Wednesday, June 29, 2011

NOAA/Navy Archeological Survey (and the answer to WWTT?: Simms)

NOAA and Navy to conduct archaeological survey of two Civil War shipwrecks in Hampton Roads, Va.

This is indeed very interesting news. The rest of the CWN150 team and I are very happy about the potential this project has to produce new findings and educate the public. And 3D maps? I am so excited!

On a different note, the answer to the Where Were They Then?: Simms post on 14 June: Simms was present at the Japanese visit to the Washington Navy Yard in 1860. Seaman Rob got the answer correct.

NOAA Day at Nauticus and HRNM Report

This past Saturday, the Hampton Roads Naval Museum participated in NOAA Day at Nauticus in Norfolk, VA.  HRNM Educators and Interns conducted two programs for the event, including the debut of the first CWN 150 Educational Program, Blockade: The Anaconda Plan.  We had a lot of positive feedback and results from the event, especially for the new interactive game.  Our plan is to have the program complete by the end of summer, making it available as an instructional CD and lesson plan to any teacher/educator/CWN enthusiast.  Here are some images from the day.

USS Cumberland:  Underwater Archaeology Grid Mapping Activity
Here is the Title Slide for the new CWN 150 program Blockade: The Anaconda Plan
Participants are given choices and follow the game based on their decisions, either as a Confederate Blockade Runner or Union Squadron Commander.
Image of Gameplay:  Patrolling New Inlet at Wilmington.
Visitor participating in the game as a Union Blockade Commander.
From the Quarterdeck: Where 3 choices are given: Only one correct answer.

Friday, June 17, 2011

June Updates

Marine Guard Pawnee
The U.S. Marine Guard Steam Sloop of War USS Pawnee works closely with the USS Fort Henry (our very own CWN 150 blogger Rob Mattson is a member of) and the National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus doing reenactments and living history.  According to Steve Fetherman, former Marine Corps Office and member of the United States Marine Corps Historical Company, they have 15 members and are growing.  There information will be included on the "Organizations" tab on the top menu bar on this blog.  Semper Fi and welcome!


The Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial commemoration's HQ at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum is proud to debut a new program next Saturday (25 June) at the 2011 Cumberland Expedition and NOAA Day at Nauticus/HRNM in Norfolk, VA.  Titled, "The Anaconda Plan," this program (along with a demonstration and activity involving Underwater Archaeology) will be open for the public from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm next Saturday.  This is the first of five new Civil War Navy educational programs and activities created for the Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial (one per year). 

Yes, that is right.  HRNM/NHHC and NOAA staff members will be going out to the wreck site of the USS Cumberland this summer.  We are also working closely with a production studio on the creation of a new Civil War Navy Youtube video.  Exciting! Will be back with more information as it comes!

Full Speed Ahead!
Matthew T. Eng
Coordinator, CWN 150

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Civil War at Sea: Full Panel Videos now Available on Navy.TV

All of the panel videos for the 2011 Civil War at Sea Conference at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. are now available on  You can go directly to the site on HERE or by clicking on each of the pictures below to link you to their respective video.  Enjoy.
Session I: Keynote Address Civil WarNavies: An Overview
Craig Symonds

Session II Panel, Part 1: War Comes to Washington
Robert J. Schneller, Jr.

Session II Panel, Part 2: War Comes to Washington (Rebel Prisoners)
Andrew C.A. Jampoler

Session III: None Can be More Vigilant Than We Are: The Blockade During the Civil War
Robert M. Browning

Session IV: Research and Recovery of USS Cumberland
Gordon Calhoun
Session V: Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye: The Civil War Navy in Public Memory
Matthew Eng

Session VI: Farragut and Cushing, Profiles in Command: The Union Navy's Greatest Senior and Junior Officers
Robert J. Schneller, Jr.

Session VII: Clad in Iron: The American Civil War and the Challenge of British Naval Power
Howard J. Fuller

Session VIII: The US Revenue Cutter Service in the Civil War
William H. Thiesen
Session IX: CSS Shenandoah and the Last Shot of the Civil War
William Connery
Session X:  Recovery of the Confederate Submarine H.L. Hunley
Bob Neyland

Introducing the Timberclads

To confirm the veracity of the old idiom that "necessity is the mother of invention," one need look no further than the Union's summer 1861 naval buildup in the West.

There was certainly no shortage of owners willing to sell their steamboats to the Army for a handsome price. In a stroke of luck for the United States, most of the shipping on the Mississippi and its tributaries was under Northern ownership. And after the introduction of non-intercourse laws, many vessels were left idle in port, barred from trading with the new Confederate enemy.

So with a glut of available shipping and unemployed laborers, Navy Commander John Rodgers enjoyed a wide selection of some of the choicest vessels in the West. From May 1861 onward, Rodgers, as an agent of the Army, purchased a large number of formerly civilian steamboats. Most of these acquisitions would go on to serve as troop and supply transports operated by the Army Quartermaster Department. A smaller number would be converted to fight.

While Rodgers, Eads, and Pook hammered out the designs for a new class of purpose-built ironclads, on 7 June Rodgers bought three commercial steamboats at Cincinnati, Ohio. These vessels were the A.O. Tyler, Lexington, and Conestoga, approved in consultation with constructor Samuel Pook and General McClellan. With major structural improvements, initial price estimates placed each vessel at $34,000.

