The Naval War

This discussion was held on the evening of June 29, 1997, in WebAmerica's Civil War Chat Room. The discussion was hosted by Navyman, one of the younger members of the chat room. As you are reading the discussion keep in mind that the host is only 14 years old. This is a great accomplishment for someone so young and my hat is certainly off to him.

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M at [Jun 29 20:03:57]: Ok, shall we start with the first major sea land battle, Port Royal, SC, or do you have another geographic area in mind.

Navyman at [Jun 29 20:05:14]: The coastal war was probably one of the most important aspects of the naval war. In the end strangled the south .

Saber at [Jun 29 20:06:57]: The Anaconda Plan was certainly an ambitious one considering the condition of the US Navy in 1861.

Navyman at [Jun 29 20:07:54]: Yes the Carolinas are a good start M. The Port Royal expedition started in November. It was to capture Port Royal as a supply base.

M at [Jun 29 20:08:51]: Navyman, that depends on who you were. Maritime traders for the US might have disagreed with the Coastal war being the most important. They never fully recovered for over 100 years from the effects of the raiders.

Navyman at [Jun 29 20:10:16]: Protecting Port Royal were Fort Walker and Fort Beauregard mounting about 45 guns . A union fleet of 77 vessals atacked it.

M at [Jun 29 20:11:42]: Navyman, it was actually an easy battle to win. The coastal forts that had existed prior to the war where really not any good for standing up to bombardments. The US Navy had more than enough fire power to reduce them. That the Confederates held out as long as they did is the amazing thing.

Navyman at [Jun 29 20:11:58]: Yes M that is true the confederate commerce raiders did there job very thorogh on wiping up union commerce-navyman

106NY at [Jun 29 20:12:19]: navyman, the way I see it the coastal war took on more importance after the Miss. was lost as a supply source. It placed the south in a very precarious position.

Navyman at [Jun 29 20:13:41]: Yes M, the forts only contained about 10 rifled guns bewtween them the whole battle was a mess for the confederates .

ms morgan at [Jun 29 20:14:14]: what types of stuff was being brought in through the blockade? and where was the majority of items coming from.

Navyman at [Jun 29 20:15:14]: 106th i have to agree on a technicality of new orleans -navyman

M at [Jun 29 20:16:23]: 106NY, actually, the coastal war was of more importance than the Mississippi for the South. The Mississippi didn't prevent arms and munitions and military supplies from reaching the South from Europe. Had the South been able to win the Coastal war, the fall of the Mississippi wouldn't have meant as much. But to Port Royal. It took the US Navy about 5 hours to defeat the Southern forts.

Navyman at [Jun 29 20:16:57]: the majorityof the stuff was (a) weapons (b) unifoms and equipment(c) medicines, food, living needs.

Navyman guest at [Jun 29 20:18:57]: The majority of Items were coming from Cuba,Nassau,and Bermuda along with some from Europe.

106NY at [Jun 29 20:19:15]: M and navyman what was the comparison of ships and navy between the two govts. I know the north ws stretched pretty thin to cover all the possible ports.

106NY at [Jun 29 20:21:58]: and navyman how did the European Volunteers get into the South. I know they had German and Prussian mercenaries during the war.

Saber at [Jun 29 20:20:46]: Weren't most of the blockade-runners built in England?

Navyman at [Jun 29 20:22:08]: The South was using anything they could think of to break the blockade . The two governments both stuck with generaly the respected designs of ships (Moniter Class)and (Virginia Class).

M at [Jun 29 20:24:40]: 106NY, in 1861 the US Navy had 1,457 officers, 7,600 enlisted men (9,057 total). The US Marine Corps was about 20% of the Navy's strength. At it's peak (1864) the CS Navy had 3,674 and the CS Marine Corps was just over 14% of that strength. In 1861 the CSN was virtually nonexistant.

Navyman guest at [Jun 29 20:25:05]: Well 106th, a man by the name of Bulloch, the Foreign Confederate Naval Commisioner sent them over any way they could. Some foreign volunteers.actually served on board the Confederate ships.

M at [Jun 29 20:26:06]: Saber, yes, most of them were, but some were built right here in this country.

Saber at [Jun 29 20:27:26]: The Confederacy never stood a chance in the race to build a navy. Raiders were their logical and in many ways their only hope of competing. They did a remarkable job considering the long odds.

M at [Jun 29 20:27:39]: 106, most of your Europeans who served in the CS military were here when the war started, and that was quite a large number since many were coming to the south in the 1850's.

Navyman at [Jun 29 20:28:41]: saber most of the blockade runners were built in england/france in france they were built by a man by the name of laird who owned the laird docks.in England it was the Birken Head docks.

