Richmondclass Ironclad Technical Specifications

Dimensions: Length, 172 ft 6 in; Beam, 34 ft; Boilers: Two

Draft, 12 ft Crew size: 180

Engines: One screw

Confederate Ironclad

The only occasion when a Posso/c-class Union monitor clashed with a Confederate casemated ironclad ended with the defeat of the latter vessel. On June 17,1863, the CSS Atlanta attacked the blockading fleet in Wassaw Sound, off the Georgia coast. Encountering the monitors Weehawken and Nahant, she was overcome by the greater firepower of the Weehawken, ran aground, and surrendered. This late-19th-century print by E Gutekunst of Philadelphia depicts the stricken Confederate vessel being pounded at close range by the guns of the Weehawken. (Naval Historical Foundation photo NH 58896]

was launched on May 6, 1862, and commissioned during the following July. Armed with one 7in. Brooke rifle, two 6.4in. Brooke rifles, one lOin. smoothbore, and a spar torpedo, the Richmond was assigned to the James River Squadron in defense of the Confederate capital. She took part in engagements at Dutch Gap on August 13, Fort Harrison on September 29-31, and Chapin's Bluff, October 22, 1864. Attacked while aground at Trent's Reach on January 23—24, 1865, she was scuttled to prevent capture prior to the fall of Richmond on April 3, 1865.

The CSS Chicora was built in Charleston, South Carolina, at the James Eason Shipyard and launched on August 23, 1862. Armed with four 6in. rifles and two 9in. smoothbores, she attacked the blockading fleet on January 31, 1863, in an unsuccessful attempt to recapture the British blockade runner Princess Royal- taken by the Union fleet two days earlier — with rifled guns, small arms, ammunition, and two powerful steam engines destined for new Confederate ironclads aboard. She subsequently took part in the defense of the Charleston forts on April 7 of that year and was eventually scuttled prior to the fall of Charleston on February 18, 1865. Another Charleston-built ironclad, the Palmetto State, was armed with ten 7in. rifles. She also took part in the attack on the blockaders in January 1863, on which occasion she rammed and badly damaged the USS Mercedita. The Palmetto State was scuttled on the same date as the Chicora.

The CSS Savannah was built at Willink's Ship Yard in Savannah, Georgia, and commissioned on June 30, 1863. Carrying two 7in. and two 6.4in. rifles, she served in defense of her namesake city until scuttled prior to capture on December 21,1864. Built at Berry and Brothers Ship Yard, on Eagles Island, at Wilmington, North Carolina, the CSS North Carolina was clad with railroad iron like the Virginia, and had two gun ports on each of her four sides. However, she carried only seven 8in. guns, six of which could be moved from one port to another. The seventh piece was a pivot gun on her bow. Also, like the Virginia, this ironclad had defective engines, confiscated from the US tug Uncle Ben, which affected her service. The North Carolina took part in only one partially successful action against the Union blockading fleet, on May 6, 1864, following which she was used as a guard vessel commanding the entrance to the Cape Fear River.

Css Tennessee

A modified Columbia-class vessel with a shortened casemate, the CSS Tennessee II was the only Confederate ironclad to encounter Canonieus-class monitors. (Courtesy of the US Navy Art Collection, Washington D.C.)

Also built in North Carolina at the shipyard of J. L. Cassidy & Sons in Wilmington was the CSS Raleigh, commissioned on April 30, 1864, under the command of Lieutenant J. Pembroke Jones, CSN. Taking part in the defense of Wilmington, the Raleigh engaged Union blockading vessels with her four 6in. rifles off New Inlet on May 6, 1864, but went aground and was wrecked on Wilmington Bar the next day.

The CSS Louisiana was built at New Orleans at the Murray Ship Yard and launched on February 6, 1862. A 1,400-ton vessel, she was slightly longer than the Virginia, measured 264 feet in length with a 62-foot beam. She was powered by engines taken from the steamer Ingomar, which supplied the motive force for two paddle wheels set in a center well one behind the other, plus twin rudders. Protected by 4-inch-thick iron plating, she carried 16 guns consisting of two 7in. rifles, three 9in. and four 8in. rifles, and seven 32-pdr. Towed while incomplete to Fort St Philip below New Orleans on April 20, 1862, the Louisiana was used as a floating battery and blown up to prevent capture when the Union fleet forced the mouth of the Mississippi River several days later.

