Model Completed: USS Keokuk

Posted March 9th, 2020 by Devin and filed in Civil War, Ironclads and Gunboats, Modeling

I’ve added the finished photos, and a few from the build, of my USS Keokuk.  A 1/200 scale resin kit, it depicts the Union ironclad as she appeared during her short career in 1863.

This was a simple, yet fun kit. It’s a shame that Verlinden isn’t around anymore, especially since these 1/200 scale American Civil War kits were quite nice for what they are.

Added to the Model Making page, and can be accessed directly HERE.

Book Review: Vicksburg: Grant’s Campaign That Broke the Confederacy by Donald L. Miller

Posted February 23rd, 2020 by Devin and filed in Civil War, History, Ironclads and Gunboats

Vicksburg: Grant's Campaign That Broke the ConfederacyVicksburg: Grant’s Campaign That Broke the Confederacy by Donald L. Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Donald L. Miller’s book is a mid-level look at the events from Grants first arrival at Cairo, Illinois, in 1861, up through the capture of Vicksburg in 1863. Miller covers the planning and thought behind the push to recapture the entire Mississippi river valley, focusing more on plans, logistics, and political intent than on the soldier’s eye view of the conflict; there’s still some of this, but those looking for pages of “a day in the life” of the soldiers on the line, they need to look elsewhere.

Two aspects of Miller’s work are a refreshing change. Continue Reading »

Model Completed: Ironclad CSS Atlanta

Posted September 19th, 2016 by Devin and filed in Civil War, History, Ironclads and Gunboats, Modeling

title2Here’s another that’s been done for a bit, but is just now getting added to the website. A simple kit, easy build, fun project.

Added to the Model Building page, and can also be reached directly HERE.

Driving through History: Visits to the USS Monitor, Smithsonian Air, Richmond, Gettysburg and Brawner’s Farm

Posted July 6th, 2016 by Devin and filed in Civil War, History, Ironclads and Gunboats, Travel

2016-06-24 09.32.14

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” ― William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

William Faulkner famously struggled with the history of the South. Born and raised at a time when Civil War veterans still lived, he didn’t have to walk the battlefields at Gettysburg in order to be able to write his stirring piece on how those days in 1863 have never left us. But once the people who lived during significant events have passed into that same history, no longer to tell their stories, we have to find other ways to touch the past.

Recently, I was made aware that the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Virginia, the home of the restoration of the USS Monitor turret and other recovered artifacts, was giving tours of the facilities and the turret itself. See, the turret is kept in a tank filled with water the majority of the time, fresh water and a slight electrical current leech the accumulated salt from metal that spent 140 years on the bottom of the Atlantic. Once I heard of the tours, I made plans, borrowed a car, and drove south on a Thursday afternoon.

The USS Monitor had a short lifespan, yet was a truly revolutionary ship. After careful perusal, I can actually recommend the Wikipedia article on her as a good source for her history during the Civil War, and post recovery in 2002. I’ve read a lot about the Monitor during years of model building, general historical curiosity, and research for my New York Times pieces, so I was well versed in her past when I arrived at the museum on Friday morning. I was greeted by Hannah, who took me through the initial  Monitor related exhibits. These artifacts include, among many other items, a busted Dahlgren cannon fired from the CSS Virginia, and a full-sized partial depiction of the Virginia herself. Several preserved artifacts recovered from the Monitor’s wreck are displayed, the most impressive of which is the red signal lantern at the top of this entry. The red lantern, the distress signal the Monitor raised on New Years Eve in 1862, was the last thing anyone ever saw of her as she sank. 140 year later, it was also the first thing found of her wreck, spotted laying on the ocean floor, literally rolling in the sand and current, several hundred yards from Monitor herself. Continue Reading »

New York Times “Disunion”: Civil War Submarines

Posted January 28th, 2015 by Devin and filed in Civil War, Ironclads and Gunboats, Writing

27disunion-blog480My latest piece has been published by the New York Times. “Civil War Submarines” delves into the history of the submarines other than the famous CSS Hunley. As it turns out, the Union Navy was the first to field submersibles during the war, and several at that. In the South, dozens of other submersible craft were planned, started, and tested, with several entering combat.

You can read the article HERE on the New York Times’ website.

150 Years Ago Tonight: CSS Hunley

Posted February 17th, 2014 by Devin and filed in Civil War, Ironclads and Gunboats, Writing

hunleydock150 years ago tonight the Union 205 foot long sloop of war USS Housatonic reeled from an explosion and sank off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina.  The shallowness of the water, only about 25 feet deep,  would save most of Housatonic’s crew.  They climbed the masts and into the rigging to await rescue, only 5 out of a crew of 155 lost their lives.  As one of the survivors, Robert Flemming, clung to the rigging waiting for rescue, he saw something low on the water: a blue light.  He didn’t know it then, Continue Reading »

USS Monitor Lab Dark and Shuttered

Posted January 10th, 2014 by Devin and filed in Civil War, History, Ironclads and Gunboats

Photo taken during September 2011 visit to Mariner's Museum.

NOAA doesn’t have the funding to support operations of the USS Monitor wet lab at the Mariner’s Museum. While the regular museum, and I assume the research library, is still open, the lab with the tanks that house the turret, guns, engine, and other artifacts, have had the lights turned off and the tanks covered with tarps.

You can read the full story in the Virginia Pilot’s Online Edition.

The Mariner’s Museum web page has the full press release and various links of use.

There’s also a Change.org petition on the matter.

Wreck of Gunboat USS Westfield Recovery

Posted January 7th, 2014 by Devin and filed in Civil War, History, Ironclads and Gunboats

USS Westfield image from gulfwrecks.netOne of my big areas of interest that I’ve yet to really delve into in Civil War history is that of the ferry gunboats. When President Lincoln immediately implemented a blockade in 1861, there simply weren’t enough ships in the Union Navy to seal off the Confederate ports. The government set to buying anything that would float, including New York City ferries. The idea of a Staten Island ferry, loaded with guns, sent south and made a Continue Reading »

New York Times “Disunion”: Pook Turtles, Armorclads and the Civil War on the Rivers

Posted December 8th, 2013 by Devin and filed in Civil War, Ironclads and Gunboats, Writing

07disunion-ironclad-blog427“Pook Turtles, Armorclads and the Civil War on the Rivers”, my fourth piece for the New York Times “Disunion” feature, deals with the ironclads on the western rivers.  Little know, these warships truly helped shorten the war Continue Reading »

New York Times “Disunion”: Raiding the Keokuk

Posted May 26th, 2013 by Devin and filed in Civil War, History, Ironclads and Gunboats, Writing

keokukMy third piece for the New York Times “Disunion” series is now online.  “Raiding the Keokuk” is about a daring salvage operation of an enemy warship in contested waters.  The warship, USS Keokuk, is one of those oddities of technology that really should never have been built.  As necessity during wartime can result in brilliant success — i.e. USS Monitor — it can also generate spectacular failures.

I’m really happy with this piece as I was able to get much closer to individuals and a single ship.  USS Keokuk, while not a successful design, was a unique looking vessel, and I have a model of her in-progress that I look forward to completing.

Direct link to article HERE.