al.--who conceived, designed and built one of the world's first ironclads as well as describing the ship itself, Carl Park offers both the most thoroughly detailed, in-depth analysis to date of the actual architecture of the Virginia and a fascinating, colorful chapter of Civil War history.

 

Recommended Reading: Confederate Ironclad vs Union Ironclad: Hampton Roads 1862 (Duel). Description: The Ironclad was a revolutionary weapon of war. Although iron was used for protection in the Far East during the 16th century, it was the 19th century and the American Civil War that heralded the first modern armored self-propelled warships. With the parallel pressures of civil war and the industrial revolution, technology advanced at a breakneck speed. It was the South who first utilized ironclads as they attempted to protect their ports from the Northern blockade. Impressed with their superior resistance to fire and their ability to ram vulnerable wooden ships, the North began to develop its own rival fleet of ironclads. Eventually these two products of this first modern arms race dueled at the battle of Hampton Roads in a clash that would change the face of naval warfare. Continued below…

Fully illustrated with cutting-edge digital artwork, rare photographs and first-person perspective gun sight views, this book allows the reader to discover the revolutionary and radically different designs of the two rival Ironclads - the CSS Virginia and USS Monitor - through an analysis of each ship's weaponry, ammunition and steerage. Compare the contrasting training of the crews and re-live the horrors of the battle at sea in a war which split a nation, communities and even families. About the Author: Ron Field is Head of History at the Cotswold School in Bourton-on-the-Water. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1982 and taught history at Piedmont High School in California from 1982 to 1983. He was associate editor of the Confederate Historical Society of Great Britain, from 1983 to 1992. He is an internationally acknowledged expert on US Civil War military history, and was elected a Fellow of the Company of Military Historians, based in Washington, DC, in 2005. The author lives in Cheltenham, UK.

 

Recommended Reading: Ironclad, by Paul Clancy (Hardcover). Description: The true story of the Civil War ironclad that saved the Union Navy only to sink in a storm--and its remarkable salvage 140 years later. Ironclad tells the saga of the warship USS Monitor and its salvage, one of the most complex and dangerous in history. The Monitor is followed through its maiden voyage from New York to Hampton Roads, its battle with the Merrimack, and its loss off Cape Hatteras. At the same time, author Paul Clancy takes readers behind the scenes of an improbable collaboration between navy divers and cautious archaeologists working 240 feet deep. Clancy creates a memorable, fascinating read, including fresh insights into the sinking of the Union ship and giving the answer to an intriguing forensic mystery: the identities of the two sailors whose bones were found in the Monitor's recovered turret. Continued below…

Its one great battle in the spring of 1862 marked the obsolescence of wooden fighting ships and may have saved the Union. Its terrible end in a winter storm off Cape Hatteras condemned sixteen sailors to a watery grave. And the recovery of its 200-ton turret in August 2002 capped the largest, most complex and hazardous ocean salvage operation in history. In Ironclad, Paul Clancy interweaves these stories so skillfully that the cries of drowning Union sailors sound a ghostly undertone to the cough of diesel generators and the clanging of compression-chamber doors on a huge recovery barge. The din and screech of cannonballs on iron plating echo beneath the hum of electronic monitors and the garbled voices of Navy divers working at the edge of human technology and endurance in water 240 feet deep.

Clancy studied the letters and diaries of the Monitor's long-ago sailors, and he moved among the salvage divers and archaeologists in the summer of 2002. John L. Worden, captain of the Monitor, strides from these pages no less vividly than the remarkable Bobbie Scholley, the woman commander of 160 Navy divers on an extreme mission. Clancy writes history as it really happens, the improbable conjunction of personalities, ideas, circumstances, and chance. The Union navy desperately needed an answer to the Confederacy's ironclad dreadnought, and the brilliantly eccentric Swedish engineer John Ericsson had one. And 140 years later, when marine archaeologists despaired of recovering any part of the Monitor before it disintegrated, a few visionaries in the U.S. Navy saw an opportunity to resurrect their deep-water saturation diving program. From the breakneck pace of Monitor's conception, birth, and brief career, to the years of careful planning and perilous labor involved in her recovery, Ironclad tells a compelling tale of technological revolution, wartime heroism, undersea adventure, and forensic science. This book is must-reading for anyone interested in Civil War and naval history, diving and underwater salvage, or adventures at sea.

