The US Navy 1865-70: An Ironclad What If?

Dilandu

First Sergeant
Joined
Mar 16, 2015
Location
Moscow, Russian Federation
What are your thoughts, all?

The main question: what is your doctrine? I.e. what is your navy supposed to do? The actual post-war doctrine essentially assumed having a patrol fleet of some frigates & sloops in commission to protect communications and demonstrate the flag, some gunboats to ensure US interests in South America & East Asia, while the majority of monitors & cruisers stayed in reserve. The military doctrine was mainly based around the coastal defense (cue monitors) and commercial warfare against enemy trade (which was viewed as both deterrence against the war & strategy in actual war).

How exactly the -

active ironclad squadron,

- would fit into the doctrine? Or how do you planning to change the doctrine?
 
Joined
May 12, 2018
My doctrine is thus:

The Monitors serve in a coastal defense, but only in wartime, and are primarily kept in reserve. Some wooden gunboats\sloops of war are retained as cruisers for distant service, doing trade protection\raiding in event of war and in peacetime doing stuff that ironclads would be wasted on.

The Ironclad squadron takes up the "show the flag" role, dealing with issues in South America and perhaps abroad. The big change in doctrine is that I am angling for developing the ironclad squadron into a more modern concept of a fleet, almost always operating together rather than as individual ships. They are meant to be a kind of coexisting with the greater fleet but almost independent of it.

Admittedly, the doctrine could use some work. I don't think it'd be practical to divest the Navy of all the wooden ships, but I certainly wouldn't waste time & money on new ships of that type. Monitors are OK for Coast Defense. These ships would be ironclad frigates, so probably they'd be replacing some of the historical wooden steam sloops of war that were built after the war in the fleet. I imagine the wooden ships I'd keep around the longest would be gunboats, to better serve foreign stations with shallow water.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
The tricky thing here is that there's a period of a couple of decades at least when naval design theory is very much in a chaotic state of flux. It happens to be the case that the US Navy built very few serious combat ships in this period, and wooden screw sloops were among the least affected by the state of flux, but if they're building ironclads in this period then it's not possible for them to escape it.


As for the doctrine, the problem that I can see here is that the ironclad squadron (let's call it the Flying Squadron) is going to be taking up the lion's share of the Navy's funding - but it's not going to be doing the lion's share of the work. If you keep the whole squadron together then they can only occupy one point, for example.

The "more modern concept of a fleet" that you seem to be thinking of, I would argue, didn't ever actually exist except specifically in wartime when you expect to encounter a concentrated enemy fleet. If you look at the actual movements of WW1 or WW2 vessels they keep changing about, going in and out of reserve to be refit, and go where there are jobs that need them; the British Flying Squadrons were moved about together, but they were a small fraction of a large navy, while here you're talking about a large fraction of a small navy.
 

Dilandu

First Sergeant
Joined
Mar 16, 2015
Location
Moscow, Russian Federation
The Ironclad squadron takes up the "show the flag" role, dealing with issues in South America and perhaps abroad. The big change in doctrine is that I am angling for developing the ironclad squadron into a more modern concept of a fleet, almost always operating together rather than as individual ships. They are meant to be a kind of coexisting with the greater fleet but almost independent of it.

But what exactly this squadron's purpose? The available ironclads are poor cruisers; they could not fulfill traditional patrol role. In case of war with European power, it would ve less practical than additional monitors (even Spain and Turkey have significant fleets at this time).
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
An interesting point here is that if the US is considering some kind of potential future naval war then it's going to have to fortify the coastline. This is an extremely expensive job of work, because you're talking about fortifying all the entrance places to a continent.

