Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Aye Candy

Posted in Technology by Andy Hall on August 6, 2011

Got some additional work done this weekend on the Denbigh model, which continues to shape up nicely. This time I focused on the side houses, placed outboard on the sponsons, just ahead of the paddleboxes. Here are the sidehouses as shown in the 1864 painting of the ship:

If they’re depicted correctly in the painting — and there’s no way to know for sure, as all of that wooden structure burned when the ship was destroyed by a Federal boarding party in May 1865 — then these little cabins must have been tiny, cramped spaces. The artist, Thomas Cantwell Healy (1820 – 1899), appears to have depicted the human figures in the painting a bit too small compared to the overall scale of the steamer, and if they were the size depicted. No plans of Denbigh are known to exist, but plans of another paddle steamer, Will o’ the Wisp, show the small sidehouses to be used as a storeroom (starboard) and a lamp room (port), with a water closet on each side, immediately forward of the paddlewheel, where waste could be flushed directly into the sea below. On Will o’ the Wisp there was a small galley in one of the sidehouses abaft the wheel. Denibgh didn’t have that second set of sidehouses, but the stardboard-side house does appear to have a chimney, so perhaps that structure was fitted as the galley.

In 2002 we recovered, from the space outboard of the hull, just forward of the wheel, a heavy, iron ring or flange (right), that coincidentally (or maybe not) seems to be just about the correct size to match the outflow pipe from a copper toilet bowl recovered from the wreck of Acadia in the 1970s by an amateur salvor, Dr. Wendell Pierce, now part of the collection at the Brazoria County Historical Museum in Angleton, Texas. Kinda neat.

More images of the updated model:


One of the sidehouses, shown with a generic cargo hatch and windlass.


And finally, a test illustration showing the midships hull structure and machinery, superimposed on the new model. Full size image here.

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Image: Detail of 1864 painting of paddle steamer Denbigh by Thomas Cantwell Healy. Private collection.

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6 Responses

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  1. corkingiron said, on August 6, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    Iron and copper? Us boat guys don’t like to mix up our metals. Is it possible (given the location) that the ring was from a steering mechanism forward of the wheel?

  2. Andy Hall said, on August 6, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    Excellent point.

    Don’t really know what that flange was for, its location on the site and the size of the opening seemed a match. But it’s a heavy piece, that suggests it’s designed for significant stresses.

    It wasn’t attached to anything, so it’s an open guess.

  3. corkingiron said, on August 7, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Of course, when you said “wheel” my brain automatically went to steering rather than power. If the iron ring has a remnant of a small tapered groove on the inside, (which would be a keyway) it might have served as a locking ring on a shaft.
    I had my knuckles rapped once for trying to use a stainless steel nut on a galvanized carriage bolt. Weird metallurgical stuff happens between disparate metals in a maritime environment.

    • Andy Hall said, on August 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm

      I had a long talk once with a fellow who owned either a very large boatyard, or a very small shipyard, depending on one’s definition. (They built tugs and barges, mostly.) He continually said “wheel” in place of “screw” or “propeller,” among other things. Took me a while to catch up.

  4. Martin Husk said, on August 8, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Excellent work. Looking forward to seeing the finished product!


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