Laird Rams and the CSS Stonewall

Dilandu

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The "Stonewall" armor, according to Conway, was 3,5-4,5 inches on the 3-inch teak backing. She was french-build, so her armor was worse-quality than usual of this time. Her belt was slightly inclined (the tumblehome form); so using the tables we could have the overall equivalent about 4,25 inches.

Taking this tables - http://civilwartalk.com/threads/naval-ordnance-used-by-both-sides.108022/

- could we assume, that the XV-inch Dahlgren could penetrate her at the 800 yards?
 

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Mark F. Jenkins

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I'll need to dig out the testimony, but Ronckendorff noted that the armor was thinner in some places than in others and (again IIRC) in some locations seemed to be poorly fitted to the backing.

I don't think I'd agree that Monadnock was more maneuverable, though, unless you mean simply by virtue of her turrets. By all accounts, Stonewall could turn very rapidly, in not much more than a ship-length and a half or so at lower speeds, thanks to her independent twin propellers.
 

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I don't think I'd agree that Monadnock was more maneuverable, though, unless you mean simply by virtue of her turrets.
Well, "Monadnock" was also twin-screwed; but i must agree, i forgot than she was almost 20 meters longer than "Stonewall". Hovewer, i think the better-trained crew of "Monadnock" would be much better in handling the ship in battle than the crew of "Stonewall". And yes, also the twin turrets of "Monadnock" gave her much better fire arcs.
 

rebelatsea

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I'll check... didn't manage to yesterday evening (school choir concert gobbled up most of the evening, sorry).

RE Jack Greene & Alessandro Massignani, I like their book; it's something like an abbreviated, updated version of the old Ironclads in Action by H. W. Wilson. It's been some time since I've read it, though.
Thanks Mark, I have only access to a library copy of Wilson ,so might see if the new(er) version is available on good old Amazon.
 

rebelatsea

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The "Stonewall" armor, according to Conway, was 3,5-4,5 inches on the 3-inch teak backing. She was french-build, so her armor was worse-quality than usual of this time. Her belt was slightly inclined (the tumblehome form); so using the tables we could have the overall equivalent about 4,25 inches.

Taking this tables - http://civilwartalk.com/threads/naval-ordnance-used-by-both-sides.108022/

- could we assume, that the XV-inch Dahlgren could penetrate her at the 800 yards?
Easily, there was no backing to the amour - it was applied directly to the timber hull.
 

rebelatsea

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The three inch teak backing in "Conway" was actually the hull planking. However, there is something odd about the construction suggesting the teak did not extend underwater. Teak is very good at resisting rot and pests, but both Stonewall and her sister were rotten below water in less than ten years. Either it wasn't seasoned or it wasn't teak below water.
It has just occurred to me that if they were coppered, were the wrong fastenings used and set up a chemical reaction of some sort? Putting my railroad hat on I have had experience of Australian Ironwood ties rotting very quickly due to a reaction with the type of ballast used in damp conditions..
 

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Easily, there was no backing to the amour - it was applied directly to the timber hull.
Hm. Conway mentioned "wrought iron plates, bolted to 3in teak plank" - i assumed, that it was backing. Stop, that means that EVERY hit that smashed plates would make a leak? Seems even the "Niagara" would be able to pound something armored like "Stonewall" into wreck...
The three inch teak backing in "Conway" was actually the hull planking.
Didn't knew it; thanks for the data!
but both Stonewall and her sister were rotten below water in less than ten years.
Hm... "Sphynx"/"Stærkodder"/"Stonewall"/"Kotetsu"/"Adzuma" (really, i wonder why the USN didn't rename her either!) was placed into reserve in 1871, but after some heavy work in Japan. The "Cheops"/"Prinz Adalbert" was reconstructed in 1868-1869, but still scrapped after 1871. I always assumed, that first was build better; but maybe it was the difference between Western Pacific waters and Baltic waters?
 

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Hm. Conway mentioned "wrought iron plates, bolted to 3in teak plank" - i assumed, that it was backing. Stop, that means that EVERY hit that smashed plates would make a leak? Seems even the "Niagara" would be able to pound something armored like "Stonewall" into wreck...


Didn't knew it; thanks for the data!


