Ironclad Austrian naval yards

atlantis

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 12, 2016
Given the difficulty facing the confederates in building ironclads. Should the confederates have sought Austrian naval yards to construct blue water warships. Austria provided quite a bit of weapons for the CS army so why not seek naval weapons as well from Austria.
 

Scott1967

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 11, 2016
Location
England
The Austrian Navy was tiny and it had no real Shipyards so to speak I'm interested to know why you ask the question?.

Many Lorenz rifles were bought by independent contractors then resold to both the North and South.

If the Confederates needed anything Navy wise they would just go to Britain spend Gold and buy what they needed , Liverpool was particularly sympathetic to the Confederate cause the reason why Grant made a fleeting visit on his world tour while trying to get to Manchester as fast as he could.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Given the difficulty facing the confederates in building ironclads. Should the confederates have sought Austrian naval yards to construct blue water warships. Austria provided quite a bit of weapons for the CS army so why not seek naval weapons as well from Austria.
in the 1860s, Austria and Italy were engaged in a naval arms race leading to the 1866 Battle of Lissa as part of the Third War of Italian Independence (the Second War was the one in 1859 with Napoleon III stepping in). All the major Austrian shipyards were probably working as hard as they could go; there may not have been much available capacity for building for the Confederates.
 

NFB22

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Location
Louisville, KY
While I don't know much about Austrian shipbuilding in that era, I do know in the decade prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, that force wasn't very large. It wasn't until the mid 1850s the Austrian Navy began to expand so they were probably already at capacity.

Take into consideration the economic and political factors. Think about how long it took John Slidell to get overseas to France and then to navigate the red tape to secure the shipbuilders and funding to even get the Stonewall rolling. We all know how that worked out. I don't even know of a Confederate diplomat detailed to the Austrian Empire and had there been one, could he have navigated the political red tape, let alone secured funding, that Slidell was able to any sooner to produce ships that would be ready soon enough to impact the war? I wouldn't think so.

Also, if they had, could they even escape to open sea? I'm sure the Union would have caught wind and been waiting in the vicinity of Gibraltar much like the USS Kearsarge did at Cherbourg when she finally caught up with the Alabama. If not to engage, then at least shadow the ship, run ahead and let more formidable Union warships descend on the ship(s) in question when they reached territorial waters.
 

Piedone

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
A very good question - and indeed hard to answer.

The austrian shipbuilding industry was rapidly catching up (after some disappointing experiences of the navy in 1859) and especially Stabilimento Technico Triestino was able to construct the Drache-class armoured frigates and deliver them already in 1862.
Without real deeper knowledge I ‘d assume that similar ships in confederate hands could have been well able to succeed against Union blockade squadrons.
STT also was not working to it‘ s full capacity - they usually built more merchant ships than warships and could have handled at least some confederate orders in those times.

Maybe the Confederates looked at construction orders as a way to make diplomatic recognition probable?
Maybe they hoped that Britain and/or France would more easily grant recognition if the Confederates proved to be valuable and reliable customers
(it was obvious that Austria neither would recognize the Confederates nor could do anything to improve their diplomatic standing)?

Maybe the Confederates realized that british and french shipyards still enjoyed a certain (if even rapidly shrinking) technological advantage and thought they could get better ships for their money there?
 

Piedone

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
While I don't know much about Austrian shipbuilding in that era, I do know in the decade prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, that force wasn't very large. It wasn't until the mid 1850s the Austrian Navy began to expand so they were probably already at capacity.

Take into consideration the economic and political factors. Think about how long it took John Slidell to get overseas to France and then to navigate the red tape to secure the shipbuilders and funding to even get the Stonewall rolling. We all know how that worked out. I don't even know of a Confederate diplomat detailed to the Austrian Empire and had there been one, could he have navigated the political red tape, let alone secured funding, that Slidell was able to any sooner to produce ships that would be ready soon enough to impact the war? I wouldn't think so.

Also, if they had, could they even escape to open sea? I'm sure the Union would have caught wind and been waiting in the vicinity of Gibraltar much like the USS Kearsarge did at Cherbourg when she finally caught up with the Alabama. If not to engage, then at least shadow the ship, run ahead and let more formidable Union warships descend on the ship(s) in question when they reached territorial waters.
Very convincing.

