Archive for the 'Civil War' Category

Mar 25

The Conservation of Enfield Rifle Barrels from USS Tulip

Monday, March 25, 2013 9:32 AM

The Naval History and Heritage Command’s (NHHC) Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) manages the Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory which is primarily tasked with the documentation, treatment, preservation, and curation of artifacts from US Navy sunken military craft. Artifact conservation is an integral part of any archaeological investigation and allows for the long-term study, interpretation, and preservation of irreplaceable submerged cultural resources.

Recently, the Archaeology & Conservation Lab has been treating a group of Enfield rifle barrels from the wreck site of USS Tulip. Purchased by the Union Navy during the Civil War, Tulip, a steam-screw gunboat, joined the Potomac River Flotilla in 1863. Tulip was tasked with towing, transporting and landing soldiers, supporting Union communication, and maintaining the Union blockade of Confederate ports. The vessel later sank off of Ragged Point, Virginia on 11 November 1864 after her defective starboard boiler exploded. The sinking claimed the lives of 49 of the 57 sailors on board.

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel Before Conservation Treatment

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel Before Conservation Treatment

USS Tulip and her associated contents, like all US Navy sunken military craft, remain property of the US government regardless of the passage of time or location, and are further protected from unauthorized disturbance or artifact removal by the Sunken Military Craft Act (SMCA). Many of the artifacts from Tulip are a painful reminder of the importance of protecting and preserving these archaeological sites. The Tulip artifacts were removed without permission in an unmethodical manner and did not receive conservation treatment after recovery. Because of this, many artifacts which were likely very well preserved at the time of recovery became seriously deteriorated due to unmitigated corrosion and dry storage in a non-climate controlled environment. Archaeologists have also lost the valuable information that is conveyed by documented artifact provenance on an underwater site.

After a two year effort by the Maryland Maritime Archaeology Program, over 1,500 artifacts, previously removed from the wreck site of USS Tulip in the late 1960s, were returned to the US Navy and sent to NHHC for conservation. The artifact collection includes military uniform components, navigation equipment, ceramics, personal items, medical items, ship’s hardware, tools, ordnance and artillery including the Enfield rifles. These particular rifles were manufactured by the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield (London), which was owned by the British government and produced weaponry such as rifles, muskets, and swords. The rifles were a popular weapon with both Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War for their accuracy and reliability. Both the Union and the Confederate armies purchased Enfield rifles from the British to outfit their troops.

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel and Ramrod After Conservation Treatment

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel and Ramrod After Conservation Treatment

The Archaeology & Conservation Lab has been able to conserve and preserve several of the USS Tulip Enfield rifle barrels. To prevent further corrosion on the barrels, conservators used a process called Electrolytic Reduction (ER) to remove the corrosion-causing compounds from the artifacts, effectively stabilizing them. The barrels were then carefully cleaned and coated with a solution which bonds to the iron and creates a protective film on the surface of the barrels. After all the barrels have received conservation treatment, they will be temporarily stored in the curation spaces in the Archaeology & Conservation Lab with the hope to eventually place them on exhibit.

 
Jan 11

H.L. Hunley Fully Visible for the First Time

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 11:06 AM

HL Hunley in its conservation tank at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, Charleston.

On February 17, 1864, Confederate-built H.L. Hunley became the world’s first successful combat submarine when it attacked and sank the 1240-short ton screw sloop USS Housatonic at the entrance to the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. H.L. Hunley surfaced briefly to signal a successful mission to comrades on shore with a blue magnesium light, after which it was never seen again. All eight of its crewmen were presumed lost and despite multiple search efforts, the submarine could not be relocated. 

Over 136 years later, on 8 August, 2000, H.L. Hunley was raised from the sea floor using a specially-designed support frame, or truss. A multi-disciplinary team, under Project Director and Head of the NHHC Underwater Archaeology Branch, Dr. Robert Neyland, coordinated Hunley‘s recovery. 

Post recovery, the 40-foot, 17,000 pound truss continued to support the sub in a custom built, 90,000-gallon conservation tank at Warren Lasch Conservation Center in Charleston, SC while it underwent archaeological investigation. During the careful, year long excavation of its interior, H.L. Hunley remained in the same tilted position in which it was found to ensure minimal disturbance of its contents. Conservation of the recovered artifacts is being conducted by professionals from the Warren Lasch Conservation Center and Clemson University. In 2011, after the interior of the hull had been completely excavated, Hunley was re-positioned so that it now sits upright and no longer requires the support of the truss, which will be removed tomorrow morning on 12 January, 2012.

Throughout its treatment, the submarine has been on display to the public, however, when the truss is removed, visitors finally will be able to have a fully-unobstructed view of the vessel in its conservation tank.

A 3-D animation of the recovery and rotation of H.L. Hunley may be viewed here: Hunley Submarine Rotation

For more information on the H.L. Hunley project, please visit the Friends of the Hunley website: http://www.hunley.org/ 

HL Hunley in its truss at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, Charleston.

