Confederate Ironclad and Confederate Ironclads

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Confederate Ironclad Rams and Casemate Ironclads

Remarks Relative To Iron-Clad Gunboats

CHARLESTON, S.C.,
November
14, 1863.

Our gunboats are defective in six respects.

FIRST. They have no speed, going only from 3 to 5 miles an hour, in smooth water and no current.

SECOND. They are of too great draught to navigate our inland waters.

THIRD. They are unseaworthy, by their shape and construction, as represented by naval officers. Even in the harbor, they are at times considered unsafe in a storm.

FOURTH. They are incapable of resisting the enemy's 15-inch shots at close quarters, as shown by the Atlanta, in Warsaw Sound last spring.

FIFTH. They cannot fight at long range, their guns not admitting an elevation greater than from 5 to 7, corresponding to 1 to 1 miles range. Even at long range, naval officers are of opinion that the oblique sides and flat decks of our gunboats would not resist the plunging shots of the enemy's 200 and 300 pounders.

(The best proof of the total failure of the three iron-clad gunboats, Chicora, Palmetto State, and Charleston, constructed at such cost and labor, is that, although commanded by our most gallant officers, they did not fire one shot in the defense of Fort Sumter during the naval attack of the 7th of April last, nor have they fired a shot in the defense of Morris Island and Sumter during the present siege which has lasted over four months, excepting on one occasion, the assault on Sumter during the night of September 8 last, when the Chicora fired a few shots on the enemy's boats and barges.)

SIXTH. They are very costly, warm, uncomfortable, and badly ventilated, consequently sickly.

Battle of Hampton Roads
Ironclad warships Monitor and Virginia.jpg
Ironclad Warships Monitor and Virginia (aka Merrimack or Merrimac)

       The enemy's iron-clads being invulnerable to shots above water beyond 800 yards, they should be attacked below water. The best way to accomplish this is by means of swift sea-going steamers, capable of traveling 10 or 12 miles all hour, shot-proof above water and armed with Capt. F. D. Lee's submarine repeating spar torpedo, which is both simple and certain in its operation. Not one of his submarine torpedoes has yet failed to explode on striking a resisting object. The experiment of the David, a small cigar torpedo-boat, against the New Ironsides, shows the effect of a 70-pound torpedo, only 6 feet below water, on the thick sides--over 5 feet--of that sea monster. Since the attack, about one month ago, the New Ironsides has not fired one shot, notwithstanding the renewed bombardment of Sumter has been going on twenty days and nights, showing evidently that she has been seriously injured. Moreover, she has left her anchorage only once for about half an hour, when she returned to her former position, abreast of Morris Island. It is stated that a proper sized steamer, 400 or 500 tons, built like a blockade runner, but made shot-proof, and armed with one of Lee's repeating submarine torpedo apparatus, could be built, in about three months' working time in England, for the sum of about $250,000.
       I venture to say that with one of those vessels here, the blockade of Charleston could be raised in less than one week, and the army of Gillmore captured very shortly afterward. Half a dozen of these steamers would raise the blockade of our Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and enable us to recover the navigation of the Mississippi River. Indeed, a few years hence, we will ask ourselves in astonishment, how it was that with such a great discovery, offering such magnificent results, we never applied it to any useful purpose in this contest for our homes and independence. It is evident, according to Lord John Russell's own views, that those steamers can be constructed in England, as shot-proof, unarmed blockade runners, without incurring the risk of being seized by the English Government.

G. T. BEAUREGARD,
General, C. S. Army.

Source: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion

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Recommended Reading: Reign of Iron: The Story of the First Battling Ironclads, the Monitor and the Merrimack. From Publishers Weekly: The Monitor-Merrimack showdown may be one of the Civil War’s most overhyped chestnuts: the two ships were by no means the first ironclads, and their long awaited confrontation proved an anticlimactic draw, their cannon fire clanging harmlessly off each other’s hulls. Still, the author of this lively history manages to bring out the story’s dramatic elements. Nelson, author of the Revolution at Sea series of age-of-sail adventure novels, knows how to narrate a naval crisis. He gives a harrowing account of the Merrimack’s initial onslaught, in which it destroyed two wooden Union warships in a bloody and chaotic battle the day before the Monitor arrived, and of the Monitor’s nightmarish final hours as it foundered in a storm at sea. Continued below…

Equally arresting is his retelling of the feverish race between North and South to beat the other side to the punch with their respective wonder ships. He delves into every aspect of the ships’ innovative design and construction, and draws vivid portraits of the colorful characters who crafted them, especially the brilliant naval architect John Ericsson, one of that epic breed of engineer-entrepreneurs who defined the 19th century. The resulting blend of skillful storytelling and historical detail will please Civil War and naval engineering buffs alike.

 

Recommended Reading: Confederate Ironclad 1861-65 (New Vanguard). Description: The creation of a Confederate ironclad fleet was a miracle of ingenuity, improvisation and logistics. Surrounded by a superior enemy fleet, Confederate designers adapted existing vessels or created new ones from the keel up with the sole purpose of breaking the naval stranglehold on the nascent country. Her ironclads were built in remote cornfields, on small inland rivers or in naval yards within sight of the enemy. The result was an unorthodox but remarkable collection of vessels, which were able to contest the rivers and coastal waters of the South for five years. This title explains how these vessels worked, how they were constructed, how they were manned and how they fought.

 

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.

 

Recommended Reading: Iron Afloat: The Story of the Confederate Armorclads. Description: William N. Still's book is rightfully referred to as the standard of Confederate Naval history. Accurate and objective accounts of the major and even minor engagements with Union forces are combined with extensive background information. This edition has an enlarged section of historical drawings and sketches. Mr. Still explains the political background that gave rise to the Confederate Ironclad program and his research is impeccable. An exhaustive literature listing rounds out this excellent book. While strictly scientific, the inclusion of historical eyewitness accounts and the always fluent style make this book a joy to read. This book is a great starting point.

 

Recommended Reading: A History of the Confederate Navy (Hardcover). From Publishers Weekly: One of the most prominent European scholars of the Civil War weighs in with a provocative revisionist study of the Confederacy's naval policies. For 27 years, University of Genoa history professor Luraghi (The Rise and Fall of the Plantation South) explored archival and monographic sources on both sides of the Atlantic to develop a convincing argument that the deadliest maritime threat to the South was not, as commonly thought, the Union's blockade but the North's amphibious and river operations. Confederate Navy Secretary Stephen Mallory, the author shows, thus focused on protecting the Confederacy's inland waterways and controlling the harbors vital for military imports. Continued below…

As a result, from Vicksburg to Savannah to Richmond, major Confederate ports ultimately were captured from the land and not from the sea, despite the North's overwhelming naval strength. Luraghi highlights the South's ingenuity in inventing and employing new technologies: the ironclad, the submarine, the torpedo. He establishes, however, that these innovations were the brainchildren of only a few men, whose work, although brilliant, couldn't match the resources and might of a major industrial power like the Union. Nor did the Confederate Navy, weakened through Mallory's administrative inefficiency, compensate with an effective command system. Enhanced by a translation that retains the verve of the original, Luraghi's study is a notable addition to Civil War maritime history. Includes numerous photos.

 

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.

 

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.

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