Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1862

Confederate ship blown up by crew

The C.S.S. Arkansas, the most feared Confederate ironclad on the Mississippi River, is blown up by her crew after suffering mechanical problems during a battle with the U.S.S. Essex near Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The Arkansas‘s career lasted just 23 days. In August 1861, the Confederate Congress appropriated $160,000 to construct two ironclad ships for use on the Mississippi. Similar in style to the more famous C.S.S. Virginia (Merrimack), the ships were both 165 feet long and 35 feet wide, and were constructed in Memphis. Since a labor shortage delayed completion, they were not finished when the Union captured Memphis in May 1862. One ironclad was burned to prevent capture, and the Arkansas was towed south to the Yazoo River.

Lieutenant Isaac Brown, the ship’s commander, showed great innovation and determination in completing construction of the craft. A sunken barge loaded with railroad rails was raised so that the rails could be bolted to the hull of the Arkansas, and local planters opened their forges to the builders. On July 12, the work was completed and Brown steered the ship down the Yazoo and into the Mississippi.

The Arkansas came out of the Yazoo with guns blazing. She ran off three Union ships, inflicting heavy damage on two of them, and ran a gauntlet of 16 Union ships, damaging several as she slipped down the river toward Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Union commander, Admiral David Farragut, was furious that a single ship could cause so much damage to his flotilla, so he sent his ships in pursuit of the Confederate menace. At dusk, Farragut marked the position of the Arkansas as it lay anchored at Vicksburg. In the dark, he sent his ships one by one past this position, and each ship fired a volley into the spot where the Arkansas should have been. But Brown had fooled the Yankees by moving his ship after dark.

The Arkansas sparred with two other Union ships on July 22, successfully running off the ships but suffering damage to her engines. The ship was ordered south to Baton Rouge on August 3 to support Confederate operations there, but the Arkansas suffered more engine problems and ran aground. While the crew worked on repairs, the U.S.S. Essex steamed up for a confrontation. The Arkansas set sail, but a propeller shaft broke and left the vessel circling helplessly. She ran aground again, and the crew blew up the ship before the Essex could move in for the kill.

Although the Arkansas was never defeated, unreliable engines doomed the craft to an early death.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

First execution by electric chair

At Auburn Prison in New York, the first execution by electrocution in history is carried out against William Kemmler, who had been convicted of murdering his lover, Matilda Ziegler, with an axe. Electrocution as a humane means of execution was first suggested in 1881 by Dr. ...read more

Andy Warhol is born

Andy Warhol, one of the most influential artists of the latter part of the 20th century, is born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A frail and diminutive man with a shock of silver-blond hair, Warhol was a major pioneer of the pop art movement of the 1960s but later ...read more

Green Berets are charged with murder

The U.S. Army announces that Colonel Robert B. Rheault, Commander of the Fifth Special Forces Group in Vietnam, and seven other Green Berets have been charged with premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the summary execution of a Vietnamese national, Thai Khac ...read more

Johnson signs Voting Rights Act

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act, guaranteeing African Americans the right to vote. The bill made it illegal to impose restrictions on federal, state and local elections that were designed to deny the vote to blacks. Johnson assumed ...read more

Lucille Ball born

On this day in 1911, Lucille Desiree Ball, one of America’s most famous redheads and beloved comic actresses, is born near Jamestown, New York. At age 15, Ball went to New York City to attend drama school and become an actress. However, she received little encouragement and was ...read more

Dutch Schultz is born

Arthur Flegenheimer, who will go on to become one of New York’s most feared criminals under the name “Dutch Schultz,” is born in the Bronx. Thirty-three years later, his life came to a violent and bloody conclusion when he was shot down in the men’s room of the Palace Chophouse ...read more

Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima

The United States becomes the first and only nation to use atomic weaponry during wartime when it drops an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Though the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan marked the end of World War II, many historians argue that it also ignited the ...read more

Atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima

On this day in 1945, at 8:16 a.m. Japanese time, an American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, drops the world’s first atom bomb, over the city of Hiroshima. Approximately 80,000 people are killed as a direct result of the blast, and another 35,000 are injured. At least another 60,000 ...read more