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Saturday, July 29, 2017

CSS Atlanta/USS Atlanta

Another ship with an interesting history was Atlanta.  She began as CSS Atlanta, an ironclad built from a blockade runner and based on the Savannah River.  She was armed with 7-inch Brooke rifles at bow and stern and 6.4-inch Brooke rifles amidships.

CSS Atlanta

In early 1863, her commander intended for her to attack blockaders downriver while most of the Union fleet was bombarding Charleston, South Carolina.  Deserters revealed the plan and the Federals held some ships in readiness to intercept Atlanta.  The ship went aground, was attacked by USS Weehawken and USS Nahant, and could not bring her guns to bear against them.

USS Weehawken v. CSS Atlanta

After two or three 15-inch Dahlgren rounds smashed into her, the defenseless Atlanta struck her colors.  The Northerners pulled Atlanta free and refitted with 8-inch Parrott rifles at bow and stern and 6.4 inch Parrott rifles to port and starbord.  She served on the James River.

USS Atlanta

Decommissioned, she was sold to Haiti and in December 1869, she was lost with all hands off the Delaware Capes or Cape Hatteras as she steamed for Port-au-Prince.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Learning from Illustrating

To prepare an illustration guide for my next book, I took several months off from a book I was writing about June 18-22, 1864, at Petersburg.  To reacquaint myself with the text, I started illustrating it.  A minor naval action took place on June 21, and part of illustrating it lay in finding pictures of the weapons.  They included the 15-inch Dahlgren, which armed all four of the Union monitors on James River.  Only three rounds from this fearsome weapon had led the ironclad CSS Atlanta to strike her colors the previous year.

Just three 15-inch Dahlgrens remain above water.  (Two lie with USS Tecumseh at the bottom of Mobile Bay, two more at the bottom of the Pacific off Arica, Peru, and another at the bottom of the Pacific off Callao, Peru--but more about these South American Dahlgrens later.)  The first two Dahlgrens above water stand near the grave of John Ericsson, the designer of USS Monitor, in Sweden, his native land.  These two had armed a monitor he designed for Sweden.

The third sits at the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defense.  Quite a story lies behind how it got there.

After the war, the United States sold two Canonicus-class monitors, Catawba and Oneota, each armed with two 15-inch Dahlgrens, to Peru.  The Peruvians named Catawba after the last Inca Emperor, Atahualpa.  They named Oneota after Manco Capac, the founder of the Inca Empire.


Manco Capac

Both ships met their ends during the War of the Pacific, 1879-1883, during which Chile trounced Peru and Bolivia, leaving the latter country landlocked.  Manco Capac participated in the defense of Arica, and the Peruvians scuttled her when Arica fell in 1880.  Atahualpa helped defend Callao until the city fell in 1881 and the Peruvians scuttled her, too.

The Dahlgren at the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defense was apparently salvaged from Atahualpa and sold to the British.

The only other image of a Dahlgren I have found is the following:

The gun in the picture is often identified as a Rodman rather than a Dahlgren, though.

My wife and I expect to be cruising past the watery graves of Oneota/Manco Capac and Catawba/Atahualpa next year on a voyage that begins in Valparaiso, Chile, and ends at Callao, Peru.  Unfortunately, we will be unable to visit Talcahuano, a fair distance south of Valparaiso.  There floats the ironclad Huascar, built by the British in 1865 for the Peruvians and named after another Inca Emperor.  The Chileans captured her in 1879 and now she serves as a museum and memorial ship.

Seeing her will require another voyage.


Saturday, July 1, 2017

"The Petersburg Regiment, 12th Virginia Infantry, 1861-1865"

It looks like my next book, The Petersburg Regiment, 12th Virginia Infantry, 1861-1865, should be published next year by Savas Beatie.  John Wilkes Booth stood in the ranks of one of this regiment’s companies at John Brown’s hanging.  The regiment refused to have Stonewall Jackson appointed its colonel.  Its men first saw combat in naval battles.  In their first action on land, they embarrassed themselves.  Their role at Gettysburg remains controversial.  Yet by war’s end they would number among the Army of Northern Virginia’s most renowned shock troops.