Ironclads at War: The Origin and Development of the Armored Warship, 1854-1891

Ironclads at War: The Origin and Development of the Armored Warship, 1854-1891

Ironclads at War: The Origin and Development of the Armored Warship, 1854-1891

Ironclads at War: The Origin and Development of the Armored Warship, 1854-1891


The authors of this book both have backgrounds in naval history and an unparalleled access to world-wide archives. They provide readers with controversial findings about European surveillance of American Civil War naval operations.


This tome is dedicated to the History Department of Whitman College
and to ProfessorAndrea Curami

Three themes will steam through this book and both entertain and enlighten you on the voyage.

First is the story of humanity's violence—so often man's violence—that is the story of Ironclads at War. The "guns and bugles" side of our yarn is one of heroic bravery, of close range broadsides, shellfire, ramming, torpedoes, and daring plans as well as disasters and disastrous leadership. We did not write this to be a dry discourse on battles won or lost, but wanted it to be an adventure in history. Humanity's ingenuity at war knows few bounds, and with the ironclad, it took many exotic and adventurous courses in its development.

Second, we want to weave the story of technological change throughout the story of the ironclads. From short range actions to greater and greater ranges for combat and evolving guns; to larger and more complex vessels and types; to new tactics and directions. We travel from a period of experiments and single examples to an accepted concept of a capital ship.

Third, we want to lightly touch on the national policies of the Great Powers and how their goals and desires affected the course of ironclad development in their respective nations. While the United Kingdom and France dominated this period at sea, they saw little in the way of naval combat and both, especially France after the disastrous land war of 1870-71, had their own specific naval needs. The position of third most powerful navy changed hands in this period. At one point it was the United States of America, at another time Italy, or Russia, or the Ottoman Empire, all vying to gain the fruits of naval power on the eve of Alfred Thayer Mahan's eye-opening writings on The Influence of Seapower on History.

This book is in part an attempt to update, in the light of new materials now available, H.W Wilson's classic Ironclads in Action, first published in 1895 (though at times we wanted to retitle it The Influence of Ironclads on History). While certainly a worthwhile source, and well written, it contains errors of fact and areas of omission. Wilson later wrote a revised and updated book entitled Battleships in War which took the reader through World War I, that has recently been reprinted. While corrected after the original Ironclads in Action and including several of the actions he earlier passed over, it still contains many errors of fact.

We have tried to introduce several of the small ironclad operations that he ignored in his first book, like the exploits of the Danish Rolf Krake, or the Spanish Cartagena actions. We have also plumbed foreign sources to add new information . . .

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