Foreign Ironclads, 1855-1880


Argentina (2)Denmark (7)Italy (24)Peru (6)
Austria-Hungary (16)France (63)Japan (5)Portugal (1)
Brazil (17)Germany/Prussia (13)Netherlands (20)Russia (29)
Chile (3)Great Britain (72)Norway (4)Spain (9)
China (1)Greece (2)Ottoman Empire (19)Sweden (4)

Various sources define the "Ironclad Era" differently. However, there are reasons for defining it along these lines:

  • to 1815: The Age of Fighting Sail
  • 1815-1855: The Advent of Steam
  • 1855-1880: The Ironclad Era
  • 1880-1905: The Pre-Dreadnought Period
  • after 1905: The Dreadnoughts

The obvious break points in this scheme are the end of the Napoleonic Wars (obviously the greatest sea wars of the Age of Fighting Sail) and the commissioning of the first steam warship Demologos in 1815; the bombardment of Kinburn by French ironclads in 1855; and the laying down of HMS Dreadnought in 1905. With no obvious event to serve as a breakpoint, however, the end of the ironclad period is more difficult to pinpoint.

When one compares the early armored steamers of the 1860s with the last of the "pre-dreadnoughts" in the early 1900s, it is clear that these were very different kinds of warships, produced in very different strategic and tactical environments. Wireless telegraphy (radio), steel armor and construction, quick-firing guns, self-propelled ("automobile") torpedoes, and electric searchlights were in widespread use by the turn of the century; by contrast, none of these were possible (or even generally dreamed of) a mere fifty years earlier. A division of this time into two spans is obviously necessary, but where to draw the line?

The year 1880 works rather well. Mathematically, it divides the 1855-1905 period precisely in two of course, but there are stronger reasons. The last of the Civil War -era ironclads were in active service in the war between Chile and Peru, which ended in 1883 (with the exception of the reactivation of some Civil War monitors by the U.S. during the Spanish-American War, but they were blatantly obsolete by that point). The first use of a self-propelled torpedo in combat occurred in 1877. The first vessel to be classified as an armored cruiser was the Russian General Admiral of 1875. By 1881, armored warships were beginning to sport steel facing on their armor, and steel was becoming an increasingly common element of ship construction. Given that the dividing line is still a bit fuzzy, it is certain that it belongs somewhere between 1877 and 1883; so the mathematical middle of 1800 makes quite a bit of sense.



A painting of the Russian monitor Uragan (1866)

Argentina

Monitors:
  • La Plata, Los Andes (1874)

Austria-Hungary

Broadside ironclads:
  • Drache, Salamander (1862)
  • Kaiser Max, Prinz Eugen, Don Juan de Austria (1863)
  • Erzherzog Ferdinand Max, Habsburg (1866)
Central battery ships:
  • Lissa (1871)
  • Kaiser (1873)
  • Erzherzog Albrecht (1874)
  • Custoza (1875)
  • Kaiser Max, Don Juan de Austria (1876), Prinz Eugen (1878)
Monitors:
  • Leitha, Maros (1872)

Brazil

Central battery ships:
  • Barroso (1864)
  • Brasil (1864)
  • Tamandare (1865)
  • Mariz e Barros, Herval (1866)
  • Cabral, Colombo (1866)
  • Sete di Setembro (1874)
Casemate ironclad:
  • Rio de Janeiro (1865)
Turret ships:
  • Lima Barros (1865)
  • Bahia (1865)
  • Silvado (1866)
  • Javary, Solimoes (1874)
Monitors:
  • Rio Grande, Alagoas, Para (1867)

Chile

Central battery ships:
  • Almirante Cochrane (1874), Valparaiso (1875) (renamed Blanca Encalada by 1879)
Turret ship:
  • Huascar (captured from Peru, 1879)

China

Armored gunboat:
  • Tiong Sing (1875)

Denmark

Broadside ironclads:
  • Dannebrog (1863)
  • Peder Skram (1864)
  • Danmark (1864)
Turret ships:
  • Rolf Krake (1863)
  • Lindormen (1868)
  • Gorm (1870)
Central battery ship:
  • Odin (1872)

