The American Civil War At Sea Wiki



Built: Charleston, South Carolina

Commissioned: September, 1862

Service: Charleston Squadron, 1862-1865

Home Port: Charleston, South Carolina

Dimensions: 172' 6" Length, 32' Beam, 12' Draft

Armor: 4" iron with wood backing

Armament: 10x7" Brooke Rifles

Engines: Single Screw

Speed: 6 knots

Crew: 180

Fate: Burned to prevent capture, February 18th 1865.


Palmetto State was the second Richmond class ironclad to be completed at Charleston. She was built to the standard Richmond class plans. Some indications are that she was slightly larger than her sister ship, Chicora. Some period accounts refer to CSS Palmetto State as "the most lovely of the rebel ironclads," this may refer to the generally excellent maintenance and upkeep of the Charleston Squadron in general, as there is no indication that the construction of the Palmetto State was somehow "more artistic" than other ships of the CSN.

Palmetto State spent her entire career operating as part of the coordinated defenses of Charleston. Like Chicora, she was constantly engaged in a wide gamut of activities. She seems to have taken the lead in most operations involving herself and Chicora, and may have been regarded as the "senior vessel" of the pair. She was briefly flagship of the Charleston Squadron, but surrendered this position to CSS Charleston with the completion of the latter vessel.

Palmetto State's most significant action occured on January 21st, 1862, when she was joined by Chicora in an early morning attack on the elements of the Atlantic Blockade Squadron stationed nearest to Charleston. The attack was perfectly planned, and threw the Union vessels into a great deal of chaos and confusion. As the lead ship in the attack, Palmetto State rammed and forced USS Mercidita to surrender, and then turned her attention on USS Keystone State with assistance from Chicora, savaging the Union vessel so badly in the exchange that it had to be towed from the area. The operation was a great moral victory for the CSN, and began a series of debates about whether or not the blockade had, in fact, been legally broken.

During the Union Bombardment of Fort Sumter, Palmetto State harassed the Union ironclads from long range, but generally avoided direct confrontation and allowed the heavier guns defending Charleston's fortifications to do their work. Later, Palmetto State helped cover the salvage of armament taken from the wreck of USS Keokuk.

In February, 1865, Palmetto State was burned with most of the rest of the Charleston Squadron to prevent capture by advancing Union forces.

We have some indication that for at least a brief period of time, some of the vessels in the Charleston Squadron, probably to include Chicora and Palmetto State, were painted Robin's Egg Blue (!)