CSS Palmetto State, Ironclad!
CSS Palmetto State
CSS Chicora (Sister ship)
The Palmetto State was built as an
ironclad ram, similar to the casemate ironclad
She was designed by John Porter and built by Cameron and Company, Charleston, SC. She was authorized January/February 1862, launched March 1862,
and commissioned ready for service September 1862.
The construction under the supervision of Flag Officer D Ingram and when completed the ship was placed under the command of Lieutenant Commander John Rutledge, CSN, who held the command from then until April 1864 when Lieutenant James Henry Rochelle, CSN, took over. A command he held it until the destruction of the ship in February 1865..
Her armour was 4" thick on the casemate, this was backed by 22" of oak and pine. The remainder of the ship only had 2" of iron with oak and pine.
length 176 feet 6 inch (or 150 feet?)
breadth 34 feet
depth 12 feet
displacement 850? tons
speed 5 (or 6?) knots
engines from the CSS Lady Davis, a small steamer, due to this the ship would always be underpowered.
armament 2 x 7 inch Brooke rifles (or 80pdr rifle forward and 60pdr rifle aft)
2 x 9 inch Dahlgren smooth bores (or 2 x 8 inch)
it is possible that additional guns were mounted in1864
towards the end of the war a spar torpedo was added
cost $263.892 approx. (this being the cost of the CSS Chicora her sister ship. The Chicora was also designed by John Porter and built at the same time in Charleston but at a different yard).
As a warship she was to deep a draught to be of much use in the defense of the harbour, her engines were underpowered, so she lacked speed, also her guns, due to the smallness of the portholes, could not be sufficiently elevated.
With the launch of the Chicora in Charleston a local newspaper described it's appearance with a poem entitled 'Turtle', which would also be apt for the Palmetto State:
Caesar, afloat with his fortunes!
And all the world agog
Straining it's eyes
At the thing that lies
In the water, like a log!
It's a weasel! a whale!
I see it's tail!
It's a porpoise! a pollywog!
Lieutenant Rochelle said of the two vessels 'The ironclads were....slow vessels with imperfect engines, which required frequent repairing....Their armour was four inches thick, and they were all the type of the Virginia....Each of the ironclads carried a torpedo to the end of a spar some 15 or 20 feet long, projecting from the bow on a line with the keel, and so arranged that it could be carried either triced up clear of the water or submerged five or six feet below the surface.'
Every night one of the ironclads anchored in the channel that ran near Sumter. This was to thwart any night attack on Sumter or any quick dash by any Federal vessels into Charleston harbour.
General GT Beareguard suggested to Commodore Duncan N Ingraham, commander of the small Confederate fleet in Charleston Harbour, a sally against the wooden Federal blockading fleet before it was reinforced by monitors. Ingraham agreed with the idea.
Just before dawn on the 31 January 1863 the Charleston Squadron, the Palmetto State, the Chicora, and three wooden gunboats the General Clinch, Etowan, and Chesterfield, set out on a mammoth task to sail out of inland waters and into the ocean in an effort to break this blockade. They crept slowly through the thick early morning haze in an attempt to surprise the Federal ships blockading Charleston.
With the wooden gunboats hanging back the two rams taking advantage of their low silhouettes engaged the Federals. The Palmetto State surprised the Mercedita firing with her forward guns, and then before she could get out of the way, finally ramming her. Completely disabled and with her guns unable to depress low enough to fire into her adversary the Federal ship surrendered.
Leaving the Mercedita the Palmetto State now headed further out to sea chasing two other Federal steamers, who outdistanced her, finally she joined the Chicora who had crippled the USS Keystone State and was in a long range duel with the blockaders Quaker City, Ottowa, Undilla, Augusta, Stettin, Flag, and Memphis. All were faster ships but had no wish to engage the slower rams at close range. Little damage was done by either side. The Palmetto State and Chicora now withdrew victoriously into Charleston harbour.
After the engagement by the rams the blockaders withdrew to a safer distance. This led to the claim by the Confederate government that the blockade of Charleston had been raised. An engineer from the Chicora wrote 'They say we raised the blockade, but we all felt we would have rather raised hell and sunk the ships'.
Both rams joined in the defense of the Charleston forts during Rear Admiral SF Du Pont's unsuccessful attack on 1-7 April 1863. The Federal ships were finally forced to retire for repairs, due to gunfire from the forts.
Both rams covered the salvaging of the guns from the USS Keokuk 1-5 May 1863.
Along with the Chicora the Palmetto State declined an engagement with the USS Ironsides and 6 monitors on 17 August 1863.
Her officers and men were cited for valor during the removal of troops from Fort Wagner and Battery Gregg, on the night of 6-7 September 1863. (This was a short time after the Federal troops unsuccessful assault of the fort as depicted in the movie 'Glory'.)
The Palmetto State sent out a cutter which successfully captured Federal picket boat 26 Feb 1864.
On the evacuation of Charleston the Palmetto State was destroyed to prevent capture at the mouth of Town Creek River, above Charleston, 18 Feb 1865. This was done by the Chief Engineer, Eugenious A Jack, who's handiwork caused the ship to explode 'leaving a plume of smoke in the shape of a Palmetto tree much to the delight of the crew'. The wreck was removed prior to 1870.