THE BATTLE OF ISLAND NO. 10, 1862
The inland waterway system was the main artery of commerce for
In order for the North to stop the dominant means of transportation for
the South, the rivers had to be controlled. To accomplish this task a
of ironclad steamboats had to be designed and built.
Many designs and builders were considered; and after much deliberation,
James Buchanan Eads was selected to design and build seven ironclads.
vessels, combined with other rebuilt steamers, comprised the Union's
The first tests for the newly built vessels came on the Tennessee and
Cumberland Rivers in the battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson.
was achieved; and, a great deal was learned about the fighting
of the fleet.
The next big test began on March 17, 1862 at Island No. 10. The island
was located at the bottom of a hard bend in the Mississippi River a
or so above New Madrid, Missouri. Confederate troops on the island were
dug in and heavily fortified. Their goal was to block and protect the
In "THE BATTLE OF ISLAND No. 10, 1862" we are able to view an attack
on the upper battery. The evening battle creates a brilliant display of
firepower from the ironclads. To the right of the composition we see
mortar boats. This was the first use of the barge-like craft which was
designed to serve as a firing platform for a 13" mortar. The mortar was
perhaps as dangerous on one end as the other. The crew members can be
outside the armored area on tiptoes with hands over ears, mouths agape,
and knees flexed against the concussion. In the distance we see the
guns returning fire. It is interesting to note that this is the first
for the ironclads to fight a downstream enemy. By looking closely you
note the anchor lines extending from the sterns of the ironclads. If
the vessel would be at the mercy of the enemy because the current would
carry the steamer and crew within yards of the cannons on the islands.
Little progress was made between March 17 and April 4. Because of the
distance from which each side was firing, major damage could not be
In order to defeat the enemy, the Union had to get ground forces behind
the Confederates island. One or two ironclads had to get past the heavy
guns in order to ferry the Union troops located below New Madrid across
the river and provide fire support.
Plans were made for the Carondelet to run past the batteries at night.
On April 4, under a cover of darkness and during a violent
the task was accomplished.
After the fall of Island No. 10, the remainder of the South's
began to fall. By using Eads ironclads and other support vessels, the
of the commerce for the South were closed.