Henry Robinson continued his diary on May 28, 1862 as he traveled up the eastern seaboard:
28th Wilmington Del.
Paid hotel 1.00 fare to Chester .30
R[eaney], Son & Archbold, Chester have a good wharf—several hundred fs. front—are building two of the batteries minus the mach.
Paid fare to Phila. & to Camden .40
Stoped [sic] at 6. Morgans
Saw Mor. Bag mach. (constant draft) run about 100 a minute. Saw the mach. Make about 250 a minute—paster on top saw stationary heater like this [sketch]
Saw the ironsides—plates screwed to woodwork—Engines in—a few plates on. Str. Powhatan in dock.
New Boston Str. On the way.
Went into J.P. Morris & Sons—saw Engs. for two batteries at Chester.
Saw 2 cyl. cast together, about 40” dia. x 48”
Saw steam plough—2 sets of ploughs—4 in each
Saw Engines of Str. America (tug) 40 1/2” cyl. 36” stroke—2 cyls. Luik motion vertical—direct actg., formerly trunk screw 10 ft. dia 21 ft. pitch 35 lbs. steam—Eng. knows Walker.
Penn Works—Neafie & Levy are making mach for new Boston str. One cyl. 60” x 48” stroke—like Flag except Luik motion—pour castg. boiler—long tubes, very high story chrnning.
An Iron Str. Making for same sort.
Saw sheet iron rolled—Imitation of Russia made of Ch. blooms.
Started for N.Y. via Amboy
6 AM. fare & trunk cost 2.75
-Train killed a man on track
-Paid in Phila. & N.Y. about 1.00
-Went into N. Yard—saw the 3rd plate put on to Roanoke—3” thick under water line, butt joint, bolted through ½ feet taken off the keel—so the drft. will be about that by than formerly—say 20ft. 3 towers.
Left N.Y. for Boston via Fall River. In Bay State at 5 PM. Fare 3.00.
Bay State has a peculiar cutoff, rifle marked R.P.P 16 588lbs. No. 1. 8 in.—200 lbs.
At Fall River saw the Iron Works—use puddle iron for cut nails—double marked—Glendon.
Saw the Frigate “Constitution” at Newport.
An 1863 sketch of a Union shipyard from Harper's Weekly, similar to the shipyards Henry Robinson visited.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, the Union Navy was underequipped. They had 90 ships, only 42 of which were battle ready, and only 24 of which were steamers. The Confederate Navy was even worse off, starting the war with zero warships. The Union’s advantage was meretricious, however.
Shipbuilding technology was at a crossroads. Sail-power was giving way to steam-power, and wood-hulled ships would soon give way to iron-hulled ships. The Union Navy was not yet modernized, and even though the Confederate Navy had no ships to its name, if they would have been able to procure even a modest fleet of ironclad warships, they could have gained the upper hand on the seas.
President Lincoln ordered a blockade of the entire South to strangle their economy and prevent them from obtaining foreign war resources. To enforce this blockade, the Union Navy ordered a major shipbuilding campaign. By April of 1862, the Navy had 226 blockading ships and by the end of the war, over 600.
The region that bore the grunt of this massive shipbuilding boom was exactly the corridor Henry was traveling through—the coastline from Baltimore to Boston. In his travels, Henry was stopping and examining many of the major shipyards and producers. In Baltimore he went to Abbott’s Rolling Mill, which produced the iron plating for the U.S.S Monitor, the first ironclad ship in the Union Navy. In Chester he went to Reaney, Son & Archbold, which built dozens of Navy ships and was an early producer of ironclads. In Philadelphia he went to Neafie & Levy, which had just finished building the first U.S. Navy submarine. In New York he saw the Roanoke being converted to an ironclad at Novelty Iron Works.
The U.S.S. Flag, the ship Henry Robinson served on during his time in the Navy.
The question is, why was a consulting engineer from Clinton, MA on a trip examining naval facilities? It turns out that Henry Robinson was actually in the Navy for a brief amount of time. In light of this, his interest in shipbuilding and naval engines comes as no surprise. Henry enlisted as an Acting Third Engineer on September 17, 1861. Third Engineers were the most junior of engineers aboard and therefore were given the most menial tasks. He served aboard the U.S.S. Flag while patrolling the coasts of South Carolina. He resigned from the Navy on May 12, 1862 and his appointment was revoked on May 22. Baltimore was most likely the port in which Henry resigned, which explains the reason for this trip.
An envelope addressed to Henry S. Robinson during his time serving on the U.S.S. Flag.
With his enlistment in the Army three months later, Henry would become one of the few Civil War soldiers to have served in both the Army and the Navy during the war.