Manpower

Before the war, the Mississippi River and its tributaries made up a bustling system of waterways, linking river ports as far north as Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with thriving markets downstream. The Missouri River branched westwards through Kansas, while other tributaries covered much of the Southern states which bordered the great river. Within days of the sucession of Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, access south of the Kentucky state line was denied to the Northern stales, and the thriving river trade was brought to an abrupt standstill. In theory, this meant there should have been a rich pool of experienced rivermen for both sides to recruit from. In practice, this was far from the case.

At first, the crews of both sides were a strange mixture of rivermen, soldiers, civilian volunteers, and professional sailors. River pilots were at a premium, and while many had an intimate knowledge of portions of the river network, few knew more than a limited stretch of the river. These men were invaluable, and if captured, financial incentives were usually offered to encourage a change of allegiance.

For the Confederates, manpower was always a problem. By the time the first gunboat fleets were ready for service, most rivermen and mechanics were already serving in the Confederate Army, and very few Army officers were willing to part with men under their command, however eligible they might be for naval rather than land service. Throughout the war on the rivers most Confederate ships were undermanned. There was also a shortage of trained seamen in the South, both in the seaboard ports and on the Mississippi. When the Army was ordered to send drafts of men for naval service, it frequently kept the trained rivermen, and instead used the demand to get rid of the most undesirable or incompetent elements in its commands.

A naval recruiting station (known as a Naval Rendezvous) was established in New Orleans, run by a staff of three officers. Newspaper advertisements, flyers, and recruiting drives were used to encourage volunteers, while officers continually pleaded with their Army counterparts for men. Confederate Marine recruitment offices were also opened in Memphis and New Orleans during I8(il. The loss of the two cities meant that,

Lieutenant Thomas B. Huger, CSN, was one of the few regular Confederate naval officers to serve in the Western Theater during the war. He commanded the gunboat CSS McRae during the Battle of New Orleans in April 1864.

Battle Mine Creek

Union officers photographed while off duty. The officer (The Ship's Master) in the center is shown carrying a hunting rifle and accompanied by two hunting dogs. Hunting along the shore was a popular activity when the opportunity presented itself.

after mid-1862, most recruits for Confederate gunboats were recruited locally, usually from drafts of state troops or local garrisons.

The Union river fleets were more fortunate, having access to the bustling river ports of Cincinnati, St Louis, or Pittsburgh. Naval Rendezvous offices were set up in all these cities, and from the outset rivermen were encouraged to serve in the flotillas rather than to sign up for service in the Army. Until August 1862 the Union river fleet was run by the War Department, so rivermen were drafted from regular military service to the river fleet. Officers were provided from the regular US Navy, and when the Navy Department took over responsibility for the ships in August 1862, their crews simply switched from one service to another. In addition to the officers, a small proportion of experienced naval ratings and petty officers provided a core of naval experience, and ensured some link with the procedures, drill, regulations, and discipline enforced in the oceangoing fleet. Somehow this mixture of soldiers, sailors, rivermen, and volunteers developed into an effective team, and by 1863 the Union sailors of the brown-water navy had become an experienced and well-trained fighting force.

Union officers photographed while off duty. The officer (The Ship's Master) in the center is shown carrying a hunting rifle and accompanied by two hunting dogs. Hunting along the shore was a popular activity when the opportunity presented itself.

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