Saturday, April 19, 2014

Attack of the CSS Albemarle

CSS Albemarle
Throughout the war the United States Navy was vastly superior to the ships that the Confederacy was able to scrape together, but that did not stop the Southerners from trying to build their navy. They often found very innovative ways to do it. The ironclad ram CSS Albemarle was begun in a cornfield near the Roanoke River in January, 1863. The Union troops heard of the rebel boat being prepared, but they did not have enough troops to send an expedition to destroy her. By April 1864, the CSS Albemarle was launched under the command of Captain James Cooke and ready to head down river to engage the Union fleet off Plymouth, North Carolina.

She sailed down river to engage the Federal ships 150 years ago today – April 19, 1864. Mooring three miles above the town, the pilot went ahead and discovered that the water was high enough that the Union obstructions in the river were 10 feet under. As the Confederate warship set out, she came under fire from Federal batteries along the shore, but their fire just bounced off the Albemarle's iron sides.
After Safely passing these obstacles, the rebels encountered the Union ships, two paddle wheel steamers tied together, the USS Miami and Southfield. The Union officers tried to use the ships' connection to their advantage by trapping the ironclad between them. Captain Cooke on the Albemarle turned hard to starboard, and barely missing the shore, swung around and rammed the Southfield. Although he dealt the Yankee steamer a fatal blow, the Confederate ram was hopelessly tangled in the hull of her victim. Grasping the opportunity, the Miami fired a shell point blank into the trapped Albemarle. However, the ironclad's armor held firm, and the shell rebounded back into the Union vessel. There it exploded and killed her commander, Captain Charles Fusser. The crew of the Miami tried to board the ram, but the rebels drove them back with a heavy musketry fire. Foiled in their attempts to sink or capture the ram, the Yankees steered the USS Miami clear of the CSS Albemarle and headed into Albemarle Sound, while the Albemarle was released as the Southfield rolled and sank. With the Federal vessels driven off, Confederate infantry attacked the town and captured it, with the support of the Albemarle's guns.


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