CSS Manassas, formerly the steam propeller Enoch Train, was built at Medford, Massachusetts, by J. O. Curtis in 1855. A New Orleans commission merchant, Captain J. A. Stevenson, acquired her for use as a privateer and fitted her out at Algiers, Louisiana, as an ironclad ram of radically modern design. Covered with 1½-inch iron plating, her hull projected only 2½ feet above the water, and her plated top was convex causing cannon shot to glance off harmlessly. She was provided with sharp irons on her bow to stave holes through enemy vessels. Fast moving, lying low in the water and a difficult target, virtually bomb-proof, she looked like a floating cigar or egg shell and was described by Union intelligence as a "hellish machine."
Commissioned as a Confederate privateer on 12 September 1861 Manassas was seized soon afterwards by Flag Officer G. N. Rollins, CSN, for use in the lower Mississippi River. With Lieutenant A. F. Worley, CSN, in command she participated in Rollins' surprise attack on the Federal blockading squadron at Head of Passes, Mississippi River, on 12 October 1861. In the action Manassas violently rammed USS Richmond damaging her severely below the water line. Manassas, however, suffered the loss of her prow and smokestack and had her engines temporarily thrown out of gear from the impact. She managed to retire under heavy fire from USS Preble and Richmond whose shells glanced off her armor. Two months after this engagemen Manassas was purchased for direct ownership by the Confederate Government.
Under Lieutenant Worley, Manassas joined the force of Capt. J. K. Mitchell, CSN, commanding Confederate naval forces in the lower Mississippi. She participated in the engagement of 24 April 1862 during which Flag Officer David Farragut, USN, on his way to New Orleans, ran his fleet past the Confederate forts Jackson and St. Philip. In the action Manassas attempted to ram USS Pensacola which turned in time to avoid the blow and deliver a broadside at close range. Manassas then ran into murderous fire from the whole line of the Union fleet. She then charged USS Mississippi and delivered a long glancing blow on her hull, firing her only gun as she rammed. Next she rammed USS Brooklyn, again firing her gun, and injuring her rather deeply, but not quite enough to be fatal.
After this action Manassas followed the Union fleet quietly for a while but as she drew closer Mississippi furiously turned on her. Manassas managed to dodge the blow but was run aground. Her crew escaped as Mississippi poured her heavy broadsides on the stranded Confederate vessel. Later Manassas slipped off the bank and drifted down the river in flames past the Union mortar flotilla. Commodore David D. Porter, USN, in command of the mortar boats, tried to save her as an engineering curiosity but Manassas exploded and immediately plunged under water.
Some of the text for this article is from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, a work in the public domain.