Did the civil war ironclad USS Monitor have rifled guns or smoothbore guns?
I suppose there are two parts to this question:
She was designed by John Ericsson. Ericsson had invented guns, so-called hoop-type guns, and I vaguely recall that he had planned for Monitor to mount his own guns. But there was controversy, probably from the incident with a rival described here, and at least at some point Monitor used 11-inch Dahlgren guns instead. Did she ever mount Ericsson guns during her short life? If so, which guns was she armed with during the actual battle of Hampton Roads?
Were the 11-inch Dahlgrens smoothbore or not? The page cited above indicates that Dahlgren’s “shell guns” were all Columbiads, which are apparently uniformly smoothbores. It mentions some rifled guns Dahlgren worked on, but none are described as being “11-inch.”
I ask because, in two places recently, I’ve seen references to the USS Monitor’s rifled guns, and I’d always thought they were 11-inch Dahlgren smoothbores.
One of the sources I can cite online:
Admittedly, it’s the Internet, and fraught with error – note the misspelling of Dahlgren’s name.
The other source, however, I would normally regard as unimpeachable: Shelby Foote’s massive and well-received Civil War: A Narrative. I have the highest respect for Mr. Foote’s work. That’s why I was startled to see a reference to the Monitor’s “massive rifles” – I will have to add a page citation when I get home, unfortunately.
That shook my confidence in my previous understanding.
One possible source for the confusion is that the 11-inch Dahlgrens, used extensively by the Union Navy, were, although smoothbores, good armor-breaking guns for fighting ironclads, at least at close range. This property may have led later readers to confuse them with the generally-higher-muzzle-velocity rifled gun type (by assuming “anything that good at armor-breaking must have been rifled.”)
What’s the Straight Dope?