Posted By : manager

Posted : February 25, 2022

By: Mike Thomas

The War For Southern Independence brought about the development of several forms of innovative vessels of war on both sides. Confederate innovations were iron-clads, spar-torpedo boats, and the submarine H.L. Hunley. The primary Union contribution to this list was the Monitor class warship. Almost certainly, the most far-fetched concept for a vessel from either side in the entire war was designed by Union Major-General John G. Foster, commanding officer of Union troops around Charleston. However, instead of being a modern invention, he reached back into ancient history.

Union Major-General John G. Foster,
Union Major-General John G. Foster,

In August 1864, Foster reported to the U.S. War Department that he was building two similar craft at naval facilities in Beau-fort. Calling them “assaulting arks,” he described them in some detail: “These will be simply modern row galleys, fifty oars on a side; will draw 26 inches of water when loaded with 1,000 men; will have elevated towers for sharpshooters, and an assaulting ladder or gangplank of 51 feet in length, operated by machinery. These will be useful anywhere, in assault-ing a fort or landing troops in shoal water.” In addition, the sides of each craft were to have iron plating for protection against musket fire.

No mention is found of the precise configuration, length, or beam for the craft, but by any stretch of the imagination, these gal-leys would have been massive to adequately accommodate so many fully equipped troops in a single decked craft. One visualization is that the craft would have 50 files of 18 men standing shoulder-to-shoulder between the seated rowers, thus requiring a minimum beam of 65-75 feet. Allowing for full packs carried by the troops, the assault ladder, and its machinery along with the sharpshooter’s tow-ers, the length would likely have been 200 feet or more. Its bow would probably have been sleek to allow the rower’s efforts to be most effective. Unfortunately, the schematics drawn by his engineers are not available.

Foster received scant attention or support for this project from his superiors. With Grant’s siege of Peters-burg and Sherman’s campaign in Georgia taking place at this time, all resources were dedicated to their needs, and projects like these were low priorities. As a result, foster’s requests for steel plates and other required items were ignored by the Quartermaster-General’s office and elsewhere, leaving the project to wither on the vine.

Sources: Official Records, 1, XXXV, Pt 1, 21; Pt.2, 225.

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