Art from the National Parks Service
But the recently built gunboat with armored plating and 11-inch Dahlgren guns would soon meet an early demise. While patrolling the Mississippi near the mouth of the Red River, the Indianola came under attack Feb. 24, 1863, by two enemy rams. Pursued and rammed several times, the Union ironclad lost power and ran aground.
Its crew had no choice but to surrender. The loss of the Indianola struck a major blow to the Union Navy in its struggle to gain supremacy over the lower Mississippi. Days afterward, The Mobile Advertiser & Register in Alabama reported on the Indianola's surrender in a dispatch from Port Gibson, Miss. The report quoted Confederate Lt. Col. Fred B. Brand as saying vessels under his control pursued the U.S. ironclad and "engaged her for an hour."
Some of the fighting was at close quarters before it was quickly over. "We went alongside, when Commander Lieut. Brown, U.S.N., surrendered to me. As all credit is due to (Confederate) Major Brent, I have turned over to him, in a sinking condition, the prize which we hope to save. Only five were hurt."
Confederate forces, hoping to claim the partially sunk river gunboat as their own, did try to salvage the Indianola but detonated the ship's magazine when another Union vessel approached. Badly damaged by the blast, the Indianola would never be restored to service even after the Union took Vicksburg in July 1863. Elsewhere this week 150 years ago in the war, Confederate fighters seized and destroyed Union supplies being carried by mule train through Tennessee.