The struggle lot the Mississippi River was the longest, most challenging and diverse campaign of the Civil War. It involved the widespread use of ironclads, steam-.powered gunboats, modern fortifications, amphibious riverine landings, and the employment of mines. All of these were new, relatively untested instruments of war. Not only would iliis new form of warfare dominate the struggle for the spine of America, but the struggle would take place on a hitherto unimaginable geographical scale. The river was (he natural highway through the continent, and the theater of operations would stretch along it for some 700 miles from Mound City, Illinois, to the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, although the fall of Vicksburg in July 1863 ensured that the Mississippi River itself was cleared of Confederate naval forces, other Southern naval units continued to operate on many of the Mississippi's tributaries. Fighting along these secondary waters would ensure that gunboats of both sides would continue to see service until the end of the war. Although ironclads such as the USS Cairo or the CSS Arkansas captured the public imagination, the battle for the Mississippi and her tributaries could not have been fought were it not for the dozens of less glamorous wooden gunboats who contested America's inland waterways. This work describes these remarkable little warships.
The Mississippi River port of Memphis, Tennessee, served as the principal naval yard for the Confederate River Defense Fleet on the upper Mississippi. A nascent naval base had been created on the city's riverfront before the war.
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