Engines of the Rebellion: Confederate Ironclads and Steam Engineering in the American Civil War

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Bil R

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Mar 23, 2011
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150
Location
Massachusetts
Hello Everyone,

Here's another new book alert. This one is scheduled for release by the University of Alabama Press in August 2018. Here are the details -

Engines of the Rebellion: Confederate Ironclads and Steam Engineering in the American Civil War
by Saxon Bisbee, 272 pages, hardcover, price $60

For those interested in the technical details of Civil War ironclads this should be a good one. I have corresponded with Saxon on several occasions regarding this subject and his research is excellent. This book actually is an expansion of his master's thesis with additional discussion given to the technical trends of the era, the challenges presented by Confederate industrial capacity, and the needs of Confederate war strategy. Moreover, he sets the stage with a discussion of the different regional engineering practices in the antebellum era. This context should provide us with a better understanding of 'why' the Confederates pursued the designs they did. Saxon is also a talented artist and his profiles of Confederate ironclads are some of the best I've seen. It should be a well illustrated volume. This is the fruit of new research that John Littlefield alluded to in an earlier post. It's now listed on Amazon and I'm looking forward to it.

All the best,
Bil


 

rebelatsea

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Joined
Mar 30, 2013
Messages
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Location
Kent ,England.
Hello Everyone,

Here's another new book alert. This one is scheduled for release by the University of Alabama Press in August 2018. Here are the details -

Engines of the Rebellion: Confederate Ironclads and Steam Engineering in the American Civil War
by Saxon Bisbee, 272 pages, hardcover, price $60

For those interested in the technical details of Civil War ironclads this should be a good one. I have corresponded with Saxon on several occasions regarding this subject and his research is excellent. This book actually is an expansion of his master's thesis with additional discussion given to the technical trends of the era, the challenges presented by Confederate industrial capacity, and the needs of Confederate war strategy. Moreover, he sets the stage with a discussion of the different regional engineering practices in the antebellum era. This context should provide us with a better understanding of 'why' the Confederates pursued the designs they did. Saxon is also a talented artist and his profiles of Confederate ironclads are some of the best I've seen. It should be a well illustrated volume. This is the fruit of new research that John Littlefield alluded to in an earlier post. It's now listed on Amazon and I'm looking forward to it.

All the best,
Bil
I have a copy of the original thesis, it would be interesting to see how the book compare if Saxon continued his research.
 
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bradford011

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Jan 9, 2015
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It's finally been released, I received my copy last month and I'm currently about halfway through it. If you have any interest in the steam machinery of the Confederate Ironclad Navy you can't do much better than this.

I was surprised to learn that CSS Arkansas had new machinery, from the way it kept breaking down I'd always assumed it was taken from another vessel and was never refurbished prior to installation...
 
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vikingbear

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It's finally been released, I received my copy last month and I'm currently about halfway through it. If you have any interest in the steam machinery of the Confederate Ironclad Navy you can't do much better than this.

I was surprised to learn that CSS Arkansas had new machinery, from the way it kept breaking down I'd always assumed it was taken from another vessel and was never refurbished prior to installation...

Some people say that the builder was a union man who was forced to build the engine thus he made it poorly to fail. This is thought as soon after finishing he headed north.
Other people feel that after the Arkansas was sunk. that local people blamed him for the destruction of the ironclad and were talking about giving him a necktie party. so he ran; the poor shape of the engine could have been lack of required material. otherwise who would build wooden cog wheels on a steam engine (accident waiting to happen). Anyways what kind of naval officer would let a builder use this type of material unless there was no other choice.

Grizz
 
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rebelatsea

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Some people say that the builder was a union man who was forced to build the engine thus he made it poorly to fail. This is thought as soon after finishing he headed north.
Other people feel that after the Arkansas was sunk. that local people blamed him for the destruction of the ironclad and were talking about giving him a necktie party. so he ran; the poor shape of the engine could have been lack of required material. otherwise who would build wooden cog wheels on a steam engine (accident waiting to happen). Anyways what kind of naval officer would let a builder use this type of material unless there was no other choice.

Grizz
Grizz, the use of Lignum vitae or similar very hard timbers for the cogs (teeth) in geared machinery was common and had been used for many years, and would continue to be so until the ability to accurately cast and machine meshing cogs was developed. Additionally new strengths of cast iron were needed before it became really reliable. In Arkansas I believe it was problems with the pins in the machinery between moving parts which were the real problem.
 

