Monday, August 26, 2013

USS Housatonic: First Warship to be Sunk by a Submarine

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. 

USS Housatonic:  First Warship to be Sunk by a Submarine

 The mighty USS Housatonic (USN Card 27)  was the first warship to be sunk by a submarine  (falling victim to the  CSS Hunley – CSN Card 73 in Rebel Raiders).  Before that fateful encounter that night in February 1864, however, the USS Housatonic earned other honors, most of them while blockading the very harbor, Charleston, in which she would be sunk.

Launched at the Boston Navy Yard in November 1861, USS Housatonic was one in a class of four powerful screw sloops, each capable of moving under sail or steam, and each carrying 11 guns – including a 100-pounder Parrot rifle, three 30-pouner Parrot rifles, and an 11-inch Dahlgren along with a mix of other rifles, guns and howitzers. 

Assigned to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron off Charleston, her first capture came in January 1863 when, working with the gunboat USS Unadilla (USN Card 17) she cornered and then sent boarding parties to seize the Princess Royal.  The blockade runner was carrying engines, armor and ordnance meant to equip a pair of rebel ironclads.  At the time USS Housatonic was hailed for having been responsible for capturing “the war’s most important single cargo of contraband.”

The South knew this as well, and sent two ironclad rams out of Charleston to try to recover the Princess Royal, which USS Housatonic was attempting to refloat after having driven her aground.  Initially successful in driving back Union gunboats, the two ironclads could not contend with the massive broadsides of the mighty screw sloop – and soon retired under the protection of Charleston’s guns, leaving USS Housatonic with her prize.  

USS Housatonic took many other prizes off Charleston, bombarded her forts and frequently sent landing parties ashore to harry the Rebels, seize prisoners and conduct raids. 

No wonder  that  when the Confederates launched their first submarine, USS Housatonic was chosen as the target for the CSS Hunley.

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