Warship Wednesday October 31st (Happy Halloween Edition)

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out every Wednesday for a look at the old steampunk/dieselpunk navies of the 1866-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week.

– Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday,  October 31

Here we see the Japanese ironclad Kōtetsu in Japan in the 1870s. She had a very interesting history and often masqueraded under several flags and names (hence the Halloween edition!).

Built in secret for the Confederate Navy to be used as the ironclad Stonewall (but dubbed the Sphinx) by  the L’Arman Yard, Bordeaux, France 1863-64, she was ‘officially’ for the Egyptian Navy (hence the original name). Her and her sister-ship were  built to break the Union blockade of the South. The sale was found out and blocked, forcing the Sphinx/Stonewall to be sold to Denmark and a Danish Navy crew took her over in the fall of 1864.

Her sister ship Cheops was sold to the Prussian Navy, becoming the SMS Prinz Adalbert.

Well, to further complicate things, the Sphinx/Stonewall/Copenhagen was turned over to the Confederate Navy, its original owner in January 1865 after Denmark lost a short war with Prussia. The ship took to sea in an epic voyage across the Atlantic shadowed by US Navy ships the whole way. She arrived in Havana Cuba  just as the war ended and the captain promptly sold her to Spain (Cuba was a Spanish territory then). Spain, turned around and sold her, unused by the Spanish navy, to the United States in July 1865 for $16,000. The US Navy sailed to to the east coast, kept her in storage for three years, often inspecting her to see how the French built ironclads.

In 1868 she was sold for $30k (almost twice what the navy paid for her) to the shogun of Japan. Delivered the next year to the Meji government (who deposed the shoguns– talk about a cursed and unlucky ship!) and named the Kōtetsu, she immediately put her ultra-modern Gatling guns and rifled cannon in action at the Battle of Miyako Bay (where she was helmed by, wait for it, French naval experts). The Japanese ultimately renamed her Azuma, kept her on the payroll for twenty years (although her internal wooden construction was rotten) and she was finally decommissioned and scrapped in 1888.

So to recap, she was built in France for Egypt with English guns (but secretly for the CSA), sold to Denmark, resold to the CSA, who sold her to Spain, who sold her to the USA, who sold her to the shogun but gave her to the Meji government to use against the shogun (under French mercenaries).

Wow, I need a drink now. Everyone, raise your Halloween punch to the Sphinx/CSS Stonewall/Copenhagen/CSS Stonewall/USS Stonewall/Kōtetsu,/IJNS Azuma!

Her specs:


Class & type:     Ironclad Ram Warship
Displacement:     1,358 t
Length:     193.5 ft (59.0 m) oa
Beam:     31.5 ft (9.6 m)
Draught:     14 ft 3 in (4.34 m)
Propulsion:     1,200 hp (890 kW) double reciprocating engine, 95 tons coal.
Speed:     10.5 kn (19.4 km/h)
Complement:     135
Armament:     1 × 300 pdr (136 kg) Armstrong
2 × 70 pdr (32 kg) Armstrong
2 x Gatling guns
Armor:     main belt, 89 to 124 mm (3.5 to 4.9 in)
turrets, 124 mm (4.9 in)

Her propulsion system was provided by Mazeline, based in Le Havre. The ship was powered by a pair of 2-cylinder single expansion engines, each of which drove a four-bladed screw that was 3.6 m (11 ft 10 in) in diameter. The engines were placed in a single engine room. Two trunk boilers, also in a single boiler room, supplied steam to the engines at 1.5 standard atmospheres (150 kPa). Two rudders were fitted side by side to control the vessel. The ship was initially fitted with a 740 square meter (2,428 sq ft) brig rig, though this was subsequently replaced with a 677 square meter topsail schooner rig.

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