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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On the Road

Posted in Education by Andy Hall on May 19, 2011

There are lots of good things about living where I do, but one you won’t find in the Chamber of Commerce brochures is that there are four wrecks of Civil War steam blockade runners right along this stretch of the Upper Texas Coast. Two of them, Acadia and Denbigh, have been positively identified; a third, Will o’ the Wisp (above), has been tentatively identified, and a fourth, Caroline (or Carolina) may have been located. Good, good stuff.

I’ve had the opportunity to dive on a couple of these sites, and from 1997-2003 was one of the lead investigators on Denbigh, the only one of the four to be formally excavated as an archaeology project. Denbigh was a remarkable ship, built in the same Birkenhead yard as the Confederate raider Alabama — which has its own connection to Galveston, thankyouverymuch — the second-most-successful runner of the war, having completed a total of eleven round voyages between Havana and Mobile, and Havana and Galveston, before being lost on the inbound passage of her twelfth trip into the Confederacy in May 1865.

But I digress. I’ve accepted an invitation to speak on Civil War blockade runners on the Texas coast on Thursday, October 20 at the Brazoria County Historical Museum in Angleton as part of Texas Archaeology Month. It’s been a long time since I talked about blockade runners, so it will be nice to return to that subject. More details closer to the date.

More blockade runner aye candy here.

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