Brass Napoleon Award Were Confederate Ironclads Worth The Effort/Cost?

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wausaubob

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A good gunboat that is ready for action and has sister ships, is worth more than a magnificent ironclad which is still in dry dock.
When the United States held on to St. Louis, and turned Scott's public plan on its head and came in through the back door and captured New Orleans, they knew what they were doing.
I am not an expert on the naval battle of Memphis, but my guess is that speed and maneuverability mattered as much or more than armor. It certainly demonstrated that readiness matters more then innovative design.
 

wausaubob

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Dave's argument is based on the likelihood that by 1863 the logistical situation in Richmond was so bad that General Lee's best option was to invade Pennsylvania, and he was lucky not to lose his army in so doing.
Simalarly at Chattanooga, the besieged army ended up eating better than the besieging army. Grant tried to tell us that Chattanooga the Confederate army had become passive.
But everyone wants to argue with Grant.
 

wausaubob

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The problem is that many of the Civil War generals and politicians were captivated by Napoleon. The drama of the uniformed land armies and the allure of the climatic land battle had them hypnotized.
But not everyone was so enamored of Napoleon.
The United States had commanders and generals who knew that the British had sponsored a guerilla war against France and Spain, and ably supported it by sea, and that by 1861 steamships and railroads could do things that would have Napoleon's problem in Russia much smaller.
Davis, Lee, McClellan, but especially the east coast press in both sections, were captivated by Napoleonic fever. But naval commanders knew the British had won another way. Sherman and Grant had missed the rise of the French translations and the geometric theories.
Moreover in the United States there was a heavy influence of Germans who did not like Napoleon and were aware Napoleon had lost.
 
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CT Ertz

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Can you point to any serious attacks that were deterred by the presence of CSN ironclads, except in the places I listed them as useful?
Um.. The Union Navy attack up the Red River was delayed because of the knowlage that the CSS Missouri was on the Red. The Missouri was weekly armored, under gunned, under manned and untested in battle... And would remain so until wars end.
 

DaveBrt

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Um.. The Union Navy attack up the Red River was delayed because of the knowlage that the CSS Missouri was on the Red. The Missouri was weekly armored, under gunned, under manned and untested in battle... And would remain so until wars end.
And in what way would the war have been different if the ship had not been there? I can think of no strategic goal that could have been accomplished in that area, so both sides would be wasting resources that should have been used in a more significant location.
 

CT Ertz

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Maybe. But from the Souths point of view an ironclad... Any ironclad... Forced the union to react to them rather then the other way around. I really don't think they saw past that. Knowing that they would always be out numbered and out gunned, they wanted ironclads. If one ironclad can tie up 6 Union ships then the awnser is simple. Build or convert more ironclads. I think that the poor cooperation, poor roads and rails, and limited resources hampered this idea. But they knew that they were on to something.

Frankly, the Virginia started off the show pretty good on March 8th 1862. Then lost the navel war on March 9th by loosing sight of it's mission. It was ment to clear out the wooden blockading ships. One small Monitor could not have stopped this from happening if the Virginia would have ignored the smaller ship and simply decimated every wooden Yankee ship afloat. Choosing to forego it's mission to fight a duel was a waste.

Just a thought.
 
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wausaubob

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Once the Monitor shows up all the other United States ships can stand out to sea until the Virginia has to return to base. And they just might think of going out to sea with a few regiments of soldiers. No telling where they might go.
 

DaveBrt

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Maybe. But from the Souths point of view an ironclad... Any ironclad... Forced the union to react to them rather then the other way around. I really don't think they saw past that. Knowing that they would always be out numbered and out gunned, they wanted ironclads. If one ironclad can tie up 6 Union ships then the awnser is simple. Build or convert more ironclads.
But this is the emotional view -- they needed a serious strategic thinker to guide them to make the best decisions, not just the gut responses. An ironclad that ties down 6 ships is a waste of resources, if the resources used to build it could have been better used elsewhere or if the 6 ships could have caused strategic damage that could have been prevented by the ironclad.

Responding to your gut is the reason the US built battle cruisers in WW2, the reason Germany twice challenged England with their naval plans, the reason Japan attacked the US (instead of bypassing the PI and hoping the US would stay isolationist).
 

wausaubob

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Decisions about ironclads made in 1861 were made with imperfect knowledge. After the first battle of Manassass, and after the Confederates saw the Monitor, with the hope of a short war fading, the importance of the Richmond railroad network should have been clear. In the absence of a true industrial naval center, gambling on individual ironclads was a low odds gamble. But the same thing happened in London. After January 1863 the chances of getting British built rams to the Confederacy was very low.
 
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DaveBrt

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Decisions about ironclads made in 1861 were made with imperfect knowledge. After the first battle of Manassass, and after the Confederates saw the Monitor, with the hope of a short war fading, the importance of the Richmond railroad network should have been clear. In the absence of a true industrial naval center, gambling on individual ironclads was a low odds gamble. But the same thing happened in London. After January 1863 the chances of getting British built rams to the Confederacy was very low.
True, but there were ironclads started in 1864, with no strategic purpose. There was supposedly one being started up river from the Albemarle, with the agents out trying to find RR rail for armor when the Albemarle was sunk.
 

historicus

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While I would be very sorry to lose the Confederate ironclads (they're interesting!), the Confederacy really should have put together a more coherent defense strategy based on delay at minimal cost-- which in the naval sphere, unquestionably pointed to torpedoes, which had a demonstrably powerful effect, both in sinking Union vessels and in sharply increasing the caution of Union vessel commanders after they'd seen some of those sinkings.
What Union vessels in the Civil War were sunk by torpedoes other than the USS Cairo?
 

