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[35]

Memphis and the Mississipi.

“A spear-thrust in the back” was delivered to the Confederacy by the inland-river fleet that cut it in two. The squadron of Flag-Officer Davis is here lying near Memphis. Thus appeared the Federal gunboats on June 5, 1862, two miles above the city. Fort Pillow had been abandoned the previous day, but the Confederate river-defense flotilla still remained below and the Federals, still smarting from the disaster inflicted on the “Cincinnati,” were determined to bring on a decisive engagement and, if possible, clear the river of their antagonists. Meanwhile four new vessels had joined the Federal squadron. These were river steamers which Charles Ellet, Jr., had converted into rams in the short space of six weeks. Their principle was as old as history, but it was now to be tried for the first time in aid of the Federal cause. On these heights above the river the inhabit ants of Memphis were crowded on the morning of June 6, 1862, as the Federal squadron moved down-stream against the Confederate gunboats that were drawn up in double line of battle opposite the city. Everyone wanted to see the outcome of the great fight that was impending, for if its result proved adverse to the Confederates, Memphis would fall into Federal hands and another stretch of the Mississippi would be lost to the South. In the engagement at Memphis two of the Ellet rams accompanied the squadron — the “Queen of the West” commanded by Charles Ellet, and the “Monarch” commanded by his younger brother, Major Alfred Ellet. The Confederate flotilla was destroyed, but with the loss of Charles Ellet, from a mortal wound.

The fleet that cleared the river

Memphis, Tennessee on the heights

Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred W. Ellet: one of the three Ellets at Memphis


 

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