Pilot A. B. Smith's account of the USS Cumberland / CSS Virginia battle.

USS Cumberland

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Dec 23, 2014
Pilot Smith was aboard the Frigate Cumberland at the time. His account is unique, in that he describes the complete opening phases of the battle, which no one else does. The Cumberland opened fire, according to Smith, with her pivot guns as soon as the Virginia came into view. Then, as she neared closer, the Cumberland fired "six to eight broadsides" at the ironclad before she was rammed. The most common account of the battle, that written by Lieutenant Thomas O. Selfridge, USN, who was aboard the doomed frigate, omits any opening phase, claiming that the Virginia was too far forward for all but her forward pivot gun and number one 9" Dahlgren run out the bridle port, to reach. It was only after the Virginia rammed her, Selfridge says, and then pulled away, that the Cumberland finally able to return fire - but only three broadsides.

Why did Selfridge omit mentioning his ship's initial gunnery early in the battle?

I found this years ago (2003) on the old CSSVirginia.org site - which I can no longer find! Does it have a new name?

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0 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr

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0-1 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr

Awesome new painting - even with that strange hill in the background:

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cumberland2_1webwater2 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr
 

USS Cumberland

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Dec 23, 2014
Here's another account of the battle, printed out in 2003 from the same site. This is from one of the Cumberland's marines, Private Daniel O'Connor. I had not heard of this one either before this. O'connor did not like to waste time on punctuation, apparently.

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0 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr

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0-1 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr

Cumberland as originally built: a 54 gun frigate. The Congress would have looked much like this:

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1840s-uss-frigate-cumberland-54-guns-vintage-images by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr
 

USS Cumberland

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Here's another account, printed out from the lost site long, long ago. It was published in the Norfolk ladder fifty years after the war.

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0 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr

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0-1 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr

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0-2 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr

I have omitted the later half of the article concerning the Monitor's fight, for brevity's sake - and I have limited free space left on Flickr!

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7892566996_149c71c261_b by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr
 

USS Cumberland

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Here's yet another from the same source! This account by a Cumberland crewman says something rather remarkable. When he was aboard her during the Cumberland's 1861 burning of the Gosport Navy Yard, he recalls the frigate having fired her guns at valuable items in the yard, presumably warehouses and other buildings! Did she fire into other burning ships? I had never heard this claim before ...

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0 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr

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0-1 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr

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0-2 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr

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0-3 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr

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0-4 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr


Two exciting old prints of the CSS Virginia ramming the USS Cumberland:

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0-5 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr

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0-6 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr

Large scale modern model of the Frigate-turned-corvette USS Savannah, identical sister of the Cumberland:

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Reconstructed plans of the Savannah, showing also what the Cumberland would have looked like prior to her 1856 sloop-conversion:

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USS Cumberland

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This next eyewitness, Master Henry Manley, was on board the Congress, and during the battle was captain of the third division of main deck guns (ten 32-pounders, plus two standing stern chasers). Note that he observed the Virginia to have rammed the Cumberland twice!

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0 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr

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0-1 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr

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0-2 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr
 

USS Cumberland

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This account is from the Charleston Mercury Ledger. Note the reason given for the attack on the Cumberland - the mistaken belief that she was the most powerful ship in the squadron. Many Rebels thought that since the Cumberland's after pivot gun (previously used to great effect!) was a rifled Dahlgren gun, that all the rest of the other 23 Dahlgrens on board were also rifled.

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0 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr

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0-1 by Stephen Duffy, on Flickr
 

USS Cumberland

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Dec 23, 2014
Can anyone tell me the origins of this illustration? The sister frigates/sloops Cumberland and Savannah, and the Gunboat Louisiana, firing on a distant rebel gunboat, the Yorktown, in the James River. Sailing-only ships going into battle are rare. Two sister ships going into battle side by side also are rare. What was the date of this skirmish. Any official reports? I thought I knew every aspect of the Cumberland's history!

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Carronade

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Pennsylvania
Can anyone tell me the origins of this illustration? The sister frigates/sloops Cumberland and Savannah, and the Gunboat Louisiana, firing on a distant rebel gunboat, the Yorktown, in the James River. Sailing-only ships going into battle are rare. Two sister ships going into battle side by side also are rare. What was the date of this skirmish. Any official reports? I thought I knew every aspect of the Cumberland's history!

View attachment 357515
They appear to be at anchor; Cumberland's cable is visible, so apparently the Confederate ship attacked them. She appears to be staying at long range, perhaps hoping to outrange their guns. I'm not familiar with a CSS Yorktown, but she appears to be a small ship.
 

rebelatsea

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Location
Kent ,England.
They appear to be at anchor; Cumberland's cable is visible, so apparently the Confederate ship attacked them. She appears to be staying at long range, perhaps hoping to outrange their guns. I'm not familiar with a CSS Yorktown, but she appears to be a small ship.
Actually CSS Patrick Henry ex Yorktown, sister to CSS Jamestown. Here she is armed and partially protected with 1" iron on a timber backing over the machinery and boilers, continuing for some distance along the waterline This is as she would have appeared at Hampton Roads. She carried 1 -6.4" MLR, 1 -10" SB, 6 -8" SB and 2 -32pdr MLR.
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USS Cumberland

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Dec 23, 2014
That makes more sense. Then the skirmish must have been the one in September, '61, as described in wiki:

"On 13 September 1861 and again on 2 December, Commander Tucker took Patrick Henry down the river to a point about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) above Newport News, Virginia, and opened fire on the Federal squadron at long range hoping to draw out some of the gunboats. The gambit was refused, but Tucker inflicted some minor damage."
 

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