Chapter 5: naval attack on Charleston.
On April 2, 1863, the Rear-Admiral
left Port Royal
to join the ‘ironclads,’ as the monitors were styled, at North Edisto
, and on the morning of the 5th left for Charleston Bar with all of them in tow of suitable vessels.
As previously arranged, on arrival, the Keokuk
, aided by Captain Boutelle
and Master Platt of the Coast Survey, sounded and buoyed the bar of the main ship channel, supported by the monitors Patapsco
This was soon accomplished, and before dark these two monitors anchored within.
At high tide on the following morning, the Admiral
came in on board of the New Ironsides, Commodore Thomas Turner
, and was followed by the five monitors yet outside, and by the Keokuk
He intended to proceed the same day to the attack of Fort Sumter
, and thence to the city of Charleston
, but the weather became so hazy that the ranges could not be seen and the pilots refused to go farther.
The state of the atmosphere prevented a satisfactory examination of an earthwork, known afterward as Fort Wagner
, on Morris Island
, distant about two thousand five hundred yards from Sumter
, of the batteries on Cumming's Point
, and of the heavy earthworks flanking Moultrie
The order of battle was ‘line ahead’ as follows: The Weehawken
, Captain John Rodgers
, with a raft on the bows
to explode torpedoes,1
led the line; the Passaic
, Captain Percival Drayton
; the Montauk
, Captain John L. Worden
; the Patapsco
, Commander Daniel Ammen
; the New Ironsides, Commodore Thomas Turner
(as flag-ship), followed by the Catskill
, Commander George W. Rodgers
; the Nantucket
, Commander D. M. Fairfax
; the Nahant
, Commander John Downes
, and the Keokuk
, Commander A. C. Rhind
The vessels were ordered to pass without returning the fire from batteries on Morris Island
; when within easy range of Fort Sumter
they were to open upon it, and take position to the north and west, at a distance of eight hundred yards, firing low, and at the centre embrasure.
The necessity for precision of fire was enjoined.
Vessels were to be prepared to render assistance to each other as far as possible, and a special code of signals was arranged, that could be operated on board of the ironclads.
Noon on the following day (7th) was the earliest hour that the pilots were willing to move.
Signal was made, and the vessels got under way. The Weehawken
in weighing anchor fouled the torpedo grapnels attached to the raft before mentioned, on her bows; this delayed movement until 1.15.
The vessels then proceeded up in line ahead at distances varying a good deal, but intended to be one hundred yards apart; they steered very badly if obliged to stop the engines, sheering every way, and the raft on the bow of the Weehawken
delayed her, and caused wild steering along the whole line, so it was about 2.50 P. M. when she was opened on by Moultrie
, followed at once by Sumter
, and all of the batteries
within effective range.
was then somewhat above Fort Wagner
At about 3.05 she opened fire on Fort Sumter
, followed by the other monitors, at or before they arrived at the same point, the Patapsco
at that time employing a 150-pounder rifle, at the angle of Sumter
that was in face.
up, several buoys of different colors were seen; the vessels passed between them and Morris Island
, but nor far from them, perhaps within one hundred and fifty yards. It was observed that the different vessels, in bringing the buoys in range with Moultrie
or batteries on that shore, received in turn a heavy fire, and it was supposed probable that they marked torpedoes; they certainly served to indicate distance, and the ranges of the guns had been practically established on them, which greatly increased the accuracy of fire from the forts as the vessels passed.
As the narrow part of the channel was approached, the flood tide became strong, setting the vessels in, and made them additionally unmanageable.
Soon after getting within the heavy fire of the batteries, the Weehawken
signalled obstructions in her vicinity, and previous to that a torpedo had exploded close to her; Captain Rodgers
' report states: ‘We approached very close to the obstructions extending from Fort Sumter
to Fort Moultrie
—as near, indeed, as I could get without running upon them.
They were marked by rows of casks very near together.
To the eye they appeared almost to touch one another, and there was more than one line of them.’
