Freeboard of CSS Virginia

John Hartwell

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#1
Capt. William H. Parker was commander of the CSS Beaufort, which accompanied the Virginia, during both its appearances at Hampton Roads, 8 & 9 March 1862. He had been a lieutenant on the USS Merrimac during a Pacific cruise in 1847-8, and thus had a special interest in the vessel as he witnessed her conversion into the ironclad CSS Virginia. He gives a very detailed description of the conversion, and of Virginia's iron defenses in his 1883, Recollections of a naval officer, 1841-1865.

One part of his description surprises me. Every illustration I've ever seen of the Virginia shows the fore and after deck fully exposed, with a freeboard of perhaps a foot or so. But, on pp. 248f, Parker relates:

"Now as this iron was put on, the whole structure sunk, and when she was ready for battle her ends, which extended about 50 feet forward and abaft the shield, were submerged to the depth of several inches and could not be seen. I have reason to recollect this, for I had occasion to go close alongside her several times in the Beaufort on the 8th of March, and I was always fearful of getting on top of her extremities. I could not see where she commenced or ended!"

I've never noticed this in any other description of this ship (admittedly I have not read many). If accurate, this would make her appearance extraordinary, indeed, and render all the illustrations inaccurate. Do any other sources corroborate this?

jno

 

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#2
Capt. William H. Parker was commander of the CSS Beaufort, which accompanied the Virginia, during both its appearances at Hampton Roads, 8 & 9 March 1862. He had been a lieutenant on the USS Merrimac during a Pacific cruise in 1847-8, and thus had a special interest in the vessel as he witnessed her conversion into the ironclad CSS Virginia. He gives a very detailed description of the conversion, and of Virginia's iron defenses in his 1883, Recollections of a naval officer, 1841-1865.
One part of his description surprises me. Every illustration I've ever seen of the Virginia shows the fore and after deck fully exposed, with a freeboard of perhaps a foot or so. But, on pp. 248f, Parker relates:

"Now as this iron was put on, the whole structure sunk, and when she was ready for battle her ends, which extended about 50 feet forward and abaft the shield, were submerged to the depth of several inches and could not be seen. I have reason to recollect this, for I had occasion to go close alongside her several times in the Beaufort on the 8th of March, and I was always fearful of getting on top of her extremities. I could not see where she commenced or ended!"

I've never noticed this in any other description of this ship (admittedly I have not read many). If accurate, this would make her appearance extraordinary, indeed, and render all the illustrations inaccurate. Do any other sources corroborate this?

jno
I just finished reading Ironclad Down (http://www.usni.org/store/books/history/ironclad-down). As I recall there were several other sources referring to weighing her down with pig iron (I think one was from the ship's constructor John L. Porter).
 

John Hartwell

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I just finished reading Ironclad Down (http://www.usni.org/store/books/history/ironclad-down). As I recall there were several other sources referring to weighing her down with pig iron (I think one was from the ship's constructor John L. Porter).

Thanks. Actually, I just did a belated Google image search of the Virginia, and see there are several illustrations (including the one 7th Miss. gives) showing the submerged decks. Almost like a submarine with the (very large) conning-tower above the surface.

jno
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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#5
There are a couple of issues here, actually.

The original concept was for the forward and after ends to be entirely submerged. In practice, there was a V-shaped breakwater forward to keep water from washing up the forward part of the shield (as in the illustration above). There is some question as to whether this was "hollow" or decked-over/filled-in in some way.

The ship was also not quite heavy enough to bring the ends as far below the surface as originally intended. Buchanan took the ship into action before all of her fittings were aboard (such as port shutters), and several comments were made by contemporaries to the effect that her waterline was vulnerable as she shot off her ammunition on 8 March because she was actually starting to expose the unarmored part of her hull.

So the intent was that the ends would be under water, but it was something less than that in the reality; and this feature was more or less abandoned in later Confederate ironclads.

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#13
Quite.

As a purist, I insist on the terminal K... although I recall reading somewhere that even the river got (or gets) spelled different ways in different states!
I don't disagree but I didn't realize that the Navy can't even keep it straight!!! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Merrimack

 

AndyHall

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Vue does environments very well, but water components are flat, flat, flat. I'm looking for tricks to create a rough-sea-like procedural terrain -- i.e., make a wide, ripply mountain and render it as ocean.
 

rebelatsea

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#19
I was going to join in this thread, but Everyone got there first. I can only add that John Porter got his weights wrong, and, the hull was cut down too far seemingly by accident. Nevertheless when floated out, it was found necessary to add some 2,000 tons of pig iron and slag to bring her down to her marks. Also she wasn't built entirely to the plan Mallory authorised.
BROOKE\'S VIRGINIA.JPG

After the action with the Monitor George T Sinclair proposed that her armour be increased to 6", her belt to be extended 3ft below water and all the way round ending in a ram with sharp shoulders. On the gun deck, the smoothbores were to be changed for rifles, the quarterports closed up and new ports cut to allow for the bow and stern guns to fire on the broadside. Brooke wanted a pair of Armstrong 300pdrs for her (presumably he also wanted the change to the sbs). New solid rolled gunport covers were to be fitted . All these changes would mean removing some or all of the pig iron ballast. It is not clear whether the bulwark forward was to be decked over.
CSS VIRGINIA 1 Proposed alterations.jpg

All that was actually done was fit the new gunport covers, change the ram, and give the &2 MLR steel point shot.
 

Carronade

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#20
""After the action with the Monitor George T Sinclair proposed that her armour be increased to 6", her belt to be extended 3ft below water and all the way round ending in a ram with sharp shoulders.""

I suppose worse things could happen to a naval engineer than finding out that his ship can accommodate an extra thousand tons or so of useful payload :wink:
 

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