Two Confederate ironclad rams, the CSS Palmetto State and the CSS Chicora, unleash a surprise assault Jan. 31, 1863, on Union forces blockading Charleston, S.C., where the Civil War began in 1861.
The Palmetto rammed one Union ship, firing into the vessel and disabling it. The other ironclad went for a second Union ship, showering it with enough artillery shells that it had to be towed away.
After trading fire with Union foes for a while, the low-slung Confederate rams retreated to the safety of Charleston Harbor with only minor damage.
The Confederate vessels briefly harass the Union blockade of Charleston harbor – part of a larger effort to shut off Confederate ports from supplying themselves with arms, ammunition and other goods through the aid of blockade runners. Charleston would immediately fall back under the blockade after the attack.