Steam Engines During The American Civil War

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Since the first galleys sailed the Mediterranean Sea, the world has seen a continuous evolution in respect to naval innovation. The addition of the steam engine to naval warships changed how ships not only operated but also revolutionized how ships were designed. Ship armor could now be thicker and heavier due to the propulsion that a steam powered engine allowed. Guns were also allowed to grow in size with the increased mobility of naval warships and the need to penetrate thicker armor. With all of the advantages that steam powered engines offered, the drawback was that it made the ships completely dependent upon fuel. This led to the rise of forward operating naval stations that could function as refueling depots for patrolling ships. During the American Civil War, the navies of the North and the South began to reflect the revolutionary changes overtaking naval establishments with the development of steam powered engines. For coastal defense, the South began to clad many of its wooden ships with iron and dispensed with sails (Naval Warfare, 2015). The North countered with its own ironclads, as well as several classes of iron-constructed and armored “monitors” that mounted heavy, muzzle-loading cannons in powered turrets (Naval …show more content…
During the Battle of Hampton Roads the Confederate ironclad the Virginia, aided by steam propulsion, revived the use of ramming to take down the Union ship the Cumberland (Potter, 1981, pg. 128). The Virginia was able to put three ships out of action and kill 250 Union sailors while sustaining minor damage to her topside and two guns (Potter, 1981, pg. 128). The use of ironclad battleships rendered wooden fleets useless. Their heavy solid shot ammunition would ricochet harmlessly off of their casemates, allowing ironclad battleships on both sides to decimate each other 's wooden

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