CSS Slidell - redux

Mike Werner

Private
Joined
Aug 10, 2009
Location
California
It has been several years since there was a discussion about CSS Slidell. Anybody find anything new about her origin, appearance, sternwheel or sidewheel, guns and types of guns, etc.?
 

rebelatsea

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 30, 2013
Location
Kent ,England.
CSA Slidell
Type: Ironclad stern-wheel gunboat. Paddles: one. Speed: 11 knots
Dimensions: 100ft(OA hull x 18ft B x 4.5ft D, 109 tons.
Guns: 8 size and type unknown
Armour: 2” shell and shot proof casemate.


CSA SLIDELL.jpg

Design: not known Builder: not known, Memphis TN. Conversion started July 1861.
History: Completed no. In January 1863 the 71ton (BOM) Pink Varble No2, named after Riverboat Captain Pinkney Varble, was captured on the Cumberland river prior to completion as CSA Slidell.
 

Mike Werner

Private
Joined
Aug 10, 2009
Location
California
Looks like the typical sternwheelers that were converted to Union tinclads. Tonnage seems surprisingly low though. So, planned guns must have been 24lb Smoothbores, maybe even howitzers. Thanks Rebel
 

Mark F. Jenkins

Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
Mar 31, 2012
Location
Central Ohio
Can't take tonnage too seriously; there were multiple ways of measuring it and they rarely agreed with each other. I'd advise thinking of 10-100 tons as "small" and 1,000-10,000 tons as "big" and not trying to read too much into the numbers given...
 

Bil R

Private
Joined
Mar 23, 2011
Location
Massachusetts
Hello Mike,

In late 1861 and early 1862, the names Trent, Mason and Slidell were proposed for a number of Confederate warships being built to commemorate the 'Trent Affair'. Hollins had actually unofficially named a gunboat Trent, before it was changed by Mallory to Carondelet. The name Slidell was proposed for her sister which became the Bienville.

I am not familiar with a gunboat named Slidell that was burned in Tennessee in early February 1862. I know it is mentioned in DANFS, which was then picked up by Silverstone for his book, but I have learned to be careful with DANFS. Much of it was written and researched by high school students as a summer project over many years. There are errors within.

The only confirmed Slidell was the one being converted into a CS Army gunboat that was captured in January 1863. She had been the former towboat Pink Varble No.2 built in Louisville prior to the war, and described by John above. Further details can be found in the CWT thread 'Pink Varble/Nardle' from 2017.

All the best,
Bil
 

Lubliner

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
This boat seems top-heavy if it only carries a four and a half foot draft, and being eighteen feet wide. That is about one-sixth of her length and everything is mostly above board with what looks to be two 30 or 40 foot smoke stacks. Was the center shaft for the wheel low enough to keep her balanced and trim with the current?
Lubliner.
 

rebelatsea

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 30, 2013
Location
Kent ,England.
This boat seems top-heavy if it only carries a four and a half foot draft, and being eighteen feet wide. That is about one-sixth of her length and everything is mostly above board with what looks to be two 30 or 40 foot smoke stacks. Was the center shaft for the wheel low enough to keep her balanced and trim with the current?
Lubliner.
The 18ft beam is the hull width, she MAY have had a wider cargo deck, I didn't draw with one because everything i tried didn't make sense and was disproportionate, I thought best to leave as is. I can't answer you second question as I don't know enough about the trim characteristics of sternwheelers, except I know they had to be very carefully loaded.
 

georgew

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 1, 2010
Location
southern california
Hello Mike,

In late 1861 and early 1862, the names Trent, Mason and Slidell were proposed for a number of Confederate warships being built to commemorate the 'Trent Affair'. Hollins had actually unofficially named a gunboat Trent, before it was changed by Mallory to Carondelet. The name Slidell was proposed for her sister which became the Bienville.

I am not familiar with a gunboat named Slidell that was burned in Tennessee in early February 1862. I know it is mentioned in DANFS, which was then picked up by Silverstone for his book, but I have learned to be careful with DANFS. Much of it was written and researched by high school students as a summer project over many years. There are errors within.

The only confirmed Slidell was the one being converted into a CS Army gunboat that was captured in January 1863. She had been the former towboat Pink Varble No.2 built in Louisville prior to the war, and described by John above. Further details can be found in the CWT thread 'Pink Varble/Nardle' from 2017.

