Ironclad CSS Raleigh, Defender of the Cape Fear
“Its keel laid down in the Spring of 1862 at James Cassidey’s shipyard in Wilmington and construction delayed by the shortage of materials, the CSS Raleigh was commissioned by the Confederate States Navy on 3 April 1864 and under the command of Lt. John Wilkinson.
This officer had just returned from Canada where he was to command the captured USS Michigan on Lake Erie had the secret operation not been compromised. Wilkinson returned South and his assignment to the CSS Raleigh lasted only a few weeks as he was ordered to Richmond to be part of an operation to free Southern prisoners at Point Lookout.
Command of the CSS Raleigh fell to Lt. John Pembroke Jones, an officer very familiar with local waters as he was part of the US Navy’s Coast and Geodetic Survey detachment in the 1850s which surveyed and charted the coastline in this area.
The CSS Raleigh was a Richmond Class ironclad, designed by Capt. John L. Porter, Chief Naval Constructor for the Confederate States Navy. Its length was 150 feet (172’ overall), a beam of 32 feet, drew 12 feet of water, and armament consisted of 4-6” guns and perhaps a spar torpedo. To man the vessel, 197 officers and crew, plus a detachment of 24 marines were aboard.
The steam engine of the wrecked blockade runner Modern Greece blockade was briefly contemplated to power the Raleigh, but to no avail. No plate indicating engine origin exists, and one from the Schockoe Foundry in Richmond may have powered this ironclad.
For the dual purpose of stealth and surprise, an eyewitness account observed the hull, casemate, pilot house and smokestack of the CSS Raleigh were all dark blue; gun muzzles were painted black or simply left as unfinished iron. This is from an eyewitness account.
Why the Ironclads:
Unable to match the US Navy in shipbuilding and high-seas warships, Confederate naval strategy developed three main categories: coastal/harbor defense; blockade breaking and running; and river defense. The revolutionary ironclads could devastate the wooden Northern ships which formed most of the blockading squadrons, and ships like the Raleigh could (and would) scatter blockaders fearful of being rammed and sunk. Read more at: http://www.cfhi.net/IroncladDefendersoftheCapeFear.php
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial