Civil War Period Telescope, Map Tube, Log Book of Captain Augustus Kilty of the USS Roanoke



Civil War Period Telescope, Map Tube, Log Book of Captain Augustus Kilty of the USS Roanoke – This fine group of USS Roanoke related items consists of Captain Augustus H. Kilty’s personal telescope, his document or map tube, and the Roanoke’s steam log from the 1st quarter of 1865.

  1.  Telescope – A relatively small (13.5”) long telescope with a single telescoping section. It is wrapped in a burgundy leather with “U.S. STEAMER ROANOKE” painted along one side. The leather has an expected number of bumps and bruises but considering its age it’s in excellent condition. The small size of the telescope was perfect for Kilty; he lost his left arm earlier in the war.
  2. Tin document or map tub – 16” long, with “U.S. STEAMER ROANOKE” painted long one side (same style and color as the painting on the telescope) and “CAPT A.H. KILTY” painted around the removeable cap (same style and color as the other painted inscriptions). The tube has the expected patina and a few dents. The letter is crisp and bright.
  3. Steam Log for the U.S. Steamer Roanoke for the first quarter of 1865 – Log provides a daily location of the Roanoke and the status of ship’s engines. The log book lost its spine but it has the original cover and end papers. The actual pages are in great shape and easily read.

Augustus Kilty

US Navy Rear Admiral. He was appointed to the Navy from the State of Maryland on July 4, 1821, and as a midshipman was stationed aboard the “Franklin” under the command of Commodore Stewart on the Pacific station. For the next several years he served in various assignments including survey duty on the coast of Louisiana as well as serving aboard the frigate “Constitution”. In early 1832 he was promoted to past midshipman and served aboard the schooner “Grampus,” on the West India Station until 1834 when he was transferred to the receiving ship “Sea Bull”. By late 1837 , now Lieutenant Kilty, he was assigned to the East India squadron aboard the sloop of war, “John Adams.” For the next decade or so he served in various venue’s, included serving on the frigate “United States” in the Mediterranean, as well as the coast of Africa and Brazil. In 1854 he was transferred to the receiving ship “North Carolina” then assigned at New York. The following year he was promoted to commander and in 1860 he was transferred to Balitmore, Maryland where he made a name for himself by refusing to lower the America flag, then flying over the naval station is that city. An angry crowd had demanded the lowering, but he refused threatening to “blow the brains of the first man that touched the flag.” The Secretary of the Navy intervened and ordered the flags to be lowered temporarily. In July of 1862 he was promoted to Acting Captain and was transferred to the “St. Louis”, to aid in organizing the flotilla under Admiral Foote. He took command of the gun boat “Mound City,” and was engaged at Island Number Ten, and Fort Pillow. In the latter engagement the “Mound City” was sunk, and Commander Kilty and his crew barely escaped with their lives. The “Mound City” was raised and repaired and in 1862 he was given command of a fleet of gun boats which made an attack on Fort Charles, on the White River, about one hundred miles from the Mississippi. After a ferocious battle, in which one hundred of his men were killed, his squadron prevailed winning the victory for the Union forces. He himself was seriously wounded losing his left arm in the battle. After recovering from his wounds he was promoted to full captain and assigned to ordnance duty in Baltimore. In 1863 he was given the command of the frigate “Roanoke,” at the time considered the most formidable in the Navy, followed by command of the “Vermont”. In 1866 he was commissioned Commodore and was appointed the commanding officer of the Norfolk navy yard until July 1, 1870 when he was retired with the rank of Rear Admiral. After his retirement he moved to Washington where he remained for a few years, but soon returned to Baltimore where he died. Kilty devoted fifty eight years of his life to the Navy and his country.


Born at Annapolis, Maryland, Kilty was appointed midshipman on July 4, 1821. He served in the frigate Constellation in the West India Squadron from 1827, then in the frigate Hudson in the Brazil Squadron from 1829. Kilty was promoted to passed midshipman on April 28, 1832, and served aboard the schooner Grampus in the West India Squadron in 1832–34.

He was commissioned as a lieutenant on September 6, 1837, and served on the sloop John
in the East India Squadron, taking part in Commodore George Reid’s operations in defense of American merchantmen at Quallah Batto in 1839. He then served on the
frigates Columbus and United States in the Mediterranean Squadron between 1843 and 1848.

