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1862 July 23: A Fight on the Yazoo River Near Vicksburg

July 28, 2012

From the July 23, 1862, issue of The Hudson North Star.  First the editor’s recap of “The News,” and then the paper’s lead article on the CSS Arkansas.

THE NEWS.

In all the despatches we publish there is nothing of special importance.

The news from General Pope is encouraging and plainly shows that in his department there is to be some dash.—Whether he has captured 40,000 muskets or not, time will tell.

Our fleet above Vicksburg was caught knapping [sic], or else how could that little iron plated rebel steamer Arkansas make such a dark hole through the Federal flotilla and anchor, all safe, under the confederate batteries.

General orders are said to be forthcoming from the President, which will secure uniformity of action throughout the entire army.

Immense war meetings have been held in all the principal cities east, and enlistments are rapidly going on.  Thirty thousand men are said to be already enlisted.

Another Merrimac in the Field.
An Iron Plated Rebel Vessel on the Mississippi.
A FIGHT ON THE YAZOO RIVER.
REBEL VESSEL RUNS DOWN.
SHE ARRIVES AT VICKSBURG.
SAFE UNDER ITS BATTERIES.
Our Soldiers Caught Napping.

PHILADELPHIA, July 20.—A special dispatch to Forney’s Press states that a telegram from the Grenada (late Memphis) Appeal, reports the rebel ram and ironclad gunboat Arkansas, under command of Col. J. N. Bryan, came down from the Yazoo River on the 15th inst., ran by a portion of our fleet, which lies above Vicksburg, successfully, and anchored under the batteries surrounding the city.

The Appeal says the ram ran down several Federal war vessels, and disabled many more.

One of our vessels was blown up.  The Arkansas is a very formidable gunboat, being plated with 2 inch iron with plated and nails rivited [sic].  She has a very heavy armament, and is furnished with two propellers, seven feet in diameter, with four flanges each.

The rebel loss is set down at ten killed and thirteen wounded.  The Federal loss is not known, but it is said to have been heavy.

CSS Arkansas, from the Naval Historical Center (see footnote 1)

CAIRO, July 21.The despatch boat which arrived from Memphis brings the following account of the escape of the rebel gunboat Arkansas:

Several of our gunboats started up the Yazoo to reconnoiter.  Eight miles from its mouth they came suddenly upon the Arkansas lying under a bank.

As our boats rounded the bend she opened upon them with 68-pounders.

Our gunboats returned the fire and for a short time a fierce engagement ensued.

Finding that the channel of the river prevented successful maneuvering they dropped down towards the mouth, the Arkansas following them closely.

Just as the latter was passing over the bar the Carondelet closed with her, intending to board.  She succeeded in throwing the grapple aboard and getting out plank, when the Arkansas opened her steam pipe throwing hot water across the plank.  The Carondelet replied in the same manner.

While thus engaged both vessels grounded.  The Arkansas succeeded in getting off.  The Carondelet remained fast for nearly an hour.  The Arkansas immediately passed down the river preceded by one of our gunboats, maintaining a running fight with her greatly superior adversary.

None of our gunboats with the fleet had steam up, and the entire  fleet was so scattered that few of them could open on the Arkansas as she passed, without danger of hitting our own boats as she approached.

A solid shot from Farragut’s [David G. Farragut] gunboat number six struck her starboard side but passing through under the plating, tipped it off for a considerable distance.

“What further damage was done was not ascertained.  The injuries to our fleet were light.  The Benton received a shot killing one man.

1.  The following is from the Naval Historical Center’s page on the CSS Arkansas:
“CSS Arkansas, an ironclad ram, was built at Memphis, Tennessee, in 1861-62. Incomplete when Union forces closed in on Memphis in May 1862, she was towed up the Yazoo River to Yazoo City, Mississippi, and finished as far as circumstances allowed. On 15 July 1862, her enterprising commanding officer, Lieutenant Isaac Newton Brown, CSN, took Arkansas down the Yazoo, where she encountered the U.S. gunboats Carondelet and Tyler and the ram Queen of the West, leaving the first two badly damaged. Continuing out into the Mississippi River, she boldly fought her way through the assembled Federal fleet and came to rest under the protection of the Confederate fortress at Vicksburg. While at Vicksburg on 22 July, Arkansas was attacked by the Queen of the West and ironclad Essex, but was not severely damaged. Though badly in need of repairs, she was next ordered to steam down the river to assist Confederate forces in an attack on Baton Rouge, Louisiana. While carrying out this mission on 6 August 1862, CSS Arkansas suffered a severe machinery breakdown during an engagement with the Essex, drifted ashore and was burned to prevent capture.”
The image of the Arkansas was done by R.G. Skerrett in 1904 and is also from the Naval Historical Center’s webpage. (Photo #NH 61912-KN)

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