The Richmond class ironclad was the most common design of casemate design ironclad steam ram found in the Confederate States Navy during the American Civil War. It is somewhat remarkable that the Confederate Navy could produce anything to a common pattern, as it was so deficient in the industrial base that grew from the industrial revolution. However, a number of ironclads were built based on this common pattern and two of the earliest and most successful were guardians of the crucial port of Charleston, South Carolina. These two were the CSS Chicora and CSS Palmetto State. Of the pair the construction of CSS Chicora was funded by South Carolina and CSS Palmetto State by the national government.
There is a common misconception that the ironclad came onto the scene with the CSS Virginia and USS Monitor. Their engagement in 1862 may have been the first battle between ironclads but iron-sheathed warships had already been around in other navies for eight years. In the case of ironclads, France led the way in design and employment. In 1854 both France and Great Britain developed steam powered artillery batteries for use against Russian forces in the Crimean War. The idea had been around the decade before that. In the 1840’s an American designer named John L. Porter suggested an ironclad design to Imperial Russia, but their Admiralty was not interested. Later he developed a model of his conception of an ironclad that comprised an iron casemate protecting the main gun battery. In 1861 John L. Porter became a naval constructor for the fledgling Confederate States of America.
When the CSA raised the burned steam frigate USS Merrimac, it was decided to convert her into the ironclad CSS Virginia. Credit for the design is normally assigned to Lieutenant John M. Brooke, who also designed the naval uniform, button design and most importantly designed new ordnance, the Brooke rifles, for his navy. However, Porter also claimed authorship of the Virginia, probably because the Virginia featured his casemate design but with extended ends. This is probably true as George Brooke Jr., biographer of John Brooke, later stated that John Brooke only claimed the idea of adding extended ends to the existing casemate design. Regardless of his involvement in the creation of the CSS Virginia, John L. Porter was indeed the designer for the most widely used pattern of ironclad to serve the Confederate Navy. This design was commonly called the Richmond Class after the first of the class to be developed. When CSS Virginia blew herself up on May 11, 1862 because her port of Norfolk had fallen to the Union army and because her draft was too deep to steam up the James River, the CSS Richmond, that had been building at Norfolk, had already been towed up the river to safety.
Although most of the class varied to a certain degree, they were based on a common pattern. In early 1861 the first hostilities of the American Civil War had started at Charleston, South Carolina, with the reduction and surrender of Fort Sumter, which stood in the middle of the harbor. As one of the most significant ports in the Confederacy a great deal of resources were apportioned for Charleston’s defense. Not only did the Confederates restore Fort Sumter but also they maintained a number of forts on the harbor coast and approaches. Additionally construction quickly started on warships to defend the vital harbor. Commodore Duncan N. Ingraham was the commander of all naval forces at Charleston and also was in command on naval construction at the port. In spring 1862 the State of South Carolina had started to design and construct a wooded gunboat at Charleston, when the national government ordered a steam ironclad ram to be built at Charleston. This ship was to become CSS Palmetto State and used the machinery from the steamer Lady Davis. The Confederate Secretary of the Navy, Stephen Mallory, persuaded state officials to change their wooded gunboat design into an ironclad based on the Palmetto State design. South Carolina readily switched to the new design and the state-funded ship would become CSS Chicora.