Hm... "Sphynx"/"Stærkodder"/"Stonewall"/"Kotetsu"/"Adzuma" (really, i wonder why the USN didn't rename her either!) was placed into reserve in 1871, but after some heavy work in Japan. The "Cheops"/"Prinz Adalbert" was reconstructed in 1868-1869, but still scrapped after 1871. I always assumed, that first was build better; but maybe it was the difference between Western Pacific waters and Baltic waters?
Yes, salinity and temperature do have an effect on immersed objects, generally the colder and "saltier" the water ,the less problem there is with rot and pests, although the Baltic I'm told does have a particularly vicious but fairly rare form of shipworm.
 

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Hm. Conway mentioned "wrought iron plates, bolted to 3in teak plank" - i assumed, that it was backing. Stop, that means that EVERY hit that smashed plates would make a leak? Seems even the "Niagara" would be able to pound something armored like "Stonewall" into wreck...


Didn't knew it; thanks for the data!


Hm... "Sphynx"/"Stærkodder"/"Stonewall"/"Kotetsu"/"Adzuma" (really, i wonder why the USN didn't rename her either!) was placed into reserve in 1871, but after some heavy work in Japan. The "Cheops"/"Prinz Adalbert" was reconstructed in 1868-1869, but still scrapped after 1871. I always assumed, that first was build better; but maybe it was the difference between Western Pacific waters and Baltic waters?
Their framing was also weak, it appears to be all an attempt to make them weigh less, and thus influence the manoeverability.
 

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Thanks Mark, I have only access to a library copy of Wilson ,so might see if the new(er) version is available on good old Amazon.
At lunchtime, I made a quick dip into my library and found the intent to try to purchase the Gloire mentioned in both J. T. Durkin's bio of Mallory and Warren F. Spencer's Confederate Navy in Europe. However, I have not yet located it in a primary source-- will look more this evening. It would have been in the direction given to Lt. James H. North, as it was not initially within Bulloch's orders to procure ironclads as I understand it.

ETA: Got it: ORN Series II, Vol. 2, pp. 70-1, Mallory's instructions to North.

(Also found this article along the way which may be of interest:
https://www.usnwc.edu/getattachment/40d001a4-da5d-4049-9900-35cd74707545/The-Confederate-Naval-Buildup--Could-More-Have-Bee.aspx

)
 
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Their framing was also weak, it appears to be all an attempt to make them weigh less, and thus influence the manoeverability.
It would really be a rare sight: the ironclad, that fall apart under the first enemy salvo... Seem that "Stonewall" was another victim of "fast, maneuvrable, armored ram" paradox (pick up any two of quantites)
 

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It would really be a rare sight: the ironclad, that fall apart under the first enemy salvo... Seem that "Stonewall" was another victim of "fast, maneuvrable, armored ram" paradox (pick up any two of quantites)
Reminds me of the 'project management triangle of constraints': "Fast, Cheap, Reliable-- you may select two of them."

Although I understand Craven's motives for not engaging Stonewall at Ferrol, I wish he had; the sloop-frigate had about the heaviest firepower of any vessel in the Union inventory.
 

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Reminds me of the 'project management triangle of constraints': "Fast, Cheap, Reliable-- you may select two of them."
Yeah, just like that. :smile: The "triangle of rams" is similar: to be effective, the ram should be fast (or in would be unable to close with enemy ship), maneuverable (or it would be unable to make hit without more damage to herself than to the enemy), and armored (or the enemy guns would destroy it). The only problem is, that this qualites aren't combined very well; for example, "Katahdin" and "Polyphemus" were fast enough and sufficiently protected, but they were really hard to turn because of their semi-submersible design. On the other hands, "Alarm" was well enough protected and very agile - but slow, and so unable to do the job. And the "Stonewall" was fast, agile - but fragile.

Although I understand Craven's motives for not engaging Stonewall at Ferrol, I wish he had; the sloop-frigate had about the heaviest firepower of any vessel in the Union inventory.
Well, usually it would not be a good idea for the unarmored ship to attack ironclad, but in this case i must agree; the "Niagara" was at least as fast as "Stonewall", and have, probably, the most powerfull boardside of this era. She wasn't armored, but two guns of "Stonewall" hardly would be able to seriously damage the big frigate.

On the other hands, Craven probably didn't knew about the level of "Stonewall" protection, and assumed that her armor at least as durable as on other southern ironclads. He may assume that his guns didn't have enough penetration power to smash through the "Stonewall" plating on the big distanse, and if he closed with the enemy, his long and not very agile frigate might be rammed by "Stonewall".

