Damaged Gun from the CSS Virginia

Gun image

Gun image
Click on images for larger image

As the Virginia approached the USS Cumberland to ram her, the Cumberland gunners inflicted the only serious damage ever done to the Virginia. Two guns had their barrels partially destroyed.

This gun was apparently the forward-most port (left) broadside gun (gun #2, Midshipman Marmaduke, under the command of Lt. Hunter Davidson). At the same instant as it fired, it was hit by a shot from the Cumberland Gun imagejust as the Virginia was backing out after ramming the Cumberland. One man was killed and several wounded, including Midshipman Henry H. Marmaduke. Despite the obvious damage to this gun, they continued to use it but it kept setting fire to the two feet of wood on the inboard side of the iron shield.

When the Virginia went back to the Gosport Naval Yard on March 9, 1862, she was fitted with equipment that had not been ready for her when she sailed on March 8. One of the features in the design, but not installed initially, were covers ("shutters") for the gun ports for the broadside guns. (The bow and aft pivots may have had port shutters.) These would protect each gun, and the inside of the ship, when the gun was hauled in to reload. During this time, the two damaged guns were replaced.

Gun imageGun imageWhen Norfolk fell on May 10, 1862, the Confederates set fire to and abandoned Gosport Naval Yard. It is probable that this damaged gun was retrieved from there and kept as a trophy. The barrel of the gun is stamped "Trophy No. 1". (Other guns at the Washington Navy Yard, taken from the CSS Tennessee are similarly marked.)

The barrel also has other writing on it, probably from shortly after the war. Unfortunately the weather has taken its toll on the markings. The best I can read it is

Gun image

One of the Guns of the
MERRIMAC
in the action with the U.S. Frigate
CUMBERLAND and CONGRESS
March 9, 1862
When the barrel was shot off
........
.........
........ March 20th, ...

 

A more modern brass plaque on the gun mount reads

Gun image

MERRIMAC GUN

ONE OF THE GUNS FROM
THE MERRIMAC--RENAMED
THE RAM VIRGINIA BY THE
CONFEDERATES. THIS GUN
WAS IN ACTION AGAINST THE
UNION SHIPS CUMBERLAND
AND CONGRESS OFF NEWPORT
NEWS, VIRGINIA ON MARCH
8TH, 1862. THE CHASE OF
THE GUN WAS SHOT OFF
DURING THAT ENGAGEMENT

 

The right trunnion is marked "1859" while the left trunnion is marked "P OM". (While I read this inspectors mark as "OM", it is apparently "GM" for George Minor.) On the barrel is "T F No 277 9164 lbs" ["T F" is the Tredegar Foundry]

Gun image

The gun was apparently at the Washington Navy Yard with many other trophies and guns. From 1960 the gun was at the Dahlgren Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia, named for John A. Dahlgren who designed this gun. I gratefully appreciate the help of Doug Davant of the Public Affairs Office at the Naval Surface Warfare Center who gave us a tour of the site. (From September 2003 until September 2006, the gun is at the Fredericksburg Area Museum.)

Shown in the picture above are Thomas and his mother Kathy. Thomas gave a presentation to his class on the Virginia, using information from this site. His interest was sparked and they travelled to see the gun from the Virginia.

Dahlgren bustAlso at this site are two other guns. The bar through the chase (barrel) indicates the guns were used as bollard at some Navy installation. The large ropes of ships would be looped around the gun barrel and kept on by the bar.

A IX-inch Dahlgren is marked with "FP No. 1006" [Fort Pitt foundry] and to be inspected by "J.M.B." [USN inspector John M. Berrien] with a date of "1864" and a marked weight of "9210 lbs". It has an anchor symbol on the barrel. The Navy cannon registries show that IX-in Dahlgren No.1006 was reported as part of the battery of USS Brooklyn in Aug 1870 and Dec 1872. It ended up at Philadelphia Navy Yard where it was transferred to Yards & Docks Dept. in Dec 1904 (meaning it was used as a bollard at one of the docks there).

The other gun was too weathered to have any legible markings. Stark indicated this 8-inch shellgun (not a Dahlgren) of 6500 lbs. No.26 was part of the battery of USS Madawaska in June 1866. It was off-loaded at New York Navy Yard in June 1869 where it sat in inventory until transferred to Yard & Docks Dept. in March 1896.


At Drewry's Bluff is another gun of a Columbiad design. This gun has "No. 66" on the muzzle. The right trunnion has "BF JLA" [Junius L. Archer at the Bellona Foundry] while the left trunnion has "1862" On the top of the barrel is "CS". Its weight of "8800" is marked near the rear of the barrel.


Another Brooke Rifle is at the Richmond Battlefield Park Headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. This rifle is NB HQ is 6.4-in double-banded Brooke rifle, Tredegar No.1633. It was cast on 26 Jul 1862 and sent to Drewry's Bluff on 17 Dec 1862. After the war ended, it was put on display at Ft. Jay on Governors Island, NY. When the Army vacated Governors Island a few years ago, it was sent to the National Park Service at Richmond for display.


I am grateful for the help of Wayne Stark who has provided some of the information on this page. For more information on his work and his book The Big Guns: Civil War Siege, Seacoast and Naval Cannon, please see http://www.cwartillery.org/ws-reg.html


CSS Virginia
Copyright 1999-2004 by Mabry Tyson