The Endicott report identified 22 ports on the East or Gulf coasts as needing protection:


1. Kennebec River, ME
2. Portland, ME
3. Portsmouth, NH
4. Boston, MA
5. New Bedford, MA
6. Narragansett Bay, RI
7. Eastern entrance to Long Island Sound.
8. New York, NY
9. Delaware River
10. Baltimore, MD
11. Washington, DC
12. Hampton Roads, VA
13. Cape Fear River, NC
14. Charleston, SC
15. Port Royal, SC
16. Savannah, GA
17. Key West, FL
18. Tampa Bay, FL
19. Pensacola, FL
20. Mobile, AL
21. New Orleans, LA
22. Galveston, TX

Not all of these are perhaps vital, but most of them are significant. They will need defences capable of standing off a raid by at least a couple of modern ironclads.
The monitors are better than nothing, but one by itself is just a good way to offer a practical demonstration of the vices of cast iron laminate armour - you'll need to do a lot of building or a lot of fortifying. These works will also need somewhat regular modernization (no good that you just spent a lot of money on 15" Rodman guns, the "threat" is now ships with rifles, so better build a few hundred heavy rifles), and will be costly of land too.

You also need defences for e.g. San Francisco on the West Coast.

One plus side of this is that it means the Army won't be complaining about not getting enough funds. One minus side is that you're going to need a much bigger army.
 

edgeworthy

Private
Joined
Aug 18, 2016
For just how expensive fortifying a vital point could be, the Palmerston Forts around Portsmouth Naval Base required 42 Emplacements.
Plymouth required 28 emplacements. (And another 23 locations were fortified. From the Channel Islands to the River Clyde.)
The total costs of the castrametation program were estimated at around the equivalent of $60 Million, this proved to be hopelessly optimistic. The 4 Solent Forts alone cost the equivalent of $6 Million.
 

Dilandu

First Sergeant
Joined
Mar 16, 2015
Location
Moscow, Russian Federation
An interesting point here is that if the US is considering some kind of potential future naval war then it's going to have to fortify the coastline. This is an extremely expensive job of work, because you're talking about fortifying all the entrance places to a continent.

Generally yes, the navy capable of stopping the enemy advance in sea would be cheaper. Problem was, that US government at this time was reluctant to adopt the idea of constant military spending above the bare minimum.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Generally yes, the navy capable of stopping the enemy advance in sea would be cheaper.
I'm not actually so sure - then you'd need a sea fleet able to be at least reasonably confident of intercepting an incoming enemy.

The British have a hope in heck of doing this because they have so many cruisers for scouting, but if the Ironclad Squadron is in New York and a Spanish ironclad shows up at the Chesapeake then the US could be in trouble.
 

rebelatsea

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 30, 2013
Location
Kent ,England.
Well, they were never finished so it's not easy to tell how good they would have been in practice. You're looking at maybe 8 knots? (Same power to weight as Dictator but a beamier hull). One hopes the unseasoned wood wouldn't cause problems.
Unseasoned timber would be a problem yes.

Webb's frigates weren't US ships. The Dunderberg sort of was but the USN rejected her.
What's wrong with ordering copies of the Webb ironclads - assuming the US could produce suitable armour, and in this scenario surely the Dunderburg would be accepted?
Referring to rifled guns - what's wrong with John M Brooke's system?
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
What's wrong with ordering copies of the Webb ironclads - assuming the US could produce suitable armour, and in this scenario surely the Dunderburg would be accepted?
It means another few years' delay to get them. If you order copies of the Webb frigates you get them once Webb has done a second building cycle, and given how long the first building cycle took you'll get them into service in 1866-7.
They would have to be ahistorical, however, and I certainly thought you were saying the US had those ships...


The Dunderberg wasn't accepted and this means they had some reason for it; if the reason was that something about the ship was not what they wanted (and historically speaking that was the case) then the question has to be why they accept it - because it means they've lowered their standards.
 

rebelatsea

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 30, 2013
Location
Kent ,England.
It means another few years' delay to get them. If you order copies of the Webb frigates you get them once Webb has done a second building cycle, and given how long the first building cycle took you'll get them into service in 1866-7.
They would have to be ahistorical, however, and I certainly thought you were saying the US had those ships...


