CSS Tennessee (1863)

Last updated
USS Tennessee in 1865
Naval ensign of the Confederate States of America (1863-1865).svgConfederate States
Namesake: State of Tennessee
Builder: Henry D. Bassett
Laid down: October 1862
Launched: February 1863
Commissioned: 16 February 1864
Captured: At the Battle of Mobile Bay, 5 August 1864
US flag 35 stars.svgUnited States
Acquired: 5 August 1864
Commissioned: 5 August 1864
Decommissioned: 19 August 1865
Fate: Sold for scrap, 27 November 1867
General characteristics
Type: Casemate ironclad
Displacement: 1,273 long tons (1,293 t)
Length: 209 ft (63.7 m)
Beam: 48 ft (14.6 m)
Draft: 14 ft (4.3 m)
Installed power: 4 boilers
Speed: 5 knots (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph)
Complement: 133 officers and enlisted men
  • 2 × 7 in (178 mm) Double-banded Brooke rifles
  • 4 × 6.4 in (163 mm) Double-banded Brooke rifles
  • ram
Service record
Commanders: Lieutenant James D. Johnston
The Pennant of Admiral Franklin Buchanan, flown from the CSS Tennessee Admiral Buchanan pennant flag.png
The Pennant of Admiral Franklin Buchanan, flown from the CSS Tennessee

CSS Tennessee was a casemate ironclad ram built for the Confederate Navy during the American Civil War. She served as the flagship of Admiral Franklin Buchanan, commander of the Mobile Squadron, after her commissioning. She was captured in 1864 by the Union Navy during the Battle of Mobile Bay and then participated in the Union's subsequent Siege of Fort Morgan. Tennessee was decommissioned after the war and sold in 1867 for scrap.

Casemate ironclad type of steam-powered warship in the 1800s

The casemate ironclad is a type of iron or iron-armored gunboat briefly used in the American Civil War by both the Confederate States Navy and its adversary, the Union Navy. Compared to the turreted ironclad warships that became standard, the casemate ironclad does not have its individual cannons encased in a separate armored gun deck/turret, but instead has a single casemate structure, or armored citadel, on the main deck housing the entire gun battery. As the guns are carried on the top of the ship yet still fire through fixed gunports, the casemate ironclad is seen as an intermediate stage between the traditional broadside frigate and the modern warships.

Naval ram underwater prolongation (usually 2–4 m) of the bow of a ship that can be driven into an enemy ship to sink or disable it

A ram was a weapon carried by varied types of ships, dating back to antiquity. The weapon comprised an underwater prolongation of the bow of the ship to form an armoured beak, usually between six and 12 feet in length. This would be driven into the hull of an enemy ship in order to puncture it and thus sink, or at least disable, the ship.

American Civil War Internal war in the U.S. over slavery

The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The Civil War began primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people. War broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North, which also included some geographically western and southern states, proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights in order to uphold slavery.


Design, description and construction

Tennessee was built at Selma, Alabama, where she was commissioned on February 16, 1864. CSS Baltic towed her to Mobile where she was fitted out.

Selma, Alabama City in Alabama, United States

Selma is a city in and the county seat of Dallas County, in the Black Belt region of south central Alabama and extending to the west. Located on the banks of the Alabama River, the city has a population of 20,756 as of the 2010 census. About 80% of the population is African-American.

Alabama A state in the United States

Alabama is a state in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama is the 30th largest by area and the 24th-most populous of the U.S. states. With a total of 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of inland waterways, Alabama has among the most of any state.

CSS <i>Baltic</i>

CSSBaltic was an iron and cottonclad sidewheeler ship built in 1860 in Philadelphia as a river tow boat belonging to the Southern Steamship Co. She was purchased by the State of Alabama, converted to an armored ram, and turned over to the Confederate States Navy in the middle of 1862. Her first commanding officer was Lieutenant James D. Johnston.

Tennessee was laid down in October 1862, hull and other woodwork turned out by Henry D. Bassett, who launched her the following February, ready for towing to Mobile to be engined and armed. Her steam plant came from the steamer Alonzo Child. Her casemate design differed materially from CSS Columbia and CSS Texas, but iron plate was the same 2 by 10 in (50 by 250 mm) as used on CSS Huntsville and CSS Tuscaloosa but triple thickness instead of double; her iron plate was made by the Shelby Iron Company in Shelby, Alabama. A fearsome detail of her defensive armament was a "hot water attachment to her boilers for repelling boarders, throwing one water stream from forward of the casemate and one aft."