M at [Jun 29 20:29:55]: Saber, yes the raiders did a wonderful job, but their mission was not to damage the US militarily, but economically. The only way for them to compete militarily was with the ironclads, and that was along the coast. M

Navyman at [Jun 29 20:30:07]:The birken Head docks were near liverpool.

shotgun at [Jun 29 20:31:06]: During the course of studying for tonight's discussion, almost all the references I found said that the South,s naval forces got organized fast and were in pretty good in the beginning.. However, they quickly fell behind because of total lack of manufacturing capability. Could this account for the Confederancy relying more on fixed fortifications rather than gunboats to defend the waterways?

Saber at [Jun 29 20:31:55]: Didn't the Confederates attempt to build a number of ironclads in tributaries of the Miss. I am thinking of the Red River. All of these were either sunk or never reached completion.

Navyman guest at [Jun 29 20:33:15]: yes shotgun. It could acount for that fact the south had some of the best fortifications in the world aside from Gibralter.

Xan at [Jun 29 20:33:27]: Weren't a great many of the blockade runners in fact foreign (primarily English) owned and operated? There were huge profits to be made on both ends and with England officially neutral there were no hassles on that side of the pond.

M at [Jun 29 20:34:50]: Shotgun, the army was the CSN's biggest enemy when it came to building navy. The army controlled the rolling stock, and iron and machinery for the ships would sit waiting for weeks, or longer, before being transported to where it was needed. Several ships were delayed because of the army. In addition the army would refuse to release men who were experienced sailors to serve in the navy, even after being instructed to do so by the Confederate War Dept.

Navyman at [Jun 29 20:36:25]: Xan the average amount of money made by a blockade runners captain was about $90,000 a run monthly.

M at [Jun 29 20:37:28]: navyman, Laird built a beautiful, state of the art, turrented ram for the South, but it was siezed by the Brit's before the CS rep's could get possession. I forgot the name of it, or what it was renamed after being taken by the Brit's. France only built one warship for the South and that was the Stonewall, very late in the war. It never reached the South during the war.

shotgun at [Jun 29 20:37:55]: I read about the rivalry between the two services M. Always amazes me as to how history tends to repeat itself. The same thing is going on today.

Saber at [Jun 29 20:38:13]: Navyman didn't the Confederate government have a ten per cent levy in cargo on all successful blockade-runners?

Navyman at [Jun 29 20:38:41]: The Stonewall was a floating political disaster.

M at [Jun 29 20:40:28]: shotgun, yes, the rivalry continues, even between the sailors and the marines. You might read A Year on a Monitor, by A. F. Hunter. One of the first things he was taught was to hate the marines. M

Navyman at [Jun 29 20:40:52]: M I think Laird built 2 rams the El Tosson and the El Monnassir.

M at [Jun 29 20:42:07]: navyman, the Stonewall was a very powerful ship that politics prevented from being built in England which is where it was suppose to be built. The change from England to France resulted in a very costly delay.

Navyman at [Jun 29 20:43:08]: yes saber there was a levy along with a government regulation say ing that you had to bring as many bails of cotton as you did for them.

Navyman at [Jun 29 20:44:53]: And then when the C.S. sold it to the Prussia it only made things worse.

Navymant at [Jun 29 20:45:52]: M I love the I dea of putting a 300 pound cannon in the bow.

M at [Jun 29 20:46:09]: navyman, the Laird iron works, Liverpool, England, to best of my knowledge never built and ships that begain with "el".

Saber at [Jun 29 20:46:29]: I believe by 1863the Confederate Government claimed 15% owership of any successful blockade-runner.

M at [Jun 29 20:47:42]: navyman, the bow or stern is the only place to put a 300 pound gun. It would have been a major headache for the New Ironsides.

shotgun at [Jun 29 20:48:21]: Whenever I think of the Navy in the Civil War I always think of The Battle of the Ironclads, Mobile Bay, or the Alabama and Kearsarge. I'm sure there were many more great battles. Someone care to educate me?

Navymant at [Jun 29 20:49:24]: Those were the names the confederates gave them to get by that foreign law the confederates posed it to be laird was selling them to the Spanish.

59ILL at [Jun 29 20:50:12]: Shiloh, Forts Henry & Donelson, and Island #10, Vicksburg.

Saber at [Jun 29 20:50:19]: I think that one of the problems facing the Confederacy was the river system within its territory and their inability to control it. The Union's shallow draft ships and the tincald fleet prevented the movement of troops or supplies along one of South's major roadways, the rivers.

Navyman at [Jun 29 20:52:10]: shotgun there was New Orleans, the battle of outside Charleston Harbor, and the battles around Vicksburg to name a few.

