Every month there is a news article about waste in the Defense Department and politicians from both sides will always claim that a new program they propose can be
paid by simply trimming waste from the Pentagon. There are complaints that weapons systems are overpriced or just don’t work as advertised. This is not a modern
phenomena. When President Eisenhower warned about the insiders of the military-industrial complex, he was making reference to contractors and their political
buddies. However, when did this military-industrial complex start? The American Civil War saw the first appearance of mass military and naval construction
programs and it can be argued that it also saw the birth of the military-industrial complex.

In 1862, after the
USS Monitor turned back the CSS Virginia, the Union was having a difficult time fighting on the Mississippi River, where the beast CSS
, could overpower the Union gunboats, and with the appearance of other Confederate ironclads rapidly appearing on different southern rivers and tidal
estuaries. The different classes of
Monitor style ironclads then building had too deep of draught to really get into the shallows. The Navy Department thought that the
answer was to build a special class of Union ironclads with a very shallow draft, suitable to riverine warfare.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Gustavus Fox, prepared specifications for just such a shallow draft ironclad. They called for a twin screw ironclad with a
maximum draft of four-feet when fully loaded, a length of 221-feet, a beam of 41-feet, with a single two gun turret, and the lightest armor of any monitor style
ironclad built or building. The Navy Department first approached John Ericsson about this new requirement. Ericsson already had his hands full with the
Canonicus classes of monitors and the super large Dictator and Puritan ironclad designs. Although Ericsson didn’t have the time to undertake another
extensive project, he did take two days to prepare sketches and estimates. Ericsson reported that it was impossible to meet the requirements with a draught of four
feet. He stated that the draught would have to be at least six feet. Fox talked Ericsson into taking the time to prepare detailed drawings and promised that Ericsson
would receive $10,000 for every ironclad built to his drawings. Ericsson’s detailed drawings were ready by October 1862.
Fox turned over the detailed plans and drawings prepared by Ericsson to the US Navy’s Chief Engineer, Alban B. Stimers with orders for Stimers to substantially
revise them and get back to a maximum draught of four feet. Stimers took to numerous changes with a zeal of a true believer. Among them was the deletion of a
raft overhang, addition of floodable ballast tanks to reduce the silhouette of the ship for combat, all of which added extra weight to a design with a planned 15-inch
freeboard fully armed and equipped in loaded condition. An after action report of the ironclads failures in fighting outside Charleston showed that they were very
vulnerable at the juncture of the turret and deck. Stimers was told to add an iron base ring around the turret for his shallow draft monitor design, adding another
18-tons, then Fox had Stimers reinforce the pilothouse adding more cost and weight.

Fox told Stimers not to bother to trouble him with details and to set up operations for the shallow draft monitor in New York City, so that he could consult
Ericsson. By this time the design bore no resemblance to the design that Ericsson had submitted in October. To make matters worse Ericsson didn’t have any
regard for Stimers, due to the way in which Stimers handled tests on the recoil system for Ericsson’s
Canonicus design. Nobody consulted Ericsson about any of
the changes made to his initial design and he only learned of them in February 1863 when the Navy invited bids for construction. Ericsson was appalled by the
changes made to his design without consultation. Ericsson informed Fox that Stimers’ design was unsound and offered to fix it but Fox didn’t respond.
Stimers had sole control of the program, which was one of the largest of the Union. Yards were selected in seven cities for construction of twenty shallow draft
monitors of Stimers’ design. Stimers ignored other Navy Departments and personally interacted with the contractors of the ironclads. This project mushroomed in
size to rival that of the Navy Department itself. At a late date Stimers changed the design of the two engines, further increasing the weight of the ships. The first of
the shallow draft ironclads, known as the
Casco Class, to launch was the USS Chimo. Designed to have a freeboard of 15-inches, fully loaded, the Chimo had a
freeboard of only 3-inches without guns, turret, fuel or crew. Although Fox was hip deep in poor decisions concerning the program, he had the typical
bureaucratic response. He blamed Stimers as the sole malefactor and removed him from the program. Fox turned around and dumped this fiasco of a program into
the lap of Admiral Gregory in charge of the Bureau of Construction. Upon getting this white elephant, Gregory went running to Ericsson. The solution was to build
up the sides by 22-inches, which added further weight and extended the time of construction. Fifteen of the ironclads were selected for this treatment and to
receive a turret.
There was a need for spar torpedo boats, so the five ironclads in the shallow draft program nearest completion, were selected to be finished as torpedo boats with no
turret. Their sides were built up by 15-inches, instead of 22-inches and they were given an open pivot gun. A spar torpedo was slapped onto the bow. A gun crew
serving an unprotected gun in riverine warfare, close to river banks and trees could hardly abound in confidence in this new wonder weapon built at huge expense.
The fabulous five to be so converted were
Chimo, Casco, Napa, Naubuc and Modoc. Although the original designed speed for the turreted ironclad was 9-knots,
these misbegotten stepchildren could only manage a top speed of 5-knots, making them useless in a spar-torpedo role where speed and maneuverability were the
prime requisites. The five spar-torpedo conversions and three of the redesigned monitors were completed before the war ended but none saw action, as they were all
given guard ship duties, probably much to the relief of their crews. Stimers left the Navy and set up a successful design consultant service in a forerunner of the
military-industrial habit of hiring retired military to lobby for their companies or lobby for yourself.
Chimo was equipped with a 150pdr Parrot rifled cannon, while
the other four spar-torpedo versions received 10-inch Dahlgren smoothbore cannons.

