Friday, November 28, 2008

The monitor Casco

The Casco class shallow-draft monitor design was a failure. The displacement was inadequate for the planned weights. The Casco was completed as a spar torpedo boat, but was totally unsuited for such as role, as her speed was only 5 knots. This picture probably shows the Casco on the James River, which she cleared of mines.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The USS Cumberland, later sunk by the CSS Virginia

This is said to be a photograph of the USS Cumberland, a sailing corvette, that was sunk by ramming by the CSS Virginia in Hampton Roads in 1862.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The cruiser Shah

The most notable event in the career of the British unarmoured cruiser Shah was in 1877, when the Shah and the Amethyst fought an action against the Peruvian ironclad Huascar. The main lesson from the battle was that large cruisers needed some protection in the form of armour. The Shah and Amethyst were unable to damage the Huascar. Had the Peruvians been able to fire accurately, William Hovgaard thought that the Huascar might have defeated the two unarmoured cruisers. The Shah was nominally 6,250 tons and carried 2-9in MLR, 16-7in MLR, and 8-64pdr MLR. The Shah had a maximum speed of 16.2 knots.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The small wooden cruiser USS Hartford

The USS Hartford was about a 2550 ton wooden cruiser. SHe had a single screw which could propel the Hartford at up to 9-1/2 knots. She was originally armed with 20-9in MLSB guns, augmented by 2-20pdr Parrott guns and 2-12pdr guns. She served as David Farragut's flagship from January 1862. Her most notable actions were the Battle of New Orleans and the Battle of Mobile Bay.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A really great picture of HMS Viper at speed

This is a picture that is derived from that on Wikipedia, but is cleaned up considerably. The picture is so useful, because you could make an accurate outboard profile drawing use it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A spycam view of the Italian cruiser Giuseppe Garibaldi

This is sort of a spycam view of the Italian armoured cruiser Giuseppe Garibaldi, which was well-regarded in its time. A large number of foreign sales were made of ships of this design. Two of the last were the Japanese cruisers Nisshin and Kasuga.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Look in Google Book Search for Brassey's The Naval Annual

At least the 1888 Brassey's Naval Annual can be downloaded from Google Book Search. If you are interested in the old ships from 1660 to 1905, this is a good book. As usual, the book is too hard to find. Google seems to delight in hiding full view books. I had to go deep into the search results to find this volume.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Chinese coast defense ship Ping-Yuen

The 1894 Naval Annual classes the Chinese ship Ping-Yuen as a coast defense ship. The Ping-Yuen was only 2,850 tons (a nominal figure). The ship was 200ft x 40ft x 16ft in size and had two screws. The maximum speed was only 10.5 knots. The Ping-Yuen did have an 8in belt and 1-10.2in BLR, 2-6in BLR, and 8-QF guns. The Ping-Yuen was built in 1890. This picture shows the ship in Japanese service, after being taken in the Sino-Japanese War.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Warships blog

Alexander van Maanen has the Warships blog where he and his father Ron are posting warship-related material, including photographs. For example, there are photographs of the Dutch ironclad Schorpioen, built a La Seyne. The ships originally had 2-9in MLR and that seems to be what the Schorpioen has now.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Modified ships

I am going to try my hand at a photograph of a modified version of HMS Resistance, the ironclad British battleship. I am thinking in terms of a "modernization".

Sunday, July 27, 2008

HMS Devastation

As originally conceived by Sir Edward Reed, the Devastation was a very clean design. After being rebuilt and late in life, the Devastation was overloaded with top hamper. The best feature of the original design was that the ship pioneered the more modern gun layout with two turrets with two heavy guns each that was standard until the early 20th Century. The most problematic feature was the low freeboard, although as a breastwork monitor, the Devastation was superior to the pure monitor which had such a low freeboard that at sea the deck would always be awash.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Another try at the CSS Virginia

This is another attempt at depicting, photographically, the CSS Virginia lying at anchor near Norfolk in early 1652.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Spanish cruiser Cristobal Colon

