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 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 »

“Shades of Blue and Gray” Released

Posted September 1st, 2013 by Devin and filed in Civil War, Writing

shades“Shades of Blue and Gray”, an anthology of Civil War ghost stories, including my short “Spectral Drums” is now available online at Barnes and Noble and, and it can also be found at many Barnes and Noble stores.



July 1st, 1863: Pawns

Posted July 1st, 2013 by Devin and filed in Civil War, History, Iron Brigade

Among the first units of the Army of the Potomac to pass into Pennsylvania on June 30th, 1863, the Iron Brigade enjoyed the cheering crowds and free food from grateful civilians that Robert E. Lee’s “Army of Liberation” had been expecting but never saw. The men that made up the Brigade — of the 2nd, 6th and 7th Wisconsin, the 19th Indiana, and the 24th Michigan — spent the night camped where Marsh Creek crosses the Emmitsburg Road (this area today is a non-descript dip in Highway 15, but if you know what to look for, you can find it). Members of the 19th Indiana pulled picket duty on the northern border of the camp, and found themselves the very tip of the spear of the Union Army, the furthest north and closest to the enemy. A few of the men on picket duty noticed a prominent hill in the distance that passing locals identified as Big Round Top, just outside of the town of Gettysburg.

The men had been told by those in charge that there were no Confederates about, and not to expect action on July 1st, but a detachment of John Buford’s cavalry passed through the camp late on the 30th and the horsemen spoke of going to greet some enemy infantry just down the road. Elements of Buford’s cavalry had fought with the brigade throughout the past year, and the Iron Brigade soldiers trusted their take on events more than any general’s. The troopers rode Continue Reading »

“I was always willing to try to fight for my country, but I never could.”

Posted June 19th, 2013 by Devin and filed in Civil War, History, Iron Brigade

firing-squad-executionJune 1863 saw messages and telegraph traffic explode to new levels as the North and the Army of the Potomac anticipated General Lee’s next move.  Many expected Lee, fresh from victory at Chancellorsville, to go on the offensive.  The North, wounds still knitting from that battle, reorganized and prepared to match Lee’s movements.  Many enlistments in the Army of the Potomac had expired on June 1st, and many one year and ninety-day men went home.  The draw down in man power and influx of new units saw the Iron Brigade re-designated as the First Brigade of the First Division of the First Corps of the Army of the Potomac.  They would now be first on paper, as well as first on the field, in the coming campaign.

The men of the Iron Brigade knew nothing of General Lee’s plans, and continued to rotate on and off of picket duty.  Continue Reading »