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Full Access British Reaction to American Civil War Ironclads

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British Reaction to American Civil War Ironclads

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By the 1840’s the era of the wooden ship of the line was coming to a close. As early as the 1820’s and 1830’s, ships of war were outfitted with increasingly heavy guns. Naval guns such as the increasingly popular 68 pounder could quickly damage the best wooden hulled ships of the line. Yet, by the 1840’s, explosive shells were in use by the British, French, and Imperial Russian navies. It was the explosive shell that could with great ease, cripple a standard wooden hulled warship, this truth was exposed at the Battle of Sinope in 1853. For this reason, warships had to be armored. By 1856, Great Britain drafted a design for an armored corvette. In 1857, France began construction on the first ocean going ironclad, La Gloire, which was launched in 1859. This development quickly caused Great Britain to begin construction on HMS Warrior and HMS Black Prince. By the time HMS Warrior was commissioned in 1861, the Royal Navy had decided that its entire battle fleet needed to be armored. While the British and the French naval arms race was intensifying, the United States was entering into its greatest crisis, the United States Civil War. After the outbreak of the Civil War, the majority of the United States Navy remained loyal to the Union. The Confederacy, therefore, gained inspiration from the ironclads across the Atlantic, quickly obtaining its own ironclads. CSS Manassas was the first to enter service, but was eventually brought down by a hail of Union broadside fire. The CSS Virginia, however, made an impact. Meanwhile, the Union began stockpiling City Class ironclads and in 1862, the USS Monitor was completed. After the veritable stalemate between the CSS Virginia and USS Monitor, the Union utilized its superior production capabilities to mass produce ironclads and enter them into service in the Union Navy. As the Union began armoring its increasingly large navy, the world’s foremost naval power certainly took notice. Therefore, this paper will utilize British newspapers, government documents, Royal Naval Reviews, and various personal documents from the 1860’s in order to examine the British public and naval reaction to the Union buildup of ironclad warships.

Affiliations: 1: King’s College London, 605 Ravoux Road, Chaska, MN 55318, e-mail: jesseheitz@hotmail.com

10.1163/22134603-00101004
/content/journals/10.1163/22134603-00101004
dcterms_title,pub_keyword,dcterms_description,pub_author
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By the 1840’s the era of the wooden ship of the line was coming to a close. As early as the 1820’s and 1830’s, ships of war were outfitted with increasingly heavy guns. Naval guns such as the increasingly popular 68 pounder could quickly damage the best wooden hulled ships of the line. Yet, by the 1840’s, explosive shells were in use by the British, French, and Imperial Russian navies. It was the explosive shell that could with great ease, cripple a standard wooden hulled warship, this truth was exposed at the Battle of Sinope in 1853. For this reason, warships had to be armored. By 1856, Great Britain drafted a design for an armored corvette. In 1857, France began construction on the first ocean going ironclad, La Gloire, which was launched in 1859. This development quickly caused Great Britain to begin construction on HMS Warrior and HMS Black Prince. By the time HMS Warrior was commissioned in 1861, the Royal Navy had decided that its entire battle fleet needed to be armored. While the British and the French naval arms race was intensifying, the United States was entering into its greatest crisis, the United States Civil War. After the outbreak of the Civil War, the majority of the United States Navy remained loyal to the Union. The Confederacy, therefore, gained inspiration from the ironclads across the Atlantic, quickly obtaining its own ironclads. CSS Manassas was the first to enter service, but was eventually brought down by a hail of Union broadside fire. The CSS Virginia, however, made an impact. Meanwhile, the Union began stockpiling City Class ironclads and in 1862, the USS Monitor was completed. After the veritable stalemate between the CSS Virginia and USS Monitor, the Union utilized its superior production capabilities to mass produce ironclads and enter them into service in the Union Navy. As the Union began armoring its increasingly large navy, the world’s foremost naval power certainly took notice. Therefore, this paper will utilize British newspapers, government documents, Royal Naval Reviews, and various personal documents from the 1860’s in order to examine the British public and naval reaction to the Union buildup of ironclad warships.

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/content/journals/10.1163/22134603-00101004
2013-01-01
2016-12-10

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