Ironclads in the United States Navy


At the outbreak of the war in 1861, there was not a single ironclad of any description in the United States Navy. There was, to be sure, the fantastic Stevens Battery, a truly enormous vessel 420 feet long and displacing more than 6,000 tons, which had been authorized in 1842 and, after several false starts, had been on the stocks since 1854. The death of its builder, Robert L. Stevens, in 1856, had brought construction to a halt, and the ship had remained in a half-finished condition at Hoboken, New Jersey, ever since.

Robert Stevens' two surviving brothers, John and Edwin, offered to complete the ship at their own expense if the government would buy it when it was successfully completed. A board of naval officers was then appointed to survey the ship and decide whether it was worth finishing. The verdict was that it was not, and the offer of the Stevens brothers was declined. Upon the death of file:///H|/Buecherbearbeitung/Navy/Civil%20War%20Ironclads%20-%20The%20Dawn%20of%20Naval%20Armor%20-%20MacBRIDE/Civil%20War%20Ironclads.htm

Edwin Stevens in 1868, the Stevens Battery was bequeathed to the state of New Jersey, along with the sum of one million dollars with which to complete it. General George B. McClellan was appointed to head the project, new plans for converting the battery to a turret ram were drawn up, and work actually went ahead, including the installation of new engines. Finally, the million dollars was spent, and the ship was still incomplete, although it appears that work was progressing quite favorably, and the Navy was interested again. Congress, however, was not, and neither was the state of New Jersey. The Stevens Battery was finally scrapped in 1874.

There was no lack of interest in ironclad warships in the Navy, however. In a report to a special session of Congress on July 4, 1861, the Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, asked for authority to build ironclads, providing that competent investigation proved them to be feasible.

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