Ironclad Ships

.. ruck its colors. At this time the Minnesota had arrived with the aide of steam tugs but had run aground and was stranded. Virginia and two supporting Confederate gunboats raked her with fire until a large hole appeared in Minnesotas side. Virginia then broke of to pursue the Roanoke and St.

Lawrence but it was becoming dark and Virginia disengaged for the night. The next day Virginia steamed back to Hampton Roads without knowing that the Monitor had arrived that night. As Virginia approached the Minnesota the Monitor emerged from behind the stranded ship. Monitor herself between Virginia and her intended victim. This began the engagement as the two had a fierce duel with their cannon. Monitor carried heavier cannon, but only had two aboard. The gunnery had little effect on both ships and Virginia attempted to ram her foe.

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The two ironclads collided and a leak opened in Virginias bow. After this the Monitor withdrew and the Virginia limped back to Norfolk for repairs. This ended the first engagement between ironclad warships (Colston). The success of the ironclads at Hampton Roads began an increase of ironclad design and production. The Union Navy concentrated on duplicating the design of the USS Monitor. Most Union ironclads followed the cheesebox on a raft design of a turret sitting on an iron hull.

There were exceptions to this though. Perhaps the most widely known Union ironclad that didnt follow this design was the USS New Ironsides. This ship was built as an iron hulled steam powered ship that looked like a wooden frigate except for the iron armor. The Union also converted many Mississippi river steamboats into ironclad gunboats. These ships were called tinclads due to their thin armor.

These ships were used in many riverine engagements. The Confederate Navy stayed with the casemate design that was used with the Virginia. These ships had a large armored rise in the center of the hull which was referred to as the casemate. The casemate contained the cannons. Due to the economic problems the Confederacy faced, the production of ironclads was slow and often poorly carried out. The iron armor was brittle and often shattered after one or two shots from a cannon (Greene 93-114). The Confederate Navy also began research and production of submarine vessels such as the David and the Hunley.

David successfully attacked the New Ironsides but failed to sink her. On February 17, 1864 the Hunley successfully attacked and sank the USS Housatonic but she was swamped as a result and sank with the loss of all hands (Gibbons 158). Ironclads were involved in many Civil War Battles that followed the Battle of Hampton Roads. The East coast of the Confederacy was very active with the blockade of southern ports. Union ships stopped Confederate blockade runners daily. These blockade runners carried cotton that was to be traded with European nations in exchange for military equipment and hard currency (Gibbons 152-157).

Other engagements were much different, they mainly involved one Confederate ship against multiple Union ships. One of these better known engagements was the CSS Albermale saga. Union forces had taken control of the Albermale Sound area and were blockading it actively. The Confederates saw this area as a strategic staging area for blockade running. The Confederate Navy Department decided to build an ironclad to recapture this area.

Albermale was a casemate ironclad built for shallow water combat. Due to the lack of proper shipbuilding facilities she was built in a cornfield using green timber and scrap iron. When she finally set sail on April 9, 1864 she arrived in the Albermale Sound and devastated the Union flotilla. She was destroyed by a daring torpedo raid led by Lieutenant William B. Cushing of the USN (Greene 176-183). The southern coast of the Confederacy was also an active area of combat.

Blockade runners were very active in the southern coast areas and the Union commanders decided to attack the main source of these blockade runners, New Orleans. Admiral David Farragut led the Union force in a daring blitz past the forts that guarded the entrance to the harbor on April 24, 1862. The Union forces took heavy casualties but succeeded in capturing the port (Greene 100-107). Farragut also led perhaps the best known naval action of the Civil War in the south at the Battle of Mobile Bay. This battle was the last major naval engagement in the south. Farragut designed this mission to eliminate the five Confederate ironclads that were rumored to be in Mobile Bay.

The Union fleet was led by four ironclads, the Tecumseh and Manhattan, both single turret monitors, and the Winnebago and Chickasaw, double turret monitors. The ironclads were followed by 14 wooden ships. The ironclads led the way and the Tecumseh led them. As they were making their way through the minefield the Tecumseh turned and went straight after the CSS Tennessee as she was approaching the Tecumseh suddenly exploded and sank. Upon seeing this the crews of Farraguts ships became uneasy.

Farragut then said perhaps the most famous quote of the war: Damn the torpedos. Full speed ahead! The Union emerged from this battle victorious (Donovan 134-143). The rivers in the west also saw much naval action. The Battles of Fort Donaldson and Island No. 10 are the best known of these.

The largest of these was the Battle of Vicksburg (Donovan 80-92). Nations around the world began producing ironclad warships after the Battle of Hampton Roads. European nations began producing more and more ironclads after the war. The British built many ironclad ships that were large ships of the line that had iron armor. The largest of these was the HMS Devastation, known as the worlds first capitalk ship and the battleship designs of the 20th century can be traced to this ship.

The French were also involved in building ironclads, but they met with little success. The Russians also built many ironclads, mostly of the cruiser design. The Russians also produced monitor which were largely failures, including a class of circular monitors, the Admiral C o m p O b j U .