‘The appearance was so formidable that, upon deliberate judgment, I thought it right not to entangle the vessel in obstructions which I did not think we could have passed through, and in which we should have been caught.
Beyond these, piles were seen between Castle Pinckney and the middle ground.’
‘A torpedo exploded under us or very near to us; it lifted the vessel a little, but I am unable to perceive that it has done us any damage.
I have no accident to report.’
After approaching the obstructions as above described, the Weehawken
's bow was turned to seaward, in order to prevent being swept upon the obstructions by a strong flood tide then running, and steaming a few hundred feet to the southward enabled the Passaic
to turn in her wake, the Montauk
The working of the guns of the Weehawken
was entirely satisfactory.
Eleven Xv-inch, and fifteen Xi-inch shells were fired; she was struck fifty-three times in forty minutes; the missiles were formidable; two or three of them struck the side armor near the same place and so broke the plates that they remained only in fragments, the wood backing being exposed.
The deck was pierced so as to make a hole through which water ran into the vessel.
Thirty-six bolts were broken in the turret and many in the pilot-house, the number not ascertained, as they were concealed by an iron lining.
At one time the turret revolved with difficulty, having been wedged by a fragment of a shell between its top and the pilot-house.
From the Passaic
, next in line, buoys of various descriptions were observed and also the torpedo that burst near the bow of the Weehawken
When opposite the centre of the northeast face of Sumter
, the vessel was near some obstructions that seemed to extend from Sumter
At the moment of the fourth discharge from the Xi-inch gun the Passaic
was struck by two heavy shot in the lower part of the turret, which bulged in the plates and beams, and forced the rails together upon which the gun was worked, disabling it for several hours.
Soon after, a portion of the brass ring surrounding the turret was broken, and temporarily
impeded revolving the turret.
A very heavy rifle-shot struck the upper edge of the turret, broke all of the plates forming it, then glancing, struck the pilot-house above, indenting it two and a half inches nearly the whole length of the shot.
It disarranged the top of the pilot-house and lifted one side of it three inches. The vessel was struck thirty-five times; several bolt-heads were knocked off and thrown into the pilot-house and turret.
The vessel fired four Xi-inch and nine Xv-inch shells.
There was great difficulty in managing the vessel and keeping clear of her consorts, owing to the limited range of vision from the holes in the pilot-house and to the dense smoke.
experienced difficulty in maneuvering in the narrow and uncertain channel, with the limited means of vision, under the rapid and concentrated fire of the enemy.
The vessel was struck fourteen times without receiving material injury.
She fired ten Xv-inch cored shot, sixteen solid Xi-inch shot, and one shell.
opened fire with 150-pounder rifle when within thirteen hundred yards of Sumter
, and when within eleven hundred yards with the Xv-inch gun. On the fifth discharge the cap-square bolts of the rifle gave way, disabling that gun for two hours.
, next ahead, following the head of the line, turned seaward.
At that time several rows of buoys were observed above and near, and further within the harbor, a row of piles.
Endeavoring to turn a step's length short of the Montauk
's wake, the headway of the Patapsco
ceased, and the vessel no longer obeyed the helm.
She was backed, and got off, having been stationary long enough to afford the enemy an excellent opportunity, which was availed of, for delivering a heavy concentrated fire.
At this time she was supposed to be six hundred yards from Sumter
and double that
distance from Moultrie
A Xv-inch shell fired at Sumter
was watched until it struck on the northeast face; the fort was covered with a mass of dust from the bursting shell, and the effect upon the masonry was plainly visible.
The opinion was expressed by her commander that a want of vision from the pilot-house was one of the most serious defects of that class of vessel, making it impossible to fight them advantageously, to avoid dangers, or to make a satisfactory reconnoissance.
Owing to the breaking of the cap-square bolts of the rifle, that gun delivered only five shells; the Xv-inch fired the same number.
The vessel was struck forty-seven times.
Forty bolts of the smoke-stack were broken and a chain afterward put around it for security.
The vessel was not disabled, but injuries were received which, if multiplied, would have disabled her.
reports that at 2.50 the forts and batteries opened on the head of the line.
