Ordinary gunboats: The CSS Chicora, the CSS Palmetto State, and the battle off Charleston Harbor, January 31, 1863
Wexler, Charles James
Drago, Edmund Lee
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The Chicora and Palmetto State, two Confederate ironclad gunboats, were built to help defend Charleston Harbor from a Union naval assault. This paper is the first effort to examine the construction of these vessels in Charleston during the spring and summer of 1862. It is based on a multitude of primary sources generated at the state and local level. The arrival of General Pierre G. T. Beauregard in September 1862 as the commander of the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and East Florida dictated a change in strategy. The general favored the construction of torpedo boats, designed by Army Captain Francis Lee, over additional ironclad gunboats. Lee's design served as part of a naval revolution utilizing torpedoes as a primary weapon. However, Lee's efforts to construct his torpedo boat in late 1862 and early 1863 were undermined by a lack of resources and the Confederate Navy's stubborn insistence on building a third gunboat. The battle off Charleston Harbor, on January 31, 1863, was an important tactical victory for the Confederate Navy. Yet, the battle also demonstrated the limitations of the Chicora and Palmetto State as offensive weapons, and justified Beauregard's initial decision to invest resources into torpedo boats. 91p.