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James Battle


(SwStr: t. 407)


James Battle or Battle was a fast, shallow-draft river steamer of Mobile, built in New Albany, Ind., in 1860 with high pressure machinery. Considered for arming as a gunboat to defend Mobile, Battle was not armed like the Morgan class only because of the farsighted policy of Flag Officer Victor M. Randolph, CSN, who rejected palliatives and would have nothing to do with anything but ironclads for his fleet.


Turned down finally as a gunboat, Battle undoubtedly served the Confederate Army in varied transport services, under Capt. Jesse J. Coxe, until captured running the blockade; she was laden with naval stores and over 600 bales of cotton on 18 July 1863 70 miles southeast of Mobile bar when overhauled by USS De Soto and Ossipee. Armed with four 12-pounders and kept for "temporary use... to scour the coast" from Tampa to St. Marks, Fla., prize steamer Battle under Lt. Comdr. A. A. Semmes, USN, was instrumental in bringing about the destruction of another blockade runner, a cotton warehouse at Bayport and assisting other naval operations in Florida.


Battle, in the words of Adm. Theodoras Bailey, USN, was "the finest packet on the Alabama River and was altered to suit her for a blockade runner at a large expense." As such, whether within the scope of this listing as fully Confederate Government-owned or not, Battle deserves special mention as representative of a class of the newer river steamers with high-pressure plants whose light hulls the Confederates converted at great expense but with relative success for quick dashes across the Gulf to Havana or Nassau with cotton. Admiral Bailey complained: "The Warren, Fannie, William Bagley [captured same day as Battle by same blockaders], W. H. Smith, Alabama, Alice Vivian and St. Mary's are other vessels of the same class. The De Soto is the only vessel I have with sufficient speed to overtake any of these traders."—Farragut's Ossipee apparently was another. Histories of these ships are omitted since it is not certain they all were public vessels, but Alice Vivian at least did some troop carrying as evidenced at the time of her capture by De Soto, 16 August 1863, with the whole staff and baggage of Brig. Gen. James E. Slaughter, CSA—only by merest accident missing the general too.