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Re: Capture of CSN steamer Fairplay!

Here's some information on the Fairplay and the Naval ORs report pertaining to her capture. Hope this helps. take care and God bless.


USS Fairplay (1862-1865, "Tinclad" # 17)

Acquisition.--Transferred by War Department, September 30, 1862.
Class: Side-wheel steamer.
Rate: 4th.
Tonnage.--156. Draft.--Deeply laden, 5'.
Speed.--Maximum, 5 miles.
Engines.--Two. Diameter of cylinder, 16"; stroke, 5'.
Battery.--September 4, 1862, 2 12-pdr. howitzers, 2 12-pdr. rifles S. B., May 1, 1863, 1 32-pdr. 33 cwt., 2 12-pdr. howitzers, 4 12-pdr. rifles; October 1, 1863, 1 30-pdr. Parrott rifle, 4 12-pdr. rifles, 2 12-pdr. howitzers, S. B.; March 31, 1864, add 1 30-pdr. Parrott rifle.
Disposition.--Sold at public auction August 17, 1865, to Charles C. Duncan, by Sol. A. Silver, for $5,150.
Remarks.--Transferred by Army quartermaster to Mississippi Flotilla.


USS Fairplay, a 156-ton side-wheel "tinclad" river gunboat, was built in 1859 at New Albany, Indiana, for civilian employment. During the early part of the Civil War, she was used by the Confederacy as a transport and was captured in that role at Milliken's Bend, on the Mississippi River, on 18 August 1862. Taken over by the U.S. Army, she was commissioned in September 1862 and transferred to the Navy the following month.
Converted to a gunboat, Fairplay operated on the Cumberland, Tennessee and Ohio rivers during the rest of the Civil War. On 3 February 1863, she helped break up a Confederate Army attack on Federal forces at Dover, Tennessee. She engaged an enemy battery at Bell's Mill, near Nashville, on 3 December 1864 and captured two steamers on the following day. After brief post-war patrol activities on the Western Rivers, USS Fairplay was decommissioned and sold in August 1865. Renamed Cotile for civilian use, she was broken up in 1871.
Combined expedition from Helena, Ark., down the Mississippi and up the Yazoo, including the capture of Confederate steamer Fairplay, August 16-27, 1862.

[Telegram. ]
CAIRO, ILL., August 26, 1862--9:30 p.m.
(Received 27th, 10:30 a.m.

The combined naval and military operation planned between General Curtis and myself before leaving Helena has returned to the latter place, having accomplished its work with great success.
The rebel transport Fairplay has been captured; containing 1,200 new Enfield rifles, 4,000 new muskets, with accouterments complete, a large quantity of fixed ammunition, 4 field guns, mountain howitzers, and small arms. Colonel Woods landed and captured the encampment of the Thirty-first Louisiana Regiment, with arms, the enemy flying before him.
He captured another camp with tents, baggage, and provisions, burning the depot and eight cars, and destroying the telegraph. The combined expedition proceeded up the Yazoo, where it captured a battery consisting of 64-pounder, 42-pounder, and 32-pounder guns, and 24 and 12 pounder fieldpieces, with 7,000 pounds of powder, 1,000 shell, shot, and grape. Colonel Woods dispersed the rebel forces in several places. Will send further particulars by mail to-morrow.
Secretary Navy.

Report of Brigadier-General Smith, C. S. Army, regarding loss of steamer Fairplay.

Vicksburg, Miss., September 15, 1862.

