Archive for the 'Wars' Category

Apr 29

CSS Alabama Britten Shell and Box

Monday, April 29, 2013 3:09 PM

CSS Alabama, a screw sloop-of-war, was commissioned by the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. It was built in Liverpool, England and launched on 24 August 1862. Alabama served the Confederate Navy as a commerce raider and captured more than 60 vessels during her two year storied career.

On 19 June 1864, Alabama left port in Cherbourg, France to engage the USS Kearsarge. Approximately an hour after the first shot of the battle had been fired Alabama began to sink. The commander of Alabama, Raphael Semmes, then surrendered and the ship’s survivors were rescued by Kearsarge and the British yacht Deerhound.

Semmes on Alabama

The wreck site of Alabama was discovered in 1984 by the French Navy mine hunter Circe, and an agreement was created between the French and United States governments to form a committee that would oversee any archaeological work on the site.

Several artifacts were recovered from the wreck site of Alabama, including a wooden box housing a shell which has been of particular interest. This is in part due to the unique nature of this set of artifacts. While it is not unusual to find shells, discovering a box built to house a single shell is not common. The box and shell are both currently being housed and studied at the Naval History and Heritage Command’s (NHHC) Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory.

The box and shell were found in excellent condition and received prompt conservation treatment at the Conservation Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University. A lack of oxygen and cold temperatures both contributed to the exceptional state of preservation of the artifacts.

Alabama 021

The 7-inch Britten pattern shell and wooden box recovered from the CSS Alabama.

Research revealed that the shell is a 7-inch Britten pattern shell. Britten projectiles were patented in Great Britain in 1855 by Sir Bashley Britten. Britten’s patent for a new shell also introduced an innovative method for attaching sabots to shells in an attempt to increase the accuracy of the weapon. Both the Union and Confederate forces used Britten shells, however only the Confederate States purchased the shells in large calibers.

Information regarding the box, however, has proven more difficult to uncover. General references to boxes for shell and other ordnance storage have been found in multiple sources. These resources include the ordnance manuals for the Confederate and United States Navies as well as the writings of the chief foreign agent for the Confederate States, James D. Bulloch. However, research about the exact origins and purpose of the Alabama box is ongoing.

Alabama 023

Another view of the shell and box displaying the damaged portion of the box.

Specific information about the cargo and equipment aboard Confederate ships is frequently difficult or nearly impossible to find with the current sources available. Precise data was often not recorded for wartime security or has been destroyed over the years. For example, Confederate leaders were careful to not provide specific information regarding the sources of their supplies. In a letter discussing the purchasing of supplies and ships for the Confederate Navy, Bulloch wrote to a colleague, “The fear that this letter may fall into wrong hands induces me to withhold the names of the contractors.”

While the box and shell remain a bit of a mystery, conservation will be the key to uncovering more of their secrets. Only through proper conservation can we continue to research, study, and analyze vital artifacts.

 
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.

 
Feb 20

February 20, 1815: The Capture of HMS Cyane and Levant by the USS Constitution uder Captain Charles Stewart

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 1:00 AM

This article, written by Naval Constructor C. W. Fisher, U. S. Navy was published in the February 1917 issue of Proceedings magazine, entitled “The Log of the Constitution, Feb. 21-24, 1815: The Capture of the Cyane and the Levant .

 

025 Capture of Cyane and Levant NH 86692-KN

The Capture of the Cyane and Levant by U.S. frigate Constitution

 

Enclosed herewith is a blueprint of an extract from the log of the U. S. frigate Constitution, dated February 21 to February 24, 1815. This brief extract includes a description of the action between the Constitution and British vessels Cyane and Levant. As an example of most admirable seamanship, excellent control, fine tactics, and a happy as well as forceful style of recording important events, I consider this brief extract to be of sufficient value to warrant its being published for the “information and guidance” of the navy to-day. It would be hard to find a better model than this modest record of a most unusual and courageous action.

 

Log of the Constitution001

Remarks &c. on board U. S. frigate Constitution, Charles Stewart Esq., Commander on a Cruise, Tuesday February 21, 1815

 

Log of the Constitution002

Remarks &c. continued, Tuesday February 21, 1815

 

Log of the Constitution003

Remarks &c. on board U. S. frigate Constitution, Charles Stewart Esq. Commander on a Cruise, Wednesday February 22, 1815

 

Log of the Constitution004

Remarks &c. on board U. S. frigate Constitution, Charles Stewart Esq., Commander on a Cruise, Thursday February 23, 1815

 

Log of the Constitution005

Remarks &c. on board U. S. frigate Constitution, Charles Stewart Esq. Commander on a Cruise, Friday, February 24, 1815

 
Feb 7

February 6, 1973: Navy Task Force 78 Begins Operation End Sweep

Thursday, February 7, 2013 9:19 AM
A Marine Sea Stallion helicopter with a magnetic orange pipe in tow sweeps the Bay in Hon Gay, North Vietnam during Operation End Sweep.

A Marine Sea Stallion helicopter with a magnetic orange pipe in tow sweeps the Bay in Hon Gay, North Vietnam during Operation End Sweep.

This article was originally published in the March 1974 issue of Proceedings magazine by Rear Admiral Brian McCauley, U. S. Navy

Western strategists of every stripe had grown hoarse calling for the mining of Haiphong Harbor and, at last, it was done. Now, with the ceasefire signed, the mines had to be retrieved or destroyed and, as surface ships of Task Force 58 trailed a sweeping heli­copter into Haiphong on 17 June 1973, the end of “End Sweep”—a tedious, lengthy, and totally unglamorous job—was in sight. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jul 26

Naval Reserves in the Korean War

Thursday, July 26, 2012 3:21 PM

Three Panther jets make a pass over their carrier USS Boxer (CV-21) before landing aboard in Korean waters.

