Question About Hampton Roads

GHarls

Cadet
Joined
Nov 2, 2011
Hey, my first real post ...

I've read a few contemporaneous accounts of the reputed 1862 naval battle off Newport News and as with much source material, the reports conflict as to whether one or both ironclads inflicted direct damage upon the other. While most accounts declare minimal damage to each vessel, the most dramatic reports suggest that the USS Monitor took a direct shot to the wheelhouse and that the CSS Virginia shortly thereafter received a long lateral gash upon its hull from the Monitor bow that effectively ended the engagement.

Any learned ones out there who've read enough historical material to speak more definitively on the subject? Thanks.
 

Carronade

Captain
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Location
Pennsylvania
They certainly inflicted 'direct' damage; the question would appear to be whether they inflicted serious damage. The hit on Monitor's pilothouse does not appear to have damaged the ship; its significance was the wounding (temporary blinding) of Worden. Monitor steered away from Virginia for a few minutes after the hit, so she still had steering control. The concern was getting the second-in-command into the pilothouse, the only place from which a conning officer could see the enemy and effectively direct the ship in combat; presumably they also wanted to give Worden medical attention. She then steered back and was ready to continue the action.

The attempt to ram Monitor aggravated Virginia's damage from the previous day, when her iron ram had been wrenched off while ramming Cumberland. More to the point, she had little prospect of accomplishing much by continuing the battle. During Monitor's brief withdrawal, Virginia attempted to engage Minnesota but was unable to get close enough to do serious damage. Virginia/Merrimack had originally been a sister of Minnesota, so she had to careful about entering waters where Minnesota had run aground.

p.s. 'reputed' implies you are questioning whether the battle happened; you might give a little more consideration to your choice of words. Welcome aboard!
 

deleson1

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 10, 2011
Location
michigan
Interesting side line: Erickson specified 12 inch cannons for the monitor but none were available. Two 11 inch guns were found and used instead. Erickson had a explosion on one of his ships 20 years earlier caused by a exploding cannon and fell out of favor with the Navy. Even though the cannons were not of his design he was blamed for the 5 deaths. The war dept. supposedly told the gunners to use half charges in their cannons thus doing little damage to the Merrimac. Erickson was furious when he found this out after the battle. He said the guns at full charge would of went right thru the Merrimac. The navy conducted some tests that proved him correct.
 

Selma Hunter

Cadet
Joined
Aug 11, 2011
Location
Mint Hill
Article Written For Reference

Gentlemen -

If you will kindly refer to my article on this subject in the magazine "The Artilleryman" from 2007 you will find that this topic is thoroughly addressed. In fact, I believe I have already entered an abbreviated account on this forum. Calibers, charges, etc. were all dealt with in that posting.
 

deleson1

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 10, 2011
Location
michigan
Gentlemen -

If you will kindly refer to my article on this subject in the magazine "The Artilleryman" from 2007 you will find that this topic is thoroughly addressed. In fact, I believe I have already entered an abbreviated account on this forum. Calibers, charges, etc. were all dealt with in that posting.

Most people don't have access to the artilleryman magazine from 2007. Can you elaborate a little bit on this forum?
 

whitworth

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jun 18, 2005
It's not what we hear

It's not what we read and hear about the Civil War. It's what we don't hear about the war.

We never again heard of the Confederate navy near Hampton Roads. We never hear reports on Union naval gun tests during the war. That of the increase in powder used in Union naval guns. Of course, the under-reporting is due to the lack of many Confederate ironclads after Virginia and the Monitor battled in early 1862.
 

Selma Hunter

Cadet
Joined
Aug 11, 2011
Location
Mint Hill
Article Posting

Most people don't have access to the artilleryman magazine from 2007. Can you elaborate a little bit on this forum?
Mike -

It took a while to get to this. I was on a 7 day road trip visiting naval facilities and museums in Virginia and the Washington Navy Yard with a Catesby ap R. Jones descendant when your request arrived. Things have been busy since with the holidays, etc.