All the best,
Bil
Hi Bil. You wouldn't happen to know which boat was originally intended to be the Mason? I know at one point one of the conversions was proposed at NO to be named Grotesque! You are right about DANFS citations - I hadn't heard about the HS student project. I'm guessing that the ironing didn't go far enough aft to cover the engines. With a 4.5 ft depth of hold, they may have been able to drop two or three long slender boiler tubes into the hold leaving more deck space for guns. I assume that John's quote of a speed of 11 mph was from the vessel's civilian career. I would guess loaded and ironed it was more like 8-9. Assuming that most of her armament were 6 pound field guns, I wonder how many in her gun crews and if they were supplemented with infantry for close range work?
 

Ptarmigan

Private
Joined
Jul 21, 2013
The vessel is described as having 8 guns so they would likely be small field pieces, I don't think she would have had her boilers dropped as she didn't have any real potential as a warship, she was probably similar to Grampus or Lucy Gwin, used as a transport or scout boat.
 

georgew

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 1, 2010
Location
southern california
George, sorry yes it should have been mph , not knots ! I'm not sure they could have dropped the boilers, would there have been room ?
Hi John. I'm not sure the problem would have been the boilers, I don't think they would have had the room for the fire box(s) and the firemen. Although perhaps there could have been a different answer. The width of the hull is quoted as 18 ft. Assume that with ribs and planking its more like 15-16 feet. If the boilers were long, it wouldn't work, but manifolded short boilers could. Could they have run the boilers transversely? You would have a system where the tops of the boilers with fireboxes stuck up through the deck, but these would be protected with boiler iron as could the engines. If they took direct hits anywhere with light ironing you would probably get penetration, but it would be effective against small arms, shell fragments and light ordnance. Overhead protection would have been marginal. Another question is what were they burning for fuel? Coal is a lot more dense in terms of releasing heat than wood. But a lot of boats on the river had grates designed to burn wood. Would a small boat like the original Pink Varble have been configured for wood or coal? I'm thinking about the economics of what the two fuels cost. If the vessel was configured for wood, then you have to keep considerable deck space to store it. In peacetime, wood lots on the western rivers were usually 15-25 miles apart, but during the war were they still in business? I don't envision a small steamer of this type carrying more than 1-2 days of fuel to reserve deck space for cargo. In the case of tin-cladding the boat, with that many guns on deck forward, where do you put sharpshooters? If they go on an upper deck they are not covered by iron protection, so you would expect cotton cladding at about 465 lbs/pressed bale for western cotton. Is a puzzlement.
 

rebelatsea

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 30, 2013
Location
Kent ,England.
Hi George, Did anyone use transverse boilers in the US/ CS? As far as I know you made early use of drum type boilers which generally are long and relatively narrow in marine applications. Low pressure box boilers were common here and they were always athwartships.
I guess the deck may have been perhaps twice as wide as the hull - maybe the engines and boiler(s) would have been on the bottom for stability reasons, with the tops(s) exposed above deck and perhaps the cylinder(s) on deck?
If that's the case then fuel might have been stacked aft with cargo forward. I would think Pink Varble was wood fired and in commercial use would only carry enough to get from A to B.
As a "tinclad", a thin casemate of timber, maybe 12" with a 1" plate layer might have sufficed, but yes if it carried riflemen they would expect some protection if they were above the gun deck. They could have had firing ports in the casemate but I don't know if that was practice. can't think of an American example of the top of my head although several European navies had them in their river gunboats.
 

Lubliner

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
If the physics for short latitudinal boilers is possible for operation and convenient, it would have possibly been tried. If these were dropped below in the 'crawl space' of four and a half feet, then no use for heavy iron below the waterline, unless against ramming. The fore and aft balancing is now necessary for stability if the port and starboard have already been balanced. The setting of the boilers, engine, iron, and gunnery is the question. The most expedient and feasible solution should be the answer.
Lubliner.
 

georgew

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 1, 2010
Location
southern california
Were weighted keels used in this era? (Lead slag)
Lubliner.
Yes, certainly for some of the seagoing vessels. I know that a bark captured by the Confederates off the Sabine River mouth carried pig iron ballast. Honestly don't know about riverboats. As Rebel pointed out, rivercraft tended to be much wider with shallow depths of hold for a given displacement. Apparently there were a number of tributary rivers feeding into the Mississippi where bars at their mouths tended to keep out deeper displacement vessels on a seasonal basis. I've gotten the impression over the years that a loaded draft of 6 ft was about the limit to get across a number of these bars.
 
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