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The Confederate States Navy (CSN) was the naval branch of the Confederate States armed forces established by an act of the Confederate Congress on February 21, 1861. It was responsible for Confederate naval operations during the American Civil War. The two major tasks of the Confederate Navy during the whole of its existence were the protection of Southern harbors and coastlines from outside invasion, and making the war costly for the North by attacking merchant ships and breaking the Union Blockade.
The C.S. Navy could never achieve equality with the Union Navy, and used technological innovation, such as ironclads, submarines, torpedo boats, and naval mines (then known as torpedoes) to gain advantage over the Union Navy. In February 1861, the Confederate Navy had thirty ships, only fourteen of which were seaworthy, while the Union Navy had ninety vessels. The C.S. Navy eventually grew to 101 ships to meet the rise in naval conflicts and enemy threats.
On April 20, 1861, the Union abandoned the Norfolk Navy Yard but did not burn the facility or ships. (The South's other major navy yard was in Pensacola, Florida). Ships left in the Norfolk shipyard included a screw frigate named USS Merrimack. It was C.S. Navy Secretary Stephen Mallory's idea to armor the upper sides of the Merrimack with iron plate, making it "iron clad". The ship was renamed CSS Virginia and later fought the USS Monitor to a draw in the Battle of Hampton Roads.
The act of the Confederate Congress that created the Confederate Navy on February 21, 1861 also appointed Stephen Mallory as Secretary of the Department of the Navy. Mallory was experienced as an admiralty lawyer in his home state of Florida, and he had served for a time as the chairman of the Naval Affairs Committee while he was a United States senator.
As Navy Secretary, Mallory built the C.S. Navy into something very formidable to achieve the goals it needed to win the war, and do even more. A Confederate Congress committee, meeting on August 27, 1862, reported:
- Before the war nineteen steam war vessels had been built in the States forming the Confederacy, and the engines of all of these had been contracted for in these States. All the labor or materials requisite to complete and equip a war vessel could not be commanded at any one point of the Confederacy.
- [The Navy Department] had erected a powder-mill which supplies all the powder required by our navy; two engine, boiler and machine shops, and five ordnance workshops. It has established eighteen yards for building war vessels, and a rope-walk, making all cordage from a rope-yarn to a 9-inch cable, and capable of turning out 8,000 yards per month .... Of vessels not ironclad and converted to war vessels, there were 44. The department has built and completed as war vessels, 12; partially constructed and destroyed to save from the enemy, 10; now under construction, 9; ironclad vessels now in commission, 12; completed and destroyed or lost by capture, 4; in progress of construction and in various stages of forwardness, 23.
In addition to the ships included in the report of the committee, the Navy also had one ironclad floating battery, presented to the Confederate States by the state of Georgia, one ironclad ram donated by the state of Alabama, and numerous privateers making war on Union merchant ships.
On April 17, 1861, Confederate President Jefferson Davis invited applications for letters of marque and reprisal to be granted under the seal of the Confederate States, against ships and property of the United States and their citizens:
- Now, therefore, I, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, do issue this, my proclamation, inviting all those who may desire, by service in private armed vessels on the high seas, to aid this government in resisting so wanton and wicked an aggression, to make application for commissions or letters of marque and reprisal, to be issued under the seal of these Confederate States. . . .
President Davis was not confident of his executive authority to issue letters of marque and called a special session of Congress on April 29 to formally authorize the hiring of privateers in the name of the Confederate States. On May 6, the Confederate Congress passed "An act recognizing the existence of war between the United States and the Confederate States, and concerning letters of marque, prizes, and prize goods." Then, on May 14, 1861, "An act regulating the sale of prizes and the distribution thereof," was also passed. Both acts granted the president power to issue letters of marque and detailed regulations as to the conditions on which letters of marque should be granted to private vessels, the conduct and behavior of the officers and crews of such vessels, and the disposal of such prizes made by privateer crews. The manner in which Confederate privateers operated was generally similar to those of privateers of the United States or of European nations.
