CSS Arkansas Ironclad

CSS Arkansas:


Ironclad Warship

Keel Laid:

October 1861


Approximately 800 tons


165 ft.


35 ft.


8 knots


232 Officers and Men


CSS Arkansas was constructed for the Confederate States Navy. Construction started in October of 1861; Arkansas was in a dry dock at Memphis, Tennessee next to the sister ship, CSS Tennessee. In April 1862, Arkansas was removed from the dock unfinished to prevent capture when Memphis fell. Arkansas was put back into dry dock at Greenwood, Mississippi, and finished in June of 1862.

Arkansas’s first battle was at Vicksburg. July 15, 1862, Arkansas came across three Union vessels, the ironclad Carondelet, the wooden gunboat Tyler, and the ram Queen of the West. Arkansas quickly disabled Carondelet with a shot through its steering mechanism. The other two vessels went back to the Union Fleet. Following the vessels, Arkansas went in close to the fleet and started to exchange fire with them. Arkansas passed them without taking a hit and arrived at Vicksburg. That night the Union Fleet ran past the batteries at Vicksburg and attempted to destroy Arkansas. Although unsuccessful, one shot did land on Arkansas killing two men and wounding three.

With the appearance of Arkansas at Vicksburg, and the need for the army to take the town, the commander of the Union Fleet, Flag Officer David G. Farragut, got orders to retreat back to New Orleans. Arkansas went to dock at Grenada, Mississippi, where the captain could repair the engines. However before they could start the repairs, they were ordered to go to Baton Rouge, where Arkansas would support an attack on the Union position there. On the way to Baton Rouge the engines broke several times showing how unreliable they were. On the morning of August 6, Arkansas caught sight of USS Essex and moved to engage the ship when both engines failed. With nothing they could do, the Captain abandoned ship after rigging it to explode. At about noon on the same day, with the Union fleet watching at a distance, Arkansas was scuttled, coming to rest ten miles north of Baton Rouge.