A new page, but also a portral on the mid-XIXth Century, is open. The American civil war was not only a defining moment in the history of the United States but also the most devastating conflict of American history per capita (Compared to WW1, WW2, Korea and Vietnam). It was largely fought on land, but naval aspects played a very important role, if not decisive, for the Union to win the war against the “rebels”.
Whereas the Union started badly on land, accumulating defeats, the overwhelming superiority of the Union Navy over the Confederate Navy, created from scratch with a core of available seaworthy vessels, allowed a blockade strategy, and later riverine warfare in order to complement the push of Union armies through the Mississippi river system. This twin strategy eventually precipitated the end of the Confederacy by severing communication and supply lines, not only around the coast but in the hinterland as well.
But the American civil War had a significant stray of innovations in naval warfare that drew attention of European observers. Before the war, the Union fleet stayed away from recent developments such as the first sea going ironclad, but soon the Confederate conversion of a captured, badly burnt federal Frigate, the Merrimack, into the steam-only ironclad Virginia set the stage for a naval race such as the world has never seen before. The Union replied with the world’s first monitor, and the Confederacy devised a way to dispense mines (called by then “torpedoes”) in large numbers and using truly original early “torpedo boats”, basically spar-torpedo, semi-submerged vessels such as the “Davids”.
From this to fully submerged, the step was soon taken, and with the HL Hunley sinking the Frigate Hartford, the conflict “invented” submarine warfare. The Union soon replied and both side would compete in submersible designs until the end of the war, opening a brand new chapter, not only in riverine warfare (Battle of the James river were true naval battles), but on naval warfare as well, International observers not loosing a peg of the Hampton Road epic duel between two modern ironclads.