M at [Jun 29 20:53:19]: Shotgun, there was the Albemarle vs the Miami and Southfield. The Chicora and Palmetto State vs the US blockading fleet in Charleston. The little David vs the USS New Ironsides. The H. L. Hunley vs the USS Housatonic. The Shenandoah vs the New England whaling fleet. Oh hell, we could go on all night listing engagements.

Navyman at [Jun 29 20:54:12]: Very true Saber the rivers were the soul of the South, but the ports were the hearts of the south in this war.

shotgun at [Jun 29 20:56:19]: Was there a naval engagement where if the outcome had been different the course of the war might have been changed?

M at [Jun 29 20:56:52]: Saber, that was only really successful along the lower James river, near it's mouth. they tried it in other areas (and up the James) and found that the Confederate army would drive them back with field pieces pulled up near the river. In two cases they even lost a boat (captured) as a result of going up the rivers.

Navyman at [Jun 29 20:57:39]: No shot gun none off the top of my head.

M at [Jun 29 20:57:53]: Shotgun, not really, but there were policies that might have made a difference.

106NY at [Jun 29 20:57:59]: M do you have any knowledge of the USS Americus( America) which sank off the coast of Florida March 22, 1864 ( navyman that is the date I couldn't remember).

Saber at [Jun 29 20:58:49]: Are you refering to the Trent Affair M?

Navyman at [Jun 29 20:59:24]: Ah yes thank you M. The assault on Richmond, 7 union vessals tried to get up river and capture Richmond.

M at [Jun 29 21:00:37]: 106, not off the top of my head, but if you like a I have a very close friend who is one of the 5 most knowledgable men in the world on the naval war of this period and i'll check with him this week.

M at [Jun 29 21:02:24]: Saber, no, the Trent affair happened on the high sea. M

106NY at [Jun 29 21:03:40]: M thank you for your time. I would appreciate it. The info I have from a headstone near here said the ship foundered . But thanks in advance for any info you could give me.

M at [Jun 29 21:03:59]: navyman, the push up the James was interesting because they were driven back by CS Marines and sailors manning the works at Drewry's Bluff.

Navyman at [Jun 29 21:06:22]: Yes and the USS Galena went on this voyage only to find out that the railroad rails plating her did not work. When a confederate shell hit her, the rails started falling into the river.

M at [Jun 29 21:07:05]: Saber, but if you want to look into the Trent affair it is an interesting event. Forced the US Gov't to back down in order to prevent Enland from coming into the war on the side of the South, and that would have been the end of the Union's anaconda plan and hopes for victory.

Xan at [Jun 29 21:07:14]: Shotgun, there was an attack (actually a couple) on Drewry's Bluff, eight miles below Richmond on the James. The first was May 15 1862, with the USS Monitor, Galena, Aroostook, Port Royal and Naugatuck. Drewry's Bluff (I forget the name of the fort there) held them all off. Commander John Rogers was of the opinion that if the bluff had been attacked by land forces from the rear, the James to Richmond would have been open. I don't think this would have ended the war, but sure would have changed the course.

Navyman at [Jun 29 21:09:29]: Xan the name of the fort was FT. Darling.

M at [Jun 29 21:09:48]: Xan, they tried to take the Drewry's Bluff by land, and failed. They did finally take it though (after the retreat from Richmond in April 65).

Xan at [Jun 29 21:12:37]: Thank you gentlemen! M, not to quibble, but I thought Ft. Darling was never taken, merely abandoned. Also, in the first attack, a U.S.Marine on the Galena got the Medal of Honor. (Just knew all you Navy personnel would want that remembered!) ;)

shotgun at [Jun 29 21:12:55]: After the fall of Vicksburg, and the control of the Mississippi was lost, were there still Confederate gunboats operating there? If so, what was their home port?

M at [Jun 29 21:14:52]: Xan, and that US Marine was being fired on my CS Marines. If a fort is abandoned, and the enemy moves into it, then at that point it was taken. Or is it your position that Richmond was never taken?

Navyman at [Jun 29 21:15:27]: Shotgun there were still a couple of confederate gunboats on the mississippi they operated from Little Kock area or some place in Arkansas.

M at [Jun 29 21:16:37]: Shotgun, not on the Mississippi itself. The Arkansas was the last real CS vessel that could have threatened the US forces on that river, but she went down before Vicksburg.

Saber at [Jun 29 21:19:32]: M, didn't the Arkansas bust up a combined combined Union Navy and Army operation on the Red River?

Newfish at [Jun 29 21:20:23]: Speaking of land,land, land, why did the US continue to focus so on naval action in Charleston Harbor, after Hilton Head, and Beaufort fell. Why not a focussed thrust coming into Charleston from the south and west.

Xan at [Jun 29 21:22:13]: Newfish, I have always been under the impression that Charleston was a special case, a matter more of emotion than strict military signifigance, and everybody wanted a piece of the action of taking her down.

