Ironclad Raleigh Ran the Cape Fear River Blockade

On May 5, 1864, Flag Officer William F. Lynch decided to take the war to the enemy using the recently completed Richmond-class ironclad CSS Raleigh.

Built at J.L. Cassidey and Sons shipyard on Eagle’s Island in the Cape Fear River opposite Wilmington, the Raleigh measured 172 feet long. It was protected by two layers of 2-inch iron plate and armed with two 6.4-inch Brooke rifles and two 7-inch Brooke rifles.

After being commissioned on April 3, the ironclad was placed under the command of Lt. Pembroke Jones. After Lynch gave his orders on his on May 5, the Raleigh steamed out into the Atlantic and made contact with several Union vessels.

The ensuing engagement was shrouded in darkness and marked by confusion. The Raleigh made contact with several Union vessels, but because of its slow speed, it was unable to mount a serious attack. Flares and gunfire alerted the rest of the blockading squadron, but most commanders, unaware of the ironclad’s presence, assumed a blockade-runner had been cornered.

For the rest of the night, the Raleigh steamed blindly through the blockading squadron, unnoticed by the Federals. It returned to the Cape Fear River the next day, but ran aground shortly thereafter and was lost.

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