Teaching through our historic sites

CSS Albemarle

This ironclad gunboat was the namesake of the Albemarle class, which included it and the CSS Neuse. Built in a cornfield on the banks of the Roanoke River by Gilbert Elliott, near Edwards Ferry, North Carolina, the Albemarle was 158 feet long and 34 feet wide, with a draft of approximately eight feet. She was armed with two 6.4-inch Brooke rifles.

The Albemarle was commissioned in April 1864 and was completed while on her maiden voyage downriver to Plymouth. Under the command of Comm. James W. Cooke, the Albemarle engaged Union warships near Plymouth on April 19, successfully ramming and sinking the USS Southfield and chasing the USS Miami away, allowing Confederate forces to recapture the town.

On May 5, the Albemarle again engaged the Union fleet, this time in the Albemarle Sound. Though outnumbered, the ironclad suffered only minor damage. However, her funnel (smokestack) was shot full of holes, making it very difficult for the engines to get the draft they needed to function properly. The ironclad returned back to Plymouth for repairs.

On the night of October 27-28, a small Union naval force led by Lt. William Barker Cushing, attacked the Albemarle at her dock. Using a small launch fixed with a spar torpedo, Cushing was able to set the torpedo under the ironclad's hull and detonate it, sinking the gunboat where she was moored. It was a daring raid that earned Cushing high praise and a promotion. Shortly thereafter, the Union recaptured Plymouth.

The Albemarle was raised from the river bottom in April 1865 and taken to the Norfolk Navy Yard, where she was stripped of all her military armament and finally sold in October 1867.

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