Thursday, 11 October 2012

In response to another blog.

I've just come across a blogspot post of someone who really objects to something I wrote: http://planetar65.blogspot.be/2012/09/american-civil-war-ironclads.html

I've seen similar arguments a lot from what one commentator once dubbed "ameriteens". One of the fundamental issues I have is a lack of consistency in the argument. Oh, and referencing Howard Fuller. One should always double check some things. For example, he quotes from Fuller as follows:

From 'An Admiralty Return ordered by Parliament on June 30, 1862, "of all Iron-Cased Ships and Floating Batteries Building or Afloat," noted [as of July 17, 1862]:  Iron-hulled [built]                                 Warrior, Black Prince, Defence, Resistance  Iron-hulled Floating Batteries: Trusty, Thunder, Glatton, Aetna, Hector, Valiant, Achilles.  Iron-hulled [building]: Minotaur, Agincourt, Northumberland, Prince Albert  [Data from Clad In Iron, By Howard J. Fuller]

Anyone familiar with the subject in hand would immediately ask where is Royal Oak, Ocean, Prince Consort etc.

One should check the Navy List, the 20th December 1862 edition is handily online: http://archive.org/stream/navylist03admigoog#page/n5/mode/2up which lists:


  1. Achilles (building at Chatham, reserve from December 1863, Commissioned into the Channel Fleet September 1864)
  2. Agincourt (building at Birkenhead, reserve on 26th May 1864, Commissioned 1867)
  3. Black Prince (in Commission with the Channel Fleet)
  4. Caledonia (in reserve at Woolwich from 2nd February 1863, Commissioned into the Med. Fleet July 1865)
  5. Defence (in Commission with the Channel Fleet)
  6. Enterprise (building at Deptford, Commissioned into the Med. Fleet May 1864)
  7. Erebus (in deep reserve a Portsmouth)
  8. Favourite (building at Deptford, Commissioned into the American Fleet 1866)
  9. Glatton (in deep reserve at Portsmouth)
  10. Hector (building at Glasgow, reserve from October 1862, Commissioned into Channel Fleet 1864)
  11. Minotaur (building at Blackwell, reserve on 15 December 1863, Commissioned into the Channel Fleet 1867)
  12. Northumberland (building at Millwall, reserve in 1866, Commissioned into the Channel Fleet 1868)
  13. Ocean (building at Devonport, in reserve from 23rd March 1863, Commissioned into the Channel Fleet 1866)
  14. Prince Albert (building at Millwall, reserve from 20th May 1864, Commissioned almost immediately into the Channel Fleet to test the turrets)
  15. Prince Consort (building at Pembroke, reserve from 14th January 1863, Commissioned into the Channel Fleet 1864)
  16. Research (building at Pembroke, reserve from March 1864, and Commissioned next month into the Channel Fleet)
  17. Resistance (in Commission with the Channel Fleet)
  18. Royal Alfred (building at Portsmouth, in reserve October 1864, Commissioned into the American Fleet Jan. 1867)
  19. Royal Oak (building at Chatham, in reserve 13th September 1862, Commissioned into 27th April 1863 into the Channel Fleet)
  20. Royal Sovereign (building at Portsmouth, complete as turret ship 20th August 1864 and placed on Harbour Commission in October, but was never fully Commissioned)
  21. Terror (in Commission on the Bermuda station)
  22. Thunder (in deep reserve at Sheerness)
  23. Thunderbolt (in deep reserve on the River Thames)
  24. Trusty (in deep reserve at Woolwich)
  25. Valiant (building at Millwall, reserve from October 1863, Commissioned 1868)
  26. Warrior (in Commission with the Channel Fleet)
  27. Zealous (building at Glasgow, reserve from December 1864, Commissioned into the Pacific Fleet 1866)
Or 12 ships more than the above. Anyway, his direct challenges to me:


  I don't know where 67th Tigers gets his figures, but there were less than ten (10) seagoing ironclads available to the Royal Navy in the years 1861-1865. Perhaps he confused them with less seaworthy craft such as the Aetna-Class monitors, of which four remained afloat after the Crimean War. I do agree with him that the riverine casement ironclads and smaller monitors were incapable of harassing the Royal Navy in a blue water deployment, although some of the bigger monitors would have been capable of ocean travel, but their speed would have been ridiculously slow and coal consumption prohibitive, requiring an escorting collier. The health of the crew under such extended-range circumstances would likewise have been self-defeating. However, as brown water vessels and supported by a comprehensive system of fortifications ashore, the Union Navy would have effectively repelled any Royal Navy effort to occupy a major seaport along the Atlantic coast.
Assuming we ignore the Aetna and Erebus classes still around from 1856 (although it should be noted HMS Terror was active along the US/CS coast) when are 10 seagoing ironclads available even without going to double shifts?

Already in Commission (4): Warrior, Black Prince, Defence, Resistance
Entry to reserve (requires storing, arming and crewing, ca. 1 months work is necessary): Royal Oak (9/62), Hector (10/62), Prince Consort (1/63), Caledonia (2/63), Ocean (3/63), Valiant (10/63)

Thus the "less than ten armoured frigates" becomes invalid in October 1863 when Valiant becomes available. In the event of a war over, say the Trent affair, all these would be in service in 1862. When Valiant becomes available in October 1863 the USN has 11 ironclads (New Ironsides, Roanoke and 9 Passaics), and so by this measure has more. However if the 1856 ironclads are added back in the USN has less, and by losses a few months later the USN will have less anyway.

   As for 67th Tigers' contempt for the casement ironclads, he forgets that the USS Cumberland, while being destroyed by the casement ironclad CSS Virginia, had unloaded salvos of eleven (11) 9" Dahlgren guns from her starboard battery--at point blank range--to no avail. Presumably, the Union casement ironclads would enjoy similar invulnerability, at least during the couple of years a Royal Navy counter-blockade was likely to be brought to bear--and at a pace only as fast as the Palmerston government capacity for making the call on whether or not to declare war on the United States and support the Confederacy in defense of slavery!
USS Cumberland of course did quite a bit of damage to CSS Virginia, with her 12 engaged guns knocking out 2 of Virginias. Cumberlands problem was that she was a sail ship at anchor in the age of steam.

 Regarding 'although about this time the RN starts putting ordnance into service capable of piercing Monitor turrets at extreme ranges'. Range was worthless without a seaworthy delivery system. Range was worthless without a competitive arc of fire, given the ability of the Monitor type to turn perpendicular to a serious threat and, thus, minimize the enemy's target zone, blunting the benefit of traditional broadsides volley fire. I doubt improved shot fired from exiting Royal Navy guns could have sufficiently zeroed in on the next-to-invisible silhouette of Monitors at 'extreme range'. I mean no disrespect to 67th Tigers, but I wonder whether he has taken these factors into account. At encitizendium.org, under Turrets, it states: "The Royal Navy began using turreted guns in 1864. Seagoing Royal Navy turret ships of the 1860s had masts and rigging, a protective forecastle, and a poop on the stern, which together limited the arc of fire to 120 to 132 degrees. The weight of the hull armor, turrets, and masts made these ships dangerously top heavy [Naval Guns And Gunnery, "Turrets"http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Naval_guns_and_gunnery].
The period was one of flux. In 1862 RN ships mounted a mix of guns. The armoured ships mainly mounted the 68 pdr 95 cwt which was the best armour piercing piece available, and has a significantly better performance against armour than any gun afloat except perhaps the 15" Dahlgren after heavy charges are authorised. Unlike the USN the RN issued steel shot for their guns to improve performance against armour. A 72 lb steel shot propelled by 16 lbs of naval powder from the 68 is a significantly better proposition against armour than the 11" Dahlgren.