France

Floating batteries:
  • Devastation, Lave, Tonnante, Congreve, Foudroyante (1855)
  • Palestro, Peiho, Saigon (1862), Paixhans (1863)
  • Implacable (1864), Arrogante, Opiniatre (1865)
  • Embuscade, Imprenable, Refuge (1866), Protectrice (1867)
Broadside ironclads:
  • Gloire (1860), Invincible, Normandie (1862)
  • Couronne (1862)
  • Magenta, Solferino (1862)
  • Provence, Savoie, Flandre, Heroine, Magnanime (1865), Guyenne (1866), Valeureuse, Gauloise, Revanche, Surveillante (1867)
  • Belliqueuse (1866)
Ironclad ram:
  • Taureau (1866)
Casemate ironclad:
  • Rochambeau (1867)
Monitor:
  • Onondaga (1867)
Central battery ships:
  • Armide (1867), Thetis, Jeanne D'Arc (1868), Alma, Atalante, Montcalm, Reine Blanche (1869)
  • Ocean (1870), Marengo (1872), Suffren (1875)
  • La Galissonniere (1874), Victorieuse (1877), Triomphante (1879)
  • Friedland (1876)
  • Richelieu (1876)
  • Colbert (1877), Trident (1878)
  • Redoutable (1878)
Turret rams:
  • Belier (1872), Bouledogue (1873), Cerbere (1868), Tigre (1874)
Breastwork monitors:
  • Tonneire (1879), Fulminant (1882)
  • Tempete (1879), Vengeur (1882)

Germany (inc. Prussia)

Ironclad ram:
  • Prinz Adalbert (1865)
Turret ships:
  • Arminius (1865)
  • Preussen (1876)
  • Friedrich der Grosse (1877)
  • Grosser Kurfürst (1878)
Central battery ships:
  • Friedrich Karl (1867)
  • Kronprinz (1867)
  • König Wilhelm (1869)
  • Hansa (1875)
  • Kaiser, Deutschland (1875)
Monitors:
  • Rhein, Mosel (1874)

Great Britain

Floating batteries:
  • Meteor, Thunder, Glatton, Trusty (1855)
  • Aetna (1856)
  • Erebus, Thunderbolt, Terror (1856)
Broadside ironclads:
  • Warrior (1861), Black Prince (1862)
  • Defence (1861), Resistance (1862)
  • Royal Oak (1863)
  • Hector (1864), Valiant (1868)
  • Achilles (1864)
  • Prince Consort (1864), Caledonia, Ocean (1865)
  • Lord Clyde (1866), Lord Warden (1867)
  • Agincourt (1867), Minotaur, Northumberland (1868)
Armored sloops:
  • Research (1864)
  • Enterprise (1864)
  • Favorite (1866)
  • Pallas (1866)
  • Penelope (1868)
Turret ships:
  • Royal Sovereign (1864)
  • Scorpion, Wivern (1865)
  • Prince Albert (1866)
  • Monarch (1869)
  • Captain (1870)
  • Neptune (1881)
Central battery ships:
  • Zealous (1866)
  • Bellerophon (1866)
  • Royal Alfred (1867)
  • Hercules (1868)
  • Repulse (1870)
  • Audacious, Invincible, Vanguard (1870), Iron Duke (1871)
  • Sultan (1871)
  • Swiftsure (1872), Triumph (1873)
  • Alexandra (1877)
  • Temeraire (1877)
  • Superb (1880)
Armored gunboats:
  • Vixen (1866), Viper, Water Witch (1867)
Breastwork monitors:
  • Cerberus, Magdala (1870)
  • Abyssinia (1870)
  • Glatton (1872)
  • Gorgon (1874), Hydra (1876), Cyclops, Hecate (1877)
Ironclad rams:
  • Hotspur (1871)
  • Rupert (1874)
  • Belleisle (1878), Orion (1882)
Improved turret ships:
  • Devastation (1873), Thunderer (1877)
  • Dreadnought (1879)
Armored cruisers:
  • Shannon (1877)
  • Northampton (1878), Nelson (1881)

Greece

Central battery ship:
  • Basileos Georgios (1867)
Broadside ironclad:
  • Basilissa Olga (1869)

Italy

Broadside ironclads:
  • Terribile (1861), Formidabile (1862)
  • Re d'Italia, Re di Portogallo (1864)
  • Regina Mari Pia, San Martino, Castelfidardo (1864), Ancona (1866)
  • Principe di Carignano (1865), Messina (1867), Conte Verde (1871)
  • Roma (1869), Venezia (1873)
Armored sloops:
  • Palestro, Varese (1865)
Floating batteries:
  • Guerriera, Voragine (1866)
Turret ram:
  • Affondatore (1866)
Armored gunboats:
  • Alfredo Cappellini, Risoluta (1868), Faa di Bruno (1869), Audace (1871)
Central battery ships:
  • Principe Amedeo (1874), Palestro (1875)

Japan

Ironclad ram:
  • Kotetsu (1867) (renamed Adzuma 1871)
Armored sloops:
  • Ryujo (1869)
  • Kongo, Hiei (1878)
Central battery ship:
  • Fuso (1878)

