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

Dupont, with the largest ironclad flotilla ever assembled in the world up to that time– nine vessels to include USS New Ironsides, the double-turret ironclad ram USS Keokuk, and seven single-turret monitors (including Passaic)– went on to conduct what is often labeled as the first attack by an all-ironclad fleet in naval history. By April 1863, Passaic was in action off Charleston (arguably the best defended seaport in the world at the time), 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 shutterbugs!

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!

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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