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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND
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Colonel Lovell

 

(SwRam: t. 521; l. 162'; b. 3010"; dr. 11')

 

Colonel Lovell, previously named Hercules, was built in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1843 and was owned by the Ocean Towing Co. of New Orleans. She was taken over in 1861 by General M., Lovell, commanding the New Orleans military district, and converted to a cottonclad ram by installation of double pine bulwarks filled with compressed cotton and one-inch iron plates on each bow. She operated under the direction of the Confederate War Department and was attached to the Mississippi River Defense Fleet [See Annex II], commanded by Commodore J. E. Montgomery, a former river steamboat captain.

 

On 10 May 1862, while operating off Fort Pillow, Tenn., in defense of the river approaches to Memphis, Colonel Lovell, in company with seven of Montgomery's vessels, attacked the ironclad gunboats of the Federal Mississippi Flotilla. The action of Plum Point Bend which followed witnessed successful ramming tactics by the Confederates, though each of their vessels mounted at least four 8-inch guns. The Federal gunboats Cincinnati and Mound City were run on the banks in sinking condition. Later, Montgomery's force held off the Federal rams and gunboats until Fort Pillow was successfully evacuated on 1 June, and the Confederate rams fell back on Memphis to take on coal.

 

Following the Federal capture of Fort Pillow Flag Officer Charles H. Davis, USN, commanding the Mississippi Flotilla, pressed on without delay and appeared off Memphis with superior force on 6 June. Included in his force were two of the Federal Army's rams, commanded by Col. C. R. Ellett, Jr. Montgomery, unwilling to retreat to Vicksburg because of his shortage of fuel and unwilling to destroy his boats, determined to fight against heavy odds. In the engagement that followed, one of Colonel Lovell's engines malfunctioned and she became unmanageable. She was then rammed amidships by USS Queen of the West, and immediately struck again by USS Monarch, both of the Ellett fleet. Colonel Lovell sank in deep water in the middle of the river. Capt. J. C. Delancy and a number of his crew were able to swim ashore.