In 1850 he was stationed on the receiving ship at New York, and was at Baltimore a year later, returning to New York in 1855. Kilty was simultaneously promoted to commander on September 14, 1855, and placed on the Reserve List.

Kilty returned to the Active List on January 6, 1859, and was stationed in Baltimore in 1860 as a recruiting officer. From 1861 Kilty commanded the ironclad gunboat Mound City of the Mississippi Flotilla, and saw action at Island No. 10 and Fort Pillow. He commanded an expedition to White River, Arkansas, and during the operation, on June 17, 1862, was severely wounded, causing the loss of his left arm. Kilty received his commission as a captain on July 16, 1862, and spent the years 1863–64 on ordnance duty. He commanded the ironclad frigate Roanoke in the North Atlantic Squadron from 1864 to 1865, and was promoted to commodore on July 25, 1866, and served as the Commandant of the Norfolk Navy Yard. Kilty was placed on the Retired List on November 25, 1868, and received promotion to rear admiral on July 13, 1870. He died on November 10, 1879.


By John V. Quarstein Posted on September 24, 2020

The USS Roanoke was a Merrimack-class steam screw frigate built at the Gosport Navy Yard. The frigate was commissioned in 1857 and became the flagship of the Home Squadron. When the Civil War erupted, Roanoke captured several blockade runners and fought during the March 1862 Battle of Hampton Roads. Noting how the Confederates had transformed Merrimack into the ironclad CSS Virginia, the wooden Roanoke was converted into an ironclad at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The new Roanoke featured three turrets; however, the extra weight of the iron made the vessel unstable and it spent the rest of the war in Hampton Roads, Virginia, and was scrapped in 1883.

A Novel Example of Naval Architecture

The USS Roanoke, named after the Roanoke River, was a Merrimack-class steam screw frigate. It was laid down at Gosport Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, in May 1854. When the Roanoke was launched amidst a large cheering crowd, it immediately sank to the bottom of the Elizabeth River. The frigate had to be raised before it could be completed.

USS Roanoke General Characteristics

Displacement: 4,472 tons.

Length: 263.8 ft.

Beam: 52.6 ft.

Draft: 23.9 ft.

Speed: 8.8 knots Steam/ 10.5 knots Sail only.

Machinery: 1 screw, 2 cylinder horizontal direct-acting trunk engine, 4 Martin boilers, 997 hp (The machinery was constructed at Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia.)

Compliment: 674 officers and men.

Armament: 1 x X-inch Dahlgren pivot gun

2 x 12-pounder smoothbore howitzers

14 x VIII-inch Dahlgren shell guns

28 x IX-inch Dahlgren shell guns.

(This frigate was a rather well armed ship for the 1850s. The X-inch Dahlgren pivot gun had a range of 3,000 yards using a 103-pound shell. The 28 IX-inch shell guns could fire a 72.5- pound shell 2,300 yards, and the other 14 VIII-inch Dahlgren’s could fire a 51.5-pound shell 2,300 yards.

Propulsion System

The Roanoke was a rather well armed warship as were most of the Merrimack-class. Likewise, these frigates were designed for sailing with the engine systems installed only for going in and out of port as well as for maneuvering during battle. John Lenthall, chief, US Navy Bureau of Naval Construction, had designed the ship with a sheer hull to enable the frigate to make its maximum speed while operating only under sail. This made this class of frigates gun platforms unstable in heavy seas.

The Roanoke could unfurl 48,757 feet of canvas. The engine could only produce 869 HP at the propeller shaft. The engines required 103 HP to start, and when all this power was delivered to the segmented propeller shaft, 65 HP was lost from the friction of the shaft mounted on unstable supports. Perhaps Roanoke’s most notable feature was the use of a screw propeller which enabled all the machinery to be installed beneath the water line providing the engine with some protection from enemy fire. The Roanoke’s propeller was a two-blade bronze screw with a spherical hub designed by Robert Griffiths.

This concept endeavored to enhance engine power while also operating under sail. Griffiths’ idea featured a narrow blade design and fitted the propeller in its socket with an automatic pitch gear  to increase the pitch as the velocity increased. When operating under steam, the propeller was set at thirty-six degrees. The blades would be set at zero and locked vertically behind the stern post to reduce drag for operations under sail. In addition to the locking device, Merrimack-class frigates were fitted with a bronze frame hoist system called a banjo. This allowed the propeller to be hauled out of the water for maintenance. As further proof that Lenthall preferred sail power, he made the funnel telescopic, which allowed the smoke pipe to be lowered when the engine was not in use.