Spain had purchased an Italian armoured cruiser of a very successful design to strengthen their cruiser force. The problem is that the Spanish authorities dissaproved of having the Italian 10in gun on their ship, so the Cristobal Colon was delivered without her main armament! The Cristobal Colon was driven ashore, a wreck, at Santiago Bay, in 1898, with wooden guns for the main armament. Ten ships of the class were built. Five of them were sold to foreign navies and the next three were used by the Italian navy. The last two ended up in the Japanese navy as the Nisshin and Kasuga.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The website is really hurting

I keep trying to access images from the NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER website and continually am aggravated by the website performance. I was looking for more pictures of Confederate ironclads. This time I wanted to see pictures of the CSS Richmond. I am still waiting, several minutes later. The pictures tend to be under 100K in size, so what is the deal?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Real photographs of the CSS Albemarle

I had not realized that there were actual photographs of the Confederate ironclad CSS Albemarle. Admittedly, they were taken after the Albemarle was salvaged, but nonetheless, we know what the ship really looked like. has a page with the photographs.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Russian cruiser Askold

I think that the Russian cruiser Askold really betrays her German origin. The entire conception is very strange, with the low hull, the first level superstructure, and five funnels. This picture apparently shows the ship off Port Arthur in 1904 in gray wartime garb.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

More on the Manassas

The more that I look at the Manassas picture, the more that it is obvious that it was an advanced concept. The ship was intended to be six feet above water and 17ft below the water line. The curved deck was almost an early example of a protective deck, with a bit more arch than was typical. One problem was that the armour was too thin. It seems to have been all that the displacement could carry. The Manassas was about 143ft long and had sharp ram shape forward, where the curve of the deck came down to a point below the water. The ram protruded 10 feet forward and seems to have been part of a solid block of wood about twenty feet long. In service, the ram seems to have been not solid enough to penetrate the side of a ship, since in about three attacks, ships were damaged but not holed. I was interested to read that David Dixon Porter had hoped to save the Manassas as an "engineering curiosity", but the ship was on fire, drifted downstream, blew-up, and sank before it could be rescued.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My CSS Manassas picture

I took that CSS Manassas drawing that the Wikipedia has and applied photographic elements and did some other graphic editing to see if I could make the picture look photographic. It seems at least somewhat successful to me (of course, I am prejudiced). The Manassas was converted towboat (often called a tug, which has a different connotation) that had curved iron plating for armour. The armour was too thin and the Manassas was sunk during the Union attack on New Orleans in 1862. This picture shows the Manassas with a single funnel, which is what I have grown to expect. An alternative view shows the Manassas with twin funnels aligned so that from the side, they look like one.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

CSS Virginia

CSS Virginia, Confederate ironclad 1862

I thought that we needed a CSS Virginia photograph. This is the USS Merrimack cut down and given an iron casemate. The navy had burnt the Merrimack on abandoning Norfolk. The Confederates raised the ship and repaired the holes that had been drilled in the hull. The ship had sank, so that most of the lower hull was undamaged by fire. Captain Paulding had not done a very effective scuttling job. The engines were affected by being submerged in seawater, however. The Virginia was a very large ship. As a screw frigate, the Merrimack had displaced 4,363 tons. The Virginia had a mixed armament. She carried 2-7in MLR, 2-6in MLR, and 6-9in Dahlgren SBML. There wre also two 12pdr howitzers. The iron armour was built of two 2-in layers. The best that the Virginia could make was about six knots. (I drew this picture quite a while ago, but I was surprised to find that it was never published!)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The "Spanish Cruisers" page

I was impressed by the Spanish cruisers page at the UK website, I was particularly interested to see the photograph titled: "Almirante Oquendo after the Battle of Santiago". This was contributed by Rafael Galvan Diaz. The ship had run ashore, heavily damaged and on fire. The Spanish found out that above water torpedo launchers or tubes were hazardous. Sadly, the British had not learned the lesson and that probably caused the loss of the battlecruiser Hood in 1941.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Confederate ironclad Tennessee

The Confederate ironclad Tennessee took part in the defense of Mobile Bay. The Tennessee was captured when the Union forces were able to enter the bay, under fire and with the loss of two ironclad ships mined. The Tennessee was a somewhat larger ship than the Atlanta, as she displaced 1,273 tons. The Tennessee had 5in iron armour, except on the front, the armour was 6in. The Tennessee had a 7.125in Brooke MLR on each end and two 6in MLR on each side.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Confederate ironclad ram Nashville

