The Ironclads: Gunboats Deliver the Mississippi and the Civil War

2065 Words Dec 1st, 2007 9 Pages
The Mississippi River system was the highway of the western part of the Confederate and United States. At the beginning of the war, the South controlled the Mississippi from the meeting of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers at Cairo, Illinois to New Orleans, Louisiana. There were several important rebel strongholds along the Mississippi, including Memphis, Island Number Ten, on the Tennessee-Kentucky border, and Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Union realized that controlling the Mississippi River was essential to their strategy because doing so would divide the South and constrain the movement of troops and supplies from western states.
Having realized the importance of controlling the western rivers, the Union then realized that it needed an
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The bluff extending to the southeast corner of the bend was a swamp. The Union knew that it wouldn't be able to capture the island without first having the bank of the river south or east of it. The Union excavated a canal through the swamp from the northeast corner of the bend to New Madrid, which was deep enough for troop transports but not ironclads. Union troops were able to occupy New Madrid, but were unable to get across the river due the Confederate batteries there. They needed the aid of ironclads to get across the river, but the ironclads were unable to get past Island Number Ten during the day because their flanks had little armor to protect then from the rebel fire from the island. The experienced river men padded the vulnerable sides with sacks of coal and stacks of cordwood while wrapping some lightly armored areas with iron chain for additional protection. Then under the cover of night, fog and storm, the USS Carondelet and the USS Pittsburgh ran past the Confederate batteries. They then proceeded to destroy the rebel works on the bluff opposite New Madrid. This allowed the Union troops to cross the river and approach the Fort on Island Number Ten from behind, which quickly collapsed.
The next Confederate stronghold heading was Memphis, Tennessee. Fort Pillow was located eight miles above Memphis, and the ironclad gunboats began shelling it on April 14. Despite

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