Tuesday, May 17, 2022

In Case You're Wondering About the Mission to USS Monitor Being named 'Valor in the Atlantic'?

From the May 15, 2022, Chesapeake Bay Magazine "Deep Dive:   Shipwreck of ironclad  USS Monitor gets  high-tech exploration."

Then turret of this famous ship was raised from the ocean floor  and now is being carefully preserved  at the Mariners Museum in Newport News.  Most of the rest of the USS Monitor is still underwater.  The turret was recovered after a 41-day recovery mission in 2002.

In addition to the Monitor, the area around it in the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary also contains other wrecks.  The expedition's name, "Valor in the Atlantic," is the fact that a variety of wartime shipwrecks will be explored.

During World War II, attacks from German U-boats against Allied merchant vessels, a part of the famed Battle of the Atlantic during that war, resulted in a high concentration of World War II ships off the North Carolina coast.  The project represents  an ideal, opportunity to honor the history and sacrifice of Allied servicemen and members of the U.S.  Merchant Marine who fought and died during the war.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, May 16, 2022

Valor in the Atlantic 2022: Return to the USS Monitor Will Stream Live

I wrote about this expedition in my last two posts.

From the NOAA  National Marine Sanctuaries by Mark Losavio.

You are all invited to join in an exciting  journey  returning to the resting place of the USS Monitor, America's first  national marine sanctuary, as we celebrate the upcoming  50th Anniversary on the National Marine Sanctuary System.  

The Civil War vessel, which sank 160 years ago, will be visited  by an underwater robot and systematically surveyed for the first time since the Monitor's turret  was recovered in 2002.

The expedition will take place May 15-25.

And, you can watch it live.

You can go to You Tune


--Old B-Runner

Sunday, May 15, 2022

160 Years After Sinking, NOAA Scientists Plan to Survey USS Monitor-- Part 2: Just in the Nick of Time

The USS Monitor was the United States' first ironclad warship.  She made history at the Battle of Hampton Roads in 1862 before meeting her demise in a winter storm at the end of that year.

The story of the Monitor  can be traced back to 1861, when Virginia seceded from  the United States during the Civil War.  As Union forces retreated from Gosport Navy Yard in Virginia, they burned one of the most powerful wooden warships in the Navy, the USS Merrimack to prevent her falling into Confederate hands.

The Confederates, desperate to build a Navy that could challenge the superiority of they enemy raised the Merrimack and converted her into an ironclad-- the CSS Virginia.

This threat prompted the U.S. to produce the Monitor in less than 100 days.  The ship launched  on January  30, 1862, and less than two months later, the Monitor met the Virginia on March 9, 1862, during the Battle of Hampton Roads.

And it was a good thing the Monitor took so little time to launch because it arrived just in the nick of time to prevent the Virginia from destroying the Union fleet on the second day of battle.  The battle between the two ironclads ended in a draw, neither ship could hurt the other.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, May 14, 2022

160 Years After Sinking, NOAA Scientists Plan to Survey USS Monitor

From the May 13, 2022, Maritime Executive.

U.S. researchers and scientists will soon embark on a 10-day expedition to explore and investigate the  shipwreck of the USS Monitor which sank 160 years ago off the North Carolina coast.  They will be leaving May 15.  This will be the first visit to the wreck since the ship's turret was recovered in 2002.

The remains of the ship are located sixteen miles off Cape Hatteras and the area surrounding the vessel has been designated a national marine sanctuary.

This survey will also commemorate the 50th anniversary  of the creation of the sanctuary.  Earlier this year, the 160th anniversary the ship's launching and of the sea battle between the Monitor and the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia at the Battle of Hampton Roads which changed naval warfare forever.

Over the course of the two-week mission, researchers will also visit  several natural reefs and  historical shipwrecks off the coast of North Carolina.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, May 13, 2022

Shipwreck of the CSS Louisiana-- Part 2: Blown Up By Her Crew

Mechanics worked day and night on the east bank of the Mississippi River trying to get the vessel's machinery to work.

Trapped after the Union fleet passed by in April 24, 1862.  Hit by several shells while moored to the riverbank.  Was set afire near Fort St. Philip by its crew under orders id Captain John K. Mitchell on April 28, 1862, after Fort St. Philip and Fort Jackson surrendered.

Was blown up with 10,000 pounds of gunpowder at 10:45 a.m. near Fort St. Philip's water battery and drifted downstream.  One soldier in Fort St. Philip was killed and one was wounded by fragments from the explosion.

