Elementary, but still often unaswerable question, what makes a vessel a CSS vessel?

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#1
One of the things I find confusing is attaching acronyms to Confederate ship's names. For example, we often see CSS H L Hunley, CSS David, or CS H L Hunley, CS David but these are problemtic and likely not applicable acronyms in these cases.

In the case of H L Hunley, to my knowledge, the vessel was never actually called or properly named H L Hunley, the name was assigned post-humously, so that's the first sign that makes it seem unlikely that using the CSS acronym is correct.

Further, even the acronym has been a source of question when I have discussed this problem previously. Does it abbreviate "Confederate States Ship" as some have argued, or does it follow the Federal States to abbreviate "Confederate STEAM Ship" which seems more proper to me? The latter would obviously be problamtic for H L Hunley as the manually powered submarine was not a steam vessel.

Finally, and likely most importantly, H L Hunley was funded and constructed privately, but sortied by the Navy, with, as I recall, a Naval crew in the beginning, but non-Naval crews later. By comparison David was also funded and constructed privately and sortied by the Confederate Navy, yet always had a Naval crew. Does this small difference influence the application of the CSS acronym?

So, my real question is this; exactly how do we properly assign the CSS acronym to Confederate vessels? What defines the use of the acronym? Was there a formal name recognition ceremony or process?
 
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rebelatsea

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#2
Unless the vessel was properly commissioned at launch, or on completion in the case of conversion, with the name that the Navy Department has assigned, the appellation CSS is not correct. It is usually understood to mean "Confederate States Steam ship"
In the case of the Muscogee for example, that name was selected by her builder, after the local Native American Tribes, but when John L Porter arrived to inspect the conversion to his new plan he peremptorily ordered "your ship is to be called Jackson".
The Cruisers were commissioned at sea by their Captains with the pre ordained names.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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#3
John beat me to it, as usual.

Although the rules were not applied as strictly and formally in the 19th Century as they are today, the commissioning is a very useful marker of status and intent.

Today, even ships that *will* be in the U.S. Navy but have not yet been formally commissioned are "PCU [Name]" instead of "USS [Name]." For instance, the Navy's newest carrier was PCU Gerald R. Ford until she was commissioned this past July 22. PCU = "Pre-Commissioning Unit."
 
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#4
Thanks Guys... helpful as always.
So, are there formal records of 19th century vessels being commissioned (or decommissioned)? Is this something that may have been recorded in the ships log (although I have never seen notes like this in a ship's log) or ??? For example, CSS Palmetto State or CSS Virginia- are there formal record of their commissionings?
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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#5
The commissioning ceremony would certainly be noted somewhere, though it might be in official correspondence rather than the ship's log-- I'm not certain. Of course, there's the matter of survival of the paperwork... always a significant factor where the Confederate Navy is concerned.
 

rebelatsea

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#6
Mark beat me to it this time. So much was burned "lost" or like the CSS Nashville plans, stolen, and or may be still in private hands. The many times cursed Richmond arsonist has a lot to answer for too.
 



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