Sunday, July 15, 2012

The CSS Arkansas Fights at Vicksburg

At this time Vicksburg, the last remaining Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, was being attacked by the Federal navy under Flag Officers David Farragut and Charles Davis. However, 150 years ago today, the situation was brightened for the southerners with the attack of the CSS Arkansas.

The Arkansas was an ironclad begun in October 1861 in Memphis Tennessee. With the approach of the Federal ships here sister ship, the Tennessee, had to be burnt, but the Arkansas was far enough along that she was able to be taken to Yazoo City to be finished. Captain Issac Brown was sent out by the Navy Department to finish and captain her. Gathering local workers, in six weeks he had her fit for duty, excepting a few section of curved armor. He gathered a crew of 160 men, sailors from river boats and also infantry soldiers. Although they were inexperienced, they were spoiling for a fight. "The only trouble they ever gave me" Brown said, "was to keep them from running the Arkansas into the Union fleet before we were ready for battle." When his preparations were complete he set sail for Vicksburg to attack the Union fleet. On the way there it was discovered that steam had gotten into the forward magazine and wet the powder, making it useless. However, Brown pulled over to shore, spread the powder on tarps and was able to get it dry enough to explode by sundown, so he against out on his way.

Just after sunrise, 150 years ago today, the Arkansas can in sight of three Union fleet, the ironclad Carondelet, ram Queen of the West and wooden gunboat Tyler. Brown attacked, and soon disabled the Carondelet with a shot in her steering mechanism. He pursued the other two ships down river, and turning a bend came upon the rest of the Federal fleet, "a forest of masts and smokestacks." Not halting for a moment, the Arkansas bore down upon them. The Federal ships, not expecting an attack, did not have their steam up and therefore were imobile. The Arkansas sailed through the entire fleet, trading shots with the ships, and arrived safely in Vicksburg amid the cheers of the populace, who had watched the bold run.
David Farragut

Farragut was not content to let this ship remain in Vicksburg. That night he ran his fleet past Vicksburg, and as he did, tried to destroy the Arkansas. In this he was again unsuccessful. His ships missed their target in the darkness, and only one shell struck the Confederate vessel, killing two and wounding three. When the day was over the Federals had lost 23 killed, 59 wounded and 10 missing, probably drowned. The Arkansas lost only 12 killed and 18 wounded. Although the Arkansas had not sunk any ships, she had delt a blow at Union pride and was a constant threat to the Federal fleet around Vicksburg, forcing them to keep under constant steam. The Federals tried to destroy her again on July 22nd. The ships which made the attempt tried to ram but could not sink the Arkansas and instead were riddled with shot from ship and shore. Having tried twice to destroy the peskey Confederate vessel, Farragut and Davis left Vicksburg with their ships, it having been clear already that infantry were required to capture the city.


Post a Comment