The Union ironclads went out to battle at 8:00 am on April 29th, 150 years ago today. Four of the boats would engage the lower Confederate battery of Fort Wade, and after subduing the rebel guns, they would join the other three ironclads in fighting the upper battery, Fort Cobun. Advancing to within 100 yards, the Union ships opened on the forts. The fight continued until 1:30 pm. The ironclads were successful in subduing Fort Wade, but were unable to achieve the same success at Fort Cobun. The ships took heavy damage. The USS Benton took one shot which killed or injured 25 men. Her steering crippled by a shot to her pilot house, she floated downstream. Seeing the Benton’s danger, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Hoel of the Pittsburg maneuvered his ship to cover the Benton, taking the fire from the fort while the Benton could be secured.
After five and a half hours of combat and 80 men lost, Porter decided that it was impossible to capture Grand Gulf. This Confederate victory was only a temporary setback for the Federals. It wasn’t long before the infantry crossed further downstream, and Grand Gulf had to be abandoned when threatened from the rear.