Another type of vessel developed by CS Naval Constructor John Porter, the Columbia-class ironclad had a shorter casemate to cope with an increasing shortage of metal for plating in the South. Constructed by Jones & Eason at Charleston, South Carolina, the CSS Columbia was launched in March 1864 and commissioned later that year. Protected by 6-inch-thick plate iron, her 189-foot long casemate contained six guns. Sooner after launch, this vessel ran into a sunken wreck near Fort Moultrie on January 12, 1865. She was later salvaged by the US Navy. A modified Columbia-class vessel, the CSS Tennessee LI was the only Confederate ironclad that actually did battle with a Canonieus-class monitor. A 1,273-ton vessel, she was 209 feet in length with a 189-foot long casemate, and had a 48-foot beam and 14-foot draft. She was laid down at Selma, Alabama, in October 1862 and finally commissioned on February 16, 1864. Her armament consisted of two 7in. and four 6.4in. Brooke rifles protected by a 189-foot long casemate covered with 6-inch-thick iron plating with a wood backing.

Serving as the flagship for Admiral Franklin Buchanan, commander of CSS Virginia in March 1862, the Tennessee II, aided by the gunboats Morgan, Gaines, and

A modified Columbia-class vessel with a shortened casemate, the CSS Tennessee II was the only Confederate ironclad to encounter Canonieus-class monitors. (Courtesy of the US Navy Art Collection, Washington D.C.)


During an attempt to attack the Union blockading fleet in Wassaw Sound off the Georgia coast on June 17, 1863, the Confederate casemated ironclad CSS Atlanta ran aground and was pounded into submission by the greater fire-power of the XV-inch Dahlgrens aboard the Passaic-class monitor USS Weehawken.

Confederate Ironclad

Selma, confronted the Union fleet under Rear Admiral Farragut during the battle of Mobile Bay on August 5, 1864. As the enemy ships approached, exchanging fire with Fort Morgan, Buchanan's small flotilla attempted to meet them with a head-on. Meanwhile, the Union Canonicus-class monitor Tecumseh veered off course and struck a mine and sank, temporarily throwing the attacking column into confusion. Lashed securely in the rigging of his flagship, Farragut ordered the USS Hartford to take the lead using the immortal words, "Damn the torpedoes! Full steam ahead!" He drove off the Confederate gunboats, but Tennessee II remained within range, firing on the Union vessels as they passed, doing considerable damage to the last in line, the USS Oneida.

With the enemy inside the bay, Buchanan steamed toward them, being rammed by three separate vessels and subjected to a terrific cannonade from the Hartford. The monitors Chickasaw and Manhattan then engaged her at close range with their heavy guns, while other Union ships fired from a distance. The Confederate ironclad's smokestack and most other external fittings were shot away. Her gun port shutter chains were cut, closing the ports and rendering her guns useless. Her exposed steering chains were severed, leaving her unmanageable. The Manhattan blew a hole in her casemate with her massive 15in. gun. The twin-turreted Milwaukee-c\ass monitor Chickasaw stationed herself off the beleaguered ship's stern, firing her Xl-inch guns and seriously weakening the after-end of Tennessee lis casemate.

With his flagship unable to fire her guns, steam, or steer, and with the collapse of the casemate seemingly imminent, the wounded Confederate Admiral Buchanan authorized surrender, and Commander James D. Johnston poked a white flag through the top of the casemate. Although firing soon ceased, the USS Ossipee, coming on fast in another ramming attempt, was unable to stop in time, and struck a postsurrender blow. Union navy officers soon took possession of the battered Tennessee II, effectively concluding the battle of Mobile Bay, thus ending one of the last major attempts by a Confederate ironclad to achieve a victory at sea.

Other Confederate casemated ironclads engaged in river combat toward the end of the war were the Fredericksburg, which saw action at Trent's Reach on the James River on June 21, 1864, and the Virginia II, which was involved in the same action, plus that at Dutch Gap on August 13 and October 22, 1864, and a second encounter at Trent's Reach on January 23-24, 1865. Confederate ironclads laid down but not launched or commissioned included the Huntsville-c\, consisting of the Huntsville and Tuscaloosa, neither of which saw service and were sunk as block ships in the Mobile River on April 12, 1865; the Columbia-class Jackson (also known as the Muscogee), which was destroyed by Union cavalry before completion at Confederate States Yard, Columbus, Georgia, on April 17, 1864; the Milledge-class ironclads, all four of which were destroyed on the stocks to prevent capture in December 1864; and the Nashville, which was surrendered incomplete in the Tombigbee River on May 10, 1865. The Columbia-class Texas was the last ironclad the Confederacy tried to build. Laid down in Richmond and launched in January 1865, she remained unfinished when the Richmond Navy Yard fell to Union forces.

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    How thick was the walls of a confederate iron clad?
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