CSS Mobile Ironclad

Charlie Robbins

Private
Joined
Oct 13, 2015
Location
Arlington, Virginia
Maybe discussed previously, does anybody have any information on CSS Mobile? Dimensions? I understand it was a sidewheel gunboat that was planned to be converted to an ironclad at Yazoo City?
It was as you say: a side wheeler planned for conversion into an ironclad at the Confederate Yazoo River shipyard. Please see Rebelatsea’s book for details.
 

Mike Werner

Private
Joined
Aug 10, 2009
Location
California
Thank you for the reference Charlie, she wasn't a sidewheeler. but a small 3 masted barque with a steam engine.
Interesting. If not a sidewheeler (or sternwheeler) then a propeller for propulsion? Given screw propulsion, and the date of her start of conversion (which would have allowed for John L Porter's "official" ironclad design drawings to be received), Mobile would have had appearance closer to a Richmond Class or even Charleston/Milledgeville Class Ironclad instead of CSS Arkansas? Or, at least armor with more of a slope for deflection than that of Arkansas. Any details, dimensions, tonnage, or photo/drawing of the ship?
 
Last edited:

Biscoitos

Private
Joined
May 14, 2020
Interesting. If not a sidewheeler (or sternwheeler) then a propeller for propulsion? Given screw propulsion, and the date of her start of conversion (which would have allowed for John L Porter's "official" ironclad design drawings to be received), Mobile would have had appearance closer to a Richmond Class or even Charleston/Milledgeville Class Ironclad instead of CSS Arkansas? Or, at least armor with more of a slope for deflection than that of Arkansas. Any details, dimensions, tonnage, or photo/drawing of the ship?
Yes, the Mobile was a propellor vessel. Good reasoning on your part. I'm surprised this wasn't stated earlier.
What is your interest in the Mobile?
Depending on your interest I may be able to help you.
There are no images of her to my knowledge.
 

Mike Werner

Private
Joined
Aug 10, 2009
Location
California
Yes, the Mobile was a propellor vessel. Good reasoning on your part. I'm surprised this wasn't stated earlier.
What is your interest in the Mobile?
Depending on your interest I may be able to help you.
There are no images of her to my knowledge.
I'm a modeler and naval wargaming. In the case of CSS Mobile, I'm contemplating a "what if" wargame of Confederate's holdoff Union forces, are actually able to complete 2 or 3 ironclad conversions at Yazoo City, and then breakout from the Yazoo River into the Mississippi River in 1863 with the "Yazoo Monster" and Mobile (conversion to ironclads done), and possibly another converted or partially converted ironclad from Ivy, General Polk, and General Van Dorn, and several of the cottonclads that were also up the Yazoo. I like to get the models as correct as possible, so am interested in any details available on the Mobile. Generally, if known, dimensions and tonnage in their original form...
 

Biscoitos

Private
Joined
May 14, 2020
I'm a modeler and naval wargaming. In the case of CSS Mobile, I'm contemplating a "what if" wargame of Confederate's holdoff Union forces, are actually able to complete 2 or 3 ironclad conversions at Yazoo City, and then breakout from the Yazoo River into the Mississippi River in 1863 with the "Yazoo Monster" and Mobile (conversion to ironclads done), and possibly another converted or partially converted ironclad from Ivy, General Polk, and General Van Dorn, and several of the cottonclads that were also up the Yazoo. I like to get the models as correct as possible, so am interested in any details available on the Mobile. Generally, if known, dimensions and tonnage in their original form...
Interesting. I won't comment or make suggestions on your "what if"at this time.
The Mobile's tonnage, pre war, is listed as only 282 tons. That seem a little "light" for the basis of a powerful warship.
There were plans and attempts to convert her into an ironclad, but they failed and it seems doubtful that she would have been very effective against the Federal river city class ironclads. Even if she had heavy guns and RR armor and everything else came together.
Her masts were removed on the Yazoo, if not earlier. The overhanging tree limbs would have been a serious impediment. AND, she only had two masts, not three. That is from an official source.
 

Mike Werner

Private
Joined
Aug 10, 2009
Location
California
Interesting. I won't comment or make suggestions on your "what if"at this time.
The Mobile's tonnage, pre war, is listed as only 282 tons. That seem a little "light" for the basis of a powerful warship.
There were plans and attempts to convert her into an ironclad, but they failed and it seems doubtful that she would have been very effective against the Federal river city class ironclads. Even if she had heavy guns and RR armor and everything else came together.
Her masts were removed on the Yazoo, if not earlier. The overhanging tree limbs would have been a serious impediment. AND, she only had two masts, not three. That is from an official source.
Yes, 282 tons seems somewhat light. Using a ratio of tonnage of Fingal to the CSS Atlanta, once armored the CSS Mobile would be around 400 tons, which would be about the same as CSS Albemarle and Neuse. In any case, the "Yazoo Monster" would be the primary Confederate warship and focus of such a game scenario. She would be equal in tonnage to several of the City Class ironclads.
 

