Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Ships of Rebel Raiders - The Ironclads

 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 IV– The Union Ironclads :   Black Terror – The $8.63 Ironclad

The art of military deception was alive and well in the American Civil War, and there is perhaps no greater example of this, at least on the naval side, than the story of the Black Terror (as represented by USN Card 25).  A “mock” ironclad, it was built in 12 hours for a cost of $8.63 and sent downriver with the current in February 1863.  Its mission was to scare the Confederates into abandoning construction on a real warship  (the USS Indianola, which they had captured and were repairing for use on the Mississippi).

It worked.  The Confederates, fearful that this menacing warship belching smoke from two stacks and with a dozen guns poking out from all sides would recapture the USS Indianola, set their prize on fire and blew her sky-high  (see illustration below).  The flotilla of Rebel rams scurried away rather than face this “Black Terror” – a mountain of a ship that was painted all black, with smoke billowing from tar pots and wooden “Quaker” guns and which bore in bold letters on her (phony) paddle-wheel housing the warning “Deluded People Cave In.”

As the Rebels fled, the dummy ironclad drifted on for two miles until running aground on a sandbar – at which point she was “captured” by Rebel Partisan Rangers.

 While the Union press of course had a field day with this story, the Confederate newspapers took it quite well.  As The Richmond Examiner put it, may as well “laugh and hold your sides lest you die of a surfeit of derision.”

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