Brev. Brig. Gen'l
- Feb 14, 2012
- Central Pennsylvania
From LoC, print of USS Dunderberg , William H. Webb's lavishly designed and expensively built ironclad. It was to have been the most formidable war ship afloat, the Union navy's ultimate weapon. Someone described Dunderberg as a huge, two masted version of CSS Virginia.
Please move to the Naval Forum if that's a better place. Our period artwork can be a treasure trove of for Forgetten History 101- I'd never heard of the Dunderberg although the experts probably know the mother's maiden name of the designer. Love to hear what anyone's take on this would be? I'm not big on ' What If's ' but this one would be thought provoking. War changer?
When Harper's Weekly does a full-page spread on something you know it was huge news of the era. Begun in late 1862 ( keel laid down Oct. 3 ) , by early 1863 William H. Webb's naval yard near Brooklyn was a hive of expensive activity. He'd been paid around 30 million on today's money to deliver the ship that would end all other claims to naval victory.
IMO, there's something a little Barnum about Webb. From July 1865's post war launch, article brings up the best known ironclad clash and glosses over the fact the Dunderberg was to have entered the fray, too
Harper's spread and article from 1863. Webb's shipyard during the ship's construction.
The year rolled into another. Webb encountered some problems- lack of materials during times of war was one. The draft riots, a workers' strike and higher wages taxed even William Webb's resources. By 1864 the ship was considered an iron and wood white elephant. From reading accounts it also seems Webb cut some corners in an effort to speed building. Green wood, not seasoned was used in a lot of her construction. Battling rot and insects wasn't helpful and cost Webb nearly the entire price paid back to the government.
Webb finally sold her to the French. Renamed Rochambeau in 1867, the French spent yet more money in a refit- she served the French during the Franco-Prussion war, carrying nearly 600 men. Decommissioned in 1872, by 1874 she was scrap.
Love to hear the what-if's? Would Dunderberg have made a difference or was the entire concept a poor one?
That's ok. The French bought her, re-naming the massive double turreted warship