Ships and Vessels

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Entry Category: Ships and Vessels

Blue Wing No. 2

Originally a commercial vessel, the Blue Wing No. 2—a sidewheel paddleboat—was first used by the Confederates, then seized and put into Union service, and then captured by Confederates with a load of mail and supplies in December 1862. This capture provided the incentive for Union forces to attack Fort Hindman and Arkansas Post in January 1863. The last report on the boat, still in Confederate hands, was in April 1863, and it was likely sunk or scuttled in the summer of 1863. The Blue Wing No. 2 was a 170-ton steamboat built by the Howard company at Jeffersonville, Indiana, in 1850. The vessel measured 150 feet long by thirty feet wide and was powered by three forty-two-inch-by-twenty-two-foot boilers. Commanded by …

Celeste

As part of the Union’s Mississippi River Squadron, the sternwheel steamer Celeste served on the Mississippi River and its tributaries, including expeditions on the White River during the ongoing battle for control of significant interior rivers in the Trans-Mississippi Department during the Civil War. The Celeste displaced 300 tons, but specific details about its construction and acquisition by Union forces are not known. In late August 1864, Brigadier General Christopher Columbus Andrews, commanding the Second Division of the Seventh Army Corps headquartered at DeValls Bluff (Prairie County), ordered an expedition up the White River to locate and pursue the troops under the command of Brigadier General Joseph Orville Shelby and Colonel Archibald Stephenson Dobbins. The initial phase of this expedition …

Commercial [Steamboat]

As part of the Union’s Mississippi River Squadron, the steamer Commercial served as an auxiliary vessel on the Mississippi River and its tributaries, including expeditions on the White River during the ongoing battle for control of significant interior rivers in the Trans-Mississippi Department during the Civil War. Specific details about its construction and acquisition by Union forces are not known, but the Commercial displaced between 295 and 500 tons and may have served at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, after the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862 and regularly served under charter on the western rivers. Between March and May 1863, the Commercial served in conjunction with the steamer Tycoon transporting refugees from Memphis, Tennessee, to Cairo, Illinois, and St. Louis, Missouri. …

CSS Arkansas

During the Civil War, the Confederate navy’s ironclad vessel bearing the state’s name was the ram CSS Arkansas. It was in use only twenty-three days, yet earned the rage of the Union and the respect of the Confederacy. The Confederate navy’s task to defend rivers from its better-equipped adversary’s attacks and blockades required the building of vessels capable of meeting the challenge. To this end, on August 24, 1861, the navy ordered two ironclads from Memphis, Tennessee, shipbuilder John T. Shirley; one was christened the CSS Arkansas. The CSS Arkansas’s keel was laid in October 1861, with work continuing through the winter. While the vessel was under construction, news arrived that Union naval forces were en route to capture Memphis. …

CSS General Earl Van Dorn

aka: CSS Van Dorn
aka: CSS Earl Van Dorn
aka: CSS General Van Dorn
aka: Junius Beebe
The CSS General Earl Van Dorn was a Confederate ram that saw combat on the Mississippi River before being set afire and blown up on the Yazoo River in 1862. The steamboat that would become the CSS General Earl Van Dorn was built as the Junius Beebe in Algiers, Louisiana, in 1853. The sidewheel towboat was 182 feet long, 28.3 feet wide, and 10.7 feet deep and was owned by the Good Intent Towboat Company. The Confederate army acquired the Junius Beebe in 1862 and fitted the vessel out as a ram with a new name honoring the general who commanded Confederate troops at the Battle of Pea Ridge. The Van Dorn was attached to the Mississippi River Defense Fleet. …

CSS General M. Jeff Thompson

The CSS General M. Jeff Thompson was a Confederate ram that saw combat on the Mississippi River before being set afire and blown up during the 1862 Battle of Memphis. The Confederate War Department purchased fourteen boats in 1862 with the intent of converting them into warships as the Mississippi River Defense Fleet under the command of Captain James E. Montgomery. One of them was named for M. Jeff Thompson, a brigadier general in the Missouri State Guard who would see extensive service in Arkansas. Conversion of the steamboat, the original name of which is unknown, into the ram General M. Jeff Thompson began in New Orleans, Louisiana, on January 25, 1862, with the addition of a sheathing of four-inch-thick …