On July 27, 1953, the Korean War Armistice Agreement was signed at Panmunjon, Korea, and the Korean cease-fire went into effect at 10:00 PM, ending three years of combat. The following article, published in the July 1952 issue of Proceedings, gives an account of what it was like to be a part of a Naval reserve group in the Korean war.

STANDBY SQUADRON

By LIEUTENANT W. H. VERNOR, JR., U. S. Naval Reserve

 

IF you’ve ever driven between the Texas cities of Fort Worth and Dallas on a Sunday morning, chances are you’ve seen some of the rugged, old Navy TBM torpedo bombers lumbering into the air from Dallas’ nearby Naval Air Station. You’ve seen these planes on weekends because they’ve been turned over to the Navy’s Air Reserves, civilians who use their weekends to renew their proficiency in the art of flying and keep up with the latest developments in Naval Aviation. These air reserves, many of them Navy veterans, have maintained more than a nodding acquaintance with the Navy over the past few years. Not only at Dallas, but at other similar Naval Air Stations scattered over the nation, these Sunday flying reserves have become known as the “Weekend Warriors.”

This program was set up by foresighted regular Navy airmen at high command levels. Since the end of the last war, it has kept available a trained and ready pool of organized squadrons-at a fraction of the cost required to maintain a large, continuously active air arm. When fighting broke out in Korea, certain of these standby squadrons were quickly activated; the practical test of the plan was underway. And now that several air groups of these all-reserve squadrons have been operating from aircraft carriers off Korea for many months, the test results are clear: the Navy’s “Weekend Warrior” plan has paid off. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jul 24

Operation Forager

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 10:17 AM

Japanese planes burning on the air strip on Tinian Island.

On July 24, 1944, the Naval Task Force landed Marines on Tinian. After victory in the Battle of Saipan from June 15 to July 9, Tinian, which was 3.5 miles south of Saipan, was the next logical step in the U.S. strategy of island hopping. Tinian was Phase III of Operation Forager, which began with the capture of Saipan (Phase I) and the battle for the liberation of Guam (II), which was raging even as the Marines were approaching Tinian. Submarines were used to destroy enemy forces approaching the islands , clearing the way for the beach landing. The following article, published in the August 1964 issue of Proceedings, gives an account of the submarines’ success.

Operation Forager

by Sherwood R. Zimmerman, Ensign, U.S. Navy

By May 1944, General Douglas MacArthur, U.S. Army, and his Southwest Pacific Forces had driven westward along the northern coast of New Guinea to the island of Wakde, in preparation for the next step, the invasion of Biak. Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, U. S. Navy, in command of the Fifth Fleet, had completed Operation Desecrate on 30 March and, with a carrier air raid on the Palau Islands ended, plans were laid to thrust the sword of sea power deep into the underbelly of the Japanese Empire.

Meanwhile, Admiral Soemu Toyoda, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, was preparing for quite a different type of operation. The Japanese Empire had been pushed back to a line joining Biak to the Carolines, Marianas, and home islands. Toyoda realized that an attack on this perimeter was imminent, but was determined to hold the line at all costs. A confrontation of enemy fleets was, therefore, unavoidable; it resulted in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jul 23

Richard Dale Strikes Barbary Pirates

Monday, July 23, 2012 9:47 AM

July 23, 1801

Commodore Richard Dale blockades Tripoli in America’s first foreign war.

In the December 1937 issue of Proceedings, Lieutenant Felix Howland wrote about the American blockade of Tripoli during 1801 to 1802, examining the popular conception that the blockade had been a success. Howland’s article highlighted the necessity of vigilantly maintaining the blockade, and emphasized the implications of failing to do so:

On May 14, 1801, Tripoli declared war against the United States. Shortly thereafter an American squadron under the command of Commodore Richard Dale appeared in the Mediterranean, and on July 23, 1801, Mr. William Eaton, the Consul at Tunis, taking advantage of the presence of the American ships, declared Tripoli under blockade and notified Commodore Dale of his action. As there has been generally current the idea that this blockade was successfully and vigorously prosecuted thereafter until the end of the war in 1805, it is the purpose of this paper to present some hitherto unpublished documents in the archives of the State Department which show how false is such an opinion and which help to explain why Commodore Richard V. Morris, who succeeded Dale, was subsequently disgraced for his part in the failure of the blockade. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jul 18

John Paul Jones Remembered

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 8:15 AM

Portrait of John Paul Jones by Cecilia Beaux in the U. S. Naval Academy Museum

The United State’s first well-known naval fighter died 220 years ago, on July 18, 1792. Originally published in the July 1947 issue of Proceedings to mark the bicentennial of his birth, the following article outlines the life of John Paul Jones and his contributions to the Navy.

THE BICENTENNIAL OF JOHN PAUL JONES

By DR. LINCOLN LORENZ

VIEWED from the bicentennial of his birth, John Paul Jones has even greater eminence now as a leader of the American Navy at its beginning than he won at the time of his incomparable triumph in the battle of the Bonhomme Richard with the Serapis. The climax of his intrepid career on this occasion was in keeping with his life so that he remains today, even following the panorama of heroic exploits of two world wars, an indomitable warrior of unique personality. He became the first American naval officer to set a tradition of victory, to win respect for the flag by other nations, and to have the statesmanship to foresee and urge the paramount importance of the Navy in our future history. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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