CSS Columbia was an ironclad steamer ram in the Confederate States Navy and later in the United States Navy.

CSS Texas is the name of two ships in the Confederate States Navy:

CSS <i>Huntsville</i>

CSS Huntsville was a Confederate ironclad floating battery built at Selma, Alabama from 1862 to 1863 during the American Civil War.

The vicissitudes implicit in creating such an ironclad are graphically conveyed by Admiral Franklin Buchanan, writing September 20, 1863 to Confederate Navy Secretary Stephen Mallory:

Stephen Mallory American politician

Stephen Russell Mallory was a Democratic US Senate from Florida from 1850 to the secession of his home state and the outbreak of the American Civil War. For much of that period, he was chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs. It was a time of rapid naval reform, and he insisted that the ships of the US Navy should be as capable as those of Britain and France, the foremost navies in the world at that time. He also wrote a bill and guided it through Congress to provide for compulsory retirement of officers who did not meet the standards of the profession.

The work on the Tennessee has progressed for some weeks past, under Mr. Pierce, as fast as the means in his power would permit. There is much delay for want of plate and bolt iron. It was impossible to iron both sponsons at the same time, as the vessel had to be careened several feet to enable them to put the iron on. Even then several of the workmen were waist deep in the water to accomplish it — to careen her, large beams 12 feet (3.7 m) square had to be run out of her posts and secured, on which several tons of iron had to be placed, and during the progress of putting on the sponson iron the shield iron could not be put on. The work has been carried on night and day when it could be done advantageously. I visited the Nashville and Tennessee frequently and, to secure and control the services of the mechanics, I have had them all conscripted and detailed to work under my orders. Previously, they were very independent and stopped working when they pleased.

(Joseph Pierce, referred to above, was Acting Naval Constructor in the Mobile area.)

Lieutenant (later Commander) James D. Johnston, CSN, commander of CSS Tennessee JamesDJohnstonCSN.jpg
Lieutenant (later Commander) James D. Johnston, CSN, commander of CSS Tennessee

Tennessee became flagship of Admiral Buchanan, and served gallantly in action in the Battle of Mobile Bay on August 5, 1864. On that morning Tennessee and wooden gunboats CSS Gaines, CSS Morgan, and CSS Selma, steamed into combat against Admiral David G. Farragut's powerful fleet [1] of four ironclad monitors and 14 wooden steamers. Unable to ram the Union ships because of their superior speed, Tennessee delivered a vigorous fire on the Federals at close range. The Confederate gunboats were sunk or dispersed. Farragut's fleet steamed up into the bay and anchored. Buchanan might have held Tennessee under the fort's protection but steamed after the Federal fleet and engaged despite overwhelming odds. The ram became the target for the entire Union fleet. Tennessee was rammed by several ships, and her vulnerable steering chains (which, oddly, lay in exposed trenches on the after deck) were carried away by the heavy gunfire. Unable to maneuver, Tennessee was battered repeatedly by heavy solid shot from her adversaries. With two of her men killed, Admiral Buchanan and eight others wounded, and increasingly severe damage being inflicted on her, Tennessee was forced to surrender.

Battle of Mobile Bay battle in the American Civil War

The Battle of Mobile Bay of August 5, 1864, was an engagement of the American Civil War in which a Union fleet commanded by Rear Admiral David G. Farragut, assisted by a contingent of soldiers, attacked a smaller Confederate fleet led by Admiral Franklin Buchanan and three forts that guarded the entrance to Mobile Bay. A paraphrase of his order, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" became famous. Farragut's actual order was "Damn the torpedoes! Four bells. Captain Drayton, go ahead! Jouett, full speed!".

CSS <i>Gaines</i>

CSSGaines was a wooden side wheel gunboat constructed by the Confederates at Mobile, Alabama during 1861-62. The ship was hastily built with unseasoned wood, which was partially covered with 2-inch iron plating. Gaines resembled CSS Morgan except that she had high pressure boilers. Operating in the waters of Mobile Bay, under the command of Lieutenant John W. Bennett, CSN, she was heavily damaged during the Battle of Mobile Bay on August 5, 1864. She was sinking as she left the battle and became grounded while still in 24 feet (7 m) of water, within 500 yards (457 m) of Fort Morgan. Two crewman died in the engagement, 3-4 were wounded, and 129 escaped to Mobile. Her hull may have been located in Mobile Bay in 1989, but the find has not been confirmed.

CSSMorgan was a partially armored gunboat of the Confederate States Navy in the American Civil War.

