Around the corner from the guns from the CSS Atlanta are three 6.4 inch and one 7 inch Double Banded Brooke Rifles. These four trophies are from the CSS Tennessee. Like those of the CSS Atlanta, these are artifacts linked to a specific historical event, in this case one of the best known naval battles of the Civil War.
On August 5, 1864 at around 6 a.m., from his flagship USS Hartford, Admiral David Farragut led his fleet of eighteen warships, including the four monitors USS Tecumseh, USS Manhattan, USS Winnebago, and USS Chickasaw, into Mobile Bay, Alabama. Running past the forts at the mouth of the bay, at around 7:45 a.m. the USS Tecumseh hit a mine, which of course prompted Farragut’s famous reply, “Damn the torpedoes!” Braving the torpedoes (minefield), the Federal fleet soon met the next threat – the CSS Tennessee.
The CSS Tennessee was built from the keel up as an ironclad at Selma, Alabama. Her main armament consisted of two 7 inch Double Banded Brooke Rifles on pivots fore and aft. The broadsides were four 6.4 inch Double Banded Brookes, two per side. For protection, the ironclad had plate iron varying from 6 inch thickness on the forward end, to 5 inch on the sides, down to 2 inches on the deck. This combination of armor and rifled guns made the Confederate ship rather formidable, but for three weaknesses. First was poor propulsion limiting speed to 5 knots. Second, the limited deck armor did not protect the chains linking the steering to the tiller. Lastly, the with the weight of all that iron, the Tennessee ran deep in the water. Prior to the Battle of Mobile Bay, the ironclad had experienced difficulties even getting to Mobile Bay past the shoals and bars in the bay. Confederate Admiral Franklin Buchanan had planned a raid on Pensacola, Florida, only to be thwarted when the Tennessee ran aground prior to the sortie.
Despite the shortcomings, the Admiral Buchanan ordered the Tennessee to close with the Federal fleet (when he could have stayed under the guns of Fort Morgan) that morning in Mobile Bay. For about two hours, the ironclad fought a lopsided contest against the entire Federal fleet. Lacking the speed to maneuver against her opponents, the Tennessee was rammed several times. Later, with the steering linkage shot away, the Confederate ship was at the mercy of her opponents. Buchanan authorized the Tennessee’s surrender at around 10 a.m.
As with the CSS Atlanta, after surrender the Tennessee was taken into the Federal Navy. Weeks after its capture, the USS Tennessee assisted in the capture of Fort Morgan, on August 23, 1864. Later she served on the Mississippi. Eventually after the war, she was sold for scrap, of course with the guns salvaged as trophies for the Navy Yard.
The profile of these Brookes show the distinctive second layering of bands (again butt welded, as opposed to wrought iron of the Parrotts). The 6.4 inch Rifles were produced at Tredegar, like their single banded cousins from the Atlanta. But the 7 inch Rifle was a Selma Naval Gun Foundry product.
But these four guns are not the only artifacts linked to the Battle of Mobile Bay in Washington, D.C. At the front of the Navy Museum is an anchor from the USS Hartford. While this writer feels it stretches things a bit, it is possible the anchor was on board Farragut’s flagship during the battle.
Ok, how about one further artifact, sort of:
Several blocks north, and on the other side of the Capital Mall from the Navy Yard, stands a ten foot tall statue of Admiral Farragut. The bronze for the mortars at the base of the statue (and possibly the statue itself) were cast using metal from the propellers of the USS Hartford. All told, a lot of “metal” reminders inside the Capital Beltway which share a common link to a battle in Alabama.