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"Effect of HMS Warrior have on British ACW intervention?" Topic

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Personal logo Nashville Supporting Member of TMP05 Nov 2017 2:54 p.m. PST

Posit the British do not intervene on land BUT dispatch HMS Warrior to break the union blockade???
see this

YouTube link

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 9:46 a.m. PST

I recommend we game it and find out. :-)

From a technical perspective, the monitors were quite dangerous. The Dahlgren 11" naval gun was already a severe danger to state-of-the-art broadside ironclads in 1862; the 15" naval gun that superceded it was even worse. These guns could penetrate any existing trans-oceanic ironclad armor within a few hundred yards (i.e., real life engagement ranges), and could also fire exploding shell that set fires and destroyed vulnerable masts and unarmored parts. In 1862 the monitors were fewer, weaker and smaller, but by 1863 they were numerous and by 1864 they were teeming and some were monstrous. I have personal doubts about any monitor's efficacy on trans-oceanic expeditions, but confined to the coasts of the Americas, I think they posed a serious threat to any naval units operating thousands of miles from the nearest friendly base, even armored ones.

We can make armchair pronouncements about the relative power of the two navies all day, but the truth is that war with even the weakest opponent was a severe danger to oceanic trade in the era of wooden ships and exploding shell. The Confederate navy, starting from zero, devastated US overseas trade in just a few years of war with a handful of small repurposed wooden steamships; the UK trade routes were even more extensive and more vulnerable, and the US Navy started the war with dozens of trans-oceanic frigates, sloops and corvettes, then demonstrated the capacity to crank out gunboats by the hundreds. That's not an opponent the UK wanted to take on.

Any move to interfere in the ACW was an act of war. The desperation of the Napoleonic Wars was still within living memory, and the United Kingdom was set against getting embroiled in such a multi-front global conflict again as long as there were better options. Sending a few ironclad units to resist the blockade would have been a weak and extremely provocative strategic move, far too likely to bloom into a much larger trans-Atlantic war. The UK probably could have won a war by siding openly with the Confederacy, but once the conflict widens so far, geopolitics become a critical consideration, and Napoleon III just across the channel was an inveterate meddler and opportunist with the second most powerful cruising navy in the world and plenty of strategic options short of declared war to hurt the UK during a large, open conflict.

So no, the Warrior was not by herself (nor even with her sister and half-sisters) a war-winning blockade-breaker. But we're wargamers, so we shouldn't let trifles like operational reality spoil a fun game. :-)

- Ix

Personal logo Nashville Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2017 11:40 a.m. PST

GREAT post I'll find out this weekend. We are gaming ACW 15mm ironclads.

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2017 1:56 p.m. PST

Have fun with that. I hope to hear how it goes.

Monitor vs. Warrior by radojavor

Just for pedantic fun, check out this conversation on the Civil War Talk site. Scroll down a little and look for the post calculating the stats for USS Monitor vs. HMS Warrior using the stats for the old miniatures rules The Devil At The Helm. You can then do the re-calculations for later coastal monitors with thicker turret armor (Canonicus 10", Passaic 11") and bigger XV-inch Dahlgrens. Or try out USS Dictator with 15" turret armor and XV-inch Dahlgrens…

- Ix

gamer1 Inactive Member10 Nov 2017 7:07 a.m. PST

Late to this post an not directly related but I agree with Yellow Admiral on those and other points. I am currently making a ACW game that covers the whole war and have been play testing and tweeking it for several years now. Yes mainly a labor of love:)
Based on all the research I have done I concluded it was VERY unlikely that the British or the French would get into an actual "shooting war" with the US. I think at most, even in 1862 if every thing had gone the CSAs way and it appeared they would convince the Union it wasn't worth the trouble the most Europe would have done is perhaps recognized the CSA and be more open to producing ships and material for them and make it easier to get them. I think some folks focus on the cotton issue and forget that Europe did as much trading with the northern states as the southern ones and Britain would not only have the troubles that would come with a shooting war but also would lose a lot of money because of no more or very limited trade with the north. I feel the only chance of open warfare would have been from some really unexpected event that took on a life of its own, like the Trent affair could have(possibly).
So, anyway, that is why I decided that in my game there is no rule for Europe declaring open war on the Union, the best the CSA can hope for is a large increase in resources, but no actual British or French naval or land units:)Any way, just this war gamers 2 cents worth:)


138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP15 Nov 2017 12:07 p.m. PST

Thanks for the plug for "The Devil at the Helm" Ix, I helped to develop those rules! But when I read the article I find it's my old friend John Wallis is the OP and major contributor to the tread and the DATH rules.

