Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 33.djvu/13

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Story of the Confederate Armored Ram Arkansas. 9

had sustained. By going up the opposite bank of the river, she could be plainly seen. Two battles such as not a boat in the world ever went through before had failed to demolish her."

With a Union fleet, thus, above and below her, the "Arkansas" continued to be exposed to a daily and nightly shelling by 1 3-inch mortars from the i6th to the 22nd of July. To be fairly struck by one of these mortar shells was to ensue destruction only frag- ments came on board, and no severe damage was suffered; but the danger was great, and her moorings were frequently changed.


In a few days after the last action the Confederate armored ram was ready to assume the offensive. Steaming up the river, she had the satisfaction of putting to flight the mortar boats under tow of the Eads iron-clads, all escaping by their superior speed.

" On the 2ist of July, Flag Officers Farragut, Davis and W. D, Porter held a council of war on board the ' Benton,' at which Com- mander Porter volunteered the service of the ' Essex ' to make an effort to destroy the 'Arkansas;' " and the following programme was agreed on : ' ' That on the morning of the 22d, precisely at 4 o'clock the whole available fleet, under command of Flag Officer Davis, was to get under way, and when within range, to bombard the upper batteries at Vicksburg; the lower fleet, under Flag Officer Farragut, was to do the same, and attack the lower batteries; the ' Essex ' was to push on, strike the rebel ram, deliver her fire, and then fall behind the lower fleet.

This armored ram, the "Essex" was held to be the strongest vessel of war in the Federal fleet. She was, in appearance, unlike the " Arkansas," having sloping sides and shields fore and aft, pierced and carrying three heavy guns each. The Confederates rated her (from their knowledge) superior to their own vessel, but she never proved herself to be so. Designed to operate with the "Essex" in the approaching action was one of Lieut. Col. Ellet's rams, the " Queen of the West," already met and put to flight by the "Ar- kansas "in the early morning fight on the Yazoo River.

W. D. Porter, commanding the "Esssex," reports: "On the morning of the 22d, I got under way and passed the ' Benton,' I arrived at the ram, delivered my fire and struck her; the blow glanced and I went high on the river bank with the bows of the ship, where I lay ten minutes, under three batteries of heavy guns, I back- ed off and loaded up. The enemy had drawn up up three regiments