Warship Wednesday, July 18, 2018: The hardest working cheesebox

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, July 18, 2018: The hardest working cheesebox

Courtesy, Digital Commonwealth Collection.

Here we see the single-turreted, coastal monitor USS Passaic, a proud addition to the steam and iron Union Navy during the Civil War that went on to become a staple of U.S. maritime lore for the rest of the century and retire to Florida in her old age. In fact, this image was taken in 1898, as she stood to in Key West to fight the Spanish, if needed.

Designed by famed engineer John Ericsson to be an improved version of original USS Monitor, Passaic was the first of her class of what was to be 10 “cheesebox on a raft” ships that were larger (200-feet oal over 176-ft of the Monitor) included more ventilation, a tweaked topside layout, bigger guns (a 15-inch Dahlgren along with an 11-incher, whereas Monitor just had two of the latter), and marginally better seakeeping.

Line engraving published in Le Monde Illustre 1862, depicting the interior of the Passaic’s gun turret. Passaic was armed with two large Dahlgren smooth-bore guns: one XI-inch and one XV-inch. Note round shot in the foreground, that at right in a hoisting sling, and turning direction marking on the gun carriage.

Line engraving published in Harper’s Weekly, 1862, depicting Passaic trying her large gun at the Palisades, during gunnery trials in the Hudson River on 15 November 1862. The ship was armed with two large Dahlgren smooth-bore guns: one XI-inch and one XV-inch. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 58735

USS Passaic. Line engraving published in Harper’s Weekly, 1862, depicting Passaic as she will appear at sea. She was commissioned on 25 November 1862. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 58736

Subcontracted to six different East Coast yards (there was a war on, after all) our class leader was built by Continental Iron Works, Greenport, New York, which is appropriated for a vessel named for a town in New Jersey possibly best known today as the birthplace of Dick Vitale.

She was commissioned 25 November 1862, just after Grant began his First Vicksburg campaign, and was soon after toured by President Lincoln and members of his cabinet.

Before seeing action, Passaic was being towed by the State of Georgia to Beaufort, North Carolina, deep in Confederate-contested waters, along with Monitor, which was being towed by Rhode Island. On the day after Christmas, the ships ran into severe weather off Cape Hatteras– forcing Passaic‘s crew to take to her pumps to correct leaking (have you seen the freeboard on these?) and was only saved after her crew tossed her shot overboard to help make weight. In the end, she made Beaufort on New Year’s Day, 1863, while Monitor famously went down during the storm.

Similarly, Passaic‘s classmate, USS Weehawken, sank at anchor in just a moderate gale later that year, taking four officers and 27 enlisted men to the bottom with her– half her crew. Monitors were downright dangerous in any sea.

Nonetheless, quickly making a name for herself, Passaic soon captured a blockade runner (the schooner Glide) and attacked strategically important Fort McAllister near Savannah, Georgia, a major Federal objective.

Bombardment of Fort McAllister, Georgia, 3 March 1863. Line engraving, after a sketch by W.T. Crane, published in The Soldier in Our Civil War, Volume II, page 39. It depicts the U.S. Navy monitors Patapsco, Passaic, and Nahant firing on Fort McAllister (at far left) from the Ogeechee River. Other U.S. Navy ships are in the foreground. Montauk is the monitor in this group (farthest from the artist). Firing on the fort from the right foreground are mortar schooners, including C.P. Williams, Norfolk Packet, and Para. Among other U.S. Navy ships involved were gunboats Wissahickon, Seneca and Dawn and tug Dandelion, all screw steamers. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph Catalog #: NH 59287

Bombardment of Fort McAllister, Georgia, 3 March 1863. Line engraving published in Harper’s Weekly, January-June 1863, page 196, depicting the bombardment of Fort McAllister by the U.S. Navy monitors Passaic, Patapsco, and Nahant. The engraving is based on a sketch by an eye-witness on board USS Montauk, which is in the right center foreground. In the left foreground, firing on the fort, are the mortar schooners C.P. Williams, Norfolk Packet, and Para. Among other U.S. Navy ships involved were gunboats Wissahickon, Seneca and Dawn and tug Dandelion. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 59288

By April 1863, Passaic was in action off Charleston, where she took several hits to her turret she would carry with her for the rest of her career– and prove photogenic for Brady organization shutter bugs!