Biscoitos

Private
Joined
May 14, 2020
Yes, 282 tons seems somewhat light. Using a ratio of tonnage of Fingal to the CSS Atlanta, once armored the CSS Mobile would be around 400 tons, which would be about the same as CSS Albemarle and Neuse. In any case, the "Yazoo Monster" would be the primary Confederate warship and focus of such a game scenario. She would be equal in tonnage to several of the City Class ironclads.
If it works for your game, I'm all for it.
I hope that you will let me know when the games becomes available.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
Mar 31, 2012
Location
Central Ohio
I'd wager the Mobile might have been finished as something on the order of a Confederate version of a Union "tinclad," rather than a full-on casemate ironclad a la the Arkansas. But there's not a lot of documentation... mostly guesswork.
 

rebelatsea

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 30, 2013
Location
Kent ,England.
Name: CSS Mobile


Class: Conversion from Merchant vessel Iron protected gunboat
Screw(s): one. Speed: 8 knots estimated

Dimensions: 152ft OA x 28ft EX x 7.5ft D. 456 tons.
Guns: 3 - 32pdr SB, 1 - 8ins MLR, 1 - 32pdr MLR.
Armour: probably 1 to 2 inches over 12 “timber amidships. Built: Philadelphia 1860
History: She was a three masted barque, fitted with an internal timber casemate and light armour to protect her engines at Basher, La.
Original plan by the Author from an eyewitness description and hull lines of a similar vessel.
CSS MOBILE protected gunboat.jpg
 

rebelatsea

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 30, 2013
Location
Kent ,England.
CSS Mobile as an ironclad
Class: ironclad gunboat
Type: Eastport.
Dimensions: 150ft OA x 28ft EX x 7.5ft D, 450tons. One screw, speed 8 knots estimated
Guns: 1 -8” MLR, 1 -32pd MLR, 1 -32pdr SB
Armour: probably 2” over 12” timber on the casemate.
Design; I. N. Brown. Builder: I. N. Brown, Yazoo City Navy Yard Conversion started late 1862, not completed Ordered to Yazoo City to be converted to a two- gun casemate ironclad. However, it is more likely that I. N. Brown would have converted her to his Eastport plan for speed and ease of construction and to use the materials at hand. Burned to prevent capture 21 May 1863.

Conjectural final appearance. Original plan by the author .
CSS MOBILE ironclad gunboat.jpg
 

georgew

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 1, 2010
Location
southern california
Name: CSS Mobile


Class: Conversion from Merchant vessel Iron protected gunboat
Screw(s): one. Speed: 8 knots estimated

Dimensions: 152ft OA x 28ft EX x 7.5ft D. 456 tons.
Guns: 3 - 32pdr SB, 1 - 8ins MLR, 1 - 32pdr MLR.
Armour: probably 1 to 2 inches over 12 “timber amidships. Built: Philadelphia 1860
History: She was a three masted barque, fitted with an internal timber casemate and light armour to protect her engines at Basher, La.
Original plan by the Author from an eyewitness description and hull lines of a similar vessel.
View attachment 390504
Hi Rebel. Something that doesn't appear in the usual sources concerns this vessel's pre-war occupation as a tow-boat. She was too small for really heavy work and her owners bid part of a contract to tow "scrapers" across the SW bar to allow larger ships to enter the river. The Engineer Corps cancelled her contract because her boilers were weak and in poor shape. This information is from pre-war Federal reports to Congress. She was under conversion near Brashear city for months. The CSN got her because there was a $5,000 lien against her. Lt WW Hunter had identified her as a potential gunboat conversion very early in the war. She was secured for the CSN because they bought the lien and foreclosed on her at a time when she was valued at $45,000. She saw action covering a blockade runner coming into Brashear. WT Block (Texas historian) Anna apparently discovered that she made a sortie to Sabine River to pick up five Union prisoners from the wrecked schooner Taylor. If true it was the only move into Texas waters from Louisiana naval forces I've ever run across. The Alabama later fought an action with a Federal gunboat off Galveston. With the fall of the forts, Mobile and another very small paddle steamer/gunboat were ordered upriver from the Ft. Livingston area. If your drawing above is correct it seems likely that an ironed conversion would have involved cutting her down to the main deck, retaining two pivot guns within a short casemate. A vessel this small would need a tender for the crew as with two decent pieces of ordnance (rifled 32's?) the gun crews alone would take up a lot of space. One of the stranded riverboats up the Yazoo like the Capitol (until they sank her at the obstructions after the Arkansas broke out) would have had the space and galley capacity for support. They frequently burned wood on the riverboats, allowing conservation of coal for Mobile. She initially functioned as a guard boat up the Yazoo and would probably have continued this duty after ironing. It was reported that the wooding of her casemate was complete and she was waiting for iron when burned and scuttled. I suspect that if ironed she would have carried one layer of reversed T-rail with wooden spacers between the bulbs of the rail. The alternative would have been two layers of 1" bar iron bolted through the casemate. A big problem that had already appeared in ironing CSN vessels upriver was that of fasteners. At least one source reported that on parts of the Arkansas casemate they minimized the number of bolts by running horizontal wooden beams across the top and bottom of the rails and using fewer bolts widely spaced running through the casemate wall for retention. I have not seen anything official confirming this.
 

