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.
III – The
Rebel Ironclads: CSS Virginia
…and why the iconic duel with the USS Monitor was such a “dud”
CSS Virginia was not the first ironclad
warship in history, nor in the Civil War, nor even in the Confederacy,” notes
historian James McPherson in his new book War
Upon the Waters, but she is the most famous. CSS
Virginia, which is represented in Rebel Raiders by its own counter and card (CSN
Card 70) is best known for being the Confederate side in the first duel of
ironclad warships (her opponent being the USS
Monitor – also represented in Rebel Raiders by a counter and card (USN Card 19).
Built up from the captured bones of the USS Merrimack in Norfolk, the
Virginia mounted six 9-inch Dahlgren smoothbores (three per side) and four Brooke
rifles (a pair of 7-inchers forward, a pair of 6.4-inchers aft). The iron casemate, which was rolled out in a
single piece at Tredegar Iron Works
(represented in Rebel Raiders by the
production rules and CSN Card 95)
was bolted onto the hull and then pierced to allow the placement of the guns.
She also mounted a seven-foot iron ram (which nearly proved her undoing when it
got stuck into the USS Cumberland
whom she rammed in the Battle of Hampton Roads in March 1862).
“A novelty in naval construction,” as Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen R. Mallory called her (Mallory is also in Rebel Raiders as CSN Card 78) she took on the Union blockading fleet in Hampton Roads, sinking the USS Cumberland, compelling the USS Congress to strike her colors and forcing the USS Minnesota to run aground. It was upon returning the next day to finish off the last of those when she met the USS Monitor.
Unfortunately (or, rather, fortunately for the crews) neither ship was at her best in that fight. The Union shells were charged with only 15 pounds of powder out of fear they would blow up in the guns (later tests showed they could handle three times that amount) and the Confederates brought only explosive shell, not solid shot or iron bolts, as they expected to face only wooden warships. As a result although they battered away at each other, scoring hit after hit, neither could inflict any serious damage on the other.
Although technically a draw,
CSS Virginia did retire to port – never to
fight again. She was burned by the
Rebels to prevent her capture by Union forces advancing on Norfolk.