The Union Navy was the United States Navy (USN) during the American Civil War, when it fought the Confederate States Navy (CSN). The term is sometimes used carelessly to include vessels of war used on the rivers of the interior while they were under the control of the United States Army, also called the Union Army.
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. with 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 319,421 personnel on active duty and 99,616 in the Ready Reserve, the Navy is the third largest of the service branches. It has 282 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of March 2018, making it the second-largest air force in the world, after the United States Air Force.
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The most studied and written about episode in U.S. history, 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 proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights to uphold slavery.
The Navy of the Confederate States (CSN) was the naval branch of the Confederate States Armed Forces, established by an act of the Confederate States Congress on February 21, 1861. It was responsible for Confederate naval operations during the American Civil War (1861–1865), fighting against the Union Navy / United States Navy.
The primary missions of the Union Navy were:
To accomplish these, the Union Navy had to undergo a profound transformation, both technical and institutional. During the war, sailing vessels were completely supplanted by ships propelled by steam for purposes of combat. Vessels of widely differing character were built from the keel up in response to peculiar problems they would encounter. Wooden hulls were at first protected by armor plating, and soon were replaced by iron or steel throughout. Guns were reduced in number, but increased in size and range; the reduction in number was partially compensated by mounting the guns in rotating turrets or by pivoting the gun on a curved deck tracks so they could be turned to fire in any direction.
The institutional changes that were introduced during the war were equally significant. The Bureau of Steam Engineering was added to the bureau system, testimony to the U.S. Navy's conversion from sail to steam. Most important from the standpoint of Army-Navy cooperation in joint operations, the set of officer ranks was redefined so that each rank in the U.S. Army had its equivalent in the U.S. Navy. The establishment of the ranks of admirals implied also a change of naval doctrine, from one favoring single-ship operations to that of employing whole fleets.
At the start of the war, the Union Navy had 42 ships in commission. Another 48 were laid up and listed as available for service as soon as crews could be assembled and trained, but few were appropriate for the task at hand. Most were sailing vessels, some were hopelessly outdated, and one (USS Michigan) served on Lake Erie and could not be moved to the ocean. During the course of the war, the number in commission was increased by more than a factor 15, so that at the end the U.S. Navy had 671 vessels.
USS Michigan was the United States Navy's first iron-hulled warship and served during the American Civil War. She was renamed USS Wolverine in 1905.
Even more significant than the increase in raw numbers was the variety of ship types that were represented, some of forms that had not been seen previously in naval war anywhere. The nature of the conflict, much of which took place in the interior of the continent or in rather shallow harbors along the coast, meant that vessels designed for use on the open seas were less useful than more specialized ships. To confront the forms of combat that came about, the federal government developed a new type of warship, the monitor, based on the original, USS Monitor.The U.S. Navy took over a class of armored river gunboats created for the U.S. Army, but designed by naval personnel, the Eads gunboats. So-called double-enders were produced to maneuver in the confined waters of the rivers and harbors. The Union Navy experimented with submarines before the Confederacy produced its famed CSS Hunley; the result, USS Alligator failed primarily because of lack of suitable targets. Building on Confederate designs, the Union Navy produced and used torpedo boats, small vessels that mounted spar torpedoes and were forerunners of both the modern torpedo and destroyer type of warship.
USS Monitor was an iron-hulled steamship. Built during the American Civil War (1861–1865), she was the first ironclad warship commissioned by the Union Navy.
Because of haste in their design and construction, most of the vessels taken into the U.S. Navy in this period of rapid expansion incorporated flaws that would make them unsuitable for use in a permanent system of defense. Accordingly, at the end of the war, most of them were soon stricken from the service rather than being mothballed. The number of ships at sea fell back to its prewar level.
