Join us on Friday, July 10 at 12 p.m. for a Live Lecture with author and historian John V. Quarstein, director emeritus of the USS Monitor Center! Live from his home in Hampton, Virginia, John will give a 30-minute presentation about a bloodless naval battle in the Civil War. Viewers are welcome to send him any comments or questions during the presentation, and John will answer them following his talk!
About this presentation: When the Civil War erupted, Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen Russell Mallory knew that the South could only counter and defeat the larger US Navy if ironclads were employed. New Orleans businessman John Stephenson privately funded construction of Manassas. Built atop the hull of the icebreaker Enoch Train in a convex fashion, the vessel had a thin layer of protecting iron and featured one gun and a cast iron ram. Once the ship was completed, it was quickly seized by the Confederate navy in September 1861 by Lieutenant A.F. Warley.
On October 12, 1861, a Confederate squadron, including Manassas along with three fire rafts and three wooden gunboats, went down the Mississippi to attack the Head of the Passes. There the Mississippi River Delta branches into four major water routes (passes) to the Gulf of Mexico. The Union had established a small squadron, including the screw sloop USS Richmond, and sailing sloop of war USS Vincennes, effectively closing New Orleans to commerce. Flag Officer George Hollins hoped that a night attack would give the Confederacy the element of surprise. When Manassas rammed Richmond, it did more damage to itself than to its opponent. Yet the Federal ships fled in panic. Manassas was called a “hellish machine” and ram fever was born.
Image credit: Capture of Fort Fisher, J.O. Davidson, artist; print by L. Prang & Co., 1887. Courtesy Library of Congress.