The Ironclad Albemarle and the Battle of Plymouth

The ironclad Albemarle after being raised by federal troops. Image from the U.S. Navy History and Heritage Command.On October 27, 1864, the Confederate ram CSS Albemarle was sunk.

The Albemarle was commissioned and launched in April 1864, departing directly for Union-occupied Plymouth. Since the iron plating was not yet complete, forges were installed on the deck and craftsmen worked on the ship as it floated down the Roanoke River.

The Albemarle easily bypassed Fort Gray, slipping further downstream toward Plymouth. Two Union steamers, the Miami and the Southfield, were targets of the next naval action. The Albemarle rammed the Southfield, which sank.

The Miami’s commander was killed when a shell that he fired at the Albemarle was ricocheted back to the Miami, so close were the two vessels. The Miami fled downstream, leaving the Albemarle free to steam to Plymouth and pound the city’s Union defenses, providing significant support to General Robert F. Hoke’s troops who recaptured Washington County town on April 20.

Though the Albemarle fought in only one other engagement, the boat, moored at Plymouth, remained a threat to Union forces. Lieutenant William B. Cushing was dispatched to North Carolina with orders to destroy the Albemarle. Cushing torpedoed the vessel from a small launch in the river, clearing the way for Union forces to recapture Plymouth and subsequently the entire Albemarle Sound region.

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