INTRODUCTION TO CIVIL WAR NAVAL TECHNOLOGY
. . . James Buchanan
Eads and Commander
drew up a set of requirements for a fleet of armored
gunboats that would operate on the Mississippi.
Commander John Rodgers
photo available for
James Eads Buchanon
In the ironclad
flotilla there were a large number of vessels of
all styles. The Pook turtles have flat tops,
and slanted sides, front and rear
Pook’s 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 help
on 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
Pook's solution was: 5.
to give the hull three
keels, the 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. 9. The
length to beam ratio
thus was a very small 3:4.
The casemates had sloping sides, somewhat suggestive of the
general shape of the best-known Confederate ship of the war,
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.
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 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
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
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:
"PRIZES": THE CAPTURE OF SHIPS BY BOTH SIDES,
AND PUTTING THEM IN-SERVICE FOR THE OPPOSING
is a term used in
admiralty law to refer to
cargo captured during armed conflict. The
most common use of prize in this sense is the
capture of an enemy
ship and its
cargo as a
prize 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 successfully.
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:
BROOKE AND PORTER
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 the Monitor.
GO TO PART ELEVEN:
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 ship.
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.
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.
GO TO PART FOURTEEN:
GREAT DISASTERS OF THE U.S. NAVY-- THE SULTANA
USS Sultana was a Mississippi River steamboat
paddle wheeler that exploded on April 27, 1865
in the greatest maritime disaster in United
States history. An estimated 1,600 of Sultana's
2,400 passengers were killed when three of the
ship's four boilers exploded and Sultana sank
near Memphis, Tennessee. This disaster was
overshadowed in the press by other recent
events. John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln's
assassin, was killed the day before.
RESOURCES ON GUNBOATS AND IRONCLADS