Confederate Park - Naval
Battle of Memphis, 1862
Shelby County, Tennessee
Battle of Memphis, 1862
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
River 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, Pittsburgh, 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 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 Ellt, 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
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.
512-ton Cairo-class ironclad river gunboat
Armed with 13 cannon
251 officers and men
"Colonel Ellet's Ram Fleet, 1862"
Line engraving published in Harper's Weekly
Switzerland, Samson, Lancaster, Lioness, Queen of the West,
CSS General Beauregard (right) is struck by the ram Monarch
(with "M" on smokestacks, partially hidden by the
General Sterling Price
Notice the aft deck gun.
Damaged and sunk is shallow water during the battle. Later
raised by U.. Forces, repaired, and renamed USS General
Sponsored by West Tennessee Historical Society, Forrest
Historical Society, Son of Confederate Veterans, N.B.
Forrest Camp 215 and Shelby County Historical Commission,