All twenty of the ironclads were powered by two Stimers’ direct-acting inclined engines developing 600hp, with steam provided by two Stimers’ horizontal tubular
boilers. What a coincidence that the controlling authority of the program bought his own equipment!
USS Chimo was built by the Aquilla Adams Yard, which
received the contract on March 17, 1863, as the only ironclad order received by this yard for the entire war. She was launched on May 5, 1864 and commissioned
on January 20, 1865. She was sold in 1874 to become the
SS Piscataqua.
Flagship Models has produced two variants of the USS Casco, shallow draft monitor in 1:192 scale. This is the turret-less spar-torpedo variant for USS Chimo
and four others. The other variant is the revised turret equipped variant, which
Flagship entitles USS Casco, although the USS Casco was one of the five that had
a spar-torpedo and not a turret, although the class as a whole was called the
Casco Class. The hull is solidly cast in tan resin but does require a moderate amount
of cleanup. This cleanup includes sanding excess resin off the hull and smaller resin parts, some sanding of a few spots of resin splash and a little bit of
filling/sanding. The hull casting has a lot of interesting detail. Because of the spar-torpedoes and open pivot gun mount, there are a lot more details to be found on
Chimo hull than a turret equipped monitor. The details start at the bow because of the spar-torpedoes. Included are spar rest base plates and guides. The
troughs at the bow are anchor chain chutes designed to prevent damage to exposed anchor chain. The circle at the bow is the covering for the anchor well. The
steel plates are clearly defined. I especially like the raised pivot gun base with the carriage stops along the circumference. The second, smaller circle is the armored
base for the pilothouse. Between the raised bases are incised curving lines. I am uncertain about their purpose. On the outside edge of the hull you’ll find coal
scuttles with hinge detail. Inboard are parallel lines of small porthole skylights that provided extra light for the machinery spaces. At the stern are raised semi-
circles with rivet detail. The
Chimo had propellers that were nine-feet in diameter and extended above the deck into these armored fittings. The bottom of the hull
requires more preparation and cleaning. There are voids ranging from pinhole to small that need to be filled, some sanding to be done and some repair work on the
ends of the shaft housings.

For the smaller resin castings, one has a pour plug and the others are on casting runners, blocks or sheet. The funnel is the part with a casting plug. It has
reinforcing bands, top band and steam pipe with whistle at the top. Light seam marks can easily be sanded. The big gun barrel is well done with a hollow muzzle
and training and aiming fittings. The gun carriage part has detail for metal reinforcement plates and training fittings. The largest runner has eight parts and is
dominated by the open navigation platform with interior access hatch into the pilot house. There are also two tall air ventilators, compass and ship’s wheel post
that are on the open navigation platform, spar rests and galley vent. The galley vent had a medium sized void to be filled. Another long runner had the pilothouse
with vision port holes, torpedo heads, torpedo aiming mechanisms, and torpedo sighting devices. A third runner has the keel extension, rudder and propeller shafts,
which were unfortunately warped and will have to be straightened or replaced with plastic rods. There are three deck access splinter-shield fittings on a casting
sheet for interior access from the deck. The ladder wells on the hull casting are not hollow but
Flagship provides decals to provide the illusion of inclined ladders
descending into the hull, as well as a Union flag decal. The ship’s boats are on casting blocks and have bottom planking and side rib detail. One of mine has a void
in the bottom that will have to be filled. The anchors are also on individual casting blocks. These are very well done with flukes, fittings and U-fittings. Four resin
runners provide four twin bollard fittings with the hour glass shaped and six deck edge open chocks. These parts will require some effort to remove from the
runners, as the bottom bases are the attached to the runners.
A large brass photo-etch fret is provided that has some relief-etching. The largest brass part is a splinter shield that fits around the circumference of the navigation
platform. You’ll have to form the curves and I suggest you use a round wooden dowel as a form to get a consistent curve. The three-piece ship’s wheel and rope/
pulley are brass parts. Also for the navigation deck are individual stanchions with eye-bolt detail. The resin platform doesn’t have locatrr holes for the stanchion
placement but the instructions provide a template for attachment hole location. More stanchions with eye-bolts are provided for the main deck railing. With the
open pivot gun, there are a lot of brass block & tackle, coiled ropes, pulley & deck ropes and other fittings for the gun. At the bow, you get a large perforated
grate between the two spar torpedoes and anchor hoisting davits. The blades for the two propellers are brass with four blades per propeller. For the two ship’s
boats brass parts are provided for the thwarts, individual oars and coiled ropes. The splinter shields for the deck access openings get brass hoops for canvas
covers. Boat davits and separate rope coils are also brass. Plastic rod for the torpedo spars, brass rod and anchor chain are also included.

Instructions are on one back-printed piece of paper. The front page has a plan and profile and four inset sub-steps. These insets provide greater detail on
assembling anchor davits, boat davits, and ship’s boats. A fourth unset shows using a Confederate battle flag decal placed on aluminum foil. Fear Not! Those rebel
scalawags and neer-do-wells have not taken over the stalwart
Chimo, as the kit comes with a Union flag and not  a Confederate one. The back page is all sub-
assembly steps covering: rail/stanchion assembly; awning assembly; propeller assembly; wheel & tiller assembly; rudder assembly; navigation deck assembly;
navigation deck stanchions and awning; bow assembly and gun mount assembly. Also, there is a parts laydown for the resin parts. Although not toe curling, the
instructions are sufficient for assembly.
Listen up you devotees of the Military-Industrial Complex and weapons systems that are grossly over-priced and don’t work, the USS Chimo is for you.
Government bureaucrats and miscreants totally botched a John Ericsson design and ended up with a lightly armored spar-torpedo boat too slow to be used in the
Flagship Models has produced a 1:192 scale multi-media model of this hapless white elephant.
Steve Backer