The flag-ship (New Ironsides) becoming unmanageable from shoal water and strong tide, the Catskill
passed her, and at 3.35 the first shot struck her. She approached within six hundred yards of Sumter
, and one of her Xv-inch shells apparently dismounted a barbette gun. The cross fire to which she was subjected was most severe.
The same obstructions reported by the four preceding vessels were observed.
Surprise was expressed that the vessel suffered so much injury in so short a time.
She was struck twenty times; one shot forward broke the deck-plates and deck-planking, and drove down the stanchion sustaining the beam, causing the deck to leak.
She fired fifteen Xi-inch and eleven Xv-inch shells.
No complaint as to the working of the turret or the battery.
The commander of the Nantucket
, next in line, made the same general observations.
The New Ironsides having signailed
to ‘disregard motions of flag ship,’ he followed the Catskill
When within seven hundred and fifty yards of Sumter
he opened fire on it, and for forty-five or fifty minutes was under the fire of three forts, which he describes as ‘terrific.’
The effect of the fire of the vessel on the fort was not so observable as that of the enemy on the vessel.
After the third discharge the port stopper of the Xv-inch gun was jammed, several heavy shot having driven in the plating.
The Xi-inch gun was fired twelve times.
The vessel was struck fifty-one times.
During the action the turret was jammed; six or seven nut-heads driven off had fallen inside and rendered it necessary to key up the turret to enable it to revolve.
A number of side-plates were started, so that another shot would probably have broken them off. One rifle-shot was driven through the armor into the wood, and one deck-plate was started from a blow on the side armor.
Other serious injuries were named.
reports that, following in line of battle, the vessel became hotly engaged.
She soon began to suffer from the terrible fire to which she was subjected.
At 4.30 the turret, having become jammed from the effects of three shots, refused to turn.
One of these shot broke off a piece of iron in the interior weighing seventy-eight pounds, and throwing it violently across the house bent and disarranged the steering gear.
Bolt-heads (nuts from the bolts) flying from the inside of the pilot-house struck down the pilot, and fatally injured the helmsman.
The commanding officer
was the only person in the pilot-house not senseless from injuries.
The preventer steering gear was got in working order, and after repeated futile efforts to train the guns on Sumter
, the vessel was headed out, the other vessels withdrawing under signal at the same time.
The vessel was struck thirty-six times, one man was fatally injured, two others severely, and four others slightly, all by flying bolts or other fragments inside the pilot-house and turret.
Several of the plates on the side armor were badly broken, and at one place, where two shots had struck near each other, the plating was partly stripped from the wood, the backing broken in, and the edging of deck-plates started up and rolled back in places.
On the port quarter and side the plating was deeply indented and started from the side to the stern.
The deck had two very damaging shots, one near the propeller well, quite shattering the plate and starting twenty-five bolts; another starting the plate and twenty bolts.
The smoke-stack received three shots; one pierced the armor, making a hole fifteen inches long and nine broad, displacing the grating inside, and breaking seven bolts.
The turret received nine shots; fifty-six bolts were perceptibly broken, the nuts stripped from the inside, and the bolts themselves protruded almost their length; some of them, in fact, having actually been forced out, were found lying on the deck; doubtless many others were broken that had not then been detected, as some bolts seemingly sound were afterward found loosened.
One shot struck the upper part of the turret, breaking through every plate, parting some of them in two, three, and four places.
The pilot-house bore marks of six shots, three of Xi-inch diameter, twenty-one bolts were broken and others started, and the plates were much started; in the opinion of the commanding officer
, a few more such shot would have demolished it. One of the missiles at the base broke through every plate, and evidently nearly penetrated.
During the action the Nahant
fired seven Xv-inch and eight Xi-inch projectiles.
It was not until 5 P. M. of the next day that the turret was sufficiently cleared to be turned,
although a corps of skilful workmen under able supervision were engaged at it.
The commanding officer
of the Keokuk
states that at 3.20, the flag-ship having made signal to disregard her motions, he found it necessary to run ahead of the Nahant
to avoid getting foul of her in a narrow channel and strong tide.