Netherlands

Broadside ironclad:
  • De Ruyter (1863)
Turret ships:
  • Prins Hendrik der Nederlanden (1866)
  • Konig der Nederlanden (1874)
Turret rams:
  • Buffel (1868), Guinea (1870)
  • Schorpioen, Stier (1868)
Monitors:
  • Heiligerlee, Krokodil, Tijger (1868)
  • Bloedhond, Cerberus (1869)
  • Hyena, Panter (1870), Adder, Haai, Wesp (1871), Luipaard (1876)
  • Draak (1877)
  • Matador (1878)

Norway

Monitors:
  • Skorpionen (1866), Mjölner (1868), Thrudvang (1869)
  • Thor (1872)

Ottoman Empire

Broadside ironclads:
  • Osmanieh, Mahmudieh (1864), Abdul Aziz, Orkanieh (1865)
Central battery ships:
  • Assari Shevket, Nijmi Shevket (1868)
  • Assari Tewfik (1868)
  • Idjalieh (1870)
  • Messudieh (1874), Memdouhied (1875)
Turret ships:
  • Lutfi Djelil, Hifzi Rahman (1868)
Casemate ironclads:
  • Avni Illah, Muin-i-Zaffer (1869)
  • Fethi Bulend (1870), Mukaddami Khair (1873)
Monitors:
  • Seyfi, Iskodra, Podgorice (prior to 1875)

Peru

Casemate ironclad:
  • Loa (1865)
Central battery ship:
  • Independencia (1865)
Turret ship:
  • Huascar (1865)
Monitors:
  • Victoria (1866)
  • Atahualpa, Manco Capac (1868)

Portugal

Armored sloop:
  • Vasco da Gama (1876)

Russia

Broadside ironclads:
  • Pervenetz (1864), Netron Menya (1865), Kreml (1866)
  • Sevastopol (1865)
  • Petropavlovsk (1865)
Turret ships:
  • Smerch (1865)
  • Charodeika, Russalka (1868)
  • Admiral Lazarev (1869), Admiral Greig (1870)
  • Admiral Chichagov, Admiral Spiridov (1870)
  • Petr Veliki (1876)
Monitors:
  • Bronenosetz, Edinorog, Koldun, Latnik, Lava, Perun, Stryeletz, Tifon, Uragan, Vyeshtchun (1866)
  • Novgorod (1874)
  • Vice-Admiral Popov (1877)
Central battery ship:
  • Kniaz Pojarski (1870)
Armored cruisers:
  • General Admiral (1875), Gerzog Edinburgski (1877)
  • Minin (1878)

Spain

Broadside ironclads:
  • Numancia (1863)
  • Tetuan (1863)
  • Arapiles (1864)
Central battery ships:
  • Vitoria (1865)
  • Zaragosa (1867)
  • Sagunto (1869)
  • Mendez Nunez (1869)
Floating battery:
  • Duque de Tetuan (1874)
Monitor:
  • Puigcerda (1874)

Sweden

Monitors:
  • John Ericsson (1865), Thordon (1866), Tirfing (1867)
  • Loke (1871)


Links

History of the Russian Navy - Latter Half of the 19th Century
Liverpool & Birkenhead and the American Civil War (UK)
HMS Warrior (UK)
Maritime Campaigns of the Peruvian Navy - includes The Amazing Huascar (Peru/Chile)

Related Sources

Baxter, James Phinney III. The Introduction of the Ironclad Warship. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1933. Reprint by Archon Books, 1968.

Breyer, Sigfried. Battleships and Battlecruisers 1905-1970. (English ed.) Garden City NY: Doubleday, 1973. Original title: Schlachtschiffe und Schlachtkreuzer 1905-1970, published by J.F. Lehmanns Verlag, Munich.

Chesneau, Roger and Eugene M. Kolesnik (eds.). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905. London: Conway Maritime Press, 1979.

Greene, Jack and Alessandro Massignani. Ironclads at War: The Origin and Development of the Armored Warship, 1854-1891. Conshohocken PA: Combined Books, 1998.

Hill, Richard. War at Sea in the Ironclad Age. London: Cassell & Co., 2000.

Lambert, Andrew (ed). Steam, Steel & Shellfire: The Steam Warship, 1815-1905. Edison NJ: Chartwell Books, 2001. Originally published by Conway Maritime Press, 1992.

Marshall, Chris (ed). The Encyclopedia of Ships. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1985.

Wilson, H.W. Ironclads in Action. Boston MA: Little, Brown and Co., 1896.

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