British intervention was always suspect but the main emphasis in the development of the British and French ironclad fleets was mutual suspicion.

The second, real fear the British had was that of commerce raiders. When you control as much of the world sea trade as the British did in the 1860s that was a very real problem. The Union, not have signed the Treaty of Paris in 1856 would have found enough New Englanders to try their hand at privateering.

I suggest reading A J Marder "The Anatomy of British Sea Power" and T. Ropp "The Development of a Modern Navy" which cover both the British and French naval policy respectively in Ironclad and Pre-Dreadnought eras. These books will disabuse the fantasy of British intervention.

EJNashIII18 Nov 2017 9:27 p.m. PST

The other off shoot on this line of thought is you can also game the Warrior playing tag with the Russian Passaic class Monitors. In the event of a British intervention, this was on the table. It is also pretty cool than one still exists! link


Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP20 Nov 2017 6:46 p.m. PST

Cool! If I end up with any extra Passaics, they're getting Russian flags. :-)

- Ix

steve186530 Apr 2018 4:10 p.m. PST

A good book to read is "Clad in Iron by H. J. Fuller Writes about British and US Civil war and Naval power.

litsnsirn Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2018 8:11 p.m. PST

Is Devil at the Helm still available anywhere?

Durrati07 May 2018 1:36 p.m. PST

Even later to this post – just seen it. Wanted to say thanks for the links to the data – is interesting.

Also wanted to mention a few more things to consider when comparing the monitor and the warrior.

The first is it is really important at the relative speeds of the two vessels. The Warrior can manage 14 knots, monitors about 6. This is a massive difference. I say this as an owner and wargamer of a Russian ironclad fleet, including multiple 1, 2 and 3 turret monitors. If your opponent (or the captain of the Warrior) knows what they are doing, having the enemy be able to go over twice your speed is really bad.

Second is the recognition that the Monitor carries very few guns, only 2. This makes her very under gunned – even if they can fire on all bearings. Later monitors with double turrets also of course doubled the guns but 4 but that is still not a huge amount of guns.

The third really important factor is of course the monitor classes seaworthiness (or lack thereof). Monitors steaming away from protected waters are at risk of sinking if the weather gets up.

Monitor class ships seem to be good for harbour and coastal defence or fort bombardment. As such they should probably be considered as in the same class of warship as the French armoured batteries used in the Crimea. Comparing them to the Gloire or Warrior, which are ships that can safely sail on the oceans is probably unfair on them. In the same way that claiming that the Warrior is a poor design as it would be awful at engaging small craft in combat in a river would be unfair on the Warrior. It is just not built to do that.

EJNashIII12 May 2018 7:11 p.m. PST

Remember, the Warrior's speed meant using sail as well as steam. Not something you would necessarily rely on in the shallower waters you would likely find a Monitor to fight. The real advantage it would give was in ramming if you could get a good angle and wind. HMS Warrior had its bow strengthened for that task, but didn't have an actual iron ram. So, how it would do against an armored ship is unknown. I'm thinking it would pull off a ramming but might damage itself as much as the Monitor. Interestingly, the 2 gun argument against the Monitors played out during the Charleston bombardment attack. Simply put, a Monitor just didn't shoot enough in a given time period to silence forts. However, equally, it is hard to knock out a monitor. It wasn't probably possible to hole the turret with period guns and there isn't much else to actually hit. The problem was compounded by the relatively small size of the Warrior guns (68 pdr shot vs 440 pds for the 15 inch Dahlgren. The British were aware of this, so they played with upgrading the guns, but the replacement design proved unsatisfactory. So, I believe a Monitor could have won a toe to toe duel, but the Warrior's maneuverability and speed meant such a duel was unlikely. It would seem logical for the British commander to keep its distance in most situations. Agreed, the Monitor would not chase the Warrior too far out from the coast. Couldn't catch it if it didn't want to come in to fight, so why bother. Then, the Warrior would likely pick a port without Monitors to attack.

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