Monday, May 27, 2013

USS Cincinnati Sunk

USS Cincinnati
In the siege of Vicksburg, the Union ironclads were used for their artillery – to bombard the Confederate positions. But that use would not come without a cost. The batteries on the bluff at Vicksburg were still very powerful, and they fired back at the Federal gunboats. 150 years ago their shots found a mark. The USS Cincinnati was sent down to destroy a two gun battery that had been annoying the Union infantry. She had been sunk and raise once before, a casualty of the bombardment of Fort Pillow on May 10, 1862. Now, just over a year later, she would be sunk again. As the Cincinnati moved toward the two guns, they were falling into a trap. There was another Confederate battery on the brush. The Federals could no longer see it, so they assumed that it had been moved. But the rebels had just hidden the guns in the brush. They had also cracked the Union signal code, so they were waiting for the Cincinnati. The Harper's Weekly printed this description of the battle:
She went gallantly into action, rounded the point, and blazed away at the rebel batteries, but the latter were not idle, and all the guns that could be brought to bear—rifled and smooth bore — opened on her. Her tiller ropes were shot away, and she got some heavy shot into her sides. The pilot was killed at the wheel, and her commander took his place. All the men at the wheel were wounded, but Lieut. Bache escaped unharmed.

She started up the river, as she made a great deal of water, rounded again the point of the peninsula opposite Vicksburg, and was struck by a plunging 10-inch smooth-bore or 7-inch rifled shot; she then commenced to sink, and her captain ran her inshore, where she sank to her hammock netting. The officers and crew saved nothing.
When the Cincinnati took a direct hit and her steering was knocked out, her captain knew she was doomed. He was able to drive the ship onto the bank, where she was tied to allow for an easy evacuation. But before the men could be got on shore the ropes came loose and the Cincinnati was pushed out into the river again. She sank in 13 feet of water. Those who could swim jumped over and headed for shore, but many were trapped on board the ship. Four of the crew, Landsman Thomas E. Corcoran, Boatswain's Mate Henry Dow, Seaman Thomas Jenkins, and Seaman Martin McHugh, began helping their fellow crew members escape. They helped them swim to shore. For those badly wounded from the Confederate fire, they returned to the sinking ironclad and repaired a small boat, and loaded the casualties on board. These four swimmers were awarded the Medal of Honor for their conduct. The ship suffered 40 casualties in this disaster. She would later be raised in August, 1863 and return to service


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