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, future CSS 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, USS 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 affectionately called “old ironsides”. And the “new” ironsides was truly iron-armoured contrary to the 1797 frigate.
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 length 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 sixteen 9in Dalghren guns was changed to fourteen 11in Dalghren guns and two 8in Parrot rifles. Later on, two chase 50-pounders, and several 60-pounder guns (5in) were added on the upper deck.
The ship was launched in may 1862 and commissioned in august. Shortly after commission she sailed for Hampton roads, joining the blockade under Rear Admiral Goldsborough‘s command. Some steering and gun recoil problems occurred after trials, never really solved until September when she returned from Philadelphia Yard to Hampton roads to resume blockading operations, assisted by USS Monitor and Galena, the two other “ironclads” of the Union.
This routine went on until the night on 5 October 1863, when CSS David successfully “torpedoed” her. Badly damaged, she was decommissioned for extensive repairs and complete reconstruction, re-commissioned in august 1864. She had no masts nor rigging (see the illustration) notably, and 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 accidentally took fire, which destroyed her completely by December 1866.