In 1981, Clive Cussler used a gradiometer in a swamp off the main river channel and found a wreck directly off Fort St. Philip that he thought was the CSS Louisiana.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Shipwreck of the CSS Louisiana-- Part 1

From Encyclopedia of Civil War Shipwrecks.



Two-paddlewheel ironclad, 1,400 tons.  Length 264 feet, beam 62 feet, 4 engines (from steamer Ingomar).

Complement of 200 to 300 men with two rifled 7-inch guns, three 9-inch guns and four 8-inch shell guns, and seven rifled 32-pounders.

Construction began at New Orleans in mid-October 1861 but was not completed because of lack of raw materials.  Used as a floating battery.

Supposed to have cost about $1 million to build.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Shipwreck of CSS Mississippi

From the Encyclopedia of Civil War Shipwrecks.


Three screw ironclad gunboat, 1,400 tons.

Length 260 feet, beam 58 feet, draft 12 feet 6 inches, depth 15 feet, speed estimated 14 kno0ts, armor 3.75-inch iron, 16 boilers, designed to carry 20 guns.

Launched on April 14. 1862, in Jefferson City, Louisiana, upstream from New Orleans.

Set afire by Confederate Commander Arthur Sinclair and drifted down the Mississippi River from New Orleans on April 26, 1862, and sank.

No guns or ammunition were aboard when destroyed.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Unfinished Monster Ironclad-- Part 2

With no power, the Mississippi was defenseless and there was nothing left to do but destroy her so it wouldn't fall into Union hands.  A fire was started and the empty vessel floated downriver.  As smoke and flames shot from her funnel and gunports, she twisted and turned in the current.

The Tift brothers and hundreds of Confederate  carpenters, shipbuilders and sailors stood on shore and watched months of work lost.  The Mississippi was no more.

Captain Arthur Sinclair, commander of the ship later wrote:  "If the Mississippi had been completed, and her armament and men on board,  she alone could have held the river against the entire  Federal fleet coming  up from below; she would have been the most formidable ship that I ever heard of -- vey creditable to her projectors,  builders and country."

--Old B-Runner

Monday, May 9, 2022

Unfinished Monster Ironclad: CSS Mississippi

From the book "A Lion-Hearted  Officer" by Carl D. Williams Jr.

"Work continued day and night on the ironclad" as Farragut's fleet entered the Mississippi River and everyone knew New Orleans was going to be his target.  They sorely needed the CSS Mississippi finished and in fighting trim.

And, most everything was coming together "the large smooth dark brown armor plates were bolted in place, and she was armed with freshly forged cannons, but the propeller shafts were not attached."

The ship  was tied to the dock of Mr. Millandon's plantation.

Colonel Tift was quoted as saying "all we needed was two more days and the propeller  shafts would be delivered."

The Tifts ordered their unusual ironclad towed up the Mississippi River by two riverboats, but the current proved too much and all three started drifting back to the approaching Federals.

They observed all manner of ships trying to escape the burning city and they knew all was lost.

--Old B-Runner

Sunday, May 8, 2022

CSS Mississippi: Leeds and Patterson Ironworks Bidding

From the February 23, 2021, Weapons and Warfare blog.

Patterson Ironworks agreed to furnish the engines and boilers after talks with Leeds had failed because the company was already  occupied with manufacturing and  the shafting for the CSS Arkansas and the never completed Tennessee at Memphis.

Leeds's asking price  for constructing the engines was  $65,0000 plus a build time of no less than four months.  Patterson, on the other hand,  offered to construct them for$45,000 plus a bonus if the work was completed  in 90 days.  They received the contract.

But, after necessary changes took place, the Patterson Ironworks  added $20,000 in price for building the engines and $8,000 for boilers.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, May 7, 2022

The CSS Mississippi

From the April 24, 2017, Emerging Civil War  "Failed ironclads:  CSS Mississippi and CSS Louisiana at New Orleans" by Dwight Hughes.

Despite all the problems listed in the previous posts about the ship, Confederate naval officers considered the Mississippi "the strongest...most formidable war vessel that had ever been built."  It was 250 feet long, 1400 tons and was quite unorthodox, even for an ironclad.

As stated before, the Tift brother, Asa and Nelson, had persuaded Mallory that they could make up for a lack of skilled shipwrights needed to bend and shape frames and planks for the hull by building it like a house with flat sides and square corners except where the pointed ends joined the hull.  Essentially, just a big floating box  with guns.

The ship had four and a half feet of wood an iron with a casemate for twenty guns, powered by eight boilers, three engines and three propellers.

She was hurriedly launched on April 19, the day Farragut passed the forts guarding New Orleans:  Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip.  But, Tredegar  Iron Works in Richmond had not yet delivered the main propeller shafts and herb guns were not mounted.

