The Laird Rams

Britain’s Ironclads Built for the Confederacy, 1862–1923


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About the Book

Built in Birkenhead, England, from 1862 to 1865, the “Laird rams” were two innovative armored warships intended for service with the Confederate Navy during the Civil War. The vessels represented a substantial threat to Union naval power, and offered the Confederacy a potential means to break the Union blockade of the Southern coastline. During 1863, the critical year of the Confederacy’s last hope of recognition by the British and French, President Lincoln threatened war with Britain if the ships ever sailed under Confederate colors. Built in some secrecy, then launched on the River Mersey under intense international scrutiny, the ships were first seized, and then purchased by Britain to avoid a war with the United States. These armored warships were largely forgotten after the Admiralty acquired them. Historians rarely mention these sister warships—if referred at all, they are given short shrift. This book provides the first complete history of these once famous ironclads that never fired a shot in anger yet served at distant stations as defenders of the British Empire.

About the Author(s)

Andrew R. English earned his PhD in history from the University of Exeter. He is a retired U.S. Air Force officer with a service history around the globe in Oceania, Japan, Europe, and the Middle East, including Iraq, where he received the Bronze Star. He is currently a consultant in Washington, DC.

Bibliographic Details

Andrew R. English

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 213
Bibliographic Info: 49 photos, glossary, notes,bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8276-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4367-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Laird Rams and the Evolution of the Ironclad Warship 1
One. Industry and Innovation: Building the Laird Rams 1862–1863 9
Two. Reluctant Actions: Seizure and Acquisition of the Laird Ironclads 1863–1864 43
Three. Technological Advances and Failings: The Laird Rams in Service 1865–1880 87
Four. Naval Weapons and Power Projection: The Laird Rams on Foreign Station 1874–1923 124
Conclusion. Exit the Ironclad: The Laird Rams in Perspective 157
Glossary of Terms/Abbreviations 159
Chapter Notes 161
Bibliography 189
Index 203

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Provides an impressively written and convincing narrative with a refreshing take on how politics and diplomacy impacted Confederate naval construction in Britain, while simultaneously exploring the influence of these two warships in the progression of ironclad design and their significant impact on Royal Navy power projection in the latter half of the 19th century.”—Civil War Navy

• “The most detailed account of the Laird rams.”—Journal of Southern History