USS Dictator

A watercolor of the USS Dictator by Oscar Parks
Name: USS Dictator
Builder: Delamater Iron Works, New York
Laid down: 16 August 1862
Launched: 26 December 1863
Commissioned: 11 November 1864
Decommissioned: 1 June 1877
Struck: 5 September 1865
Reinstated: 20 July 1869
Fate: Sold, 27 September 1883
General characteristics
Type: Monitor
Displacement: 4,438 long tons (4,509 t)
Length: 312 ft (95 m)
Beam: 50 ft (15 m)
Draft: 20 ft 6 in (6.25 m)
Propulsion: Steam engine
Speed: 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 174 officers and enlisted
Armament: 2 × 15 in (380 mm) Dahlgren smoothbores
  • Turret: 15 in (380 mm)
  • Pilothouse: 12 in (300 mm)
  • Hull: 6 in (150 mm)
  • Deck: 1.5 in (38 mm)

USS Dictator was a single-turreted ironclad monitor, designed to be a high speed open sea monitor.[1] Originally to be named the Protector, the Navy Department preferred a more aggressive name. On 1 April 1862, John Ericsson proposed to Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Gustavus Fox, Dictator "a name which I respectfully request for the new Ocean Monarch." It was a sister ship of the USS Puritan.[2]

Dictator was laid down on 16 August 1862.[3] Dictator was launched 26 December 1863 by Delamater Iron Works, New York, NY, under contract with John Ericsson. The ship was commissioned on 11 November 1864, under the command of Commander J. Rodgers, with a crew 174.[3][4][5] It was built for a cost of $1,393,566.49 dollars.[6]


The Dictator was a single-turret monitor, bigger than the a normal monitor made for coastal battles ,and with less overhang. The Dictator's design had a tall funnel and tall ventilation shaft; it is thought that there was a light hurricane deck amidships. The Dictator's speed was to be 15 knots, but this was not reached. The design was overweight, reducing fre-board to 16 inches. The main shaft bearings were too short, resulting in excessive wear.[7] It was designed to carry 1,000 tons of coal.[8] There was plans to build the Dictator with two 20 inch (510 mm) caliber smoothbores, however due to John Ericsson's intervention, it was single turreted.[9]

Service history

Construction problems with her powerplant kept her initial service relatively brief and inactive. Assigned to duty with North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Dictator cruised on the Atlantic coast from 15 December 1864 until placed out of commission 5 September 1865 at League Island Navy Yard. She remained in ordinary there until 1869.[10][9]

The ship was recommissioned on 20 July 1869, with a repair cost of $59,654.27.[6] Dictator served with the North Atlantic Fleet until 28 June 1871 when she was again placed out of commission. She was in ordinary at New York Navy Yard until 12 January 1874 when she was commissioned for service on the North Atlantic Station. Dictator was decommissioned at League Island on 1 June 1877 and remained there until sold on 27 September 1883,[7][10] to A. Purvis & Son, for a cost of $40,250 dollars.[6]


  1. "Battleship Photo Index USS DICTATOR". Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  2. "Fuller-article.pdf" (PDF). ijnhonline. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  3. 1 2 Silverstone, Paul H. (2006). Civil War Navies: 1855–1883. New York [u.a.]: Routledge. p. 8. ISBN 9780415978705.
  4. "Guide to the Naval History Society Collection 1721–1995 (bulk 1781–1936) MS 439". Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  5. "The Union Navy". Cyber Ironclad: The Industrial Era Naval Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  6. 1 2 3 "Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. / Series II – Volume 1: Statistical Data of Union and Confederate Ships; Muster Roles of Confederate Government Vessels; Letters of Marque and Reprisals; Confederate Department Investigations". Ebooks. Govt. Print. Off., Washington. 1921. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  7. 1 2 "Battleship Photo Index USS DICTATOR". Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  8. Fuller, Howard J. (2014). Empire, Technology and Seapower Royal Navy crisis in the Age of Palmerston. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis. p. 45. ISBN 9781134200450.
  9. 1 2 "New Market Historical Society". Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  10. 1 2 Pike, John. "Civil War Monitors". Retrieved 12 November 2016.


  • Canney, Donald L. (1993). The Old Steam Navy: The Ironclads, 1842–1885. II. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-586-5. 
  • Gibbons, Tony (1989). Warships and Naval Battles of the Civil War. New York: Gallery Books. ISBN 978-0-8317-9301-2. 
  • Mooney, J. L. (1959). "Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships". Washington D. C.: Navy Dept., Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Naval History Division. OCLC 2794587. Retrieved 12 November 2016. 
  • Olmstead, Edwin; Stark, Wayne E.; Tucker, Spencer C. (1997). The Big Guns: Civil War Siege, Seacoast, and Naval Cannon. Alexandria Bay, New York: Museum Restoration Service. ISBN 978-0-88855-012-5. 
  • Silverstone, Paul H. (2006). Civil War Navies 1855–1883. The U.S. Navy Warship Series. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-97870-5. 
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