The U.S. and Foreign Navies in 1860 From
Though no foreign, (i.e., European) adversary arose during the Civil War years, there was, at least up until late 1862, a distinct possibility that either Britain or France might ally themselves with the Confederacy, in part due to the much ballyhooed 'cotton diplomacy', as well as British and French complicity in fitting out raiders such as Alabama. Fortunately, this did not materialize.
However, as late as 1864, Secretary of the Navy Welles still felt it necessary to begin a program for a significant number of fast steam sloops designed specifically as commerce raiders. As the Confederacy had no commerce to speak of, these ships were obviously intended for a foreign conflict. When Emperor Maximilian appeared in Mexico, the bete noir of European interference in the hemisphere seemed to be at the doorstep.
With these factors in view, it might be well to present a short description of a selected group of foreign navies, as they were in 1860.
Great Britain in 1860 was not yet the ally she would become in the twentieth century. She was nor, on the other hand, the ogre of the era of George III. Between these two extremes there was a certain affinity, yet not complete trust.
Merely a name list of the British navy's vessels in 1860 would be sufficient to make the point that their fleet was an overwhelming force. In specifics, the inventory included fifty-three steam ships of the line (60 to 131 guns and 2400 to 4200 tons), plus twenty-one on the ineffective list. (The United States had no steam liners.) There were 128 steam cruising vessels -- corvettes, sloops and frigates -- plus ten sailing ships of the line and an equal number of sailing frigates and sloops. Screw and paddle-wheel gunboats of 2 to 6 guns numbered 197.
During the years of the Civil War, twelve new ironclads were commissioned, totalling approximately 212 guns. These were oceangoing ships with broadside batteries. As will be seen, the American ironclads were almost exclusively coastal or river vessels.
In France, the fleet numbered thirty-seven screw liners of up to 130 guns each; fifteen screw frigates and eighty-four steam corvettes and sloops, plus at least twenty-five gunboats. The sailing fleet included eight ships of the line, twenty-seven frigates, and thirty-four corvettes and brigs.
Beginning with Gloire (1860), the French would have eleven ironclads in commission by 1865. Additionally, there would be seven new coastal defense floating batteries, over and above the five batteries constructed for the Crimean War. Finally, during the Civil War years, some thirteen new screw cruisers would be commissioned.
Again, the French navy was a formidable force. Though the US fleet would outnumber them in vessels by 1865, as will be seen, the majority of the American ships were hastily converted merchant ships suited for little more than their intended role: maintaining the blockade of southern coasts.
The Imperial Russian Navy was considered the third largest in this era. There were ten screw line-of-battle ships, nine screw frigates, and twenty-six screw sloops and corvettes. Between 1862 and 1865, four ironclads were built, two of which were coastal vessels. It is noteworthy that ten monitors based on John Ericsson's design were begun in 1863 and completed three years later.
In the western hemisphere, the most formidable navy other than that of the United States was that of Brazil. This consisted of fifteen steam sloops and twenty sailing ships. Eight steamers were under construction 1860, and five ironclads were completed by 1865.
THE UNION FLEET, MARCH 1861 (Serviceable Vessels)
|Crusader||screw steamer||8||New York|
|Mohawk||screw steamer||5||New York|
|Pocahontas||screw steamer||5||ret. from Vera Cruz|
|Powhatan||paddle steamer||11||ret. from Vera Cruz|
|Richmond||screw sloop||16||Mediterranean Sqdrn|
|Susquehanna||paddle sloop||15||Mediterranean Sqdrn|
|Iroquois||screw sloop||6||Mediterranean Sqdrn|
|Mohican||screw sloop||6||African Squadron|
|Mystic||screw steamer||5||African Squadron|
|Sanjacinto||screw sloop||13||African Squadron|
|Seminole||steam sloop||5||Brazil Squadron|
|John Adams||sail/sloop||18||East Indies|
|Hartford||screw sloop||25||East Indies|
|Dakota||screw sloop||6||East Indies|
|Niagara||steam sloop||12||ret. from Japan|
|Saginaw||paddle steamer||3||East Indies|
|Michigan*||paddle steamer||1||Great Lakes|
|Saranac||paddle sloop||9||Pacific Squadron|
|Lancaster||screw sloop||25||Pacific Squadron|
|Potomac||sail/frigate||50||New York (ord.)|
|St. Lawrence||sail/frigate||50||New York (ord.)|
|Santee||sail/frigate||50||New York (ord.)|
|Savannah||sail/sloop||24||New York (ord.)|
|Perry||brig||9||New York (ord.)|
|Roanoke||steam frigate||46?||New York (ord.)|
|Colorado||steam frigate||48||Boston (ord.)|
|Minnesota||steam frigate||48||Boston (ord.)|
|Wabash||steam frigate||48||New York (ord.)|
|Pensacola||screw sloop||24||not complete|
|Mississippi||paddle sloop||12||Boston (ord.)|
|Water Witch||paddle sloop||3||Philadelphia (ord.)|
*Vessel remained on Great Lakes during war.
**Towed from yard before yard was destroyed.
Ord: In ordinary at navy yard
VESSELS IN ORDINARY/LOST AT NORFOLK NAVY YARD, APRIL 1861
|ship of the line||120|
|ship of the line|
|ship of the line|
|ship of the line (unfinished)|
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