Wednesday, October 26, 2011

USS Onondaga Ship Model

This is a model of the double-turreted, monitor-type ironclad USS Onondaga that is currently on display in the museum's gallery. Built by the master ship model builders at the U.S. Navy's Naval Sea System Command's David Taylor Research Center, the model is a popular attraction at the museum.
The model is also an excellent teaching tool, as its builders incorporated several details that make it easy to interpret. Of particular note are the everyday activities of the ship's company (note the white box on the bow of the ship).

The real Onondaga was a late-war ironclad that incorporated many "lessons learned" from earlier monitor-type warships. Named after a Native American nation in upstate New York that is a member of the Iroquois Confederation, the ship maintained an extremely low free board that is characteristic of all monitors. However, Naval architects gave Onondaga a second turret equipped with the new XV-inch Dahlgrens for increase firepower, a better power plant with two screw propellers for increased mobility, a pilot house placed on top of turret one for better protection from enemy shots, and an expanded lower hull for better sea-keeping traits.

The ironclad served mainly on the James River in 1864 and 1865. She served as the Union's guard ship for the river and kept the supply lines open for Grant's Overland Campaign against Richmond. She did battle with Confederate ironclads at the Battle of Trent's Reach.

Alfred Waud's sketch of USS Onondaga, 1864

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