|Commissioned officer rank structure of the Union Navy|
|NCO and enlisted rank structure of the Union Navy|
|Title||Passed Midshipman||Midshipman||Boatswain / Gunner / Carpenter / Sailmaker||Master's mate||Rated Master's Mate|
|Commissioned officer rank structure of the Union Navy|
|Title||Rear admiral||Commodore||Captain||Commander|| Lieutenant|
|NCO and enlisted rank structure of the Union Navy|
|Title||Midshipman||Boatswain / Gunner / Carpenter / Sailmaker|
|Commissioned officer rank structure of the Union Navy|
|Title||Vice admiral||Rear admiral||Commodore||Captain||Commander|| Lieutenant|
Introduced in 1865
Introduced in 1865
|NCO and enlisted rank structure of the Union Navy|
|Title||Midshipman||Boatswain / Gunner / Carpenter / Sailmaker||Master's Mate|
The highest rank available to an U.S. naval officer when the war began was that of captain.The Confederate constitution provided for the rank of admiral, but it was to be awarded for valor in battle. No Confederate officer was made admiral until Franklin Buchanan was named such after the Battle of Hampton Roads. This created problems when many ships had to operate together, with no clearly established chain of command. Even worse, when the Navy worked with the Army in joint operations, the customary rank equivalency between the two services meant that the naval captain, equivalent to an army colonel, would always be inferior to every army general present. After the existing arrangement had been used for the first year of the war, the case was made that the interests of the nation would be better served by organizing the Navy along lines more like that of the Royal Navy of Great Britain. A set of officer ranks was established in the summer of 1862 that precisely matched the set of Army ranks. The most visible change was that henceforth some individuals would be designated commodore, rear admiral, vice admiral, and finally admiral, all new formal ranks, and equivalent to, respectively, brigadier general, major general, lieutenant general, and general.
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.
The Battle of Hampton Roads, often referred to as either the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimack or the Battle of Ironclads, was the most noted and arguably most important naval battle of the American Civil War from the standpoint of the development of navies. It was fought over two days, March 8–9, 1862, in Hampton Roads, a roadstead in Virginia where the Elizabeth and Nansemond rivers meet the James River just before it enters Chesapeake Bay adjacent to the city of Norfolk. The battle was a part of the effort of the Confederacy to break the Union blockade, which had cut off Virginia's largest cities and major industrial centers, Norfolk and Richmond, from international trade.
A command hierarchy is a group of people who carry out orders based on others' authority within the group. It can be viewed as part of a power structure, in which it is usually seen as the most vulnerable and also the most powerful part.
A doctrinal shift took place at the same time. Prior to the war, the United States Navy emphasized single-ship operations, but the nature of the conflict soon made use of whole fleets necessary. Already at the Battle of Port Royal (7 November 1861), 77 vessels, including 19 warships, were employed.This was the largest naval expedition that had ever sailed under the U.S. flag, but the record did not stand for long. Subsequent operations at New Orleans, Mobile, and several positions in the interior confirmed the importance of large fleets in modern naval operations.
The Battle of Port Royal was one of the earliest amphibious operations of the American Civil War, in which a United States Navy fleet and United States Army expeditionary force captured Port Royal Sound, South Carolina, between Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina, on November 7, 1861. The sound was guarded by two forts on opposite sides of the entrance, Fort Walker on Hilton Head Island to the south and Fort Beauregard on Phillip's Island to the north. A small force of four gunboats supported the forts, but did not materially affect the battle.
The system of naval bureaus was revised in the summer of 1862. Some of the older bureaus were rearranged or had their names altered. The most radical change was the creation of the Bureau of Steam Engineering.Its existence was testimony to the fact that the U.S. Navy would no longer rely upon the winds to propel its ships. More was involved in this decision than meets the eye, as the necessity of maintaining coaling stations around the globe meant that the nation had to rethink its attitude toward colonialism.
During the war the Union Navy had a total of 84,415 personnel. The Union Navy suffered 6,233 total casualties with 4,523 deaths from all causes. 2,112 Union sailors were killed by enemy action and 2,411 died by disease or injury. The Union Navy suffered at least 1,710 personnel wounded in action, injured, or disabled by disease.The Union Navy started the war with 8,000 men, 7,600 enlisted men of all ratings and some 1,200 commissioned officers. The number of hands in the Union Navy grew five times its original strength at the war's outbreak. Most of these new hands were volunteers who desired to serve in the navy temporarily rather than make the navy a career as with many of the pre-war sailors. Most of these volunteers were rated as "Land's Men" by recruiters meaning they had little or no experience at sea in their civilian lives, although many sailors from the United States pre-war merchant marine joined the navy and they were often given higher ratings due to their background and experience. A key part of the Union Navy's recruiting efforts was the offer of higher pay than a volunteer for the Union Army would receive and the promise of greater freedom or the opportunity to see more of the country and world. When the Draft was introduced the Navy tried to recruit volunteers by offering service at sea as a better paying alternative to being drafted into the Army, this incentive was especially meant to attract professional sailors who could be drafted the same as any other civilian and would rather see combat in an environment they were more familiar with.