When I was very young, I had seen John O'Hara Cosgrave's drawing of the Confederate ironclad Atlanta in Fletcher Pratt's book about the Monitor and Merrimac (CSS Virginia). Cosgrave's illustrations were well done and imaginative, but did not resemble the actual ships very closely. The Atlanta was a conversion of the blockade runner Finlay into an ironclad ram. The armoured superstructure followed the standard pattern used in the later Confederate ironclads, and was very angular. The Atlanta had 4in iron armour and carried 2-6.4in rifles on each side and a 7in rifle firing along the axis. The displacement was about 1006 tons. The Atlanta apparently could make 7 knots, which was adequate in restricted waters. The Atlanta suffered the usual problem of being outgunned by Union monitors armed with large 11 and 15 inch smooth bore guns.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The French ironclad battleship Couronne (1862)

This is apparently a photograph of the French ironclad battleship Couronne, completed in 1862, after the Couronne was altered as a gunnery training ship in 1881 to 1885. The photographs is based on the Wikipedia photograph. The armour was removed and a spar deck and other additions were made to make the Couronne resemble a conventional screw two-decker. The ship was actually constructed of iron and lasted until as late as 1932, although last 22 years were as a hulk.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Italian battleship Dandolo

This is a rather interesting photograph of the Italian ironclad battleship Dandolo. The Dandolo was launched in 1878, but not completed until circa 1882. The Dandolo was a rather small turret ship equipped with four 17.7in (45cm) 100 ton guns. The Dandolo could reach 15 knots and had a 21.5in iron belt and 18in iron armour on the turrets. The dimensions were 340ft-11in x 64ft-9in x 26ft-7in. The nominal displacement was 10,434 tons. The IHP was 7,500.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The impact of aggressive copyright enforcement

In 2003 and 2004, there were many more photographs of old ships on various websites. I hypothesize that vigorous copyright enforcement by the owners of over 100 year old photographs has drastically reduced what can be found. The entire concept of copyrighted photographs over 100 years old is pretty amazing, but perhaps that is one of the "great things" brought to use by the folks in Britain. I am certain that I had seen a photograph of the Chinese armoured cruiser King-Yuan in the past, but there is nothing at all "out there", right now. The King-Yuan was a small, armoured cruiser of 2,850 tons, with dimensions of 270ft x 40ft x 16ft-6in. The King-Yuan had a belt that was 9-1/2 inches thick. The King-Yuan had a top speed of 16-1/2 knots. Her armament consisted of 2-8.2in/35 10 ton guns, 2-5.9in guns, one submerged 18in torpedo tube and 3 18in torpedo launching carriages. The King Yuan was built at Vulkan at Stettin. By digging around in my archives, I found this picture of the King-Yuan.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The cruiser Olympia

I have been looking for a photograph of the cruiser Olympia with gray paint over the prewar livery and decorations for the war in 1898. This picture seems to be the only thing that is readily available. The evidence for the picture being from 1898 is that the picture I have from 1899 shows the same tops, yards, masts, searchlights, and gun sponsons as the picture in gray paint. The Americans had hastily put a coat of gray paint on their ships before attacking the Spanish fleet in Manilla Bay.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The battleship Maine: the real proportions

I have seen many drawings of the battleship Maine, destroyed in 1898. They generally seem to be based on guesswork or else on extrapolations from photographs that show a perspective view. If you pop the large image, you should be able to scale off the exact proportions from this long-range photograph.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Phillip Watts' fast cruiser Piemonte

The Piemonte, designed by Phillip Watts, was a very early attempt at a very fast cruiser. Considering the date, 1888, he succeeded quite well, just by achieving a 21 knot speed. The Brassey's nominal data gave a displacement of 2500 tons, dimensions of 300ft x 38ft x 15ft. 12,000 IHP produced the required speed. The armament was fairly substantial: 6-6in QF, 6-4.7in QF, 10-57mm (6pdr) QF guns. There were apparently 3 torpedo launching devices.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Purchased steamers as warships

The Spanish-American War in 1898 was right at the edge where merchant steamers might be purchased for service as cruisers. One of the last examples where this occurred was the American cruiser Topeka.