The Armstrong 7" RBL was primarily for use against wooden ships. Their accurate shellfire (as opposed to the high velocity punching power of the 68 pdr) was more dangerous to wooden ships. Solid shot from this piece would still damage a monitor though.

However, things moved on. By the time some of the latter heavy monitors are complete the RN have adopted a high velocity muzzle loading rifle and palliser shot and shell. The 7" RML of 1864 could penetrate 7.7 inches of wrought iron plating, and hence would break straight through a typical monitors turret (remembering lamination effects).

  The last traditional ships of the line built for the Royal Navy was the Duncan-Class and the Bulwark-Class, which actually was a third sistership. They sported 101-guns each, mounting a heavy battery of 36 8" naval rifles on the gun deck--8" being too inferior a caliber to penetrate the Monitor's turret. One of the Duncan's completed as the single-ship Bulwark-Class, which offered no improvement in naval gunnery capable of penetrating those troublesome little Monitors.
No Bulwark was completed as a wooden "line of battle ship". All were completed as ironclads.

  The four Prince Consort-Class iron clads that would also have been available during the Civil War for Royal Navy use would have been splendid opponents for the wooden Union Navy, but, again, with only 24 7" guns, would have managed only to rattle the crew inside the Monitors, although such a psychological turmoil, coupled with the poor ventilation when the turret was closed up for battle stations, might well have limited the time a Monitor could spend in any single engagement. Consider, too, that the traditional broadside arrangement of the Warrior and the Prince Consort's meant only half of their weaponry could be brought to bear on a target at any given time. Twelve (12) 7" guns being fired at the shadowy Monitor silhouette, at far range, were not likely to score a salvo hit, but perhaps one or two might have struck, bouncing off.
In 1863 they would have had 68 pdrs as their main armament.


  Regarding the Resistance and the Defence, we have again an inadequate caliber of naval gunnery. After 1867, the two ships mounted just two (2) 8" and fourteen (14) 7" breech-loading naval guns. 
Muzzle loaders on the Woolwich principle. The 7" and 8" will be putting shell through most monitor turrets at ~ 800 yars.

  The Armstrong guns.
  As far as I can tell, the older 68-pounder smooth bore was still the Royal Navy's best weapon for use against a Civil War monitor. Armstrong guns featured a breech loading mechanism that could not endure the explosion of heavy cartridges, so lighter cartridge charges were used, resulting in a lower muzzle velocity--and a diminishment in armor-penetrating impact. No Armstrong gun available to the Royal Navy in time for a notional deployment against the Union Navy could penetrate the armor thickness of HMS Warrior. The 68-pounder, however, was able to penetrate such armor.


When? In 1862 the 68 pdr with steel shot was used against armour. By 1864-5 muzzleloading rifles with chilled iron shells (i.e. armour piercing and with a bursting charge) were in use.

  'However, the lack of such ordnance meant only one per ship could be supplied....Against armored vessels, only the 15" matters....' 67th Tiger's takes a little sidestep away from the obvious fact that an insufficient number of British ironclads capable of surviving a transatlantic voyage existed to overcome the numbers of Union ironclads capable of resisting Royal Navy woodies. HMS Warrior had only just commissioned in August, 1861, and fired a conventional broadsides of 68-pounders of the sort deployed in the Crimean War and used aboard the Aetna-Class monitors as well. Bear in mind, that the CSS Virginia had been equipped with six 9" Dahlgren smoothbore naval guns and none of these shells had been successful in the fight with the Monitor--at close range, no less. So the existing Royal Navy broadsides would have been feeble against even the first generation of Monitors and, considering the low profile of the "cheesebox on a raft", most of the shells fired in these broadsides would have splashed harmlessly around their ironclad targets
Here you state a correct fact but don't get the import. Virginia had shells, not shot (and certainly not armour-piercing shot). If she'd had a supply of shot Monitor would probably have gone to the bottom. Look at the effect of the Charleston forts guns on the Monitors and quite long ranges. The Confederate gunners hit the Monitors about 20% of the time at ~ 1,000 yards.

