Friday, November 19, 2010

The Iron-Plated War Steamer “New Ironsides”

This large Warship was launched at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on Saturday.  The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin speaks of her as follows:

The New Ironsides is the first iron-plated sea going war steamer of large size built by the U. States Government.  She is constructed from plans and specifications presented to the Navy Department last summer by Merrick & Sons, of this city, who are the sole contractors with the Government.  They in turn have contracted with Messrs. Cramp & Sons, of Kensington; also with the Bristol Forge and Brown & Co., of Pittsburgh, for the 4 ½ inch plating, reserving to themselves the construction of the machinery and the general arrangement of the several parts.  The contract is dated October 16th, and the vessel is to be ready for steam July 15th.  Chief engineer, W. W. Wood, of the Navy, superintends the machinery and plating; and Naval Constructor, Henry Heover, the hull.

She is 240 feet long, 58 feet 6 inches wide, and 25 deep, being 3,250 tons, and having a berth, gun and spar deck, the latter being shot proof.  Her frames are of white oak, filled in solid and caulked, and the average thickness of her sides is 20 inches.  The iron plating commences at a point four feet below the water line, and extends to her spar deck.  The lower course is 3 inches, all the rest 4 ½ inches thick.  A.. the plates are 15 feet long, the width varying from 25 to 30 inches; each plate is fastened to the vessel by 2 ½ inch screw bolts, 23 inches long, which secure the several thicknesses of timber to the plates, thus tying all together.

The machinery consists of two horizontal direct action steam engines, with cylinders of 50 inches diameter and 37 inches stroke, intended to make 85 revolutions per minute, and drive a brass four-bladed propeller of 18 feet diameter and 18 feet pitch.  The boilers are four in number, (horizontal tubular,) each 17 feet front, 11 feet deep, and 11 feet high, of a collective force of 1,600 horses.  The armament will consist of 16 11-inch Dahlgreen guns on the gun deck, and two 200-pound Parrott guns on the spar deck.  The port holes will be closed by iron shutters five inches thick worked from the inside.

As this is a seagoing steamer, intended to sail as well as steam, she will have three masts and be bark rigged; her top masts and yards being so arranged that in action they are lowered and leave simply three lower masts in view.

When in action, all the men on board are protected from shot or shell, and are below the spar deck; the commander only is above that deck, and he occupies a shot proof look-out, which rises above the spar deck, and from which he can see all surrounding objects, and by signals, communicate with the officers below.

Unlike the Monitor and the Galena, this vessel can carry a large crew, sufficiently so to board and capture, any vessel.  Impenetrable to shot and shell, she will seek close action, and by means of her iron prow sink, or by her heavy guns capture her opponent.  Her light draught of water, 16 feet, will enable her to enter all our Southern harbors.  Even Moultrie and Sumter can be visited by her, and she may be able to make an impression on these forts before they are re-possessed by the United States.

The country is mainly indebted to Com. Jos. Smith, of the Bureau of Yards and Docks at Washington, for the construction of this vessel, as well as the two which have preceded her.  It was by his exertions that the money was appropriated by Congress, and as President of the Board of Naval Officers on iron clad steamers, he as devoted much time to their construction.

It will be two or three months before her plating is all done and she is ready for service.  But if, by that time, the rebellion is not ended, she will be knocking at the doors of Fort Sumter, or helping herself to other forts and towns along the coast.  When the rebellion is over she will be a useful agent of the Government in settling difficulties with foreign powers.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly-Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, May 17, 1862, p. 2

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