The Dunderberg wasn't accepted and this means they had some reason for it; if the reason was that something about the ship was not what they wanted (and historically speaking that was the case) then the question has to be why they accept it - because it means they've lowered their standards.
I think it was refused because it wasn't what they wanted at Wars end, but we are dealing with hypotheticals here so - if needs must -------.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I think it was refused because it wasn't what they wanted at Wars end, but we are dealing with hypotheticals here so - if needs must -------.
And the question then is why that's the case. Even as of 1864 Welles is saying he'd rather have the money than the ship, and that's when Webb has spent more money on the ship than the contract is worth!
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I think we are at cross purposes here, The OP is discussing an ironclad what if, you are talking what actually happened.
I'm aware that it's a what-if, but the divergence should follow from what actually was the case. For example, if the US does decide to keep Dunderberg, they'll be getting a ship which (at least as far as we can tell) the US Navy was not happy with during construction; if they want copies of the Webb frigates they'll have to have them constructed after the two Italian ones are largely done with, which imposes delays.

It's highly unlikely they can get their hands on seasoned timber, because there were so many ships having to be built with green timber.

These constraints will still apply after the divergence; they don't prevent the USN having an ironclad navy but they do shape what it will look like.
 

Dilandu

First Sergeant
Joined
Mar 16, 2015
Location
Moscow, Russian Federation
For example, if the US does decide to keep Dunderberg, they'll be getting a ship which (at least as far as we can tell) the US Navy was not happy with during construction;

If I recall correctly, French weren't exactly happy with her either, they brought it mostly to deny the Prussia of theoretically-capable unit. French Navy was against the whole dealt, they (rightfully) suspected that the concept of low-freeboard seagoing casemate ironclad simply could not be made practical, but Napoleon III was too impressed by Civil War naval actions, and thought her to be more powerful than she actually was.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
That was the impression I got too, it was Napoleon III buying her without listening to his naval advisors.
 
Joined
May 12, 2018
The Dunderberg had absolutely atrocious sea keeping, having real problems with weight due to numerous design changes. A lot of the reason she was sold was because it was easier to sell her and recoup the money from her construction than to try and make her a useful ship.

I'm thinking my theoretical follow-on ironclad frigate is going to be my own version of the USS Abraham Lincoln from 2000 Leauges Under the Sea, as depicted below... I'm envisioning an battery of maybe 32 guns, 28 XI in Dalghrens and 4 Parrot Rifles (anybody have more info on naval Parrots?) and a speed of say 12 knots? She'd be commissioning in 1866 or 67. I almost wonder if she couldn't be built in France?
20000_abraham_lincoln.jpg


If y'all had to choose some fleet mates for her from extant designs, would you choose New Ironsides, or Stonewall? I feel like Stonewall might be a better compliment for her thanks to her higher speed than New Ironsides... also a very similar look. On the other hand, the Stonewall design is very much a corvette and not a frigate by the standards of the day.
 

Dilandu

First Sergeant
Joined
Mar 16, 2015
Location
Moscow, Russian Federation
If y'all had to choose some fleet mates for her from extant designs, would you choose New Ironsides, or Stonewall? I feel like Stonewall might be a better compliment for her thanks to her higher speed than New Ironsides... also a very similar look. On the other hand, the Stonewall design is very much a corvette and not a frigate by the standards of the day.

I'll go for sea-capable breastwork monitors, with two Eads turrets. They could remain combat-capable longer, than battery ironclads (which essentially died out rather quickly, due to inability to armor the large battery against modern rifled artillery).
 

rebelatsea

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 30, 2013
Location
Kent ,England.
I'll go for sea-capable breastwork monitors, with two Eads turrets. They could remain combat-capable longer, than battery ironclads (which essentially died out rather quickly, due to inability to armor the large battery against modern rifled artillery).
Oooh - you will upset Ericson !
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Ok, I tend to lurk these threads because I love ships, know almost nothing ( so have nothing useful to add ). Ran into Dunderberg awhile ago, you folks just filled in some blanks. Became smitten because it seemed such crazy undertaking, did a thread, still knew nothing-much. Little more now, thanks! ( sorry, off thread..... )

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/us...ebbs-thunderous-mountain.160108/#post-2092405
 
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