Federal Ships at Vicksburg

June - July 1862




About the Crewmen

Crewmen Sorted by Regiment (pdf)

Notes on the Ram

Casualty Reports

Official Reports

"The Wind of Cannon Balls"



Friends of the Arkansas

The Arkansas in Art

The Arkansas in Poetry

Personal Letters




Federal Ships
at Vicksburg

Specifications of
the Arkansas

Notes on

Bibliograpy and Abbreviations

This page of ships gives an idea of what the river at Vicksburg, Miss., must have looked like when the Arkansas rounded from the Yazoo River into the currents of the Mississippi. Farragut's ocean-going, blue water ships of the Federals were not seen on the river, as a rule, and this forest of masts and sails and smoke stacks must have made a sobering and formidable impression on the citizens of Vicksburg. Joining them were the auxilliary ships and boats --  the tows, barges, supply ships, and a hospital ship.  The brown water boats are also included, belonging to Commander Charles Davis' river fleet, and David D. Porter's mortar boats, which had to be towed to Vicksburg. and boats of the Ellet ram fleet.


More images and information coming.

Richmond, steam sloop


Hartford (Farragut's flagship), steam sloop


Another view of the Hartford

Brooklyn, war sloop

Katadin, gunboat

Benton (Davis' flagship), ironclad gunboat

Drawing of the Benton showing side elevation (top) and a cut-away view showing the paddlewheel. Not evident on these illustrations is that the single paddlewheel is centered in the boat.

Conestoga, steamer

Iroquois, steam sloop

The Carondelet at ease, with awnings spread to protect the men from the sun. The Carondelet was one of the three boats sent up the Yazoo River on 15 July 1862 to reconnoiter for the Arkansas.

Another view of the Carondelet.

The Tyler at anchor with a mortar boat being tied up on shore. Note the  barrel of the mortar itself above the top edge of the mortar boat. The Tyler's sidewheels are protected from enemy fire by heavy cladding.

The Tyler in a photograph, showing timber cladding more clearly. She was one of the three boats sent up the Yazoo to reconnoiter and encountered the new ram Arkansas.

Harriet Lane, side-wheel steamer, revenue cutter

Another view of the Harriet Lane



From left to right, the ships are Itasca, Pinola, Kennebec, and Winona. This is a portion of a larger sketch.

Itasca, Pinola, Kennebec, and Winona

The Clifton, side-wheel steamer serving with the mortar flotilla.

The Clifton, at right, using her fire hose on a
fire-raft sent down river by the Rebels.

The Kensington

The Red Rover (hospital ship), originally a Confederate vessel, she was damaged at Island 10 and taken by Federals. After repairs, she was fitted out for a Federal hospital ship.

Oneida, steam sloop

Another view of the Oneida, this time decked out
in celebratory fashion.

The Miami, a side-wheel double-ender steamer, coaling from the schooner barely seen on the other side of her.

Octorara, a side-wheel steamer, David D. Porter's flagship

An image of the Wissahickon itself was not found.
These sailors onboard the Wissahickon
pose with their 11-inch Dahlgren gun.

J. C. Kuhn, a bark (barque)


Laurel Hill, a transport, is at left

A detail from the sketch at left, showing the Laurel Hill.

J[ohn] P. Jackson, a side-wheel steamer

Westfield, steamer


The Horace Beals, bark

The General Bragg

The large ship is the Octorara, David D. Porter's flagship.
To the left, is the Sidney C. Jones, mortar sloop, burned 15 Jul 1862
at Vicksburg. This is a detail of a larger drawing
showing David D. Porter's mortar fleet.



The Sciota is in the background, the second ship from left.
Only a portion of the ship (a gunboat) is shown here
but her two masts and smokestack are evident.


The Louisville. Note the shutters to secure the gun ports.

A photograph of the Louisville.


The Essex, an ironclad steamer, taking on coal in late July 1862


Another view of the Essex. Note what are probably "heads"
on back of boat.


The Kineo (at right), a screw steamer, and the Hartford  (behind her) at a coaling wharf at Baton Rouge, La., in Mar 1863.

This picture is cut from the photo at left. This gives a closer look at the steamer Kineo (at right). The three-masted steamer Hartford is behind it. Note the anchor hanging from the front of the Kineo.


Mortar Boats, Also Called Mortar Rafts


The drawing at left is a detail of a larger drawing showing attacking boats on the Mississippi north of Memphis in April 1862. This portion shows the mortars in action and gives a good idea of the look of the simple mortar boats. These had only side walls to protect the soldiers. They had no engines so that they were pulled behind the larger boats and placed out of sight of the enemy. From their hidden spots, they could rain screaming shells on their opponents. A 13-inch siege mortar with a 20-pound charge could shoot a 200‑pound shell over two miles.

As a rule, these mortar boats did not have names but were designated by numbers.


Federal gunboats of the Mississippi River Squadron attacking
Island No. 10 on 7 Apr 1862. Note the mortar boats (or rafts) along the shoreline (detail from above image).


A mortar boat hidden by brush against the riverbank. The mortar
fires at a target a mile or more away. The mortar team
takes to the outer platform of the mortar boat to avoid the worst
of the noise.

A grouping of mortar boats could work out of sight of their target
and deliver screaming, whistling shells against the enemy. The
high sides of the boats protect the men from sharpshooters
on the banks. Note the men cleaning out and loading the mortar and the man who apparently fires the mortar -- each man on a mortar team had his own job.

A mortar boat tied up at the riverbank. Note the tent to give shelter to the men on duty.


