Friday, August 23, 2013

USS New Ironsides: U.S. Navy’s First Armored Steam Frigate

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 New Ironsides:  U.S. Navy’s First Armored Steam Frigate

The first of a new breed of modern warships, the USS New Ironsides (USN Card 26) was an ocean-going, wooden-hulled, armored man-o-war; a true battleship, with plenty of big guns, powerful steam engines – and even a ram, just in case.

Protected by 4.5 inches of belt armor, the USS New Ironsides would be hit many, many times by the Confederate guns she dueled with at Charleston and Fort Fisher – but like her namesake, the original “Old Ironsides” (USS Constitution) most shots seemed to bounce off; she was never seriously damaged by enemy fire.  USS New Ironsides, however, did have the dubious distinction of being the first victim of a submarine (technically a “semi-submersible torpedo boat”)– when the CSS David (CSN Card 65) set off a spar torpedo on October 5, 1863.  Damage, however, was minor – USS New Ironsides remained on station.

 (In Rebel Raiders, if the Confederate player declared an attack with the CSS David card on a Union warship, say the USS New Ironsides, each side would roll one die, with the Confederate player adding one to his die if his target is the only warship in the port or blockade space.  If the Confederate die roll is higher, the Union ship is sunk.)

USS New Ironsides was the flagship for Rear Admiral Samuel Francis DuPont (USN Card 54) during the April 1863 naval attack on Fort Sumter and the other defenses of Charleston harbor, and went back into the harbor for the second attack on Charleston.  She also supported the abortive assault by the gallant 54th Massachusetts (as depicted in the movie, Glory) on Fort Wagner, and took part in the two bombardments of Fort Fisher, the second of which resulted in a Union victory in January 1865.  

Decommissioned and laid up in Philadelphia after the war, she was the victim of an accidental fire, allegedly caused by a watchman’s unattended stove, and burned and sank in December 1866.

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