During the American Civil War the vast majority of guns mounted in Confederate forts not be easily penetrate the armor on Union monitors. Even so, ironclads were fragile machines, especially vulnerable when stationary and struck repeatedly by enemy fire. When these iron behemoths accidently ran aground in the shallow coastal waters of the South, it sometimes took the heroics of flesh and blood to save them from destruction. On the evening of 16 November 1863, Confederate batteries at Fort Moultrie, near Charleston, South Carolina, unexpectedly opened a very heavy, long-range fire on Federal troops in their field works on Morris… Read the rest of this entry »
Archive for the 'Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial' Category
On November 8, 1861, USS San Jacinto Captain Charles Wilkes set out towards the Bahama Channel near Havana to intercept Confederate commissioners James M. Mason and John Slidell. The man who led the controversial U.S. Exploring Expedition two decades previous found himself leaving scientific endeavors for the new prospect of war. Mason and Slidell were heading to Europe to arbitrate agreements with nations for their support in the Confederate war effort, stopping for transport in Havana. During his search for the elusive CSS Sumter, Wilkes heard of the breakout of Mason and Slidell from Charleston and decided to take action…. Read the rest of this entry »
The Confederate semi-submersible ship David did not have rocks and slings. Instead, its armament consisted of a single spar torpedo attached to its bow. As the cigar-shaped vessel was designed to operate in shallow water, its five foot draft allowed her to sneak up on enemies seemingly undetected.
On the night of 5 October 1863, David faced Goliath. It would not be the epic showdown of biblical times during the American Civil War, but one of explosions, iron, and rushing water under the moonlight of Charleston. USS New Ironsides, a casemate ironclad steamer boasting fourteen eleven-inch smoothbores, was at the time considered the most formidable warship in the world. It proved to be nearly impenetrable to the Charleston harbor defenses. The Union “Goliath” and its Captain, S.C. Rowan, waited for any answer the Confederates had to test the mighty ship. Little did they know its “Davidian” foe would… Read the rest of this entry »
Amidst the greatest test in our nation’s history, massive technological, political, and social change occurred on all fronts in the United States. Between these lines of conventional wisdom, a far more pressing issue occurred between policymakers in Washington and London over the threat of war. Fuller discusses these issues thoroughly from a naval perspective, examining the diplomatic and strategic goals of Britain’s budding ironclad navy in direct response to American sea power.
As we celebrate the 148th anniversary of the CSS Virginia‘s final day (11 May 1862), it is important to note how the legendary “Mistress of Hampton Roads” is remembered. Although she is two years away from being properly celebrated by the Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial, her importance in the annals of naval history remains a yearly affair. At the beginning of the American Civil War, Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory puzzled over an effective way to break the Union Blockade. How does one wrestle the “great snake” without succumbing to its venom in the process? With no naval… Read the rest of this entry »
In the scope of Civil War scholarship, naval operations remain a minority (Please see Civil War Navy 150 posting here). Although recent articles point to the lack of attention on Union and Confederate navies, there is still much work to be done. As we approach the 148th anniversary of the Shiloh Campaign tomorrow, it is poignant to point to both topics under the lens of the Civil War Navy. Federal timberclads USS Lexington and USS Tylerwere essential in the April 1862 Shiloh Campaign. Both vessels protected Union Army transports on the way to Shiloh along the Tennessee River. Indeed, protection… Read the rest of this entry »