The state funded Chicora finished first in August and she was promptly sold by the state to the Confederate government. The funds received were used to start a new ironclad, the CSS Charleston. CSS Palmetto State was completed in October. As part of source of funding for the Palmetto State, 15% of the $200,000 required for construction had been raised by the ladies of Charleston through Gunboat Fairs or through the sale of Gunboat Quilts. As a consequence the Palmetto State was known as the Ladies’ Gunboat. Both Palmetto State and Chicora had four inches of armor on the casemate. The armor consisted of two laminated layers of iron plates 7-inches wide and 20-feet long, backed by 22-inches of wood. The ships also had 2-inches of armor five-feet below the waterline and on the deck. The ram bow was not submerged and the design drew 11-feet of water. At 150-feet in length (pp) and 34-feet in breadth, the design closely mated the original Porter specifications. According to Ironclads at War, by Jack Greene and Alessandro Massignani, they were armed slightly differently. Palmetto State with a bow mounted 6.4-inch rifle, 60 pounder rifle aft, and two broadside 8-inch shell guns. Chicora is listed with bow and aft 9-inch shell pivot guns and four 32 pounder rifles. Both vessels had a single propeller and although under-powered, the machinery on Chicora was fairly reliable, which is more than can be said about most ironclads of the Confederacy. Speed was about six-knots, seven in calm seas, but still slower than most Union steamers. They were both painted "Blockader’s Blue", a blue gray hue designed to be applied to Confederate blockade runners to help conceal them at night. As such Palmeto State and Chicora wore one of the earliest forms of warship camouflage. Of course with the chronic shortage of paint in the Confederacy, rust quickly showed through the blue gray paint.
Even though Charleston was one of the foremost ports of the south and had a rich tradition of seafaring, even with the abundance of seasoned mariners it took some time to fill out the crew and train them in their military duties. The crew of the Chicora included three free African-Americans. Chicora was under the command of "Handsome Jack" Tucker. By the first month of January 1863 the two ironclads were ready to take on the Yankee blockading squadron. Early in the morning of January 30, 1863 both ironclads made for the harbor entrance as they steamed past Fort Sumter. On that night the moon was only three days short of full, so there was plenty of light, even though it was in the middle of the night. Outside of the harbor the Union blockading squadron had no idea as to what was about to descend upon them. Their sole goal was to prevent blockade runners from getting into the port. At the time all of the ten blockading ships were of wooden construction. Only three of these three were designed from the start as warships, Housatonic, Ottawa, and Unadilla. The other seven were converted merchant ships. The two South Carolina ironclads were accompanied by a number of small wooden gunboats, whose purpose was two-fold. Realizing that the reliability of the machinery of the ironclads was not of the highest order, the wooden ships were there to tow the ironclads back to harbor in the event of an engine breakdown. Secondly, if the attack was successful, the mission of the wooden gunboats was to take possession of any captured Union ships and to tow them into port. This would allow the ironclads to hunt for new victims.
By 04:30 the Palmetto State and Chicora were at sea, past the harbor entrance. Palmetto State led the pair. All gun shutters were closed so as not to reveal her presence. Inside, since it was January, heat was not a problem that it would prove in the summer months, when the ironclads would take on the aspects of ovens. A number of battle lanterns cast shadows on the fully manned gun deck. Although, the Palmetto State took every effort that she could to conceal her approach, all of her light discipline could not conceal another telltale of her approach. She was a coal burner and produced quantities of smoke. The Union ships had spotted blockade-runners at night because of the smoke emitting from their funnels. With blockade runners the color of that smoke was invariably light gray to white in color as this was the color of the smoke produced by the burning of the hard high grade coal necessary for best possible speed. The two ironclads were not stocked with high-grade coal, on the other hand, the coal was of a soft very low grade quality, as that was all that was available in Charleston. Instead of the light smoke of the better coal, this low-grade coal produced very dense clouds of dark smoke, which left lengthy trails behind the pair.
