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[297]

The “Stonewall

In this picture, taken after the “Stonewall” was voluntarily delivered by Spain to the United States in July, 1865, is seen the tremendous power for harm possessed by the vessel. Commodore Craven, at his own request, was tried in a court of inquiry for his failure to engage the Confederate ram with the “Niagara” and “Sacramento” and was exonerated of all blame. By taking the less popular course he undoubtedly saved the Federal navy a grave disaster. His were wooden ships, while the “Stonewall” was heavily armored, and her great ram could easily have sunk both her antagonists even if her gunnery should have proved inaccurate. Although the “Niagara” was rated as one of the most powerful vessels of the old navy and perhaps the fastest sailing-ship afloat, under steam she was scarcely a match for the “Stonewall” in that particular. The condition of her boilers at the time was still further disadvantageous. The “Niagara” could not turn around in less than fifteen minutes, while the “Stonewall” could turn on her center while going either forward or backward in a minute and a half. The battery of the “Niagara” had been condemned as unserviceable by a board of survey. Her target-practice reports showed that the shot from her guns would “tumble.” The “Niagara” carried twelve 9-inch smooth-bores and the “Sacramento” ten guns, but unless both ships could bring their broadsides to bear on their antagonist it was bound to be a one-sided battle, for the “Stonewall's” powerful and modern Armstrong rifles were mounted in two turrets and could be brought quickly to bear over a wide range.

The “Stonewall,” a dread Confederate destroyer

Commodore Thomas T. Craven


 

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