USS New Ironsides (1862)

Union Navy Union Navy

USS New Ironsides after reconstruction in 1864

The American sea-going ironclad (1862-66)

The USS New ironsides was the sole true sea going ironclad of the entire Secession war, and the first of the united states.

As soon as the Union admiralty had clues about a new confederate ironclad, the Virginia, requirements for a new ironclad, and perhaps more to come, were issued. In fact, many designs were submitted, and three were retained. The first was the most revolutionary and cutting-edge technological marvel: The Monitor. The other was the rail-covered USS Galena, with a turtleback hull to deflect gun shots, and eventually, the New Ironsides, a sea-going ironclad.

Of course the surname which became popular was inspired by her first namesake : The “old” versus the “new” ironsides, as the first, historical frigate was affectionously called “old ironsides”. And the “new” ironsides was truly iron-armoured contrary to the 1797 frigate.

USS New ironsides 1862
USS New Ironsides with full rigging as completed in 1862.

This ship was more an american version of the french “Gloire” rather than inspired by the HMS Warrior. It was short, wide, possessed a wooden hull covered with iron plating and coppered below waterline, three masts and a single artillery deck with side Dalghren guns. Armour was complete, extending from the entire lenght of the hull, from one meter below waterline to the upper gallery. The hull was flat-bottomed, with a rectangular ram, there was a single funnel. Merrick & Sons made the design proposals, but construction took place at William Cramp and Sons as sub-contractor, in NYC.

Just after the battle of Hampton roads, the original planned armament of 16 9in Dalghren guns was changed to fourteen 11in Dalghren guns and two 8in Parrot rifles. Later on, two chase 50-pounders, and later 60-pounder guns (5in) were added on the upper deck.

Active life
The ship was launched in may 1862 and commissioned in august. Shortly after commission she sailed to Hampton roads, joining the blockade under Rear Admiral Goldsborough command. Some steering and gun recoil problems occured after trials, which were never really solved in september where she returned from Philadelphia to Hampton roads, were the Monitor and Galena were already stationary.

Her career went on until the night on 5 october 1863 when the CSS David successfully “torpedoed” her. Badly damaged, whe was put on decommission for extensive repairs and complete rebuilding. When she was re-commission in august 1864, whithout her masts and rigging (illustration), she spent her late career chasing blockade runners, shelling forts and patrolling, up to the end of the war. Decommissioned and moored at League island, philadelphia, she was struck by a fire which destroyed her in completely december 1866.

CSS David (1862)

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