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June 17, 1863: Confederate ironclad Atlanta falls to Feds

Jun. 17, 2013 - 06:00AM   | image CSS At;amta image CSS At;amta (Navy)
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SAVANNAH, GA. — The Confederate ironclad CSS Atlanta was captured by the United States Navy after a battle with Union gunboats off the coast of Georgia this morning at the mouth of the Wilmington River near Savannah.

The 1,006-ton iron-plated warship was making her second attempt to run the Union blockade Wassau Sound at sunrise when she was met by the U.S. Navy irconclad monitors Nahant and Weehawken. After a short exchange of gunfire, Atlanta went aground. Unable to maneuver, the rebel warship was soon getting hammered by a barrage of firepower from the Weehawken, which blew the roof off Atlanta’s pilothouse, and forced the crew to surrender.

Weehawken commander Capt. John Rodgers is already being hailed as national hero and is expected to receive commendations from Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles and President Abraham Lincoln.

Ironclads are a new breed of battleship that combine heavy armor and hard-hitting artillery with massive steam-powered engines. It was just over a a year ago that ironclads first starting seeing real action in the war between the states.

Last March, the CSS Merrimack took down two Federal frigates whose cannonballs literally bounced off the Confederate ship’s steel plating, forcing both Confederate and Union navies to completely rethink their sea-going strategies.

The Atlanta, originally built in Scotland, is expected to be reflagged as U.S. Navy warship and render service once repairs are complete.

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