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Building and Commissioning of the Arkansas.

The construction of the ram was begun at Memphis; but seeing the risk of exposing her to capture there, General Beaurgard ordered her sent down to the Yazoo River, about the middle of May, with directions to have her properly guarded, and every exertion made to finish her forthwith. These orders came to Brig. Gen. M. L. Smith, but the command of the post soon after passed to Major General Earl Van Dorn. From the navy department orders were sent to First Lieut Isaac N. Brown, C. S. N., to assume command of the ‘Arkansas’ and finish the vessel without regard to expenditure of men or money. It was provided by President Davis that complete co-operation should be maintained by the Confederate army and navy in defence of Vicksburg, under Major General Van Dorn. The mouth of the Zazoo River was obstructed and guarded, while the armored ram was undergoing, for six weeks, the necessary work of preparation in safety, high up on the stream.. The delays and difficulties of completing the vessel for service, under [3] all the circumstances of the case, taxed to the severest degree of energy, perseverance and hard labor, the ability of her commander, officers, crew and workmen. No one can appreciate the history of the ‘Arkansas’ without doing full justice to the arduous work of those six weeks of preparation up the Yazoo. Besides the construction and armament, the training of a crew, mostly landmen, for practice with the larger guns, was a labor of the heaviest sort, in the exhausting heat of the season.

On June 20, 1862, the Confederate steamer ‘Arkansas,’ having been completed according to the material at the disposal of her commander, Isaac N. Brown, left Yazoo City and descended the Yazoo River to Liverpool Landing, where an earthwork and raft of logs were in position to prevent the Federal fleet from ascending the river. The officers of the ‘Arkansas’ were: Lieut. I. N. Brown, commanding; First Lieut. Henry K. Stevens, executive officer; Lieuts. John Grimball, A. D. Wharton, G. W. Read, Alphonse Barbot, George W. Gift; Surgeon H. W. M. Washington; Assistant Surgeon Charles M. Morfit; Assistant Paymaster Richard Taylor; First Assistant Engineer George W. City; Second Assistant Engineer E. Covert; Third Assistant Engineers William H. Jackson, E. H. Brown, James T. Donald, John S. Dupuy, James S. Gettis; Acting Masters Samuel Milliken, John L. Phillips; Midshipmen R. H. Bacot, D. M. Scales, H. S. Cooke, C. W. Tyler, D. B. Talbott; Master's Mate John A. Wilson; Paymaster's Clerk, Wilson; Gunner T. B. Travers; Pilots John Hodges, James Brady, William Gilmore, J. H. Shacklett,——Montgomery. Her crew consisted of 200 seamen, landsmen, firemen, soldiers and boys. She mounted 10 guns, viz, two 8-inch columbiads forward, two 6-inch astern and two 9-inch, two 6-inch and two 32-pounder guns in broadside. She was 165 feet in length, with 35 feet of beam, and drew 11 1/2 feet of water. Her plating was of railroad iron, 4 1/2 inches in thickness, and her general appearance was long and rakish. Wilson.

While her shields, fore and aft, were slanted, her sides were not, but stood perpendicular to the water, unlike most of the other rams. An excellent drawing by one of her officers at the time, and now in possession of Lieut. John Grimball, of Charleston, shows this to have been her build, and in this particular differs from the frontispiece illustration in Vol 19, Official Records, above mentioned.

Her engines were low pressure, and her two propellers acted independently. It is said she also had a steam hose apparatus, by [4] which she could repel boarders—a novelty first introduced in naval warfare. * * Gen. Van Dorn reported thirty-seven vessels of the enemy were in sight from Vicksburg. * * * He therefore commanded Lieut Brown to take his vessel through the raft at Haine's Bluff, * * * and attack the upper fleet of the enemy to the cover of the Vicksburg batteries. The Yazoo empties into an old channel of the Mississippi, twelve miles above the city of Vicksburg; and this old channel runs into the main river three miles below the mouth of the Yazoo. In order to reach the landing at Vicksburgh it was necessary for Lieut Commander Brown to pass his vessel by no less than forty of the most formidable sloops, gun, boats, rams and transports then in the service of the United States navy.

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