Alas I am not sure that - at that time - any Union warship existed at all that could have eg overwhelmed a Drache-class frigate if the latter was operated prudently enough....
 

rebelatsea

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 30, 2013
Location
Kent ,England.
Very convincing.

Alas I am not sure that - at that time - any Union warship existed at all that could have eg overwhelmed a Drache-class frigate if the latter was operated prudently enough....
As built Drache and Salamander carried 18 - 24pdr MLR and 10 -48pdr SB. neither weapon would theoretically penetrate fully a monitor although both were high velocity for the period in which they were designed. The ships 4.5 " Styrian armour was easily equal to the best Low Moor iron of the RN so was proof against Dahlgren SBs. The Union had nothing seagoing which could beat them. However.
A Confederate version may well have carried British weapons, Blakely 68pdr and 7" MLR from Fawcett and Preston would have made them formidable opponents.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
The Austrian interest in the Confederacy generally revolved around the Hapsburg being installed as Emperor of Mexico by the French under Napoleon III (a force of 2,000 volunteers from Austria was involved in Mexico for a time). The chief Confederate diplomat did visit Austria, but I do not recall any permanent assignment of a Confederate diplomat to Vienna. There was an Austrian observer with the Confederate armies for a while (John Ross?) who was at Gettysburg and Chattanooga plus a few other places.
 

atlantis

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 12, 2016
Learn something all the time from this forum. What prompted my question is Britain, France had colonies and trade with US to lose by openly supplying warships to the confederacy. Austria and other non colonial European powers had less or nothing to lose. Could then say Austria, Prussia, Italy or Russia meet demand if inclined to do so. I understand the appeal Britain or France had to confederates seeking weapons.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
So ... it turns out that the Confederate-Austrian naval arms pipeline was a could have/should have/why-didn't-it-happen moment in history.

The man responsible for the Austrian Navy ironclad building program was the Archduke Ferdinand Max. As all the world's powers started trying to build ironclads after the March 1862 Battle of Hampton Roads, the Italian government scrapped a proposed construction of four ships of the line as obsolete. They decided to purchase 4 ironclads from the French and build 3 in Italy; in June they decided to purchase 2 more from Britain. This would give them 9 by 1865. Ferdinand Max wanted Austria to build 9 of her own (3 per year for three years). All 3 were built in 1863, but only 2 in 1864 and 1865 (budget limitations).

Lack of funds also prevented Ferdinand Max from accepting offers by foreigners to build ironclads for Austria (John Ericsson, for one, and the Arman Brothers out of Bordeaux). Desperately seeking ways to generate money, Ferdinand Max considered selling off the wooden ships of the Austrian Navy.

This is the point where Ferdinand Max offered to sell Austria's older frigates and corvettes to Louis Merton (Confederate arms dealer) in November of 1862. By February 1863, the Archduke had a list of actual ships available: 1 frigate, 2 corvettes, 14 gunboats and schooners, 9 paddle steamers. He offered Merton all 26 for 6 million florins.

Merton turned him down. His instructions from Richmond told him to purchase only ironclads or ships that could be used in the Intracoastal Waterway.

Struggling with budget battles and unable to build the ironclad fleet he thought essential for the coming war with Italy, Ferdinand Max resigned from his post in the Navy in early 1864 and set sail for North America, where he became the Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico.
 

Piedone

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
So ... it turns out that the Confederate-Austrian naval arms pipeline was a could have/should have/why-didn't-it-happen moment in history.

The man responsible for the Austrian Navy ironclad building program was the Archduke Ferdinand Max. As all the world's powers started trying to build ironclads after the March 1862 Battle of Hampton Roads, the Italian government scrapped a proposed construction of four ships of the line as obsolete. They decided to purchase 4 ironclads from the French and build 3 in Italy; in June they decided to purchase 2 more from Britain. This would give them 9 by 1865. Ferdinand Max wanted Austria to build 9 of her own (3 per year for three years). All 3 were built in 1863, but only 2 in 1864 and 1865 (budget limitations).

Lack of funds also prevented Ferdinand Max from accepting offers by foreigners to build ironclads for Austria (John Ericsson, for one, and the Arman Brothers out of Bordeaux). Desperately seeking ways to generate money, Ferdinand Max considered selling off the wooden ships of the Austrian Navy.

