INTRODUCTION TO CIVIL WAR NAVAL TECHNOLOGY
. . . James Buchanan
Eads and Commander
John Rodgers drew
up a set of requirements for a fleet of armored gunboats
that would operate on the Mississippi.
Commander John Rodgers
No photo available for
Samuel M. Pook
James Eads Buchanon
ironclad flotilla there were a large number
of vessels of all styles. The Pook
turtles have flat tops, and slanted sides,
front and rear
knowledge of warship requirements, coupled
with Eads’s experience with the
peculiarities of river steamboat design,
resulted in one of history’s most successful
purpose-built warship designs. All named
after cities, the seven ships of the “City
Class” were informally known as “Pook
Turtles,” because of their builder’s name
and the ship’s shell-back appearance. Unlike
the Monitor’s flat deck and armor-plated
turret scheme, these Union gunboats used the
more traditional casemate design of a
long row of guns along the sides of the
ship, with an additional three guns facing
forward for head-on fighting. The first City
Class gunboat, the St. Louis, was launched
on Oct. 12, 1861. What river bank
citizens thought of Pook's Turtles: As
a Nashville, Tenn., newspaper wrote, “We
have nothing to fear from a land attack, but
the gunboats are the devil.” The
Clarkesville, Tenn., resident Nanny Haskins
wrote: “Those hateful gunboats. They looked
like they were from the lower regions.”
To assist in the design of a vessel that would
satisfy all of these requirements, Rodgers called for
John Lenthall, the
head of the Navy Department's Bureau of Construction,
Equipment, and Repair. Lenthall provided some
preliminary plans, but he had to devote most of his
attention to ocean-going ships, so he withdrew.
Fortunately, he was able to provide a substitute. The
Navy Department already had under contract a man who had
experience in designing river craft, one
Samuel M. Pook
working at the time in
Pook designed a vessel, or rather a set of
vessels, that: 1. Drew only six feet while
carrying 13 guns. 2. Capable of eight knots,
3. each bore 2.5
inches of armor on the
casemates and half
that on the pilot house. 4. In order to carry the machinery
that would drive the great weight forward at speed while
maintaining the light draft, the boats had to be made
quite broad in relation to their length.
was: 5. to give the hull three
outboard pair somewhat longer than the one on the
centerline. 6. Propulsion was provided by a single paddle
wheel at the after end of the center keel;
7. the casemate
armor that was carried back along the longer outboard
keels provided the paddles a measure of protection from
enemy gunfire from forward and abeam but not from
Each vessel as completed had:
8. a length overall of
175 feet and a beam of 51 feet 2 inches.
length to beam ratio
thus was a very small 3:4.
10. The casemates had sloping sides, somewhat suggestive of
the general shape of the best-known Confederate ship of
11. When they were finally in
the water, their awkward appearance struck the fancy of
the farm boys who saw them, and they christened them
"Pook's Turtles." The unofficial name stuck.
Mississippi River Squadron
LEARNING ACTIVITY DESCRIPTION
This activity will center on research and information
gathering of facts from Internet sources, especially the
Learning On-Line Resource Pages.
Answers can be presented in graphic or short-answer
format. Civil War naval battles and officers will also
be included in the questions.
This Map Illustration of Scott's
Great Snake contains the 13 parts of this activity.
Follow the anaconda, and click onto the hotspots.
The Anaconda Plan
Activity Parts are listed below. Enter each topic, and
specific directions will be provided. Questions will be
written in the form of "orders" from a naval commander
to the sailors.
THE U.S. NAVY BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR
In order to understand the invention and use of ironclad
naval vessels, the learner will study the sail ships,
and condition of the U.S. Navy before the Civil War.
GO TO PART TWO:
THE IRONCLAD GUNBOATS
In this study, the learner will answer a series of
questions about the invention, building and use of the
ironclad gunboat, called "Turtlebacks," during the
American Civil War. The Ironclad Resources can be used
to find the answers.
GO TO PART THREE:
THE NAVY OF THE CONFEDERACY
At the start of the Civil War, the states seceding had
no navy or army. The Confederate government would
organize after the Fort Sumter battle and take-over.
That government would take possession of U.S. military
sites, equipment and supplies as were located in the
rebel states. Some naval vessels would be taken, and
others would be purchased from Britain or private
owners. The most important ship to be taken was the
U.S.S. Merrimack, which was actually abandoned by a
Union Commander and partially destroyed. The Merrimack
would become the C.S.S. Virginia ironclad, and naval
history was changed.
GO TO PART FOUR:
CIVIL WAR MILITARY "FIRSTS"
The Industrial Revolution was at full steam. The steam
engine was being used in railroad engines and ships.
New weapons were developed including the Spencer
Repeater rifle, the first submarines, use of air
balloons for surveillance, torpedoes and mines in water,
the first hospital ships, new Dahlgren cannons, and the
biggest one of all, the ironclad ships. Wooden
ships were instantly made obsolete. In this Naval
activity, you will read about the naval inventions and
the inventors and builders.