USS Tennessee

Carte de visite image of the ship CSS Tennessee CDV by McPherson & Oliver.png
Carte de visite image of the ship

Immediately following her capture and repair, Tennessee was commissioned in the United States Navy, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Pierre Giraud in command. The ironclad participated in the Federal assault on Fort Morgan on August 23 which resulted in the fort's capitulation that same day. That autumn, she moved from Mobile, AL to New Orleans, LA for repairs before joining the Mississippi Squadron. She served on the Mississippi river through the end of the war in April 1865 and briefly thereafter. On August 19, 1865, Tennessee was placed out of commission and was laid up at New Orleans. There, she remained until November 27, 1867 when she was sold at auction to J. F. Armstrong for scrapping. Though the remainder of the vessel was scrapped, two 7-inch Brooke rifles and two 6.4-inch Brooke rifles were preserved and are still on display in the Old weapons exhibit in East Willard Park at the Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C. One of her 6.4-inch (160 mm) double-banded Brooke rifled cannon is on display at the Headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief U. S. Atlantic Command at the Norfolk, Virginia Naval base. One of her 7-inch Brooke rifles is on display at the city hall of Selma, Alabama where it was cast.

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of US Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U.S. allies or partner nations. It has the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 336,978 personnel on active duty and 101,583 in the Ready Reserve, the U.S. Navy is the third largest of the U.S. military service branches in terms of personnel. It has 290 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of June 2019, making it the third-largest air force in the world, after the United States Air Force and the United States Army.

A lieutenant is the junior most commissioned officer in the armed forces, fire services, police, and other organizations of many nations.

Siege of Fort Morgan Siege during the Battle of Mobile Bay

The Siege of Fort Morgan occurred during the American Civil War, as part of the battle for Mobile Bay, in Alabama (U.S.), during August 1864. Union ground forces led by General Gordon Granger conducted a short siege of the Confederate garrison at the mouth of Mobile Bay under the command of General Richard L. Page. The Confederate surrender helped shut down Mobile, Alabama, as an effective Confederate port city.

See also

Commons-logo.svg Media related to CSS Tennessee (ship, 1863) at Wikimedia Commons


  1. "The Battle of Mobile Bay: "A Deadly Rain of Shot and Shell"". Historical Marker Database. Retrieved 25 September 2015.

Related Research Articles

CSS <i>Texas</i> (1865)

CSS Texas was the third and last Columbia-class casemate ironclad built for the Confederate Navy during the American Civil War. Not begun until 1864 and intended to become part of the James River Squadron, she saw no action before being captured by Union forces while still fitting out. CSS Texas was reputed to have been one of the very best constructed Confederate ironclads, second only to CSS Mississippi.

CSS <i>Albemarle</i> Confederate ram which was sunk, raised, and scrapped

CSS Albemarle was a steam-powered ironclad gunboat ram of the Confederate Navy, named for a town and a sound in North Carolina. All three were named for General George Monck, the first Duke of Albemarle and one of the original Carolina Lords Proprietor.

Franklin Buchanan United States Navy officer

Franklin Buchanan was an officer in the United States Navy who became the only full admiral in the Confederate Navy during the American Civil War. He also commanded the ironclad CSS Virginia.

CSS <i>Virginia II</i>

CSSVirginia II was a Confederate Navy steam-powered ironclad ram laid down in 1862 at the William Graves' shipyard in Richmond, Virginia. Acting Constructor William A. Graves, CSN, was the superintendent in charge of her construction. In order to conserve scarce iron plating, he ordered the ship's armored casemate shortened from the specifications given in John L. Porter's original building plans; in addition, the ship's iron-plating, while six inches thick on the casemate's forward face, was reduced to five inches on her port, starboard, and aft faces. Due to the shortening of her casemate, the number of her cannon were reduced to a single 11" smoothbore, a single 8" rifle, and two 6.4" rifles.

CSS Charleston was a casemate ironclad ram built for the Confederate Navy (CSN) at Charleston, South Carolina during the American Civil War. Funded by the State of South Carolina as well as donations by patriotic women's associations in the city, she was turned over to the Confederate Navy and defended the city until advancing Union troops that threatened Charleston caused her to be destroyed in early 1865 lest she be captured. Her wreck was salvaged after the war and the remains have been obliterated by subsequent dredging.

CSS <i>Palmetto State</i>

CSSPalmetto State was an ironclad ram built in January 1862 by Cameron and Co., Charleston, South Carolina, under the supervision of Flag Officer D. N. Ingraham, CSN. She was readied for service in the American Civil War by September 1862 when Lieutenant Commander John Rutledge, CSN, was placed in command. Her casemate armor was 4 inches (102 mm) thick, backed by 22 inches (559 mm) of wood, while 2 inches (51 mm) of iron armor was used everywhere else. Her pilothouse was not placed forward but was positioned abaft of the smokestack.

