Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"The beatings will continue until morale improves".

Got that right, Captain Teach. Beaufort, North Carolina (34° 43′ 15″ N, 76° 39′ 9″ W ) associates itself with E. Teach, aka Blackbeard, the pirate; the presumed wreck of his ship (Queen Anne's Revenge) is nearby. So are crappy "Brethren of the Coast" souvenirs, etcetera. Notwithstanding pirate cargo cult trinkets, Beaufort is a good boat town. A gorgeous "Watercraft Center" for boat building and restoration is across the street from an excellent maritime museum.

The coast of NC was a jumping area during the Civil War, the name I was taught to call it growing up in the North. Down Here, 'bout the best moniker you can get is The War Between The States. Big topic: pops up all the time in one form or another. NC has 1 0f 3 extant ironclads; the timbers of the CSS Neuse were dug out of the river she was named for and dragged to a park in Kinston. There is also a 1/1 wooden mockup of her nearby, really cool. The Confederacy, with about 4,000 miles of coast to defend, a blockade along that coast to circumvent, and a big ol' river serving as a spine, had two shipyards: 2. The Federals put the kibosh to them, so the Southern ironclads were built in cornfields along a river. Live oak was the wood of choice; by the 1860's they were rare and in hard to reach areas, so pine had to suffice. Many a time an ironclad, steaming downriver like a snapping turtle, rang with the sound of hammers as she chugged into harm's way. The ironclad design of CSS Virginia and her brood are best for brown water operations, not the open sea. See, they were built like a house. A rectangular box, with angled iron (rarely more than 2, never more than 4 inches thick) casemates over them. A section of armor on the lower side prevent waterline shots. The armor worked: one story, I won't bore you with more. A Yankee lieutenant pulled the lanyard on a rifled 100 pounder gun (see, a revolution in gunnery is occuring with 2 other maritime revolutions: steam screw power and armor);to his dismay the round ricocheted off the reb ironclad 20 feet away, up into the air and landed on the deck of his ship. It exploded, killing him and several other men.

Bibliographic note: an excellent concise introduction to ironclads may be found in War at Sea in the Ironclad Age , by Richard Hill. Civil War Ironclads: The Dawn of Naval Armor, by Charles MacBride , is an excellent overview of the construction and use of ironclad ships by both sides. It is hard-to-find and often cited; talk about fetching up on the Isles of Serendip, I found one at a bookdealer at a local antiques show. A very interesting and quite well written one volume history of the reb navy is Raimondo Luraghi's A History of the Confederate Navy, translated by Paolo E. Coletta. It is very readable, and good scholarship by someone with no axe to grind.