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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.