The 1856, Declaration of Paris outlawed privateering for such nations as Great Britain and France, but the United States had neither signed nor endorsed the declaration. Therefore, privateering was constitutionally legal in both the United and Confederate States, as well as Portugal, Russia, the Ottoman Empire, and Germany. However, the United States did not acknowledge the Confederate States as a nation and denied the legitimacy of any letters of marque issued by its government. Union President Abraham Lincoln declared all medicines to the South to be contraband, and that any captured Confederate privateers were to be hanged as pirates. Ultimately, no one was hanged for privateering because the Confederate government threatened to retaliate against prisoners of war.
Initially, Confederate privateers operated primarily from New Orleans, but activity was soon concentrated in the Atlantic as the Union Navy began expanding its operations. Throughout the war, Confederate privateers successfully harassed Union merchant ships, sank several warships, and harmed the Northern economy.
One of the more well-known ships was CSS Virginia (formerly known as "USS Merrimack"), a Union ironclad(1855). In 1862 she fought USS Monitor in the Battle of Hampton Roads, an event that came to symbolize the end of the dominance of large wooden sailing warships.
The Confederates also constructed submarines, among the few submarines to have existed since the Turtle of the American Revolutionary War. The Pioneer and the Bayou St. John Confederate Submarine did not see action, but the Hunley became notable as the first submarine to sink a ship in a wartime engagement. (She sank a few minutes after the engagement from unknown causes.)
Confederate raiders were also used to disrupt Union merchant shipping, the most famous of them being the CSS Alabama, a ship made in Britain.
The CSS Shenandoah fired the last shot of the American Civil War in late June 1865, and finally surrendered in early November 1865.
There was a Revolutionary War-era frigate known as USS Confederacy, unrelated to the CSN. There was however a CSS United States, the name of the USS United States in 1861–1862, when she was captured and used by the CSN.
Between the beginning of the war and the spring of 1862, thirty-two captains, fifty-four commanders, and seventy-six lieutenants, together with 2,000 eleven regular and acting midshipmen, had resigned from the United States Navy in order to serve the Confederacy. In order to expand the Navy Department to provide positions for all the new officers and recruits, the Confederate Congress passed the Amendatory Act of April 21, 1862 in which the Confederate Navy was made to account for:
- Seven admirals, 101 captains, 130 commanders, 300 first lieutenants, 380 second lieutenants, 350 masters, in line of promotion; 89 paymasters, 96 assistant. paymasters, 104 surgeons, 110 passed assistant surgeons, 119 assistant surgeons, 1 engineer-in-chief, and 130 engineers.
- That all the admirals, 40 of the captains, 85 of the commanders, 150 of the first lieutenants and 180 of the second lieutenants shall be appointed solely for gallant or meritorious conduct during the war. The appointments shall be made from the grade immediately below the one to be filled and without reference to the rank of the officer in such grade, and the service for which the appointment shall be conferred shall be specified in the commission. Provided, that all officers below the grade of second lieutenant may be promoted more than one grade for the same service.
- Stephen R. Mallory - Secretary of the Navy
- Commodore Samuel Barron - Chief of the Bureau of Orders and Detail
- Commander George Minor - Chief of Ordnance and Hydrography
- Paymaster John DeBree - Chief of Provisions and Clothing
- Surg. W. A. W. Spottswood - Bureau of Medicine and Surgery
- Edward M. Tidball - Chief Clerk
Black Confederate SeamenEdit
See also Edit
- Commander James Dunwoody Bulloch of Georgia, Confederate agent in England who purchased the CSS Alabama. Uncle of 26th U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.
- Irvine Bulloch James' half-brother and also youngest serving Confederate officer on the CSS Alabama
- Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury "Pathfinder of the Seas" of Virginia, multi-purpose mission as Confederate agent throughout Europe - purchased the ship "Japan" and had her converted to the CSS Georgia which he turned over to his cousin, Commander William Lewis Maury, at sea.
- Commander William Lewis Maury for whom Maury Island is named; member of the United States Exploring Expedition and Commander of the CSS Georgia.
- Confederate States Army
- Confederate States Marine Corps
- List of ships of the Confederate States Navy
- National Civil War Naval Museum
- Uniforms of the Confederate States military forces
- Submarines of the American Civil War
- The US Navy history photo's
- Confederate Navy Rank Insigniade:Confederate States Navy