The pair of ironclads soon encountered their first Union ship. This was the converted gunboat Mercedita, which mounted nine guns. Mercedita had already chased a blockade-runner earlier that night and was alert for new activity on part of more blockade-runners. Lookouts saw a low dark shape approaching and further noticed something odd, the shape emitted black smoke, rather than the light smoke of the blockade-runners. A call ran out, "She has black smoke. Watch man the guns, spring the rattle, call all ahnds to quarters!" The captain, Henry Stellwagen, who had already retired, ran to the deck, clad only in a Pea Jacket. Stellwagen was quick and ordered, "…train your guns right on him and be ready to fire as soon as I order." Stellwagen then started to hail the approaching vessel in order to ascertain her identity. After all she might be a Union warship or supply ship, as blockade runners would certainly not approach a Union warship. There was no answer from the approaching stranger, whose outline was still indistinct but much closer now. Fearing that the approaching vessel did not see Mercedita, the captain hailed again as the stranger was now very close to his ship, "…you will be into me." Stellwagen was shortly to realize that this indeed was the intention of the strange approaching vessel. After this last hail, an answer finally came across the water. "This is the Confederate steamer Palmetto State!" With that answer the Palmetto State rammed the quarter of the Mercedita and fired a shell from her bow pivot gun. That shell went through the boiler of the Union vessel and exploded on the far side, tearing a hole in the deck planking. Two Union sailors were immediately killed and many more burned by escaping steam from the burst boiler. Damage reports to Stellwagen on his ship’s condition were immediate and universally dismal. "Shot through the boiler…Fires put out by steam and water…Shot through both boilers…Gunner and one man killed…Number of men fatally scalded…Water over fire room floor…Vessel sinking fast…The ram has cut us through at and below the water line on one side, and the shell has burst on the other about at the water’s edge." Only two minutes had elapsed from the first sighting of the Confederate ironclad to the catastrophic crippling of the Mercedita. The actual loss to the crew would amount to four dead and three wounded.
As the Palmetto State was now under the lowest elevation of the guns of the Mercedita, the Union gunners were unable to reply. The Union commander had only one option, surrender. The Mercedita lowered a small boat, which rowed to the Palmetto State. There was a delay as Union sailors were paroled, which meant that they could not fight again until exchanged for a like number of Confederate prisoners. They would not actually be prisoners in custody but were bound by their word not to fight until exchanged. The smaller Confederate wooden vessels which were to take possession of captured prizes were no where to be seen. Rutledge decided to leave the Mercedita behind and to continue on after new pickings. After the ironclad had left, Mercedita managed to raise steam in the one undamaged boiler and reached the Union base at Port Royal, up the coast from Charleston. Since the Confederates never took possession of Mercedita, she remained a Union warship, however, Captain Stellwagen, his officers and crew, acted honorably. They had given their word (parole) that they would not fight until legally exchanged and they honored it. Later the exchange was made and they rejoined their comrades on active duty.
Since the Palmetto State would be delayed with the Mercedita, the Chicora passed her sister looking for her own target. Chicora sighted the Quaker City, a 1,428-ton nine-gun sidewheel steamer. The crew of the Quaker City were already alert, having heard the firing of Palmetto State. In fact all of the blockading Union vessels were fast to react but reacted to what they thought was blockade running attempts, rather than an assault on their wooden warships by two ironclads. Chicora opened fire and her second shell damaged the boiler of Quaker City, without disabling her, as had happened with the Mercedita. Two more shells from Chicora exploded too soon. Quaker City was quick to respond, as her forward Parrott pivot gun fired and her broadside 32 pounders fired two shell and two solid shots. She fired three more times and then successfully evaded Chicora and used her 13-knot speed to quickly vacate the area of the ironclad. Chicora chugged after her but was far too slow to catch the much faster Union vessel.
