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CSS Manassas

Discussion in 'Civil War History - The Naval War' started by Grendel1367, Jan 27, 2010.

  1. TerryB

    TerryB Captain

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    Welcome aboard, Tim. Do you know what happened to the soldier who wrote the letters?
     

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  3. timmy3

    timmy3 Cadet

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    Hey Terry. He was a Tn. Vol. After Island 10 fell he went to Corinth then Shiloh. Not sure what happened that summer but by the fall he was in a prison camp.
     
  4. TerryB

    TerryB Captain

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    With name and unit I can look him up next time I'm at the state archives.
     
  5. Grendel1367

    Grendel1367 Private

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    Confederate Gunboats at Columbus

    Any other new information in the letters pertaining to Confederate ships or boats in the Columbus area?
     
  6. timmy3

    timmy3 Cadet

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    Hi all. My family was sick lat week or I would have answered what I could before now.

    He does mention other boats. In nearly every letter he writes about Union gunboats coming down river to either observe the fortifications or to lob shells at them. He writes that they fired on and hit the "Conestoga" 5 times and damaged her badly enough that she had to be towed upriver.

    He writes that the steamboat "Gazoo" went upriver to meet a Union steamboat flying a flag of truce. He says those were becoming very common.

    I'm not a student of the war by any means, but it amazes me how much close contact there was between both sides. He writes that Generals Polk and Pillow go together by steamboat upriver to meet with General Grant, not returning until that night. He says that Grant refused to acknowledge the south as a naton until after their meeting with him.

    Anyway, hope that helps.
     
  7. Grendel1367

    Grendel1367 Private

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    Any dates listed for some of those encounters in which gunfire was exchanged? Any chance you might publish or at least make copies of the available?

    Thanks
     
  8. timmy3

    timmy3 Cadet

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    I will go thru the letters and post the dates later. In the meantime I thought you all might like to see the sketch he drew of the "Manassas" while it was at Columbus.
     

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  9. Grendel1367

    Grendel1367 Private

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    It looks like he numbers and describes the features? What are the features at the stern?
     
  10. Bil R

    Bil R Private

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    Hello Tim,

    I have just joined the forum and have been reading your posts regarding the letters you possess. This is obviously a first person account who gives good descriptions as well as sketches in his correspondence. I have been researching the CSN for quite some time and believe your letters may offer new and unique information. If possible, may I obtain photocopies of your letters? Please contact me at: sanmanbil@aol.com

    All the best,
    Bil
     
  11. Mike d

    Mike d Private

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    Hello Tim
    Please, can you state what item 3 and 4 were on the drawing in your very unique letter? I see that 1. is the trapdoor for the bow gun, , 2. was the trap door for crew access, but 3 and 4 are not within the scan. Congrats on such a great letter!
    Mike D.
     
  12. Carronade

    Carronade Sergeant Major

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    Most of the few available illustrations of Manassas show her with a single tall funnel, probably item 4 in the drawing, but I found this picture...

    http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-us-cs/csa-sh/csash-mr/mansas-m.htm

    ...which appears to show two short projections like the drawing. Just a guess, the second may have been added for ventilation, a likely concern in a ship like that. Another possibility, though I think less likely, she may have had two (or more) boilers, both uptakes may have originally been trunked into one funnel, perhaps after some operating experience they gave each boiler its own exhaust.

    Thanks for bringing this thread back up. One factor which bedeviled Confederate naval efforts was that most of their ships were confined to the harbor, river, etc. where they were built; they could build a dozen ironclads and still only have one or two at a particular point when a federal fleet attacked. The Mississippi was the one place where Confederate ships could do double duty, fighting the Union Navy at Head of Passes and the gunboat flotilla upriver. On the hand, as Hollins reported, there was the danger of being out of position for the decisive battle.
     
  13. Mark F. Jenkins

    Mark F. Jenkins Major Forum Host

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    There's a lot of puzzlement over the exact configuration of the Manassas. I did notice in Battles and Leaders, that in a foortnote to one of the articles (I think the article by Cmdr. John R. Barlett (The "Brooklyn" at the Passage of the Forts)) specifically said that the Manassas had two stacks, one of which had been knocked over in the action.

    The number of boilers doesn't directly affect the number of funnels.

    Some sources indicate that the Manassas had two engines, a high-pressure (noncondensing) engine and a low-pressure (condensing) one. This would make sense from her former life as an ocean-going tugboat; high-pressure engines drew their water directly from outside the hull and did not recondense and recirculate it, which was impractical in salt water, as it would cause the boilers to scale rapidly, whereas her high-pressure engines would have been a great asset in rivers and freshwater harbors. But again, this would not necessitate two funnels or chimneys.

    I wonder sometimes if there was one funnel and one steam exhaust pipe, and if this might not be the source of the confusion.
     
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  14. Kazziga

    Kazziga Private

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    As Bil R and Mark F. Jenkins know, I am a bit obsessed with the Manassas. I has always been my favorite CS ironclad, so I tried to collect as much reference material concerning that ship as was possible (mind the fact that I live in Poland, so no real access to NA or the like). Anyway, with help of friends from the States and with my own humble efforts I have a lot of illustrations of that ironclad and documents describing her career.

