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Memphis in Shelby County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
 

Naval Battle of Memphis, 1862

 
 
Naval Battle of Memphis, 1862 Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, April 20, 2014
1. Naval Battle of Memphis, 1862 Marker
Inscription. Atop these bluffs in the early morning hours of June 6, 1862, the citizens of Memphis gathered in excited anticipation as the Confederate River Defense Fleet steamed out into the Mississippi to meet the descending Union Gunboat Fleet. The “cotton-clad” Confederate fleet, under the command of Captain James E. Montgomery, was comprised of 8 converted wooden paddlewheel steamboats (Little Rebel, Colonel Lovell, Sumter, General Price, General Beauregard, General M. Jeff Thompson, General Bragg, and General Van Dorn), and was armed with a total of 18 cannon and protected by ‘armor’ of cotton bales and oak planking. The Union fleet (Carondelet, Benton, Cairo, Cincinnati, Louisville, Mound City, Pittsburg, and St. Louis), commanded by Commodore Charles Henry Davis, carried 79 cannon and was clad with iron plating. These ships were followed by nine new unarmed “Ellet” rams.

At approximately 5:30 a.m. the fleets engaged in a fierce long-range cannon duel, fighting for 90 minutes with little effect. Suddenly two unarmed Union rams darted through the smoke and joined the action. The Queen of the West immediately sank the Colonel Lovell but was rammed by the Beauregard. The Monarch damaged other vessels, while the ironclads closed to a deadly range. The citizens
Naval Battle of Memphis, 1862 Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, April 20, 2014
2. Naval Battle of Memphis, 1862 Marker
exuberance turned to gloom as, one after another, the outgunned Confederate ships were knocked out of action. The raging battle wound to a close with three “cottonclads” sunk, three grounded, one captured, and one escaped. On the Union side, one ram was run aground and another heavily damaged, the rest of the fleet suffered damage but all other ships remained afloat. Charles Ellet, Jr., the designer and commander of the Union Ram Fleet, was the only Union casualty, dying a few days later from a marksman’s gunshot wound.



The City of Memphis, with Confederate troops having previously been ordered away to Corinth, Mississippi, was now defenseless, and U.S. marines were sent ashore to occupy the city. Mayor John Park refused to surrender but conceded that he was powerless to prevent the city’s fall.

The loss of Memphis, the Confederacy’s fifth-largest city, home of a naval manufacturing yard, and a key Southern industrial center, now opened up the Mississippi River to Union invasion all the way south to Vicksburg, Mississippi, and opened West Tennessee to occupation.

(captions)
(left: top to bottom) United States of America 34-star 1862 National Flag; USS Carondelet 542-ton Cairo-class ironclad river gunboat, Armed with 13 cannon, 251 officers and men; “Colonel Ellet’s Ram Fleet, 1862” Line engraving
Naval Battle of Memphis, Cannon overlooking the bluff image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, April 20, 2014
3. Naval Battle of Memphis, Cannon overlooking the bluff
published in Harper’s Weekly
(right: top to bottom) Confederate States of America First National Flag; CSS General Beauregard (right) is struck by the ram Monarch (with “M” on smokestacks, partially hidden by the Beauregard); CSS General Sterling Price Notice the aft deck gun. Damaged and sunk in shallow water during the battle. Later raised by U.S. forces, repaired and renamed USS General Price.
 
Erected 2008 by West Tennessee Historical Society, Forrest Historical Society, Sons of Confederate Veterans, N. B. Forrest Camp 215 and Shelby County Historical Commission.
 
Location. 35° 8.802′ N, 90° 3.264′ W. Marker is in Memphis, Tennessee, in Shelby County. Marker is on North Front Street south of Jefferson Avenue, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. The marker is located in Confederate Park. Marker is in this post office area: Memphis TN 38103, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Confederate History of Memphis (a few steps from this marker); Confederate Park (a few steps from this marker); Memphis and Shelby County Medical Society (within shouting distance of this marker); Capt. J. Harvey Mathes (within shouting distance of this marker); Jefferson Davis Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); Elizabeth Avery Meriwether (within shouting distance of this marker); Virginia ("Ginnie") Bethel Moon (within shouting distance of this marker); Cobblestone Landing (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Memphis.
 
Categories. War, US CivilWaterways & Vessels
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on June 24, 2014, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Md 21234. This page has been viewed 461 times since then and 20 times this year. Last updated on May 3, 2015, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on June 24, 2014, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Md 21234. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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