Instead of catching Quaker City, Chicora encountered the Keystone State, a side-wheeler of 1,364-tons and ten guns. Captain William LeRoy of the Keystone State was different in character from Captain Stellwagen of the Mercedita in a number of ways. LeRoy immediately thought the approaching vessel was a Confederate ironclad and so would completely over-match his vessel. He immediately had his command slip the anchor cable and fire on the approaching Chicora. Chicora responded with three rounds, which started a fire on Keystone State in the forward hold. As Keystone State continued to fire, the officers and crew sighted the Palmetto State, having finished her dealings with Mercedita, closing from another quarter. However, in spite of facing two ironclads, LeRoy was still full of fight. He made shallow water in order to put out the fire and ready the ship to attack the two rams. Keystone State charged towards Chicora in an attempt to ram the Confederate ram. Chicora pumped ten shots into the Keystone State, one of which knocked out one boiler. Keystone State hauled down her flag in surrender. However, then LeRoy discovered that even with only one paddle wheel working, the Keystone State was sill faster than the lumbering ironclad. Seeing the Union vessel trying to steam away, after first surrendering, the crew of the Chicora asked Captain Tucker to open fire again. However, he refused as, "Tucker probably never dreamed that the captain of the Keystone State would be so dishonorable as to do what he was about to do. Several hundred yards from the Chicora, the Keystone State reraised her flag and reopened fire! She then made off into the night." (Ironclads at War, 1998, by Jack Greene and Alessandro Massignani at page 129) The Keystone State suffered 20 dead and 20 wounded and finally had to be towed into Port Royal. Clearly Captain William LeRoy was a Slick Willie and violated the then standard practice of war but the nature of war was changing and his less than honorable actions on that night did not hurt his career. After the war he became David Farragut’s Chief of Staff.
By now the sun had risen and the pair of Confederate ironclads steamed further out to sea in their search of northern blockaders. After proceeding about seven miles out of port, they engaged in long range gunfire with some Union vessels but couldn’t close range due to their slow speed. The Union captains wisely chose to avoid combat with the iron pair. Since they couldn’t find further close action, the Confederates turned back to Charleston and were back in port by 16:00. After the battle no Union warships were visible from Charleston and this action is the only occasion when victorious Confederate ironclads took to the open sea, as other actions such as Virginia versus Cumberland and Congress were in estuaries or bays. The Union force blockading Charleston on that night had no predetermined plan of action if the Confederate ironclads appeared, even though they were not a secret. As a result of this action the Union wooden blockading vessels were upgunned. In the case of the defaulting Keystone State, she was quickly given 50 pound Dahlgren rifles and then later in 1863 further up-gunned with a 150 pounder. It was thought that the heavier guns might defeat the armor of the Confederate ironclads, if they sortied in the future. However, the prime remedied relied upon by the Union navy would not be up-gunned wooden vessels but Union ironclads. USS New Ironsides, which had been up the coast at the Union held port of Port Royal, South Carolina, which was now called Hilton Head, was rushed down to Charleston to guard the gate.
As January 1863 streamed into the past new Passaic Class monitors, the larger follow-on design to USS Monitor, stiffened the Union blockading force. These were brand new and mounted one XV and one XI Dahlgren smoothbores. Admiral Samuel Du Pont decided to test them out with a softer target than Charleston, so they were tasked to attack Fort McAllister, Georgia and to destroy the CSS Nashville, a side-wheel blockade runner being fitted out as a raider. USS Montauk, along with wooded gunboats tried it on January 27 and again on February 28, 863, when Montauk managed to destroy the Nashville, which had grounded the night before. Finally on March 3, three Union monitors made an ineffective attack on Fort McAllister. By March Du Pont had most of the monitors then built but he was still worried about taking on the heavily fortified Charleston. However, his orders were to attack the port. By April 7 he had seven ironclads available for the attack. That was the day the Union Navy tried to take the port.
The Union force had three courses of action. One was to steam past Fort Sumter as quickly as possible and engage the Palmetto State and Chicora, which waited just beyond the Fort. This would be the course of action successfully adopted by Farragut at the Mobile Bay, when he steamed past Fort Morgan to engage and defeat CSS Tennessee and the supporting Confederate wooden gunboats. The second course of action was to remain to seaward of Fort Sumter and engage Confederate fortifications at long range, as Union guns were better at long range than Confederate and at the proposed range of 1,200 to 1,300 yards, the armor of the Union ironclads should defeat and Confederate shot which struck. At that range it was reasoned that the Union ironclads could reduce the fortifications at their own speed. However, Du Pont chose a third course. He would have his ironclads close Fort Sumter but not proceed into the harbor. At a range of 600 to 800 yards, the Union ironclads would steam slowly parallel to the Fort and fire until reversing course in an oval. Du Pont has successfully used this tactic earlier when he attacked and seized Port Royal.
