The American Civil War At Sea Wiki


Built: Richmond, Virginia

Commissioned: May 19th, 1864

Service: James River Squadron, 1864-1865

Home Port: Richmond, Virginia

Dimensions: 201' Length, 47' Beam, 14' Draft

Armor: 4" iron with wood backing.

Armament: 3x7" Brooke Rifles, 1x10" Brooke Smoothebore

Engines: Single Screw

Speed: 10 Knots

Crew: 160

Fate: Destroyed to prevent capture, April 1865.


Virginia II was the spiritual successor to CSS Virginia, and the first to be funded in a series of new ironclads planned for the defense of the Confederate capital at Richmond. Much of her funding was raised with the help of the local "Ladies Gunboat Society," a philanthropic society formed by the women of the locality to raise money for subscription to the construction of warships, and one of several such groups formed throughout the Confederacy.

While she was laid down in 1862, her construction was plagued by delays, material shortages, and the constant reapportionment of men and material originally earmarked for her construction. When, at last, the main construction was complete in 1863, Virginia II still required design alterations and fitting out, delaying her commissioning until 1864. Upon creation, she was plagued with bad luck. Although essentially a solid design, the Virginia seemed to have a great deal of misfortune: during her first combat deployment against the James River Flotilla, her screw became fouled on CSS Richmond's anchor chain - the result of which was that Virginia II was forced to sit the action out. During her deployment in support of the Confederate Army at New Market and Cold Harbor, the unexpected delay and hurried last minute installement of a new gun required the Virginia to leave the wharf with little notice, and she caught the supply ship Gallego in her anchor chain - which caused further delays, and resulted in the destruction of the latter.

Nevertheless, she had a very active career as flagship of the James River Squadron. In addition to numerous operations in support of the Confederate Army, Virginia II fought a number of indecisive skirmishes and duels with the James River Flotilla's gunboats and ironclads, the most significant of which took place at Trent's Reach in January, 1865. Here, she ran aground on a sandbar and was in the process of being refloated when close range fire from the USS Onondaga penetrated her armor twice, forcing a withdrawal of the James River Squadron back up the river... during which time Virginia II managed to run aground yet again.

Though there were only two penetrations of her armor at Trent's Reach, Virginia II suffered significant cosmetic damage and was wounded by her collisions with the shoreline. As such, extensive repairs were required. Repairs had only just finished in April, 1865, and new operational orders were being issued, when the government ordered the evacuation of Richmond. Although some attempt was made to save the squadron, this was ultimately abandoned, and most of the ships of the James River Squadron, including the unfortunate Virginia II, were destroyed to prevent their capture.

Despite her delays in completion and bad luck with grounding and anchor chain related mishaps, Virginia II caused a great deal of panic and concern throughout her period of construction and subsequent deployment for the US Military. She was rumored to be as large or as powerful as the original Virginia, said to carry enough firepower to destroy the Union flotilla at Hampton Roads, etc. One of the primary operational concerns for the US Navy almost through the end of the war was that Virginia II would break out of the James River and run rampant at Hampton. This partly motivated the choice to station a strong selection of guardships, including the triple turreted USS Roanoke (equally plagued with bad luck, as it happened) throughout the war.