CSS General Sterling Price

aka: CSS General Price
aka: CSS Price
aka: Laurent Millaudon
aka: L. Millandon
aka: Milledon
The CSS General Sterling Price was a Confederate ram that saw combat on the Mississippi River before being sunk during the 1862 Battle of Memphis, after which it served the rest of the Civil War as a Union warship. The Confederate War Department purchased fourteen boats in 1862 with the intent of converting them into warships in the Mississippi River Defense Fleet under the command of Captain James E. Montgomery. One of them was the Laurent Millaudon, a 483-ton sidewheel towboat built in 1856 in Cincinnati, Ohio, for the Good Intent Towboat Company and commanded by Capt. W. S. Whann. The Confederates renamed it the General Sterling Price after the Missouri State Guard general who led troops in extensive action …

CSS Maurepas

Like many vessels that saw active military service with the Confederate navy during the Civil War, the CSS Maurepas started out as a civilian vessel engaged in river commerce and transportation. In 1858, J. A. Cotton of New Orleans, Louisiana, contracted with the shipbuilding yards in New Albany, Indiana, for a wooden-hulled sidewheel steamer packet named the Grosse Tete. Upon completion, the vessel measured 180 feet with a thirty-four-foot beam. It weighed 399 tons, drafted seven feet, and carried a crew of seventy-nine. Between 1858 and 1860, the Grosse Tete worked the New Orleans–Bends commercial trade route, piloted by Captain Isaac Hopper. In 1860, the Bayou Sara Mail Company purchased the Grosse Tete and placed it under Captain J. McQuoid for …

CSS Pontchartrain

The CSS Pontchartrain was a Confederate warship that served on the Arkansas and White rivers. While it never saw combat in Arkansas, the Pontchartrain played a supporting role in several battles and affected Union strategy in 1862 and 1863. The CSS Pontchartrain began its career as the Lizzie Simmons, a 454-ton sidewheel paddleboat built at New Albany, Indiana, in 1859. The Lizzie Simmons ran between New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Ouachita River in 1860 under Captain George Hamilton Kirk; it then worked the river between New Orleans and Memphis, Tennessee, under Captain W. B. Richardson. The Confederate navy purchased the ship in October 12, 1861, and converted it into a gunboat in January and February 1862. It was renamed the …

Dove [Steamboat]

As part of the Union’s Mississippi River Squadron, the steamer Dove served as a chartered vessel on the Mississippi River and its tributaries, including expeditions on the White River during the ongoing battle for control of significant interior rivers in the Trans-Mississippi Department during the Civil War. Dove displaced 350 tons, but specific details about its construction and acquisition by Union forces are not known. In the 1850s, Master John Box operated Dove as a passenger and commercial transport on the Arkansas River between New Orleans, Louisiana; Napoleon (Desha County); and Fort Smith (Sebastian County). On March 30, 1864, the Dove transported Union troops up the White River to Gregory’s Landing (Woodruff County) for Brigadier General Christopher Columbus Andrews’s operations …

Hallie [Steamboat]

The Hallie was a shallow-draft steam packet built in the spring of 1873 to trade along the waters of the Arkansas River. It was scuttled during the Brooks-Baxter War in 1874 after the Battle of Palarm. Captain A. M. Woodruff built the Hallie in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in the spring of 1873 to provide reliable transport services on the Arkansas River, which was often difficult to traverse because of low water. He named it for the young daughter of Captain J. N. Jabine, who also commanded steamboats on the river. It made its maiden run to Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in early April, with the Arkansas Gazette reporting on April 13 that the vessel “proves to be one of …

Homer

The Homer was a steamboat that plied the waters of the Ouachita River in the early 1860s. It achieved significance for its role in the Camden Expedition of 1864, when Union troops seized it, along with its cargo, and sunk it. Confederate soldiers later used its timbers to bridge the Ouachita. The Homer, built for $30,000 in Parkersburg, Virginia (now West Virginia), in 1859, went into service on November 14, 1859, at the Port of Cincinnati, Ohio. It was a 194-ton sidewheel packet measuring 148 feet long, twenty-eight feet wide, and five feet deep. Its co-owners were Levi Hopkins of Mason County, Virginia, and his father-in-law, stock dealer and farmer William H. Neale of Parkersburg. Neale and Hopkins sold the Homer …

J. H. Miller

The stern-wheel steamer J. H. Miller joined the Union navy’s Mississippi River Squadron and served under charter on the Mississippi River and its tributaries during the Civil War, including expeditions on the White River. The capture and destruction of the J. H. Miller illustrates the ongoing battle for control of significant interior rivers in the Trans-Mississippi Department, almost a year after Union forces took control of Little Rock (Pulaski County). In February 1864, the J. H. Miller, displacing 130 tons, began chartered service on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. According to Captain Stephen R. Harrington of the Fifth Kansas Cavalry, reporting from camp thirty miles from Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on the north bank of the Arkansas River, an …