GO TO PART FIVE:
THE CAPTURE OF SHIPS BY BOTH SIDES, AND PUTTING THEM
IN-SERVICE FOR THE OPPOSING SIDE
is a term used in
admiralty law to refer to
captured during armed conflict. The most common use of
prize in this sense is the capture of an enemy
of war. There was a U.S. prize law.
It had to be followed closely to allow the capture and
dealing with a prize ship.
GO TO PART SIX:
INVINCIBLE BOATS AND CREWS WIN BATTLES
Their were many sea and inland river battles that the
U.S. Navy was instrumental in helping to win. In some
cases the invincible "Ironclad River Gun Boats" won the
battle. Many sailors and officers won the Medal of
Honor. In this activity, you will learn the names of
several battles, the officers and crews of the ships,
and the results.
GO TO PART SEVEN:
GIDEON WELLES SEC. OF NAVY, U.S.
Abraham Lincoln appointed a Jacksonian Democrat to lead
his Navy. The Navy was going to be instrumental in
defending the country, and Lincoln saw that Gideon
Welles would be the man for the job. In this activity
you will read about the life of Gideon Welles and the
relationship he would hold with President Lincoln.
Gideon Welles pretty much set up the "modern" United
States Navy. You will research the man and the politics
he encountered when managing the Union Navy
GO TO PART EIGHT:
THE BLOCKADE OF CONFEDERATE PORTS
General Scott had his Anaconda Plan. What finally
happened was a huge blockade of our Atlantic and Gulf
ports, and as time went along the winning back of the
Mississippi River. This activity covers the men and
ships involved in the Blockade. Read the proclamation
from President Lincoln declaring the blockade. Read
about General Winfield Scott's Anaconda Plan, and read
about ships, blockade actions, and "prizes" won during
the blockade. How did the Blockade effect the
Confederate war effort and the Southern people? Present
your gathered information in a computer program or in a
GO TO PART NINE: REAR ADMIRAL
JOHN DAHLGREN & HIS CANNONS
Both sides of the Civil War needed new armaments and
cannons, that could better destroy the opposing side.
Siege cannons, rifles, smoothbores, and mortars were
needed for inland, ocean and river battles. John
Dahlgren would invent his Dahlgren cannon. This part
will cover the old style armament and John Dahlgren
invention. You will see how the Dahlgren worked
beautifully with the new ironclad gunboats.
Also go to Civil War Innovations
for more about Dahlgren.
GO TO PART TEN:
AND PORTER DESIGN
THE FIRST IRONCLAD GUNBOATS
The Industrial Revolution had come "full steam," by
1862. The Union Navy was composed of wooden ships of
old. The Confederate states had no Navy. Research and
prototypes of Ironclads were constructed in Europe. The
Confederacy had taken Gosport Naval Yards and the USS
Merrimack was sunk by the retreating Union Navy. The
ship would be raised and reconstructed as an ironclad.
Great fear was all over the north over this monster.
President Lincoln and Secretary Welles set up an
Ironclad Committee. Congress passed legislation to have
an ironclad ship built. The rest is history, based upon
a design and small model made by John Ericcson. Read
the information provided on the pages and design your
own presentation on the building of the Merrimack and
GO TO PART ELEVEN:
SAILORS RECRUITMENT PLAN-
NORTH AND SOUTH
At the start of the war President Lincoln asked for
75,000 volunteers. The Navy recruited and men had to
pass a few standards. The Confederate Navy had similar
standards. Read about the recruitment for both sides.
African Americans could serve in both Navies, and did.
The United States Navy did not discriminate and sailors
got along, not thinking about racial things. You are to
read the articles online and then answer questions or
conduct research to gather facts. Presentations or
posters would be good to report your results.
GO TO PART TWELVE:
MEDICAL CARE OF SAILORS AND
SOLDIERS/ THE NAVY HOSPITAL SHIPS
Civil War was the first "modern war," and the medical
care and hospital ships were started and enlarged
quickly as the war started, throughout it. In this
part, you will read about the medical corps, the nursing
corps, the hospital ships (USS Red Rover, in
particular). In addition, you will read about the
conditions and dangers of being on an ironclad type
THE ANACONDA PLAN, THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER
BATTLES, THE CSS BLOCKADE RUNNERS
The Civil War had a great old-time Army General that
President Lincoln relied on in making a plan to bring
the upcoming war to an end. General Winfield Scott
devised the Anaconda Plan, in which the South's Gulf
Ports and Atlantic coasts would be blockaded to stop
commercial activity by and for the southern states.
Private ships would be purchased or contracted to fill
the needs to conduct the blockade, or in-reverse to have
effective sleuthy and fast blockade runners. There were
naval actions conducted by the Confederacy in other
Central America and South America countries. Another
goal of the Jefferson Davis was to be tough and prove to
Britain and other European to accept his government as
legitimate. This part will cover all of these areas.
Follow the links to get questions for each of the
RESOURCES ON GUNBOATS AND IRONCLADS