Virginia's shutters on the gun ports

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Posted by Mabry Tyson on March 01, 2003 at 12:34:46:

In Reply to: Virginia's gunports? posted by Jim Forbus on September 30, 2001 at 05:33:18:

On March 8, at least the quartering ports (the side two of the three ports) for the bow gun were (temporarily) shuttered. It may be that the stern gun was similarly shuttered. It is possible that there was a shutter on the center port for each of the bow and stern gun.

When the Virginia came out in April, all ports were shuttered.

On March 8, at least one of the guns that was damaged was damaged while firing, so the shutters probably would not have mattered.

I again recall reading about the shutters but I can't locate the reference. I do know that they were covered with 4" of iron. If I recall correctly, I believe they were designed so they could be opened without exposing oneself to the outside of the ship (so they must have opened inside, not outside). Remember, there was 24" of wood inside the 4" iron sheath. I don't know how they were secured so a shell wouldn't just drive them into the ship.

There is a discussion of the installation of the broadside shutters (after March 8) in ORN I v7 p.762, with an indication of the timing of this on p 764.
(saying that the broadside shutters were being fitted on April 5)
n William Tindall's excellently researched (with the aid of surviving Virginia crew) report (see the bibliography or historical documents -- Tindall was a Union eyewitness), he says

"In her actions on the 8th and 9th of March her end ports, only, were furnished with shields or shutters of wrought iron. These shields were four inches thick. The one on the bow end was hit by two shots from the Cumberland and deeply indented and doubtless saved the bow rifle and its gun crew from material injury. When she appeared in Hampton Roads on the 8th and 9th of the following May, she was equipped with shields on all of her ports. The rudder and propeller were unprotected other than by their submersion. When she was in fighting trim the deck outside of the superstructure was slightly awash."


"The end ports were the only ports protected by shutters during her battle with the Cumberland, Congress, Minnesota and Monitor. "

and, regarding the work between March 9 and early April,
"Her remaining ports had been protected by shutters."

HOWEVER, Flanders's "The Merrimac" reports that 3 pair of combined shutters had been sent from Tredegar but were rejected by Brooke and that 6 pair of solid shutters were to be sent on Feb. 27 (along with 50 solid shot) but they were too late to be of any good for the initial fight.

Flanders research is good but I think he might not have evidence that the shutters were installed and presumed they weren't employed (along with the 50 experimental shot). However, I think that Tindall's report clearly indicates that the shutters were on at least the 3 bow ports. It would seem a good assumption that the 3 aft ports were also protected.


Catesby ap R. Jones to Brooke, March 5, 1862: (from John M. Brooke's "Ironclads and Big Guns of the Confederacy
"The shutters for bow and quarter ports are fitted temporarily, t' would take a week longer to fit them.

And from the same book, p227, Buchanan to Mallory, March 4, 1862:
"None of the port shutters are fitted on the Virginia.... The shutters for the two bow & quarter ports, I will have temporarily placed there to keep out shot or shells."

The bow and stern pivot guns had three ports each (one looking straight over the bow, and two on each quarter). This sounds as though, at the bow, the two quarter ports were blocked by shutters.

I've seen mention elsewhere that the quarter ports were never used.

Goldsborough to Fox, April 28 (Conf. Correspondence of G.V. Fox): "She has had shutters fitted to all her side-ports. Formerly she only had them to her bow & stern ports."

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