Attack on Steamer Perry

The 1864 attack on the Union side-wheel steamer John D. Perry illustrates the ongoing battle for control of significant interior rivers in the Trans-Mississippi Department, one year after the fall of Little Rock (Pulaski County) to the Union.

In the spring of 1863 the Union Army’s Quartermaster Department chartered the John D. Perry for service on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. According to Brigadier General Christopher Columbus Andrews, who commanded the Second Division of the Seventh Army Corps headquartered at DeValls Bluff (Prairie County), approximately 100 unidentified Confederate partisans attacked the Perry on September 9, 1864, just below Clarendon (Monroe County) from the east side of the White River while the vessel transported a portion of Major General Joseph A. Mower’s command to DeValls Bluff.

Andrews did not report any Union casualties. No Confederate reports or casualty figures exist for this incident. Despite the capture of Little Rock in September 1863, small regular and irregular Confederate attacks on Union Navy vessels continued to hamper operations on and along the state’s major rivers. A similar attack occurred against the steam tug Resolute in this same general portion of the White River on October 11, 1864.

The Perry continued to serve under charter on the western rivers until at least July 11, 1865. After the Civil War, the Perry served as a packet transport on the White River until it inexplicably burned and sank while moored at the DeValls Bluff docks on the evening of May 6, 1869.

For additional information:
Gibson, Charles Dana, and E. Kay Gibson. Dictionary of Transports and Combatant Vessels Steam and Sail Employed by the Union Army, 1861–1868. Camden, ME: Ensign Press, 1995.

Huddleston, Duane, Sammie Cantrell Rose, and Pat Wood. Steamboats and Ferries on the White River: A Heritage Revisited. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1998.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 41, Part I. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1893.

Robert Patrick Bender
Eastern New Mexico University–Roswell


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