Book Review: ‘The Laird Rams: Britain’s ironclads built for the Confederacy, 1862–1923’ by A. R. English

By Howard J. Fuller, published August 2022


Here is an important new work about two early ironclad warships often overlooked in the historiography, or worse, side-lined as ‘failed’ specimens; freaks with a bad history that went nowhere fast. Admiral George Ballard’s articles for the Mariner’s Mirror (1929–35) simply ignored HMS Scorpion and HMS Wivern as part of Britain’s ‘Black Battlefleet’. Oscar Parkes declared that ‘for their size they were good enough little ships’ (British Battleships, 1970, 79). But inasmuch as these barque rigged turret-rams were better suited acting closely against one’s own shores in defence or against or enemy’s on the attack – given their relatively small spread of canvas and limited coal bunkerage in a vessel weighing in at only 2,700-tons – Parkes condemned them on a point of principle since ‘the best coast defence ship is a first-class battleship able to proceed to any point in any weather’ (p. 69). Stanley Sandler in 1979 likewise judged they were ‘not a success, despite some contrary opinions of The Times’ (The Emergence of the Modern Capital Ship, 189)…

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Filed under: American Civil War | Other (Twentieth C)
Subjects include: Shipbuilding & Design

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