John D. Perry

The side-wheel steamer John D. Perry joined the Union navy’s Mississippi River Squadron, serving under charter on the Mississippi River and its tributaries, including expeditions on the White River during the ongoing battle for control of significant interior rivers in the Trans-Mississippi Department. Built by the Howard Shipyard of Jeffersonville, Indiana, in 1858 and initially home-ported at Louisville, Kentucky, the John D. Perry displaced 382 tons. Its exact date of transfer to Federal service is not known, but John S. Nanson owned and piloted it as a river transport in Missouri in the late 1850s. In the first month of the Civil War, Confederate sympathizers briefly used the Perry in an unsuccessful attempt to transport ammunition southward down the Mississippi …

Kaskaskia

The Kaskaskia was a small steamboat used by Confederate forces on Arkansas waters until its 1863 capture by Union troops during the Little Rock Campaign. The Kaskaskia was a forty-nine-ton sidewheel steamboat built in 1859 at Cincinnati, Ohio, and initially operated on the Ohio River out of Evansville, Indiana. After the Civil War began, the vessel was employed by the Confederacy, and by the summer of 1863, it was serving as a troop transport and towboat on the White and Little Red rivers in Arkansas. Following the July 4, 1863, Battle of Helena, the Kaskaskia was sent to Clarendon (Monroe County) to remove supplies from there in the event that Federal forces moved against Little Rock (Pulaski County), and then …

Kate Hart

As part of the Union’s Mississippi River Squadron during the Civil War, the sternwheel steamer Kate Hart served as a chartered vessel on the Mississippi River and its tributaries, including expeditions on the White River during the ongoing battle for control of significant interior rivers in the Trans-Mississippi Department. Built in 1864 in Paducah, Kentucky, the Kate Hart displaced between 279 and 300 tons of water and joined the Mississippi River Squadron in the summer of 1864, serving with two barges. Erroneous reports claimed that the Kate Hart burned in July 1864 during an operation on the White River under Brigadier General Eugene Asa Carr against Brigadier General John Sappington Marmaduke, but the vessel served until the end of the …

Mill Boy [Steamboat]

The Mill Boy was a small commercial steamboat that served as a portable grist mill and was later put in the service of the Union army during the Civil War. The Mill Boy was an eighty-six-ton sidewheel paddle boat constructed on the Monongahela River in 1857 at Chambersburg, Ohio, by Captain Josiah Cornwall, who equipped the vessel as a floating grist mill and general store. The Mill Boy was initially powered by horses pacing on treadmills attached to the sidewheels, but in 1860 a boiler and small engine were added. Cornwall sold the vessel to other investors at about the time the Civil War began. On December 17, 1862, the Mill Boy, then under the command of Captain L. C. …

Resolute

The steam tug Resolute joined the Union navy’s Mississippi River Squadron, serving during the Civil War under charter on the Mississippi River and its tributaries, including expeditions on the White and Red rivers during the ongoing battle for control of significant interior rivers in the Trans-Mississippi Department. Acquired on January 1, 1862, by the U.S. Quartermaster for use as a chartered auxiliary vessel on the Mississippi River and its tributaries, the steam tug Resolute displaced thirty tons and served with two barges. According to Brigadier General Christopher Columbus Andrews, who commanded the Second Division of the Seventh Army Corps headquartered at DeValls Bluff (Prairie County), an indeterminate number of unidentified Confederate partisans fired at the Resolute at 8:00 p.m. on …

SS Ouachita Victory

The SS Ouachita Victory was a Victory ship launched on May 8, 1945, from Wilmington, California and named for Ouachita College (now Ouachita Baptist University). The title of SS stands for “steam ship” and should not be confused with USS, which signifies it as a “United States Ship.” Although it was used during World War II, the Ouachita was not associated with the United States Navy. The California Shipbuilding Corporation built the SS Ouachita Victory. The ship was 455 feet long and was composed of three decks. It could travel at a speed of fifteen knots. Lightly armed with small guns, Victory ships were never meant for battle. Their primary function was to transport cargo and troops. Only three victory …

Steamboats (Civil War)

