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Barataria

 

(StwIrcGbt: t. 400; l. 125'; dr. 3'6"; a. unknown)

 

An unaccountable blackout of information prevails as to the origin and role of little gunboat Barataria (as the name is consistently spelled by Army; Barrataria in Navy records), before she was captured by the U.S. Army at New Orleans in April 1862. It is generally accepted that she must have been ironclad under the Confederates [cf. Vol. I]: In April 1863 she was cited once as "completely covered with iron one inch thick," yet the recorded repair bill of $409.90 would scarcely cover a partial one-inch shield of mail for a vessel of any appreciable size. Confederate published documents shed no light on her during this period. The little sternwheel ironclad was transferred by Lt. Col. A. N. Shipley, USA, to Farragut's command as of New Year's 1863 and is invariably spelled Barrataria thereafter. On 7 April next, she met disaster at 6 a.m. on a snag in Lake Maurepas at the mouth of the Amite River, La. Alternately lightening ship and fighting off guerrillas all day with her two guns and rifle fire by Col. Thomas S. Clark and a company of the 6th Michigan Volunteers, Acting Ensign James F. Perkins, USN, and his command were unable to free Barrataria, even after jettisoning the bow gun and emptying her boiler. The ship was fired at sunset, and her magazine blew up soon after all hands had escaped in small boats. Capt. Gadi Herren, CSA, of the Mississippi Cavalry, inspected her the next day and reported her "a complete wreck" but still exhibiting the numerals "291" and the remaining brass rifled gun; reporting to Colonel J. M. Simonton, CSA, at Ponchatoula, he called Barataria (291) "one of the enemy's most formidable boats on the lake" but seemed unaware that she had been Confederate only a year ago.