This week in the Civil War | USS New Ironsides attacked near Charleston Harbor

September 27, 2013 

The armored Union warship USS New Ironsides came under attack the night of Oct. 5, 1863, while patrolling near Charleston, S.C.

The attack by the Confederate steam-powered torpedo boat CSS David inflicted damage on the warship, but it manage to escape a worse fate and remained active in enforcing a Union blockade of Confederate ports well after the attack.

Charleston Harbor, where the Civil War had begun with the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter, was a major target of Union warships seeking to enforce the blockade against gunrunners and other smugglers seeking to transport supplies to the secessionists.

But the last major Union attempt to take Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor went down in failure in early September 1863.

At the time, about 500 Union soldiers and Marines in small boats had approached Sumter in an unusual nighttime operation only to see five Union troops killed, several wounded and more captured.

Though the Confederates suffered no loss of life, the blockade that brought USS New Ironsides to waters outside Charleston would only be solidified through the rest of the war — creating no real imperative for the Union to try further to take Charleston militarily.

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