Saturday, August 10, 2013

USS Iroquois: Ship of War, Ship of Mercy - 50 Years of Service

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: USS Iroquois: Ship of War, Ship of Mercy - 50 Years of Service

Few ships serve their country for 50 years – and fewer still serve as both men o’ war and ships of mercy.  Such, however, is the legacy of USS Iroquois  (USN Card 12 -  “Sloop of War ” in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas).

USS Iroquois was commissioned in 1859 and sent the Mediterranean – where it hosted no less a figure than the renowned Italian freedom-fighter Giuseppe Garibaldi.  Recalled home as war loomed, she was sent to the Caribbean to seek out commerce raiders  (those very ships for whom Rebel Raiders on the High Seas is named).  She found the first of those, the CSS Sumter (the Raider counter that starts the game in New Orleans) but its wily captain, Raphael Semmes (who would later command the CSS AlabamaCSN Card 63 – and which also appears on the game box cover) gave the mighty Union warship the slip. 

USS Iroquois also later intercepted a British sloop, aboard which were the Confederate ministers James M. Mason and John Slidell (of the Trent Affair – CSN Card 83 fame).  Commander James S. Palmer, however, wisely and diplomatically let them proceed.

USS Iroquois finally got into the shooting war as part of Farragut’s (USN Card 1) squadron during the attacks on Forts Jackson and St. Philip (which appear in the game as well).  She also took part in the shelling of Vicksburg before being recalled downriver for service hunting blockade runners in the Gulf of Mexico (a key role for Union sloops in the game).  USS Iroquois performed that same task in 1863 as part of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, catching several blockade runners, notably the Kate and the Merrimac.  After repairs, she was dispatched to the Pacific to hunt the raider CSS Shenandoah (CSN Card 64).

After the war, she became part of the Asiatic Squadron and later the Pacific Squadron, landing her Marines to protect U.S. interests in Panama in 1885.  In 1892 this antique man of war became a hospital ship, a role she performed until finally retired and struck from the Navy List in 1910.

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