STEREO CARD VIEW OF THE MONITOR USS ONONDAGA ON THE JAMES RIVER

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Item Code: 490-2379

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Stereo card has a yellow mount and is titled on the edges “PHOTOGRAPHIC HISTORY” and “THE WAR FOR THE UNION.”

Reverse has a blue label with a printed caption that reads “WAR VIEWS” and “VIEW ON THE JAMES RIVER, LOOKING EAST: THE DOUBLE TURRETED MONITOR OMDAGUA IN THE RIVER. NO. 2540.” The ship is actually the USS ONONDAGA. The photographer misspelled the ship’s name. Label also has a canceled 2 cent tax stamp.

Image is a full-length view of the USS ONONDAGA from a distance. A large side-wheeler can be seen in the distance and behind that a schooner.

View is clear with excellent contrast.

USS ONONDAGA was commissioned in 1864. She was armed with two 15-inch Dahlgren smooth-bore guns and two 150-pdr Parrott rifles.

Escorted by the gunboat USS MATTABESETT, the ship departed New York City on 21 April and arrived at Hampton Roads in Union-occupied Virginia two days later. Assigned to the James River Flotilla, she supported General Ulysses S. Grant's drive on Richmond, Virginia. Together with the other ships of the flotilla, ONONDAGA patrolled the river and occasionally engaged Confederate artillery batteries on the river.

Early in January 1865, most of the Union ironclads were withdrawn from the James River as Rear Admiral David D. Porter assembled most of his ships for the forthcoming attack on Fort Fisher, North Carolina. ONONDAGA was the only ironclad left to guard Union forces along the James against the Confederate James River Squadron.

When the Confederate squadron steamed down river to attack the weakened Union forces, ONONDAGA dropped downstream to a position where she could maneuver more easily. She and her supporting gunboats awaited them only to see the attack aborted when elements of the Confederate fleet—the casemate ironclads VIRGINIA II and RICHMOND, the gunboat DREWRY, and the torpedo boat SCORPION—all ran aground as the tide ebbed trying to pass Union obstructions at Trent's Reach, after the casemate ironclad FREDERICKSBURG and the gunboat HAMPTON had passed through the obstruction at 01:30. The latter two ships continued downriver and anchored below the Dutch Gap Canal to await the rest of the squadron.

The squadron commander, Flag Officer John K. Mitchell, recalled them several hours later and ordered them to anchor further upstream under the guns of Battery Dantzler. As the Confederate ships were refloated at 10:45, ONONDAGA approached the Union obstructions and opened fire at an estimated range of 880 yards. Her Dahlgren guns hit VIRGINIA II twice with solid shot; the first shot penetrated her 4-inch-thick armor and badly damaged the 24-inch-thick wooden backing and its supporting beams. The second shot killed one crewman and killed two others as it penetrated the armor and its backing. RICHMOND was only hit by a glancing shot that damaged the armored shutter that protected the ship's stern gun port before the Confederate ships were able to withdraw upriver.

The decision to move ONONDAGA downstream resulted in her commanding officer, Commander William Parker, being court-martialled for "neglect of duty in not offering battle to the Confederate ironclads" during this engagement. Secretary Welles set aside the guilty verdict on a technicality.

ONONDAGA continued to support Union troops for the rest of the war and steamed north after its end on 9 April. The ship was decommissioned at New York City on 8 June and was laid up at League Island, Pennsylvania. By an Act of Congress approved on 7 March 1867, the monitor was sold to back to her builder who resold her to France for 4,330,599 francs.

ONONDAGA retained her name in French service and was towed from New York City to Halifax beginning on 2 September 1867. She was towed across the Atlantic to Brest by the transport EUROPEEN departing on 15 June 1868, escorted by the VOLTA. The ship began an extensive refit after her arrival on 2 July that include the replacement of her original armament with four 240-millimeter (9.4 in) Modèle 1864 or Modèle 1864-66 rifled breech-loading guns. Other alterations included reworking her hull sides with teak backing the armor, a larger rudder and, probably, removal of the rings around the propellers. The French measured her freeboard at 60 centimeters (2 ft) although it is uncertain if this was before or after these modifications. ONONDAGA began her sea trials in May 1869 and was subsequently placed in reserve.

The ship was mobilized on 17 July 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War, but saw no combat and returned to reserve afterwards. Her armament was augmented in 1878 by six Hotchkiss 5-barreled revolving cannon, two towed Harvey torpedoes and a torpedo launch. In April 1898 she became the guard ship of the Naval Reserve (Défense mobile) at Saint-Malo and her light guns were replaced by a dozen Hotchkiss guns, half-a-dozen each of 37 mm (1.5 in) and 47 mm (1.9 in) calibers. ONONDAGA was stricken on 2 December 1904 and was subsequently sold for 127,550 francs. The ship was scrapped in Brest in 1905.  [ad]

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