This is the point where Ferdinand Max offered to sell Austria's older frigates and corvettes to Louis Merton (Confederate arms dealer) in November of 1862. By February 1863, the Archduke had a list of actual ships available: 1 frigate, 2 corvettes, 14 gunboats and schooners, 9 paddle steamers. He offered Merton all 26 for 6 million florins.

Merton turned him down. His instructions from Richmond told him to purchase only ironclads or ships that could be used in the Intracoastal Waterway.

Struggling with budget battles and unable to build the ironclad fleet he thought essential for the coming war with Italy, Ferdinand Max resigned from his post in the Navy in early 1864 and set sail for North America, where he became the Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico.
There is a lively debate going on in another forum about the question if confederate ironclads made any sense at all.
Reading your post I deem it just reasonable that the Confederates turned down the austrian offer - as nothing but ironclads had any chance against a Union navy far superiour in wooden ships.
Maybe the confederate ironclad building programme was not without reason in the end......
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
There is a lively debate going on in another forum about the question if confederate ironclads made any sense at all.
Reading your post I deem it just reasonable that the Confederates turned down the austrian offer - as nothing but ironclads had any chance against a Union navy far superiour in wooden ships.
Maybe the confederate ironclad building programme was not without reason in the end......
Most of those ships the Austrians offered would have been no good to the Confederacy. They might have been able to use one or two of the larger ones as commerce raiders, but I would not know if they could have managed to get most of the rest out of the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic. Also, as I think someone else mentioned, the US could have been able to station a small force near Gibraltar to try to keep the Rebel ships bottled up.
 

Don Dixon

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 24, 2008
Location
Fairfax, VA, USA
This is the point where Ferdinand Max offered to sell Austria's older frigates and corvettes to Louis Merton (Confederate arms dealer) in November of 1862. By February 1863, the Archduke had a list of actual ships available: 1 frigate, 2 corvettes, 14 gunboats and schooners, 9 paddle steamers. He offered Merton all 26 for 6 million florins.

Merton turned him down. His instructions from Richmond told him to purchase only ironclads or ships that could be used in the Intracoastal Waterway.

Would you please cite a source for this. What you wrote about may parallel another event reported in the Naval O.R.

On 4 March 1863 Confederate Minister John Slidell wrote to Secretary of State Benjamin in a coded message from Paris that "The partner of a large banking house in Vienna recently called to see me, he says that the Austrian Government has some very superior war steamers which can be bought thoroughly armed and ready for sea with the exception of the crews. I shall advise Mr. Maury [Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury] to look at them." (N.O.R., II. 3, 706)

Regards,
Don Dixon
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Would you please cite a source for this. What you wrote about may parallel another event reported in the Naval O.R.

On 4 March 1863 Confederate Minister John Slidell wrote to Secretary of State Benjamin in a coded message from Paris that "The partner of a large banking house in Vienna recently called to see me, he says that the Austrian Government has some very superior war steamers which can be bought thoroughly armed and ready for sea with the exception of the crews. I shall advise Mr. Maury [Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury] to look at them." (N.O.R., II. 3, 706)

Regards,
Don Dixon

I'll look around for some more detailed ones. Here is something to get started on. From The Pope and the Presidents: The Italian Unification and the American Civil War by Robert Attilio Matteucci, Jr, a thesis for a Master's degree at LSU.

The closeness between the United States and the Kingdom of Italy, however, was not without its negative consequences. The Union-Italian friendship had a chilling effect on America's relationship with the Austrian Empire in particular. Realizing that naval superiority would be important in the event of an Italian conquest of Austrian-ruled Venice, the sale of American ironclads to an Italian government seeking unification was seen as worrisome to the defensive Austrians. In reaction, the Austrians found themselves more willing to enter into negotiations with the Confederate States of America, particularly through selling ships to them. The negotiations were between Confederate agent Louis Merton and, later, Captain Caleb Huse and Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, the future Emperor of Mexico. The negotiations centered on Confederate attempts to purchase ironclads from the Austrians. The Austrians were hesitant; they feared an impending conflict with Italy and, unlike the United States, did not wish to sell ironclads to navies beyond the Imperial Austrian Navy itself. As such, the Austrian government refused to sell ironclads or allow private Austrian shipbuilders to sell ironclads to the South, instead suggesting the Confederates purchase several available wooden ships – a steam frigate, two corvettes, and an assortment of nearly two dozen smaller vessels and gunships. The Confederacy ultimately decided that the prices set for the wooden ships were increasingly unfeasible as the war progressed. While the Union's relationship with Italy caused tension with the Austrian Empire, tension that materialized in Austrian offers to sell ships to the Confederacy, the failure of the Confederacy to act upon those offers meant that the Union's problems with Austria bore no concrete repercussions in the Civil War.
The footnote for the Merton deal is to Jack Greene and Alessandro Massignani, Ironclads at War: The Origin and Development of the Armored Battleship (Boston: Da Capo Press, 2008), 91.