USS <i>Hartford</i> (1858)

USS Hartford, a sloop-of-war, steamer, was the first ship of the United States Navy named for Hartford, the capital of Connecticut. Hartford served in several prominent campaigns in the American Civil War as the flagship of David G. Farragut, most notably the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864. She survived until 1956, when she sank awaiting restoration at Norfolk, Virginia.

CSS <i>Richmond</i>

CSSRichmond, an ironclad ram, was built for use in the American Civil War at Gosport (Norfolk) Navy Yard to the design of John L. Porter with money and scrap iron collected by the citizens of Virginia, whose imagination had been captured by the ironclad CSS Virginia. Consequently, she was sometimes referred to as Virginia II, Virginia No. 2 or Young Virginia in the South and as Merrimack No. 2, New Merrimack or Young Merrimack by Union writers, months before the actual CSS Virginia II was ever laid down.

USS <i>Miami</i> (1861)

The first USS Miami was a side-wheel steamer, double-ender gunboat in the United States Navy during the American Civil War.

CSS <i>Selma</i> (1856)

CSSSelma was a steamship in the Confederate States Navy during the American Civil War. She served in the Confederate Navy first as Florida, and later as Selma. She was captured by the Union Navy steamer USS Metacomet during the Battle of Mobile Bay. She served as USS Selma until the end of the war, when she was decommissioned and sold for use as a merchant ship.

CSS Raleigh was a steam-powered Civil War casemate ironclad. She was fitted with a spar torpedo instead of an iron ram and was built in 1863–1864 by the Confederate States Navy at Wilmington, North Carolina. While she was being built her commander was Lieutenant John Wilkinson (CSN). She was put into commission on April 30, 1864 under the command of Lieutenant J. Pembroke Jones, CSN.

USS <i>Winnebago</i> (1863)

USS Winnebago was a double-turret Milwaukee-class river monitor, named for the Winnebago tribe of Siouan Indians, built for the Union Navy during the American Civil War. The ship participated in the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864, during which she was lightly damaged, and the bombardments of Forts Gaines and Morgan as Union troops besieged the fortifications defending the bay. In early 1865, Winnebago again supported Union forces during the Mobile Campaign as they attacked Confederate fortifications defending the city of Mobile, Alabama. She was placed in reserve after the end of the war and sold in 1874.

CSS <i>Muscogee</i> Confederate river warship of American Civil War

CSS Muscogee was an ironclad ram built for the Confederate States Navy during the American Civil War. She was known as Muscogee while being built and up until her launching; after that all surviving Confederate records refer to her as the "ironclad ram Jackson." No official explanation survives as to why her name was changed.

CSS <i>Neuse</i> United States historic place

CSS Neuse was a steam-powered ironclad ram of the Confederate States Navy that served in the latter part the American Civil War and was eventually scuttled to avoid capture by rapidly advancing Union Army forces. In the early 1960s, she produced approximately 15,000 artifacts from her raised lower hull, the largest number ever found on a recovered Confederate vessel. The remains of her lower hull and a selection of her artifacts are on exhibit in Kinston, North Carolina at the CSS Neuse Interpretive Center State Historic Site, which belongs to the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The ironclad is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The order of battle for the Union and Confederate forces at the Battle of Mobile Bay on August 5, 1864.

CSS <i>Tuscaloosa</i> (ironclad) Ironclad steamer

CSSTuscaloosa was a screw ironclad steamer ram in the Confederate States Navy that was laid down by the Confederate Naval Works at Selma in 1862.

The Milwaukee-class monitors were a class of four riverine ironclad monitors built during the American Civil War. Several supported Union forces along the Mississippi River in mid-1864 before participating in the Battle of Mobile Bay in August. Chickasaw and Winnebago bombarded Confederate coastal fortifications during the battle and during subsequent operations as well as engaging the ironclad Tennessee II. The other two ships arrived at Mobile Bay after the battle and all four supported the land attacks on Mobile in March–April 1865. Milwaukee struck a torpedo during this time and sank. The surviving three ships were sold in 1874; Chickasaw was converted into a ferry and survived until 1944 when she was scuttled. Her wreck was discovered in 2004.

CSS <i>Nashville</i> (1864)

CSSNashville was a large side-wheel steam casemate ironclad built by the Confederates late in the American Civil War.


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships .The entries can be found [Confederate service here] and Union service here.