Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Ships of Rebel Raiders - The Gunboats

Rebel Raiders on the High Seas is a strategic game of the Civil War which focuses on the role of the navies on the rivers, along the coasts and on the oceans.  While most ships are represented by generic counters for Ironclads, Blockade Runners, Gunboats, Screw Sloops and, of course Raiders, there are cards and corresponding counters for many individual vessels.  This series presents those cards and offers a glimpse into the history of these storied ships.

Part II – The Gunboats: The Mosquito Fleet Rams at New Orleans

“The Mosquito Fleet” (CSN Card 81) represents the rag-tag little squadrons the South hastily cobbled together to defend their ports from the Union Navy.  One such force supported the ironclad CSS Manassas in the battle at Forts Jackson and St. Philip below New Orleans in late April 1862.

While the CSS Manassas is represented in the game (as CSN Card 71), the vessels that accompanied her are represented by the generic Gunboat counters, one or two of which may be added to a Confederate defense by play of The Mosquito Fleet (CSN Card 81).   General Mansfield Lowell had purchased and armed 14 civilian craft for his flotilla in the late winter of 1862 – but was ordered to send more than half of them upriver to Memphis to join Commander Montgomery’s river defense force (see my posting for July 15:

When David G. Farragut and his massive Union fleet made their move on the forts below his city, Lowell had only six of his armed riverboats left, a force that even the Confederate secretary of war lamented was “a peculiar one.”  (Lowell himself admitted that his group had “little or no discipline” and was “too much ‘steamboat’ and too little of the man-of-war’ to be very effective.”  Still, when Farragut’s gunboats and screw sloops broke through the barrier of Hulks, Rafts and Chains (as represented in Rebel Raiders by CSN Card 110) Lowell and his makeshift flotilla were there to meet him.

While the turtle-shaped ironclad CSS Manassas   was the spearpoint of Lowell’s counterattack against the screw sloops (notably the massive USS Mississippi – represented in the game by USN Card 23), his gunboats closed with their Union counterparts.  The J.C. Breckinridge and Governor Moore worked together to each ram and sink the USS Varuna, then headed for the USS Cayuga – but were driven off by the fire of another Union gunboat, USS Oneida.  (USS Cayuga broke through the line of Rebel ships, surprised five companies of militia in their camp, who after taking a few rounds from the gunboat became the first Confederate regiment to surrender to a Union gunboat).

Lowell fought on, sending fireships down the river, but after the USS Mississippi’s guns pummeled and set afire the CSS Manassas, the fight was over.  Farragut  (USN Card 1) in the USS Hartford (USN Card 37), along with the USS Brooklyn (USN Card 13) and the rest of the fleet steamed forward, the forts already partially silenced by David Dixon Porter and his Little Mortar Boats (USN Card 2).   From there, it was on to New Orleans for the Union fleet.   As for Lowell, all but one ship in his Mosquito Fleet was lost.

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