The USS Roanoke arrived at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on March 25, 1862. Work immediately began transforming the old frigate into an ironclad. The yard removed the warship’s masts, rigging, and everything else above the upper deck except for the funnel. An additional boiler was installed to operate the turret engines. The vessel was cut down to its gun deck. The hoisting screw was removed, and a smaller propeller was installed. Novelty Iron works of New York City received the contract to fabricate, shape, and install all of Roanoke’s ironwork.

The original concept conceived that Roanoke would mount four Passaic-class style turrets. The great weight of these turrets with their guns was too great of a load for Roanoke’s frame. Instead, three Passaic-class turrets were used. These turrets were protected by 11 layers of one-inch iron plates. The forward two turrets mounted stationary pilothouses which were protected by nine layers of one-inch iron plates. Original plans were altered to enable Novelty Iron Works to armor the warship. The original plans called for six layers of one-inch iron plates; instead, Novelty installed a single 4.5-inch plate which was tapered to 3.5-inch below the waterline. The deck armor was designed to be 2.5 inches; however, it was cut down to 1.5 inch plate to save weight.

The Roanoke had numerous serious flaws. Each turret weighed 127 tons. Added to the turret weight were the heavy guns. A XV-inch Dahlgren: 43,000 lbs.; XI-inch Dahlgren: 16,000 lbs.; and 150-pounder Parrott rifle: 16,300 lbs.[19] This entire load was only supported by a series of stanchions that transferred the load to the ironclad’s bottom. Nothing was done to reinforce and strengthen the lower portion of the hull. The stress caused the ironclad to constantly leak. The ship had a very deep draft and only a six-foot freeboard which caused the ship to roll excessively, especially in heavy seas. The wooden hull was just not strong enough to manage the underwork’s weight. The excessive draft meant that Roanoke could not operate in the shallow southern waters on blockade duty. And the freeboard was too small for Roanoke to operate as an ocean-going ironclad.

The Roanoke’s battery was superior to most other ships afloat. While mounting only six guns; these weapons were some of the best and most powerful naval ordnance in existence. The Roanoke was designed to house four XV-inch shell guns; however, there was a limited number of these cannons available, so the builders substituted more XI-inch Dahlgrens. The forward turret contained one XV-inch shell gun and one 150-pounder Parrott rifle. The middle turret had  one XV-inch and one XI-inch Dahlgren. The back aft turret had one XI-inch shell gun and one 150-pounder Parrott rifle]. Along with these heavy guns, Roanoke was also fitted with an ax-shaped ram which was formed from two 4.5-inch plates which reached two feet beyond the bow.

The Roanoke was recommissioned on June 29, 1863, Captain Benjamin F. Sands commanding. Sands was from a prominent military family and joined the US Navy as a midshipman on April 1, 1828. He served on the brig USS Washington during the Mexican War and was commander of the gunboat USS Dacotah prior to being detailed to command  Roanoke.[22] He took the ironclad from New York in early July 1863 to Hampton Roads, Virginia. Even though the ship could make 8.5 knots and could cruise at 7 knots, that was the best news to come from that trip. The ironclad’s commander made a far more brutal assessment of the vessel.

Sands recorded that the heavy warship’s roll was so great that it would not enable “the possibility of fighting her guns and I was obligated to secure them with pieces of timber to prevent them fetching away.” Once in Hampton Roads, Sands test-fired the ship’s artillery. Both XV-inch Dahlgrens and one 150-pounder Parrott rifle had such a violent recoil that they were knocked off their carriages. Sands recommended that Roanoke remain in Hampton Roads as a harbor defense ship.

The final captain of the ironclad Roanoke was Captain Augustus Henry Kilty. Appointed midshipman in 1821 and promoted to lieutenant in 1837, Kilty was promoted commander in 1855 and was immediately placed on the Reserve List. Returning to the Active List in 1859, Kilty commanded the ironclad USS Mound City and fought at Island No. 10 and Fort Pillow on the Mississippi. Promoted captain on July 16, 1862, he was severely wounded during an expedition up the White River in Arkansas and lost his left arm. He commanded Roanoke during the last year of the war and took the ironclad to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for decommissioning, arriving on April 27, 1865.