THIS MONTH IN CIVIL WAR HISTORY
With the armies of the Confederate States of America reaching agreements to end hostilities by surrendering, little remains of the war apparatus for the forces in gray. One formidable exception is the impressive CSS Stonewall. A product of the fertile mind and exhaustive efforts of Georgian James Dunwoody Bulloch, the future Stonewall begins life in Bordeaux, France as the Sphinx, destined for sale to Denmark. When Danish officials balk at the deal, the way opens for the Confederate agent to secure her, avoid putting France in an awkward position diplomatically, and secure a powerful naval asset that might still challenge the Union navies. In the desperate final days of the Confederacy, it would be impossible to gauge the impact of an ironclad ram flying the colors of the South on Northern officials or public opinion, but such a development seems worth the risk. With the transfer to Confederate authority, and a crew of paroled personnel from the Florida, Bulloch has a weapon at his disposal, to be commanded by Captain Thomas J. Page. A trusted associate, Lieutenant Robert R. Carter, will serve as first lieutenant. The vessel departs Copenhagen on January 7, 1865, but encounters heavy weather, delaying the transfer of her Confederate crew. Weather and her heaviness continue to plague Stonewall, which develops leaks and has to port in Spanish waters. Union authorities have long taken notice and on March 28, 1865, U.S.S. Niagara and U.S.S. Sacramento are waiting for her. The Confederate vessel moves forward to confront these adversaries only to find them giving way. Fear of her capabilities has reaped a first reward, but with limited coal capacity she can only do so much. Arriving at Havana, Cuba, Captain Page learns that his government is no more. He turns over the vessel to Spanish officials for the sum of $16,000 to pay his crew. Stonewall has returned, only to find her cause lost.
March 18-19, 2016
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