Commander Porter's Mortar Flotilla of Mortar Sloops and Schooners

Onboard a Federal mortar schooner

The Federal Sidney C. Jones was a mortar sloop and was located immediately south of Vicksburg. However, on the approach of the Arkansas at Vicksburg 15 Jul 1862, the Sidney C. Jones, its crew fearing an encounter with the ram, was run ashore and set afire. The crew took to the woods of DeSoto peninsula.



Ellet's Rams

The Lancaster (left) and the Switzerland

The Ellet ram, Switzerland, at right, with the Lancaster in the distance behind her. This drawing depicts the moment the Lancaster was struck by shells while running with the Switzerland past the Vicksburg bluffs on 25 Mar 1863. The Lancaster's boiler was hit and exploded, and she was so damaged that she sank. Both boats were also at Vicksburg during the First Siege in 1862. (Naval History and Heritage Command, image number NH 59103; ORN I-20, pg. 23)

The artist has entitled this sketch above, "Colonel Ellet's ram fleet of the Mississippi." It is dated 1862. The "armor" of these boats is made up at this time of timber and cotton bales. Steamers have their initials between the smokestacks, indicating their names.

The seven Ellet rams were a small fleet of existing ships that had been purchased in different places and reconstructed for ram duty.

Four were side wheelers -- Queen of the West (flagship), Monarch (in foreground above), Switzerland, and Lancaster.

Three were stern wheelers -- Lioness, Sampson, and Mingo.

In addition to the rams, two smaller stern wheel tenders, the Fulton and Horner, were supply ships to the rams.


The Ellet ram Queen of the West, one of the three boats sent up the Yazoo to reconnoiter and encountered the new ram Arkansas.

Queen of the West.


Would all these vessels have fit on the river at Vicksburg?

The picture below is taken of the dock and river at Vicksburg. It was apparently taken before 1865, as the James Watson, shown in the photo at left, sank in March 1865.

The width of the river here is judged to be about one-half mile wide. Across the water is the Desoto peninsula and the tiny community of Desoto. At this time it appears to be a mixture of what appears to be houses and tents.

In 1876, the river cut through Desoto peninsula south of Williams' canal, in effect, doing what Williams and Grant had attempted to do with shovels, that is, cut Vicksburg off from the Mississippi River. The peninsula became an island known as Desoto Island.

 Today, the Yazoo Diversion Canal channels the Yazoo River past Vicksburg as it continues south and joins the Mississippi. This canal is responsible for keeping the city a thriving port on the river.

In the picture, across the river and through the treetops, one can see the water of the Mississippi as it curves back to the north on the other side of the peninsula. Here is where Commanders David Glasgow Farragut and Charles Henry Davis anchored their vessels, out of reach of the Confederate batteries on and below the bluffs. Their mortar boats and mortar sloops were anchored along the far edges of the peninsula, out of sight of any artillery. They were also anchored against the riverbanks, where they were hidden the brush below Vicksburg.

In 1862, the large crowds that gathered on the bluffs of Vicksburg could easily see the Arkansas fighting its way through the many vessels of the Federal fleets in a struggle around the point of the peninsula (unseen to the right in the picture) to arrive and and tie up at Vicksburg.

Note in the photo the smoke from the smokestacks blowing in the southerly wind, and the horses and carts on the landing.

Thanks to artist David Kleinman for repairing and enhancing this photo.

Photo by Allan N. Leese

Did the Federals who camped on Desoto peninsula the summer of 1862 encounter this creature? Or other wildlife?

Probably not so much, as Desoto was populated and had several large farms with cleared areas on it before the Federals came. Also, the railroad station was there in Desoto, connected to Vicksburg by a ferry that carried people, as well as the train itself, across the river. The train traveled Desoto peninsula on a levee and service was from Delta to Baton Rouge. Plans were, before the war, for the train service to eventually terminate on the west coast.

This alligator is sunning on the bank of what is now Desoto Island, across from Vicksburg. The photo was taken Oct 2010 by  Allan N. Leese of Vicksburg, who enjoys fishing the river. He writes, "My skiff is 15 ft. long and that alligator was longer than my boat. As soon as I took his picture, he raised his head up and looked at me. That's when I vacated the place and left it to him! Saw him a couple of times later that month, but he is gone now. Guess the floods moved him on his way."



Benton, Brooklyn, CarondeletClifton here and here, Dick Fulton (an Ellis ram), Essex here and here and here, General Bragg ORN Series I, Vol. 19, Harriet Lane, Hartford here and here, Horace Beals, A. Houghton here and here, Iroquois, Itasca, J. C. Kuhn, J. P. Jackson, Katahdin, Kennebec here and here (not pictured), Kineo (ironclad gunboat) here and here and here and here, Lancaster (an Ellis ram), Laurel Hill, Lioness (an Ellis ram), Louisville, Miami, Mingo (an Ellis ram), Monarch (an Ellis ram) here and here, Mortar boats here and here, Octorara here and here, Oneida, Pinola,


 Queen of the West, Red Rover (hospital ship) here and here, Richmond here and here, Sciota here and here, Sidney Jones, Sumter, Tyler, Westfield, Winona, Wissahickon (a gunboat, not pictured). Any image label beginning with NH comes from Naval History and Heritage Command.

Images not found -- A. Houghton, Sumter, Norfolk Packet, Matthew Vassar, Henry Janes, Sarah Bruen, Adolph Hugel, George Mangham, Great Western here and here


Thanks to Bryan Skipworth and David Kleinman for assistance with research for this page.