The Tinclads

In the fall and winter of 1862, approximately 20 vessels of a new type were added to the river fleet—the so-called "tinclads." These were small river steamers, usually stern-wheelers, purchased in the cities along the river, sometimes by the War Department and sometimes by the Navy. They were armored with 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch of iron, with extra protection around the boilers, and they often carried an armored pilothouse. The sides were pierced to accommodate from 4 to 6 guns, usually 24-pound brass howitzers, and sometimes 2 rifled guns in the bow. They were of extremely light draft, usually not more than 3 feet, and some of them drew as little as 18 inches. These boats were capable of cruising up and down all the tributaries of the great river, harassing the Confederates, particularly the guerrillas operating behind Union lines. A number of the tinclads patrolled the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, convoying supply steamers and fighting bushwhackers. Twentytwo tinclads were put into service in 1862, and by the end of the war more than sixty had been used.

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