Ironclads

Stephen R. Mallory
Stephen R. Mallory - Confederate Navy Secretary
Early in the war, the Confederate navy secretary, Stephen R. Mallory, recognized the importance of the South’s inland waterways. The Union navy was large and well equipped. The Confederate Navy, however, was dogged by an acute lack of iron and shipbuilding supplies—not to mention a president indifferent to naval affairs. Thus, in an uphill battle, Mallory sought to offset Union advantages through the construction of ironclad warships.

With much of eastern North Carolina under Union control, the Confederates built their armored gunboats at inland shipyards along the banks of navigable rivers, well upstream from the coastal sounds. The vessels were shallow-draft and barge-like, protected with heavy iron plating, and fitted with two to four heavy cannons. The Confederates hoped to use these ponderous craft to help recapture occupied towns.

Raleigh and North Carolina were lost in the Cape Fear River in 1864 while guarding the harbor below Wilmington. Albemarle, the only North Carolina ironclad to see significant combat, was lost in October 1864. Union Lt. William B. Cushing sent her to the bottom of the Roanoke River with a blow from a spar torpedo boat. The Wilmington was destroyed in her stocks when the port city fell to Union forces in February 1865. As Union troops approached Kinston in March 1865, Confederate troops scuttled Albemarle’s sister ship, Neuse.

Today, the Neuse’s artifact collection is one of the largest in existence for a Confederate naval vessel. Her remains are on display in Kinston.


Battle of Albemarle Sound
Battle of Albemarle Sound — May 5, 1864. The USS Sassacus rams the ironclad CSS Albemarle


CSS Neuse
CSS Neuse
CSS Neuse

CSS Neuse — sister ship of the Albermarle. Drawings by Mark A. Moore, based on artist renderings.

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