Five days later, with Farragut's ships approaching the city, the crew fled upriver to Vicksburg.  The executive officer, Lieutenant James Waddell, volunteered to return and set her afire.

(Waddell later commanded the raider CSS Shenandoah at the end of the war.)

--Old B-Runner

Friday, May 6, 2022

CSS Mississippi-- Part 7: The End

At about the same time the Confederate Navy Department was assuring Flag Officer Hollins that he would get the Mississippi and Louisiana to help him defend Memphis, they  ordered Commander Arthur Sinclair to take command of the CSS Mississippi.  He arrived on April 3, 1862.

About this time, the Tift brothers were under increasing pressure to complete their ship.  A self-appointed group of citizens calling them selves the Committee  for Public Safety, tried to force the launch of the Mississippi prematurely against the advice of Sinclair and a group of  engineers working on the ship.

The Tufts refused, arguing that  to do so would delay  completion by several weeks.

All arguments were rendered moot on April 24, when the Union fleet passed the forts below New Orleans to the south.  There was nothing now between the Union fleet and the city.

Trying to move his ship to a safer place and complete her, Sinclair had her hastily launched, with approval from the Tifts, and tried to have her towed upriver.  The tow boats he initially hired proved unable to accomplish the tow and the next day, he tried to find others.  While so engaged, the Union fleet came into view and the Mississippi was ordered burned.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, May 5, 2022

CSS Mississippi-- Part 6: The Union Threats on the Mississippi in March 1862

All these delays added up to the Mississippi not being ready to fight the Union ships when the time came.  Nelson Tift later said that  his ship would have been completed  in another two to three weeks.  (However, Captain Sinclair said his estimation was more like ten weeks away.)

In mid-March 1862, Flag Officer Farragut's ships entered the lower Mississippi River with the obvious eventual  intention of attacking New Orleans.  Farragut was already under  pressure from U.S. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles  who was very fearful of the  two ironclad "monsters" being completed at New Orleans.  ("Monsters" was a widespread term used for the Louisiana and the Mississippi at the time.)

On the other hand, the Confederate government was more concerned  with the threat of the Union gunboat flotilla approaching Memphis from the north along the Mississippi River.  Even as Farragut was moving his ships  across the bar, President Davis and Secretary of the Navy Mallory were promising Flag Officer George N. Hollins, commanding the Confederate naval forces on the Mississippi River, that the Louisiana would be sent to Memphis as soon as she was finished (expected to be a few days.)

The CSS Mississippi would follow shortly thereafter.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

CSS Mississippi-- Part 5: Now It's a Labor Issue

Labor troubles arose in November 1861, shortly after work had begun on the ironclad.  The workers in the shipyards struck, demanding that wages be increased from  $3 to $4 a day.  The other owners wanted to wait out the strikers, but after a week, the Tift brothers gave in.  The others were also forced to give in.

Trouble of a different type soon reared its head shortly thereafter when the Tifts found they  were competing with E.C. Murray, who was building the CSS Louisiana. This involved  the same skilled workmen who were needed for both ships. There were not enough to go around.

To ease this problem, a compromise was reached.  The Tifts and Murray agreed to share the labor, with the Louisiana getting  first call.  After it was completed, then the work would shift to the Mississippi.

Yet another set of delays popped up because of local military policies.  These insisted that men of certain ages participate in militia training, activities and even parades.  A protest to the governor went no where.  Murray and the Tifts then petitioned  Major General Mansfield Lowell that the men be exempted.  

Although Lowell agreed and issued an order to the effect, the practice continued.

If Its Not One Thing, It's Another.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, May 2, 2022

CSS Mississippi-- Part 4: Shipping the Iron Plate and the Propellers Shafts

Shipping the plate iron needed for the Mississippi over the already overtaxes Confederate railroad system was sporadic at best.  Delays were many.  Plates awaiting shipment were often found in Atlanta, days after they were supposed to go out.  The final armor arrived in New Orleans the day the CSS Mississippi was burned.

Engines and shafts added even more problems.  There were to be three shafts and places could be found in New Orleans to handle them, but the longer, central shaft could not be manufactured anywhere in the Confederacy.  Finally, a satisfactory shaft was found in a wrecked ship in October, but only Tredegar Ironworks or the Gosport Navy Yard in Virginia could handle the needed modifications.

When they were completed,  the shaft had to be transported over the rails.  It was shipped out March 26, 1862.    Although all three shafts were put into the hull, they were not hooked up to the engines, and the two outboard screw propellers were  still on the wharf when the end came.

--Old B-Runner