The Union Navy's "Ninety-Day Gunboats".

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Aug 25, 2012
The Union need to build up it's Navy quickly so they came up with "Ninety-Day Gunboats". It did take a bit longer than ninety days to build theses. I was wondering how long it typically took to build a gunboat and how much quicker these ninety-day gunboats were built?
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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Central Ohio
To quote Donald L. Canney's The Old Steam Navy Volume 1: Frigates, Sloops, and Gunboats, 1815-1885, p. 91:

Second only to the monitors, the "90-day gunboats" were the most publicized class of ships built for the navy early in the war. The sobriquet was not accurate and seemed to function more as a morale-boosting catch phrase than a description of the actual construction of these vessels. The title conjured up images of legendary Yankee ingenuity at work bringing the agrarian South into submission.​
(The Unadilla came close, though, commissioned 93 days after the contract date. Others ran up to 148 days.)

The design process was speedy as well; the first rough pencil sketches were done in May 1861 and contracts for the 23 gunboats began to be let on 29 June. Evidently the design of the prewar Pocahantas exerted a strong influence on the design, though it was not just a straight repeat.

A second group of eight slightly different vessels, the Kansas class, was begun in August 1862. (A number of them were used as test beds for different sorts of machinery and some were more successful than others.)
 

georgew

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southern california
To quote Donald L. Canney's The Old Steam Navy Volume 1: Frigates, Sloops, and Gunboats, 1815-1885, p. 91:

Second only to the monitors, the "90-day gunboats" were the most publicized class of ships built for the navy early in the war. The sobriquet was not accurate and seemed to function more as a morale-boosting catch phrase than a description of the actual construction of these vessels. The title conjured up images of legendary Yankee ingenuity at work bringing the agrarian South into submission.​
(The Unadilla came close, though, commissioned 93 days after the contract date. Others ran up to 148 days.)

The design process was speedy as well; the first rough pencil sketches were done in May 1861 and contracts for the 23 gunboats began to be let on 29 June. Evidently the design of the prewar Pocahantas exerted a strong influence on the design, though it was not just a straight repeat.

A second group of eight slightly different vessels, the Kansas class, was begun in August 1862. (A number of them were used as test beds for different sorts of machinery and some were more successful than others.)
I remember reading that the early boats were not a particularly stable gun platform at sea, but perfectly adequate on inland waterways. The version with an 11 inch gun amidships on a rotating carriage made them really nasty in a close engagement.
 

Carronade

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Aug 4, 2011
Location
Pennsylvania
Sailing warships for the last couple of centuries had mounted most of their guns on the broadside, but in the late 1850s the US Navy came out with a new type of sloop whose main armament was a few heavy pivot guns, often 11-inchers, on the centerline.

Gunboats up to then had usually been small craft for coastal defense, commonly featuring a single heavy gun, often firing forward with limited traverse, but sometimes on a pivot.

In terms of design, the 90-day gunboats were basically small sloops, scaled down a bit for mass production.
 

1950lemans

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Jun 23, 2013
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Connecticut
Connecticut bias !
I've always been fascinated with these gunboats. They have impressive records but to me the very fact of so many built in such a short period is more impressive. This is a textbook example of when United States industry needed to get down to business and produce war materials. The building and supply logistics plus sub-contracting is impressive for 1861.
Naturally when I started to research these I became CT biased. Three were built in CT (Mystic, Portland, East Haddam): Cayuga, Kanawha & Owasco. Two were supplied by engines/boilers made here: Woodruff & Beach out of Harford and Pacific Iron Works out of Bridgeport (I think the company still exists).
They didn't do so bad during the war. The Cayuga was the first to stream into the New Orleans docks after the battle down river; the Kanawha racked up 19 war prizes and the Owasco had eleven.
 
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