M at [Jun 29 21:24:27]: Saber, no. It was not fully completed, but was about to be bottled up in the Yazoo river (where she had been moved to) north of Vicksburg. She moved out into the Mississippi and ran with the current through the Federal fleet, firing as she went. It was one of the USN most embarrassing moments on the Mississippi. She stopped at Vicksburg for a while (the USN tried again to destroy her while she was tied up there). The Confederates know she could never get out, so they loaded all her guns, set on fire, and sent her down the river unmanned. As the fire reached the guns they fired. She was destroyed by the fire.

M at [Jun 29 21:27:24]: Xan, and newfish, Charleston was an emotional case and that's why the Navy tried two big pushes to take it (and several smaller actions). It wasn't that every one wanted a peace of the pie. The Army didn't even make a big push when the city was abandoned. It was more concerned with moving north.

M at [Jun 29 21:30:02]: Newfish, the army couldn't push in from the west (until sherman showed up) and from the south the rivers and swamps make moving a large body of men very dificult. for some reason the CS military forces in that region kept interfering every time they tried it.

Saber at [Jun 29 21:30:19]: Thank you M. It was the Yazoo not the Red River.

M at [Jun 29 21:31:15]: Saber, but I'm sure the Confederates would have LOVED to have the Arkansas on the Red River.

Saber at [Jun 29 21:33:18]: The Confederacy made very effective use of torpedos, aka mines, in the war. Is their use considered part of the CW Naval story?

Navyman at [Jun 29 21:34:58]: Yes saber the Mines should be considered part of CW history.

M at [Jun 29 21:36:23]: Newfish, I'm glad you brought up Charleston, because it had my favorite Union tinclad. The monitor, USS Keokuk. It got shot full of holes during the attack, was scuttled and had her guns removed from the turrents by the Confederates in full view of the Federal blockading fleet. Wells was really upset about that.

Navyman at [Jun 29 21:37:47]: Now the KeoKuk was considered in its own class was it not M.

Xan at [Jun 29 21:37:53]: I have run across a couple of stories of "electric" mines, operated by wires from shore and powered by batteries. Sometimes they worked beautifully, another time the wire had been run over by a cart. Durn technology anyway.

Navyman at [Jun 29 21:40:14]: The time the wire was run over by a cart was when the the USS New Ironsides was run aground over the biggest mine in the harbor.

M at [Jun 29 21:40:19]: Saber, very much a part. After the Federal attack on Charleston the USS New Ironsides was anchored over a "torpedo" with 2,000 lb of powder. The Confederates tried very hard to get it to go off, but the firing mechanism had fouled. Had it gone of it would have sunk the ship on the spot within a few minutes.

Saber at [Jun 29 21:40:31]: M, one witness to the action said the Keokuk was "riddled like a colander, the most severly mauled ship one ever saw."

Navyman at [Jun 29 21:41:30]: Fort .Fisher had land mines on it's land face electricly generated.

Navyman at [Jun 29 21:43:11]: M the firing mechenism was fine the wire had been ran over by a ammo wagon the day before.

M at [Jun 29 21:45:32]: Saber, the Keokuk was engaged for about 30 minutes and took 90 hits and was sunk, but all of the monitors were shot up and some were out of action for a while after words with turrents that wouldn't turn, etc....

M at [Jun 29 21:48:04]: navyman, I hate to disagree, but the wire was found to be good and when the "mine" was pulled in they found water had fouled it.

M at [Jun 29 21:49:04]: navyman, visit the historical society in Charleston and look over the records.

M at [Jun 29 21:53:42]: navyman, I read the same report you did that said the wire was cut, but the records don't support it. It's like the report Alexander wrote saying that the Hunley sank three times in the harbor, but the records only support 2 sinkings (and his dates prove that it could have only sunk twice).

M at [Jun 29 21:55:12]: navyman, I even read that it would explode because they could generate enough electical power to detonate it, but that was false too.

Navyman at [Jun 29 21:55:58]: Excuse me M, I am real tired .I am trying to think even though I had a reenactment this weekend. I would love to get down to Charleston and view there records but maybe when I get my license, I am only 14 years old . I have to go now because I am really tired and I have tied up the phone lines for over 3,and a half hours.****REMEMBER FORT FISHER****

M at [Jun 29 21:56:10]: Sorry, I ment that it was said that it wouldn't explode, because the couldn't get enough electrical power to it.

M at [Jun 29 21:57:42]: navyman, well you've have done real good tonight. I was at a reenactment this weekend too. Hope you had a good time.

shotgun at [Jun 29 22:00:43]: Navyman, thank you very very much for hosting this discussion. I found it most informative. Having researched this for the 4 days or so I have learned an awful lot. Now I won't feel quite so stupid when folks start talking that nautical stuff in here. Again thanks.

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