Photograph shows a group of Union soldiers standing near the turret of the ironclad USS Passaic. Two soldiers stand above, near the pilot house. Indentations in the turret were caused by cannon fire Cooley, Sam A., photographer, Tenth Army Corps 1863. LOC 2015648199

Monitor USS Passaic without pilothouse & awning stanchions, note shell pockmarks 1863 via LOC

LC-DIG-PPMSCA-33821: Officers and crew onboard the US Navy monitor USS Passaic at Port Royal, South Carolina, 1863. Note the difference in bores between the 11-inch and 15-inch guns. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

LC-DIG-PPMSCA-33820: Officers and crew onboard the US Navy monitor USS Passaic at Port Royal, South Carolina, 1863

After being patched up in New York, by July Passaic was back on the Union blockade line off Morris Island in Charleston Harbor, carrying the flag of none other than RADM John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren himself for his opening attack on Fort Moultrie– which would take another 18 months to finally break.

In June 1865, the hardy monitor was laid up at Philadelphia Navy Yard just two weeks after Kirby Smith officially surrendered his command– the last major one in the Confederacy– down in Galveston. Passaic was lucky. Classmate USS Patapsco was sunk by a mine on 15 January 1865 in Charleston Harbor. Of the seven others in the class, all were similarly put in ordinary, many lingering at League Island Navy Yard in the Delaware for decades as the Navy that built them simply ran dry of money.

Passaic was the exception to this and she got regular work after a while. Repaired and recommissioned in Hampton Roads, 24 November 1876, she went on to serve first as a receiving ship at the Washington Naval Yard and then a training vessel at Annapolis for young minds, a job she maintained until 1892.

Passaic photographed late in her career after she had been fitted with a light flying deck. The view looks forward from off the port quarter. Note the ship’s propeller well aft, with its cover removed and resting on deck. The exposed tiller and steering cables are also visible, between the propeller well and its cover. Possibly taken during Passaic’s service at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, circa 1883-1892. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 43747

Off the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, circa 1887. The Academy’s New Quarters building is at the far left. Tall structure in the left center distance is the Maryland State House. The photograph was taken by E.H. Hart and published in his 1887 book United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. Collection of Rear Admiral Ammen C. Farenholt, USN(MC). U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 42802

By 1893, Passaic was on loan to the Massachusetts Naval Militia, then shipped back to Southern waters to do the same for the Georgia Naval Militia.

Her layout in 1896, via Monitors of the U.S. Navy, 1861-1937″, pg 17, by Lt. Richard H. Webber, USNR-R. (LOC) Library of Congress, Catalog Card No. 77-603596, via Navsource

There, in 1898, when war came with Spain, she was dusted off and recommissioned into the Navy proper although her muzzle-loading black powder armament was quaint for the period. Towed from Savannah to Key West, she served as a harbor defense craft with the Naval Auxiliary Force just in case the Spanish got froggy.

Similarly, her old and long-put-to-pasture classmates saw a similar call-up from decades of reserve. USS Montauk, crewed by Maine militia, was assigned to guard the harbor of Portland. Nahant steamed– for the first time since 1865– to New York City for six months along with Sangamon. USS Catskill served off New England. USS Nantucket, manned by North Carolina volunteers, was stationed at Port Royal, South Carolina. On the West Coast, USS Camanche, long used by the California Naval Militia, was tasked to guard the Bay Area.

It was to be the last adventure for these old boats. As for Passaic, she never left Florida. Towed to Pensacola after the Spanish surrendered, she was decommissioned and sold for scrap the following year. By 1904, none of her sisters remained.

Photo #: NH 45896 USS Montauk (1862-1904) – at left, and USS Lehigh (1863-1904) – at right Laid up at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, circa late 1902 or early 1903. Other ships present, at the extreme left and in center beyond Montauk and Lehigh, include three other old monitors and two new destroyers (probably Bainbridge and Chauncey, both in reserve at Philadelphia from November 1902 to February 1903). U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

She is remembered in maritime art.

