During the Civil War (1861-1865), three different combat ships of the Confederate Navy were given the name Savannah. The three ships experienced only limited action along the Georgian coast during the war.
The first ship to bear the name Savannah, this fifty-three-ton schooner was converted into a privateer for the Atlantic coast after the outbreak of hostilities in 1861. The ship was lightly armed with a single eighteen-pounder gun, from the War of 1812 (1812-15 ), which had been converted to a rifled rifle. The Corsair Savannah took a merchant ship as a prize of war before being captured by the USS Brigadier Pear after two weeks of service.
CSS Savannah (Gunboat)
The second ship to bear the name, the gunboat Savannah (called later Old Savannah), was originally a side-wheeled steamboat named Everglades. It was built in 1856 in New York and purchased in early 1861 by the State of Georgia to be converted into a gunboat for coastal defense. With a moderate displacement of 406 tonnes, the Savannah was armed with a single thirty-two pounder cannon. Under the command of Lieutenant JN Maffitt, the Savannah was attached to General Officer Josiah Tattnall’s squadron, defending Georgia and South Carolina. Tattnall’s gunship command was so small that he nicknamed it the “Mosquito Fleet”. The tiny flotilla, made up of three converted tugs (the Resolved, Sampson, and Dame Davis) and a converted harbor craft (the Savannah) was not up to the level of Union vessels on the high seas, but the shallow draft of small vessels gave them an advantage of movement in internal waters.
On November 5 and 6, 1861, the CSS Savannah, in the company of Resolved, Sampson, and Dame Davis, fought the ships of a much larger Union fleet of fifty-one ships under the command of General Officer Samuel F. Du Pont. The fleet was preparing to attack the Confederate positions at Port Royal Sound, South Carolina, between Savannah and Charleston. On November 7, the Savannah again briefly engaged with Union ships as they bombarded Fort Walker and Fort Beauregard. When this symbolic defense was repelled by the Union Fleet, Tattnall failed in his attempt to rejoin the garrison at Fort Walker. the Savannah returned to the City of Savannah to repair the damage, allowing the Unopposed Union Fleet to successfully capture Port Royal and the town of Beaufort, South Carolina.
On November 26, 1861, Tattnall led the Savannah, Resolved, and Sampson, from Fort Pulaski to the mouth of the Savannah River, where the flotilla again attacked the much larger force of Union ships stationed there. the SavannahThe s attack caused no damage but forced the Union fleet to operate with caution in the months that followed. On January 28, 1862, Tattnall passed his three ships through a “gauntlet” of thirteen Union gunboats to supply Fort Pulaski. Luckily for the Confederates, the Union batteries held on fire, in the hopes of bottling the Confederate fleet and capturing its ships. Tattnall was able to make the return trip safely thanks to a hail of fire. Union forces then built additional batteries on land and reinforced their positions. Subsequently, the Savannah was not up to the combination of the Union fleet and the shore batteries.
After the surrender of Fort Pulaski after a fierce two-day bombardment by Union guns on April 10 and 11, 1862, the gunboat Savannah served as a receiving vessel in the city of Savannah. Its name has been changed to Oconee when the new Confederate rock-solid CSS Savannah took the name at the beginning of 1863. In June 1863, the Oconee sailed to England with a cargo of cotton to be exchanged for ammunition and other supplies, but sank on August 18, 1863, before reaching her destination.
CSS Savannah (Battleship)
The last ship to bear the name, the CSS Savannah was one of six heavy-duty rams built by the Confederacy. Although the ship experienced limited action, its presence was a significant deterrent to Union plans to invade the Savannah River coastal region. The ironclad was built by F. Willink at the Savannah Shipyards. Its iron plates were made in Atlanta, then transported to Savannah, where they were cut, drilled and mounted. With a length of 172.5 feet, a width of 34 feet and a draft of 12.5 feet, the Savannah featured a conventional single screw hull and clapper, with 4 inches of iron armor on 22 inches of wood.
the SavannahIts armament included two 7-inch rifled guns and two 6.4-inch Brooks guns. The engines, built in Columbus, were severely underpowered. Although considered among the best ships built by the Confederation, the Savannah had an estimated top speed of only six knots. It took almost thirty minutes to complete a 180 degree turn. The crew consisted of 180 officers and men.
Launched on February 4, 1863, the ironclad Savannah was transferred in June to the Naval Forces under the command of General Officer William Hunter on the Savannah River. The ship remained on the river and did not engage in battle until Union General William T. Sherman approached the city of Savannah in December 1864, at the end of its march towards the sea. Unable to prevent the capture of the city, the Savannah stayed on the river for two days to protect William J. Hardee’s withdrawal across a makeshift floating bridge, built with the help of the Savannah’s crew.
On December 20, 1864, the Ironclad engaged in a lively one-day artillery duel with Union cannons, becoming the last Confederation ship to fight in Georgian waters. When the Savannah attempted to escape, the ship was trapped by the South’s own torpedo mines, leaving it as a “lion trapped” in the words of General Sherman. On December 21, Tattnall ordered the Savannah be burned to prevent capture. The ironclad ran aground off the coast of South Carolina and was set on fire. The explosion that followed would have lit the night sky for miles.