Monday, August 12, 2013

“The Unsinkable” USS Brooklyn

The Ships of Rebel Raiders    - The Men o’War

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 Screw Sloops: “The Unsinkable” USS Brooklyn

The sloop-of-war USS Brooklyn  (USN Card 13)  was practically a one-ship Navy; she did it all, and fought everywhere, in every kind of action.   She helped frustrate Confederate attempts to take Fort Pickens in Pensacola in 1861, then captured several blockade runners.  When Raphael Semmes made his initial foray out of New Orleans on the CSS Sumter (the Raider counter that begins the game there) she gave chase – but the elusive Semmes got away, as he always did.

USS Brooklyn caught several blockade runners in 1862, and battled her way up river past the guns of Forts Jackson and St. Philip to engage the Rebel Ironclad Ram CSS Manassas (CSN Card 71 in Rebel Raiders). The ironclad did ram her, but as the captain reported “did us little injury.”  (Only on the USS Brooklyn was a 24-foot long gash in the hull a “little injury.”)    Later in the summer of 1862 she went upriver to run the batteries at Vicksburg and drove the Rebel gunners away while troops landed at Donaldsonville, La.

USS Brooklyn was pulled out of the Mississippi to blockade Galveston, where she again was stymied by Semmes (who returned in the CSS Alabama (CSN Card 63) to trick, engage and sink the USS Brooklyn’s consort, the gunboat USS Hatteras (USN Card 16).   The mighty warship, however, got some measure of revenge by capturing a pair of blockade runners, including the Kate, skippered by the legendary and until then always lucky Thomas Lockwood – until then “the most successful of many Charlestonnians engaged in blockade running” (according to Robert N. Rosen, in his book, Confederate Charleston).  Kate was one of nine blockade runners captured (and one sunk) by the USS Brooklyn during the war.

Mobile Bay in August 1864, however, was where USS Brooklyn would be most sorely tested – as she led the second column into the Bay; when the ironclad USS Tecumseh immediately off her port bow hit a torpedo (i.e. mine) a sank in seconds, the captain stopped and began backing as the USS Brooklyn had also run into a net of mines.  The Rebel Ironclad Ram CSS Tennessee (CSN Card 86) tried to ram her, but she fended off the ram and added her guns to those of the other Union ships that forced the Rebel ship to strike.

Nearly 100 of those aboard USS Brooklyn were killed or wounded in the action, and 23 sailors and marines aboard were awarded the Medals of Honor.

After extensive repairs, USS Brooklyn was sent to aid in the attack on Fort Fisher.  After the war  she became the flagship of the South Atlantic Squadron and later that of the Asiatic Squadron.  For her final service, in 1889, she circumnavigated the globe – running Cape Horn – before returning home to New York to be decommissioned.

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