The American Civil War At Sea Wiki


CSS SELMA (1856)

Built: Mobile, Alabama

Commissioned: November, 1861

Service: New Orleans Defense Flotilla, 1861-1862. Mobile Squadron, 1863-1864. Later utilized by the United States Navy at Fort Morgan, the Dog River, and finally, New Orleans.

Home Port: Mobile, Alabama

Dimensions: 252' Length, 30' Beam, 6' Draft

Armor: .375" of iron deck plating, plus some cotton cladding of indeterminate quantity.

Armament: 2x9" Smoothebores, 1x8" Smoothebore, 1x6.4" Brooke Rifle

Engines: Unclear;possibly Single Screw.

Speed: 9 Knots

Crew: Estimated at between 65 and 99.

Fate: Captured by USN, August 1864. Served in USN, 1864-1865. Rebuilt as civilian vessel, 1865. Sunk off Galveston, 1868.


Originally known as Florida, CSS Selma was built as a coastal packet boat, carrying passengers, goods, and mail throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi delta, in 1856. She was acquired by the CSN in April, 1861, and had been commissioned and converted to a warship by November of that same year. Her boilers were redesigned and protected, her upper accomodations deck was removed, and an iron deck and cotton cladding were installed. Large structural support rails, seen in the photo on this page, were also added at some point, but there are some images that depict the vessel without these supports; they may have been a later addition. When the commerce raider/cruiser CSS Florida was built, Selma was selected as the new name for the vessel, and she kept this name for the remainder of her existence.

Initially, Selma served in the Mississippi Delta and in the defense of New Orleans. Her duties included escort, commerce raiding, and patrol duty. Her most famous action during the period was a sharp engagement with USS Massachusettes, a vessel she had misidentified as a fast merchant ship known to operate in the area. Massachusettes fled, leading to the court-martial of the Union commanding officer, and cemented Florida/Selma as a force to be reckoned with. After the fall of New Orleans, Selma transferred to the Mobile Squadron full time, and formed an integral part of that city's defenses. At one point, she was one of only two wooden warships in the CSN capable of operating in the lower bay. She was repeatedly plagued by desertion in 1864, but had apparently managed to gather enough crew to begin regular operationsl again by August.

During the Battle of Mobile Bay, Selma supported CSS Tennesee II by harassing the flank of the advancing Union fleet and repeatedly raking the bow of USS Hartford. After the surrender of the Tennesee, and the passing of the forts, Selma was unable to escape to the upper bay, and was forced to haul her colors to the vastly superior US Naval forces entering the lower bay. She served in the USN during the bombardment of Fort Morgan, and was subsequently used to reconnoiter the Dog River. She was then transferred to New Orleans, and served out the remainder of the war there.

After the war, Selma was sold to civilian operators. She foundered off Galveston, Texas, in 1868.