CSS North Carolina
|CSS North Carolina|
|Type and class|| Casemate ironclad ram|
|Shipyard|| Berry & Bros shipyard|
Wilmington, North Carolina
|Fate||Sunk, September 27, 1864|
|Propulsion|| Steam engine|
|Armament|| Six 8-inch guns|
One pivot gun
|Compliment||150 officers and men|
CSS North Carolina was the second Confederate ironclad to haunt the Union Navy in the waters of North Carolina in 1863. The third vessel of the so-called Richmond-class, she saw no action; instead, poor engines limited her role to that of guardship, while shoddy construction all but guaranteed her loss to sinking at anchor.
North Carolina was built by Berry & Bros shipyard, Wilmington, North Carolina, based on designs originally drawn up in 1846 by John L. Porter. The keel laid down in 1863 after a lengthy delay caused by yellow fever in the area, which caused a large number of workers to flee. Because of that, the shipyard could not find the proper timber to be used for the framing, and was forced to use unseasoned, green timber. The single steam engine was salvaged from the tugboat Uncle Ben. Armor consisted of 2-inch iron plating laid over the decks, while 4-inch railroad iron protected the sloping casemate. In addition to her guns, an iron ram was attached to her bow. Finally launched in October 1863, she was placed in commission the following December, Commander W. T. Muse, CSN, in command.
Her engine proved unreliable. When it did work it could not run against the current of the rivers, and she frequently ran aground; more often than not a tugboat was needed for towing. As a result, she was tasked with use as a guardship and anchored off Smithville (modern Southport). Knowledge of her flaws never reached Union ships blockading the area; with an additional Confederate ironclad - the formidable Albemarle - sinking two ships near Plymouth, North Carolina's presence may have delayed the actions taken against Fort Fisher.
Yet her fatal flaw was the use of green timber in her framing, and soon after her commissioning her hull became riddled with teredos - the shipworms which eat wood. In June, 1864, a sailor wrote "Our ship is not worth much, her decks are beginning to give way so much that we can hardly work the guns. I don’t think we can last 6 months longer". On September 27, 1864, her hull severely weakened, North Carolina developed a leak and sank at her anchorage off Smithville.
Part of the text is incorporated from the United States Navy's Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, a work in the public domain.