Charleston's Harbour defenses

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ErnieMac

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morris-island-historic.jpg


Put that map together with one showing the shipping lanes in the harbor and it's pretty obvious the Union navy had a virtually impossible task trying to gain access to the city. On the other hand the capture of a couple key points closes off the harbor to shipping. Sketch of Charleston Harbor from Civil War Trust. http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/batterywagner/maps/charleston-harbor.html
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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There's something to get you fascinated, wow! Being brought into the moment, thinking about what the Swamp Angel sounded like!

Thanks for the map- when the description of where the Housatonic was when it was sunk said in Charleston Harbour, my head gave me this image of a snug berth surrounded by other ships in calm water, with shore in proximity. Certainly inside the break water. I haven't been reading very well at ALL- it wasn't until seeing the map I understood how far out she was. The Hunley was pretty well PADDLED 4 MILES?? Can you imagine, doing the whole bicycling this for 4 MILES worth, in that little metal tube, inching your way through the water for that long? Unless all these men were in hyper-superb condition, how hard that would have been!

Maps are splendid for correcting some poor idea of a situation, among other things. Nothing like a visual, thank you!
 
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AndyHall

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Thanks for the map- when the description of where the Housatonic was when it was sunk said in Charleston Harbour, my head gave me this image of a snug berth surrounded by other ships in calm water, with shore in proximity. Certainly inside the break water. I haven't been reading very well at ALL- it wasn't until seeing the map I understood how far out she was. The Hunley was pretty well PADDLED 4 MILES?? Can you imagine, doing the whole bicycling this for 4 MILES worth, in that little metal tube, inching your way through the water for that long? Unless all these men were in hyper-superb condition, how hard that would have been!
Yes, about four miles from Breach Inlet to the Housatonic sinking site. Hunley's crew had the advantage of going out on the heels of what in Texas we call a "blue norther," a strong, sharp cold front with high, steady winds extending over a long period. It likely blew the Atlantic surface water flat, which is. . . .

Oh, dear, I've said too much. Nevermind. :frantic:
 
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Carronade

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Very impressive - they clearly believed in defense in depth! Anyone know how many guns or troops were involved in toto? I would guess some of the inner defenses might have been manned by militia or reservists who could be called up from their regular work in industry or whatever when needed.

This shows the folly of people like Fox who thought a squadron of ironclads could run past the outer forts and force Charleston's surrender.

The Confederates used different modes of defense on the north and south sides. Sullivan's Island had batteries all along the seafront, but on Morris they only tried to hold the tip and had their main defenses further inland on James Island, where they had defeated the Union incursion at Secessionville in 1862. This was out of range of naval gunfire, although it did allow Union forces to land on Morris. The batteries appear to be sited on the available high, solid ground, able to cover the low-lying, marshy approaches.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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The Confederates used different modes of defense on the north and south sides. Sullivan's Island had batteries all along the seafront, but on Morris they only tried to hold the tip and had their main defenses further inland on James Island, where they had defeated the Union incursion at Secessionville in 1862. This was out of range of naval gunfire, although it did allow Union forces to land on Morris. The batteries appear to be sited on the available high, solid ground, able to cover the low-lying, marshy approaches.
After reading Charleston Blockade: The Journals of John B. Marchand, U.S. Navy, 1861-1862, it mystifies me why the Secessionville route wasn't tried again. It ought to have worked the first time, of course, but some truly inept Union generalship torpedoed the operation. They knocked enough times against the front door after that; why didn't they at least give the side door another try?

A strong position at Fort Johnson would basically have given the Union the control of the harbor.
 
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ErnieMac

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While looking through the various online maps of Charleston harbor I came across the following.
http://artsandsciences.sc.edu/sciaa/mrd/regsvys_chashbr_vt.html

Each icon on the site is linked to a pop-up screen that goes into details of the wreck, fortification or battle site. Current sonagrams of the wreck sites and photographs of the forts are included.
 

Carronade

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After reading Charleston Blockade: The Journals of John B. Marchand, U.S. Navy, 1861-1862, it mystifies me why the Secessionville route wasn't tried again. It ought to have worked the first time, of course, but some truly inept Union generalship torpedoed the operation. They knocked enough times against the front door after that; why didn't they at least give the side door another try?

A strong position at Fort Johnson would basically have given the Union the control of the harbor.
I've wondered that also; if they were going to make a major land effort, that would seem to be the way to go. As it was - no offense to people like the 54th Mass - they expended effort, tied down troops, and got very little for it. Grant finally realized this and pulled most of the troops out. I suppose part of it was an obsession with Fort Sumter, although that could also have been reduced or isolated from Johnson/James.
 

AndyHall

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The Hunley was pretty well PADDLED 4 MILES?? Can you imagine, doing the whole bicycling this for 4 MILES worth, in that little metal tube, inching your way through the water for that long? Unless all these men were in hyper-superb condition, how hard that would have been!
Hunley's propeller shaft was fitted with a heavy flywheel that, once set in motion, helped keep the screw turning smoothly with relatively little additional force. The gear on the propeller shaft was a little smaller in diameter than the one on the crankshaft, so the propeller turned a bit faster than the speed of the men cranking.

Additional: above I used the word "gear," but they were not linked by teeth that intermesh as they turn -- they were a few inchse apart and connected by a belt or chain, as shown in the linked illustration by Michael Crisafulli.
 
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ole

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What struck me about the excellent maps is that they show the difficulty of approach of deep-draft draft ships to the harbor itself.

That's just one reason everything went to Northern ports.
 
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