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 Posted: Thu Jun 4th, 2009 08:31 pm
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Flint2
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Could CSS Virginia have bombarded Washington?

http://timetravel21.blogspot.com/2009/05/is-washington-burning-ironclads-on.html



 Posted: Thu Jun 4th, 2009 11:29 pm
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ole
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Doubtful. Although all the guns along the Potomac couldn't have stopped her, she wasn't capable of beating upstream nor dodging the obstructions sunk in her path.

Ole



 Posted: Fri Jun 5th, 2009 10:29 am
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Henry
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The C.S.S. Virginia I, as constructed from the propeller steam frigate U.S.S. Merrimac, was deficient in engine power and reliability. That's the reason she was left in the naval yard in Norfolk. She couldn't be moved due to lack of motive power. Her masts were sheared out, as well, and the hull was put to the torch as the Federal navy withdrew from the area. This said I believe the vessel could have stemmed the current of the Potomac as it was in March of 1862 with perhaps a walloping three knots of headway. Given the resistance of the hull to the pummeling she took from the U.S.S. Monitors eleven inch bore guns she might have withstood the fire from Fortress Monroe as she made for the Washington Navy Yard.
You question the ability to bombard Washington, D.C. I believe the use of the ironclad would have been as support to a crossing in force by Confederate grunts. The rifles of the Virgina were limited as to elevation and depression of the tubes limiting field of fire.
The vessels major feat was that of inducing fear along the Federal Atlantic coastline, fears unfounded due to the lack of seaworthiness of the vessel. The same fears prodded Northern efforts to produce more armor and larger guns.



 Posted: Fri Jun 5th, 2009 06:32 pm
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barrydancer
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James Nelson postulated in his Reign of Iron that Virginia was able to withstand Monitor's attack in part due to the latter ship being under orders not to use a full charge of powder in her guns.  Had they been allowed to operate at full power, those 11" Dahlgren's could have been able to punch holes in Virginia's armor. 

Does anyone know what kind of armament Fortress Monroe was sporting at the time?  They certainly had more, and likely larger, guns than Monitor and would have been under no compunction to lower their powder charges.  A few well-placed hits from those large seacoast guns could possibly have ended Virginia's day fairly quickly.

Plus, as previously mentioned Merrimac wasn't a very swift vessel when she was in service.  Throw tons of iron on her, and her small engine is barely adequate to move the ship.  Place a few obstacles in her path and she ain't going nowhere. 

Her real power lay in the fear she engendered, which was enormously out of proportion to her actual capabilities.

Last edited on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 06:33 pm by barrydancer



 Posted: Fri Jun 5th, 2009 06:34 pm
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The Iron Duke
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Plus, her deep draft made it almost impossible to sail out of Hampton Roads.



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 Posted: Mon Jun 8th, 2009 04:07 pm
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Henry
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Letter extract from George T. Sinclair to John M. Brooke regarding C.S.S. Virginia's engagement with the U.S.S. Monitor.:

"The Virginia has had not only the iron destroyed, but the frame work broken in, by the heavy shot of the Erickson, in two places, so you can imagine the force used."



 Posted: Mon Jun 8th, 2009 08:49 pm
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calcav1
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The guns in Fort Monroe would have been irrelevant as the Virginia would have simply sailed on the southern end of Hampton Roads, well out of the range of any guns at Fort Monroe. The ship would have still been in range of Fort Wool (formerly Fort Calhoun) located on a man-made island in Hampton Roads midway between Fort Monroe and Sewells Point (location of the current Norfolk Naval Base). Wool had a Sawyer Rifle with the range to reach Sewells Point and had actually fired the gun at the Virginia but to no effect.



 Posted: Tue Jun 9th, 2009 12:21 pm
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Henry
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The armament of Fortress Monroe 'round March, 1862 is not mentioned by the press. I do know the place had a mortar battery of 8" and 10" bore tubes at the time. Latter in the year 1862, motivated by the attack of the C.S.S. Virginia and news of more Confederate armor abuilding, Fortress Monroe was given substantially greater armament. The following link to the NYT's archives:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9905E7D61F3FEE34BC4052DFB6678389679FDE

I'll dig into what ordnance records I have in order to get a count for Monroe's March ordnance roster. A lot of the pertinent documents are no longer with us.



 Posted: Fri Aug 21st, 2009 05:56 am
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cklarson
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Folks,

Being related to RADM Worden, I have done some study of Monitor and Merrimac and Worden's history.

One of my favorite stories is about the possibility of Merrimac steaming up the Potomac and attacking Washington. Apparently according to Welles's diary (and my memory), during an emergency meeting of the Cabinet, Stanton was hysterical and kept leaping out of his chair to look out the window for the expected Merrimac on 3/8 or 9. Shortly he ordered concrete vessels sunk to prevent ingress up the Potomac by Merrimac. Later Lincoln was on a carriage ride with someone who asked what the concrete vessels were and AL replied: "Oh, that's Stanton's navy." Cracks me up.

Beyond bombarding Washington, the real fear was that Merrimac would take on the other wooden warships of the blockading fleet, I think mainly stationed off the Roads. Harper's Weekly headline on 3/10 was that Worden had saved the US Navy. Ericcson's genius was that when the first exploding naval shell was used in the mid-1840s (date?), he understood clearly that that marked the end of wooden sailing warships. Previously naval tactics had not been to sink a ship but to take her, as prize money was involved. Hence captains concentrated on sharpshooting the captains and officers (the purpose of Marines), firing the sails, and creating an ocean pile-up by "crossing the T". But exploding shell changed all that. The day after the battle at Hampton Roads, the British govt. canceled all contracts for wooden war ships.


Cheers!
CKL



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