FWIW, in 2007 I had just begun my research on the Naval affairs at Hampton Roads and at that point in time I had little research material at hand. I made several errors in the article including my statement that "most" of the guns used by the CSN in that engagement had been made in Selma under Jones' supervision. That should have been presented as "some but not all" of the guns used in that engagement. The "Tennessee" had 4 x 6.4" SB rifles in broadside that were Tredegar-made and which were also retained by the Department of the Navy as trophies. Three of these are on display together with the 7" DB rifled pivot gun ("S-10") at the Washington Navy Yard. The 4th 6.4" SB rifle in retained elsewhere. For any other errors I offer my sincere apologies in advance.

As to the ammunition used by the "Virginia" in that engagement the only ammunition carried into battle on the 9th was designed for use against wooden vessels - shells! Jones had a few solid cast "hotshot" projectiles but , by design, these projectiles were cast 40/100's undersize to allow for expansion when heated. Normal windage would have been 20/100's. The excessive windage would have/did result in reduced muzzle velocities as the pressure loss would have been significant. There are accounts that the "Monitor" had on-board some number of bronze shot and some wrought iron projectiles as well, but that Dahlgren had forbidden their use out of concerns of recoil and chamber pressures. Ironic that the vessels might have done more damage had either elected to use the more formidable ammunition. In a side note, it wasn't until 1868 that Worden finally submitted an official "after action" report to the Department of the Navy - at the strident urging of Green. When the crew of the "Monitor" filed a prize claim in the 1870's the enraged CSS "Virginia" officers countered with some of the best accounts of that battle yet available. That claim, BTW, was declined, as it should have been.