BDK1066

Private
Joined
Nov 22, 2018
Messages
67
Hello Everyone,

Here's another new book alert. This one is scheduled for release by the University of Alabama Press in August 2018. Here are the details -

Engines of the Rebellion: Confederate Ironclads and Steam Engineering in the American Civil War
by Saxon Bisbee, 272 pages, hardcover, price $60

For those interested in the technical details of Civil War ironclads this should be a good one. I have corresponded with Saxon on several occasions regarding this subject and his research is excellent. This book actually is an expansion of his master's thesis with additional discussion given to the technical trends of the era, the challenges presented by Confederate industrial capacity, and the needs of Confederate war strategy. Moreover, he sets the stage with a discussion of the different regional engineering practices in the antebellum era. This context should provide us with a better understanding of 'why' the Confederates pursued the designs they did. Saxon is also a talented artist and his profiles of Confederate ironclads are some of the best I've seen. It should be a well illustrated volume. This is the fruit of new research that John Littlefield alluded to in an earlier post. It's now listed on Amazon and I'm looking forward to it.

All the best,
BilR
I pre ordered this book in July and received it August 8.
Too many irons in the fire (history wise) and others responsibilities have kept me from making an in depth comparing the book with Bisbee's thesis.

For Rebel at Sea, I totally agree with your statement, "I have a copy and have been through it thoroughly. It is basically his original thesis with no updating, and the usual "received wisdom" errors."
He certainly didn't go much further, if any at all, with his research.

The material is a little more reader friendly than the thesis, but not worth the money.

IMHO, the book just isn't worth the rather steep price of $60.

If I could do it over I would wait a year or so and buy a cheap used copy.
 
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LasPalmas

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Mar 22, 2018
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Some people say that the builder was a union man who was forced to build the engine thus he made it poorly to fail. This is thought as soon after finishing he headed north.
Other people feel that after the Arkansas was sunk. that local people blamed him for the destruction of the ironclad and were talking about giving him a necktie party. so he ran; the poor shape of the engine could have been lack of required material. otherwise who would build wooden cog wheels on a steam engine (accident waiting to happen). Anyways what kind of naval officer would let a builder use this type of material unless there was no other choice.

Grizz
Do you mind sharing the sources of your above post?
 

rebelatsea

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Do you mind sharing the sources of your above post?
The ships chief engineer was taken ill ( probably from the strain of keeping the machinery working at full pelt) and his replacement either wasn't a skilled or wasn't familiar with the engines or both to be fair.
 

vikingbear

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New Hampshire
Grizz, the use of Lignum vitae or similar very hard timbers for the cogs (teeth) in geared machinery was common and had been used for many years, and would continue to be so until the ability to accurately cast and machine meshing cogs was developed. Additionally new strengths of cast iron were needed before it became really reliable. In Arkansas I believe it was problems with the pins in the machinery between moving parts which were the real problem.

Hi John,
Well now can say have been burnt by bad info in a book, Do not even remenber the name now ,but in it the writer spoke about the cogs kept breaking about having to keep stopping to fix the issue. Read that book quite a few years ago now so maybe that writer had bad info.
That.s interesting. knew about use of lignum vitae to keep the opening for the propeller shaft from leaking but not used as engine cogs. That may be because the little I have read about steam engines was from the 1890's through ww1. Do have other books about steam engines from the 1840's, 1850,s and 1870's. Maybe time to read some more about engines. The one bad thing about book clubs and google is last time checked my book read list, was there was something like 1400-1500 books there (of various subjects, and that's not counting hard copies.Know, some what inpulsive, but have always been the one to want to know what's missing.
grizz
 
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rebelatsea

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The best thing about lignum vitae or Georgian heartwood in gear trains is that provided the socket wasn't broken, it was the work of a few minutes to change the tooth, whereas if a cast iron cog broke that was it - failure and replacement of the whole wheel needed. Wooden teeth could also be shaped better to mesh than early castings, experience gained in water and windmill machinery.
 

georgew

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southern california
Grizz, the use of Lignum vitae or similar very hard timbers for the cogs (teeth) in geared machinery was common and had been used for many years, and would continue to be so until the ability to accurately cast and machine meshing cogs was developed. Additionally new strengths of cast iron were needed before it became really reliable. In Arkansas I believe it was problems with the pins in the machinery between moving parts which were the real problem.
My father was a marine engineer who worked his way up to master. When he was young and just went to sea between the wars he was surprised to see how many of the older steamers used Lignum vitae as bearings on the drive shafts of propeller driven vessels. This wood is so dense that it doesn't float.
 
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