USS Passaic, Wash drawing by R.G. Skerrett, 1898, depicting the ship as she was during the Civil War. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 42803

Chromolithograph by Armstrong & Company, after an 1893 watercolor by Fred S. Cozzens, published in Our Navy Its Growth and Achievements, 1897. Ships depicted are (from left to right): Monadnock class twin-turret monitor; Passaic class single-turret monitor (in foreground); USS Naugatuck; USS Keokuk USS New Ironsides and USS Nantucket. Collection of Captain Glenn Howell, USN, 1974. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 464-KN

Her plans are in the National Archives while her name was recycled in WWII for a Cohoes-class net laying ship, which was later transferred to the Dominican Republic in the 1970s.

Specs:

USS Catskill, Passaic, and USS Montauk, line engraving published in Harper’s Weekly, 1862, rather crudely depicting the appearance of these ships and others of their class. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 58737

Displacement:1,335 tons std, 1875 Fl
Length: 200 ft overall
Beam: 46 ft
Draught: 10 ft 6 in
Propulsion: 2 Martin boilers, 1-shaft Ericsson vibrating lever engine, 320 ihp
Speed: 7 knots designed, 4-5 actual.
Complement: 75 (1863)
Armament:
1 × 15 in Dahlgren smoothbore, 1 × 11 in Dahlgren smoothbore in a single dual turret.
Armor, iron:
Side: 5 – 3 in
Turret: 11 in
Deck: 1 in

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

The echos of the Ipatiev House, 100 years later

The last sitting Russian Imperial family of the House of Romanov–Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra and their five children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei– as well as four members of their still faithful suite– were ushered to the basement of the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg on the night of 16-17 July 1918.

Told they were to be moved to a more secure location as the White Russian Army of Adm Kolchak and his allied Czech Legion were just miles to the East and coming fast, something far worse occurred and a squad of Cheka men armed with a peculiar collection of handguns from around the world soon filled the room to carry out one of the most barbaric regicides in modern history– which was appropriate for a Civil War that left more than 1.5 million dead and the old Russian Empire shattered into a dozen jagged pieces.

The head of the squad, Jacob Yurovsky, used a Colt M1911 SN 71905 from a 1914 U.S. Army contract, while his eager assistant, Peter Ermakov, used a Mauser C96 in 7.63mm.

 

Yurovsky’s Colt 1911 and Browning 1900

Other guns used in the execution included two Browning semi-autos in .25ACP and .32ACP, at least one more C96, several Nagant M1895 7.65mm revolvers, and an old S&W .44 top-break. While the revolvers were standard Russian military arms and the Colt likley made it into the country in 1917 during the brief alliance between the Provisional Government in Petrograd and Washington, the Mausers and Brownings were readily available on the commercial market in Russia before the war.

Many of the guns, given relic status after the event by the Communists, are still in Russian museums today.

Glock blows through 100K G19X’s in just six months

My well-used (going on 4K rounds) G19X, along with my long-carried Tops Rocky Mountain Spike, the latter of which has long had its markings worn off…(Photo: Chris Eger)

When Glock dropped their “crossover” coyote-framed G19X onto the commercial market late last year, a lot of people went apeshit. Some complained that the concept, which blended a shortened Gen 5 G17 frame with a G19 tophalf and added some decent upgrades (like steel night sights and tweaked internals) should have instead done exactly the opposite to even mocked up a G26/G19 blend.

I have had one since the beginning– a T&E gun that I put 2,000 rounds through and really dug. In fact, I liked it so much that I bought it from Smyrna at the end of the eval period and I carry it often.

I’m apparently not the only one, as Glock announced last week that they have delivered over 100,000 of the pistols to the hungry market– proving that it wasn’t the clown shoes of modern handgun offerings that detractors said it would be.

“The Glock 19X has helped reinvigorate the polymer pistol market. Its demand and popularity has exceeded our expectations” said Flint Virgets, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Lipsey’s, the nation’s leading wholesale firearms distributor last week.

