Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Happy Rebel Raiders Birthday to the U.S. Navy!

Today is the day the U.S. Navy celebrates its birthday...238 years young!   It is a much happier birthday than the one it celebrated 150 years ago today - when the Navy, like the country, was so divided.

When the Civil War broke out, the U.S. Navy was a proud but almost pitifully small force, and one made much smaller by the defection of 259 of its officers to the Confederacy.  These 259 included 13 captains, 33 commanders and 94 lieutenants.  They helped build a small but potent and technologically forward fighting navy for the South.  Meanwhile, the North, to which 40 Southern and the great majority of Northern-born officers remained loyal, grew to become the largest and most powerful fleet in the world - one which if needed could have taken on the Royal Navy (which is represented in Rebel Raiders by CSN Card No. 62)

At war's end, the Union had 671 warships, notes James McPherson in his War Upon the Waters.  Of these "all but 112 were steamers, and 71 of them were ironclads."  They mounted over 4,600 guns - many of them powerful Columbiads, Parrot Rifles and Dahlgrens  (as represented in the Yankee Guns card in Rebel Raiders - USN Card No. 3)    (This does NOT include the large number of river warships run by the U.S. Army).   The Navy built over 200 ships and purchased or pressed into service another 400-plus  (many of them Blockade Runners, such as  CSS Advance (CSN Card 67) which was caught off Wilmington in September 1864 while attempting her 21st run, and recommissioned as the gunboat USS Frolic - and then sent back South on blockade duty.

According to McPherson, the North spent over $6.8 billion on the war effort - of which less than 8 percent ($587 million) went to the Navy.   "By any measure of cost-effectiveness," however, says McPherson "the nation got more than its money's worth."

That assessment holds true today - as it has in two world wars and many other conflicts large and small in which the Navy played a signature roll.

Happy Birthday, U.S. Navy....and many more.


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