If "surviving a trans-atlantic voyage" is the parameter then it's all of the ships mentioned above. HMS Terror had a successful career in American waters.

However, even wooden ships can fight ironclads and win (see SMS Kaiser at Lissa). If a Monitor was exposed to the concentrated firepower of a 2-decker it would not last long. In the 15 minutes it would take a Monitor crew to get a shot off with both guns about 700 shots would come back. The sheer weight of fire, with hundreds of hits received per one returned, would break plates, jam the turret, smash the gun shutters and muzzles etc., and the wooden ship has one or two holes (and if unlucky shells exploding). The Monitor would be overwhelmed and sunk eventually.

  The fact that the Monitor type was much more maneuverable was made manifest in the debut of the iron clad at Hampton Roads, Virginia. In Scrutinizing Naval Warfare During the Civil War: The Ironclad, the unposted author writes, "The Virginia's captain ignored what at first appeared to be a floating piece of iron junk. But as the Monitor slipped close by, rotated its turret and fired a near point-blank shot, it became obvious that the Virginia had a fight on its hands. The Monitor was far more maneuverable than the Virginia, and the two circled each other, blasting away, neither causing any noticeable damage to the otherBecause the guns didn't seem to work, each attempted unsuccessfully to ram and disable the other ship. As the battle went on, both ships experienced a host of mechanical problems, but the Virginia had the most trouble, leaking badly and displaying a noticeable crack in her armor. The Virginia did get a shot off at the pilothouse, severely wounding the pilot and causing the Monitor to drift away uncontrolled. Thinking she had won a decisive victory, the Virginia made her way slowly toward home. By the time the Monitor's officers regained control, the Virginia had steamed away. After more than four hours of fighting, both ships were glad to be done for the day, each believing it had won" [http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/scrutinizing-naval-warfare-during-the-civil-war-th.html].
Oddly the unwieldy Warrior turns quicker. Her turning circle is about twice as wide as Monitors, but she moves around it at nearly 4 times the speed.


  Regarding 'the Passaic is not a competitor for most European ironclads', we are once again faced with 67th Tigers' refusal to acknowledge the paucity of European ironclads in the first place. Anyway, where the Gloire could steam at 11 knots and theWarrior at 14.5 knots, in a close-in engagement, featuring ranges that would enable the 68-pounders to be brought into action, the smaller Monitors could outmaneuver the big ships and thwart the latter's ability to bring their full broadsides to bear. A Union skipper was not likely to simply wait for the line of battle of form-up! The limited number of Royal Navy ironclads available for use in 1863 would have been able to operate together and box-in their targets, but their targets would have been proportionately reduced, cancelling out any strategic impact on the overall progress of the war. At best, the Royal Navy could command a single harbor, but there were many harbors  The issue of converting steam frigates to iron clads brings the USS Roanoke to mind. Her seakeeping qualities had been dangerously curtailed with the redesign and she had been restricted to harbor defense. Presumably, the Royal Navy, too, would have to overcome similar problems in the conversion of their wooden-hulled steam frigates, as well.

How does a 4 knotter choose the range when fighting a 14 knotter?

Just because the USN screwed up Roanoke doesn't mean the RN screwed up Royal Oak etc., nor would they screw up the planned plating of large numbers of ships if war came. They could plate a frigate in a month if necessary, but never needed too.

Worryingly this looks like thesis lead research.

2 comments:

cumberland harbourga said...

Cumberland Harbour
thank for this its really fantastic really!!!!!

Ravi Kant said...

things affected on. By the time a number of the latter significant monitors area unit complete the RN have adopted a high speed muzzle loading rifle and palliser shot and shell.

____
Ravi
kingston ram