The First ironclad. [from the Houston, Texas, Chronicle, November, 1902.]
It was constructed and commanded by a Texan.
C. W. Austin had the honor.Ante-dated the Virginia (Merrimac) and the Monitor—Story of daring deeds that Surpass Fiction—a terrible Journey— individual acts of courage.
Contrary to all the teachings of history, to a Texan belongs the honor of having constructed and commanded the vessel that revolutionized naval warfare and displaced wood hulls for those of steel. Throughout the world it is stated that the Merrimac and Monitor were the first successful opponents of ironclad architecture. This idea is taught in the public schools from one end of this land to another, and teachers have impressed and continue to impress upon their pupils. But it is not true history. Designed conjointly by Captain John A. Stevenson and Captain Charles W. Austin, and constructed and commanded by the latter, the Confederate ram Manassas was the first ironclad ever built. Captain Austin was a Texan, a relative of Stephen F. Austin, and his family resides to-day in Houston at No. 2712 Fannin street. But for the success of this vessel the Merrimac would never have been built, and Ericson would never have submitted his plans for the ‘cheese box on a raft.’ The first ironclad, the Enoch Train, a towboat on the Mississippi river, was purchased by Mr. Stevenson before the Federals had been driven from the field of Bull Run. It was a powerful vessel, with twin screws, and mammoth engines for a craft of its size. One hundred and eighty feet in length, it was registered at about 100 tons. Hauled upon the ways at New Orleans, builders swarmed over its hull, while all the city laughed at the plans laid down by the two captains. It was sheathed above the water line, under the direction of Commander Austin, with two thicknesses of railroad rails, and was fitted with a ram of iron pointing out beneath about five feet in length.