Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Monitor Oddity

Way back in the day I scratch-built a model of an American Civil War oddity - USS Ozark. A hybrid between the turreted Monitor-class ironclad and a conventional Mississippi steamboat, this odd duck was commissioned in 1864 and served in campaigns and actions along the Mississippi and Red Rivers.

Rather under-powered, Ozark often had to be taken in tow by other vessels when the river currents were stronger than her own engines could cope with. Even so, she packed a heck of a wallop. Her turret mounted two 11-inch Dahlgren guns, with a 10-inch Dahlgren aft chaser and three 9-inch Dahlgrens covering her beams. The turret itself sported six inches of armour plating, and more armour covered the first forty feet of her hull and the deck.

Ozark was sold after the end of the war, but she was still in service and based in New Orleans as late as 1874 when she took part in a police action against white supremacists. Her subsequent fate isn't known - which is where my alternate history idea comes in...

A European power wishing to expand operations in the Hidden Continent (my version of Darkest Africa) purchased the Ozark and refitted her for operations on the mighty rivers and lakes of that world. Such a 'ship of force' would be something to contend with, and would make even the mighty Royal Navy squint thoughtfully.

My original model is back in the UK, along with a lot of other gaming stuff I hope to retrieve some day. In the meantime I have the materials at hand to build a new version. When I have a bit of time I'll break out the hot glue gun and commence building it. Photos to follow when I do.


CelticCurmudgeon said...

Looks like a "fun" build and since it is going to the Hidden Continent it does not have to be an exact replica. You might even consider mounting Gating guns for close in work.

Michael Awdry said...

What a curious boat, but equally a wonderful subject top model - really looking forward to this.

PatG said...

More like a river monitor - them's big guns ;)

Doing some digging Henry Stanley - yes that Stanley - was involved in the development of the Congo Free state in the 1870 & 80's (which I knew) but was also a member of and deserter from the USN from 1864-65 (which I did not know).

It is remotely possible that, needing armed vessels of shallow draft, Stanley would remember the Ozark from his service and upon finding she was up for sale, refit her with modern engines and armament and spirit her off to the Congo to carry out Leopold's unsavoury.

PatG said...


A J said...

Thanks for your comments, gentlemen, good points all. Pat G, I knew Stanley was heavily involved in Leopold's unsavoury schemes in the Congo, but I didn't know he deserted from the USN. That's an interesting take on the history of USS Ozark which I will unashamedly steal - er, use. :)

I think her odd hybrid nature worked in her favour post-Civil War, as she had greater utility than a conventional Monitor-class gunboat, or the more numerous Cairo-class. The Belgians (or Stanley) would certainly upgrade her machinery so she could make better speed. Other changes may well include using Gatling guns, Nordenfeldts or Hotchkiss revolving cannon.

Millsy said...

Sounds like a very entertaining project. I'll be following this with real interest!


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