Swamp Gator: 1864

1864 or 1865. \"Deep Bottom, Virginia. Federal gunboat Mendota on the James River. Put in service May 2, 1864.\" From photographs of the Federal Navy and seaborne expeditions against the Atlantic Coast of the Confederacy. Wet plate glass negative, photographer unknown.

1864 or 1865. Deep Bottom, Virginia. Federal gunboat Mendota on the James River. Put in service May 2, 1864. From photographs of the Federal Navy and seaborne expeditions against the Atlantic Coast of the Confederacy. Wet plate glass negative, photographer unknown.

From Shorpy.

Here’s a pic of a Dahlgren gun drill aboard the Mendota.

UPDATE: If at all interested in this period, be sure read AW1 Tim’s comments on this post. Great stuff.

UPDATE 2: Didn’t realize that the caption was missing. Fixed it.

Comments

  1. If you look at the image of Mendota, you’ll notice that one of the crew is a Marine. He’s wearing the white buff leather accouterments. This was a common practice on smaller boats. On larger vessels, like Minnesota, where there was a large onboard detachment of Marines, they would have a specific gun (or guns) assigned them.

    Detail-wise, if you look at the top of the men’s hats, you’ll see a small raised area. This is a patch with a specific color and design unique to the ship. It was used to help those in the tops identify their own crew during boarding actions and help prevent friendly fire casualties.

    The crew also carry small arms, in this case revolvers, which were only issued when action was imminent. The revolver is in an open holster, and each man has a small box on the back of his belt which holds packets of self-consuming cartridges. There is a small box also issued to hold percussion caps, although on occasion, a small tin or packet of caps were issued and placed into the upper left breast pocket of the frock.

    The marines were still armed, for the most part, with .69 calibre muskets, M1842. These smoothbores were found to be more advantageous in boarding actions and ashore parties than the newer rifle muskets or rifles then being used by the Army. The .69 fired a cartridge consisting of one .650 round ball and 3-6 pieces of 00 buckshot. In close quarters, this was a deadly round and justified the keeping of the older model weapon.

    As the war went on, both the Marines and the Navy purchased large quantities of rifle muskets, rifles, and carbines of many types. Research into this period is both fascinating and frustrating but can also be quite rewarding. It is my main period of interest.

    Respects,

  2. Regarding Mendota,

    Note a couple details. Although she has a couple of heavy guns, she also mounts a pair of 12lb lightweight guns on either side of each paddle wheel casement. Although some shell and solid shot was carried for these, the majority of rounds were cannister, used to sweep the river banks or shoreline to clear away and/or suppress infantry and field artillery.

    Her hull is painted a medium shade of blue-grey, the first uses of what would be haze-grey by US Navy vessels. She also has white canvas shades rigged above the decks and exposed topside areas to help deal with the oppressive heat. This was common to all vessels, especially those with iron hulls, during this period, but is rarely seen in images.

    What looks like padding along the upper sides of her hull is canvas-covered storage for the crew’s hammocks. Each morning, the hammock, blanket and mattress were rolled and triced up with the hammock cords, taken topside, and stowed under these canvas covers in order to act as extra protection against small arms and shrapnel. It also cleared away the lower spaces for more room and helped in airing everything out.

    A close examination also shows that it appears the sails were removed from the spars, for whatever reason. I can find no sign of them under magnification.

    Respects,

Comments are closed