Union sailors differed from their counterparts on land, soldiers. The sailors were typically unemployed, working-class men from urban areas, including recent immigrants. Unlike soldiers, few were farmers. They seldom enlisted to preserve the Union, end slavery, or display their courage; instead, many were coerced into joining.According to Michael Bennett:
Nevertheless, Union navy sailors and marines were awarded 325 Medals of Honor for Civil War valor with immigrants receiving 39 percent of the awards: Ireland (50), England (25) and Scotland (13).
Approximately 10,000 sailors of the Union Navy were black;seven of them were awarded the Medal of Honor. or approximately 17%. The tension between white and "contraband" (black) sailors was high and remained serious during the war. Bennett argues:
The blockade of all ports in the seceded states was proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln on 19 April 1861, one of the first acts of his administration following the bombardment of Fort Sumter.It existed mostly on paper in the early days of the conflict, but became increasingly tighter as it continued. Although the blockade was never perfect, it contributed to the isolation of the South and hastened the devaluation of its currency.
For administration of the blockade, the Navy was divided into four squadrons: the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, East Gulf, and West Gulf Blockading Squadrons.(A fifth squadron, the Mississippi River Squadron, was created in late 1862 to operate in the Vicksburg campaign and its consequences; it was not involved with the blockade.)
Two early invasions of the South were meant primarily to improve the blockade, and then led to further actions. Following the capture of Cape Hatteras, much of eastern North Carolina was soon occupied by the Union Army.The easy success in North Carolina was not repeated after the seizure of Port Royal in South Carolina, as determined resistance prevented significant expansion of the beachhead there. Charleston did not fall until the last days of the war. The later capture of Fernandina, Florida, was intended from the start to provide a southern anchor for the Atlantic blockade. It led to the capture of Jacksonville and the southern sounds of Georgia, but this was not part of a larger scheme of conquest. It reflected mostly a decision by the Confederate government to retire from the coast, with the exception of a few major ports. Late in the war, Mobile Bay was taken by fleet action, but there was no immediate attempt to take Mobile itself.
The capture of New Orleans was only marginally connected with the blockade, as New Orleans was already pretty well sealed off.It was important, however, for several other reasons. The passage of the forts below the city by Farragut's fleet showed that fixed fortifications could not defend against a fleet that was powered by steam, so it was crucial for the emergence of the Navy as equal to the Army in national defense. It also demonstrated the possibility of attacking the Confederacy along the line of the Mississippi River, and thus was an important, even vital, predecessor of the campaign that ultimately split the Confederacy. Finally, it cast doubt on the ability of the Confederacy to defend itself, and thus gave European nations reason not to grant diplomatic recognition.
The final important naval action of the war was the second assault on Fort Fisher, at the mouth of the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. It was one of the few actions of the war on the coast in which the Army and Navy cooperated fully.The capture of the fort sealed off Wilmington, the last Confederate port to remain open. The death of the Confederacy followed in a little more than three months.
There were numerous small or one-to-one battles far away from the coasts between ocean-going Union vessels and blockade runners, often in the Caribbean but also in the Atlantic, the Battle of Cherbourg being the most famous example.
Not included in this list are several incidents in which the Navy took part more or less incidentally. These include Shiloh and Malvern Hill. They are not put on the list because naval personnel were not involved in planning or preparation for the battle.
About 180,000 black soldiers and an estimated 10,000 black sailors fought in the Union Army and Navy, all of them in late 1862 or later, except for some blacks who enrolled in the Navy earlier.
The Anaconda Plan is the name applied to a U.S. Union Army outline strategy for suppressing the Confederacy at the beginning of the American Civil War. Proposed by Union general-in-chief Winfield Scott, the plan emphasized a Union blockade of the Southern ports, and called for an advance down the Mississippi River to cut the South in two. Because the blockade would be rather passive, it was widely derided by a vociferous faction of Union generals who wanted a more vigorous prosecution of the war, and who likened it to the coils of an anaconda suffocating its victim. The snake image caught on, giving the proposal its popular name.
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!".
The 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.
John Randolph Tucker, an American naval officer who served in the navies of three nations. He was a commander in the United States Navy, captain in the Confederate States Navy, and rear admiral in the Peruvian Navy. As president of the Peruvian Hydrographic Commission of the Amazon, he contributed to the exploration and mapping of the upper Amazon Basin.
USS Wabash was a steam screw frigate of the United States Navy that served during the American Civil War. She was based on the same plans as Colorado. Post-war she continued to serve her country in European operations and eventually served as a barracks ship in Boston, Massachusetts, and was sold in 1912.
