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[202] advantage to the enemy which might well have paralyzed anything less than the most resolute will.

In the earlier period of the war the gunboats had inspired a terror which their performances never justified. There was a prevailing opinion that they could not be stopped by land batteries, or resisted on water by anything else than vessels of their own class. Against the first opinion General Richard Taylor, commanding in Louisiana south of Red River, stoutly contended, and maintained his opinion by the repulse and capture of some of the enemy's vessels by land batteries having guns of rather light caliber.

One by one successful conflicts between river boats and gunboats impaired the estimate which had been put upon the latter. The most illustrious example of this was the attack and capture of the Indianola, a heavy ironclad, with two eleven-inch guns forward, and two nine-inch aft, all in iron casemates. She had passed the batteries at Vicksburg, and was in the section of the river between Vicksburg and Port Hudson, which in February, 1863, was the only gate of communication which the Confederacy had between the east and west sides of the Mississippi. The importance of keeping open this communication, always great, became vital from the necessity of drawing commissary's stores from the trans-Mississippi.

Major Brent, of General Taylor's staff, proposed, with the towboat Webb, which had been furnished as a ram, and the Queen of the West, which had been four or five days before captured by the land battery at Fort De Russy, to go to the Mississippi and attack the Indianola. On February 19th the expedition started, though mechanics were still working upon the needed repairs of the Queen of the West. The service was so hazardous that volunteers only formed the crews, but of these more offered than were wanted. On the 24th, while ascending the Mississippi, Major Brent learned, when about sixty miles below Vicksburg, that the Indianola was a short distance ahead, with a coal barge lashed on either side. He determined to attack in the night, being assured that, if struck by a shell from one of the eleven-or nine-inch guns, either of his boats would be destroyed. At 10 P. M. the Queen, followed by the Webb, was driven at full speed directly upon the Indianola. The momentum of the Queen was so great as to cut through the coal barge, and indent the iron plates of the Indianola. As the Queen backed out, the Webb dashed in at full speed, and tore away the remaining coal barge. Both the forward guns fired at the Webb, but missed her. Again the Queen struck the Indianola, abaft the paddle box, crushing her frame and

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