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 »
Archive for the 'Civil War' Category
In the middle of the Civil War, two brothers in Bristol, Rhode Island started a ship yard that would make their name, Herreshoff, one of the most respected engineering names in the world: the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company. John Brown Herreshoff was completely blind at age 15. He managed his own sail-boat building company until his brother, Nathaniel, joined him in 1878. John’s blindness did not prevent him from receiving commissions for boats that were renowned for their seaworthiness, speed and beauty. He used hull models and full hull models to make suggestions to improve the performance of the vessels. Nathanael… Read the rest of this entry »
Lashed in the rigging of Hartford’s mainmast high above the deck, Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut had a bird’s-eye view of his squadron of eighteen ships as it fought past the booming guns of Fort Morgan into Mobile Bay, Alabama. Everything was going according to plan until the monitor Tecumseh suddenly rolled to starboard, her bow knifing into the water and stern rearing up with the propeller still spinning, then plunged out of sight like an arrow shot from a bow. Farragut knew instantly that Tecumseh had struck a torpedo, as mines were called in those days. As the gunfire… 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 »
One event in U.S. Naval history slipped by this past week, that had it not been successful, would have delayed and perhaps stopped Grant’s campaign to seize Vicksburg during the Civil War. The winter of 1863 saw General Ulysses S Grant trying to find a way to take Vicksburg, Mississippi. Located on a commanding bluff at a hairpin turn in the Mississippi River, the guns of Vicksburg made a any thought of a direct assault a suicide mission. The only reasonable approach was along the broad band of high ground that lay between the Yazoo and Black Rivers, stretching off to the northeast. The idea… 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 »