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This week 150 years ago in the Civil War, the Union lost the USS Mississippi when the warship ran aground on the Mississippi River.
Built in 1839, the side-wheel steamer had taken part in expeditions during the war against Mexico and also in the Mediterranean and Pacific waters before the Civil War. The ship had been part of a Union squadron led by the famed future admiral, David Farragut, who captured New Orleans in 1862.
However, the Mississippi remained most of its time at New Orleans after the conquest because it was designed as deep draft ocean-going vessel. On March 14, 1863, the ship ran aground attempting to pass Confederate batteries near Fort Hudson as part of a battle group seeking to run upriver on the key inland waterway. Feverish attempts were made under enemy fire to free the Mississippi, but the efforts proved fruitless and Union officers had to blow up the ship. Set ablaze, the ship drifted downriver before its magazine loaded with gunpowder exploded and it sank. In a March 19, 1863, dispatch about the sinking, The Richmond Whig newspaper reported the Mississippi had been burned and Farragut's attack fleet driven back.
It said Confederate forces opened fire when the Mississippi and other vessels tried to pass Southern batteries at night and only one or two ships could get beyond that gauntlet. "The firing was terrific. One gunboat passed in a damaged condition and the U.S. sloop-of-war Mississippi was burnt to the water's edge in front of one of our batteries." Added The Richmond Whig: "Our victory was complete. No casualties on our part."