Telegraph No. 3 [Steamboat]

The Telegraph No. 3 was a steamboat used as a transport by the Union army during the Civil War. It suffered a boiler explosion, hit a snag, and sank near Osceola (Mississippi County) on November 23, 1863; three men drowned because of the accident.

The Telegraph No. 3 was built at Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1853 for the U.S. Mail Line. The vessel was fast, having made a speed trial from Cincinnati to Louisville, Kentucky, in nine hours and fifty-one minutes.

The U.S. Army was using the Telegraph No. 3 as a transport vessel during the Civil War, and the steamer was heading down the Mississippi River from Cairo, Illinois, toward Memphis, Tennessee, on November 23, 1863, with a cargo of 4,000 bags of grain and “a number of passengers.” As the vessel approached Osceola, the boiler’s drumhead—one newspaper account said its “mud receiver”—burst, sending the vessel floating downstream uncontrolled.

The Telegraph No. 3 ran into a snag, which punched a hole in its hull, and sank rapidly to where its lower decks were under seven feet of water. Three Black men were drowned, and a pair of crew members were scalded, as the vessel settled on the river bottom; a newspaper predicted the steamer “will doubtless be raised.” A passing steamboat, the Continental, picked up the passengers and transported them to Memphis.

Less than a month later, the Telegraph No. 3 was indeed raised and apparently returned to service, though it was ultimately dismantled.

For additional information:
“Disaster on the Mississippi.” New York Times, November 28, 1863, p. 3.

Maysville [Kentucky] Weekly Bulletin, December 17, 1863, p. 2.

“River News.” Evansville [Indiana] Daily Journal, December 19, 1863, p. 4.

“Steamer Telegraph No. 3 Sunk.” Wheeling [West Virginia] Daily Register, November 28, 1863, p. 3.

“Still Another Steamboat Disaster.” Memphis [Tennessee] Bulletin, November 25, 1863, p. 2.

Way, Frederick, Jr. Way’s Packet Directory. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1983.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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