There is also this, which may be of interest, found in a footnote:

It should be noted that the two United States-built ironclads, the Re d'Italia and the Re Portogallo, were to augment ironclad warships then-still being built in France for the Royal Italian Navy, the Roma, the Panezia, the Regina Maria, and Don Louis. "Our Italian Visitors: The Italian Line-of-Battle Ship Re Galantuomo, The Object of her Visit, The Re d'Italia to be Convoyed to Italy, The New American Built Italian Iron-Clad," New York Herald, November 6, 1863.
If you can find it, there is also Sondhaus, Lawrence (1989). The Habsburg Empire and the Sea: Austrian Naval Policy, 1797-1866. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.
 

USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
If you can find it, there is also Sondhaus, Lawrence (1989). The Habsburg Empire and the Sea: Austrian Naval Policy, 1797-1866. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.

Wow - a little pricy...

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 
Joined
May 12, 2018
Fascinating! I wonder if some of the smaller vessels might have been useful in the littoral of the Confederacy? They may have, practically speaking, simply have had too short of a range to successfully ferry to the theater of operations. Perhaps the smaller vessels machinery might have been able to be salavaged and shipped to the CSA for reuse...

The corvettes sound the most useful of the ships on offer, for raiding service. Confederate commerce raiders certainly kept the Union busy during the war, though I’m not sure leading the enemy on a merry chase and then getting cornered and sunk is a war winning strategy... most of the damage was done to the Union’s insurance rates iirc.

I don’t know much about Austrian shipbuilding in the 1860s, but I know in the early 1900s when they were trying to get in on the Dreadnaught craze, they found that their industry was not quite up to the task... especially when it came to making Armour plate.
 

USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
Frankly sirs, I'm surprised the Austrians sold weapons to any foreign power what so ever. Animosities with an ancient enemy in the French, constant competition in the Med and Balkans with different Italian factions, a rising upstart Prussia just to the north...oh, and the big bad bear to the east...oh, and in the not too distance past, the Ottomans. Plus her own internal...issues. I would be hoarding every weapon I could get my hands on.

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Frankly sirs, I'm surprised the Austrians sold weapons to any foreign power what so ever. Animosities with an ancient enemy in the French, constant competition in the Med and Balkans with different Italian factions, a rising upstart Prussia just to the north...oh, and the big bad bear to the east...oh, and in the not too distance past, the Ottomans. Plus her own internal...issues. I would be hoarding every weapon I could get my hands on.

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
When the ACW started, the militaries of Europe were trying to upgrade and re-arm. They took the hordes of US arm buyers as an opportunity to get rid of old arms and offset the cost of buying new ones. Many times this meant that the armories got rid of their worst inventory, selling them to locals who then sold them to the Americans at huge mark-ups. It might be one of the reasons so many European arms seemed of inferior quality to the soldiers who received them.
 

USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
Perhaps the smaller vessels machinery might have been able to be salavaged and shipped to the CSA for reuse...

Sir, maybe the best use for them - same as the Bombay Marine vessels. Please see @rebelatsea 's thread https://civilwartalk.com/threads/the-bombay-marine-offer-to-the-cs-government.107715/#post-1013233 . The CSA did import at least one power plant thru the blockade.

The corvettes sound the most useful of the ships on offer, for raiding service. Confederate commerce raiders certainly kept the Union busy during the war, though I’m not sure leading the enemy on a merry chase and then getting cornered and sunk is a war winning strategy... most of the damage was done to the Union’s insurance rates iirc.

This might have been the most practical use of the appropriate vessels but unfortunately for the Confederacy, her commerce raiders never took enough USN vessels off the blockade to influence the ultimate outcome of the war. Nor did they impede Union import / exports enough to cripple the war effort.

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 
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