    The exact configuration is still a mystery, but there are numerous period illustrations (some of them by eye-witnesses), which show the ship with two stacks. The most important are these drawn by witnesses and these are:

    The sketch posted here by Tim

    Daniel Nestell's drawings:
    http://cdm16099.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15241coll4/id/297/rec/2
    http://cdm16099.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15241coll4/id/291/rec/33

    Sketch of a sinking Manassas apparently made by an eye-witness (similar to G. Riddell's drawing):
    http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/10481456

    William Waud's drawing (on the left close to the center of the page):
    http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004661364/

    Another William Waud's illustration:
    http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypl...bel=&lword=&lfield=&imgs=20&pos=130&snum=&e=w

    Sketch published in the ORN:
    http://www.digitalvaults.org/record/494.html?page=1

    There is also a drawing of the damaged Manassas as she looked shortly before sinking made by George Riddell (another eye-witness), but I'm not at liberty to post this one.

    There are also other contemporary newspaper illustrations that also show her with two stacks, like the one from New York Tribune, April 8, 1862 (attached). A simple Google search will produce some of those. Here are some links for the lazy ones (some illustrations also show a single stack):
    http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-us-cs/csa-sh/csash-mr/mansas-k.htm
    http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-us-cs/csa-sh/csash-mr/mansas-m.htm
    http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-us-cs/csa-sh/csash-mr/manassas.htm

    The single stack version was made popular by the wash drawing made by R. G. Skerrett:
    http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/images/h00001/h00608.jpg
    This is the best know image of the Manassas, as it has been published almost everywhere.

    Well, now we could say, that she must have had two stacks, since the eye-witnesses depicted her that way. Unfortunately, it is not that obvious. To make things even more confusing, I have a sketch made by J. Horry Dent in 1862 that I received from Bob Holcombe a few years ago and it shows her with a single stack (it's a port side view). Bob also mentioned a letter written by an engineer who served on the Manassas, in which he states that she had one stack.

    As you can see, it's not an easy ironclad to research.

    All the best,
    Kaz
     

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  15. Kazziga

    Kazziga Private

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    I found some more drawings of the Manassas, all made by W. Waud:

    Here she is seen from the top of the USS Mississippi (above the howitzer's elevating screw). As you can see she has two stacks.
    http://louisdl.louislibraries.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/AWW&CISOPTR=1300&CISOBOX=1&REC=7
    In this one she is one the right (below the word "Cayuga")
    http://louisdl.louislibraries.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/AWW&CISOPTR=1284&CISOBOX=1&REC=10
    Here she is on the left
    http://louisdl.louislibraries.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/AWW&CISOPTR=1283&CISOBOX=1&REC=11
    In the last two, she has only one stack, but I guess that it's due to the fact that she is seen from the side. At first I though, that she may have lost one of the stacks during the battle, but Nestell's drawing clearly shows that she had both when she was abandoned by her crew.
     
  16. Mark F. Jenkins

    Mark F. Jenkins Major Forum Host

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    Hm. I guess something that concerns me is the vessel on the far right of the second sketch... if it's supposed to be the Louisiana, it worries me that it appears to have two stacks, whereas it's pretty well-established that she had one. I can't quite make out the inscription... might it just say, "Rebel"?

    (Do we know if Waud was personally present?)
     
  17. Kazziga

    Kazziga Private

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  18. Kazziga

    Kazziga Private

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  19. Mark F. Jenkins

    Mark F. Jenkins Major Forum Host

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    Kaz, here's my concern: if the ship the Manassas was converted from was an Atlantic-seaboard tug or icebreaker, as the Enoch Train was supposed to be... those didn't ordinarily have two stacks abreast. That arrangement was almost (not quite) entirely confined to the Western rivers. I don't see any practical reason for dividing one funnel into two stacks.

    As I see it, there are a few possibilities. If we can eliminate some of them, it should narrow the field:

    1) The Enoch Train had one stack, and was converted into a single-stacked Manassas.
    2) The Enoch Train had two stacks, and was converted into a single-stacked Manassas.
    3) The Enoch Train had one stack, and was converted into a two-stacked Manassas.
    4) The Enoch Train had two stacks, and was converted into a two-stacked Manassas.
    5) The Enoch Train was not converted into the Manassas.
    6) The Enoch Train was converted into the Manassas, but the Enoch Train was not what it's commonly thought to have been.

    (The scenario I omit is that the Manassas had one stack at some times and two at others. I just don't find that at all realistic.)

    I'm willing to grant the strong possibility that the Manassas had more than one stack, from the frequent examples you've cited. But I also consider it unlikely that the Enoch Train had more than one, so we're left with a quandary. Tbe most practical resolution, it would seem to me, is that the Enoch Train was not the vessel converted into the Manassas, or if it was, it was not a coastal steamer but rather a riverboat, probably a river tugboat. While admittedly the majority of riverboats were paddle-wheelers, there were a certain number with propellers, and it's conceivable that it was selected for conversion for precisely that reason.
     