SIR: In compliance with your dispatch directing a report upon the loss of arms on the steamer Fairplay, the following, embodying all the circumstances that connect the occurrence with this district, is respectfully stated:
About the time General Holmes passed this place on his way to Little Rock, arms and ammunition directed to Major J. L. Brent began to arrive and were stored until someone should be sent to claim them. Shortly after the last of the enemy's fleet had disappeared an agent of General Holmes by the name of Kennard arrived, claimed the property, and asked for transportation for it to Milliken's Bend, where, he stated, arrangements had been made to transport it into the interior.
The steamer Fairplay, just ordered out of the Yazoo, was loaded, the property safely delivered, and the boat sent on up the Mississippi after corn, with which she safely returned. In the meantime more stores had accumulated for the same department, and as soon as discharged the boat was a second time loaded, on application of the agent, Kennard, and on this same statement that transportation was ready for the other side, and again sent to the [Milliken's?] Bend, a point distant some 25 miles from here, on the opposite bank of the river, within General Holmes' department, and occupied by a detachment of troops under the command of General Blanchard.
The boat arrived, according to report, at about 1 o'clock at night and was surprised and captured between 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning, and all on board captured, except the captain, Agent Kennard, Major Govan, quartermaster, attached to General Holmes' command, and two or three others, who had gone on shore to sleep. It is further stated that everyone on board the boat was asleep, no watch kept, and the command on shore were equally careless. Regarding the correctness of this statement as to the carelessness of the troops, I have no means of knowing, they being in no way connected with my command. I am satisfied the statement is correct regarding those on the boat. The boat Was commanded by a Captain White, a citizen of the Bend, well known and highly recommended by all here; in fact, it was represented that the Government was fortunate in being able to secure his services. The foregoing are the facts of the case as far as known.
I will now state what precautions had been taken on this side to prevent a surprise by the enemy, such as occurred:
Immediately after the bombardment of Vicksburg ceased, a detachment of cavalry was sent up the river to a point nearly opposite Helena, with the double object of giving protection to the planters and watching the movements of the enemy. Communication with this detachment was kept up by a line of couriers, which it was supposed would always be able to convey information in advance of any of the enemy's boats that might be seen passing down, a picket guard being stationed on the river bank with this in view. The commanding officer was also directed to send across to the Jackson railroad, if that was found the better route, and communicate thence by telegraph. In addition, lookouts were placed on the highest hills in this vicinity overlooking the valley of the Mississippi to watch for the appearance of any smoke.
These three methods of obtaining and transmitting information comprise all that are possible, I believe, in this section; and are the same that are relied on at this present time. The boats that descended were duly seen by the cavalry pickets to pass down and a courier promptly started for my headquarters with the information; before he arrived, however, the Fairplay had left and was at her destination.
In reviewing the facts of the case in connection With the occurrence, I am not able to perceive that any precautions were omitted on my part, if the single fact of permitting the quartermaster to control the hour of departure be excepted. The boat could have been delayed and run only by daylight had there been the slightest intimation of danger, I am under the impression, however, that could precautions have been taken on the other side corresponding with those taken on this, the boat would not have been lost. This, however, is given simply as an impression, and I may very well be in error; but there is no doubt of the most culpable carelessness existing on board the boat while lying at the Bend. Unfortunately the captain and crew being unattached to the service, no punishment can be meted out to them.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General, Commanding.
Secretary of War.

Report of Captain McDonald, C. S. Army, regarding the loss of the steamer Fairplay.

Vicksburg, Miss., September 12, 1862.

SIR: The fact of the loss of the steamer Fairplay, with Government arms and ammunition on board, has doubtless been reported to you.
Upon the requisition of Colonel Kennard the brigade quartermaster was ordered by Brigadier-General M. L. Smith to place the Fairplay at his disposal to carry the quartermaster's and ordnance stores then here to Milliken's Bend. The Fairplay was loaded; proceeded to Milliken's Bend; the stores, comprising 2,000 Enfield rifles, about 200,000 rounds of ammunition for small arms; accouterments and equipments; a section of mountain artillery battery, with ammunition, artillery harness, etc., also quartermaster's stores. These were safely disembarked, transported to Monroe, and are now, I presume in the hands of troops.
Upon the evening of August 17 the Fairplay again left Vicksburg with a cargo of arms and ammunition. Reached Milliken's Bend about 2:30 a.m. of the 18th and was tied up to the shore. Major Govan and Colonel Kennard both went upon the boat about an hour after the boat landed, all being asleep or on shore except the watchman. The enemy's boats appeared; alarm was given; the boat was hastily abandoned, and, its cargo intact, taken possession of by the enemy.
These are the circumstances as they have been communicated to me. What measures, if any, were taken to prevent a surprise I do not know. The point selected for the landing of the stores was an eligible one, and I think that if proper vigilance had been exercised by the troops then in the neighborhood of Milliken's Bend no surprise could have been apprehended.

Captain and Ordnance Officer, Third Brigade.
Colonel GORGAS.

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