USS ALASKA

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What Union vessels in the Civil War were sunk by torpedoes other than the USS Cairo?
In 'America's Use of Sea Mines' by Robert C Duncan, he quotes 27 ships sunk...

This USN site also claims 27 and '...damaged many more.'
3565

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Polloco

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I agree , I was thumbing through this thread as I find it very interesting. The web sight listed above has nothing to do with ships and mines. Another thing of interest was the listing of Galveston as one of the seaports taken in the last 6 months of the war. I'm not familiar with that incident.
 

DaveBrt

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What Union vessels in the Civil War were sunk by torpedoes other than the USS Cairo?
Among others sunk were: The double monitor USS Milwaukee and single monitor Osage were sunk March 27 and 28, the tinclad USS Rodolph April 1, and the gunboats USS Ida and USS Sciota the following week with total casualties of 9 killed and 16 wounded. The USS Rose was sunk 2 weeks after the battle ended. All 1865 in the Mobile campaign.
 
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USS ALASKA

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Your exwar website link takes me to a website that has nothing to do with the Civil War.
Dang, don't know how that happened - I have removed the bad link...

Historians say that mines, or torpedoes, claimed thirty-five Union ships and one Confederate vessel during the Civil War. Gabriel Rains claimed fifty-eight in his postwar memoir, although he does not make clear whether he counted vessels of any size sunk by water-borne mines. Nor does he offer any estimates of how many sailors were killed or wounded by mines.

https://armyhistory.org/mine-warfare-in-the-civil-war/
3722

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USS ALASKA

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Collection; Master of Military Art and Science Theses
Title; Impact of mine warfare upon U.S. naval operations during the Civil War.
Author; Lindgren, Edwin D.

Abstract; This study investigates the impact of Confederate naval mine warfare against the operations of the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. Mine warfare was a cost effective method for the Confederacy to defend its long coastline and inland waterways. A wide variety of fixed, moored, and drifting mines were deployed and used with effect at locations along the Atlantic coast, the Gulf coast, and along rivers, including those in the Mississippi basin. Despite loss and damage to thirty-five Union naval vessels, mine use had virtually no strategic impact upon the course of the war. At the operational level, effects were apparent. Federal naval operations at Charleston and on the Roanoke River were frustrated, in large part because of the mine threat. The impact of mines was great at the tactical level. These cost effective weapons caused delays in Union operations, resulted in involved countermine operations, and caused fear and apprehension in crews. The lessons from the mine warfare experience of the Civil War are still applicable in today's warfare environment. Naval mines are a preferred weapon of minor naval powers and the U.S. Navy will be required to deal with this threat when operating in the World's coastal regions.

Series; Command and General Staff College (CGSC) MMAS thesis
Publisher; Fort Leavenworth, KS : US Army Command and General Staff College,
Date; Original 1994-06-03
Date; Digital 2007
Call number; ADA 284553
Release statement; Approved for public release; Distribution is unlimited. The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of the student-authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College or any other governmental agency. (References to these studies should include the foregoing statement.)
Repository; Combined Arms Research Library
Library; Combined Arms Research Library Digital Library
Date created; 2007-08-29

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USS ALASKA
 

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Carronade

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Of the five Confederate seaports captured during the last six months of the war—Savannah, Charleston, Wilmington, Mobile, and Galveston—two were taken by Union land forces from the rear and two others indirectly as a result of pressure from the rear. Ironclads figured prominently in the defenses of all of the ports but one, Galveston
A classic error in logic, presuming that because ironclads were present, they must have contributed to the defense. Can anyone cite examples in which ironclads figured prominently? The seaward approaches to ports were defended by forts, batteries, and torpedos. The big naval attack on Charleston was repelled by gunfire from shore batteries; Chicora and Palmetto State were present, but the result would have been no different without them.

In the end, innovation, ingenuity, and hard work enabled the Confederacy to put into service the strongest ironclad navy possible given the South’s limitations..."
True as far as it goes, and I think this explains the reluctance to acknowledge that their effort and ingenuity may not have been worthwhile.

p.s. USS ALASKA was citing William N. Still, Jr. in the above quotations.
 
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RochesterBill

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To me, far more than the wasted resources involved with the ironclads, Mallory's real mistake was his infatuation with commerce raiders.

Sure a good captain could take, say, the Alabama on a long Atlantic cruise and sink or capture a bunch of US shipping. But so what?

The north had thousands of civilian merchantmen plying the high seas and it would have taken dozens of Alabamas a couple years to put much of a dent in trade.

And when the lists of captured or sunk ships includes whaling vessels and other such completely pointless "victories", someone should have asked why.

As noted, there was never any kind of organized naval strategy and no clear cut goals, which is always a killer when it comes to fighting a war.
 
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