In consequence, he was forced to take a position slightly in advance of the leading vessel of the line, which brought the Keokuk
under a concentrated fire between Sumter
, about five hundred and fifty yards from the latter.
This position was maintained about thirty minutes, during which time the vessel was struck ninety times.
Nineteen shots pierced her at and just below the water-line.
The turrets (casemates) were pierced in many places and one of the forward shutters shot away; in short, the vessel was completely riddled.
Finding it impossible to keep her afloat many minutes more under such an extraordinary fire, at 4.40 she was reluctantly withdrawn from action.
The gun-carriage of the forward turret was disabled, and so many of the crew of the after gun wounded as to disable that gun. She was anchored out of range of the fire of the enemy and kept afloat during the night, as the water was smooth.
At daylight the breeze sprung up, the leakage increased, and it was apparent the vessel must soon go down.
Signal was made, assistance arrived, and an endeavor to get the head of the vessel around to tow her into shoaler water, but in that effort she filled rapidly and at 7.20 A. M. of the 8th sunk, her smokestack alone remaining partly above water.
The wounded had been put on board of a tug a few minutes before the vessel sunk.
The casualties were 16 seriously, and as many more slightly wounded.
, commanding the flag-ship, states that
the pilot-house being insufficient to hold more persons than were required by the Admiral
, he had taken personal charge of the battery of the Ironsides
By sounding it was found that the vessel at times was only one foot clear of the bottom.
A shot striking the forward facing of a port shutter knocked it off. The damage done to the ship from the fire of the enemy was not material, and the opinion was expressed that at the distance of 1,000 yards the armor plating would prove invulnerable to such shot as were fired at the vessel.
He expressed great admiration of the conduct of officers and men, and would fall short of his duty if he omitted to present to especial notice Lieutenant-Commander George E. Belknap
, the executive officer.
It is proper to note the fact that without exception the commanding officers
of all of the vessels engaged spoke in the highest terms of those under their command.
The names, which may be seen in the official reports, are omitted for lack of space and fear of taxing the patience of the reader.
, in his several reports to the Department, states that he moved in line of battle as before given, in the New Ironsides, with seven ironclad monitors and the iron-plated vessel Keokuk
, and attacked Fort Sumter
, intending to pass it and commence action on the northwest face, in accordance with his order of battle.
The heavy fire received from Sumter
and the nature of the obstructions compelled the attack from outside, which was fierce and obstinate, and the gallantry of the officers and men was conspicuous.
The endeavors of the Admiral
in the pilot-house of the New Ironsides to bring the vessel into such close action as he desired were not successful; in a rapid current and narrow channel the vessel became partly unmanageable, and was twice anchored to prevent grounding, and once on account
of a collision with two of the monitors.
She did not get nearer to Fort Sumter
than 1,000 yards.2
Owing to the condition of the tide and unavoidable accidents, the vessels were not engaged until late in the day, and toward evening, finding no impression made upon the fort, signal was given for the vessels to withdraw, with the intention of renewing the attack the following morning.
The commanders of the monitors came on board during the evening, and stated verbally the injuries the vessels had received, when without hesitation the Admiral
determined not to renew the attack, as in his judgment it would have converted a failure into a disaster.
He stated that in his opinion Charleston
could not be taken by a purely naval attack, and the army could not give co-operation.
Had he succeeded in entering the harbor, he would have had 1,200 men, with 32 guns; but five of the seven ironclads were wholly or partially disabled after a brief engagement.
He had alluded above only to Forts Sumter
, but the vessels were also exposed to the fire of the batteries on Cummings Point
, Mount Pleasant
, the Redan, and Fort Beauregard
In a more detailed report to the Department, dated April 15th, Admiral Dupont
gives with particularity the fire delivered by the vessels engaged and the injuries sustained by them, and adds, that in his belief any attempt to pass through the obstructions referred to would have entangled the vessels and held them under the most severe fire of heavy ordnance that had ever been delivered, and while it was barely possible that some vessels might have forced their way through, it would only have been to be again impeded
by other and more formidable obstructions and to encounter other powerful batteries with which the whole harbor of Charleston
had been lined.
