Friday, July 12, 2013

The Ships of Rebel Raiders - The Gunboats

Rebel Raiders on the High Seas is a strategic game of the Civil War which focuses on the role of the navies on the rivers, along the coasts and on the oceans.  While most ships are represented by generic counters for Ironclads, Blockade Runners, Gunboats, Screw Sloops and, of course Raiders, there are cards and corresponding counters for many individual vessels.  This series presents those cards and offers a glimpse into the history of these storied ships.

Part II – The Gunboats: USS/CSS Queen of the West - A Gunboat Under Two Flags

While many blockade runners were caught by the Union and turned into gunboats, the USS Queen of the West, is unique – this Union gunboat was captured by the South and turned against the Yankees on the Mississippi

Known as “Ellet’s Ram” this ship (represented in Rebel Raiders as (USN Card 38) was a side wheel steamer  built at Cincinnati before the war.  Colonel Charles Ellet, Jr, fitted her out as a ram and led her and other ships in the attack on Memphis in June 1862.  Ellet was mortally wounded but his ship fought on.  A month later, along with the ironclad USN Carondelet (USN Card 15) and the timber-clad gunboat USS Tyler (USN Card 18) she engaged the Rebel ironclad ram CSS Arkansas (see my posting of July 11).  The fight went badly for the Union, although the USS Queen of the West limped away and lived to fight another day.

Unfortunately, that other day was February 2, 1863.  The valiant ship rammed the Rebel armed steamer City of Vicksburg in a battle fought under the guns of the fortress for which that Confederate ship was named.   The USS Queen of the West took heavy damage and was set afire in at least two compartments.  She fought on, however, driving ashore two more Confederate gunboats – the steamers O.W. Baker Moro and Beruick Bay.  She then went up the Red River and on Valentine’s Day she captured yet another Rebel vessel – the steamer Era No.  Unfortunately as she reached Gordon’s Landing on the Black River she was ambushed by Confederate artillery – at which point she struck her colors.

The Confederacy wasted no time in raising its own flag over the vessel, but went against all naval custom and instead of renaming her ran her as CSS Queen of the West.  She fought well for the South, until she ran into a trio of Union warships on Atehafalaya River on April 14, 1863.  Battered and set afire, she drifted with the current until running aground and exploding.

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