Tuesday, August 20, 2013

USS Powhattan: From Porter to Dahlgren, From First Shots to Last

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 Powhattan: From Porter to Dahlgren, From First Shots to Last

When Fort Pickens in Florida was threatened by Secessionists in early April, it was the powerful USS Powhattan (USN Card 21)  which was dispatched to ward them off.  President Lincoln tried to recall her from that mission and send her instead to show the flag at Fort Sumter, but Lt. David Dixon Porter set sail before the change in orders could reach him.   That was probably fortunate for him and his ship,  for although this modern sidewheel steam frigate 16 guns – including ten 9-inch and one 11-inch Dahlgren smoothbores, and five 12-pounders – it would have been no match for the massed batteries in Charleston Harbor – guns which would pulverize Sumter that month and ward off fleets of ironclads over the next four years.

Porter (USN Card 2) went on to other fronts (notably commanding the mortar boats at New Orleans, as depicted on his card for Rebel Raiders),  while USS Powhattan went on without him to Charleston, where she chased down blockade runners (catching several prizes) and battered the defenses of Fort Fisher over Christmas, 1864.  Her guns later supported the landing and assault which led to Fisher’s capture three weeks later.

After the war, USS Powhattan took on another Dahlgren – Rear Admiral John Dahlgren, the designer of the guns she carried.  He chose her as his flagship for the South Pacific Squadron, and sailed aboard her to Valparaiso to guard American shipping and interests during the Chincha Islands War.  Dahlgren appears in Rebel Raiders twice – once on a card with his name (USN 31) and as the inspiration for USN Card 3 “Yankee Guns.”

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