Confederate Attack Scow – background and launch

Crystal River Boat Builders (CRBB) main activity is building replicas of boats that traditionally sailed in the waters of the Gulf and the coast.
Their newest project will of a much grander scale than their previous projects. Their newest project will build from scratch a sailing scow.

A scow probably came from the Dutch word “schouw.” There are no references to scows in the seventeenth century; however, but it may have been a type of vessel that was widely used in the Americas as early as 1725 (Chapelle 1951:33). Chapelle (1951) described scows as square-ended hulls that have a flat or nearly flat bottom. Sailing scows had design characteristics that provided stability in open waters and a shallow draft that made them excellent boats for sailing into the shallow waters of Florida’s bays and rivers.

When finished the CRBB replica will be 36 ft long and 12 ft wide. We know that sailing scows were present in Florida by at least the Civil War and probably earlier. I hear you; you’re asking me, how do we know this and how do we know what they looked like?

Surprisingly, the best way to figure this out has been from some of the Civil War records of the Union naval blockade during the war. The Union Navy documented the capture of at least two sailing scows in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The first was documented on May 30, 1863 when the U.S.S. Fort Henry captured a small sloop and a scow in Wacasassa Bay. The scow reportedly carried 56 bales of cotton. This was a substantial cargo for a relatively small coastal vessel. A Civil War era cotton bale weighed 500 pounds and was approximately 56 inches long, 48 inches tall and 30 inches wide. The 56 bales of cotton would have weighed roughly 14 tons and occupied almost 2600 cu. ft. of space. Much of this cargo would have occupied deck space rather than cargo holds.

The second sailing scow that was captured by the US Navy was documented in a report dated April 14, 1864. In this report Lt. Browne, commander of the U.S.S. Restless, described an attack on the Confederate salt works at White Bluffs on the Wetappo River. In addition to capturing the salt stored at the facility the attackers also captured a “barge” as a prize of war. Lt. Browne originally described the vessel as a barge but it other evidence indicates that she was a sloop rigged scow designed for shallow water work.

He stated:

She is nearly a new barge, 36 feet long, 3 feet deep, and 11 feet beam, built of 2-inch yellow-pine plank, and is perfectly tight, sloop rigged, and has an open hatch amidships 19 feet long, in which I have built a platform and laid a circle for our 12-pounder howitzer, which can be fired from almost any point of the compass. She has new lug main- sail, which I have altered to a boom mainsail, and have made a new mast and bowsprit and given her a jib. I have also built lee boards 4 feet wide and 5 feet deep, and think that she will work admirably (Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies [ORUCN] Vol. 17, p. 678).

His addition of the 12-pounder howitzer indicates that he intended to use this boat for….. Read More   and here is the launch!

Originally posted 2011-11-09 22:42:57.

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  1. What an awesome project! CRBB must have some gung-ho members.

    I am very interested in the design for potential application in a small commercial sail freight project on the Lake Champlain / Hudson waterway. The Wartappo seems perfect for this and is very similar to known vessels for Northeastern river and inshore coastal trade.

    What is your planned use of the scow once launched?

    Our goal would be to build collaboratively and in a low-tech, low overhead manner much as you have done. Handsome is as handsome does, and I think your scow is handsome indeed. I look forward to seeing updates and maybe visiting for the launch! Bravo.

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