CSS Palmetto State, an ironclad ram, was built by Cameron and Co., Charleston, South Carolina in January 1862, under the supervision of Flag Officer D. N. Ingraham, CSN. She was readied for service by September 1862 when Lieutenant Commander John Rutledge, CSN, was placed in command. Her armor was 4" thick on the shield, backed by 22" of wood, 2" of iron elsewhere. Her pilothouse was located abaft the stack.
Before dawn on January 31, 1863, Palmetto State and her sister ram CSS Chicora crept through thick haze to surprise the Union blockading force off Charleston. Taking full advantage of her low silhouette, the ironclad stole in under the guns of USS Mercedita, ramming as well as firing into her. Completely disabled, with no guns that would depress enough to fire at Palmetto State, the Union ship surrendered. The ram then turned her attention to USS Keystone State and put several shells into that blockader. Her steam chests punctured, Keystone State lost all power and had to be towed to safety. A long-range gun action between the Confederate rams and other Federal blockaders then took place, but little damage was inflicted by either side before Palmetto State and Chicora withdrew to safety within Charleston Harbor. The attack of the Confederate rams caused the temporary withdrawal of the blockaders from their inshore positions and led to the claim by the Confederate Government, unsuccessfully advanced, that the blockade of Charleston had been raised.
Palmetto State also joined in the defense of Charleston during Admiral Samuel Francis du Pont's unsuccessful attack on the harbor forts, April 1–7, 1863. Her officers and men were cited for valuable services rendered during the removal of troops from Fort Wagner and Battery Gregg on the night of September 6–7, 1863.
Palmetto State was burned by the Confederates upon the evacuation of Charleston on February 18, 1865.
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- Silverstone, Paul H. (2006). Civil War Navies 1855–1883. The U.S. Navy Warship Series. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-97870-X.
- Still, William N., Jr. (1985). Iron Afloat: The Story of the Confederate Armorclads (Reprint of the 1971 ed.). Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 0-87249-454-3.
This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
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