At 13:45 on April 7, 1863 steaming against an ebbing tide, the Union ironclads slowly approached Fort Sumter but firing did not start to 1500. The Confederates had been waiting for this. Palmetto State and Chicora were behind the Fort with orders to attack any Union vessel that penetrated the harbor past Fort Sumter. By now they had received further armament in the form of a spar torpedo. This device was a ninety-pound powder charge mounted at the end of a 20 to 30 foot pole called a spar. The spar was normally raised to a position about 45 degrees upward from the bow but could be lowered into the water for an attack. By lowering the spar the charge would be 6 feet under the water. Theoretically the collision between the spar charge and the side of a Union vessel would crush a glass phial which contained the detonator for the charge. CSS Palmetto State and Chicora were prepared and in position to seize glory once again. All she needed was the opportunity that even one monitor steaming past Fort Sumter would provide.
This first attack on Charleston amounted to a pounding match in which the Union ironclads did not shine. Some got within 500 yards of the fort and other no nearer than 1,000 yards. Smoke, vibration and flying bolt heads inside the monitors from Confederate shell and shot strikes considerably reduced the effectiveness of Union gun crews and observation from the monitors. The Union guns fired very slowly, especially the XV Dahlgrens of the Passaic Class monitors. During the engagement Confederate forts fired 2,209 rounds and achieved 520 hits, 19%, on the Union ironclads. Their accuracy had been enhanced by the presence of preplanned floats designating range, as normally only 10% of rounds would have hit at the range of the battle. The Union ironclads fired between 139 to 154 rounds and hit 50% of the time, however, a fort was a far bigger target than a monitor. The Confederate strikes did not penetrate the armor of the monitors but the cumulative effect of the strikes knocked machinery out of alignment and sent bolts flying inside. Confederate losses were four dead and 10 wounded, while the Union only had one man killed and 22 wounded, very few casualties considering the quantity of shells fired. If anything the most serious loss to the Union was not the result of armor penetration but to the failure of the armor scheme of the USS Keokuk. The Keokuk was a particularly bad design. She however, had a very shallow draft and steamed the closest to the forts at 550 yards. As a consequence she was the ripest target for Confederate guns, which concentrated on her and basically shook her apart with concussions from the hits. The next day Keokuk sank in shallow water because water would come into the ship through opened seams faster than it could be pumped out.
The ill-fated Keokuk was the only Union warship to make any attempt to press the action as the rest hung back from the forts. Eventually the action was aborted and the Union forces withdrew. All during this engagement Palmetto State and Chicora slowly steamed in circles behind Fort Sumter waiting for their turn, which never came. Since Du Pont still had doubts about the value of monitors against fortifications, he was replaced by Rear Admiral Andrew Foote, who commanded the river gunboats in engagements in the Mississippi, Cumbeland and Tennessee Rivers. Foote died before he reached his new command had command was given to Rear Admiral John Dahlgren who had invented the coke bottle shaped ordnance that bore his name. Before Dahlgren launched a second assault on Charleston, the Confederates had augmented their artillery by salvaging the two XI Dahlgrens from the sunken Keokuk. During these salvage operations from May 1 through May 5, Palmetto State covered the working parties. After the loss of the monitor Union engineers had reported that the guns could not be salvaged but the southerners had done so under the cover of several nights. The overall commander, General Pierre T. Beauregard suggested to the Confederate naval commander, John R. Tucker, that he attack the Union vessels again but Tucker thought that the XV Dahlgrens mounted by the Passaic Class monitors could pierce the four inches of armor of the Palmetto State and Chicora. He was not willing to roll the dice on an attack against those powerful guns considering the slow speed of his two ironclads and on August 17, 1863 specifically declined action with New Ironsides and six monitors. A major attack was planned for July 18, 1863 in cooperation with the Union Army, who would attack Fort Wagner. The gun fire of the Union ironclads would support this attack and it would be the Union army which seized the fort. The attack failed with high army losses and was later made the basis for the film Glory.
