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"Book Review: Iron Dawn by Richard Snow." Topic

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692 hits since 17 Dec 2016
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP17 Dec 2016 4:02 p.m. PST

"The crew of the USS Cumberland had never seen anything like the Merrimack. They had heard of it, but they didn't really associate it with a ship. Up until now they had been using words like Floating battery and on the 8th of March 1862 when Merrimack slowly steamed into Hampton Roads, looking for all the world like a floating barn roof with a single chimney, Cumberland's Quartermaster could find no word other than "That thing" to describe it. The nickname "The big thing" would stick.
Inside the ungainly, clunking metallic monster, the Confederate crews waited silently by their guns, while in the louder parts of the ship engineers strained their ears against the noise of their own machinery, blind in what many considered an iron coffin. Officers watched tensely as the "old time Frigate" with her skyscraping masts and high sides, which in fact was, even in the new age of steam, still considered on of the cutting edge of maritime technology, crept into their sights.
The battle when it came was brutal. Merrimack's smaller but heavier batteries tore through the old wooden walls as if they were paper, slaughtering the gun crews. While the broadsides of the conventional warships bounced off her armoured sides like India rubber. Hampered by the confines of the anchorage and the lack of wind, the giant Old frigate was at the mercy of this godless chugging creation of modern war. Called everything from an infernal crocodile to a rhino, the Merrimack crawled slowly towards its target, blowing more holes in her her with every passing minute and then rammed her, and sent her to the bottom.

This was the beginning of the battle of Hampton Roads, which could have come right out of 20,000 leagues under the sea. Merrimack might as well have been Nautilus, with its iron hull and deadly ram, for the amount of terror she inspired, if she could have submerged. But that didn't matter, because what had just happened in this vital stretch of water, had made real the fears of all the politicians in Washington since the fall of Norfolk. That the south had built a "floating battery" or else an iron ship, that single handedly could engage and sink multiple conventional ships twice her size. The implications of such a ship, let loose in a busy harbour or yard, would be like a 19th century pearl harbour, with the ironclad running amok amongst an entire fleet and sinking most of it. It just didn't bear thinking about, especially when the north depended on the navy to keep the south locked down under blockade. But the question was, could such a ship really be capable of such an action?…"


Full review here


Mac163819 Dec 2016 5:25 a.m. PST

I do not care how good a book this is, any one who keeps using the name "Merrimack" and not the "Virginia" when referring to the iron clad, has lost me as a reader.

wargamer619 Dec 2016 6:42 a.m. PST

Perhaps you should be reading a little wider Mac, both Merrimack and Virginia are acceptable names for this vessel even during the civil war. Besides Monitor and Merrimack sounds much better as a title.

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP19 Dec 2016 8:38 a.m. PST


Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP19 Dec 2016 3:56 p.m. PST

Mac must hate the French navy. 19th C. French men-o-war had a tendency to change names with every change of government, change of naval administration, change of the public mood, change of wind…

The Ville de Paris was an Océan class 118-gun ship of the line of the French Navy.

Her keel was laid in Rochefort in 1807 as Marengo. During her construction, she was renamed Ville de Vienne, Comte d'Artois during the Bourbon Restoration, Ville de Vienne again briefly during the Hundred Days and back to Comte d'Artois thereafter. On 9 October 1830, following the July Revolution, she took her name of Ville de Paris. She was finally launched on 5 October 1850.


- Ix

Mac163820 Dec 2016 5:43 a.m. PST

The USS Merrimack was a steam frigate bunt to the waterline and sank, what was left was put in dry dock rebuilt as a iron clad ram and relaunched (by a different Government)as the CSS Virginia.

I have little problem with ships having their names changed, the name of a lot of the RN ships had their names changed under the Commonwealth and at the Restoration the ship where renamed again.

Calling things by the wrong name is bad practice especially for historians if they can not get that right how can you trust anything else they say.

It's acceptable to use it once and explain the usage and move on.

Hussar123 Inactive Member20 Dec 2016 5:28 p.m. PST

Mac I'm with you. The USS Monitor did not fight the USS Merrimack it fought the CSS Virginia. It was the press that continued to use the Merrimack/Merrimac. One of the reasons was propaganda purposes to undermine the brilliant work of the Confederate Navy and workforce on raising the Merrimac and rebuilding a hulk. One of the most successful ships of the ACW.

I live just miles from the actual site and actually steamed over the area being stationed in Norfolk from 1974 to 2003.

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