 
Dec 26

Comission of U. S. Navy’s First Hospital Ship

Monday, December 26, 2011 1:00 AM

December 26th, 1862

USS Red Rover is commissioned

The USS Red Rover, the first hospital ship of the U. S. Navy, was commissioned on December 26th, 1862, after a year of service in the Army during the Civil War. An article in the November 1968 issue of Proceedings, written by W. T. Adams, commemorates the Red Rover’s brief but successful career, which ended in 1865. Not only was the Red Rover the first ship of her kind, but she also served a variety of capacities for the Union forces during the War, far beyond the demands of an ordinary hospital ship.

To those familiar with modern standards of naval medical care, it may be difficult to visualize the days when treatment of the shipboard sick and wounded was limited to the surgeon working in a makeshift sickbay—with no hope of better facilities until the ship reached a port which might have a hospital, days or even weeks into the future. It was a situation that existed in the U. S. Navy, however, until the chaos of the Civil War produced the USS Red Rover, the Navy’s first hospital ship. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Nov 3

Port Royal Week on the CWN 150 Blog

Thursday, November 3, 2011 3:11 PM

This week, the Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial is celebration the commemoration of the Port Royal Expedition. The expedition, which entered the sound on 3 November 1861, was the largest assemblage of ships (77) by the U.S. Navy at that point. The battle was an overwhelming victory for the Union, as well as a testament to combined Army/Navy operations that would subsist for the remainder of the war. 

CWN 150 bloggers are focusing their attention on the battle this week HERE.

The blog will show the most up to date information. There are now several posts about the history of the event, anecdotes and profiles of pivital figures involved, and special programs offered for the sesquicentennial anniversary in South Carolina. Port Royal blog posts will appear until 7 November. 

The following is the list of current Port Royal Blog posts at the Civil War Navy 150 blog (in order of most recent): 

Brother Against Brother at Port Royal

Storms off the South Carolina Coast

Navy Leadership at Port Royal

Port Royal Week for CWN 150 Bloggers

The Port Royal Expedition and the NY Times

The 1861 “Expedition Hurricane” and Port Royal

 
Jul 1

Civil War at Sea – Navy TV

Friday, July 1, 2011 5:48 AM

Home > Navy Memorial > Civil War at Sea
Civil War at Sea

The Navy Memorial hosted an all-day symposium on April 23, 2011 called the “Civil War at Sea.” Historians, curators, Civil War reenactors, archaeologists and authors convened to discuss the Confederate and Union navies’ contributions to the War. Fascinating presentations! If you missed them, watch them here on NavyTV

 
May 26

Navy TV – Civil War at Sea

Thursday, May 26, 2011 2:34 PM

The Navy Memorial hosted an all-day symposium on April 23: the “Civil War at Sea.” Historians, curators, Civil War reenactors, archaeologists and authors convened to discuss the Confederate and Union navies’ contributions to the War. Watch the keynote address by Craig Symonds, renowned Civil War navies’ historian and author here on NavyTV.

 
Apr 13

Beginning of Civil War

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 1:20 AM

April, 12th 1861
Civil War begins when Confederates fire on Fort Sumter, Charleston South Carolina

Drawing of Fort Sumter from The Illustrated London News 12/5/1863


Read the rest of this entry »

 
Mar 9

First Clash of the Ironclads, 9 March 1862

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 12:01 AM

At dawn on 9 March 1862, the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia prepared for renewed combat in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The previous day the ship had seen her first combat action, utterly defeating two large Federal sailing frigates and demonstrating the superiority of armored steam-powered warships over their wooden sailing counterparts. Today, she expected to inflict a similar fate on the grounded steam frigate Minnesota and other enemy ships, probably freeing the lower Chesapeake Bay region of Union seapower and the land forces it supported. However, as they surveyed the opposite side of Hampton Roads, where Minnesota and other potential victims awaited their fate, the Confederates realized that things were not going to be so simple. There, looking small and low near the lofty frigate, was a vessel that could only be USS Monitor, the Union’s own ironclad, which had arrived the previous evening after a perilous voyage from New York. Though her crew was exhausted and their ship untested, Monitor was also preparing for action.

Undeterred, Virginia steamed out into Hampton Roads. Monitor positioned herself to protect the immobile Minnesota, and a general battle began. Both ships hammered away at each other with heavy cannon, and tried to run down and hopefully disable the other, but their iron-armored sides prevented vital damage. Virginia’s smokestack was shot away, further reducing her already modest mobility, and Monitor’s technological teething troubles hindered the effectiveness of her two 11-inch guns, the Navy’s most powerful weapons. Ammunition supply problems required her to temporarily pull away into shallower water where the deep-drafted Virginia could not follow, but she continued to cover Minnesota.

Shortly after noon Virginia gunners concentrated their fire on Monitor’s pilothouse, a small iron blockhouse near her bow. A shell hit there blinded Commanding Officer Lieutenant John L. Worden, forcing another withdrawal until he could be relieved at the conn. By the time Monitor was ready to return to the fight, Virginia had turned away toward Norfolk.

Though ending in stalemate, this first combat between armored equals, compared with the previous day’s terrible mismatch, symbolized the triumph of industrial age warfare, and set the stage for armored warship construction for decades to come.

 
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