It’s a cell phone, no wait, it’s a gatt, no wait, it’s a credit card, no wait…

Kirk Kjellberg’s Ideal Conceal, a folding double-barreled derringer that mimics the profile when closed of a smartphone, is now shipping.

Promised two years ago at the ~$395 MSRP, I caught up with them at SHOT in January where they were closer to market at $500(ish).

(Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

But wait, because the Trailblazer Firearms Co. says they have released some 6,000 of their single-shot .22LR Lifecards– much the same concept as Ideal Conceal but more credit-card-sized– into the wild.

More on that here.

About those 3D guns…

In May 2013, Cody Wilson, through his Austin-based company Defense Distributed, created the Liberator, a nearly entirely 3-D printed, single-shot .380 ACP pistol for which he freely shared the plans for online. In the first two days, the files were downloaded nearly 100,000 times. Then the federal government, specifically the State Department under John Kerry, demanded the plans for the Liberator be pulled from the website until further notice under international arms regulations, citing “the United States government claims control of the information.”

Wilson, allied with the Second Amendment Foundation, challenged that logic in court and won the settlement announced this week that will see DefDist once again post 3-D gun files starting Aug. 1 via Defcad.com. “The age of the downloadable gun begins.”

And they aren’t just about the Liberator anymore:

More in my column at Guns.com.

Battlewagon on a lake, 103 years ago today

Here we see the Illinois-class pre-dreadnought type battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-9) drawing 23 feet of water in Gatun Lake, Panama, 16 July 1915.

Obsolete within five years of her commissoning, she served with her two sisteres, Illinois and former Warship Wednesday alumn Alabama on the epic Great White Fleet and then, after a modernization in 1909 that left her looking more haze gray as seen above, she was used for training until 1919 when she was laid up for good and scrapped without ceremony in 1922.

In 1944 another battleship entered the fleet with the same name, which had a rather longer life.

 

If you are a fan of the USS Racine, you probably shouldn’t watch this footage

Live fire from aircraft, a submarine, and land assets participating in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise sank the long-decommissioned ex-USS Racine (LST-1191) on 12 July in the Pacific Ocean. Ex-Racine was sent to the bottom at the end by aircraft from Strike Fighter Squadron 192 (VFA-192) at 8:45 p.m. in waters 15,000 feet deep, 55 nautical miles north of Kauaʻi, Hawaii.

The SINKEX featured live firing of surface-to-ship missiles by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and a Naval Strike Missile (NSM) from a launcher on the back of a Palletized Load System (PLS) by the U.S. Army, fired from Barking Sands. This marks the first time the U.S. Army and JGSDF have participated in a sinking exercise during RIMPAC as well as the first participation by a Royal Australian Air Force P-8A Poseidon aircraft.

A torpedo from an unnamed submarine is shown at the 5:40 mark breaking her back. You can see her distinctive bow doors in several scenes, as well as her 1970s-era twin 3″/50 dual purpose gun mounts, still installed.

Racine, an 8,700-ton Newport-class of Landing Ship, Tank, was commissioned in 1971, decommissioned on 2 October 1993 as the Navy was getting out of the LST business and, after a planned transfer to Peru fell through, was set aside for use as a target while in inactive reserve at Pearl Harbor. She earned one battle star for her Vietnam service.

According to the Navy:

Each SINKEX is required to sink the hulk in at least 1,000 fathoms (6,000 feet) of water and at least 50 nautical miles from land. Surveys are conducted to ensure that people and marine mammals are not in an area where they could be harmed during the event.

Prior to the vessel being transported for participation in a SINKEX, each vessel is put through a rigorous cleaning process, including the removal of all polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), transformers and large capacitors, all small capacitors to the greatest extent practical, trash, floatable materials, mercury or fluorocarbon-containing materials and readily detachable solid PCB items. Petroleum is also cleaned from tanks, piping, and reservoirs.

A U.S. Navy environmental, safety and health manager and a quality assurance supervisor inspect the environmental remediation conducted in preparation of a vessel’s use in a SINKEX. Upon completion of the environmental remediation, the manager and supervisor provide signed certification of the work in accordance with EPA requirements.

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