Ironclad warships proved a critical component for both warring sides making up the American Civil War (1861-1865). Just as the Confederate South fielded their own Army service, they too fielded a naval force for control of the crucial Mississippi River and her many branching waterways. Such routes were important in the moving of goods, men, and material for both economies and land armies with access to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond by way of New Orleans, Louisiana.
The Confederate Navy managed their own building program which produced some vessels of all-new design as well as refurbishment of captured or purchased warships locally or abroad. The CSS Missouri was ordered by the Confederate government on November 1st, 1862 and laid down during December of that same year at Shreveport (in Northwest Louisiana). She was launched on April 14th, 1863 and saw her formal commissioning on September 12th, 1863.
As designed, CSS Missouri sported a single stern paddle-wheel for propulsion and a submerged rudder for steering. Her hull was of unseasoned timber while her casemate was constructed using well-angled surfaces covered over in railway iron. These strips were laid vertically, in two interlocking layers, to avoid as much cutting as possible and covered most of her exposed surface from enemy fire, extending some six feet below the waterline. Armor protection was 4.5 inches at its thickest. A smoke funnel sat over the forward section to exhaust the machinery within. The paddle-wheel's shape protruded some from the rear section of the casemate but was also armored over. Four boilers fed two poppet-valve steam engines which were taken from a junked riverboat. The original design called for six heavy-class guns to be fitted across the eight available gun ports though scarce availability of such weapons meant that a different battery was fitted - a single 11" (279mm) Dahlgren and 9" (228mm) Dahlgren gun were obtained for the vessel, the latter taken from the captured USS Indianola ironclad, and the Army spared a sole 32-pounder smoothbore cannon to round out CSS Missouri's armament suite. Her crew numbered about 100 and maximum speed reached 6 knots. Dimensions included a length of 183 feet with a beam of 53.7 feet and a draught of 8.5 feet - the latter a critical quality needed for river-going vessels.
With her construction complete, CSS Missouri was handed over to the Confederate Navy for formal service on September 12th, 1863. From then on, her service kept her limited to the Red River due to water levels - the river a branch of the Mighty Mississippi. In this region she served as a transport for the Southern mining operations along the route until water levels allowed her to leave Shreveport. She then relocated downriver at the crossroads town of Alexandria (in Central Louisiana) on April 8th, 1865. The rest of her wartime career would be spent anchored near the city as a defensive measure. One month later on May 9th, 1965, the surrender declaration came in the war and the last shot was recorded on June 22nd, 1865.
CSS Missouri ended up playing only a minor role in the war and was not a well-remembered warship. Her unseasoned timber and poor, hurried construction led to many leaks. Her single paddle-wheel propulsion was weak and her steering difficult. Her limited armament battery allowed her design to never be fully realized in the scope of combat - even in support of ground forces.
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