The Topeka had been launched by Howaldt at Kiel in 1881. The ship had been built for Peru as the Diogenes, so perhaps the intent was to be a cruiser from the beginning. Peru did not take delivery and the Thames Iron Works acquired her. She sat idle until the Sino-Japanese War when the Japanese almost bought her. The deal did not go through, so she sat longer until the Americans bouth her for service in the war with Spain. Her original commander, Lieutenant Knapp, described her as a good seaboat. He felt very uncomfortable, though, in the newly purchased ship, as she was unarmed. The sponsons were plated in, probably as a preservation measure when the ship sat, laid up. She looked very much the "tramp steamer", as the New York Times reporter characterized her. She was very sad-looking and needed attention, including a new paint job.

The original American armament consisted of 8-4in/40, 2-57mm (6pdr), 4-47mm (3pdr), and 2-1pdr guns. The dimensions were something like 250ft x 35ft x 17ft-9in, so the ship was very cruiser-like in appearance, size, and armament. The ship was unarmoured, however. The maximum speed was 16 knots, but that was fairly compatible with the older and smaller American cruisers and gunboats. The nominal displacement was 2,372 tons.

The Topeka was only finally sold for scrap in 1930, after being periodically commissioned and decommissioned. Her latter career had been spent mostly as a training ship.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Italian ram Affondatore (1665)

The Italian ram Affondatore fought in the Battle of Lissa in 1866. The Affondatore was an iron ram that could make only 12 knots. The belt and turret were armoured with only 5in of iron. The ship was eventually modernized, which is what the picture we have here depicts. The nominal dimensions were 290ft x 40ft x 20ft. The ship was armed with 2-28ton Armstrong rifles, 6-12in QF, 4-6pdr QF, and 4-3pdr QF guns by 1894.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Japanese cruiser Yoshino

When she was launched in 1892, the Japanese cruiser Yoshino was on the cutting edge of warship design. the Yoshino was a 23 knot ship with a protected deck and quick-firing guns. She had 4-6in and 8-4.7in QF guns, along with 22-3pdr (47mm) QF guns of doubtful utility. The Yoshino nominally displaced 4150 tons and carried up to 1000 tons of coal. She was built by Armstrongs at the Elswick yard. She was built along the same lines as Philip Watt's latest designs. The Yoshino showed the superiority of the new type in the Sino-Japanese war, where belted cruisers with a few big guns were beaten decisively by the Japanese ships armed with numerous, but smaller, quick-firing guns.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The French ironclad battleship La Gloire

I was impressed that there was a photograph, apparently, of the French ironclad battleship La Gloire. As probably well know, La Gloire was the first ocean-going ironclad and was converted from a wooden screw ship of the line.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Chilean cruiser Esmeralda (1883)

I am disappointed that we can't find a better picture of the Elswick cruiser Esmeralda, built for Chile (1883). For such an important ship, the first fast cruiser built at the Elswick yard, with a complete protective deck. The arched deck, in these ships, was surmounted by a cellular layer, filled with coal and other materials. The original idea was to have two large guns, at the ends, with a secondary armament at the sides. These eventually became quick-firing guns. The large guns were replaced by smaller guns with a higher rate of fire that were easier to handle on a small ship.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The little ironclad Huascar

The Peruvian monitor Huascar is a wonderful little vessel. It was built by Laird's and was launched in October 1865. Thanks to being constructed of iron, the Huascar still exists and is now a museum ship. My 1894 Brassey's Naval Annual has some information from the time. In 1894, the Huascar was in service with the Chilean navy, having been captured. The dimensions were 200ft (between perpendiculars) x 35ft x 15ft-6in. The ship was driven by a single screw. The machinery produced 1,500 IHP which drove the ship at up to 12 knots. The armour belt was 4 inches of iron and the barbette was 5 inches thick. The Huascar was armed with 2-8in 13 ton guns in a single iron turret. The secondary armament in 1894 consisted of 2-4.7in QF guns. The Huascar could steam at 1100 nm at 10 knots with 250 tons of coal.