Photographs of Union
warships on Red River during the Civil War
Several of these photos identify the ships as being on Red River during 1864.
Others are photos that probably are ships on the Red at that time but
are not so identified. By examining the
background, foreground and other details, some of these photographs certainly
were taken in the same area.
The first photo is identified as the USS Osage on Red River in 1864.
This picture is from the US Naval Historical Center (NHC). Note the narrow river channel, high river
bank with tree line in the background and weeds on mud flats in the
The next photograph from the Special Collections Library at Duke University
in North Carolina identifies the subject as USS Neosho. The ship in both photos is obviously the
same however these are two different photographs. Notice the shape of the US flag. The photographer probably took multiple
exposures while the crew patiently posed on the deck. Positively identifying the difference between
and the Osage is difficult since
their appearance is very similar. Note
the false gun ports painted on the side of the turret and what appears to be patches on the stack. Smokestacks of all the steamers of the fleet
were vulnerable to small arms and artillery fire.
An additional bit of evidence to support this photo as being
is the presence of two deck guns on wheeled carriages amidships. In the statistical data volume of the ORN,
the Neosho is recorded as having one heavy 12 pdr
smooth bore and one 12 pdr rifle after March 7, 1864
just days before the Red River Campaign began.
The following enlargement shows two deck guns posed with the crew. The Osage
is recored as having one 12 pdr
rifle after January 19, 1864.
The following image is an enlargement of another photograph
from Duke University. There is cotton stowed on the deck and a tarp
spread over the deck just forward of the pilot house. The stern of the city class gunboat Louisville is
visible at far left and the two stacks of the city class gunboat Mound City
are visible over the top of the pilot house.
The Mound City had small stars attached to her
smoke stacks. There are several details
of this monitor that are different than the one in previous photos. No false gun ports are visible, the flag
appears much higher because the pole is taller, no patches are readily visible
on the smokestack and there appears to be some sort of horizontal line just
above the waterline and right below the cotton that runs most of the length of
the hull. Notice in all the photos there
is a thin vertical opening in the armored paddlewheel cover. In the previous photo there appears to be a
corresponding light colored area just to the left of the vertical opening which
could be a hinged cover or flap. It is
not clear what purpose the opening served other than simply air
circulation. It is possible that it
could also be used for small arms fire from within but there would not have
been enough room for an artillery piece since the paddlewheel inside occupied
most of the space. Even
if a small 12 or 6 pdr. could
have been shoehorned inside there would have not been enough room for the
recoil of the gun.
The next photograph
is from the book “The Photograhic History of the Civil
The photo is identified as being the USS Cincinnati. The Cincinnati
was a city class gunboat and was sunk twice during the Civil War. It’s second sinking
took place on the Mississippi River during the siege of Vicksburg in 1863. It was raised and repaired but was not with
Porter on the Red River. This photograph shows a very similar
foreground and background as the Osage/Neosho
photos. This probably
the USS Louisiville on the Red
IOTR has recently obtained a carte de viste
that apparently proves the identity of this ship as the Louisville
on the Red River.
The city class gunboats with Porter on the Red River were Carondelet,
City. Although the city class boats were very similar,
there were also some differences between them.
Of the seven boats of the class, some of them had 28’ tall smokestacks
and some had taller 33’ stacks. At least
two of the ships with the taller stacks were on the Red
River in 1864. They were the
Louisville and Mound City. The Carondelet had shorter 28’ stacks
and it appears so did the Pittsburgh.
The following two photographs are of the Mound City. When the city class boats were first
constructed they had different color bands around the top of the smokestacks to
identify them. At some point during the
war, the Mound
City acquired stars
on the front of the stacks and a box shaped pilot house built on top of the
existing armored pilot house.
The next photograph shows several of Porter’s fleet lined up
along the river bank with the Mound City
in front. The stars are visible on the
The next photograph is identified as the USS Pittsburgh. This ship appears to have the smaller 28’
stacks. The same river bank height, mud
flats in the foreground and narrow channel appear as in several other
photographs from the Red River. A photograph in the Special Collections
Library at LSU identifies a different ship than the one pictured below as the Pittsburgh on the Red River
so it is possible that this is actually the Carondelet.
Here is another photograph from The Photographic History
of the Civil War.
From left to right:
William H. Brown, Benefit, tug Dahlia,
monitor Osage or Neosho
and on the far right is the Chillicothe.
This photograph, from
the NHC appears to be a cropped version of the above photograph.
The original of the following photograph is in the Special
Collections Library at Duke University in North
shows several ships of Mississippi Squadron on the Red River above the falls at
The city class gunboat on the far left is probably the Louisville. Notice the similarities to the earlier
photograph of the Louisville. There is even a sailor leaning against the
railing in the same location. The small
air vents or portholes are also visible in both photos. The vertical lines on the casemate are skids
for the small row boats carried on the sides.
At some point before the ships passed over the falls, several of them
had their side armor plates removed.
However since the armor did not extend all the way to the back, it is not
apparent if the armor has been removed or not.