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Mississippi

 

(IrcStr: t. 1,400; l. 260'; b. 58'; dph. 15'; dr. 12'6"(incomplete); s. 14 k.; a. des. for 20 guns incl. 4 7"pivots)

 

CSS Mississippi was built by N. and A. F. Tift in a shipyard erected for the purpose in Jefferson City, La., just beyond the city limits of New Orleans. Construction was started on 14 October 1861 and she was launched on 19 April 1862. A fast, triple-screw steamer, she was far from complete at that time, having neither her 20 guns nor ammunition on board.

 

"The celebrated ram," as Admiral Porter called Mississippi in his battle dispatch, was later described by Commander Sinclair as "a formidable ship—the finest of the sort I ever saw in my life; she would, in my opinion, not only have cleared the river of the enemy's vessels but have raised the blockade of every port in the South."

 

There took place in September following her loss a lengthy and intense investigation of Mississippi's builders, brothers Nelson and Asa Tift, and all officers and civilians responsible for her construction, premature launching and destruction; transcript of the hearings, readily accessible in libraries, is excellent background reading on the early Confederate Navy.

 

It was only at the last minute that Comdr. Arthur Sinclair, CSN, designated as her commanding officer, attempted to take her up the river when the Federal fleet under Flag Officer Farragut appeared from below Forts Jackson and St. Philip on 25 April, but his objective thwarted, he fired her to prevent capture.

 

Machinery was fabricated by Jackson & Co. and by Patterson Foundry, locally. The last two guns, bow and stern 7"-rifles, pivoted, were a late addition. Schofield & Markham, Atlanta, rolled 1,000 tons of armor plate and the bolts alone weighed another 80 short tons; plating ranged from 1˝" to 3˝". Hull thickness was 2 feet at the sides, 3 at bow and stern.