Steamboats during the Civil War won little glamour but played a critical role. With rivers serving as the lifeblood of the Confederacy, steamboats permitted the rapid movement of heavy cargo up and down the waterways. Both Union and Confederate forces in Arkansas relied on steamboats to move troops and supplies, with Little Rock (Pulaski County), Helena (Phillips County), Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), and DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) serving as supply centers and shipping hubs. Essentially, steamboats made the war effort possible. By the start of the Civil War, the great majority of Arkansas’s commerce traveled by steamboat. Flatboats and keelboats had once moved agricultural products downriver to New Orleans, Louisiana, but neither type of boat could easily make the return …

Sultana

The Sultana steamboat disaster in 1865, at the end of the Civil War, has been called America’s worst maritime disaster. More people died in the sinking of the riverboat Sultana than on the Titanic. However, for a nation that had just emerged from war and was still reeling from the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the estimated loss of up to 1,800 soldiers returning home on the Mississippi River was scarcely covered in the national news. The remains of the steamboat are believed to lie buried in Arkansas. Those aboard the boat were mostly Union soldiers from Midwestern states such as Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana. Having been taken prisoners of war, they were sent to the notoriously overcrowded Confederate prisons …

USAV Gen. Brehon B. Somervell (LSV3)

The USAV Gen. Brehon B. Somervell (LSV3) is a Frank S. Besson–Class logistical support vessel named for Brehon Burke Somervell, a Little Rock (Pulaski County) native who was essential to the United States’ logistical efforts during World War II. Brehon Burke Somervell was born in Little Rock on May 9, 1892. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1914 and served in the 1916 Punitive Expedition into Mexico prior to shipping off to France during World War I. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal and a Distinguished Service Cross for his service there. He served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after returning to the United States and, during the Great Depression, …

USNS Gilliland (T-AKR-298)

The USNS Gilliland is a Gordon-class large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off (LMSR) ship originally built as a Danish cargo ship before being modified to join the U.S. Military Sealift Command. The vessel is named for Charles Gilliland of Yellville (Marion County), who earned a posthumous Medal of Honor for valor during the Korean War. Charles Leon Gilliland joined the U.S. Army on his seventeenth birthday in 1950, just two months before the Korean War began. He was serving with Company I of the Seventh Infantry Regiment when his company position was attacked near Tongmang-ni, Korea, on April 25, 1951. Gilliland held the main attack at bay with his automatic rifle and, though wounded, volunteered to stay behind and cover his fellow soldiers’ …

USNS Private William H. Thomas (T-AP-185)

aka: SS Alcoa Cruiser
aka: USS Rixey (AHP-3)
The USNS Private William H. Thomas was a Tryon-class evacuation transport built in 1941 that was renamed in 1946 for a Wynne (Cross County) native who received a Medal of Honor during World War II. William H. Thomas was born in Wynne on January 13, 1923. He was serving as a Browning Automatic Rifle gunner on Luzon in the Philippine Islands on April 22, 1945, when a Japanese satchel charge blew off both of his legs beneath the knee. Refusing medical attention, Thomas continued fighting until his weapon was disabled and he ran out of grenades. Thomas died of his wounds, and he received a posthumous Medal of Honor for his valor. The Private William H. Thomas originated as the …

USNS Sisler (T-AKR 311)

The USNS Sisler is a Watson-class large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ship (LMSR) launched in 1998 and named for George Kenton Sisler, a graduate of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro (Craighead County) who earned a posthumous Medal of Honor for valor during the Vietnam War. Dexter, Missouri, native George Kenton Sisler was born in 1937 and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1964 shortly after his graduation from what is now Arkansas State University with an education degree. On February 7, 1967, while operating with a Special Forces unit and South Vietnamese troops deep behind enemy lines, Sisler and his comrades were attacked. Sisler carried wounded comrades into a defensive perimeter and fought off repeated enemy attacks before being mortally wounded while …

USNS Watkins (T-AKR-315)

The USNS Watkins is a Watson-class large, medium-speed roll-on/roll-off (LMSR) ship launched in 2000 and named for Travis E. Watkins, an Arkansas native who received a Medal of Honor for heroic actions during the Korean War. Travis E. Watkins was born in Waldo (Columbia County) on September 5, 1920, but moved to Texas with his mother and brothers after his parents divorced. He joined the U.S. Army in 1939 and earned a Bronze Star at Guadalcanal during World War II. Remaining in the army, he had risen to the rank of master sergeant by the time the Korean War began. On August 31, 1950, he and a group of thirty soldiers were cut off from the rest of their regiment …