Building an ACW Steamboat

Three boats were involved in the Combahee River Raid. Unfortunately, there is little information available. All of them were army transports and had been converted for the purpose. The John Adams was a former ferryboat of the East Boston Line and the Harriet A. Weed a steam tug. There was also the Sentinel, which seems to have been the smallest boat. Most heavily armed was the John Adams with a ten- and a twenty-pounder Parrott gun and two howitzers. The Harriet A. Weed carried only two guns.

Montgomery's Raids on the Combahee River Plantations
The Combahee River Raid.

My model is mainly based on the illustration from Harper’s Weekly. The reporter certainly wasn’t present at the raid, but he had probably seen the boats in the harbour. Illustrations of similar vessels can be found in other copies of Harper’s Weekly, so the general characteristics of such a boat are easily identified.

Converted ferryboat helping to put out a fire.
An impression of the variety of boats in Union service.

The hull of my model was made out of foamboard. I then added balsa wood planking and glued a strip of plasticard to the sides.


The superstructure as well as the side paddle wheels were also built with foamboard and then covered with strips of wood.

The characteristic rod system of the steam engine, which protrudes from the deck, was made out of parts of a plastic model kit.

I then glued everything together and gave it a wash of thinned down PVA glue – this gives the whole structure a bit more firmness and also seals the surface, making painting easier.

Painting was fairly simple: I kept the whole boat in a whitish tone, adding a wash of dark brown ink to give it a slightly weathered impression. In hindsight, I might have painted the deck planking in a light greyish brown colour, as decks seem to have been kept in their natural wooden tone, but I think it works as it is.




The Combahee River Raid is coming together nicely. The main thing missing is the gaming board, but as this needs space I will probably put it off until the weather gets better and I can build it outside.


4 thoughts on “Building an ACW Steamboat

  1. Pete S/ SP February 20, 2016 / 12:55 am

    Superb- great bit of scratch building.



  2. Somet February 20, 2016 / 11:08 am

    Spendid work, really well done!

  3. Mikko February 20, 2016 / 12:16 pm

    Wow! Great work, the finished model looks a lot more complex than it actually is – that’s always a good sign.

  4. cptshandy February 20, 2016 / 7:59 pm

    Thanks guys, much appreciated!

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