 

Recommended Reading: War, Technology, and Experience aboard the USS Monitor. Description: In a familiar story, the USS Monitor battled the CSS Virginia (the armored and refitted USS Merrimack) at Hampton Roads in March of 1862. In War, Technology, and Experience aboard the USS Monitor, David A. Mindell adds a new perspective to the story as he explores how mariners -- fighting "blindly" below the waterline -- lived and coped with the metal monster they called the "iron coffin." Mindell shows how the iron warship emerged as an idea and became practicable, how building it drew upon and forced changes in contemporary manufacturing technology, and how the vessel captured the nineteenth-century American popular and literary imaginations. Continued below…

Combining technical, personal, administrative, and literary analysis, Mindell examines the experience of the men aboard the Monitor and their reactions to the thrills and dangers that accompanied the new machine. The invention surrounded men with iron and threatened their heroism, their self-image as warriors, even their lives. Mindell also examines responses to this strange new warship by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, who prophetically saw in the Civil War a portent of the mechanized warfare of the future. The story of the Monitor shows how technology changes not only the tools but also the very experience of combat, generating effects that are still felt today in the era of "smart bombs" and push-button wars. "We find new significance in the otherwise well-known history of the Monitor. It is no longer the story of the heroic inventor and his impenetrable weapon thrusting themselves upon a doubtful and conservative bureaucracy... It is no longer the story of a heroic battle and the machine's epic loss soon after. Rather it is a story of people experiencing new machinery, attempting to make sense of its thrills, constrictions, and politics, and sensing its power and impotence -- both in glory and frustration." -- from War, Technology, and Experience aboard the USS Monitor. About the Author: David A. Mindell is Dibner Associate Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT. He has degrees in Electrical Engineering and Literature from Yale University and a Ph.D. in the History of Technology from MIT. His research interests include the history of military technology, the history of electronics and computing, and archaeology in the deep ocean. He is currently working on a history of feedback, control, and computing in the twentieth century, and on locating and imaging ancient shipwrecks and settlements in the deep regions of the Black Sea.

 

Recommended Reading: Gray Raiders of the Sea: How Eight Confederate Warships Destroyed the Union's High Seas Commerce. Reader’s Review: This subject is one of the most fascinating in the history of sea power, and the general public has needed a reliable single-volume reference on it for some time. The story of the eight Confederate privateers and their attempt to bring Union trade to a halt seems to break every rule of common sense. How could so few be so successful against so many? The United States, after Great Britain, had the most valuable and extensive import/export trade in the world by the middle of the 19th century. The British themselves were worried since they were in danger of being surpassed in the same manner that their own sea traders had surpassed the Dutch early in the 18th century. Continued below…

From its founding in 1861, the Confederate States of America realized it had a huge problem since it lacked a navy. It also saw that it couldn't build one, especially after the fall of its biggest port, New Orleans, in 1862. The vast majority of shipbuilders and men with maritime skills lived north of the Mason-Dixon Line, in the United States, and mostly in New England. This put an incredible burden on the Confederate Secretary of the Navy, Stephen R. Mallory. When he saw that most of the enemy navy was being used to blockade the thousands of miles of Confederate coasts, however, he saw an opportunity for the use of privateers. Mallory sent Archibald Bulloch, a Georgian and the future maternal grandfather of Theodore Roosevelt, to England to purchase British-made vessels that the Confederacy could send out to prey on Union merchant ships. Bulloch's long experience with the sea enabled him to buy good ships, including the vessels that became the most feared of the Confederate privateers - the Alabama, the Florida, and the Shenandoah. Matthew Fontaine Maury added the British-built Georgia, and the Confederacy itself launched the Sumter, the Nashville, the Tallahassee, and the Chickamauga - though these were generally not as effective commerce raiders as the first four. This popular history details the history of the eight vessels in question, and gives detailed biographical information on their captains, officers, and crews. The author relates the careers of Raphael Semmes, John Newland Maffitt, Charles Manigault Morris, James Iredell Waddell, Charles W. Read, and others with great enthusiasm. "Gray Raiders" is a great basic introduction to the privateers of the Confederacy. More than eighty black and white illustrations help the reader to visualize their dramatic exploits, and an appendix lists all the captured vessels. I highly recommend it to everyone interested in the Confederacy, and also to all naval and military history lovers.

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