Refitting these civilian craft for combat service required a prodigious amount of labor and capital, and Rodgers wasn't confident the makeshift fleet could get the job done. In early June, the captain wrote to Secretary Welles of the difficulties he faced:
All the river boats are so different from war vessels in all their appliances that considerable alterations are necessary to fit them for use. They needed a good deal of strengthening, and because the crew would be liable to be picked off while passing along the banks of the river in places where no effectual return could be made to the fire of an individual, I decided upon putting bulwarks of oak plank 5 inches thick, which I found by experiment a sufficient guard against small arms. The boiler and engines cannot be defended against cannon shot. We must take our chances.

The trio of steamboats needed new, strengthened internal supports to manage the extra weight of cannon, equipment, and expanded crew. To clear space for the men at quarters, their engines and boilers were dropped into the unprotected hold. High wooden walls were added to provide security for the crew. Unlike future fighting vessels on the Mississippi, The Tyler, Lexington, and Conestoga would not be encased in iron. The thick, oaken bulwark Rodgers described to Welles would be their only real protection in an engagement. They would be clad in timber. In a final iconic touch, Pook gave each timberclad two extra-tall smokestacks (or "chimneys") which helped visually distinguish this unique class of fighting ship.

Although their armament was minor compared to the deep water ships of the US Navy, the Timberclads still packed a punch. In its 1861 state, the Tyler carried six 8-inch guns and an additional 32-pounder cannon. Her sister ships were roughly as powerful. While the Timberclads were not suitable to go tête-à-tête with a Confederate ironclad, they would provide valuable security for troop and supply movements. And, as at the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862, these hardy boats could bombard enemy troops and help turn the tide of a land engagement.

Low water in the Ohio River prevented the Timberclads from arriving at Cairo until August 12. Within weeks, however, these first Western Gunboat Flotilla vessels would begin interdicting illicit trade with the South, and soon encountered real challenges.

For more information on the Timberclads, see Craig Swain's Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial piece on the Tyler. The authoritative work on this class is Myron J. Smith's The Timberclads in the Civil War: The Lexington, Conestoga, and Tyler on the Western Waters.Link

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Where Were They Then?: Lt. Charles C. Simms, CSN

Where Were They Then? is a series of posts in which a Civil War Navy figure is introduced by his Civil War accomplishments and you are asked to guess something about his pre-war life or service. Whomever accumulates the most correct first-posted answers by 31 December 2011 will win a prize (TBA).

Charles Carroll Simms, a First Lieutenant in the Confederate Navy, was present on the Virginia during the Battle of Hampton Roads, on the Nansemond on the James River, and on the Baltic and Nashville while assigned to the Mobile Squadron in 1865.

But can you guess where he also was present? Here are a few hints:
- The event occurred in 1860.
- Future admirals David Dixon Porter and Samuel DuPont were also present.
- A photograph exists of the event.

Comment with your guesses! Remember, whomever has the most first-posted correct answers by 31 December 2011 will win a prize (TBA)!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Blockade Begins !!

Following President Lincoln's declaration of a blockade of the southern coast on 19 April 1861, the US Navy moved to implement the President's orders. The blockade was initially organized as the Atlantic Blockading Squadron (Flag Officer Silas H. Stringham commanding) and the Gulf Blockading Squadron (Flag Officer William Mervine commanding). Navy warships on foreign stations were recalled, and as they arrived and were refitted, began to take up station on the blockade. The USS Niagara took up station off Charleston, SC on 10 May 1861; about two weeks later, the USS Brooklyn was off the Mississippi River mouth on 26 May. By early July Stringham had 22 warships at his disposal, and Mervine had 21.

The overall blockade strategy was set by the Commission of Conference, also referred to as the Blockade Board, under the chairmanship of Capt. Samuel F. Du Pont. The Board realized that the extensiveness of the coastline of the Confederacy was both blessing and curse. On the one hand, that extensiveness would make effective implementation of the blockade an immense task; at the same time, it would also make it difficult for the Confederacy to defend. The Board conceived of a series of amphibious operations off the Confederate Altlantic and Gulf Coasts to secure bases of operation from which the ships of the Blockade could operate.

Stringham led a squadron of six warships, two army transports and supporting vessels against Hatteras Inlet, NC in August 1861 (more on that when we get to August). The end result of this expedition was the first of many successful US Navy victories along the Confederate coast. Despite this, criticism of Stringham forced his resignation; and the Atlantic Squadron was divided into the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, under the command of Flag Officer Louis M. Goldsborough, and the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, under the command of Flag Officer Du Pont. The North Atlantic Squadron was responsible for the coasts of Virginia and N. Carolina, while the South Atlantic Squadron patrolled the coasts of S. Carolina, Georgia, and NE Florida down to Cape Canaveral.

By the beginning of 1862, the Gulf Squadron was similarly divided into the East Gulf Blockading Squadron, responsible for the Florida Coast from Cape Canaveral around to St. Andrew's Bay, and the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, which had the remainder of the Gulf Coast from St. Andrew's Bay to the mouth of the Rio Grande River at the US/Mexico Border. This arrangement remained throughout the rest of the war.


Tucker, Spencer C. Blue and Gray Navies. The Civil War Afloat. Annapolis: Naval Institue Press, 2006.

Simson, Jay W. Naval Strategies of the Civil War. Nashville: Cumberland House, 2001.