CSN Ship Construction in the UK

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USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
css-shenandoah.jpg


https://i1.wp.com/emergingcivilwar.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/css-shenandoah.jpg

CSSAlabama.jpg


https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/32/CSSAlabama.jpg


Didn't want to de-rail the other thread...but was wondering...

The Confederacy also constructed some notable naval ships such as the Arkansas, the Shenandoah, and the Alabama for example.
No quibble with the Arkansas but the CSN did not 'construct' the last two but had them built for her.

How much input did the CSN have into the designs for
Alexander Stephen & Sons and John Laird Sons and Company for the CSS Shenandoah and CSS Alabama respectively? Were they based upon the designs those companies were already had in-house or did Bulloch have specific and unique plans for those companies to follow...or some of both?

Is there anything about them that can be said to be of uniquely Confederate origin - other than their ownership, mission, and officers?


Thanks for the help!
USS ALASKA
 

USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
Ok, forgot some info and had to look it up. The vessel that became CSS Shenandoah was originally a cargo / passenger vessel built in 1863 for the East Asia trade. She had made several runs in that capacity before being purchased by the Confederacy. Other than her outfitting to be a commerce raider, the CSN seems to have little to do with her design and construction. Now whether or not the original owner had their eye on eventual sale to the CSN, which could have influenced that, I do not know.

CSS Alabama, on the other hand, was built specifically for the CSN. But did the CSN / Bulloch have any input to her design and construction that could be said to be uniquely Confederate? Again, I do not know.

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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Ok, forgot some info and had to look it up. The vessel that became CSS Shenandoah was originally a cargo / passenger vessel built in 1863 for the East Asia trade. She had made several runs in that capacity before being purchased by the Confederacy. Other than her outfitting to be a commerce raider, the CSN seems to have little to do with her design and construction. Now whether or not the original owner had their eye on eventual sale to the CSN, which could have influenced that, I do not know.
From Bulloch's memoirs, he had his eye on the Sea King and attempted to buy her right from her builders, but was refused. But some time later, when she had returned from a voyage to India, he was able to purchase her from her owners at that point. This suggests to me that her builders did not have the CSN particularly in mind.

CSS Alabama, on the other hand, was built specifically for the CSN. But did the CSN / Bulloch have any input to her design and construction that could be said to be uniquely Confederate?
Bulloch had a lot of input to her design and construction... but I'm not sure what you would call "uniquely Confederate."
 
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Rusk County Avengers

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While I'm not the authority on nautical matters I aspire to be one day, I think its safe to say Alabama, and the ship to have been designated Texas, and the Laird Rams, not to mention the Stonewall were all designed with features that Bulloch, and others suggested to make them more capable of their intended purpose of for the C.S.N. Bulloch had had the motto of the Alabama written upon the ships wheel, while a small matter it is a clue that Bulloch, and by extension the C.S.N. were involved in the design, but it was just features to ensure the construction of fast vessels, like the feature upon Alabama of her having a retractable propeller. Not a new or special concept, just one exceptionally important to commerce raiding as Semmes had discovered aboard the Sumter.
But that's not to suggest all the ships from Britain were designed with C.S.N. input, just look at the Shenandoah, and the Rappahannock.

EDIT: I know the Stonewall was a French built vessel, I just felt she was a worthy example of C.S.N. input, I think they just requested the Brits and French to provide the latest and greatest, and leave the details to them.
 

Carronade

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I wonder in particular about the ironclads like the Laird rams. Did Bullock et. al. ask for a turret ship, or just ask Laird to suggest a design to satisfy the Confederates' needs?

The raiders by contrast were less innovative, similar to naval sloops (wink wink). Alabama did feature a couple of heavy pivot guns, which would require supporting structure. Florida had two 7" and six 6" rifles, which suggests that the 7" were likely pivot guns also. The purchased Shenandoah, on the other hand, appears to have mounted all her guns on the broadside.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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I wonder in particular about the ironclads like the Laird rams. Did Bullock et. al. ask for a turret ship, or just ask Laird to suggest a design to satisfy the Confederates' needs?
That's a good question, I can see Laird suggesting that feature as much as I can see the Confederacy requesting it after seeing Monitor's in action. Hopefully someone can givie a definitive answer.
 
