News & Tall Tales. 1800s.

San Francisco Gold Rush 1849.

Donald McKay on Ironclads

February 2, 1863, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Donald McKay, the noted American shipbuilder, seems to entertain but a poor opinion of vessels constructed wholly of iron. In a letter from Paris to the Boston Commercial Bulletin, he says:

Of the sixteen iron-cased frigates which France possesses afloat and in construction, only two -- the Couronne, (afloat) and the Heroine (on the stocks) -- are built of iron, and it is now regretted by the Government that they were not constructed of wood, for experienced has already proved, and without any contradiction, that these vessels, on account of their rapidly fouling bottoms, will not be capable of keeping up in speed with the wooden built and coppered frigates.

The Warrior, of the English fleet, has lost from this cause two knots of her original speed, and it is generally conceded that these iron-built men-of-war ships will have to be taken into dock at least every three months to clean their bottoms.

Battle of the Ironclads.
Civil War
Battle of the Ironclads
Monitor and Merrimack

The ship Alabama -- which by her superior speed defies the whole United States Navy, and which actually keeps up a partial blockade of our Northern ports -- is a striking example how the advantages of timber built ships for speed are even recognized in an iron country like England. Well knowing that her safety would lie in her superior speed on a long cruise, Mr. Laird, of Birkenhead, the iron-ship builder, has built this ship expressly of timber, with coppered bottom.

I regret to have to state my firm conviction that we do not possess in our Navy a single ship which is capable to cope with her in speed. This is the consequence of Government never having trusted to private constructors for the production of superior models for our Navy. Vessels of high speed are what we want, but which we never shall possess unless a different course is adopted by our Navy Department.

It must be also pretty plain by this time that the Monitor class are of little use for other than harbor service.

A History of Ironclads: The Power of Iron over WoodHistory of Ironclads.
John V. Quarstein
Ironclads.The Power of Iron Over Wood documents the dramatic history of Civil War ironclads and reveals how warships like the Monitor and Virginia revolutionized naval warfare.

Author John V. Quarstein, an award-winning historian, director of the Virginia War Museum and a historical consultant to the Monitor Center at The Mariner's Museum, calls upon a breadth of archival resources to present a comprehensive account that explores in depth the impact of ironclads during the Civil War and their colossal effect.

The Era of the Clipper Ships: The Legacy of Donald McKayIronclads.

Donald McKay and His Famous Sailing Ships (Dover Maritime)Donald McKay.
Richard C. McKay

Description of the Largest Ship in the World: The New Clipper Great Republic, of Boston. Designed, Built and Owned by Donald Mckay and Commanded by Capt. L. McKay. Illustrated Designs of Her Construction
Duncan McLean

The Mammoth Book of Life Before the Mast:
Sailors' Eyewitness Stories from the Age of Fighting Ships

Jon E. Lewis, Editor
Firsthand accounts of the real-life naval adventures behind the popular historical sagas of Patrick O'Brian and C. F. Forester. Twenty true-life adventures capture the glory and gore of the great age of naval warfare from the late eighteenth to the early nineteenth century -- the age of the French Revolutionary War, the Napoleonic Wars, and the War of 1812 -- when combat at sea was won by sheer human wit, courage, and endurance. Culled from memoirs, diaries, and letters of celebrated officers as well as sailors, the collection includes accounts of such decisive naval engagements as Admiral Horatio Nelson's on the Battle of the Nile in 1798 or Midshipman Roberts' on the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and also offers glimpses into daily hardships aboard a man-of-war: scurvy, whippings, storms, piracy, press gangs, drudgery, boredom, and cannibalism.

Life of a Sailor (Seafarers' Voices) Life of a Sailor.Life At Sea.Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
Frederick Chamier
Chamier went to sea in 1809 as an officer in the Royal Navy. Like his contemporary, Captain Frederick Marryat, he enjoyed a successful literary career and is remembered for his naval novels. This book, his first, is usually catalogued as fiction, although it is an exact account of his naval experiences, with every individual, ship, and event he described corroborated by his service records. Told with humor and insight, it is considered an authentic account of a young officer's service. From anti-slavery patrols off Africa to punitive raids on the American coast during the War of 1812, Chamier provides details of many lesser-known campaigns. His descriptions of British naval operations in America, which reflected his objection to bringing the war to the civilian population, were highly criticized by his seniors.

The Nagle Journal: A Diary of the Life of Jacob Nagle, Sailor, from the Year 1775 to 1841Stories of the Sea and Ships.
John C. Dann

Great Stories of the Sea & Ships Sea Stories and the history of America.
N. C. Wyeth
Life at Sea.More than 50,000 copies of this collection of high-seas adventures are in print. It showcases the fiction of such classic writers as Daniel Defoe, Jules Verne, and Jack London, and the entries also feature historic first-person narratives including Christopher Columbus’s own account of his voyage in 1492. Vivid tales of heroic naval battles and dangerous journeys of exploration to the stories of castaways and smugglers. The variety of works includes “The Raft of Odysseus,” by Homer; Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Mermaid”; “The Specksioneer,” by Elizabeth Gaskell; Washington Irving’s “The Phantom Island”; and “Rounding Cape Horn,” by Herman Melville. Eighteen extraordinary black and white illustrations by Peter Hurd add to the volume's beauty.

The Rebel Raiders
The Astonishing History of the Confederacy's Secret NavyThe Confederacy's Secret Navy.

James T. deKay
Nautical Education. During its construction in Liverpool, the ship was known as “Number 290.” It was unleashed as the CSS Alabama, the Confederate gunship that triggered the last great military campaign of the Civil War; yet another infamous example of British political treachery, and the largest retribution settlement ever negotiated by an international tribunal: $15,500,000 in gold paid by Britain to the United States.

This true story of the Anglo-Confederate alliance that led to the creation of a Southern navy illuminates the dramatic and crucial global impact of the American Civil War. Like most things in the War between the States, it started over cotton: Lincoln’s naval blockade prevented the South from exporting their prize commodity to England. In response, the Confederacy came up with a plan to divert the North’s vessels and open the waterways–a plan that would mean covertly building a navy in Britain, a strategy that involved a cast of clandestine characters.

The Naval Order of the United States has a history dating from 1890. Membership includes a wide range of individuals, many with highly distinguished career paths.

The San Francisco Commandery meets the first Monday of each month at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club in San Francisco, California and holds two formal dinners each year.

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Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.




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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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