Personally, i think, a few smaller sloops like "Sacramento" would be more effective against "Stonewall".
 

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On the other hands, Craven probably didn't knew about the level of "Stonewall" protection, and assumed that her armor at least as durable as on other southern ironclads. He may assume that his guns didn't have enough penetration power to smash through the "Stonewall" plating on the big distanse, and if he closed with the enemy, his long and not very agile frigate might be rammed by "Stonewall".
I did a bit of digging into this near-action, partly because of a magazine article I was writing (which was rejected, alas) and also in connection with my bio of Henry Walke (who was skippering the Sacramento at Ferrol). It appears that the basic battle plan that Craven and Walke had drawn up was to get Stonewall out into incontestably neutral water deep enough for the Niagara (the deepest-drawing vessel of the three) on a day when the sea was a little rough-- it had been observed that the shape of Stonewall's bow limited its forward speed in those conditions (and also hampered the use of the 300-pounder forward gun). Craven and the Niagara would draw the ironclad's attention, and Walke's Sacramento would flank her on the rear quarter, ramming if there was an opportunity.

Captain Thomas Jefferson Page of the Stonewall appears to have been fully aware of the disadvantage rough water placed his ship under, and himself declined combat on two occasions; on the third, when the sea was abnormally smooth, he was more aggressive and the Union officers correspondingly more cautious.

I do not have a good read on what Walke felt about Craven's decision not to engage. He loyally supported his superior in his testimony-- but there are a couple of clues that say to me that, had their positions been reversed, Walke might have acted more aggressively (one of which was a rebuke from Craven for getting too far ahead of the Niagara in an attempt to close with the Stonewall in the first of the three encounters).
 

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Craven and the Niagara would draw the ironclad's attention, and Walke's Sacramento would flank her on the rear quarter, ramming if there was an opportunity.
Exept for the ramming part from the "Sacramento" - she didn't seems to be build strudy enough to ram armored units - plan seems logical. But it seems that the planning support the position, that Craven overestimated the "Stonewall" armor.
 

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Agreed on the Sacramento as a ram, although as she was rigged without a bowsprit it was possibly one of the considerations in her design... certainly the ramming of the Tennessee by wooden vessels at Mobile Bay was ineffective, although I'll bet the Tennessee was better protected than the Stonewall.
 

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certainly the ramming of the Tennessee by wooden vessels at Mobile Bay was ineffective, although I'll bet the Tennessee was better protected than the Stonewall.
Yes, quite probably. She, at least, have the overhang, that protected the hull from ramming. "Stonewall", without this type of protection (however, her crew might use the anchor chain for some additional protection?) would started to leak fron this type of attack. But, the "Sacramento" may be damaged enough to be rammed by the "Stonewall" instead.

Personally, i think that some smallscrew sloops, like "Sacramento", and screw sea-capable gunboats, re-armed with additional heavy guns would be better hunter-killers against "Stonewall" than big frigates. They could move close to ram without danger of being rammed, and could pound her with their heavy guns.
 

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Further to the above it appears that Bulloch was responsible for the basic idea for all these vessels
CDR Bulloch’s ironclad

One night in England, Bulloch sat down with paper, pencil and a ruler and designed a warship the likes of which the world had never seen. Bulloch drew a combat vessel that could sink the entire U.S. Navy, then sail unopposed to New York City and Philadelphia, blasting those ports at will. The vessel would have two revolving gun turrets in the style of the Union's Monitor, a few rifled British cannons along her sides, and steel armor 4.5 inches thick along the hull and 10 inches thick for the gun turrets. Gatling guns would be added later. Some 250 feet long, the iron ship was to be powered by two 350 horsepower steam engines, giving it a speed of over 10 knots. Sail masts and rigging were added, in case she ran out of coal. For her bow, Bulloch placed a reinforced wrought-iron battering ram just at water level. Indeed the ship was soon aptly referred to as a Ram. "I designed these ships for something more than harbor or even coastal defense, and I confidently believe, if ready for sea now, they could sweep away the entire blockading fleet of enemy vessels," Bulloch wrote in 1863.
This projected vessel is the link between what Mallory wanted, North’s ironclad and the Laird rams.
The plan below by the author gives some idea of it’s appearance had it been constructed..
BULLOCHS IRONCLAD.jpg





 


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