Lockridge
 

Selma Hunter

Cadet
Joined
Aug 11, 2011
Location
Mint Hill
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[FONT=&quot]Ironing Out a Few Kinks[/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]The “Other Opinion” on the Ironclad Adventure at Hampton Roads[/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]By William E. Lockridge[/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]My introduction to “The Artilleryman” came from Mr. Jack Marlar, a friend, serious historian and an experienced re-enactor who has participated in artillery events for many years. His familiarity with my research into the largely untold role of Selma, Alabama as a center of wartime transportation, logistics, ordnance, manufacturing, and in particular the manufacturing of large bore Confederate naval guns there, led us into several discussions on the subject and eventually to his request that I respond to several concerns we share regarding an article which appeared in this magazine. [/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]At this point it would be appropriate to offer my standing observation that “Truth is little more than fact colored by perspective”, and in that vein I’d like to offer another perspective on the article authored by Mr. Ralph Kobbeman as presented in the June 2006 issue of “The Artilleryman” titled “A Look at the USS Monitor Cannon: Did Decisions Made Deny a Victory?”. [/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]By way of explanation, the obvious difference in time between the appearance of that article and this response was the result of my not having the original article brought to my attention until earlier in this year and a personal illness involving hospitalization and a slow recovery. [/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]In his article Kobbeman makes several statements and suggestions that might better serve the readership of the “Artilleryman” if a second factual opinion followed. [/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]Kobbeman stated in part that “It is my firm belief that with the 15“ cannon and full charges of powder, the “Merrimack” [sic] would have been blown out of the water or so severely damaged that her captain [Lieutenant Catesby ap Roger Jones] would have been forced to surrender”. [/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]In support of his argument Kobbeman cites Mr. Arthur Mokin’s 1991 work “Ironclad: The Monitor and the Merrimack”, Presidio Press, wherein Mokin states that John Ericsson, “Monitor’s” designer, desired to equip “Monitor” with two 15“ guns. Curiously, and for reasons that I have not fully researched, the observation is offered that the reason for not mounting 15“ guns in the “Monitor’s” turret is that the Bureau of Ordnance, headed by J. A. Dahlgren himself & the designer of a number of naval guns, might have been prejudiced [by what Kobbeman does not state]. [/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]Those statements and assumptions are rebutted as follows;[/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]I respectfully submit that the real reason for not mounting 15” Dahlgren guns in the “Monitor” is because they had not, as of March 9, 1862, and the day of the famous encounter, yet been designed by Captain Dahlgren, nor had the 15” Rodman been introduced into naval service at that point. The one prototype Rodman of that size was finished in 1859 and was apparently at Fort Monroe in early 1862 although it was apparently lacking a suitable carriage. [/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]According to my examination of the most exhaustive summary on cannon of that war “The Big Guns” by Olmstead, Stark, and Tucker, Museum Restoration Service, 1997, the only type of gun of 15” bore that was likely to have been available at that point was the Rodman. However, the 1st Rodman guns of 15” bore (excluding the experimental gun of 1859) were not commissioned until November of 1861 with the first delivery and acceptance not occurring until October of 1862. The first 15” bore Dahlgren was, according to Dahlgren’s own drawings, designed 6 April 1862 with the first delivery necessarily occurring months later. From this brief review of the record it would appear that at the time the “Monitor” steamed into battle there was no production naval gun with a 15“ bore available for such use even though sufficient time to prepare such guns for use in the “Monitor” had been available, especially given the capabilities of the several yankee navy yards with the capacity for casting guns of that size. It is far more likely, given the subsequent sequence of events, that the Bureau of Ordnance was inspired to develop and deploy the larger guns in view of the failure of the 11” guns to perform satisfactorily when challenged by Confederate armor like that on the “Virginia”.[/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]Ultimately the navy ordered that two 11” Dahlgrens be mounted on Ericsson’s “Monitor”. My research, albeit limited, also indicates that this was the first deployment of Dahlgren guns of 11” bore wherein the guns were fired in anger, previous standard issues typically being of 9” bore. [/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]Kobbeman goes on to note that it was reported that the Bureau of Ordnance decreed that no more than a “half charge of 15 pounds” be used in the “Monitor’s” new guns as there was a fear that the concussion inside the turret would prove harmful to the crew [see Passaic class comments page 94 of “The Big Guns”]`. [/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]While it is stated that the Bureau of Ordnance decreed that only a “half charge of 15 pounds” be employed in these 11” guns, a review of the tables in Appendix C, page 370 of Warren Ripley’s “Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War”, Promontory Press, 1970, reflects a normal charge of 20 pounds in 11” bore Dahlgren guns and that charge was for use behind shells on guns mounted on a “turret” carriage. It might be reasonable to accept the fact that such determinations concerning maximum charges were subject to review from time to time and that it is possible that the Bureau of Ordnance might have specified such a maximum charge (30 lbs) or they would not have issued orders to use a “half charge of 15 pounds”. It is worth noting that Lt. Wm. N. Jeffers, serving on the “Monitor”, reported to Flag Officer L. M. Goldsborough that the “Monitor” had expended 41 solid cast iron shot against the “Virginia” (OR’s - letter 17 March, 1862). Curiously, much later in the war and at a point when the development of the yankee ironclads had reached a technological zenith, the heaviest charge reported by any of Admiral David Farragut’s ordnance officers as used in any of the 11” guns during the Battle of Mobile Bay 5 August, 1864, was a pair of 25 pound charges fired by the double-turreted monitor “Winnebago”, with the balance of her shot (52) propelled by the aforementioned standard 20 pound charges. [/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]Without “re-fighting the war” as we sometimes say, it might be best to refer to pages 19 thru 22 of the writings of Mr. Jack Bell in his fine book “Civil War Heavy Explosive Ordnance”, University of North Texas Press, 2003, as he introduces the reader to heavy ordnance and begins with an excellent synopsis of the battle in question. His observations and conclusions are invaluable to both (union and Confederate) perspectives regarding this historic battle.