Wednesday, August 21, 2013

USS Mississippi (USN Card 23) “Largest Ship in the U.S. Navy”- Perry’s Flagship

The Ships of Rebel Raiders    - The Men o’War

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.

USS Mississippi (USN Card 23) “Largest Ship in the U.S. Navy”- Perry’s Flagship

......and the bane of Confederate Coffee Drinkers!

When Commodore Matthew Perry went to Japan he wanted to make a big impression – and so he chose the biggest vessel he could find for his flagship.  At over 3,300 long tons, in 1861 the USS Mississippi (USN Card 23) was easily the largest ship in the fleet.  Having served in the Mexican War, she was also already a veteran combatant. 

As the Civil War broke out, USS Mississippi was sent to blockade Key West, and within less than a week on station, captured an inbound blockade runner packed with Brazilian coffee (a highly-prized commodity the South would do without for four years). The massive warship was then sent to the mouth of the river whose name she bore -  and while on blockade duty captured another coffee ship, thus depriving the Confederacy of much-needed caffeine.

When David Glasgow Farragut took on Forts Jackson and St. Phillip in April 1862, USS Mississippi was with him – and it was two massive broadsides from her huge Paixhans Guns that wrecked the Confederate ironclad ram, CSS Manassas. (CSN Card 71).  (Farragut is a leader counter in the game and appears on three cards – giving strategic and tactical advantages on USN Cards 33 and 1, respectively, and with his presence on the map allowing play of the card marking his flagship, USS Hartford – USN Card 37).

Despite protestations by Captain Melancton Smith that her displacement and length made her unsuited for operations upriver, in March 1863 Farragut sent her to support the attack on Port Hudson. As Smith feared, she grounded while under enemy fire.  Smith and his exec, George Dewey (of Manila Bay fame over 40 years later), struggled mightily to refloat her – but Confederate gunners could not miss this huge, immobilized target.  Smith finally gave the order to scuttle her – and when the fires he set reached her magazine, the largest ship in the U.S. Navy became a part of the river with which she shared her name.

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