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War at Sea in the Ironclad Age

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2008 2:27 pm    Post subject: War at Sea in the Ironclad Age Reply with quote

Hello gentleman – new to this board. Posted this on another site also. Seems to fit well here given the time period - FWIW

I’m on another trip and brought ‘War at Sea in the Ironclad Age’ by Richard Hill. A few things got sticky noted:

The author writes that the only success for the ram as a weapon of war during the Ironclad Age is the Austrian Ferdinand Max against the Italian Re d’Italia at the 1866 battle of Lissa. I guess he forgot about CSS Virginia vs. USS Cumberland or because both ships weren’t Ironclads, it didn’t count.

Also, on page 20 is the following paragraph. “Sea power in its broadest sense included the instruments of commerce as well as those of war. Merchant ships, many of them still propelled principally by sail, multiplied, and trade increased enormously. The stakes of the Western world – above all Britain, which had a merchant fleet four times as large as any other – in this trade were extremely high and the wars that did occur tended to affect it only locally. Again, the deterrent effect of the Royal Navy should not be underestimated; but that is to some extent hindsight. At the time, there was a widespread belief that trade protected itself.”

Question – what does the author mean but the bold, underlined statement?

Finally, the author writes about ships like the HMS Warrior having a lifting screw or prop. It was lifted into the hull via chain but how was it disconnected from the shaft? That part didn’t get explained.

Finished up ‘War at Sea in the Ironclad Age’ by Richard Hill while coming home from Nashville, TN. A couple questions;
1. The author mentions Andrew Gordon’s “Rules of the Game”. If it is the same one I’m looking at on Amazon, lots of good reviews, (Tone – is one of them yours?). But if you want hardback – close to or over $200.00. The paperback around $20.00. Any comments on this book?
2. In the chapter about the US Civil War, the author writes about the quick capitulation of New Orleans “…the impact of this success was felt well beyond the North American continent. France still had considerable interest in Louisiana and had New Orleans held out for any length of time, internal pressure for her to intervene might have been hard to withstand.” It has always been my understanding that any French overt support to the CSA would only be in conjunction with British initiatives. This seems to suggest otherwise. Would France really have come to the aid of New Orleans on her own?
3. In writing about the CSS Alabama, “…Semmes cruised the globe for 2 years, taking (and generally burning) over 40 Union prizes and caused no loss of life.” and “The crews of the captured vessels were taken aboard the Alabama, treated scrupulously well,…” No loss of life? Wow, that is some achievement. Captured crews thought they were treated well? That is in contrast to what some of the crews had to say who got to sample CSS Shenandoah's hospitality. Once again, if correct – good on them.
4. In the section dealing with the ‘Sino-Japanese War 1894 – 1895’ - “During subsequent operations against the transports the Kowshing, a British steamer on charter to the Chinese and carrying over a thousand Chinese troops, was sunk after repeated warnings by the cruiser Naniwa…No protest was made by Britain, since the flag was not judged to cover such operations on behalf of a belligerent.” And we almost went to war over the ‘Trent Affair’? Was the difference that Trent was a Royal Mail Steamer and this was just a transport under the charter of a foreign nation? Or wasn’t Britain really interested in getting in the middle of this fight…or some of both?
5. In the section on the Spanish – American War, about the Battle of Manila Bay, “Threatened intervention by German forces, pursuing a policy of expansion in the Pacific spurred on by their previous purchase of some other Spanish possessions, came to nothing partly because of British deterrence, …” What exactly was the ‘British deterrence’? The book doesn’t explain.
6. In the section on the ‘Russo – Japanese War 1904-1905’, the author states that had Vitgeft’s fleet made in to Vladivostok, “…could have been a real menace to Japanese communications.” but of Tsushima, “…that even if the Russian Squadron won through to Vladivostok, it would have been no more than a nuisance in the strategic situation that then existed, unless it had scored a resounding victory against the Japanese main fleet on the way. That was a most unlikely eventuality, given the morale and material condition of the Russian ships.” If Rodzhestvensky’s Squadron had made it to Vladivostok without running into the Japanese, did the facilities at Vlad have the capability to restore the ships to a more combat worthy condition and become a threat to the Japanese? Or was the author’s point that by that time frame – it wouldn’t have mattered any which way.

I liked the book – a good overview of the time period and primer to get one interested to do more research.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2008 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I provide a glowing review of Gordon's book. Go for paperback. Harley and some others have serious issues with Gordon's book, but I think his failings (the ones drawing the most complaint) are in areas far off his main thesis where he is just citing the conclusions of other authors.

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PostPosted: Thu May 01, 2008 9:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Copy sir – thank you!
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