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Hampton

 

(ScGbt: dp. 166; l. 106'; b. 21'; dph. 8'; dr. 6'; cl. Hampton)

 

CSS Hampton was a wooden gunboat built at Norfolk Navy Yard in 1862 and based there until May when the yard was abandoned and the fleet moved up the James River. With Lt. J. S. Maury, CSN, in command, Hampton participated in significant river actions including the battle at Dutch Gap en 13 August 1864; operations against Fort Harrison, 29 September-1 October; and the engagement at Chaffin's Bluff, 22 October.

 

Hampton was burned by the Confederates as they evacuated Richmond on 3 April 1865.

 

Hampton Class: Known as "Maury Gunboats," 100 of which were plannedóbrain children of Comdr. Matthew Fontaine Maury, CSN, the father of hydrography. These "Jeffersonian-type" gunboats were a "contemporary manifestation of a recurrent theory that wars may be fought economically with mosquito fleets." Flag Officer L. M. Goldsborough, USN, wrote Secretary Welles, 14 February 1862, "I forward herewith a very remarkable letter [19 January] from Mr. M. F. Maury, late of our Navy, to Flag Officer Lynch, which was found among the papers of the latter gentleman when his vessel, the Sea Bird, was captured by our forces ...[Enclosure: Comdr. George] Minor has the guns in hand; most of the engines and boilers are provided for, and by the end of this week I hope to be able to say that in 90 days or less all the hulls will be ready for the machinery...for 100 steam launches... A call has been made upon the Army for a transfer to us of all the sailors in the State [N.C.], and a law has been passed offering a bounty of $50...also a law for the appointment of 50 lieutenants and masters ...considering...that all the vessels are steamers of the same model, and that they are intended for bay and river navigation only, I think that we can manufacture a pretty good set of officers and capital guns' crews... I expect my son John [v. penult, para. supra], your pet, here in a day or two. I shall propose to him to try for a master's place in one of these boats... At any rate, if you can take him as a supernumerary and work him up as a middy, requiring him to do any and everything, it will be the "very dandy"...The boat that is at present proposed as the model for all, is 21 feet beam, 112 feet long, and 6 feet draft, with 171 tons and an armament of a 9-inch gun forward and a 32-pounder aft. I am protesting with all my might against such a large boat and such a feeble stern gun.' "

 

Surprisingly, no drawings have come to light to support the very detailed specifications extant, despite the notation thereon that "the inboard plans will be furnished by the Department," for many sets must have been issued. Individual yards may have made minor modifications, but nothing aproaching what Maury himself sought. Only Hampton and Nansemond saw service, Norfolk, Portsmouth and others- being burned on the stocks. Such mass production of "standard ships" as Maury desired was not achieved until 1918.

 

N.B.: Sec. Mallory to Pres. Davis, 29 Mar '62 recommends that the "$2,000.000 appropriated for the [Maury] gunboats ... be expended upon building iron-clad vessels; and I suggest ...the expediency of completing those vessels already commenced according to the original design but of making iron-clad gunboats of the others as far as the appropriation will allow. Fifteen of these boats have been commencedóthese vessels cannot advantageously be platedóbut will be serviceable as originally designed."