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]As to what might have been? The battle histories of various union ironclads in both naval and land (e.g. the attempt by the yankee fleet to pass Ft. Sumter) engagements are revealing, but so then, is the battle history of the CSS “Tennessee II” (“Tennessee”) in the engagement in Mobile Bay. In that engagement Farragut deployed eighteen first class ships against a single Confederate ironclad (of CSS “Virginia” vintage) and three “cottonclads”. The union flotilla in that battle quickly captured or drove off the three outclassed boats that accompanied the “Tennessee” (the “Gaines”, the “Morgan”, and the “Selma”) losing one ironclad to a torpedo while forcing the channel in front of Fort Morgan (the ship lost was the single turret monitor “Tecumseh” carrying two 15 inch Dahlgrens). Ultimately, in the ensuing encounter, at least fourteen of the eighteen union ships surrounded and fired shot after shot at the “Tennessee”. These included many 11” solid and cored shot fired from the turrets of two of the three yankee ironclads at POINT BLANK range. “Manhattan”, the surviving single turreted monitor, managed to fire at the “Tennessee” a reported 6 times (letter of the ship’s captain Commander J. W. A. Nicholson to Farragut August 6, 1864) resulting in a single 15” 440 pound solid shot fired in front of a reported heavy 60 pound charge of powder opening the “Tennessee’s” plates approximately 5”. (Lieutenant C. M. Schoonmaker, “Manhattan’s” executive officer, reported firing a total of 11 times using 3 solid shot, 4 shells, and 4 cored shot in front of three 60 pound, four 50 pound, and four 35 pound charges as reported by letter to Nicholson August 5, 1864). The discrepancy between Schoonmaker’s and the Nicholson’s reports is assumed to be in shots fired at Ft. Morgan when passing into the outer Bay. The normal charge for the 15” bore gun was 35 pounds (see Ripley). No casualties and only a minimal degree of impairment to the function of the ship resulted from the strike that opened the “Tennessee’s” plates. It is duly noted, however, that the recoil from the firing of one of the “Manhattan’s” guns caused a number of broken carriage bolts and that the ship lost the use that gun until repairs could be effected (letter Schoonmaker to Nicholson August 5, 1864). Perhaps Dahlgren was right after all?[/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]Ultimately one must ponder what the outcome of the 1862 battle might have been had shortages of good iron and reliable machinery not prevented the Confederate Navy from completing several ships of the same general design of the “Virginia” and/or the “Tennessee” in time for either battle. Given the loss of yankee ships and lives at Hampton Roads, the ensuing panic all the way up the Atlantic coast as far as New England, and the “what if’s” of the “Virginia” carrying only round shot and shell into the battle on the 9th (see testimony of Captain Minor at Tattnall’s Court of Inquiry), the outcome of the battle was clearly a Confederate success story. If the readers are truly interested in the “might have been’s” it would be very helpful to read the correspondence between John M. Brooke and Lt. Catesby Jones as they collaborated on the testing of armor and evaluated penetration tests on armor plate at James Island. [/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]Nevertheless, after 2 ½ more years of war, unlimited resources, choice of timing, overwhelming numerical superiority, and perfection of the best designs known to the US Navy, one only has to read the reports of expended ordnance, damage, and casualties of Farragut’s fleet after the Battle of Mobile Bay to fairly speculate on the outcome of a more evenly balanced contest. Despite fleet reports to Farragut and from Farragut to Welles (and other senior union officials ) regarding the supposedly significant damage done to “Tennessee” during the battle, the assessment tendered by the four expert naval officers assigned by Farragut to inspect, inventory, and evaluate the “Tennessee” stated that the Confederate ironclad was in condition to “render good service” as of the date of the report – 13 August. Considering the outcome of the battle it is this writer’s opinion that the yankee navy could have ill afforded another victory as costly as this one.[/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]Lastly, it is also notable that the two 7” pivot guns on the “Tennessee” as well as most of the other guns used by the CS Navy in that engagement of 5 August 1864 were the product of Captain Catesby ap R. Jones, Commanding, Confederate Naval Gun Foundry and Ordnance Works, Selma, Alabama. This is the same Jones who commanded the “Virginia” the day she fought the “Monitor”. Jones was eventually assigned to the Selma facility in May of 1863, succeeding (in their various capacities) McRae, Rains, and Chambliss in commanding the CSN efforts there effective 1 June 1863. He inherited a mess, yet by the second week of January of 1864 he had shipped his first two finished 7” rifled Brooke guns to Admiral Franklin Buchanan (the same Buchanan who was in command of the Virginia the day before the battle with the “Monitor”) to be installed on the “Tennessee”. It is silent testimony to the respect felt by Farragut, Dahlgren, Welles et al that those are the only two guns present and firing that day that were preserved as war prizes. Gun No. S-10 (the forward pivot rifle) survives and is on display at the old Washington Navy Yard while gun No. S-5 is proudly displayed in downtown Selma, Alabama within a few blocks of where she was manufactured.[/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]In offering this somewhat different perspective on this famous encounter I by no means intend any disrespect to Messer’s Kobbeman, Mokin, Dahlgren, Ericsson, Farragut or any other individual mentioned in the original article or in my response. However, it is sometimes more useful and infinitely more informative to argue the facts and fewer of the “might have beens” 145 years after the battle when many, if not most, of the facts are available.[/FONT]
 
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