Throughout 1863, 1864 and early 1865 Palmetto State and Chicora stayed in the port, joined by a third even stronger ironclad, CSS Charleston in the spring of 1864 and the whopping CSS Columbia, of 1,800-tons, which had 6-inch armor plate, in January 1865. Dahlgren made a night attack on Fort Sumter on September 1, 1863 and considered but cancelled attacks in October and later in 1864. During this time the three Confederate ironclads had a mesmerizing effect upon the Union naval establishment. Much as the solitary Tirpitz had a huge influence on Royal Navy plans and operations even as she rode at anchor in a Norwegian fjord in World War Two, the Palmetto State, Chicora and Columbia were huge magnets that kept the bulk of the USN ironclads stationed close to Charleston throughout the war. Throughout this time the Confederate fleet in being kept Charleston open for blockade runners and vitally needed supplies from Europe. Statistics proved that a blockade runner was far more likely to make or leave Charleston, than to be caught by the blockaders. The USN never did crack Charleston, it took the US Army and William T. Sherman to do that. After defeating the Confederate Army of the Tennessee, under the brave but nonintellectual John Bell Hood, Sherman marched his army to the sea at Savannah, tearing a huge swath through Georgia. He then moved north into South Carolina burning the state capital of Columbia and taking Charleston. If you ever visit Columbia, South Carolina, don’t look for W.T. Sherman T-shirts. As Sherman’s army approached Charleston, the city was abandoned and the Palmetto State, Chicora and Columbia were fired and blown up by their own crews on February 18, 1865. There is no doubt that the CSS Chicora and CSS Palmetto State were a pair of the most successful ironclads of the Confederacy as well as being the most influential on the plans and operations of the Union fleet for over two years. However, in the end their fate was the same as most of the southern ironclads, destroyed by their own crews. (History from Ironclads at War, 1998, by Jack Greene and Alessandro Massignani)
Flagship CSS Chicora
Rusty White of Flagship Models was happy to acquire production rights to the extensive 1:192 scale line of Union and Confederate warships of the American Civil War formerly produced by Lone Star. Rusty was not content to just cast the kits from existing patterns, he wanted to clean up the patterns and add extra value in the for of brass photo-etch parts, which did not come with the Lone Star kits. Now the first of the newly revamped and freshly cast Flagship Models’ ironclads have appeared. The two initial releases were the famous pair of Richmond class casemate ironclads of Charleston, the CSS Chicora and CSS Palmetto State. Now you too can bring glory to Confederate Arms and defeat the vile Yankee, assuming you can find one. More than likely the Keystone State will cut her cable and will flee the area again like the vermin she is, before Chicora can get at her.
The Flagship CSS Chicora comes with the hull cast in two parts. Of course the division of the parts is at the waterline so your first decision will be whether to build Chicora in her low slung waterline format or with her full bodied full-hull appearance. I was frankly wondering about how Rusty’s castings would turn out in his full immersion into the resin casting and production business. Rusty reported some growing pains but has made an impressive first effort. Granted, he had existing patterns but casting resin is not as easy as it looks and can be an art, which requires just the right touch. Rusty apparently acquired this touch very quickly.
The casting appears very good. The layers of laminated iron plates were only seven inches wide, so the appearance of the armored casemate railroad rails with a series of lines marking the different segments. However, this was just the by-product of the extremely limited iron casting facilities available for the Confederacy. On the Chicora Flagship has captured this look with very delicately scribed lines delineating the narrow strips of armor, laid vertically over the wooden frame of the ship. The same pattern is used for the decks of the ironclad but here this is not armor but wooden planking. Both the forecastle and the quarterdeck have one centerline twin bollard fitting and two deck edge open chocks. These are well formed but the open chocks seem a little heavy, however, this could have been the product of the infant southern iron industry. Also, they would be thicker in 1:192 scale because of the size of the model. There is no mistaking the forecastle because it is here that you find the anchor hawse. Also there are two hawse openings on the lower front face of the casemate where the chain runs from the casemate to the deck hawse. There are no locator holes for the anchor davit and spar davit found on the forecastle.