He says that the slowness of our fire and our inability to occupy any batteries we might silence are disadvantages of the gravest character, and until the outer forts shall have been taken, the army cannot enter the harbor or afford assistance.
A want of success, however, will not prevent him from bringing to the notice of the Department the gallant officers and men who took part in this desperate conflict.
After naming the officers and the vessels they commanded, he says: ‘They did everything that the utmost gallantry and skill could accomplish in the management of their untried vessels.’
These commanding officers
had long been known to him; many of them had served in the squadron before, and were present at the capture of the Port Royal
forts; they were men of the highest professional capacity and courage, and fully sustained their reputations, coming up to his requirements.
He commended them and their reports, which speak of those under them, to the consideration of the Department.
He then names in the highest terms Commander C. R. P. Rodgers
, Lieutenant S. W. Preston
, Lieutenant A. S. Mackenzie
, and Ensign M. L. Johnson
, who were on his staff or serving immediately under his personal observation.
The result of the attack was mortifying to all of the officers and men engaged in it. Had any loss of life been regarded as likely to render another attempt successful, there would have been few indeed who would not have desired it. The opinion before the attack was general, and was fully shared in by the writer, that whatever might be the loss in men and vessels, blown up by torpedoes or otherwise destroyed (and such losses were supposed probable), at all
events Fort Sumter
would be reduced to a pile of ruins before the sun went down.
The damage done to the forts by the very small number of projectiles fired by the vessels, although not known at the time to the assailants, was so considerable as to cause the enemy to fill nearly all of the casemates with sand, and this work was begun and carried on vigorously the very night after the bombardment.
(See Appendix A for effect of shells, as given in Confederate records.)
The damage inflicted on the vessels shows that they were incapable of enduring heavy blows sufficiently long to effect the destruction of Sumter
, as they were situated, or as it was supposed possible to place them.
There was considerable swell even between the forts at the time of the attack, and the flood tide ran strong and irregularly, which added to the embarrassment.
Afloat as elsewhere leeks have to be eaten sometimes, whether liked or not, as an old proverb has it.
An examination of the chart of Charleston Harbor
, with its batteries and obstructions of various kinds, as shown in 1865, and the experience gained subsequent to the attack (bearing in mind, too, the condition of the batteries of the vessels on the 7th of April), would point rather to the probability of disaster than to success, had an attempt been made to enter.
The reader has been informed of the strength of the attacking force in guns and in material resistance, and the failure of many of the guns to operate when they were most needed.
A part of the defences at that time consisted of seventy-six guns of large calibre, which bore over the area occupied for a time by the vessels attacking.
H. R. Ex. Doc
. No. 69, Thirty-eighth Congress, First Session, page 85 (Report on Armored Vessels), states: ‘There was a cylinder torpedo off Fort Wagner
under charge of Mr.
, who endeavored to explode it for ten minutes. He could not have placed the Ironsides
more directly over the torpedo, but the confounded thing, as is usual with them, would not go off when it was wanted.’
The character of the defences of Charleston
and the ability of the attacking force will appear more fully in the closing pages relating to operations on that coast.
The considerations that were operative in the mind of the flag-officer
are given in his report of April 15th.
He says: ‘I had hoped that the endurance of the ironclads would have enabled them to have borne any weight of fire to which they might have been exposed; but when I found that so large a portion of them were wholly or one-half disabled by less than an hour's engagement, before attempting to remove [overcome] the obstructions, or testing the power of the torpedoes, I was convinced that persistence in the attack would result in the loss of the greater portion of the ironclad fleet, and in leaving many of them inside the harbor, to fall into the hands of the enemy.’
On the withdrawal of the ironclads at 5 P. M., April 7th, the flag-officer
had not even a suspicion that he would not resume operations the following morning.
The grave injuries sustained by the vessels in aggressive power restrained him, such as no loss of life, had it occurred, would have done.