The Union blockade in the American Civil War was a naval strategy by the United States to prevent the Confederacy from trading.
The Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip was the decisive battle for possession of New Orleans in the American Civil War. The two Confederate forts on the Mississippi River south of the city were attacked by a Union Navy fleet. As long as the forts could keep the Federal forces from moving on the city, it was safe, but if they were negated, there were no fall-back positions to impede the Union advance.
USS Mound City was a City-class ironclad gunboat built for service on the Mississippi River and its tributaries in the American Civil War. Originally commissioned as part of the Union Army's Western Gunboat Flotilla, she remained in that service until October 1862. Then the flotilla was transferred to the Navy and she became part of the Mississippi River Squadron, where she remained until the end of the war.
The First Battle of Charleston Harbor was an engagement near Charleston, South Carolina that took place April 7, 1863, during the American Civil War. The striking force was a fleet of nine ironclad warships of the Union Navy, including seven monitors that were improved versions of the original USS Monitor. A Union Army contingent associated with the attack took no active part in the battle. The ships, under command of Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont, attacked the Confederate defenses near the entrance to Charleston Harbor. Navy Department officials in Washington hoped for a stunning success that would validate a new form of warfare, with armored warships mounting heavy guns reducing traditional forts.
USS Isaac Smith was a screw steamer acquired by the United States Navy during the American Civil War. She was used by the Union Navy to patrol navigable waterways of the Confederate States of America to prevent the Confederacy from trading with other countries. In 1863, she became the only warship in the American Civil War to be captured by enemy land forces. She then served in the Confederate States Navy as CSS Stono until she was wrecked.
USS Tristram Shandy (1864) was a 444-ton steamer and blockade runner captured by the Union Navy during the American Civil War.
The Pook Turtles, or City-class gunboats to use their semi-official name, were war vessels intended for service on the Mississippi River during the American Civil War. They were also sometimes referred to as "Eads gunboats." The labels are applied to seven vessels of uniform design built from the keel up in Carondelet, Missouri shipyards owned by James Buchanan Eads. Eads was a wealthy St. Louis industrialist who risked his fortune in support of the Union.
The Confederate privateers were privately owned ships that were authorized by the government of the Confederate States of America to attack the shipping of the United States. Although the appeal was to profit by capturing merchant vessels and seizing their cargoes, the government was most interested in diverting the efforts of the Union Navy away from the blockade of Southern ports, and perhaps to encourage European intervention in the conflict.
CSS Ivy was a sidewheel steamer and privateer purchased by Commodore Lawrence Rousseau for service with the Confederate States Navy, and chosen by Commodore George Hollins for his Mosquito Fleet. The Mosquito Fleet was a group of riverboats converted to gunboats, and used to defend the Mississippi River in the area of New Orleans during the American Civil War.
The Battle of Lucas Bend took place on January 11, 1862 near Lucas Bend, four miles north of Columbus on Mississippi River in Kentucky as it lay at the time of the American Civil War. In the network of the Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio rivers, the Union river gunboats under Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote and General Ulysses S. Grant sought to infiltrate and attack the Confederate positions in Tennessee. On the day of the battle, the Union ironclads Essex and St Louis, transporting troops down the Mississippi in fog, engaged the Confederate cotton clad warships General Polk, Ivy and Jackson towing the gun platform New Orleans at a curve known as Lucas Bend in Kentucky. The Essex, under Commander William D. Porter, and the St Louis forced the Confederate ships to fall back after an hour of skirmishing during which the Union commander was wounded. They retreated to the safety of a nearby Confederate battery at Columbus, where the Union vessels could not follow.
The Unadilla class was a class of gunboat built for the Union Navy at the outbreak of the American Civil War. Ships of the class were also known as "90-day gunboats" due to their rapid construction. The class was designed to be fully oceangoing while having a light enough draft to be able to operate close inshore, for blockade duty or other operations in shallow waters.
The blockade runners of the American Civil War were seagoing steam ships that were used to get through the Union blockade that extended some 3,500 miles (5,600 km) along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastlines and the lower Mississippi River. Blockade runners imported from England most of the guns and other ordnance the Confederacy desperately needed. To get through the blockade, these ships, many of them built in British ship yards and specially designed for speed, had to cruise undetected, usually at night. The typical blockade runners were privately owned vessels often operating with a letter of marque issued by the Confederate States of America. If spotted, the blockade runners would attempt to outmaneuver or simply outrun any Union ships on blockade patrol, very often successfully.