There are four sets of boat cradles or chocks on the sides of the casemate. The Chicora has eight gun ports. The forward front and two forward side ports were used by the forward pivot gun. Likewise the aft pivot gun had rear and two side ports. Only the two middle side ports always had a single gun using that port. If you model Chicora with guns run out, two muzzles will be used in the two middle side ports. However, you’ll have to chose which of the three aft ports the rear cannon will occupy and which of the three gun ports the forward gun would occupy. You can also portray the ship with gun ports closed. Each gun port has an incised oval sunken into the casemate. You will have to drill out a locator hole within the oval/ If you look at the photograph of the original CSS Chicora used for the title photograph, you’ll see that the cannon barrels are pretty well dead center in the gun ports.
The hull bottom is nicely formed with the same laminated armor strip detail found in the reversed sloped underwater armor. The anchor chain runs from the lower hull hawse and doubles back onto the forecastle where the anchors were stored when not used. Below the armor is a representation of the wooden lower hull. There are no individual timber outlines on this lower hull, rather horizontal lines on this lower part make a very good representation of the somewhat rough finish that was found in the home-built Confederate ironclads. Although Flagship supplies a white metal propeller and resin rudder, the modeler will have to add some plastic strips to form the propeller housing. The instructions show the appearance but plastic rod needs to be cut to extend the keel member underneath the propeller to the vertical rudder post, which also needs to be cut from plastic strip. A locator hole needs to be drilled for a propeller shaft, which in turn needs to be cut from plastic or brass rod.
In addition to the need to drill locator holes for the guns, there are some other possible pitfalls in assembling the Flagship CSS Chicora. The deck on top of the casemate has no locator lines or holes for placement of the various top deck features and there is a need for minimal scratch-building for a majority of the fittings found on this deck. Five of the fittings are raised timber coamings frame framing gun deck ventilation grates. Thin plastic strips must be used to construct these coamings with each ventilation grate being sized to fit within the coaming from the brass photo-etch fret. It would have been nice to have a template for each of these gratings provided in the instructions but they are not included. It is probably best to attach the two pilothouse parts first and then gage placement of the grates from those two fixed points using the plan included in the instructions. The actual scratch-building of the grates is easy to do but care must be used to get the right size and shape and also to make sure the corners are squared. If you are building a full hull Chicora, you’ll need to prepare both halves of the hull. Both were cast on sheets, which appears as a ledge around each hull half. These ledges are each 2mm in thickness, so you’ll need to sand these off before mating the two halves. A belt sander would be best but a dremel will do just as well, if take a little longer. If you don’t feel comfortable in taking a dremel to the resin hulls, you might try a suitably sized sanding block, using coarse sandpaper at first and then moving on to finer sandpaper at the end.
There are eight small resin parts provided with the Flagship Chicora. Two are of the open top pilothouses that fit on top of the casemate deck. These are on thing resin casting wafers that are thin enough to easily remove with a small sanding pad. However, neither of the pilothouses have vision slits. The largest of the smaller resin parts is the stack. It too is on an easily removed casting wafer and has a good shape with a prominent base fitting and three reinforcing bands. The top of the stack is only slightly shallow. There are four identical ship’s boats. These are one piece with solid rowing benches and thwarts, although separate oars are provided on the brass fret. At 1:192 scale, the boats could have used a little bit more detail but nonetheless are very serviceable. The boats are cast on easily removed casting blocks. The last of the smaller resin pieces is the rudder, which shows a plank design and mounting plates for the rudderpost.
