150 years ago, on February 14, 1863, the flagship of the Union naval ram fleet, the Queen of the West, was captured by the Confederates. The ram had already seen plenty of action at the Battle of Memphis, participating in an attack of C.S.S. Arkansas. The ram had also run the batteries at Vicksburg, carrying out a commerce raiding and blockade mission below Vicksburg.
On the 14th of February, the Queen of the West threaded its way up a tributary to the Mississippi River searching for Confederate transport boats. Captain Charles Rivers Ellet reported:
“The dense smoke of several boats rapould be seen over the tops of the trees as we approached. I ordered the pilot to proceed very slowly, and merely show the bow of the Queen around the point. From the sharp bend which the river makes at this palace there was no apparent difficulty in withdrawing out of range of the enemy’s guns whenever it might be desired. The rebels opened upon us with four 32-pounders the moment we came in sight. Their guns were in a fine position, and, at the THIRD shot, I ordered Mr. Garvey, the pilot, to back the Queen out. Instead of doing so, he ran her aground on the right-hand shore. The position at once became a very hot one. Sixty yards below we would have been in no danger; as it was, the enemy’s shots struck us nearly every time. The chief engineer had hardly repeated to me that the escape-pipe had been shot away, when an explosion below and a rush of steam around the boat told me that the steam-pipe had been cut in two…”
For the full report:
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