On the evening of the attack the flag-officer
received a letter, as follows:
Of the same date is the following unofficial letter from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy
: ‘Matters are at a standstill on the Mississippi River
, and the President
was with difficulty restrained from sending off Hunter
and all the ironclads directly to New Orleans, the opening of the Mississippi
being the principal object to be obtained.
It is, however, arranged, as you will see by to-day's order, that you are to send all the ironclads that survive the attack upon Charleston
immediately to New Orleans, reserving for your squadron only two.
We must abandon all other operations on the coast where ironclads are necessary to a future time.
We cannot clear the Mississippi River
without ironclads, and as all the supplies come down the Red River
, that stretch of the river must be in our possession.
This plan has been agreed upon after mature consideration, and seems to be imperative.’
On the night after the attack officers on General Hunter
's staff were on board of the Ironsides
with the proposition for the flag-officer
to co-operate with General Hunter
in the reduction of Morris Island
, which, for reasons quite obvious, could not then be entertained.
In a reply to a very complimentary letter received from General Hunter
at this time, the Admiral
says: ‘I feel very comfortable, General, for the reason that a merciful Providence
permitted me to have a failure
instead of a disaster
, and if I had ever entertained for a moment any misgiving as to my course, the despatches just handed me would remove it.’
The following day, in a note to General Hunter
, he says: ‘I find the ships so much damaged during this short engagement as to force me to the conviction that they could not endure the fire to which they would be exposed long enough to destroy Sumter
or reach Charleston
I am now satisfied that
the place cannot be taken by a purely naval attack, and am admonished by the condition of the ironclads that a persistence in our efforts would end in disaster, and might cause us to leave some of our ironclads in the hands of the enemy, which would render it difficult to hold those parts of the coast that are yet in our possession.
I have therefore determined to withdraw my vessels.’
The Department and the people of the North
counted confidently on the fall of Charleston
through the monitors, as is shown by the orders of April 2d, followed before the receipt of the news of the repulse on April 7th by a letter to the Admiral
from the Secretary of the Navy
, dated April 11th, as follows: ‘It has been suggested to the Department by the President
, in view of operations elsewhere, and especially by the Army of the Potomac, that you should retain a strong force off Charleston
, even should you find it impossible to carry the place.
You will continue to menace the rebels, keeping them in apprehension of a renewed attack, in order that they may be occupied, and not come North or go West to the aid of the rebels with whom our forces will soon be in conflict.
Should you be successful, as we trust and believe you will be, it is expected that General Hunter
will continue to keep the rebels employed and in constant apprehension, so that they shall not leave the vicinity of Charleston
This detention of ironclads, should it be necessary in consequence of a repulse, can be but for a few days
. I trust your success will be such that the ironclads can be or will have been despatched to the Gulf
when this reaches you. There is intense interest in regard to your operations.’
The writer has italicised the sentence above, as it would exert a controlling influence on Admiral Dupont
in fitting for effective service all of the ironclads under him with the least possible delay.
Immediately, following is a despatch from the President
The following day the President
issued further instructions:
On April 16th, Rear-Admiral Dupont
wrote to the Secretary of the Navy
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt this morning, by the Freeborn, of your communication of the 11th inst., directing the maintaining of a large force off Charleston, to menace the rebels and keep them in apprehension of a renewed attack in the event of our repulse.
The Department will probably have known, on the 12th instant, the result of the attack In my despatch of the 11th instant, dated off Charleston, the Department was made aware of my withdrawal with the ironclads, from the very insecure anchorage inside the bar, and just in time to save the monitors from an easterly gale, in which, in my opinion and that of their commanders, they would have been in great peril of being lost on Morris Island beach.
Their ground-tackling has been found to be insufficient, and from time to time they have dragged even in close harbors.
I have since been doing all in my power to push forward their repairs in order to send them to the Gulf, as directed, but I presume that your despatch of the 11th instant, and the telegraphic message from the President, revoke your previous order.
I shall spare no exertions in repairing, as soon as possible, the serious injuries sustained by the monitors in the late attack, and shall get them inside Charleston bar with all despatch in accordance with the order of the President.