Flagship also supplies metal parts for the Chicora. Four white metal ventilator cowls are provided but only one is used at the top of the casemate. As this kit can also be built as CSS Savannah, four are provided as four cowls were found on the Savannah. These cowlings do have a good level of hollowness at their openings. Four identical cannon muzzles are provided with slightly hollow muzzle ends. These need to be slightly smoothed to obtain true round as they appear ever so slightly elliptical. The is a galley stove pipe with conical cap, two anchors and the propeller. All of the white metal parts require minor cleanup such as remove pour vents and smoothing seams. Also included is a metal chain for the anchor chain. This will need to be cut into four pieces. Two for the chains running from the casemate to the deck hawse and two running from the hull hawse to the anchors stored on the forecastle.
Brass Photo-Etch Fret
Flagship provides a large brass photo-etch fret in the CSS Chicora kit 5 ½-inches (138mm) by 3 5/8-inches (92mm). When produced by Lone Star these Civil War kits did not contain this fret. This Flagship fret provides a great deal of value added to this kit. The fret is generic in that it is designed for Confederate ironclads in general. However, optional parts are included for various fitting designs. The most noticeable of these options are for gun port doors. Three different gun port covers are provided of this fret. The type used on Chicora is an oval pivoting cover. The two other designs are rectangular pivoting covers and two-piece hinged doors. Both of the pivoting patterns have relief etching to reflect the same armor plate strips as found on the casemate. To open one of these pivoting covers a rope extended from a hole above the gun port. This rope was pulled inward to pivot the cover upward, exposing the cannon muzzle. You’ll have to drill out the rope scuttles and add the rope to include this detail. At least 40% of the fret is taken up with a large rectangle of open grid grating. This is for the various ventilation grates on top of the casemate. Each grate needs to be cut to shape from this one large piece.
Five long inclined ladders are included on the fret. These should be reduced in length to conform with the fore and aft casemate faces upon which they are affixed. The side rails are folded upward and individual treads folded parallel to the deck. Ten davits are provided. Eight of these are large boat davits and the other two are small davits for the anchors and torpedo spar. Flagship provides a great quantity of individual stanchions. Each of these has top and middle openings through which wire rails can be passed. These railings will provide greatly enhanced detail for the Chicora. The attachment of these stanchions are well worth the time expended with a pin vice in drilling small locator holes for the pieces. Eight boat’s oars are provided, which is not enough for the four ship’s boats but it does add extra detail. There is a short mast and boom at the aft edge of the casemate deck, which needs to be fabricated from rod. The brass fret provides rigging and tackle for this mast. Also provided are stay wires for the stack.
Flagship provides one back printed sheet of instructions. Two ironclads are shown. The CSS Chicora is on the front side and another Richmond class ironclad, CSS Savannah, is on the reverse. The main assembly drawing has a plan, profile and bow view of Chicora. As previously mentioned, some components must be fabricated by the modeler. In addition to these the torpedo and spar must be built but spar segment lengths are included in the instructions. Signal halyards attached to the sides of the top of the stack must also be added. The instructions suggest using brass wire but thin plastic rod may be a better solution since the end of a plastic rod can form the required ball when touched to a hot match head. Another optional item that is not included in the kit but can be fabricated is an awning. All ironclads were poorly ventilated and stifling hot, so the rigging of awnings to keep sunlight from heating up the metal casemates and wooden decks was common on both sides. Detail insets on the front page include fabrication of deck grate coamings, fabrication of awnings, rudder detail and inclined ladder. In addition to main assembly drawings for Savannah, the back of the sheet contain detail inset drawings for boat davits, railing detail, anchor davit and gun port covers. Flagship also includes a flag sheet with one US flag and the four different styles of flags and jack used by the Confederacy.
Flagship Models has powered up the CSS Chicora in 1:192 scale. Although some extra effort is required of the modeler for certain details, the kit features good castings in resin and white metal. The large brass photo-etch fret included by Flagship adds greatly to the detail and value of Chicora. All in all, it is an impressive first effort from Flagship.