The Confederate South had adopted a plan to destroy the numerically superior Federal Navy fleet (Union North) with a smaller, properly armed and armored, fleet of ironclad vessels. New Orleans was an important base of operations for the South and strategically positioned near the mouth of the Mississippi River, proving a natural target for the North. In September of 1861, Confederate Secretary of the Navy, Stephen Mallory, ordered the construction of two powerful ironclads to be built in the port of New Orleans - the CSS Louisiana and the CSS Mississippi. They were to be charged with the ultimate defense of New Orleans and ensure control of the Mississippi. Both would be built side-dy-side to ease construction with latter under the direction of the Tift Brothers - Nelson and Asa. The brothers lacked the shipbuilding experience required but had gained the proper political connections within government to ensure the contract nonetheless. Such was the importance of the CSS Louisiana and CSS Mississippi that the vessels were dubbed "monsters" by the North and considered the "Terror of the Seas" by the South.
With the design approved, construction of the new vessel began on October 14th, 1861. The Tifts soon recognized that their craft would require a wider beam to seat both of the intended boiler systems and thusly the vessel was widened by some twenty feet in response. The added space also led to the adoption of two more guns for a total of twenty - four of these to become 7" (178mm) types with appropriate firing arcs at the bow and stern. Delays became commonplace, both in the changing design, the lack of proper shipbuilding facilities and access to the resources required. Additionally, local bureaucratic interference and labor issues added to the CSS Mississippi's slow building phase. The Tift brothers had originally convinced Mallory that they could deliver their three-screw ironclad as early as December 15th though the reality was that the vessel, in its unfinished form, was taken over by the Confederate navy personnel on April 20th, 1862. At this time, the vessel lacked the required engines, armor protection and armament essentially making her a rather useless "hulk".
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18 x guns of various types and caliber (originally). 20 x guns after widening of her hull during construction. No armament was ever fitted however.4 x 7" (178mm) guns as an intended part of her armament.
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