Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Top 10 Civil War Naval Vessels and a "lecture alert" Tonight!

This should be an interesting lecture.

1. March 31 THE SPRINGFIELD HISTORICAL SOCIETY presents a new program on Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. at the Springfield Township Building 50 Powell Road, Springfield. “USS ALLIGATOR” “The USS Alligator” was built in Philadelphia in 1862 as the first submarine developed for the US Navy during the Civil War. Join Dan Cashin as he unfolds this incredible chapter in our rich history. The story begins in France with Jules Verne a student and his math teacher, Brutus de Villeroi. De Villeroi was quite skilled in mechanical engineering designing the Alligator to help the Union prevail in combating Confederate Ironclad ships and maintaining unobstructed harbors. Launched after a tumultuous build in a Philadelphia shipyard in May of 1862, the Alligator made its way into “Tin Can” history! Incorporating elements used today as standard on US Navy subs the Alligator was indeed way ahead of its time.
Dan Cashin hails from Havertown and has worked at the Navy Yard since 1966! A passionate historian and Civil War reenactor, Dan also will talk about the H.L. Hunley resurrected in 2000. The program is presented free of charge with light refreshments served at the conclusion.

Photo from a poster on display at Marcus Hook Pirate Day 2013

2. Last year on a cold morning running through the raindrops in Charleston, South Carolina, I happened upon a submarine docked upon the sidewalk. It was a replica of the submarine H. L Hunley.

Replica of the H.L.Hunley sits outside the Charleston Museum, in Charleston, S. C.

The original found in 1995 and raised in 2000 is undergoing extensive restoration and long term conservation at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston, South Carolina. Here is a link to the Friends of the H.L. Hunley website for updates.

3. The United States Revenue Cutter Service, was established by an act of Congress on 4 August 1790 as the Revenue-Marine upon the recommendation of Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, to serve as an armed customs enforcement service. Many of these ships were used throughout the civil war. 

Photograph from a display at the National Marines Museum in Quantico, VA.
4. USRC Harriet Lane fired the first shots in maritime aggression on April 11, 1861 on a civilian steamship Nashville as it entered the Charleston, South Carolina Harbor during the bombardment of Fort Sumter. USMC Nashville was not flying an identifying flag. 

Fort Sumter, South Carolina
5. The Nashville was a USMS (United States Mail Ship). After the surrender of Sumter the Nashville docked at Charleston. After the fall of Fort Sumter, the Confederates captured her (the Nashville) at Charleston and fitted her out as a cruiser. Under the command of Lieutenant Robert B. Pegram, CSN, she ran the blockade on October 21, 1861, and headed across the Atlantic to Southampton, England, the first ship of war to fly the Confederate flag in English waters. After switching her name a few times, USMS Nashville, CSS Nashville, Thomas L. Wragg, Rattlesnake met her fate February 28, 1863 but you can't say she didn't live an exciting life.

6. USRC Harriet Lane, named after the niece of senator and later United States President, James Buchanan; during his presidency, she acted as First Lady. also went on to an exciting career.  She went on to do battle in New Orleans, Galveston, Texas, and Virginia Point and was captured by the Confederates in 1863, whereupon she was converted to a trade ship. She was promptly recaptured by the Union forces, declared unfit for service, sold, and rechristened the Elliot Ritchie out of Philadelphia, only to be abandoned at sea in 1881. During the Battle of Galveston, noteworthy occurrences surrounded the capture of the Harriet Lane. A copy of the United States signal service code book was in her cabin, and now in Confederate hands. Also reported was the youngest casualty of the civil war.

8. Construction of the replica of the C.S.S. Neuse began in 2002 and is the only full scale Confederate ironclad in the world! It is located in Kinston, North Carolina. The remaining lower hull of the original ironclad was discovered and raised in 1963; approximately 15,000 shipboard artifacts were recovered and carefully cataloged. Since 2013, Neuse and her artifacts have been on display in a new, climate-controlled building in downtown Kinston, North Carolina. The remnants of the original C.S.S. Neuse are on display a few blocks from the replica in downtown Kinston.

9. I went looking for the Roanoke River Lighthouse along the Albemarle River in Plymouth, North Carolina and look what I found.  How cool looking is this bad boy? The CSS Albermarle is the sister of the Neuse. C.S.S. Albemarle has had a 38 scale replica, 63 feet (19 m) long, at anchor near the Port O' Plymouth Museum in Plymouth, North Carolina. This ironclad replica is self-powered and capable of sailing on the river.

Replica of the C.S.S Abemarle photo 2012

10. In 1861, the Confederate navy converted the hulk of the USS Merrimack into an ironclad. On March 8, 1861, the Virginia sank one Union warship and drove another aground. The north's ironclad, U.S.S. Monitor, crossed the bay near this spot that night. The epic battle of the Monitor and the Virginia the next day signaled a new era in naval affairs.  The days of the sailing wooden ship in battle were over. The battle did not produce a clear victor, but the Union controlled the Bay. Fort Monroe to the west at the head of the harbor, never left Union control.  From there, large fleets were placed in the Bay to enforce the blockade and invade the southern coast.

These ships are not the Monitor or Merrimack but if you stand in front of this signpost located at the visitor's center along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay and you are lucky enough to see the big shipping freighters out there you can almost imagine the draw.

The Monitor sank 12 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras on December 31, 1862 while being towed to Beaufort, N.C. The wreck lies 225 feet deep and is protected as a National Marine Sanctuary.

The C.S.S. Virginia (Merrimack) met her demise in May of that same year, 1862. Neither made it through the civil war.

I can't promise the lecture will cover all these vessels but I am sure you will get all the details about the Alligator.

For those inquiring minds: According to Wikipedia, there are currently only four recovered Civil War era ironclad wrecks, CSS Neuse, C.S.S. Muscogee (also called C.S.S. Jackson in some texts), U.S.S. Monitor, and U.S.S .Cairo; Cairo remains the only recovered ironclad wreck left partially exposed outdoors under cover in the sometimes brutal southern climate. Other Union and Confederate ironclad wreck sites are known but remain untouched. The successful Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley, which sank the Union blockading sloop-of-war USS Housatonic, was recovered and is undergoing extensive restoration and long term conservation at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston, South Carolina.  Monitor '​s wreck was discovered in 1973 and has been partially salvaged. Her guns, gun turret, engine and other relics are on display at the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia. C.S.S. Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center at 100 N. Queen Street in downtown Kinston. C.S.S. Jackson '​s remains were raised a century later, during the early 1960s, from that portion of the river inside the boundaries of Fort Benning; her surviving below-the-waterline hull was then placed on exhibit at the National Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus.  U.S.S. Cairo Gunboat and Museum is located in Vicksburg, MS.

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