I think it my duty, however, to state to the Department that this will be attended with great risk to these vessels from the gales which prevail at this season, and from the continuous fire of the enemy's batteries, which they can neither silence, nor prevent the erection of new ones.
I have deemed it proper and due to myself to make these statements, but I trust I need not add that .I will obey all orders with the utmost fidelity, even when my judgment is entirely at variance with them, such as the order to re-occupy the unsafe anchorage for the ironclads off Morris Island, and an intimation that a renewal of the attack on Charleston may be ordered, which, in my judgment, would be attended with disastrous results, involving the loss of this coast.
I am, however, painfully struck by the tenor and tone of the President's order, which seems to imply a censure, and I have to request that the Department will not hesitate to relieve me by an officer who, in its opinion, is more able to execute that service in which I have had the misfortune to fail—the capture of Charleston.
No consideration for an individual officer, whatever his loyalty and length of service, should weigh an instant if the cause of his country can be advanced by his removal
Chief-Engineer Alban C. Stimers
was sent by the Department to look after and correct any deficiencies in the monitors which might be developed in service, and for this purpose he had under his control a number of skilled workers in iron.
He was either the designer of the raft before described, secured to the bow of the Weehawken
, or was closely connected with its construction.
He witnessed the attack of the 7th of April from beyond the bar, and had recommended the employment of two rafts that he had brought down, one of which was attached to the bow of the Weehawken
Each raft was designed to carry on its forward end a submerged torpedo to destroy by explosion any obstruction met with; the torpedo Captain Rodgers
declined to carry, as he feared blowing up some of the other monitors against which he might run by accident
, however, states that his explanation as to the safety of the vessels carrying the torpedo was not satisfactory, and for that reason they had rejected ‘this powerful weapon, for which we have every reason to suppose the enemy was entirely unprepared, in an attack which could have few hopes of success without it.’
He was agreeably disappointed the following morning, upon his inspection of the monitors, to find ‘that there were no clear passages through the decks, and no penetrations through the sides of the vessels or the pilot-houses.’
He then institutes a comparison between the vulnerability, as he supposes, of the plates of 4 1/2 inches in thickness of the New Ironsides and the five 1-inch plates applied to the sides of the monitors.
He says: ‘To the casual observer, therefore, the solid plates will have the appearance of having with-stood the bombardment better than the laminated, but the unprejudiced engineer will perceive the latter disposition of the metal is much the more effective in attaining the desired end.’
The falsity of this presented observation of the effect
of shot on laminated plates as compared with their effect on a solid plate of equal thickness has been established uniformly, by very many target experiments, and afterward by the Ironsides
In his report to the Department he adds: ‘In consideration of the vast importance to our country that the stronghold of rebellion should be reduced, I take the liberty to express to the Department my firm opinion that the obstructions can be readily passed with the means already provided, and our entire fleet of ironclads pass up successfully to the wharves of Charleston
, and that the monitor vessels still retain sufficient enduring powers to enable them to pass all the forts and batteries which may be reasonably expected.’
The official history of Chief-Engineer Stimers
in relation to monitors closes as follows: ‘Chief-Engineer Stimers
is responsible for the detailed drawings of the  light-draught monitors, and for the calculations as to their displacement.
It was expected that they would not draw over six and one-half feet of water, and be out of water amidships about fifteen inches. The contracts were made generally in the spring of 1863, and the vessels were to be furnished in the fall of that year.
, at Boston
, was the first one finished.
She was under the entire direction of Chief-Engineer Stimers
Instead of being fifteen inches out of water she was only three inches on an average, showing a miscalculation of one foot.
The Department immediately removed Mr. Stimers
from the position of general superintendent
, and placed the question of what should be done to remedy the difficulties occasioned by his error in the hands of Rear-Admiral Gregory
, Chief-Engineer Wood
, and Captain Ericsson
’ (letter of Assistant Secretary of the Navy
, December 15, 1864, to Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War
, vol. 3, 1865).