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CSS Fredericksburg Ironclad (1864)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 4/29/2014

Rather than risk CSS Fredericksburg falling to enemy hands, she was blown up on April 4th, 1865 by retreating Confederate forces during the fall of Richmond.

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Several ironclads of the Confederate Navy owed their existence, in part, to collective endeavors undertaken by women of the south to raise money for their construction (therefore known as "Ladie's Gunboats" in honor). When a call for funding to construct new ironclads at Richmond came about from the Richmond Dispatch in March of 1862, the women answered and help to give rise to vessels like CSS Fredericksburg.

Between 1862 and 1863, the ironclad was undergoing construction until the following March when she was relocated to Drewry's Bluff near Fort Darling to take on her expected armament of cannon. After commissioning, CSS Fredericksburg joined the James River Squadron, a collection of Confederate vessels charged with protecting the James River leading up to Richmond. She would serve in this fashion to the end of her service days in 1865.

As built, Fredericksburg displaced at 700 tons, was given a length of 188 feet, a beam of 40 feet, 3 inches and a draught of 9 feet, 6 inches. Power was through a steam engine arrangement which allowed for a maximum speed of 5 knots in ideal waters. Her crew complement numbered 150 personnel and armament was made up of 1 x 11" (280mm) smoothbore cannon along with 1 x 8" (200mm) rifled cannon and 2 x 6.4" (160mm) rifled cannons. These cannons could be used to counter other enemy ships or hit targets offshore as required.

Fredericksburg's profile was consistent with other ironclads of the period, featuring a very shallow hull with an unobstructed bow and stern deck. Her bulk was largely collected at amidships to which angled, armored panels made up her superstructure - armor thickness reaching up to 4 inches. A sole funnel emerged from the superstructure roof line, the roof originally completed in wood. When understood as a fire hazard, this wood covering was replaced with iron bars for safety.

CSS Fredericksburg went on to complete various patrolling sorties along the James River. Responding to the Union offensive during September 1864, CSS Fredericksburg and CSS Richmond were called to bombard Union forces near Fort Harrison. Successfully removing the enemy presence, Fredericksburg soldiered on into 1865 when, in January, Fredericksburg - joined by CSS Virginia II and CSS Richmond - moved on the Union supply depot located at City Point. Here they were met by USS Onodaga with inconclusive results which range being a primary factor in the exchange of fire. The end for CSS Fredericksburg came rather unceremoniously when, on April 4th, 1865, her hulk joined other Confederate naval vessels in being blown up to avoid capture amidst the evacuation of Richmond. She sank to the bottom of the James River where she remains today (2014). Union forces captured Richmond shortly thereafter. General Lee's surrender followed on April 9th.

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Specifications for the
CSS Fredericksburg
Ironclad


Country of Origin: Confederate States
Initial Year of Service: 1864
Operators: Confederate States


Crew: 150


Length: 188 ft (57.30 m)
Beam: 40.2 ft (12.25 m)
Draught: 9.6 ft (2.93 m)
Displacement: 700 tons


Machinery: 1 x Steam engine.

Surface Speed: 5 kts (6 mph)
Range: 4,785 miles (7,701 km)


Armament:
1 x 11" (280mm) smoothbore cannon
1 x 8" (200mm) rifled cannon
2 x 6.4" (160mm) rifled cannons


Ship Class: CSS Fredericksburg
Number-in-Class: 1
Ships-in-Class: CSS Fredericksburg