wooden ships

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1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Mar 16, 2016
Andy, can't an iron clad have a wooden hull?
Sir, CSS Virginia was built atop USS Merrimack's wooden hull and her armor attached to a wooden casement.



Iron clad being just that - a wooden vessel clad in iron. The Confederacy didn't have the excess iron production capacity to build the entire vessel of metal. Plus, building the ship out of wood then covering the vital exposed areas with iron was quicker and easier than an entire metal vessel for the CSN.

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Aug 26, 2007
Central Florida
I found this site on Mental Hulls...


A snippet... a story about the USS Michigan

At the same time it was harnessing steam power for ship propulsion, the Navy was making advances in ship construction. The Navy began making its ships with iron instead of wooden hulls. The first iron ship was authorized by Congress in 1841. In 1843 the Navy launched it first iron-hulled warship [as well as first prefabricated ship] the Paddle sloop USS Michigan. The USS MICHIGAN, renamed the USS WOLVERINE, was the first iron warship in the US Navy and probably the first iron or steel warship of her size in the world. This side-wheeler was 163 feet long and displaced 685 tons. She was powered by a 170-horsepower, two-cylinder, steam engine. Without using its sails, the USS Michigan was capable of making 8 knots. She was originally designed as a "three-mast, topsail schooner" with auxiliary steam power. Michigan was designed by naval constructor Samuel Hart; fabricated in parts at Pittsburgh, Pa., during the last half of 1842; and carried overland to Erie, Pa., where assembled. When Hart attempted to launch this pioneer steam man-of-war 5 December 1843, she slipped down the ways some 50 feet but halted and stuck before reaching water. After strenuous but fruitless efforts to prod the ship into resuming her descent were ended by darkness, the shipwrights retired for the night. But upon returning to the shipyard before the next morning, Hart found the ways empty. Some distance offshore Michigan floated easily in Lake Erie, after launching herself in the night. She commissioned 29 September 1844.

Michigan's mission was to patrol the often volitile Great Lakes region, quelling port town civil disturbances, while at the same time rescuing both Canadian and American ships in distress. During the course of it's duty ship and crew engaged in battling lumber pirates, The Mormon tyrant (King) Jesse James Strang of Beaver Island as well as Miners and conflicts associated with the Civil War. The MICHIGAN was on duty on the Great Lakes during the Civil War but never engaged in battle. In March 1864 Secretary Welles ordered Commander John C. Carter to have USS Michigan "prepared for active service as soon as the ice will permit." Michigan, an iron side-wheel steamer, was at Erie, Pennsylvania, and it was rumored that the Confederates were planning a naval raid from Canada against a city on the Great Lakes. When fundraising efforts failed to acquire sufficient money for her restoration and preservation, she was cut up and sold for scrap in 1949. The next year her bow and cutwater were erected as a monument, near the shipyard where she had been built.

Snippet... Zambezi River story...

The cranes of Cammell Laird shipyard cast long shadows over Birkenhead. Among the famous ships to go down the old yard's great slipways onto the Mersey was the world's first steel ship, the Ma Roberts, built in 1858 by John Laird for Dr David Livingstone's Zambezi expedition. The river that flows through Newcastle is called her the River Tyne. This river was part of a significant history told long long time ago. The first steel ship was constructed here. In March 1858 at age 46 he set out for Africa. On New Year's Day, 1859, the Scottish explorer turned the bow of his boat, the Ma-Roberts to the north. Steaming, out of the mighty Zambezi River, from what is now Mozambique and into the Shire River, he thus changed the course of history for a small mysterious part of Africa. There were myriad obstacles to the navigation of the Zambezi. His modern equipped boat, the Ma Roberts, was more of a hindrance than a help. She was so slow that a native canoe could easily outdistance her. She burned so much fuel that half of the time was given just to cut wood for her. At the beginning of 1861 a new boat, the Pioneer, came to replace its antiquated predecessor.

More snippets...

The full-rigged ship, Formby, was built in Liverpool by Jones, Quiggin & Co. in 1863. Although iron was replacing timber in the construction of larger ships, Formby was probably the first full-rigged ship to be built of steel. Although her hull form allowed a much greater cargo capacity than the fast tea clippers, she can be described as a medium clipper and at 1,271 tons she typifies the cargo ships of the 1860s.

As pioneer in shipbuilding industry of China, Jiangnan Shipyard has made significant contributions to the country. In 1868, China's first steel ship known as Hui Ji was successfully built.

The dispatch vessel Iris (later reclassified as a 2nd Class cruiser), the Royal Navy's first steel ship, was launched in 1877. The Royal Navy's last composite built ship, the sloop Blonde, was launched in 1889, and the following year saw the final end of the use of wood for ship construction when the training brig Mayflower was launched.

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