Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog


Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 9, 2014

Posts have been spare ’round these parts lately, in large part because I’ve been distracted by other things over the last few months. In addition to wrapping up the blockade running book, I’ve got some other projects going on that I’ve been focused on. One of the minor ones is reconstructing the sidewheel from the British paddle steamer Cornubia (above), that was a notable blockade runner on the Atlantic coast before being taken into the U.S. Navy and used as a gunboat on the blockade off Galveston. Cornubia was part of what Commodore Sands called “the closing act of the great rebellion.​” More images of the wheel here. Hopefully this will end up with a digital model of the entire ship sometime down the road. Past projects include the runners Denbigh and Will o’ the Wisp, and the blockader Hatteras. More items that don’t warrant a full post:

Got anything else? Put it in the comments below.



9 Responses

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  1. Christopher Shelley said, on June 9, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    This is almost totally off topic, but I thought I’d ask: as far as engineering, how did 19th century shipbuilders in your part of the world decide between side-wheelers or stern-wheelers? In other words, did they make the decision to build one or the other based on local conditions?

    I ask because here in Oregon, they started with side-wheelers, but quickly switched to building stern-wheelers exclusively because the Columbia (and to a lesser extent the Willamette) was such a rough river, with plenty of fierce rapids, that it demanded power near the rudder, not amidships. (BTW, I am aware that the Mississippi was a “wicked river”, so I’m not trying to one-up with Columbia.) I’m no engineer, but local environmental conditions and the dictates they make on builders has always fascinated me.

  2. H. E. Parmer said, on June 10, 2014 at 1:11 am

    Nice reconstruction. I’m guessing that pivot and connecting rod arrangement was to automatically alter the angle at which the blade met the water?

    As for the A-10 controversy, I’m pretty skeptical about the whole “Flying Swiss Army Knife” approach, even if the Warthog is getting obsolete. (Of course, I think the era of manned aircraft is fast coming to an end, too.)

    • Andy Hall said, on June 10, 2014 at 9:07 am

      Yes, the feathering ring turned freely on a hub affixed to the outboard frame around the wheel. The ring was rotated by the paddlewheel itself, by means of a fixed, “driving arm” attached on one of the floats. The rest of the feathering rods were jointed. The end result is that each float (paddle) enters and exits the water a little more efficiently as the wheel goes round. Improves overall efficiency by about 15% IIRC, although that’s at the cost of fitting and maintaining a fairly complex wheel. It was never much used in the United States.

      More detailed explanation here:

      • H. E. Parmer said, on June 13, 2014 at 2:04 pm

        Thanks for the link. These little details of construction are always fascinating. (Well, to me, anyway.) That’s a very clever arrangement, letting gravity and geometry do the work of keeping the float perpendicular when it’s in the water. I have to admit, even with the help of that article, I’m such a dunce at engineering that it took me a while to figure out how the fixed arm works in relation to the others. Very cool, though I see what you mean about initial costs and maintenance. Plus, I imagine this would have been major fun to try to repair in a heavy sea.

        • Andy Hall said, on June 13, 2014 at 2:42 pm

          An animated model would help a lot in showing how the whole thing worked, but I need to figure out how to do one of those with linked motion.

        • Andy Hall said, on June 13, 2014 at 10:23 pm

  3. Roger E Watson said, on June 10, 2014 at 5:35 am

    To quote Ron White….”You can’t fix stupid !”

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