USS Roanoke model

By Rob Morgan

I picked this little 1/1200th scale model up in a bargain sale. It’s an old 1970s Fleetline kit, the turrets, funnel and ship’s boats are separate items; the previous owner hadn’t assembled it with the care that a reasonably expensive (in those days over a pound) model ship required, sadly. Now I have two Roanokes, but of course this is an odd ship in both ACW and in naval wargame terms. A sister to the USS Merrimack, and arguably a distant cousin to the CSS Virginia, she didn’t have, if Tony Gibbons is correct, a good war. Speed, weight and other problems beset her, but the three-turret format, presaging the modern battleship, would have been an awesome battery to face.

roanokeThe drawing of this three-turret monitor in Gibbons’ classic volume on ships and battles in the American Civil War, shows the big monitor with what appears to be a ram bow. Is this, in fact, the case? Was this rather slow behemoth intended to see off her opponent by ramming?

There were Monitors with ram bows. Of course, the Dutch built around 12 of them in two or three classes in the 1870s and 1880s. These were intended to defend Holland’s narrow waterways, and specific ramming tactics were developed for their use in war.

I have once or twice used my (old or new!) USS Roanoke in a battle, but if placed on the table as guard ship, she’s avoided, she’s a decent target for a torpedo, of course, and could, I suppose, be towed by another monitor for shore bombardment. What shall I do with her?

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