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rebelatsea

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That's a good question, I can see Laird suggesting that feature as much as I can see the Confederacy requesting it after seeing Monitor's in action. Hopefully someone can givie a definitive answer.
I wonder in particular about the ironclads like the Laird rams. Did Bullock et. al. ask for a turret ship, or just ask Laird to suggest a design to satisfy the Confederates' needs?

The raiders by contrast were less innovative, similar to naval sloops (wink wink). Alabama did feature a couple of heavy pivot guns, which would require supporting structure. Florida had two 7" and six 6" rifles, which suggests that the 7" were likely pivot guns also. The purchased Shenandoah, on the other hand, appears to have mounted all her guns on the broadside.
I've just added a thread on the "laird Rams". Laird designed Alabama as a vessel of war with an eye to foreign sales, similarly with W.C. Miller and the Florida. Where L'Arman got the idea of the Stonewall design from is now unknown although certain elements are noticeably present in later French national designs.
 

rebelatsea

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Location
Kent ,England.
While I'm not the authority on nautical matters I aspire to be one day, I think its safe to say Alabama, and the ship to have been designated Texas, and the Laird Rams, not to mention the Stonewall were all designed with features that Bulloch, and others suggested to make them more capable of their intended purpose of for the C.S.N. Bulloch had had the motto of the Alabama written upon the ships wheel, while a small matter it is a clue that Bulloch, and by extension the C.S.N. were involved in the design, but it was just features to ensure the construction of fast vessels, like the feature upon Alabama of her having a retractable propeller. Not a new or special concept, just one exceptionally important to commerce raiding as Semmes had discovered aboard the Sumter.
But that's not to suggest all the ships from Britain were designed with C.S.N. input, just look at the Shenandoah, and the Rappahannock.

EDIT: I know the Stonewall was a French built vessel, I just felt she was a worthy example of C.S.N. input, I think they just requested the Brits and French to provide the latest and greatest, and leave the details to them.
CSS Rappahannock, ex HMS Victor was a crank ship, and I strongly suspect an element of off loading by the purchasers from the Admiralty.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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I've just added a thread on the "laird Rams". Laird designed Alabama as a vessel of war with an eye to foreign sales, similarly with W.C. Miller and the Florida. Where L'Arman got the idea of the Stonewall design from is now unknown although certain elements are noticeably present in later French national designs.
I was hoping you'd chime in, interesting about the Stonewall.
 
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georgew

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From Bulloch's memoirs, he had his eye on the Sea King and attempted to buy her right from her builders, but was refused. But some time later, when she had returned from a voyage to India, he was able to purchase her from her owners at that point. This suggests to me that her builders did not have the CSN particularly in mind.



Bulloch had a lot of input to her design and construction... but I'm not sure what you would call "uniquely Confederate."
Probably a major reason for Bulloch's interest in this vessel is that she was built to a Royal Navy standard as a transport subject to being "drafted" in the event of war. Her owners received a subsidy. The RN often mounted ordnance on transports, especially those sailing without escort. You wonder if Sea King was built a bit stronger, especially in the main deck supports.
 

BlueandGrayl

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UK shipyards were pretty much how some powerful CSA ships like the Alabama and the Shenandoah were built since Britain of course they had links with the country economically and culturally there were British businesses whether pro-Confederate or not who aided the South thus giving them some resources in the war.
 

USS ALASKA

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Mar 16, 2016
..but I'm not sure what you would call "uniquely Confederate."
Sorry for the confusing verbiage sir. I guess what I am looking for is any characteristic of her that was a first-time innovation that could be attributed to Confederate input.

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 
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AndyHall

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Dec 13, 2011
Some years ago I had the opportunity to go through the contract book for Laird that included the Alabama contract. Unfortunately I was looking for something else, and my time was limited, and I did not make copies. But I do recall that the contract was exceptionally detailed in its particulars, so clearly Bulloch put a great deal of thought into it.
 

USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Joined
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Probably a major reason for Bulloch's interest in this vessel is that she was built to a Royal Navy standard as a transport subject to being "drafted" in the event of war. Her owners received a subsidy. The RN often mounted ordnance on transports, especially those sailing without escort. You wonder if Sea King was built a bit stronger, especially in the main deck supports.
I know that the RN did this with vessels, especially with faster vessels like liners, until before WWII. I believe the thought process was to used them as auxiliary cruisers for both escort and patrol duties, along with self protection. I think this was gradually phased out - the escort and patrol duties - as these ships were much more valuable as fast transports instead of 2nd rate warships. And in a fight, the large liners weren't as handy as smaller ships while being much bigger targets. Something about eggshells armed with sledge hammers. Actions of the RMS Carmania, RMS Alcantara, HMS Rawalpindi, HMS Jervis Bay, MV Carnarvon Castle et al bore this out. In their defense, they did carry out their missions - and when there is nothing else in the cupboard, one must use what one has at hand.

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 

USS ALASKA

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Mar 16, 2016
But I do recall that the contract was exceptionally detailed in its particulars, so clearly Bulloch put a great deal of thought into it.
Copy sir, thank you!

Away from my books at the moment...did Bulloch have any experience as a ship builder or naval architect or was it his valuable 15 years of service with the USN that provided his wealth of 'institutional knowledge?

Thanks again,
USS ALASKA 220
 
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rebelatsea

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Copy sir, thank you!

Away from my books at the moment...did Bulloch have any experience as a ship builder or naval architect or was it his valuable 15 years of service with the USN that provided his wealth of 'institutional knowledge?

Thanks again,
USS ALASKA 220
He didn't, so far as I know have any training in naval architecture apart from what he learned in his USN service, but I think he had a lot of friends and contacts in the profession and ship yards in Britain.
 

chelyabinsk

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Nov 4, 2016
How much input did the CSN have into the designs for Alexander Stephen & Sons and John Laird Sons and Company for the CSS Shenandoah and CSS Alabama respectively? Were they based upon the designs those companies were already had in-house or did Bulloch have specific and unique plans for those companies to follow...or some of both?

From Bulloch's The Secret service of the Confederate States in Europe; or, How the Confederate cruisers were equipped, vol. 1:

'The necessities of the case, then, dictated the type of the Confederate ship, and the Oreto (Florida) and the Alabama were especially designed to meet those requirements... Messrs. William C Miller and Sons were the builders [of Florida]... That firm was selected to build the hull of the ship, and to supply the masts, rigging, boats, and general sea-outfit, because the senior of the firm had been in the Royal Navy as a shipwright, and had served in her Majesty's dockyards as a naval constructor. He had therefore much experience in the construction of wooden ships designed to carry heavy weights on deck and to berth large crews... Mr. W.C. Miller had a scale drawing of one of her Majesty's gunboats, which we adopted as a base to start from. She was drawn out in the midship section, and the floor was flattened to get greater carrying capacity. The increased length thus obtained admitted of finer entrance and clearance lines, which secured higher speed...

While the negotiations for the Oreto (Florida) were in progress, I went with a friend to visit the Birkenhead Ironworks, and was introduced to the Messrs. Laird... I led the conversation to the subject of wooden despatch vessls, and described with some minuteness the type which appeared most desirable in my judgment. The subject was naturally of interest to the Messrs. Laird, and they have me their opinions and the result of their experience with freedom. A few days after, I called again... asked if they would be willing to go into the necessary calculations, draw up specifications, and make drawings and a model, upon my assurance that I meant business... in a very short time all the details of the Alabama were settled to our common satisfaction.'​

Norman Friedman's British Cruisers of the Victorian Era (p.76) suggests that the gunboat on which Florida was based was HMS Steady: however, Miller actually built two Philomel-class gunvessels, and I'd be surprised if the plans for them differed. He also states explicitly that 'The larger and more famous CSS Alabama was a slightly enlarged Roebuck with more powerful engines,' but the associated footnote doesn't source this claim.
 
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