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Civil War Sea Battles

Updated on April 4, 2011

The Civil War at Sea...

The Civil War at Sea.  By Craig L. Symonds.  (Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, LLC, 2009. 201 pp. $35.00, ISBN 978-0-275-99084-8.)

     This book is a great detailed discussion of the ships and war strategies of both the North and South during the War of Northern Aggression, otherwise known as the Civil War.  This was a new type of war, and the world’s first war to start using many types of new technology and inventions.  Steamships, iron clad war ships, torpedoes, and submarines were some technologies either perfected for warfare or created anew.

The north had the immediate advantage of having a strong industrial base, which included many factories with steel making ability, and shipyards to create a vast number of new warships for the new effort.  Unfortunately, the south was mainly an agricultural economy which was plantation based, and had limited industrial production facilities.  They also started an immediate production binge, but it was definitely not as much as what the north could produce.  Lack of available steel was probably the main problem, because without it iron clad ships could not be made…

Raising of the CSS Hunley, World's First Submarine...

Merrimac vs. Monitor...

Just about everyone has heard of the Merrimac vs. the Monitor battle, which basically proved the worth of having these types of ships on your side during battles because they were very hard to sink with regular cannon fire.  Projectiles just bounced off the sides unless the guns were very powerful and fired at an extremely close range.  Even though that battle was a draw, it prevented the south from doing further damage to the wooden ships that the north had in the harbor.  In that effect, it was a success.

Torpedoes, or small ships with “bombs” placed on extended bows which would then be driven into enemy ships, were created during this war.  Obviously the more technical definitions of torpedoes that exist today don’t really cover the technology of that time, but they still were very effective and sank several northern ships that had implemented an illegal blockade of the southern states.

CSS Hunley...

The world’s first submarine was invented by the south and used to severely damage a ship that was being used in this blockade.  This was the C.S.S. Hunley, which was found and raised by Clive Cussler and has been in the news recently as it is being preserved and studied.  It was a human powered device, and actually sank all 3 times that it was used; however, it was raised and rehabbed twice…  Because of the severe lack of sufficient engines, it was human powered, but that also made it a much quieter vessel thus providing for a better element of surprise on the damn Yankees…

Steamships were preferred over sailing vessels, and the north again had a huge advantage in this area because of the availability of engines and parts.  Even though these ships could be very expensive to operate as far as coal and machinery go, they had the advantage of speed and reliability in their favor.  It was almost impossible to catch faster sailing vessels that could sail closer to the wind than your sailing vessel, but if you had a fast steamship you could increase speed with more coal burned in the fires…  Steamships were perfected as warships during this war, and the power stations were protected better and also the sides of the ship for battle…

The War of Northern Aggression helped create many new technologies for warfare, and better and stronger ships.  Cannons, guns, and battle tactics were also made better, and that war really started the creation of better forms of warfare after that…  Every country needed to become very proficient at this, or else they would never be able to properly defend themselves during times of war.  It was a huge turning point in the history of warfare! 

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    • Sun-Girl profile image

      Sun-Girl 6 years ago from Nigeria

      Nice hub, thanks for sharing.