  20. Kazziga

    Kazziga Private

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    Mark, I would not discard the option of one stack at some times and two at others. It's possible that as the Enoch Train, the ship had one stack and during her conversion the arrangement was modified. If we had detailed information about her machinery and arrangement of her boilers it would tell us a lot about the number of stacks. However, I haven't seen any such information. What we know is that she had one low- and one high-pressure engine and number of boilers remains a mystery.

    As for the idea that the Manassas was not formerly Enoch Train, I seriously doubt it. Hull lines of the Enoch Train were published in an engineering magazine and they correspond with dimensions of the Manassas (if we take into consideration necessary changes, like addition of ram and knuckle).

    [​IMG]

    A few days ago I received some citations concerning the Manassas from Bil R (Thanks again, Bil). These are from the "Boston Daily Journal" and Bil gave me a green light to publish them here:

    Another Rebel Ram...Intelligence has reached here of the appearance on the Mississippi river of a new rebel ram, "turtle", or nondescript war steamer from New Orleans. About noon on the 1st of January, a steamer came down to Pass L'outre, and lay alongside the river bank. ...The steamer (Manassas) is represented as being two hundred feet long, cigar shaped, sharp at both ends, roofed over in the shape of a turtle's back, with plate iron,...with two smokestacks abreast, and moving through the water with great rapidity. She was built at Algiers, opposite New Orleans. Few men were seen on board of her. Rf- BDJ 01/27/62 p.1c.1

    The Manassas - I am not aware that any accurate description has been given of Commodore Hollins ram Manassas, but as it possible that Commodore Foote may come in contact with the nondescript, a description will not be out of place. If you split an egg in halves through its longer diameter, and lay the flat surface of one of the halves upon a table, you will have a miniature representation of the general outlines and external appearance. It is about one hundred feet long, twenty broad, and draws twelve feet of water. Her sides are of oak plated with railroad iron, one and half inches in thickness. She has two telescopic chimneys. The pilot house is a round pimple on the back of the turtle and is impervious to shot. It has one heavy gun - a 68 pounder - in front. The port opens automatically when the gun is run out, and closes also automatically with the recoil. The crew enter by a trap door in one side. The prow is of iron and projects like the nose of a swordfish. The motive power is a propeller. It is not formidable as a ram from the weakness of the engines. The Manassas is weaker even than the Benton. A well-directed shot below the waterline amidship would let the water around her boilers. Either of our gunboats will probably prove a match for this much boasted ram. More is to be feared from the new gunboats said to be nearly completed. Rf- BDJ 04/05/62 p.2c.5

    The much-boasted of Manassas ram, the deserters had frequently seen, and been aboard of, but they believed she would be of little service, as it was necessary for two steamers to tow her up from New Orleans to Columbus, and she could therefore, be of little service in running down the Union gunboats, as the Louisianans had vaunted she could easily do. Rf- BDJ 04/15/62 p.4c.2

    The Manassas ram is usually regarded as a failure in the South. It has but one old gun, a 9-inch Dahlgren, and when fired if often draws blood from the eyes and ears of the crew by the concussion of the atmosphere, and has a number of times broken the engines. It draws nine feet of water, and is now lying unemployed at the New Orleans levee. Rf- BDJ 04/17/62 p.2c.5

    As you can see, these do not give us any really new information, but again confirm her prominent features - cigar shaped appearance, two telescopic funnels abreast. The dome shaped pilothouse is mentioned (it's interesting that some sources mention it, while others say there was just a hatch aft used for conning the ship). Also "trap door" on one side to enter the ship is mentioned (Chalaron's sketch shows something similar to that feature, but I always thought that these squares on the sides were coaling hatches, although their location would weaken the armor's integrity).

    What strikes me is the 9-inch Dahlgren as armament mentioned in one of the articles. I can't believe she had such a big gun. I may be wrong, but 9,000 lbs. gun sounds too heavy for a ship of that size. Moreover, she was built as a privateer and I don't think that the group that converted her had access to such powerful armament.

    Any thoughts, anyone?
     
  21. Mark F. Jenkins

    Mark F. Jenkins Major Forum Host

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    Hm... some great info there, Kaz. Thanks for sharing.

    I agree, the IX-inch Dahlgren sounds like a stretch... still the 68-pounder was likely about an eight-incher, so perhaps the observer didn't know the difference. (Dahlgrens also weren't "old" by any standard at the time; other than the boat howitzers, they were only beginning to be mounted in the mid-to-late 1850s.) Another thing I wonder about is that a "68-pounder" was more likely to be English than American, where it seems that "64-pounder" was a more usual name for an 8-inch smoothbore... New Orleans being pretty cosmopolitan, it doesn't seem impossible that an English gun might have been used.

    I think I've read elsewhere that it was a 32-pounder, though, which I could quickly understand, as that was a very common antebellum naval gun (of several different weights and configurations). (And I think I've read that it had one gun at one time and another at another time...)

    You didn't pick a very well-documented vessel to concentrate on, that's for sure! :laugh:
     

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