rebelatsea

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 30, 2013
Location
Kent ,England.
I have your book and see that your post is sinmply what you wrote on pages 139 - 140.
What are the sources for the information on pages 139 - 140.
It is, I put it up trying to be helpful. There is a full list of information sources listed at the back.
Hi Rebel. Something that doesn't appear in the usual sources concerns this vessel's pre-war occupation as a tow-boat. She was too small for really heavy work and her owners bid part of a contract to tow "scrapers" across the SW bar to allow larger ships to enter the river. The Engineer Corps cancelled her contract because her boilers were weak and in poor shape. This information is from pre-war Federal reports to Congress. She was under conversion near Brashear city for months. The CSN got her because there was a $5,000 lien against her. Lt WW Hunter had identified her as a potential gunboat conversion very early in the war. She was secured for the CSN because they bought the lien and foreclosed on her at a time when she was valued at $45,000. She saw action covering a blockade runner coming into Brashear. WT Block (Texas historian) Anna apparently discovered that she made a sortie to Sabine River to pick up five Union prisoners from the wrecked schooner Taylor. If true it was the only move into Texas waters from Louisiana naval forces I've ever run across. The Alabama later fought an action with a Federal gunboat off Galveston. With the fall of the forts, Mobile and another very small paddle steamer/gunboat were ordered upriver from the Ft. Livingston area. If your drawing above is correct it seems likely that an ironed conversion would have involved cutting her down to the main deck, retaining two pivot guns within a short casemate. A vessel this small would need a tender for the crew as with two decent pieces of ordnance (rifled 32's?) the gun crews alone would take up a lot of space. One of the stranded riverboats up the Yazoo like the Capitol (until they sank her at the obstructions after the Arkansas broke out) would have had the space and galley capacity for support. They frequently burned wood on the riverboats, allowing conservation of coal for Mobile. She initially functioned as a guard boat up the Yazoo and would probably have continued this duty after ironing. It was reported that the wooding of her casemate was complete and she was waiting for iron when burned and scuttled. I suspect that if ironed she would have carried one layer of reversed T-rail with wooden spacers between the bulbs of the rail. The alternative would have been two layers of 1" bar iron bolted through the casemate. A big problem that had already appeared in ironing CSN vessels upriver was that of fasteners. At least one source reported that on parts of the Arkansas casemate they minimized the number of bolts by running horizontal wooden beams across the top and bottom of the rails and using fewer bolts widely spaced running through the casemate wall for retention. I have not seen anything official confirming this.
Hi Georgew,
Little Mobile certainly had a history, I knew part of the story, but you have filled in a lot of detail. She is described as "a long low stemar" and "a 3 masted barque" so I did my best to outline something which covered those descriptions within the dimensions I had. As converted by I.N. Brown, it seemed logical that he would follow what he already knew, ie his proposed river boat conversions, and CSS Arkansas using available resources. The only plans John L Porter sent to Yazoo City are those of the 250ft PP Paddle wheel ironclad known as the "monster" and even there I think Brown would have simplified the design.
CSS Arkansas did indeed have the horizontal beams but I think they were rail and not timber. From memory somewhere in my collection I have a drawing showing the arrangement. Certainly her protection stood up to close range gunfire which theory and paper exercizes say should be impossible .
 

georgew

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 1, 2010
Location
southern california
It is, I put it up trying to be helpful. There is a full list of information sources listed at the back.

Hi Georgew,
Little Mobile certainly had a history, I knew part of the story, but you have filled in a lot of detail. She is described as "a long low stemar" and "a 3 masted barque" so I did my best to outline something which covered those descriptions within the dimensions I had. As converted by I.N. Brown, it seemed logical that he would follow what he already knew, ie his proposed river boat conversions, and CSS Arkansas using available resources. The only plans John L Porter sent to Yazoo City are those of the 250ft PP Paddle wheel ironclad known as the "monster" and even there I think Brown would have simplified the design.
CSS Arkansas did indeed have the horizontal beams but I think they were rail and not timber. From memory somewhere in my collection I have a drawing showing the arrangement. Certainly her protection stood up to close range gunfire which theory and paper exercizes say should be impossible .
Just a quick response. I've seen a description of Mobile from pre-war stating she was schooner rigged. I wonder if she was re-rigged as a bark? Thanks for the heads up on the iron "beams". I always thought they were wood. I agree that Brown preferred simplified "down and dirty" solutions. I've also wondered why we don't hear more applications of spar torpedoes in western waters. Mobile would have been a candidate. If they had been available earlier, the River Defense Service boats would have been a real menace to the USN.
 
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