Michael P. Coogan
WAR CAREER OF THE UNION GUNBOAT LOUISIANA AND THE FALL OF FORT FISHER.
(Under the direction of Gordon P. Watts, Jr.) Department of History, 1997.
The purpose of this thesis is to historically document the career of the steamer Louisiana. The procurement and utilization of this vessel typified steps taken by the Union Navy to implement the blockade of North Carolina. A case study of the Louisiana provides an understanding of how naval tactics developed to support the blockade and interdiction of coastal eastern North Carolina's maritime trade. Chapters one through three chart the career of the U.S.S. Louisiana, a commercial steamer turned gunboat, from her construction and use in the Gulf of Mexico to her tactical employment during four years of war. Beyond describing early American iron ship construction techniques, specifically those used by Delaware's Harlan and Hollingsworth Company, the first part of this study focuses primarily on the Union naval build-up in 1861, the U. S. Navy's purchased auxiliary fleet, and specific tactics utilized by the navy in restricting Confederate blockade running and military operations in North Carolina.
The Louisiana also played a unique role during the war since the navy selected her for a questionable powdership mission in 1864. The remainder of the study, chapters four and five, examines the bizarre attack on Fort Fisher, North Carolina. Although the use of fireships was not uncommon throughout naval history, the Louisiana provided the first and last example of a floating bomb launched at a fortified coastal position. On 24 December 1864, in an attempt to end blockade running through the Cape Fear River, the Union launched a joint operation against Fort Fisher, a massive Confederate earthen fort that protected the new entrance to the Cape Fear River. In addition to describing the technology and tactics employed in the powdership operation, chapter five also reevaluates a Senate Joint Committee hearing concerning the December failure.